Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Outer Limits

My sister has a new baby at home. 

Her spankin' new son is joining her soon-to-be three-year-old boy, and my sister has had some concerns about their burgeoning relationship. Her older son has been so thrilled by his new brother's arrival that he's taken to kissing and squeezing him on a near constant basis. Worrying that the intensity of this love-fest was starting to border on the violent, my sister decided to consult her pediatrician.

His advice was simple: He told her not to overreact. He informed her that should her son pick up on the fact that his attention towards the baby was getting attention for himself, he would likely take this as a sign that it was time to start playing that beloved childhood game, "I can get a rise out of Mommy by poking the baby in its eyes!"

The doctor said it was highly unlikely that her son would do the baby any real harm as long as she was supervising them and advised her to do her best to ignore her fears and enjoy the adorableness of her son's newfound joy in his sibling.

Which reminded me of one of the best pieces of mothering advice I've yet to receive. When the Snood was a baby, I was fretting to a veteran Mommy friend about one the myriad things I was afraid might somehow damage his little infant self. She responded,

"What you need to realize is that you are nowhere near the outer limits here."

She told me that I needed to start opening the parameters of what I considered dangerous or I would eventually drive myself crazy.

I was confused.

Then, a few weeks later, the Snood had a fairly classic childhood accident. I was visiting family in Chicago when I laid his 3-month-old self down on the bed in order to change into my jammies. Snoodie, in a portent of troublesome choices to come, decided this would be the ideal moment to discover the awesome new skill of rolling over. He proceeded to roll right off the side of the bed and hit his head on the nightstand on the way down before landing on the floor with a horrible thud.

I was terrified. But after a few moments of furious wailing and accusatory glances my way, Snoodie calmed down and seemed absolutely no worse for the wear.

It was almost 10pm as I sat holding my baby and pondering my options:
  • I could go to sleep and not worry about it.
  • I could bring Snood to the emergency room in a strange city and likely spend several hours waiting only to discover he was perfectly fine.
  • I could stay up all night alternately examining my sleeping baby for signs of lingering trauma and pacing the floor like a deranged lunatic.

I chose Option C. I spent the entire night Googling "baby head trauma" (here's a very simple piece of advice that I sincerely hope you will follow. DO NOT EVER Google "baby head trauma". That is all) and/or shaking the Snood awake to make sure he was OK. By the time the sun rose I was fairly convinced that any damage from the night table encounter was neither profound nor permanent.

In an effort to prevent similar episodes in the future, at Snood's next pediatrician appointment I nervously asked what seemed like a deeply self-incriminating question:

"OK, don't take this the wrong way," I stammered, "But exactly how hard does the baby have to hit his head before I bring him to the ER?"

The doctor seemed completely unfazed by my query. She told me it was fairly common for babies to have minor falls and that I should head for the ER if the baby were to lose conciousness, vomit excessively following the fall, or if I noticed clear fluid coming from his ears. 

I was amazed. This was like, SO MUCH FURTHER down the road than I would have thought. I mean, by the time my kid was vomiting or had clear liquid coming from any part of his body, there would be a me-shaped hole in the door and a path of flames leading directly to the emergency room. 

And it helped me understand what my friend meant when she talked about "The Outer Limits". 

She was saying that it was important to find out what things are really a danger for your kids and then try not to freak out until you get near that place.

Here's another example:

Almost as soon as Crinks started to crawl, the kid he decided that the ground was his own personal buffet. Every time I was distracted, (say, by his brother calling for help because he had crawled behind the refrigerator and gotten stuck) I would return to find Crinks gnawing on something unearthed from underneath the couch or perhaps performing a taste test on a sampling of coins from the change cup.

I was lamenting the situation to a doctor friend of mine who also had toddler at home, and I asked her where she drew the line regarding things her kid put in his mouth. She thought about it for a moment before responding, "Oh, you know, cleaning products... dog feces... cigarette butts."  

I'm telling you, people, the outer limits are a lot further out there than you think.

So the moral of the story is, try to relax and realize that you're probably doing just fine. That your kid is going to do crazy stuff, eat yucky things, fall from small heights, and be just fine.

Comforting, isn't it?

That being said, keep your three-month-old off the bed for God's sake. That's not going to end well.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Little Perspective

This week has not been the best.

My husband had to go to Korea (or as I like to call it, 'Ko-*#@$-rea') from Sunday to Thursday and then had an event to attend in Palm Springs from Friday to Sunday. Yes, this meant SIX DAYS of husband-free child-rearing, during which my emotional state ranged from mild perturbance to deep crabitude.

ON SUNDAY David was with us for part of the day, so we enjoyed some pre-trip family fun time. And by "pre-trip family fun time" I mean David played with the kids while I clung desperately to his ankles crying repeatedly, "Don't go to Korea! Please!!!"

MONDAY was Day One of rolling fully Dad-free. I wrestled the children into clothes, made breakfast, met up with a friend in Griffith Park, rode the train, had lunch, supervised non-naptime, made dinner, did baths, and got both kids into PJs and beds. SUCCESS!

ON TUESDAY I decided to undertake another round of potty training.

Let's not talk about Tuesday.

ON WEDNESDAY Things continued to go off the rails.By the end of the day I'd completely given up and taken the kids to Baskin Robbins to feed them scoops of ice cream for dinner. Then I brought them home, dumped them unceremoniously into bed, and tucked into the Real Housewives Reunion in lieu of some much-needed beer.

ON THURSDAY We got a brief glimpse of Daddy!
  • The boys piled atop him for gleeful roughhouing!
  • He supervised bathtime and bedtime while I rested!
  • I got him to change the diaper genie before leaving again!
ON FRIDAY Sadness descended again as David left for points East.  Luckily, my sister stepped up and accompanied me and the kids to the Long Beach Aquarium.

The upside of the aquarium is that it is a full-day activity during which the kids delight in staring at the fishies.

The downside of the aquarium is EVERYTHING ELSE ABOUT THE AQUARIUM.  It is dark and crowded, and you spend all your time watching your tiny offspring disappear between the legs of your fellow fish-peepers and hoping you'll find them again before they decide to dive into the stingray enclosure.

Its not exactly....relaxing.

By Friday night I was exhausted. Getting up with the kids in the morning, making it through the day, getting dinner on, getting baths done, and then staying up half the night on vigilant watch for the scary darkness vampires who only seem to menace me when my husband is out of town was beginning to take a toll.

ON SATURDAY I took one final, epic outing.  A friend of mine and I headed North of the city to visit a pumpkin patch for some child-centric fall fun.

The place is massive and we didn't miss a trick. We scampered about the produce! We pulled the kids in a jaunty red wagon! We took tractor rides! We fed livestock! We delighted in emu sightings!

And we became lost in the corn maze.

Well, let me just announce for the record that after my experience on Saturday, I am firmly on TEAM LOST CORN MAZE FAMILY. Because corn mazes are ridiculously terrifying. I entered our farm's corn maze with three children in tow. I was carrying Crinks, and Snood and his friend were walking at my side. 

Within seconds of entering I was down to one child accounted for. Apparently the wondrous sight of corn pathways had triggered the sprint instinct in both toddlers.  I stood frozen, watching their little blond heads disappearing behind the massive walls of corn and tried to decide if I'd rather lose my own child or have to explain to my friend that I'd lost hers.

Fortunately this choice was negated by the realization that my six-month-pregnant self was completely incapable of running down either one of them.

Instead I frantically screamed to my fellow maze-trapped parents:

"Could someone please grab those escaping blond children??" 

I'll tell you, people, the corn maze makes the aquarium look like amateur hour.

45 minutes later we had safely escaped from corn hell and settled down on a nearby hay bale for some much needed snacking.

Next to me was a young woman holding a four-week-old baby. We got to chatting and realized that our kids were almost exactly the same age. I told her I was expecting in the new year and asked her how she was handling the whole "three under four" situation. She sighed and said it was hard. She wasn't sleeping much and on top of it, her husband was away.

I growled in commiseration, 

"Oh, is your husband away? Mine too! Isn't it the worst??"

She agreed. Then she told me her husband was in the military and was on week 10 of a 30-week tour. He'd been away for the birth of his daughter and wouldn't get to hold her for the first time until she was nearly 7-months-old. And while her mother was able to come out and help for a week every month, she was otherwise on her own with her three kids every day. It wasn't easy on a military salary, but she said they were figuring it out day to day.  

ON SUNDAY my husband arrived home and took over. He played with and cared for the boys as I relaxed on the couch watching football and eating take-in food. 

And as I listened to my three fellows laughing together in the yard I looked skyward and said to the universe, 

"OK, I get it. I'm supposed to complain a little less, right?"

All I can tell you is that I'm working on it. I'll let you know how it goes...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Some Words for New Moms

A lot of readers responded with concern to my last post regarding our bout of HAND, FOOT, and MOUTH disease. I am happy to report that we are fully cured and, as of this week, 100% sore free!

The post seemed particularly troubling to the subset of SFD's readership made up of new or soon-to-be-new moms.

My sister-in-law, who has a newborn at home, responded:

"Great - another thing I didn't know about that I have to put on my list of concerns!"

Which is why I am now considering placing a warning label on posts covering topics such as child-borne plagues, breastfeeding-related traumas, and potty-training mishaps.

Something along the lines of:


Because the reality is that there is really no upside to knowing what's coming down the pike. 

We went to our neighbors' house for dinner over the weekend and discovered that they are expecting their first baby. They had a ton of questions for us child-producing veterans, and I attempted to convey useful information while staying simultaneously upbeat.

For example, when she inquired....

Does labor really hurt?

"YES! I had an unmedicated birth with my first and it was the most over-the-top crazy pain I have EVER experienced. To the point where, when I started labor with my second, the only thought running through my head was: 'I can't do this again. I CANNOT DO THIS AGAIN!'"

"You know, by the time they hand you that baby, you don't even remember what labor was like. You'll be FINE!"

...when she asked...

How bad are the diapers?

"Sure, the diapers are disgusting, but in the grand scheme of things that are terrifying about having an infant in the house, they barely register."

"Eh, the diapers never really bothered me all that much."

...and when she demanded...

How do you deal with the lack of sleep?

"You don't really deal with it. You just endure it. The first eight weeks are pretty brutal. There are times when you feel as if you've JUST put the baby down and it's crying again and it's 4am and for a moment you seriously consider walking out the front door, getting into your car, driving to the airport, and beginning a new life in Guam under the name Guadalupe Hidalgo."

"Oh, it's not that bad. You kind of gut check for a few weeks and then before you know it, it's over. I have a great sleep system. I'll email it to you."

Because as I watched the two of them trying to prepare themselves for their first baby, I was overwhelmed with a desire to try to help them not worry.

When I was pregnant with my first I spent HOURS poring over 'What to Expect When You're Expecting' nightly and reading hospital pamphlets daily to make sure I knew everything there was to know. I wanted to be PREPARED.  

But looking back, I now realize there is really no practical way to prepare oneself for a human that appears from your nether regions and then demands constant care and attention. 

So the way I figure, you might as well just relax and attempt to enjoy the kind of awesome anticipation of waiting to see what your little being is going to look like and how it is going to change your life in every single way.

Because that is crazy exciting and fun -- if you will only let it be.

Which is why I'm definitely not going to tell the neighbors about the lengthy weird eye goop phase or the part where they yell for hours for no reason. 

Definitely not.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I Have a Complaint

I try, as a general rule, to keep from complaining too much on the blog.

This is primarily because of my concern that were I to START complaining on the blog, I might never be able to stop

This past month alone I have spared you screeds on subjects including, but not limited to
  • Giant black flies;
  • Why everything is always so sticky;
  • The potty song;
  • The reality that the only playlist I enjoy on Pandora is entitled "adult contemporary" which means I am, in fact, old;
  • The fact that no one has invented self-cleaning floors;
  • Humans who drive near me;
  • The weird shape of my feet.

Yes, in my infinite thoughtfulness, I have chosen NOT to burden you with grim and lengthy diatribes on such topics. But this week, I give you fair warning - THERE IS GOING TO BE SOME SERIOUS COMPLAINING.

For, you see, this week it would appear that my children and I have contracted HAND, FOOT, and MOUTH disease. 

But wait, you argue! That can't be a real thing! It sounds too much like a made-up disease, or something one could only acquire while working in a 19th-century tanning factory. 

But, AU CONTRAIRE mes amis! (This is French for, 'you cannot possibly imagine the scope of my life ache at present')

HAND, FOOT, and MOUTH disease is, in fact, a fairly common childhood illness which manifests in fever, sore throat, and open sores on the hands, feet, and mouth.

Did I say open sores? Yes. Yes, I did.

I have chosen to spare you the "sores" image at this time

Yes, apparently over the weekend the universe looked down at my five-months-pregnant self, lugging around a three-year-old and a toddler whilst drowning in a sea of self-replicating laundry and thought to itself, "Now that is a woman in need of ulcerous mouth lesions."

So I'm complaining. A lot. And my children are complaining, mostly in the form of falling to the ground, rolling about, wailing loudly, and occasionally crying out,

          "Owwwie in the mouth!!!"

It's really not all that fun.

On the upside, (if there can be an upside to having viral blister eruptions) the word from local medical experts is that HAND, FOOT, and MOUTH disease, while infinitely yucky, is not all that serious and will likely run its course in a matter of days. 

Also, until such time, my children and I are taking cold comfort (literally) in the fact that we are, at present, fully justified in having milkshakes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

And, as I might have mentioned, we're complaining.


In other news, I am guest blogging this week at MommyShorts. Please head over there and check it out! Ironically, it is a piece on the wondrous joys of expecting a third child.

I'm thinking it might be a good idea for me to go ahead read it again myself.