Night Away

Did I mention that my in-laws gave me and Z a night in a bed and breakfast for my birthday this year? The birthday celebration for my mother-in-law broke up on the morning of the 19th and they drove away with our kiddos while Z and I headed a few miles up the road to Asheville. C hadn’t slept through the night since we left for the trip and he was still sick. The only nights in T’s life I’d been away from him were the two while I was in the hospital having C. And I’d never been away from C overnight, let alone for 24+ hours. Because he was sick and up in the middle of the night I’d been nursing him like crazy. I was worried the kids would think I was abandoning them. I was worried C would be a mess if I didn’t nurse him. I was worried that as much as I needed time away that the distance from them would break my heart.

My in-laws kept reassuring me they had it covered. I tried to explain that I had no qualms about leaving the boys with them. I’m pretty damn lucky in that regard. I wasn’t worried for a second about the care they would receive. I knew deep down they would be fine without me. I just wasn’t sure I’d be fine without them. My sisters-in-law drove away with T first, then my in-laws pulled out with C in the car, me frantically waving to him as the went. I completely fell apart. Stood in the driveway and cried harder than I’ve cried in a very long time as Z held me. 
It was hard to settle into kid-free mode at first. The tears slowed down and we got on the road. We passed a digger and were bummed that T wasn’t in the car to enjoy its coolness. He is huge into diggers right now. I fretted some more about C going to sleep without nursing and I worried that he would keep my mother-in-law up all night by not sleeping. But unsurprising to anyone but me, we did begin to enjoy ourselves. Pretty damn quickly. Our trip was a cliché of the night away-eating out, enjoying the B&B room with its fireplace and two person bath, walking around town, eating out again. Sometimes clichés are exactly what you need. For us the trip was damn near perfection. It felt decadent and familiar and foreign all at the same time to concentrate on each other so singularly. It reminded me how much I like Z, how much I like us together. And how much I miss us. 
And yes, I did leak milk all over the place for the first time since this summer. My boobs were killing me by the time we got back to Z’s folk’s place. But more than my desperation to get C in my arms so he could give me a little relief was the fact that I missed those boys so very much and wanted to see them. I think it is good for all of us to miss each other a bit. 

Getting ready for our big night on the town. I wore dangly earrings for the first time in years. Z thought they looked very strange on me, not bad just strange.

We were really happy when I took this picture. I think you can tell. 
The trip was a huge success. Couldn’t have gone better. But I was right back in November. And I feel guilty as hell about it. Less than 24 hours later it felt like the trip didn’t happen. C had just started to recover from his ear infection and he started to get sick again. He still wasn’t sleeping at night. One good night of sleep for Z and me did not restore us. Here we are less than two weeks later, all four of us either sick, getting over being sick, or just getting sick. We are worn out. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, our families have been a tremendous help. We are just at the moment in time when parenthood is unrelenting. It’s a reminder that this year, with a one year old and three year old, is much harder than last year with the easiest baby on the planet and a pretty cooperative two year old. Being around my sister-in-law’s kids provided another reminder that it will get better. Her girls are 2 and 5. They play with each other, they often play without a lot of supervision. Their sleep situation is much more consistant. It looks like an impossible dream to me and Z, but we know we’ll be there soon ourselves. 
I guess I’m realizing it’s ok for things to be hard even as I’m grateful for them. It’s ok to long for a time before we had the kids or look forward to the time when the hands on part isn’t as relentless. I know they will tax us in other ways, parenting teenagers is not for the fainthearted. But at least we’ll be well rested and have a little bit more of our identities back. At least we won’t be so physically run down. This fall we’ve been sick every time the kids were, but we don’t have the luxury of taking a sick day, so getting well is a fucking battle. And the minute we are ok again they bring the next bug home and it starts all over again.

But now that I’ve gotten a significant break, a day to myself with my husband, I’m hungry for more of them. They might not fix everything. We still might be sick and tired and worn down and frustrated. But jesus christ, are they ever a lot of fun.  

Sweet C on Christmas morning. Think the sandman was a bit overzealous. 
And at the doc’s in GA two days ago….he’s a sick little dude.

Cousin cuddles with Daddy/Uncle Z.
Santa T getting ready to ice skate. 
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Merry Fucking Christmas

Back when I worked retail I was walking the store one day during the holiday season and I stopped to do something in the Prepared Foods department. Specialty, home of coffee and cheese was right next door and I watched as a customer approached a team member with two small kids in tow. The team member was a long time employee, a professional who was a lot of fun and she immediately offered her help. The customer, “Would you please tell my daughters that Santa Claus will not bring them any presents if they doen’t start to behave themselves?”

It was always a shitload of fun when the customers expected us to discipline their children. My co-worker laughed nervously, I don’t remember what she said, but she certainly didn’t do the customer’s bidding. Because, you know, not her job. This probably happened 4 or 5 years ago, certainly before I was pregnant, but it was one of the moments that has stuck with me most clearly of all my time working at Whole Foods. I swore to myself that I would never be the kind of parents that used Christmas present giving as a tool to threaten my child.

I saw a lot of atrocious parenting when I was working retail. I also unfairly judged a lot of behavior by both parents and kids. I know now it is harder than it looks. A lot harder. Like a super lot harder. But I did see a lot of stuff that I do not want to repeat. I never want to ask someone working retail to discipline my kid for any reason-it isn’t their fucking job. I’m the one who had the damn kids, I fully recognize they are my problem.

Did I mention the job is hard? T and C are getting sick. Both of them have crud coming out of their eyes and low grade fevers. So they are acting like assholes. C has starting doing this charming thing where he screams at the top of his lungs over and over again to get attention. If we fuss and cluck and tell him to get quiet he only does it more. I’ve asked that everyone just ignore it when he starts. If he gets no response the hope is he will lose interest.

We’ve been traveling for more than a week, which is hard on little guys who thrive with a schedule and familiarity. Even though we are with family little people can fray nerves. My kids are coming by their shitty behavior honestly. But it is clearly still driving everyone up the wall. I feel pretty terrible about it. It sucks to inconvenience a house full of people.

T completely could not keep it together tonight. His dad joined his mom, sister, and sister-in-law for a Christmas music performance after dinner. I encouraged Z to go, he needs to have some fucking fun. But after his dad left T was not being cooperative about bath time. As I was yelling, threatening, pleading for his cooperation I desperately wanted to shout, “IF YOU DON’T CLEAN UP THE TOYS YOU POURED EVERYWHERE, IF YOU DON’T STOP BEING A JACKASS, IF YOU DON’T GET YOURSELF DOWN TO THE TUB IMMEDIATELY SANTA CLAUS IS NOT GOING TO BRING YOU ANY TOYS!”

I mean I really wanted to. Really super bad, swears and all. I remembered the mom in Whole Foods years ago and for the first time I understood her desperation. She was pissed, she was frustrated, I’m sure she was tired and she made a shitty choice. I’m pissed, I’m frustrated, I’m tired. And I make shitty choices all the time. But I pulled it together tonight. I did not swear at my kid. I did not threaten that santa wouldn’t bring gifts. I did tell him I was angry and tired. Don’t get me wrong-I did threaten him-but with losing his bedtime songs if he did it again. He did pull it together. I sang a made up song about the first Harry Potter movie and This Land Is Your Land. And he’s asleep now.

As time goes on I think it is going to get harder to refrain from threatening him with losing the spoils of Christmas. But I still don’t want to put that kind of weight on the holidays. I don’t think it is right or fair to any of us. It’s starting to feel like a lofty goal. We’ll see how many more years I get through without doing it. Shall we take bets?

Hope you guys have lovely holidays. And if you celebrate, well, Merry Fucking Christmas. Enjoy the hell out of tomorrow. And start drinking around noon. I think that is my plan to stay sane….

Exploring in the attic with Granddad. T was particuarly excited about this huge Darth Vader. There are three big boxes up there labeled Star Wars for when he is a little older.

Setting out the treats for Santa. 

T’s very confusing words. I just wrote down what he said. He drew the T and the digger himself. What? you can’t tell what the digger is?

I actually married Mr. Wrapping Paper Head here.

Life is Weird

So is facebook. Weird, but great. I was reminded again during my birthday this week. I’m a fan of the FB birthday drill. I try to leave a note on the walls of my friends on their day. Something beyond just “happy birthday”, something a bit more personal. I love birthdays, so anything I can do to help celebrate someone else’s is welcome in my book. And it is such a thrill to get all those birthday wishes. This year a number of folks who I didn’t know paid me mind on FB wished me a happy day, I know it is a little thing but it really touched me. I mean, my tattoo artist who both Z and I sincerely like and wish we lived closer to so we could develop a real friendship with, but who was just doing me a kindness when he accepted my request in the first place, when he wished me a happy birthday it really gave me the warm fuzzies. When a friend from high school requested a new blog post with her birthday wishes it surprised me and made me feel really good. Of course, she was probably hoping for something a little less bleak, but there you have it. So yes,  facebook rocks.

Some of my close friends from 20 years ago and I have reconnected in an unsurprisingly easy and really rich way. This year my family stayed at the home of a dear friend of mine and fellow Robinson Ram, and his family stayed at our home as well. I am profoundly grateful to have him back in my life-he is truly one of my favorite people on the planet. I look up to him and I wish I was more like him. It’s always good to have friends who inspire you to try and be a better person. And his wife is someone I immediately wanted to be friends with. I love meeting spouses of pals when the friend did such a fine job finding someone awesome to spend their life with. Z and he seem to genuinely like each other and his kids and my kids get along really well, that only sweetens the deal. I’m delighted that we are back in touch, but it somehow makes a lot of sense.

Then there are those folks who are a big fat surprise. Yesterday a gal who I couldn’t call a friend in high school-more of an acquaintance-put herself out by driving to my in-law’s house with her husband and kids to hang out for the afternoon. It still sort of blows my mind that we are friends all these years later. We were so different from each other back in the early 90s that I don’t think we were able to see through to the many parts of ourselves that were alike. She was (and is) beautiful and popular and loud and confident and she scared the shit out of me. The truth is I was jealous of her. I’m ashamed to admit it was because I knew I’d never be those things. And I wanted to be those things. It’s nice that I’ve grown up enough that I can sort of move past the small and unkind impulses I have. If I let my jealousy get in the way now I’d be missing out on one hell of a friendship.

Because it turns out we like each other. I don’t mean to speak for her, but it would seem we like each other an awful lot. We like each other’s husbands. We like each other’s kids. We don’t parent the same exact way, but we dig each other’s parenting styles as well. We actually want to spend more time together. Talk was had of a longer summer visit of some sort. Little homemade presents were exchanged. It was fucking awesome.

So yes, facebook. Another tick in the “I love it” category for facilitating a friendship with someone I was too jealous and stupid to like 20 years ago. Naturally she blogs. In fact, she is becoming a pretty big blogging deal-friends with some of the big guns and her readership is exploding. Do you know what is really cool? Instead of being eaten up by envy I’m sincerely happy I am for her.

We even remembered to photo document at the end of the visit. Thankfully Z was able to capture her amazing cleavage. Because yes, she has a smoking hot body as well. Did I mention she is smart, too? No, I’m not making her up.

This one captures us perfectly. Hot Kelly and kind of messy Karen. My cheeks aren’t red because it’s hot out. Um, that would be the two ciders I drank. 

Our fellas took the kids down to the creek to throw rocks and make big splashes so we could gossip in peace. Clearly they love us and want us to be happy.

My dudes were happy and tired after the visit.

The Trip Down South

By far the best part of the trip down south was near the beginning when we were in Pennsylvania after we’d gotten lunch and were headed back to the highway. I am still a bit shaky when it comes to driving stick shift and I was in the wrong lane on a very steep hill. This will be a shocker, but I started melting down. There were a lot of tears. I finally was able to engage the gear shift, get back into the correct lane and turn the corner in the right direction, but I was still crying. T said in a very frank way, “Mommy! Why are you freaking out?” At least he got me laughing. At the next light I started up again, sort of grinding the gears in an unfortunate way. T called out, “Oooh! Was Mommy not careful on the cluck?” My cluck handling still does leave a lot to be desired….

The second best moment happened on day two of driving. We were barreling through Johnson City, Tennessee and T announced that he had to poop. We asked if he could hold it until we got to a bathroom and he said no problem. His bowel control is really something else for a three year old. At the next exit we pull into a BP station that looked pretty run down and I topped off the gas while Z hustled T into the men’s room. As they stepped inside T, “It smells in here.” Z, “Yup, it does.” T, “It smells like animals in here.” Z, “It kind of does.” T, “Do you think there is a goat in here?” Z, “I don’t know, maybe.” T pointing at the toilet, “Maybe the goat is in the water.” Z, “Maybe it is.”

And finally, a thought about drivers in the south. I know Southerners are known for their hospitality and good manners, but they are assholes when it comes to left lane etiquette. We try to keep it about 10 miles over the speed limit. But a large section of the southern population clearly doesn’t believe in speeding at all. They happily park themselves in the fast lane going 71 mph when the limit is 70 mph. And they will. not. fucking. get. over. I started narrating their thoughts to Z in a tragically bad southern accent, “Seventy one miles an hour is quite enough! Where do you have to be? I’m just saving you from yourself! You don’t want to get a ticket do you?” On the drive to Winston-Salem from Asheville Z cruised up behind a car and it immediately moved into the right lane. Z and I were speechless. As we drove by I noticed the licence plate. It was Ohio. You know, where they understand driving etiquette.

 My wonderful friends K&R surprised me with cupcakes from Cappellino’s Crazy Cakes in Charlottesville, VA as an early birthday present. They were delicious!

The rolling Blue Ridge Mountains in Tennessee.

This was well into the second day of driving. I couldn’t believe T was still smiling. He and C were rock stars on the trip.

Cousins.

The birthday girl during the big celebration up in the mountains. 

Birthday Post

It feels obscene to blithely continue a Mommy blog without acknowledging the events of last Friday. It feels obscene to write about what happened last Friday.

———————————————————-

We’ve been traveling since Saturday. We are celebrating a milestone birthday of my Mother-in-law’s in a lovely home in the mountains of North Carolina. The first travel day included more than 10 hours in the car for our family, the second more than 8. C is at the tail end of being sick. We are all fried and the boys aren’t sleeping. Z and I have been up multiple hours a night since the travel began. Last night we didn’t sleep from 3am till after 5am. We are lucky to be surrounded by family, lucky to have two healthy boys. And yet we are beyond exhausted.

I have been avoiding thinking about what happened on Friday. It is small and selfish, but the pain those families are experiencing is so profound that I simply cannot handle recognizing it. A month ago today I wrote this post. When my mind wanders to those parents in Connecticut it is what I think about. They had the same worries for their children. The worst thing I could possibly contemplate a month ago was the boys growing up without a parent. I simply could not or cannot think about the flip side. Those parents had the privilege of worrying about their children growing up without a parent stolen from them. Because it is a fucking privilege.

There is something cruel about watching your children grow up. You want to keep them babies forever. But the alternative to not growing up? It is literally the worst thing that could ever happen to you.

So that is what I’m thinking about today, which happens to be my 36th birthday. Yes, I’m rudely having my own birthday in the middle of the celebration for my Mother-in-law. I’m thinking about how lucky I am to worry about my sons. I am thinking about how I need to do better, to be better. We are tired and cranky. We were up for two hours in the middle of the night and I was a total bitch to the person who loves me most when he did not remember it was my birthday in the morning. Who the fuck do I think I am? Is that how a 36 year old acts? Is that the example I want to set for my children? For my 36th year I want to do better, I want to be better. I want to appreciate my family and be kinder and more patient. I want to realize that I am lucky to be up in the middle of the night with my boys. Life with two small ones is difficult. But the alternative is too painful to consider.

No pictures today. Those parents in Connecticut cannot post new pictures of their perfect children. It is a meaningless gesture, but for one day I will not post pictures of my perfect boys here.

And one more thing-the conversation about gun control does not in anyway dishonor the dead. There doesn’t need to be some indeterminate passage of time before it is appropriate to discuss the issue. In fact, I’d argue the best way to honor the memories of those who died is to fight this fight. Does the Bill of Rights grant the right to bear arms? Yes. When it was written black people counted as 3/5th of a human being and women couldn’t vote. I’m glad those things have changed and I’m sure that every person reading here is as well. The constitution has held up for so many years because of its flexibility. Because the founding fathers understood that a country is a living and evolving thing. I do not know what the answer is. But it involves massively restricting access to guns. That is what we can to for those who lost their lives, we can work to make sure it doesn’t happen again. That work involves less guns, not more.

Oil Pulling

Last night after a meltdown in which I wept my way through making pork roast, rice pilaf, and sauteed broccoli with red pepper flakes in a little sesame oil, after I’d taken the chill pill that Z begged me to swallow, after I’d given him the laundry list of everything that was overwhelming me-everything we had to do before leaving town on Saturday, after we’d gotten the boys down including my sick little C whose temp had spiked back up to 102.8 Z joined me in the bathroom where I was swallowing my nightly pile of pills.

Me, “I’ve been doing something I haven’t told you about for the last few days.”
Z, “Oh lord.”
Me, “No, it isn’t anything bad.” At this point I was fighting the giggles. “Um, have you heard of..” I was laughing so hard I was having trouble getting the words out, “um, oil pulling?”
Z, “What? What the fuck is that?”
Me, “It’s an Ayurvedic technique.”
Z, “Jesus Christ, is this some hippie shit you heard about from J?” (Yes, J-he totally threw you under the bus).
Me, “Actually, no. I read about it on the internet.”
Z, “Ok, you are no longer allowed to use the internet ever again.”
Me, “Why is this a big deal? You don’t even know what it is! You just swish oil around in your mouth for 20 minutes a couple of times a day. It’s supposed to pull out toxins and stuff and make your mouth healthier.”
Z, “Gross.” pause “What kind of oil?”
Me, “I’ve been using coconut oil. It kind of makes me gag until it liquifies, but I just do it while I’m showering. It’s fine. And my mouth feels clean. And it is supposed to help with snot. You know about my snot problem.”
Z, “Why do you fool around with this crazy natural shit?”
Me, “I’m sorry? I believe you quite enjoy the no shampoo situation.”
Z, “Well, that isn’t gross.”
Me, “Whatever. I’m doing it. And now you know.”
Z rolled his eyes so hard as he left the bathroom that he might have given himself a concussion.

It’s been a draining week. But not in the my-mental-illness-is-making-everyone’s-life-hell way, just regular everyone is sick and apprehensive about the huge holiday trip we are taking staring tomorrow way. Normal draining is kind of a relief after the post biopsy week trip to crazy town. I was diagnosed with a sinus infection on Monday. C woke with a high fever on Wednesday and was diagnosed with an ear infection. The doc terrified me because she thought he had the flu on top of it. Of course, on the way to the appointment I’d heard a piece on NPR that said thousands if not tens of thousands of Americans would die of the flu this year which did not help my mental state. I kept repeating plaintively “But he’s had his flu shot! He’s had his flu shot!” Evidently there are two strains going around our community that weren’t in the shot…But his antibiotics are doing their thing, he is much better. Luckily it would appear the flu isn’t involved.

This sweet kid was so scary sick on Wednesday. He puked his antibiotics and most of dinner all over himself. But the great news is he finally hit 20lbs on the scale at the doc’s office. Only took 15 1/2 months! And I thought T was skinny… 

Sick Mommy and sick baby.
Last night C couldn’t quite make it to bedtime so he snuggled with my handsome man. Speaking of Z, the two week post colposcopy/biopsy ban has been lifted. But I’m on antibiotics, so the pill might not be controlling birth. We are at the exact time of year that we conceived the two boys-four years ago and two years ago. If we were going to have a third we would be trying right now. And we are really sure that we can’t handle another as much as we’d love one. Also, I have that little bleeding problem. So because the holidays seem to turn me into a fertile Myrtle we are being very careful. If we do accidentally get pregnant (and we won’t) Z suggested he move into a hotel from Thanksgiving to Christmas moving forward. I think he’d risk having a third just for the kind of break the holidays would provide him. He better not be replacing my pills with sugar tabs. I saw that once on Days of Our Lives back in the 90s.

So You Have HPV….

Just got off the phone with the doc’s office. My biopsies are back and the verdict is chronic inflammation of the cervix with a side of very mild displasia. Evidently none of it is a big deal. I don’t even have to go back until May when I get another Pap smear. The inflammation could be anything and the very mild displasia means I do have HPV.

Listen, I know better than this, but it made me feel really embarrassed. Because I have no filter I said to the nice nurse, “Oh. So I have an STD.” She said, “Um…..yes.” I desperately wanted her to know I wasn’t a slut. I told her I haven’t had a new sexual partner in almost 15 years and then I started to give her an awkward and completely unnecessary blow by blow of my sexual history with an emphasis on how safe I was including HIV tests. The poor woman was very patient and kind and told me they know so little about HPV. A guy can be a carrier without having it. You can get it even if you use a condom. She said that I could have gotten in during my very first sexual encounter and it stayed dormant until now. They just don’t have answers.

So a couple of things. WAS I REALLY WORRIED A NURSE WOULD THINK I WAS A SLUT? What the fuck is wrong with me? Am I not a feminist? Because I will tell you what, ladies. I hear that you have HPV and I do not think you are a slut. I do not care if you like to have sex with lots of guys. If you make that choice it is your choice and you should do whatever the hell you want with your body and face no judgement from society, particularly no judgment different from what a man would face. I do not care if you don’t care for sex, or are a virgin, or have had very few sexual partners. It’s your business. You can do whatever the hell you want with yourself and that doesn’t change the fact that I’d love to go get a drink with you and shoot the shit.

Also, why am I embarrassed and ashamed by this? Do I feel embarrassment for my friends who have it? Do I think they should be ashamed? No. In fact, I’ve sincerely told a number of friends that it isn’t a big deal. Suddenly I have it and I’m a great big hairy hypocrite. So I’ve decided I’m not going to put up with myself today. This is not a big deal and I’m not going to wallow or feel like I’ve done something wrong in my past. I’m comfortable with every choice I’ve made because they all have combined to bring me to right now. I have a marriage I’m proud of and I’ve fought damn hard for. I have two adorable, frustrating, perfect for me boys. I’ve battled back from severe mental illness. I’m (dare I say it?) happy. So I have HPV. Who gives a shit?

A bunch of my girlfriends have told me they have HPV so it stands to reason a bunch more also have it and have decided to keep that info private. Your body, your info, you get to tell or not tell who you want-I’m not saying you should shout it from the rooftops like I am. (If a future possible employeer is reading this I promise that my HPV will not get in the way of my ability to perform my job! I’m a people pleaser! I will work very hard for you!) So here is my public servie announcement. You have HPV, friend? Hey, so do I! It is no big deal. You are lucky you were diagnosed because now you can work with your healthcare provider to stay healthy. Tell your young women friends to get vaccinated. If you have sons be sure they are vaccinated as well so they don’t become carriers. I’m so glad you found out you have it so you can be proactive about your health. And I look forward to the day when all Americans have health coverage so they can be just as protected as we are.

Hey! This is me! And I’ve got HPV. But that is just the tiniest part of who I am. I also just made some delicious granola (thanks for the recipe, A!) and I desperately need a hair cut. Oh, and I’m crazy.
Do you see the fear in C’s eyes?
Rocking hearing protection in Daddy’s shop. Safety first!