Saturday, August 18, 2007

8/18/07 Fast Dads

Julian asked me today, "Can Moms run faster than Dads?" I had him repeat the question a few times, to make sure I understood. "Are Moms faster than Dads?" he semi-clarified. Then, "Can all Dads run?"

Apparently, a kid at his day camp was picked up by a man who declined to get into a running game, citing his "old legs." This made a huge impression on Julian, prompting this inquiry into the running capability of Dads. Being fast is of great importance to the boys, who make wild boasts about their speed superiority.

"Can you run faster than Dad?"

"Well..," I said, "Dad might be able to run faster than me at first, but he can't run as far." He wasn't impressed.

Alas, the conversation was interrupted and opportunity to turn it into a "teaching moment" about physical fitness was lost. Old legs, indeed. Don't say stuff like that around my little sponge!


Friday, August 17, 2007

8/17/07 Show biz

Julian's daycamp had a little theatre performance today, in which small groups of kids acted out short nursery rhymes. Julian was a "king's man" from Humpty Dumpty.

Mostly, he stood looking dumbstruck. No burning desire to perform here.

Fortunately, the timing worked out well. I did have to wake Katrina from a nap to get to Julian's performance, but at least she conveniently took an early nap.

Then I brought her and Gabriel to the Y's Childwatch, where I fed her a ham-and-cheese sandwich, to the great surprise of the Childwatch ladies. What, no jar?

The boys were unbearable together this afternoon, so I made sure to "put" Julian down for a nap, for my own sanity. There was no way I could deal with them constantly shouting and running and making obnoxious sounds all afternoon. In fact, it turned into a relatively quiet afternoon, as Katrina took a good long afternoon nap. My goodness, it's so much easier to deal with baby life when I get just an extra hour "off" from a solid 2-hour nap instead of a so-so 1-hour nap!

While the younger two napped, Gabriel drew a bicycle with sidewalk chalk. He was very clear that it had exactly ONE disk brake on the FRONT wheel ONLY.

One thing about having 3 kids: you just never know when they're all going to need something from you at the same time. I went upstairs to get Katrina after her nap, but heard Julian crying, and found this.

Not only did he have a bloody nose, but his attempt to nap without a Pull-Up failed, and he and all his bedding and stuffed animals were soaked in pee and blood. Meantime, Katrina was crying and wanted out, and Gabriel was bouncing around trying to draw Julian into a game of bathroom talk shouted at the top of their lungs.

So, here's what moms of 3 do. One thing at a time. Separate your hazards. It's really no different than what moms of one or two or four or five do.

Send Gabriel downstairs.
Strip Julian.
Start bath.
Strip Julian's bed.
Start washer.
Rescue baby.
Try to keep track of baby as she takes off giggling, while simultaneously reminding Gabriel to stay downstairs, and trying to tend to Julian.

(Note that there is no gate at the top of the steps right now.)

I really try hard to be a good wife and partner and really listen to Dave and be sympathetic to the trials and tribulations in his life. But boy it's hard when he says that things at work are "disruptive and chaotic" right now because his manager is leaving. Oh! Yeah! That's chaotic all right! I just have to remember what "chaos" means to most people. Recalibrate.

Boys at sleepover tonight, they were both looking forward to it. And so was I, though they were both being very good, sweet and downright fun as we were on our way. No fair giving them to someone else for the night when they're being so good!


Thursday, August 16, 2007

8/16/07 Mom's brush with CPS

Julian's half-day-daycamp makes for a situation that will one day be commonplace with 3 kids: all three kids go to a different place in the morning. Scramble scramble!

I made the most of my last all-child-free day and went running, deliberately taking my longest route. I made it a little longer, hoping to break 8 miles, but I fell short by 2/10 of a mile. Still, I did climb over 1000 feet. Longer, steeper...yet still easier than last week's wipeout run, since today I didn't have a headache.

After picking up a salad at TJs and making a few East-coast phone calls, still in my sweaty running clothes, I was ready to reward myself with a long, hot bath. Up to my neck in water, jets blasting, mind free-roaming, body relaxed, spirit at peace....ahhhh. This is the life. Peel me a grape. I mused idly about Julian's little theatre performance tomorrow at his dayca...JULIAN!!!!!!!

....OH NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

>>> JULIAN <<< !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was supposed to pick him up from daycamp by 1:00!!!!!!!

OHHHHH SH***********T !!!!!! What the hell time is it?!!?!?!

I sprung out of the bath and dashed into the bedroom, newly outraged at the lack of timepiece in the bathroom.

1:02. Jesus!!!

You've never seen a faster get-ready. Hair in towel. Clothes, 4 items, grab top of stack for each. Towel on floor. Me on floor (note to self: our wood floors are slippery when wet). Extra 4 seconds to put on sandals instead of slip-ons, so I can RUN LIKE ALL GET-OUT DOWN THE STAIRS THROUGH THE KITCHEN ACROSS THE DINING ROOM OUTSIDE TO PORCH....front door didn't close, too bad....dash into car....stupid seatbelt auto-retractor won't let me pull out the seatbelt fast enough....

1:04. ZOOM!!! Call the Y from the car -- I'M COMING!!!! Don't call Child Protective Services!

1:06. Call Tonya from the car: WE'RE COMING!!!!!!! Catch an unprecedented three green lights on the way.

1:08. Anxiously drive safe speed into Y parking lot, still screech tires into parking spot, jump out of car, and sprint -- yes RUN (ironically! again! after almost 8 miles this morning!) inside.

There, I found Julian happily playing with a balloon with one of the camp counselors. I was there before my time estimate of 7 minutes. I like giving reliable estimates. Especially when I unreliably flake on picking up my 3-1/2-year-old boy in favor of lounging around in the jacuzzi!

They were grateful I'd called, and I made no excuses and flat-out admitted I was in the bath a few minutes ago after a long run this morning. Eeps. My honesty didn't win me any new friends or gold stars.

Julian seemed none the worse for wear, and was oblivious to the near-crisis as I feigned calmness on the way to Tonya's, where he's supposed to be all day today, but Good Mom sacrificed a pickup-free day so he could go to his "yummy" day camp. Bad Mom almost left him at day camp after it was over!

Close call. I was very lucky I remembered when I did. Picking him up at 1pm didn't cross my mind once this morning.

After retrieving the whole "Kat'n'Kaboodle" at 5pm, I kicked back into Mom mode. Moms know what I mean: simultaneously prepared dinner, fed baby, served boys hand and foot, wiped rear ends, answered questions, unlatched helmets, fetched writing utensils, meeting an endless stream of demands. The pace and intensity of Mom life stood in stark contrast to my day of relative relaxation (with one huge blip that is!).

I think the intensity has increased because my darling sweet innocent little baby is turning into a screechy, picky, fickle toddler. Ugh! "I want that NOW NO PUSH IT AWAY WAAHH I WANT IT NOW NO GETIT AWAY FROM ME GIVE IT TO ME GET IT AWAY FROM ME eeeeeEEEEEEEE!"

During this normal madness, I had an un-normal, and welcome, occasion to stop and laugh. The boys are reading the original Winnie-the-Pooh stories with Dave at bedtime, and seem to enjoy them, despite all the British terminology and archaic expressions and sometimes complex sentences.

Julian wanted to draw a Heffalump. And it went about like this:

Julian: I'm going to draw a Heffalump! (pause)....Mommy, what does a Heffalump look like?
Me: Ohhh, we don't know, do we? The story doesn't have a picture. You need to use your imagination.
Julian: I don't need my imagination. I need a picture!

You need more than that, kid. Like a Mom who doesn't forget to pick you up -- but who can go from soaking-wet-naked-in-bath to tearing-out-of-the-driveway in less than 2 minutes!


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

8/15/07 Old and new friends

What a treat! Today I got a call from my friend Tracy, visiting California from her new adopted home on the East Coast. Tracy and I made friends in dance class at Zohar in 1988 -- yes, that's almost >> 20 << years ago! We've been through so many phases of life since then; it's astounding that we ended up having children about the same age. Her daughter Elizabeth is 4-1/2.

Tracy and Elizabeth picked a perfect day to come over -- Julian and Katrina were here, but Gabriel was on a field trip (to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, cool!). Julian and Elizabeth wasted no time jumping into play. Tracy said usually playdates with a 3-1/2-year-old, especially a boy, for ultra-verbal uber-social Elizabeth don't amount to much, but Julian provided ample interaction, conversation and entertainment. And what a treat for Julian to have free play without bossy older brother around!

Tracy and I barely scratched the surface on catching up over brie, apples and plum cake. But running out of things to talk about was never a problem we had, even when we used to have lunch once a week. Then, we used to talk about men. Now, it's kids.

Julian apparently is now too ma-TOOR to give hugs on command anymore, so shyly gave Elizabeth a handshake goodbye instead.

As they were saying goodbye, Elizabeth said, "I'm sorry I don't live here, Julian!" Aww.

A nice afternoon with an old friend for me, a new friend for Julian.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

8/14/07 The Gearhead

This morning, driving to and from Gabriel's swim lesson, he was filled with questions about how cars work, and in particular, the pickup in which we were.

How many pedals does this truck have?
What happens if you push both pedals at the same time?
Do you have a different pedal to go in reverse?
How many reverse gears does your car have?
Where does the exhaust come from?
Is there a driveshaft for every wheel?
Can you go in first gear on the highway?
What kind of brakes does this truck have?
How does the engine connect to the wheels?

And, comments, spoken with authority:

When I grow up, I'm going to have a disk brake -- on the front wheels.
This pickup truck has an automatic transmission.
When you push on the gas pedal, a flap puts more gas on the engine.
I hate clutches because of clutch chatter!

Clearly, he's been talking to Dad way, WAY too much.

Unfortunately for him, my knowledge of cars and engines is limited, and what I do know is restricted to carbureted horizonally-opposed twin engines in now-vintage BMW motorcycles. I make a conscious effort, however, to give him real answers, and not to introduce the stereotype that Moms don't know anything about cars. Even though it's mostly true.

After Gabriel's swim class, I spent much of my day "off" running errands I've been trying to do for a week, and some which I wouldn't dare do with children (like actually entering a bank and talking to a human).

I also went running this afternoon, a moderate route that included passing a lovely shaded bay tree grove. There I had an "ahhh" moment, like the whole world was at peace. It was so pretty in this little canyonway, with cool breezes in stark contrast to the hot and dry hilltops. I felt uplifted, strong, positive, optimistic as the trees and hills and fresh air and scurrying lizards revived me. I was headache-free today, and strength and power coursed through me as I tackled the hills and felt the sun on my skin.

Tonight, Katrina had exactly what the boys did for dinner: turkey burgers, creamed spinach, and rice. Except she ate more of it than they did.

After eating, she finishes off with a sippy-cup of water, which turns out to be a fun toy as well as a drinking vessel. And the wet tray makes great practice for future finger-paints.

I forgot to mention, yesterday after Katrina's swim class, in playtime sitting on the steps, she pulled herself up to a stand for the first time. No doubt the buoyancy helped, and the step was a perfect height for her. She's on her way!


Monday, August 13, 2007

8/13/07 Migraine musings

One of my favorite things about nursing is that it ensures I get some peaceful time alone with my baby a few times a day. Well, usually peaceful -- Katrina likes to beat on me and pull my hair with her free hand these days. But much of the time, I look down at my baby, happily nestled against me, and have a rare moment of feeling like I'm completely satisfying her, like there's nowhere else on earth she'd rather be. And it's during those moments that I ask myself what on earth I could not love about this life.

The past few days, I've been feeling pulled and put upon, frustrated that I can never follow an impulse and do something right as it comes to me. It's impossible to get momentum on even the smallest project. I'm rusty at basic concentration. Soon I feel like a blithering idiot, unable to piece two sentences together, confusing words, making spelling mistakes (and anyone who knows me knows that I DON'T make spelling mistakes). Inevitably, the frustration at my severely compromised intellect gets directed at my poor children.

But I've come to understand that much of the struggle to think through the fog comes from an outside force. A formidable foe, one with very obvious impact, but also with subtle insidious effects that I've sorely underestimated. And that force is the power of the evil migraine headache.

I've had what I know now to be migraine headaches since the 7th grade, but never in such frequency and so long-lasting as now. It seems that more than half my days since Katrina was about 3 months old are spent screaming in agony in my head. The pain makes it not only difficult to enjoy my children, but also makes it difficult to employ remedies to the inevitable unenjoyable things about them. It disturbs my sleep, makes it very difficult to achieve a sense of accomplishment, makes me slog through routines, dread the day.

And now, I see that it causes genuine depression.

I don't think I've ever had a depressive personality. Like most people, I've had really bad times in my life, but I developed coping strategies, worked through them and eventually pulled out. I don't go through cycles of depression; in general my type-A high-energy personality resists them.

But the burden of migraine headaches makes me vulnerable to depression, rendering my anti-bummer coping strategies almost impossible to execute. It weighs heavily on my psyche, making me negative and fearful and even bitter about my life.

It's funny, actually, that the psychologist headache doctor I saw had me fill out a questionnaire about stress factors in my life. He was clearly surprised -- disappointed -- to see that I'd rated most things in my life low-stress. No low-hanging fruit here. If a migraine mom of 3 young children doesn't rate her life high-stress, what do you say? "Getting my 3-year-old to wash his hands before dinner isn't stress," I explained, "It's annoying. Divorce or an ill parent, that's stress." He brushed off my "attitude of gratitude" (in his words) and probed to get me to complain, perking up when I mentioned remodeling -- oh boy, here's an easy one! But before he could finish making a note, I cut him off and explained that while remodeling, I was pregnant, and had no headaches. At a loss, he skimmed past this major clue and continued to read from the script: take more time for myself, sleep regularly, exercise, eat right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Thanks a lot.

If that's the best a headache-expert psychologist has to offer, then that convinces me that there's nothing to analyze here. I mean, hello -- NO migraines while remodeling pregnant??

Stress isn't causing my migraines. It's the other way around. The migraines, and the ensuing decreased ability to function, is what cause stress. And depression, and negative attitudes. I've heard it for years, but I still don't think my headaches have any psychological root cause. I think they're just plain old physical, but now with devastating emotional effects.

Though last week's full-on migraine broke last Thursday, I've had flickers of headache teetering into migraine territory, ever since. Last night, I slept poorly, waking up often with strange and disturbing imagery, mostly of the reptilian nature. These quasi-nightmares are consistent enough now that they're probably related to the same brain misfirings that cause the searing pain.

And this brings me back around to my bad attitude. No wonder I've been so blue and frustrated about my life the past few days. To be certain, life with three young children -- especially my three young children -- has its very real struggles. And I'm not in my element with babies. But the heavy sense of entrapment, loss of control, that I'll never be myself again, is headache-induced depression. Normal me can step back and see that in a few years -- heck, months -- things will be very different. Normal me sees how unbelievably lucky I am to have three thriving children, a husband I love, and overall good health myself (with one obvious huge exception). Depressed, tunnel-vision, foggy-headed me can only vaguely remember that strong, in-control, confident me ever existed.

I'm really not sure what to do with any of this. I can't let this scourge ruin my life, but paradoxically, it saps my power to fight it. It takes tremendous effort to make even the smallest steps in finding answers. I have to though. I don't want my children to remember me as Migraine Mom.


Sunday, August 12, 2007

8/12/07 Double run

Last night when we returned from our "date night," some toys had mysteriously appeared on our doorstep. I had a good idea what this was about (hand-me-downs), and then an even better idea: hide the little hammer that came with a cute castle toy with balls to push down.

Sure enough, the boys were drawn right to the toddler toy like it had a tractor beam. It's a perfect toy for a very young toddler or a baby on the edge of becoming a toddler, but a 5-year-old starting kindergarten? I mean, really!

Naturally, this presented a fabulous opportunity for more fighting and discovery of inequities. Somehow the yellow ball had more value than the red one, and the battles only devolved from there.

However, I'm happy to report that the boys direct all their antagonism at each other. When I remind them that it's *Katrina's* toy and stick her in the fray, they mostly help her play with it, in their overbearing sort of way. She seems to understand the concept of putting a ball in a tower, though you have to push the ball down through the tower, and that she doesn't get yet.

The boys were driving us insane today, running around screeching in circles so much that Dave and I could barely exchange a few words, like to try to figure out what to do that afternoon. There was no shortage of things we each wanted to do, with various combinations of kids, but it was painfully difficult to talk to each other and make it work.

Finally, we managed to form a plan: I'd take the younger two running, and Dave would take Gabriel to buy a bicycle. Not for Gabriel, for Dave, since Gabriel rides much too fast now to keep track of on foot, and he's ready for bigger and better things than going around the block.

My master plan has succeeded!!! Before we ever had kids, I imagined that kids would finally get him exercising, that kids would force us to get out and do young and athletic things. So Dave got a bicycle, and I went running. (I think we'd have been quite happy going wine-tasting too, sitting down on a shaded patio overlooking the valley with a cheese and fruit plate.)

Somehow, I pushed Julian and Katrina in the doubler jogger. I did the flattest route there is at Rancho San Antonio, one that Sonia routinely does with a double jogger (and heavier kids), so in theory, this was doable. And in practice, it was too.

But hoo boy, those usually-kind uphills were tough. I was just barely keeping a running gait, but fell far short of a running pace. Still, if workout is what I was after, workout I got. But when I run, it's not workout I'm after. It's spirit-lifting, perspective-shifting, musing, mood management. All the logistics of a jogging stroller and two young children is counter to that, but being outdoors and surrounded by trees and hills, you can't help but to feel some revitalization.

I chatted with Julian a little, between gasps for air as I struggled up the hills. And inbetween Katrina's loud "aahhhhHHHH" sounds. She always has her feet in the air, silly baby.

Silly baby has really thrown me for a loop this weekend with naps. Amend to: without naps. Both days, only one nap. Both days, several attempts at naps at around the usual times and given the usual signs of needing a nap, but both days, only one so-so nap right around the middle of the day.

This sucks in a few ways. One, I'm not ready for her to drop a nap. Two, she's not ready to drop a nap; she's tired and high-maintenance and edgy all day. Three, Julian has daycamp next week, which means 12:30pm pickups every day, which is suddenly smack dab in the middle of the naptime she did take this weekend. I can't express how much I don't want to spend all afternoon with a baby who really really needs a nap but won't take one.

Sometimes it's overwhelming. I try not to think about how different my life would be with just the two boys. I already think of myself as transitioning to life with little kids, instead of babies and toddlers, but the moment I think of it that way, I remember: oh yeah, I'm still nursing an infant. The doubts and regrets I had about having a 3rd child while I was pregnant have come to bear almost exactly. It's futile thinking, since here we are, but sometimes it creeps in anyway. People do this on purpose? Of course, there are many times -- more times, in fact -- that I feel grateful and amazed that I have three children. And I know this pressure is short-term, that the sense of being crushed under the demands eases every month as the baby matures. But moments of reflection and a broader perspective are few and far between, and hard-won, when I'm pulled on so constantly and so hard.

18 months....18 months is when a corner is turned. And somewhere between 2 and 3, you start to come up for air. I'll take a very deep breath then.