Saturday, February 27, 2010

Warming drawer

On Wednesday, while I was reading the paper, Amelia placed herself, her dolly, and several packs of trivia cards in the warming drawer of the oven. I found her sitting quietly, intently trying to figure out how to close herself in.

Then Friday afternoon I finally ran out of diapers after forgetting for three days to pick up a new pack. Amelia was naked from the waist down for 45 minutes while I ran out to the store. My mom stayed at the house with her, trying to keep her off the new living room rug, and wiping up puddles of pee.

On the bright side, the earlier bedtime seems to be working for Henry. Now he's only as manic-depressive as the average 3-year-old.

Monday, February 22, 2010

For worse

So my marriage is falling apart. In the course of a very serious discussion about this fact on Monday, Simon confessed that he resents, among other things related to my lack of housekeeping skills, the fact that he sometimes runs out of clean underwear.

This is a fair complaint. He is off to work 50 or 60 hours a week so that we can have a nice life and I don't have to work, and in return he expects to have clean underwear.

I am mortified. Not just that I haven't been doing his laundry, but that he has been silently judging me for this for years. In my defense, I do laundry almost daily. But most days, I am physically pushing down the kids' clothes and the towels and the dinner napkins to make it all fit. There is seldom room for my clothes, let alone Simon's clothes.

So I have to do his laundry more often. That's the deal, right? I take care of trivial tasks like underwear washing so he can have his brain free for running his company. It has been the division of labor between stay-at-home moms and their husbands for millennia.

I resent it ferociously. I am a smart woman, maybe smarter than Simon. And yet I wash his underwear. What I want to say is, "You're 42 years old. Wash your own goddamn underwear." But I don't, because I am a 34-year-old woman with no job.

In theory, we are a team, balancing family and work, child care and checkbooks. In actuality, he is the widely-applauded circus elephant, I am the guy with the shovel following him around.

I love being with my kids. But there is a mixed bag of financial dependence and underwear washing that goes with that privilege. I feel powerless and ashamed and very, very torn.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Worry wart

This is Henry.

He looks happy, right? This was at the zoo. He was happy at the zoo.

At home, he is not happy. Lately, he is neurotic and miserable nearly all the time.

He sobs when it's time to stop playing PBS computer games, or when it's time for a bath, or when I ask him to wash his hands. He wails when Simon tries to brush his teeth in the morning instead of me, or when Amelia looks at him in the car. Often, the wailing erupts into screaming. The neighbors must think we're using a cattle prod.

He has developed a particular gift for finding the horse shit behind every pony. On Saturday, when I told him we were going bowling with his friend Serenity, his fleeting smile was immediately replaced with a tearful, "If we go bowling today, we can't go bowling tomorrow." When I told him he could get his own "Get Well Soon" balloon bouquet the next time he was sick or injured, he whined, "But if I get balloons, Amelia might try to grab them, and then I'll push her, and then I will feel bad for myself."

I feel a particular burden to find the right response because I, of all people, should know about obsessive anxiety and persistent misery. So I start out being upbeat and supportive, offering a hug and a positive perspective. "I know it's so hard to have to put your shoes on when you'd rather play with your train set, but we're going to have so much fun at the park!" He cries some more, I encourage some more. I am Phil freaking Donahue.

And then I am not. After the third or fifth or tenth iteration, I am irritated with the crying, irritated with myself for being so completely ineffectual, and, frankly, a little panicky that my preschooler has a major depressive disorder. My tone switches from soft to stony. "Henry," I snap, "Life is tough. Knock it off."

Sometimes this works. Sometimes it sparks louder and wetter tears. I am at a loss. Sure, I've managed to get my own issues mostly under control, but I have little advice for a small child. "Henry," I would say, "Take a meditation class, start writing, and have a beer or some sort of gin-based cocktail."

Instead we are trying an earlier bedtime this week. We'll see.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Successful surgery

Amelia is fine. She is more than fine, in fact. She is a superstar.

The child didn't have a single, solid bite of food from 7 p.m. the night before until 2 p.m. the day of surgery, and she was not only OK, she was peppy. I did sneak her a 4 oz. bottle of milk at 5 a.m., which was against the hospital's "no solids or milk past midnight" rule, but which was well within the actual food-consumption guidelines set by the Society for Pediatric Anesthesia (honestly, parents have to do their own research about these things). She also drank apple juice up until 9 a.m. After that--nothing. Personally, I had breakfast, but I skipped my mid-morning snack so I wouldn't be eating in front of her, and I was starving by the time she went into surgery. I am in awe of the child.

She was happy and busy in the waiting room, and happy and busy in the pre-op exam room. She liked her surgical pajamas and the yellow slippy-socks.

***This is where I thought we'd post a photo of pre-op Amelia. Funny, by the time she was in her little outfit, 10 minutes before surgery, the camera was the very last thing on my mind.***

We carried her to the surgery room, and I laid her down on the operating table. She didn't even wiggle. She just held my fingers with one hand and clutched Little Dolly with the other. She looked curious when the anesthesiologist put the tiny mask over her nose and mouth, but she didn't flinch. After a minute or two she started grinning inside the mask, and kicking her feet high into the air. Then she was still, her eyes only half-closed.

I held it together until we got out to the waiting room. Simon asked if I was OK, and I started trembling and tearing up. I mean, this was a tiny procedure involving a tear duct. Can you imagine what I would have been like if they were wheeling her off to a five-hour open-heart surgery?

Twenty-five minutes later the nurse called for us, and I could hear Amelia screaming in the recovery area. She had woken up immediately after surgery, asking for Mommy, and now she was inconsolable. Her left eye was red and swollen. She wailed loudly for a good 10 minutes, alternately clawing at my shoulder and pulling at the tape around the IV in her hand. Finally, the nurse removed the IV, the blood pressure cuff, and the little toe-monitor. I whispered a made-up version of "Hush Little Baby" into her ear, and she fell asleep for 10 minutes. When she woke up, she was happy again.

And that was it. The nurses gave her a bear, they gave us some eye ointment and care instructions, and we were on our way. Aside from the blood-tinged tears and snot, she was completely normal.

Henry, on the other hand, was a weepy mess all weekend. I think he was overwhelmed by a combination of worry for Amelia and heart-piercing jealousy over the attention she's been getting. He looked absolutely wounded when the bouquet of "Get Well Soon" balloons arrived from their cousins.

One last note: As we were leaving the hospital, I saw a little girl, maybe 5 or 6 years old, walking out, holding hand with her mother. The little girl was bald, probably from chemotherapy, and the mother had shaved her head, too.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The girl with the leaky eye

Although she is, generally speaking, a study in toddler health, Amelia has one lingering physical abnormality: a leaky left eye.

The pediatric ophthalmologist has diagnosed her with nasolacrimal duct obstruction, a.k.a. blocked tear duct. The tears go in, but they cannot drain out, so they either run down her face, giving her a perpetual sad-clown appearance, or they stay in her eye, giving her persistent eye boogers. Worst case, allergens which would normally be washed quickly away linger on her eyeball and make her look like she has a black eye, as shown in this Halloween photo. This is uncomfortable for Amelia and does not seem to reflect well on my parenting.

Last September the ophthalmologist suggested a very quick, simple, painless procedure to correct the problem, which, oh, by the way, requires general anesthesia. I balked. Anesthesia? For a leaky eye? But it could clear up on it's own! It's already better! She'll be cured all on her own within a couple of months! I refused the surgery.
Since then her eye has gotten worse, and since winter and cold season set in, more and more often she wakes from naps with her lashes crusted together. I am increasingly concerned with the possibility of infection. I also can't imagine it's good for her vision to be looking through a glob of goo most of each day.

Anyway, Amelia is scheduled for surgery on Friday at noon. My pediatrician seems to think this is no big deal, but I am sick to my stomach over it. I am looking at baby pictures of her and weeping, worrying that I didn't appreciate her infant-hood enough.

Part of me thinks the whole surgery thing is a bad idea, but I can't let her grow up looking like a James Bond villain. Right?

Monday, February 8, 2010


A family vacation for a stay-at-home mom is like one of those old-school racing video games in which you can choose your race location. At first the prospect of driving around New York or Japan or Egypt is compelling, and then after the first lap you realize it's the same stupid game but with palm trees instead of skyscrapers.

You know what made me think of those video games? Henry spent five hours a day playing them while we were in Tahoe. Vacation for him, vacation for me. Amelia can't play video games yet, and that's a loss for all of us.

Fortunately, we did not go alone. We brought my sister and our friends and former best-next-door-neighbors-ever (former because we moved, not because they slacked off), Marion and Shiloh. This is the key to vacationing with small children: adults should outnumber them by at least 2-to-1. It's brilliant. Everyone has time to read, everyone can go down the sledding hill, anyone who gets up to watch The Lion King at 6:15 am can go back to sleep by 8.

Mostly we went sledding, which is a much more athletic activity than I would have thought. This is a photo of Henry taking flight after the other adults sent him down the hill by himself. He was fine. Mildly traumatized, but fine.

It was actually a wonderful time. We ate good dinners and laughed a lot. The sledding was the most fun I have had in years. By the time we left I was a little more relaxed. I was also exhausted from the repeated night-wakings of my disoriented children. For me, exhaustion is a clear precursor to anxiety, and last night, after we returned, I was weeping to Simon that after three days with me, Maura and Marion and Shiloh had finally realized what a dill-weed I am, and we'll never see them again.

This is me: good friends, good times, crippling self-doubt, tears.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Last one on the bandwagon

Seconds after I emailed my friends and family members that I am keeping a blog, I read on SF Gate that a new study proves that blogging is no longer cool.

"The results indicate blogging has become so 2006, when 28 percent of the two groups studied, teens 12 to 17 and young adults 18 to 29, actively blogged.

By the fall of 2009, that percentage dropped off to only 14 percent of teens and 15 percent of young adults as blogging 'lost its luster for many young users,' said Amanda Lenhart, one of the report's authors."

This is exactly what happened when I got stock options, too. It proves, yet again, what I have suspected for many, many years: my involvement in a trend is a sure indication that it is ending. Perhaps I will look into Twitter in a year or so.

Read more:

My living room

We have now been in our new house for five months, and this is what our living room looks like.

Those boxes used to just be filled with books, but somehow have become receptacles for toys, stray socks, and missing house keys, too. I've never claimed to be a good decorator or even a decent housekeeper, but even I am getting embarrassed to invite people over. Not just people--family even.

To be fair, we finally bought actual furniture last weekend, and it will arrive next week. I'm just not sure it will be much of an improvement. It's brown, for one thing. I figured brown would be fine, sensible for sticky little fingers and maybe even cute with stylish throw pillows. But it took me five months to get a sofa. How long might it be before I find throw pillows? Or a rug? Or a coffee table? Years. It may be years. And in the meantime I will have brown furniture amid boxes and toy strollers.

Amelia and Henry, at least, are quite happy with the current decor.