Thursday, December 29, 2011

PLAGUE Part the Third: The Plague Returns

You may have noticed that there is no blog this week.

This is because along with bringing a train set, a new set of slippers for Mommy and some high-alcohol content beer for Daddy (old Santa knows us so well!) trusty St. Nick also brought us a wicked all-family bout of the stomach flu.

We've been dropping like flies one by one and I've been too busy trying to cool my cheeks on the bathroom tiles and praying for the sweet relief of death to do much writing.

I'll be back next week with all new tales of holiday madness.

Until then I will simply wish you a Happy New Year before returning to my regularly scheduled bouts of projectile vomiting.

Please feel free to join me in spirit this Saturday in my own post-motherhood New Year's Eve tradition of eating cereal in front of the TV until 8:45pm, at which time I announce loudly, "It's the New Year somewhere!" before crawling immediately and unapologetically into bed.

Here's hoping you enjoy it as much as I do.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Parenting Backslide

Parenting is a lot like pushing a boulder up a hill.

It is difficult, it is challenging, and there are bound to be moments where you slip up and the thing just kind of rolls away from you.

With two little ones under four I'm intimately familiar with such backslides. Potty training, which seemed at some point in our recent history so tantalizingly close to completion, is of late back at its poop-strewn starting gate. Bedtime, which for a month or two was happening like clockwork, has devolved into a standoff with one or more of my children yelling, "MAMA!! MAMA!!!" through the crack at the base of the door as I increasingly raise the volume on my Pandora station in an attempt to drown out their cries. 
But I accept that such behavior regression is to be expected from young children.

More disturbing have been my own backslides as a parent, which can take a variety of forms. There are the times when I bail on the pre-meal hand-washing in favor of just cleaning the kids' paws with a baby wipe and calling it a day. There have been days when educational and stimulating outings have been shelved in favor of allowing the children to run wild in the yard while I catch up on DVRed episodes of the Real Housewives.

And it should come as no surprise that December has brought a cavalcade of such parenting backslides. As I mentioned last week, my Holiday season has been a little bit busy. I've been running around like a maniac doing Christmas prep, and in a particularly egregious example of the parenting backslide, I have accidentally found myself relying to a disturbing degree on a technique I call "Cookie Based Bribery".

It started with the simple reality that at Christmastime there are cookies EVERYWHERE. It is also a time of year when I am constantly attempting to prod my offspring through a series of uniquely challenging events, such as the mad dashes through the local mega-store to retrieve last-minute gifts, the outings to procure wrapping paper and decorations, and of course, the always-dreaded line to meet Santa.

For me, the combination of cookies and behavioral challenges only had one possible solution. 

It started one day as I was trying to induce my two children to don adorable Santa caps and help deliver cookies to our neighbors. It wasn't going that well, as they seemed to prefer running around the playroom in circles with only an occasional break to assault one another over a disputed toy.

Then it came out of my mouth, 

"Just come on and I'll give you a cookie."

All movement stopped as the boys looked at me like German Shepherds spotting a passing squirrel. They toddered after me happily as I waved two cookies in front of their eager faces and every last cookie got delivered without incident.

The next day I needed to run into the grocery store after an outing to the park. The kids were reluctant to accompany me -- and there it was again,

"Be good in the store and I'll get you a cookie."

The slide into total cookie reliance was amazingly precipitous. 

By the end of the week, my entire parenting approach resembled nothing more than a trainer at a wild animal park, as I bent my children to my will through judicious use of a pocketful of gingerbread men pieces. 

I'm not going to lie. It is AWESOME.

I've been truly amazed at what my children are capable of on a diet comprised almost entirely of crumbled up baked goods. And while I accept on some basic level that this is not a viable long-term parenting solution, I'm currently accepting it as the only way I'm going to make it through December.

I'll just have to break it to the kids gently that "NO MORE COOKIES, DAMMIT" is our all-family New Year's Resolution.

comic by Gegen Den Strich

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's the Most Craziest Time of the Year

It would seem that I have a case of the Christmas crazies.

This year, as December approached, my husband sat me down for a little talk. 

He shared his opinion that, seeing as I was 8-months-pregnant, had spent November traveling approximately 10,000 miles, have (as a result) been battling a month-long cold, and have two toddlers who are both currently attempting to destroy our house on a full-time basis, that perhaps we might want to dial back a bit on the Christmas happenings this year.

I had to admit the guy had a point. 

Maybe it was time to dial down the Christmas insanity, thus sparing ourselves an entire month of relentless activity that made exactly no one jolly. Rather than spending the weeks leading up to Christmas feeling deeply overwhelmed, perhaps this year we could really cut back on some of the prep and (gasp) actually RELAX and enjoy the holiday.

I sat down at the kitchen table and made a careful list of Christmas-related activities in hopes of identifying those which might be negotiable.

Here's what I came up with:
  • Purchase adorable outfits for Christmas Card photos
  • Bake 8 dozen Christmas cookies
  • Calculate and prepare Christmas envelopes for Christmas envelope recipients
  • Take Christmas Card photos
  • Decorate 8 dozen Christmas cookies
  • Put up Christmas tree
  • Take children to have portrait taken with Santa
  • Order Christmas Card photos
  • Remove Christmas decorations from storeroom without being killed in avalanche of stored debris
  • Host Christmas Open House for neighbors
  • Attend Messiah Sing-a-Long (arrange babysitting)
  • Decorate Christmas tree
  • Attend office Christmas party (arrange babysitting)
  • Gather addresses for Christmas Cards
  • Attend assorted Christmas parties and events (arrange babysitting)
  • Place Christmas decorations attractively throughout home
  • Create year-end calendar featuring adorable photos of offspring.
  • Purchase Christmas gifts for my relatives
  • Wrap Christmas gifts for my relatives
  • Mail Christmas Cards
  • Convey Santa photo to friends and relatives in print or electronic form
  • Purchase Christmas gifts for husband's relatives
  • Wrap Christmas gifts for husband's relatives
  • Ship Christmas gifts to my relatives
  • Ship Christmas gifts to husband's relatives
  • Purchase gifts for offspring
  • Purchase gift for husband
  • Wrap gifts for offspring
  • Wrap gift for husband
  • Write thank-you notes in response to gifts received
  • Deliver Christmas cookies to Christmas cookie recipients
  • Assemble hundred-plus piece "under the tree" gift for children
  • Clean house in advance of arriving relatives
  • Prepare Christmas dinner for family
  • Prepare day-after-Christmas dinner for visiting relatives
  • Clean house in wake of departing relatives
Not appearing on the above list, of course, are any of the day-to-day activities relating to keeping two children fed, clean, and alive throughout the month of December. 

OK, so negotiable items.

I thought maybe we could do without the Christmas cookies, but then I got sad thinking about how much Snoodie loves them and how nice it is to have something to bring the neighbors.

I decided that maybe we could skip doing a Christmas card this time around but then I realized how annoyed I would be if I was subjected all month to adorable photos of friends' children without the opportunity to inflict my own children's cuteness upon them in return.

I considered scaling back on the decorating but, as this will be our first Christmas in California, I considered how important it was to me to have the house look as merry as humanly possible.

And I realized that I was powerless against the list. 

While I'm sure I could make some small tweaks -- a few edits here and there -- nothing is going to change the fact that this month is going to be an all-time ass-kicker wrapped in a green and red bow of exhaustion.

So I've accepted my fate. I'm cranking out cookies, I'm shopping in every spare moment, and I'm wrapping packages. I'm weeping from the pain of paper cuts and gagging from the taste of envelope glue. 

Actual Christmas Card outtake

And while I may not be particularly merry, I will say this for myself -- I'm getting it done. And that's something.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got several dozen tins of nuts to glaze.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Nursemaid's Elbow

Last year, while visiting Texas, I dislocated my son's elbow.

Yes, that's right Child Protective Services, ya nosy bunch of killjoys! I said I dislocated my child's elbow.

It happened during a visit to my husband's Grandparents. On day two of our stay, my husband's Grandmother and I took the Snood to the local park for a little "active time" in hopes of discouraging him from playing another round of, "How much of my Great Grandmother's china collection can I destroy in the course of a single morning?"

The day was off to a good start. Snood was scampering about the play equipment merrily and running to and fro in a way that suggested a faint hope that in the afternoon -- there might be napping.

But alas, when it was time to exit the playground, the trouble began. When I gently suggested that we stroll towards the car, Snoodie came up with an alternate plan that involved rolling about in the woodchips while screaming "NOOOOOOO!!!" at the top of his lungs repeatedly and kicking his feet wildly in my general direction.

After briefly attempting to verbally convince my son to make his way to his feet and follow me peacefully, I began dragging him by the arm towards the car. After a few minutes of bribing him under my breath with offers of candy if he would just SETTLE DOWN AND STOP EMBARRASSING ME IN FRONT OF GRANDMA, the Snood calmed down and we made it the rest of the way towards the parking lot in peace. But, as I went to buckle him in to his carseat, the Snood let out of sharp cry and began holding his arm at an odd angle.

This clutching and crying continued as we arrived back to the house, and after about an hour with no improvement I realized with no small degree of horror that we were headed to the ER. When we arrived, a nurse ushered us in (after exactly 2 minutes of waiting I might add, hooray for small town hospitals) and immediately pronounced, "Looks like nursemaid's elbow."

From Wikipedia:

Nursemaid's elbowBabysitter's elbow, or Pulled elbow[1] is a dislocation of the elbow joint caused by a sudden pull on the extended pronated arm, such as by an adult tugging on an uncooperative child, or swinging the child by the arms during play. The technical term for the injury is radial head subluxation.[2]

Hmmmmm, an adult tugging on an uncooperative child? I had to admit, that sounded about right. 

Two x-rays, multiple blood draws, and a 6-minute interaction with a doctor later and Snoodie's elbow was popped back into place.  For the privilege of this bit of medical intervention, we later received a bill for close to seventeen hundred dollars. 

After that, I never really gave Nursemaid's Elbow another thought. Until last Saturday, when David arrived home from an outing to the park with a whimpering Snood. I had not been on this particular outing because I'd been prepping for a long-planned afternoon of football watching. Both our teams were playing what we call the "naptime game" and David and I were looking forward to using the afternoon to combine two of our favorite activities: cursing loudly at the television and cuddling excessively.

But as soon as I opened the door I could see that our plan was in dire jeopardy. And when I saw poor Snoodie was trailing behind David and holding his arm gingerly, my fears were confirmed.

I examined the offending arm and could tell right away that this was Nursemaid's Elbow Part Two: RISE OF NURSEMAID'S ELBOW! David explained that while at the park, Snoodie had invaded another child's birthday party and leapt into the Cinderella Castle bouncy-bouncy with his shoes on, thus causing great mayhem and consternation to the princess-clad guests.

David had reached in to pull the Snood out of the bouncer by the hands and, he surmised, this is when the injury occurred. I looked forlornly towards the cold beer and guacamole lined up lovingly in front of the TV, realizing that at least one of us was going to spend the afternoon not watching football, but rather moldering in the misery that is our local ER. Desperate, I started thinking about our last experience with nursemaid's elbow. I remembered how that doctor had only spent 5 minutes with Snood and fixed him up good as new.

And then I did what any good mother would do in a time of medical crisis -- I did a search on YouTube.

There I found a veritable cornucopia of video instructions on how to perform a "nursemaid's elbow reduction". After devoting six to seven minutes to watching said videos, I felt fully medically qualified to perform the procedure myself. 

I lifted Snood from my husband's highly dubious grasp explaining urgently, 

"Honey, please step back! I am a YouTube-trained professional!"

And do you know what I did next? I followed my internet-based instructionals, popped that sucker back into place, cured Snoodie entirely, cracked a Miller Lite, and settled down to three hours of absolutely dreamy football viewing.

I plan to start taking appointments for various medical procedures at my home office beginning early next week. I'll start with minor orthopedic manipulations, but I'm sure I'll be up for light surgery by the end of the month at the latest.

 Just call me.....DR. YOUTUBE!