Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Moms Say the Darndest Things

Things that have actually come out of my mouth:

  • "You can not go outside until you've played that video game!"

  • "Broccoli? Are you sure you don't want fries as your side?"

  • "That's it! You're grounded from reading."

  • "Stop doing those dishes!"

  • "Put those away, we're not reading scriptures right now."

  • "Are you sure you're really feeling OK? Your not faking well to go to school again are you?"

  • "Get down here, you are going to watch this TV show!"

  • "I better not see you doing your homework."

  • "Please tell me the underwear you're wearing on your head came out of the clean laundry pile."

  • "Next time why don't you let me clean up your puke."
Ever hear something come out of your mouth and can't believe you actually said it (and/or wonder how such a phrase could possibly be necessary?) Life sure can be weird sometimes.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Being a Laid Back Mother Makes Well Child Checkups Rather Uncomfortable

My lack of clean clothes did not bode well for Matthew's doctor appointment. (I ended up wearing a shirt so faded it's nearing its initiation into the "only wear why cleaning" pile and Matthew's underwear had an unraveling waistband.)

So sporting a slightly frumpy & frazzled look, we started the interview with the doctor. It went something like this:

Doctor, "So this is Matthew's first time to visit us?"

"Is it?" I madly try to remember which of the kids I have or have not yet to bring to the doctors' office. It is difficult. When I had our last pediatrician release our records to this office, they didn't have charts on my two oldest- I hadn't brought them in the entire time I lived there. I figure, as quickly as I can, that 3 of my kids have been to this office, 3 have not. "Yes, I guess you're right."

Doctor, slightly confused about why I am confused then asks, "So you just moved to the area?"

"Well, it's been almost 2 years now."

Doctor, slightly flustered that this statement of my lack of medical care for my healthy child didn't fluster me, "I see that he has had a couple of ear infections."

"He has?" I knew I had brought him in for some sort of meet the doctor thing 6 months ago! That is the only way that could have been written in the file, because by now I have forgotten that I ever wrote ear infection down on his history. Then I realize that most mothers would remember this because they would have come in for the infection, whereas Peter took care of it for me so I'd forgotten. Besides, I am already failing this interview so I try to cover with, "Oh, yeah. Ear infections. Yep."

Doctor, in the hopes of frustrating me as much as I've frustrated her, "So he is behind on his immunizations, he needs shots today."

"Yeah, I know. These are the last set before his kindergarten shots, right?"

Doctor, thinking I should be breaking down in tears from my lack of proper child care, "No. He has to get a set of shots today and then more for kindergarten. You are BEHIND on shots."

"I know I'm behind, this will catch him up. This is the LAST set BEFORE his kindergarten shots, right?"

Doctor, begrudgingly admitting that I'm right and that I knew where Matthew stood with his immunizations, "Yes."

Then came some exciting questions about his development:

Can he say his full name? "I have no idea, every time I ask he thinks it is a game of coming up with silly names." I ask him his name right there and it turns out he does know his full name. I politely not notice that the doctor seems disappointed.

Can he copy a circle and line? "I don't know."

You mean he doesn't color at home?!? "Oh yeah, he colors. I've just never asked him to draw a circle. Oh, wait. He draws people with circles and two lines for the legs, so change my answer to yes he can."

You didn't answer if he can ride a bike. "Our tricycle broke 2 kids ago, so I'm not sure. He can scooter and ride this tractor thing (which unfortunately hasn't broken through all 6 kids), but it doesn't have pedals. "

Is he in a day school program? "Nope."

At this the doctor's eyebrows raised and I thought I heard a suppressed tongue click. I felt bad, not about how I am raising Matthew, but that I wasn't going to explain to this lovely lady that I had 6 kids and I had learned to not sweat the small stuff. I'm pretty sure it would have hurt my case even more.

The worst part of the whole visit was when I found out Matthew thought getting the shots meant he was old enough to ride the bus to school with Joseph. Anyway, turns out he is a healthy, normal 3 year old, but I already knew that. Luckily these things only happen once a year (or at least are supposed to happen once a year). So that means I won't be going back for ... about a month, when I have the makeup appointment for the appointment I accidentally missed for Ryan. I am expecting it to be a lot of fun. As long as they don't ask me any questions expecting an actual, knowledgeable answer.
Maybe they'll just give up if we come in regular attire:

PS- Is the slogan "immunize by 2, it's up to you" or "immunize by 3, it's up to me"? Because I'm hoping its the latter.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How Do You Thank Friends Like That?

As I was getting ready for my trip last week, I started to have an odd sensation. It felt like nervousness, but I couldn't place why I was feeling it. Then, suddenly, it hit me: I had never left all my children overnight with nonfamily. Now I was leaving them and going over 2 hours away. My children are pretty independent, but there was no way to judge how they would react to a complete disruption of routine and normalcy. In honesty, I was more worried about what that would mean for my friends (who had graciously offered to take the kids) than to my children. Because I know what it is like for me when my children have a break down. It is not a pleasant experience!

So we dropped off the youngest, leaving the other children to be picked up after school, and headed to New York. Then I forgot to call. All evening. It wasn't till half way through dinner (way past bedtimes) that it occurred to me I hadn't checked in with anyone. I made a couple of quick calls and talked to one of my friends, who assured me all was well. The next morning I finally talked to the same batch of kids. My phone somehow missed my other friend calling me back, even though I was holding the phone in my hand at the time it should have been ringing.

So after the play, as I headed home, I finally got ahold of everyone and made my plans for regathering the kids. I reached the first house (the one where I hadn't spoken to the kids for 2 entire days). The reaction was luke warm from Ethan and Kirsti, until Matthew saw me. Then it turned downright acidic. So I loaded up the kids, my 3 year old screaming that he didn't want to leave yet, and begging me to let him move there. I arrived home to meet my second group. Ryan had fallen asleep, Joseph was enjoying cuddle time with my friend, and Elise was in the bath. Glad to know I was missed.

Actually, I was relieved my children had fun. But I was left in a quandary. How do you thank friends who watch your children overnight, make special trips into town to drop and pick them up from school, are kind enough that your children are comfortable staying there, and then insist that your children were delightful? How? It is the last part that left me totally stumped. I love my children fiercely, but am perfectly aware that they can be a bit difficult. Granted Elise no longer dumps flour all over the cupboards, Ryan doesn't take apart electrical outlets, and even Joseph is beginning to calm down a bit, but still I get nervous that after watching my kids people might question their sanity for having offered. Even if they did, they didn't let on to me at all. That is true kindness.

I was thinking proper thanks might include kidney donation or indentured servitude, but settled on more standard chocolate and a gift card from Chili's. Oh, and undying gratitude. Thanks guys!

Friday, September 18, 2009

What Happens When ED Doctors Eat Together

Our first night in NYC Peter and I attended a recruiting dinner for his company. Not only did we get to eat at a fancy restaurant, I had the entertainment of listening to conversations in a room full of emergency room doctors. Are you ready to replay the evening?

We got out of the gate a little slowly: because we arrived there early, the only other people present were a couple other directors of emergency rooms run by Peter’s company. Conversation topics included “what computer system is your site running?”, “what is your volume these days?”, and “did you hear how many doctor hours that ED staffs every day?"

Luckily the residents finally arrived and conversation quickened to an exciting pace. We steered our way through various odd topics. Comparing the weirdest way they’d witnessed someone intake drugs (shooting heroine directly into the radial artery) naturally turned to the oddest arm cases treated (an industrial power washer hitting the arm and shooting it full of water). Somehow this topic turned the conversation toward the “regulars”. Every ED has them. Every ED doctor (and nurse) knows them by name. It can be entertaining to compare the creativity your regular’s pain meds seeking excuses with regulars in other cities.

Unfortunately the conversation stalled for a while on what sort of ultrasound equipment is used/preferred/disliked in their departments. But not to worry, it sped up again when they started talking about appropriate names to call unwilling consultants, which would be inappropriate to tell here. (You imagine what you would call a urologist who refuses to see a patient in your department.) Then there were the reasons they’d been written up before. (Can you believe that sometimes an emergency room doctor loses his/her cool? Peter apparently asked a patient’s husband once were he got his medical degree).

Naturally the conversation meandered through favorite reverse discrepancies (mostly they focused on when the nighttime radiologist resident reads a test one way and the next morning the attending radiologist reads it differently. The ED doctor must then call the patient and tell them their initial diagnosis was wrong. Turns out ED doctors HATE that!) Sounds sort of boring, but you’re talking about brain bleeds, broken bones, and any number of reasons to get CAT scans and X-rays.

The conversation ended on the not so high note of favorite intubation tools. Yawn? Um, they are talking about how to jam tubes and scopes down people’s throats. I may have had no idea what the names of the equipment were or understood what they were doing once they started speaking in pure medical terminology, but I did find it extremely entertaining to watch the eyes around the table brighten as increasingly bizarre techniques and/or equipment were mentioned. Protected airways never seemed more exciting.

And that was the journey of dinner last night. If you can’t take words like cadaver, blood, puke, septic, or anal exam while eating, never attend a dinner party exclusively made up of doctors.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Brilliant Plan, Except the Part Where I Wore Heels in NYC

Brilliant plans are often a collaborative effort. Ours began with a realization. Several months ago I was reading about a friend going to see Wicked. I thought it sounded like fun and left it at that, until one day it hit me that, living only a couple hours from Broadway, there really wasn’t anything keeping me from going. All I needed was a reason to be in NYC without kids.

(A side note/paragraph: in most things pop culture I am an idiot. I wanted to see this play simply because everyone kept saying how good it was. I went into it having never heard any of the music and knowing only the vaguest of plotlines, which mostly came from reading the first part of the book before I put it down because it was so filthy. I apologize for this shocking revelation, continue with the story.)

The second part to our plan came only a couple days later when Peter called me with a suggestion. His company had planned 2 recruiting dinners in NYC on my birthday and the following night. Since he has to attend a couple dinners every year, why not fly my mom out to watch the kids and make it an extended date/birthday present. Desire to be in NYC kids free plus a reasonable excuse to do so (with the bonus that Wicked has matinees on Wednesdays) meant the birth of a workable plan.

When I mentioned our idea to a couple of friends, they graciously offered to split my kids between them and save us my mom’s airfare for another day. I decided to cut my stay by a night, go to only one of the dinners, the matinee the next day, and then go home. It was a perfect plan.

(Another side note: it turns out that my sister already had tickets to fly out to visit my mom that week so she wouldn’t have been able to fly out to watch my kids anyway. So don’t feel gypped Mom!)

The weekend before my birthday I began to wonder what exactly one would wear to Broadway (and to a professional recruiting dinner). Can you believe that business casual does not make up a large part of my wardrobe? Then I remembered that it this was all my birthday present so I went shopping. Sometime during the shopping spree I decided it would be fun to try the whole jeans with high heels look. A new pair of jeans and shoes were added to list.

So the kids were successfully handed off to friends, the dinner was kind of fun, I like my new outfits, and my very first Broadway play was fantastic!! It was great to have some time alone with Peter and just talk. The only flaw was deciding to wear heels when I know our favorite thing to do in any city is walk around. Aimlessly. For hours. For miles. My feet are less than happy (turns out the prefer comfort over style). But every silver lining has to have a cloud, right?

Extra thanks to my friends for watching the kids- that deserves (and will get) a post in itself! As does the adventures of walking around NYC for a day and a half. As does the conversation at a dinner table full of emergency room doctors.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 Changed My Life. Twice.

Matthew is three. Somehow I'd forgotten how exciting the third birthday can be. He knew it was coming and he anticipated this day for at least the last week. Every time someone told him, "Happy Birthday!" today he would run to his cake and ask for us to "put the lighter on it, so we can sing." He sat completely still beside his pile of wrapped presents for 15 minutes, waiting for his siblings' arrival home from school. He couldn't contain his excitement as each gift was finally unwrapped. In short, it was joyfully adorable.

And yet, hanging over it all was the day. My youngest was born exactly 5 years after the 9/11 attacks. The overwhelming sadness that accompanies remembering that day was always present, looming over everything we did and said. I can't avoid it, I don't want to avoid it. I feel strongly my responsibility to NOT forget.

Until now I've been able to compartmentalize the day. Give Matthew some festivity and take time for solemn reflection. But this year, now that he knows what a birthday means, it was much more difficult. How do you celebrate while mourning or mourn while celebrating?

I think it must be similar (and probably even easier) than those who lose a loved one on a holiday.

It didn't help that he choose a firetruck birthday cake. If I had realized the irony before this morning, I might have encouraged a different choice. As it was, as I passed the cake sitting on the counter all day, I was reminded of my torn emotions. My heart swelled at the gift of my son and his sweet innocence. Yet, my heart sank as I thought of those that lost their life and a national loss of innocence. How is it a heart can do both? How do you survive a day when you're torn into two? (And, do you think it will affect him, that his mother grieves on his birthday?)

Today was a very strange day for me.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Short Post Announcing the End of Diapers in Our House

I have tried 3 times to write a post about how wonderful it is that my youngest potty trained himself and had only a handful of accidents before getting it. Unfortunately, I can't get around my propensity to share too much information and my comfortableness (after 12 years of changing diapers and potty training 6 kids) in using potty words. In short, I'd read the post I was in the middle of writing and think, "If I'm worried it might be too crass, then it must of really crossed the line." So I kept erasing the posts.

Let's just leave it at this:

  • he has not had any accidents for over a week,

  • he decided to wear underwear a whole 2 weeks before he turned 3 (when I would have pressed the issue),

  • he refuses to sit down to pee but has been finally convinced it is necessary when in the women's public restroom,

  • he keeps going outside wearing only underwear

  • (and for a brief moment today I worried he may have snuck out wearing even less).

And I didn't even have to try to think of a nice word for bowel movement. So there you have it: until I become incontinent myself, I am officially finished with diapers. For 7 years I was changing a child in diapers and for 5 years I was changing two. A dozen years and I am done!! I am one happy, happy mother.

(P.S.- I wait until they're three because I had a horrible, terrible, excruciating experience potty training my oldest. You'd think she would have been ready when she kept trying to change her own poopy diapers, but you'd be wrong. It was horrible enough that I would rather change diapers an extra year and wait till the kids are old enough to be trained in a couple days. This was the first time I learned that it is far better to wait till a child is old enough to learn something rather than to beat us both up trying to do it before they're ready. That lesson was ALMOST worth the terrible experience)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

This Playroom Will Self-Destruct in 5 Seconds

Unlike my husband and children, I have long since outgrown my youthful belief in the housekeeping fairy. However, I absolutely believe, and live in fear, of the housekeeping goblin. The facts are overwhelming: he attacks my home daily.

At times you may see me prancing through the house and wonder if I've joined some new age, abstract dance group. The answer, of course, is No. I am procrastinating a trip to the restroom. But Charlotte, you may ask, don't you have 5 restrooms in that house you're leasing? Surly they aren't all out of order again? Yes, I do, and they're all working (and actually clean right now). The problem is I know as soon as I shut the bathroom door, the housecleaning goblin will strike, destroying my house. It is uncanny! It doesn't matter if I take 1 second or 10 minutes- that goblin is fast. One instant is all he needs.

Sometimes, when the kids come home from school, all I have to do is blink and that goblin has worked its evil magic. Papers strewn across the room, backpacks flung to high heaven, lunch bags freeing their lingering crumbs. Not to mention the shoes and socks decorating any and every flat surface not already taken by art projects and $1 toys from the prize box.

If there is a housekeeping goblin, as I firmly believe, I know where its lair can be found: the playroom. That is the only explanation for the conditions in that room. It doesn't matter how often I clean, organize, and threaten the children to only take out one toy at a time, that room is determined to stay a mess. I finish cleaning, get a drink of water, and come up to grab the broom to find every toy in that room dumped. I've even tried weeding out the toys- it didn't help. Obviously the goblin feeds on a mother's sweat and tears.

So, anyway, in my continued goal to deep clean my house in the first 3 weeks of school, I entered the goblin's hideout today. I dumped and reorganized all those toys. I gathered the discarded dishes and cups, swept the crumbs and took out the garbage. It took 4 hours. While I was gone the goblin made a weak counterattack on my living room (apparently the goblin is greatly inhibited during school hours), but I won the battle today.

Or so I thought until I checked while tucking in the kids. He is already rearranging that room, preparing to redecorate in a manner more suited to his personal tastes; toys and garbage and dishes had already found their way back inside. I would raise a white flag, but that would involve finishing my laundry. And believe me, the laundry fairy is in cahoots with the goblin.

*OK, honestly, the top picture is the "after" of the below "before" one and these pictures are really from a couple months ago (and are the reason I did my great toy reduction), but they convey the idea perfectly so I added them.*

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Reclaiming my House in this Post-Summer Era

This is my first experience with half day kindergarten. In preparation to have all my days nicely cleaved in 2 distinct parts, I've been trying to decide how to schedule my days. Do I run errands with my youngest 2 in the morning so the afternoon can be spent with my quiet, little trouble producing preschooler? Or do I spend my mornings at home and enjoy errands more by cutting the kid count in half?

After several weeks of summer my house has settled into complete chaos. Frightened I may have lost something important in the disorganized mess (like a few library books, all my bowls, or maybe even a neighborhood child), I decided to spend the first three weeks of child reduced bliss deep cleaning my house. I divided it up and every morning I let Phineas and Ferb watch the boys while I tackle yet another room. Then, after I send Joseph off to school, I recover from my cleaning blitzes.

This has been an adventure. Wrought with games like "That is where my masking tape/mascara/camera case have been all summer?" and "What kind of food was that originally, and how long does it take to grow that sort of fuzz." Not to mention the ever entertaining "Why would anyone even think to stuff underwear there? I would rather throw it away than check for cleanliness."

Knowing my cleaning drive would begin strong and quickly diminish, I started with the worst areas and am working toward the easier ones. That means I've cleaned, in my first 3 days of school: the girls' room, the 2 boys' rooms, and all the bathrooms. You read that right, by virtue of the order I listed, the girls' and boys' rooms ranked above the bathrooms in nastiness.

It's been a blast, I tell you. Or rather, my house looked like it had been blasted and I am in the process of post-war reconstruction.

For your reading enjoyment here are some of my finds so far (enjoyment may not be the best choice of words here):
  • I couldn't figure out why there was a can opener in the boys' room. Until I started finding the empty cans of olives in there bathroom. If memory serves there were at least 6 cans (and one in the girls' room).
  • No wonder I kept having to buy more printer paper over the weeks, there must have been 200 folded airplanes stuck in my boys' closets. And another 200 stuffed on a shelf in their bathroom.
  • Couldn't figure out what that was, stuck to the bottom inside corner of my daughters' bed stand, till I realized it was an old spider nest. Explains all the webs full of dead flies I found in every corner of their room and bathroom.
  • Took a while to place the odd smell permeating the girls' room: it was coming from their carpet. Carpet removed, their room no longer smells like a mold fest. (I've told them not to bring water in their rooms at night!)
  • Completely unrelated? 3 huge cups (1 still full of water), 4 water bottles, and 3 small cups in the girls' room.
  • The new trash can I bought for the boys' bathroom: the good news was they had filled in partway with garbage, the bad news was they had also filled it with something else (use your imagination- but in case you have boys and therefore a vivid imagination- it was liquid something not solid).
  • I was able to fill an entire (small) rubbermaid container with the pens I found in the girls' room while I found the smallest K-nexs pieces along the border of both boys' rooms. Also under every bed, chair, toy, piece of trash, and laundry.
  • Enough garbage to fill an X-large U-Haul packing box (that had been "borrowed" and covered in fabric to create a Webkinz home to match their virtual one). I am not kidding, when I was done the box was FULL and I threw it out before Elise saw because I'm sure she would disagree with me on what qualified as garbage in her room.

Everything has been cleaned out, disinfected, and made to look neat. Today we are having a combined youth activity at our house, so I am suspending the worst to best order for a day to concentrate on bookshelves and countertops. You know, things people are actually going to see if they come into the house. As long as I don't add anything to my list, my reclaim-the-house-daily-in-the-4-hours-before-afternoon-kindergarten-starts project should last 3 weeks (Yes, I actually wrote down a list and cross it out with a note of how long it took to clean. Underneath the chaotic outer layer of a mother of 6 children was once a list-making, organized freak.)

I bet you'll enjoy your housecleaning a little more today knowing what it could be like...