don’t look under that giant woolen hat – for about four days

I am notoriously bad at “people math” – that is, if we have one guest over I suddenly don’t know how many plates to set out for dinner. So you can imagine the fact that today starting at about 6:30 AM I’m taking four extra children (three from one friend for most of the day; a regular Tuesday three-hour gig with my friend’s daughter E.) and farming out one of my own children (Suse, to school) means that at this very moment I’m not sure how many children I’m taking care of (OK, it’s four now since E. just left).

But I also knew the real dealbreaker would be the 9 month old. I can handle a passel of toddler / preschoolers pretty good but babies – the care of a baby immediately sets you back to this odd formula that is both simple but easily missed. Baby crying inconsolably? You try everything and then you go back to the check-the-diaper and try-to-feed-it ritual, even if you just changed a diaper, even if you just fed them. What’s amazing is how much diaper you change; I forgot about that (two Poo Specials by 8 AM). You also pray for a nap (literally, honest-to-God pray) and tell yourself you’ll rest while they nap but then don’t.

Five minutes ago I finally got the rather sad, very full, completely dry baby sporting a large, quarter-shaped shiny spot on his forehead from either a burn or rug-burn (yes, and I wish I could say I was joking but he did get injured on my watch – I think I’ll spend the afternoon finding and kicking puppies, just to make myself feel better). And don’t think little baby T. isn’t surrounded by as many blanket retaining walls as I could muster! The older three are playing in the living room nicely, I’m listening to Elvis and about to wash dishes – again (I’ve made ten meals so far today! not including the breakfast enchiladas I scarfed for myself). Most of the way through my shift and we’re all safe and (relatively) sound.

The oldest four in my crew are phenomenally well-behaved, sweet children which goes a long way to making the day an enjoyable one. Even amongst the phenomenal task of dressing six people for a walk in our cold sunshine we get these great teaching moments: before embarking for a treasured destination I ask these four, “What happens if we get walking and T. starts crying and crying and crying?” A., the oldest in my flock today says, “We’ll stop to nurse.” Four pairs of child’s eyes beam their headlights on me in silent query and I laugh and say, “Do you think I can do that?” “No but look,” says A., “You trick T. by putting him against you like this and then give him his binkee.” “You know, that is a great idea,” I tell her, “but it doesn’t work – it actually makes him mad. Great thinking though!” How smart are these wee ones?

People that do what I do every day for a job? They deserve more compensation than they get paid, and a lot more accolades for their work. P.S. it took me a full ten seconds to think of the word “accolades” because having a baby also makes you temporarily mentally disabled, apparently when you’re not even sporting nursing hormones.

every which way

Today I am distracted, frenetic, lazy, and sad.

I am distracted and frenetic because I don’t know how to tackle my many, many to-do list items for our move. People ask the harmless and sweet question, “Are you packing up yet?” to which I think, Holy shit, am I supposed to? I mean, how I do I pack a couch I sit on every day, or clothes I wear? Yet the inevitable fact looms: in just a few days this stuff has to go in one truck and I can’t even imagine it.

I am lazy because in some way, my confused activity has resulted in a decidedly non-efficient use of my time. Here’s the problem: I know that if I tick off my “to do” list, methodically, stuff will get done. But how can I focus on one “to do” item at a time? No, so much easier to run about my house, hands flopping uselessly in front of me and making “pfft! pfft!” sounds with my mouth.

I am sad because I really miss Fancy our cat and would like to have her home.

I have to hand it to single parents and dual-working parents. Today I got just a taste of the kind of shuffle that must be part of their life. This afternoon my lovely friend Sara babysat my two children for a couple hours and this evening my friends the Creccas babysat my boy for dinner (so Ralph and Sophie could do their swimming lesson). The amount of shuffle-shuffle, do-you-have-a-carseat?, remembering details of who went pee and who’s been fed, do-you-have-Sophie’s swimsuit? – Holy shit. I think I’ll keep my quaint and relatively measured SAHM gig. For now.

power up!

Port Townsend’s Windstorm 2006 has abated for the time being. Last night after our dinner out we ventured to the store for candles and matches. Then home to our dark house to pack soap, shampoo, towels and pajamas for showers down at the Boat Haven. I took a lovely 4 1/2 minutes (three $0.25 worth) of hot water while my naked daughter stamped and splashed. After we were clean I sat in the heated shower stall bench and combed out my daughter’s freshly-washed fine tangles and realized how very, very comforting it is for me to bathe or shower. I bundled her in her pajamas, socks, rain boots, a hoody of mine to cover her wet head, and her winter coat over all. We ran out to the van to join the boys, also freshly scrubbed.

Home and time for many candles, coloring books, piles of blankets. I set aside some laundry to take to the laundromat should our power still be out in the morning. But at about 10:30 PM the fellows from the power company arrived across the street; two cherry-pickers and a spotlight truck. They remove the offending tree limb and saw it in huge chunks; pieces fall and bang on the mailboxes below (nailing Cynthia and BJs but missing ours by happenstance). We watch the workers brave the storm and cold. At midnight or so our bedroom light clicks on; my husband and children shout, “Thank you! Goodbye!” out the window to the departing trucks.

To bed late, my daughter nestled against me as I read a few chapters of my latest book. Then finally sleep for us all; a nightlight glows in the hall. The small economy of light is comforting for what we briefly lost.

but seriously, there is no passive-aggressive anger in this meatball sandwich i just made you

Well, I just snapped at a perfectly decent human being. And I think it was a pregnant one, carrying a gift for someone else. Yeah, I’m an asshole. See, I was dropping off a gift at a baby shower because I wasn’t able to attend and this nice-looking young woman who was dressed lovely and smelled like flowers asked me to park somewhere else, and I fixed her with the dead-eye and said, “I’m not staying”, practically hissing like some cretinous Gorgon sister. It wasn’t her or what she said; she caught me at a bad time. Then she proceeded to back down on the parking thing, she introduced herself, and then said, “It’s nice to meet you.” I felt about two inches tall and hideous.

Yes, today is one of those days you don’t want to cross me. Or don’t even want to try to say anything to me unless it’s something like, “Hey, can I help you carry that?” or “You look nice today.” That’s right, I’m being a bitch. Now I know I joke about being a bitch all the time but I never mean it, because anyone who knows me knows I’m not really. I guess I should stop saying it because it cheapens days like today where I’ve just about had enough and I extend my regrets to anyone who’s going to run across me and I really, really want people to give me a break and not annoy me. But they keep doing it.

Part of my problem may be a slightly heightened sense of schedule and responsibility. My brother is visiting. This is a good thing, except that it’s hard for me to have company. I mentally “hover” over the person(s), especially if they’re not someone I can trust to help me care for my kids. And it’s really a mental holdover of my own, not a reflection of the capabilities or willingness of my guest(s), who are always happy to help I’m sure. Whatever it is, it sucks.

Once in my life I have actually taken a “time out” from my visitor: I basically said, “You need to entertain yourself for a while. I’m going to sew.” In that case my friend was probably relieved to have a break. But it’s hard for me to do. As I type this now my brother and son are upstairs playing on the computer and I feel guilty. Not guilty for neglecting my son, which I do regularly, but guilty for not providing 100% appropriate entertainment for my guest. This is dumb because this guest, like most, does not need this from me.

An IM from my husband: he is going to be home late. He doesn’t know when. Yay! More good news.

"… without adding, ‘you’re making a scene.’"

It’s 3:45 PM and I’m at a little celebratory ice cream social at a sweet li’l uptown shop that is celebrating a successful first leg of business. I’m here by personal invitation (which I’m very touched about). The owner of the store is giving a small, tactful speech thanking each person there. Everyone is smiling. Then.

My son. Is the one. Writhing on his back, thumping his head against the flooring, and squalling. Brandishing two markers threateningly. The room is mostly adults who are probably alternating between pretending I don’t exist and wishing I didn’t. Of course, three other toddlers are there (one, my lovely daughter who is behaving herself very well), but they are pulling it together for the five minutes needed. But it’s my kid. Right now. That is the problem.

Today Michelle said, “You must be pretty worn out by the end of the day.”

Yeah.

it’s funny because it’s TRUE

Sometimes my standards are pretty low. Like, this morning at about 10:25 AM. My standard of life was: keep fecal matter off of clothes and face (hands were out of the picture since I was changing a diaper and unfortunately you still have to use your hands for that). Five seconds later, as I tried to steady the boy and pull his pants up, even my modest boundary had to go. In case you, dear reader, are wondering how I could retain human feces on my hands or clothes let me just say that changing a shitty diaper on the shitty floor of a shitty rec center without a fucking changing table – on a 18-month old child who thrashes like a wolverine and screams like a torture victim whenver I lay him flat – is one of the worst things you get to do as a parent (so far, in my four years). If anyone needs a diagram or further exposition, email me and I’ll fill you in.

But you know, I had to keep going with my day. What would I like to have done? I would like to leave my children, go home, strip down, take a hot shower, dress in PJs, crawl into bed, and cry. God, I don’t even know what I’d like. It’s been a while since I had it, whatever it is.

This afternoon my husband doesn’t bother calling to let me know he’s going to be an hour late. He calls about fifteen minutes before he’s due home. While I’m cleaning Horrendous Fecal Event #3 of the day (the first being abovementioned incident; event Number Two was a delightful Hey-Why-Don’t-I-Shit-In-The-Tub incident from this afternoon – by the way, shitting in a tub which was also full of newly-sanitized bath toys) – as I said, while I’m cleaning up shit just to maintain a safe household – my son finds a full pound of rice and dumps it on the floor.

But then I realize this is perfect. My husband was supposed to be home five minutes before the rice got dumped. So, I’m not going to clean it. In fact, I’m not going to go in the room at all. This wasn’t the plan. Right now, I should be in the kitchen making dinner as The Boy and Babydaddy are tidying up the living room. Yeah. I’m not cleaning it up. In fact, I’m not leaving this room unless I hear breaking glass or my husband’s voice when he gets here. And then I’m not speaking to him for a while, either.

Some days are just like that.

where the weekend takes you

Dear Readers.

So much to tell, and no idea where to start. The family drama. The impromptu, packed-up-in-twenty-minutes roadtrip whereby I loaded up my oldest child in our truck and headed down to visit my brother for the weekend. The two days away from Husband and The Boy where my daughter and I were thick as thieves, staying up to 2 AM then sleeping in together, limbs wrapped around one another and hands tangled in one another’s hair. The sheer comedy of my daughter’s unconditional and expressive love toward my brother, who can be understated as standoffish (until you get to know him, anyway). At 11:30 PM on Saturday night, the two of them head into a local pizza parlour. She: peaches-and-cream complexion, blonde wispy hair, white sweater and kitten hat, and frilly skirt. Holding the hand of her Uncle Billy: sunglasses, long dark hair and beard, slight glower to his walk, and in his perennial thick dark wool peacoat (which he wears even on the hottest of summer days). They spent many an hour curled up on the couch (watching Nightmare Before Christmas and – Ralph was so pissed to hear this – Jurrassic Park). I think he’s still trying to resist her charms a little, but it isn’t really working.

I learned that it’s possible to have a vacation with a child. Of course, we’ve had the kids on vacation before. But I mean a vacation in the sense of: totally relaxing, responsibility-free, fun every single minute of the day. No back-breaking lifting of an 18-month-old squirming fiend. Caring for a child 100% potty-trained who also washes her own hands when she’s supposed to and can occasionally find her own food. No goddamn breastfeeding! [sigh!] Bliss for a couple days.

Unfortunately, The Boy is making up for his lost time without Mama. He seems to have grown an inch and converted yet more of his precious babyfat to sturdy muscle. He also can climb higher, scream louder, and eat more.

Three more weekdays to survive.