Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Separation Anxiety

     It is with a heavy heart that I left the school this morning.  Maybe I should have been running from the building, clicking my heals in the air, celebrating this new freedom, but that's not how I feel at all.  Maybe if the girls had been happily playing when I left, I would feel more relieved right now, but they were not happy in the least.
     After five weeks of warming the seat of the parent chair in the classroom, I decided that "easy does it" was not working so I'd have to go with the "cold turkey" approach.  Rip off the band aid, cut the proverbial cord, untie the apron strings.  I spent those weeks sitting in the classroom for moral support, taking frequent breaks, trying to make each break a little longer each time, but my girls would still freak out every time I left and would cry even if I was there or anytime I was out of sight, and Sierra more so than Kelsey.  It was nice being there, to a point, watching all the kids play, seeing how things were run, and noticing all the various child personalities at work and the dynamics of development and growth (and being the "resident Mom" wasn't bad, giving out hugs when a child, even other than my girls, needed a hug from a Mom instead of a Teacher).  But I have a doctor's appointment next week and will not be available to console them. And really, how long could I let this reaction go on without addressing it?  This was the week to swing the ax, for all our sakes.
      I made them laminated necklaces of a picture of me with them, so they can hug "me" anytime they need to and to show them that Mommy is always with them.  We've played school everyday for the past week, going through the drop-off process as their Mommy and then being the Teacher and going through their schedule at school, from free play to craft to snack to gym time to circle and songs, to the moment that door opens and all the Mommy's rush back in with open arms to take their babies home.  I presented their picture necklaces to them this morning before breakfast, and said that today was Tuesday, the one-day-a-week that they go to school.  We packed their snacks in their owl backpacks and drove the three blocks over to Terrific Twos.  We walked inside and hung their coats and backpacks in their cubbies.  Kelsey turned to me for a hug, her chin wrinkled and quivering, and Sierra, red-faced, started gripping my body so tight, I thought she might go right through.  We walked over to Miss Barbara, one of the teachers who we've known for years who lives in our neighborhood and was Quinn's teacher; she was by a toy barn and animals that the girls have always liked.  My mouth proclaimed "today is the day", but I'm sure my eyes spoke volumes more.  I gave the girls hugs and kisses through their tears, trying to pry them off me, trying to be strong myself and to break down as much as it hurt my heart to leave them.  They cried "Not yet, Mommy!" as we walked toward the door, "one more kiss, Mommy", "don't leave us, Mommy"...  I knelt down by the open door, took Kelsey in my arms and told her I loved her and gave her the "last hug and kiss for now, I'll be back very soon, I love you".  I took Sierra in my arms and squeezed her and said "be strong sweet girl.  Mommy loves you".  Another sweet teacher, Miss Anne, smiled at me and closed the door as I rushed out, a huge sigh escaping but feeling shaky and sad and like the meanest Mommy ever.  I sat on the bench in the hallway, I could hear the girls crying through the door,  Sierra shrieking for me and Kelsey whimpering, Miss Anne talking to them, asking them questions and trying to distract them (since they won't let anyone but family and close friends touch them to console them).  Pretty soon, the crying stopped and another mother who came out said they were standing along the wall beside the closed door, holding hands, red faced but no longer weeping.  I waited about 30 minutes and then looked inside for myself, through the small square window high up on the door.  I scanned a crowd of children and toys right by the door, 6 or 7 kids sitting on the floor with bins and piles of toys, and right there were my beloved little girls, amidst the other kids and the toys.  They still sat side by side, backs against the wall, Sierra still looking very reserved but holding a little puppy toy and Kelsey a little more lively, playing with two toy horses.  I would have felt better if they were across the room playing happily, smiling away and just fine, but hey, I'll take it.  It just seemed so sweet how the other kids were sitting right there with them, consoling them through play and comradery, whether they intended to or not.
        And here I sit, alone at home for the truly the first time in the 3 years we've lived here....  writing about my children!  (And, looking at pictures and videos of them on my phone...)  It's funny how symbiotic our relationship is - they have a hard time being apart and I feel just as out of sync without them near me, like I'm missing my arms and don't know what to do without them. They are clearly the hugest part of my life, really 99% of my day, but 300% of my heart (100% for each of them!).  I know it is time for them to go out (to a safe place) into the world, to find themselves and have a little time away from their Mommy, and that's all a good thing and part of growing up (all of us growing up, that is!).  But I will be the one to cherish the moments we have when we're just being together, even long after they are fully grown and move on.  Me and my babies!

Monday, September 2, 2013


      My little boy, my first born baby, is starting kindergarten tomorrow morning - half day, 5 days a week, but riding the bus.  I have been handling this impending life change pretty well all summer, trying to manage all the details, gather information about his classroom, his classmates, the bus routes... anything I could do to regain control of such a major stepping stone over which I have very little control.  We've gone to play dates on the playground throughout the summer (disappointingly low attendance though), toured the school twice, and visited the classroom and met the teacher - well, she lives around the corner from us and we've talked in passing for years now, but we met her in the context of being his teacher last week.  I thought I was okay, but as Quinn's questions have been more of concern recently and as we prepared for bed tonight - laying out his clothes for tomorrow ("it's a tie day, Mommy", he told me), packing his lunchbox for snack time (5 options, including a surprise snack of Swedish Fish), readying his backpack (even though his supplies were purchased and delivered to the school weeks ago) - well, my heart has started doing that fluttery, flip-floppy thing tonight and I'm hoping I can choke it back tomorrow.
         Yes, Quinn has attended preschool for two years now, but I think my problem is in the disconnect in getting him there.  For preschool, I drove him there, walked him into the school in the morning and picked him up a couple hours later (along with his two baby sisters in tow),.  I talked to the teachers daily and also got to talk with and get to know many of the parents of his classmates.  I felt comfortable and welcome myself and that gave me the power to help Quinn to feel comfortable and welcome, too.  For Kindergarten, Quinn is taking a bus, so we will walk him around the corner to the bus stop (granted, half the neighborhood will ride the same bus...) and wave goodbye, so long, good luck out there, and hope to God that that bus reappears at 11:54 a.m. like it's supposed to - and that he's on it and that he had a good day and didn't get lost or scared.  It pains me to think of him feeling so small and scared and alone, and my not being there to comfort him and take care of him.  I know I can't shield him from everything forever, and I understand that this will be an important step for both of us.  But still, it's the night before kindergarten so all these feelings are floating around in my head and my heart - that he's my baby and he's been with me nearly every day since he was born, that he's only 5 (but he is 5 after all and that's what 5 year olds do), how brilliant his smile is and how it's grown through the years!  I relish in the memories, all the wonderful milestones I've gotten to share with him along the way, how much I love him and I know he loves me.  I have to push away the scary thoughts, the thoughts of what could go wrong - like, getting off the bus at the wrong stop or getting on the wrong bus and then being lost forever, or what if someone is mean to him or makes him feel bad, or what if he can't find his classroom in the first weeks, or what if there's a predator who somehow manages to kidnap him, or what if a shooter enters the school (I couldn't help but notice three outside doors right by his classroom...).  I've walked him through all these instances, with suggestions and procedures on what to do (hopefully not scaring him in the process), and everyone assures me that none of these scary things will happen.  I just have to hope that he is a strong, confident little boy, and smart enough to think clearly and troubleshoot on his own, and that his guardian angel is looking out for him when I can't be there by his side, holding his hand.
          Tomorrow, I know I will distract myself with the details - pancake breakfast, making sure his bus pass and class name tags are fully visible, that his lunch has adequate refrigeration to stay cool until snack time, that we get his bus drivers name and that he remembers to stay sitting even though there's no seat belts, and the fact that right after I follow behind his school bus to make sure it arrives at his school, I have to go have another blood test to make sure my latest miscarriage "has been successful" (can't go there yet, as it's a floodgate of emotions I'm not able to put into words yet), and that I have much to do having been away for 4 days and that we are hosting a BBQ tomorrow night...  I have plenty to keep my head busy, I just hope the worries in my heart don't overpower me.
            One thing is for sure - I will be standing at that bus stop well before 11:54 a.m., along with his sisters, anxiously awaiting his return home, hoping he has a huge smile on his face and so many wonderful stories about his first day of kindergarten.  I'm going to give him the biggest hug he's ever had to date, and then I'll keep him close until 8:26 a.m. the next morning when we have to do it all again.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Is it Exorcise or Exercise?

         It's getting harder and harder to exercise these days.  I wish I could say it's because I'm sore from too much exercising or that I don't need to do it, but alas, it's neither of those things.  Partly it's because I can only exercise after bedtime, which is also the time I have to do anything else (clean up, laundry, computer stuff, organizing, painting, talking with my husband without kids hanging on us, bedtime routine with Quinn... to name a few).  It's also really hard to focus on designating time for exercise, when I know the kids aren't actually asleep yet, that I'm neglecting my husband who is upstairs while I'm downstairs...  And even once I do exercise, which usually ends about 9 p.m., then I have to shower, dry my hair, straighten my hair; it just takes so long and it's after 10 before I can get to my other chores. 
         I'm in desperate need of some exercise - I mean, just look at me.  And apparently, chasing the kids around 18 hours a day, running after bikes and scooters, chasing them around the yard, carting them in and out of stores, which feels like a workout in and of itself, isn't going to cut it.  I can't fall back on the "I just had twins" excuse anymore, because they were born 2 1/2 years ago!  I know that I need it to try to burn calories and fat, to get my body back, for my mental state, and just to feel like I'm doing something constructive (not that looking at a clean room or organized closet wouldn't give the same effect!)  I thought I'd have more time to exercise as the kids got older, but somehow that hasn't been the case - my time maintenance and the breakdown of my time has changed, but I'm still needed even if in different ways.  And I think the fact that we moved into this house four weeks before the twins were born, and I couldn't get everything set up, painted, organized, before they were born, has definitely played into that.  It still makes me feel hopeless on the exercise front, whatever the reason. 
         I'm sure a big part of it is a lack of motivation, feeling like I'm starting from scratch and have so far to go and, medically speaking, I might not ever get my body back.  Many doctors have told me that I have an abdominal separation; after carrying the twins, my abs are separated along my ribcage from my belly button to my breastbone, and without surgery, they will never be reconnected (which is not going to happen because of the cost).  Part of me wishes I could muster the same motivation and determination I've had in the past, when I gave up smoking or drinking or whatever the situation was; but the other part of me knows that in reality, I have a lot of work to do, between dieting and exercise, and it would be a tough road, and I wonder if it would be all for naught.
          I do feel great after exercising.  After a 45 minute workout, my body hurts so good and I'm sweating, I'm dizzy, I pound glass after glass of water.  I think about eating salad and apples, and really want to make a change in my diet and workout more (once I regain my balance and breath).  After a shower and the hair drying and straightening, I am ravenous - I end up on a "see-food diet", where I see food and I eat it.  I just need to purge the house of junk food.  My kids eat so healthily, but I always save that food for them - between the three of them, they will eat 5 pears in a sitting, 2 pounds of strawberries in one fail swoop...  I feel like I'd be taking from them something so important if I'd eat it, and often times, a lot of that stuff takes prep time that I just don't always have when I'm starving (so I reach for the bag of chips and a sprite).  I tried to throw everything from our candy/snack drawer in the garbage today, but
           I need to just stop talking and do it.  Exercise more frequently, get my husband on board to help me designate time for it so I don't guilt myself out of it for whatever reason; I need to not eat so much crap, be free and clean.  Not sure how to get started, but I think eventually I'll get to a breaking point - like other times in the past, I will pick a date in my mind, and not tell anyone in case I fail.  But I won't fail, I never do (that's the determination speaking, not sure if I believe it; it's hard setting oneself up for failure).... If only I could suck it up and just pick a date!  Tonight, I'll ponder it over a beer and bag of Doritos though (fail #1)...

Monday, June 17, 2013

Turning in my key...

   Well, I turned in my key today.  It's been such an important key to me, for all it's given me in the past two years - access, togetherness, a feeling of importance and belonging, personal growth and the ability to watch my amazing little boy grow at the same time.  It's a strange feeling not to have it anymore, to close the book on that phase of our lives, but these are feelings I've definitely felt in the past; uncertainty, insecurity, sadness - it's hard to let go and move on sometimes.  I'm just glad my son doesn't share these feelings.  Thankfully he seems to be feeling the other side of the spectrum - familiar and confident in his friendships, optimistic, excited for the future and a new school.
    The key I turned in was my keycard for Sunny Hill Preschool.  I can't believe our two-year journey has come to an end, for Quinn and I.  When I accepted the keycard two years ago, it was at the beginning of Quinn's preschool experience - we were in a new town (well, for just over a year), I had 10 month old twins that were running me ragged (in a mostly good way), I was trying hard to make friends for our family and for myself, trying to come to terms with the idea of how to let my little boy move forward without me always by his side.  It was like I was the one starting a new school - would they like me?, what if I said the wrong thing?, do I look acceptable (as in, with two babies hanging from my body, droll on my ripped clothes, speed walking after my running-ahead boy)?...  I tried hard not to reflect these insecurities outwardly, so that Quinn wouldn't pick up on them, and he was mostly fine with the transition; a little clinginess the first couple weeks, but so excited to be going to school and making new friends and playing with all the wonderful things in his big and bright classroom. 
     I've enjoyed being involved in Quinn's classrooms both years - interacting with his classmates, meeting the parents at drop-off and pick-up, working with his teachers, being inside those walls with their bustle and promise and joy, watching Quinn laugh and learn and experience so many things, even see his sisters become less shy with people and explore certain areas of the classroom while dropping their brother off.  I became involved in the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) that first year, so that I could stay involved in his schooling despite being quite distracted in general (having infant twins can do that... I'm still wondering when I'll come out of it!) and try to find my place in the community, to have a voice and, quite honestly, not be so damn shy.  I had great ideas, I tried to share, I felt like I got squeezed out of some things, I volunteered for things, then I stopped getting "invited" to meetings, but was really happy to find out this year that I hadn't actually been disinvited, but that the PTO last year had apparently disbanded.  I tried the PTO again this year, and had great success - I was in charge of the school library, I wrote pieces for the school newsletter, I volunteered and contributed to planning so many school events and charity drives, I coordinated playdates, became Room Parent and truly thrived on it, I got the entire enrollment of parents/children together to buy a Keurif coffee machine and assessories for the school at the holidays, I attended every PTO meeting and spoke up all the time.  It was so nice to be heard, to be involved, to feel valued, and to feel like I was helping and making a difference...  I guess I'm having a hard time letting that go, knowing I'll have to start over, and there won't be a similar drop-off/pick-up oppportunity to meet other parents at and interact with Quinn's classmates.  I know I'll have to put forth a major effort and push myself not to fall into the background, but hopefully I will be able to tackle that.
        It's definitely scary to think about what next year will hold, and to only think about it when I have downtime, because I don't want Quinn to feel anxious about the future.  I want him to retain his innocence and his excitement for going to kindergarten, and just let me do the worrying about the new school, the possibility of rude kids, riding the bus, etc...  My part will still be to get involved, so I can keep tabs on this new phase that seems out of reach right now, to benefit my son first and foremost, but also to keep myself growing, too.  I know I have a lot to offer, and I have a good idea every now and then, so hopefully I can put myself in a position to share those.  The scary part is always putting myself out there, but hopefully if I can do it, then Quinn won't even think twice about doing it himself.  Because I know he has so much to offer, too, and anyone would be lucky to have him as a friend. 
         We can only pause for a moment to say "good-bye" to his preschool years, because I have to be ever vigiliant of what lies ahead, for all my children, but it's nice to reflect on the progress and growth that we both had through Sunny Hill over the past two years.  Even though I have to turn in my key, I hope I can retain those feelings of confidence and self-worth, and build upon them as we embark on Quinn's elementary school years.  Worst case, Sunny Hill, I'll be taking that keycard back in another year and a half when my twin girls will be unleashed into your halls as they start their preschool experience - hope the world is ready for that!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

School Daze

    To say I've had "a day" is an under-statement...  It's been more like two days (well, maybe 2+ years but that's besides the point).  The past two days, leading up to Quinn's last day of preschool EVER <tear, sniffle, sigh> have been so crazy hectic, my mind is still reeling.  Though, come to think of it, I feel like my head has been spinning for quite some time now... (again, besides the point). 
    The most recent instance being the build-up to Quinn's last day at Sunny Hill Preschool, everything that went along with it, and so many things in between.  This was all on top of being away in Vermont this past weekend for Doug's 20th high school reunion (lots of packing, horrible rain prior to it, some forced conversation as the DD at a small town gathering) and single-handedly remodeling our master bedroom the weekend before, while acting as a single parent of three lively children when Doug was away in California.  Plus Sierra has been every night up with "The Croup", coughing, sleepless, fussy, for a week+...
  The following is a recap of my past couple days, and the daze that I've been living in:

Sunday p.m.
    - Returned home from VT around 3 p.m. (after being away for the weekend  - packing to leave Friday night but horrible rain delayed us until Saturday morning, going to the reunion Saturday night, up all night with Sierra who also got a bloody nose from the dryness and coughing (which initially looked like she had coughed up blood so I called our doctor frantic); re-packing 24 hours later, car battery died because the radio had been on for a couple hours with the key in the wrong position in the ignition while playing outside...)
    - Wrapped teacher gifts (i.e. two totebags with the handprints of each of 16 students on them that I tracked people down over 4 weeks to get, which I decorated myself the week prior with names, glitter, etc...) and stationary; two separate packages for each of two teachers so that multiple kids can be involved in presenting them to teachers;  hopefully they look nice, didn't get to buy any special wrapping paper, just two nice bags, gotta coordinate tags and paper, hope they don't look completely stupid...  worst case, I guess, maybe it looks like the preschoolers did it all themselves!  that doesn't speak highly of my crafting ability...

    - Still up with Sierra throughout the night; doctor necessary?  hopefully her cough isn't so bad today and it means she is getting better!
    - Stupid rain...  Have to arrive at preschool early to hand off gifts to kids to give to teachers.  Kids sleep later than I'd like so we race out the door to get there before the classroom door opens...
   -  At school, some kids are too shy to hand the gifts to the teachers...  but luckily others step up (and give the wrong gifts to the other teacher... but no worries, good thing I put tags on them).  Teachers excited, will probably open after morning circle starts
   -  Target shopping with my girls while Q's at school - What to do for my Dad's birthday and for Father's Day gifts?  Saw some cute shorts; bought 9 pairs, to be tried on later, maybe something will work?
   - pick up Q in the rain, fun carrying two girls and an umbrella, plus Q's backpack and large craft projects once I've retrieved him from his class
   - Make homemade seashell shaped candy for teachers and school office staff, letting Quinn dot on the sprinkles but they're rolling everywhere...  ugh, resisting the urge to push him elsewhere and clean them all up!
    - no nap for Kelsey, Sierra short nap b/c she's still coughing but not as bad as before...  hope I'm not being a bad Mommy by missing some important sign; neighbor over with her new 6 week old baby, hope she wasn't bored sitting around with all these kid things still going on (as her's slept peacefully in his carseat) for me
    -  this is some horrible, dreary rain.  going to attempt to make it to the library storytime at 10, to get the kids out of the house
    -  Have to make Fathers Day gifts - Quinn and I paint lots of styrofoam balls though he fizzles out part way through (of course, since I offered to do the painting last night so they'd be dry to assemble this morning...);  also have to organize the kids to get the best possible footprints onto a shirt for my Dad, their Poppa...  Sierra's attempt not wonderful but perfected after Quinn and Kelsey
    -  Pause to bleach out tub to remove purple, blue and green paint rings...  note to self - bleach, I mean, clean their feet soon... or later...  later is good.  
    -  where are those ants coming from?
    -  help Quinn turn one of his pieces of artwork from school, into a Birthday Card for my Dad, put together with gift certificate for one of his favorite restaurants that I picked up at Target, put out in mail as mailman pulls up
    - Take kids upstairs to get dressed so they don't watch too much television - they play hide-and-seek while I try to put away clean laundry (been sitting since Thursday) and make up beds and cribs (tryin' since last Tuesday!); 
    -  oh well, kids being good, skipping library today given horrible rain and fierce urge to catch up on housework - decide to redo the dusting and swiffering of their rooms and my own, also mop bathroom floor to finish that room that I started Friday night
    -  downstairs at 11:30, Bug Guy comes earlier than appointment (part of routine service which has been rescheduled twice already b/c of rain); spray spray spray outside, sprinkle for flying ants in corner...  hope that clears up stupid piss ants around dining room, entry way?  Maybe if the rain held him off for two weeks, they wouldn't have made it inside anyway
    - lunch and get girls into beds for nap-attempts:  swiffered floor...  see tons of pollen, maybe I should dust downstairs, too?  Give Q his Learning Tablet while I tear into full-on dusting of living room, dining room, most of kitchen...  Why are there so many friggin' ants!?!?  Stupid Ants...  dammit, granola bar chunks on the floor from snack time..  sweep them up... waiting for Sierra to wake up so I can vaccuum.  Am I hosting a playdate this afternoon?  Yip - glad they're coming but holy granola and ants, I have to finish this mess.
    -  Finish lettering on front side of my Dad's shirt; my crafting abilities are again proving to be less than elementary level, dear Watson
    - feeling guilty that Q is restless (despite that I've been trying to play "I Spy" and the "Letter" game with him on the go...), Kelsey's nap attempt has failed and she's having book time by herself...  wish I was playing with them but just need one more minute to clean this mess...
    -  Play some "Spot-It" with K and Q, Q cries because I get more matches than him, K actually got a few on her own; smart girl!  Vaccuum minutes before Friends come over, get Sierra up (cannot let her sleep past 4 or she won't go back down at night!).  Nice playdate but my mind is not entirely focused on conversation, especially when Q announces that they want to play "ant hunters"... 
    -  dinner, baths for all three kids, gotta wash the paint off those feet!  Check for lice on three kids (lice spotted in Q's classroom but not his class; still gotta check for a few more days on three heads)
    -  Help Q assemble our bird crafts that I/We painted, two are dry enough to be put together and that's all he can stand anyway; send him to bed (he then moves to the couch in our room while I'm showering; he's having a hard time falling asleep alone these days...)
    -  After <kids> bedtime chores: 
            - Sweep floor again (few ants still... steam out of my ears),
            - Dry & straighten my hair after my shower
            - Wrap up candies for teachers and school office staff; hope they like them, hope it doesn't look like a dinky gift! 
            - Need to fold 2 loads of laundry, a third is soaking wet in a broken washer...  too heavy to spin - have to manually wring out the stupid blankets and spin two at a time before tossing them into the dryer (2 hour job...); 
           - Finish going through Preschool's library binder (which I've been in charge of all schoolyear), organize, find missing resources, leave messages for outstanding bags...
           - Put finishing touches on back of my Dad's shirt, hang to dry overnight

     - I think I slept almost all night, at least since Sierra woke up at 2:30; kids cuddling with me in bed and I don't have to heart to move anyone before 7:45 a.m.
    -  Finally race downstairs for breakfast; Q decides on oatmeal which takes longer to make and longer to cool off to eat...  but it's his last day of preschool so I want him to have something "special" - boring old cereal for the girls though! 
    -  Find boxes and supplies to package and mail my Dad's gift and my grandfathers gift; able to wrap them and box them up but have to finish after school/class is out...  taking supplies in the car
    -  collect things to take along - Q's backpack with show'n'share item, teacher/staff candies, plates and napkins I purchased for the End-of-Year picnic at a classmates house after school, gift boxes to mail,
   -  HAVE TO register twins for their classes in the Fall - super popular, space very limited, opens at 9 a.m. but that's when I have to drop Q off at his preschool and being the last day, I don't want to drop and run...  But he ends up running inside anyway while I drag his sisters up the walkway and steps into school, only to turn around and race back to the car, don't even get a picture of him on his last day, carrying Sierra and forcing Kelsey to walk fast as she whimpers (poor baby)
    -  heart racing as I drive to the Parks and Rec office to register the girls - I've seen the line in past years and it's not a good scene, and I don't have time to run home to log onto the computer b/c the girls have their "Jump, Roll and Sing" class at the P&R at 9:30 anyway...  luckily there's no line when I arrive, my girls are in the stroller so I can try to focus on the paperwork except another random child keeps stealing Kelsey's goldfish crackers from her snack-cup and some random boy keeps trying to hug Sierra while she's restrained, and neither of them are being friendly back...  But, I get the paperwork filled out and get the girls registered for the three classes I wanted...  bullet sweat can conclude anytime please
     -  attend the girls' last "Jump Roll and Sing" class at P&R, talk to other Mom's about who might be in their fall/winter/spring class, say some "Good-byes"...  not good at "Good-byes". 
     -  Race home to pack lunch for girls/Q for afterschool picnic at classmates house, make myself another coffee to shoot directly into my travel mug (thank heavens for Keurig!),
     -  Arrive back to Q's class 20 minutes early for their end-of-year presentation, sweet slideshow of all the kids and special shots of each child throughout the year, sad music easily brings tears to my eyes and I have to blink really fast so no one sees.  Lots more Good-bye's, to school staff that I've worked with, to his two teachers who I've been Room Mother to, they give me a beautiful potted flower for my efforts (hope the fruit flies at my house don't kill it, if I can even carry it and all our other things out to the car now...).  I feel like I'm graduating, too, as my first baby moves on from preschool and looks forward to kindergarten, probably harder for me to say goodbye than it has been for Q... 
    - Have to go to Post Office today to mail out Dad and Pop Pop's gifts - debate whether to go to the one in our town or the one that nicer and quicker but a little farther away...  opt for the one in my Town, I'm sure it won't be too bad today, right?  WRONG, POST OFFICE FROM HELL - they are so slow with all the things they have to ask (liquid, fragile, perishable... add stamps?  want a PO Box?), patrons have open, unaddressed boxes when they step up to the desk and they expect the worker to take care of that, too...  25 minutes later it's finally our turn and I'm irritated and stressed so I'm sure I'm not as friendly as I am supposed to be...  finally headed to picnic
     -  Arrive at Jack's house and though windy, it's sunny and beautiful; racing to get my plates and napkins in there before kids start to starve or anyone thinks I've dropped the ball, Q's happily playing with some of the boys, the food and such is in a fenced in area so my girls can't wonder off.  I spread out our blanket and a couple other people join us, bring pizza to the girls on our blanket, try to make conversation though I find my mind is still in go-go-go mode.  Talk with three other friend Mom's as we eat and help kids to settle down and eat.  Release the girls onto playset and unfenced area of yard, so I chase them around and restrict their fun (as I see it, hopefully they don't know any different!) b/c I just cannot keep chasing and would really like to talk to at least one other Mom and not have our conversation aborted as I run away.  Watch Q and boys play baseball and ride bikes, one nice boy pushes Kelsey <gently> on the tire swing, I talk with the kids about school and their summer plans.  Never did make it over to the adult area on the patio or eat any of the grown-up food (just three half pieces of pizza the kids couldn't finish), where the childless mothers and one Dad are chatting and relaxing and lounging on chairs (they're not actually childless, they have 5 year olds but they don't have to chase them or keep tabs on them as much, so they get to enjoy being with other adults; hmmm, maybe that's why a lot of the kids talk to me about things, b/c I'm constantly on their level, while playing with my girls on the ground, and not seemingly-ignoring them like other adults do?  besides the point). 

      Overall, the picnic was a nice way to end the school-year, to ease into saying Goodbyes to people we may not see, letting Q play with friends and not think about the ending on one phase of his little life (kids don't think of things like that).  I was able to talk to several Moms, one whose son was playing with Q anyway and another who has a 1 year old and is in the same boat (or sinking ship?) as I am.  I breathed a sigh of relief as we walked back into our own house; I didn't see as many incomplete projects lying about and I knew our mothers helper Eve would be coming in the afternoon so I didn't feel as pressured to do anything immediately.  I read a story to the kids, layed the girls down for naps (Sierra slept, Kelsey failed again but trying not to let that affect my blood pressure), watched our craft show with Q and played a game with he and K.  Eve arrived and played with the kids, which I did little things around the house and made dinner - starving so I made myself some asian pot stickers, reheated a freezer meal of pork stir-fry (from the double batch I'd made a few weeks ago), and crescent rolls (are these ones from March still good? does anyone else get nervous having to manually pop the cylinder open?  the burned anyway so guess we won't be quality checking those after all...). 
       I think I'll take it easy tonight - just need to exercise and shower... nah... oh, wait - I have to wrap the birthday present for the party tomorrow (crap, it's not at the venue I thought it was at, where I was going to keep the girls out of the gym so the hostess wouldn't be charged for two more... now what do I do? ).  And I need to send an email to the Sunny Hill "graduates" about the kindergarten playdates next week...  I think the one room mother forgot to send me her info?  hmm, what to do...  oh, and I want to write down the ingredients for the dishes I want to make for the weekend, out of the Food Network magazine I bought (I get so hungry reading that one, but I'm sure my stomach will thank me!).  And gotta figure out what we're doing for Father's Day and a gift/card for Doug...  oh, and a cousin's birthday is Saturday, gotta look into a rush gift for that one... crap, gotta get a belated gift for my cousin's birthday last week that I am just now remembering....  
          School might be out for the year, but I think I'll be in this "daze" for many years to come!!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

...Home of the Brave...

         My God, what an insane week we just had; one that will certainly go down in history, not in a way that a City or Town really wants to be remembered, but even with all the violence and hate, those involved worked hard to come to a dignifying outcome and with so many brave and triumphant moments in between.  I don't think I've ever gone through so many emotions in such a short amount of time.  Those 5 days, my heart really ran the gambit - happy to sad, enthusiasm to despair, good vs evil... and just utter shock.
          Monday (the 15th) was Patriot's Day, the Massachusetts state holiday celebrating Paul Revere's ride and the bravery of the Colonials back in 1776 and also the day that the Boston Marathon is run, but now suddenly historic for a different reason.  I knew I wouldn't be taking the kids into the city to see the race, as I'd done many times myself before having kids, and I didn't get my act together in time to get them to the re-enactment and parade in Lexington and Concord.  Maybe next year, I'd said, and after watching some of the Marathon on TV with my son, Quinn, we ended up doing something mundane like grocery shopping.  We had lunch, went for a walk to enjoy the beautiful sunny 55-degree day, put the twins down for their naps.  Shortly thereafter, at about 3:30 p.m., my phone lit up - emails, texts, phone calls...  The call was my husband calling to make sure we were at home, that I hadn't taken the kids into the City - he said that two bombs had gone off at the Finish Line of the Boston Marathon and it was really bad.  My heart absolutely sank; I wasn't anywhere close to downtown but it just felt so close to home, as I used to work in the city for years, had been to go to the finish line several times, and the Boston area has been my home for 10 years now.  How could this be happening?  The girls were still in bed, and I couldn't resist the urge to turn the TV on to see what was happening.  And it was bad... very bad - videos from the finish line showed an explosion in the crowd, runners falling to the ground, the flags that were waving in the wind burst forward and then lay still against their poles, people covered their ears, then screams of terror and agony.  Police officers, two military men in fatigues, a man in a big cowboy hat, other marathon workers began tearing down a metal barricade with their bare hands to get to the injured spectators behind it, and 12 seconds later, a second bomb went off about 4 blocks away, before the finish line.  I turned a show on for Quinn in the playroom, as I just could not tear myself away from the tv.  Horrible images of blood all over the sidewalk, mangled faces, wheelchairs of people without legs, bodies lying helpless in the street.  Just pure evil and tragedy, three innocent people dead, yet so many amazing people helping complete strangers, rushing them to ambulances and medical tents, using the shirt off the back to make a tourniquet.  And so many unanswered questions - why would someone do this?  who did this and where are they now?  why did the target the innocent spectators and average-time marathoners?  were they done?  I was heartsick, horrified, deeply saddened, but definitely still in shock that this had happened in Boston.
          Tuesday dawned with still no answers.  No suspects and no progress seemed to have been made overnight.  They found pieces of the two bombs, which had been placed in nylon backpacks, in pressure cookers packed with explosives, nails, and bb's.  The lid to one bomb was found on a building's roof.  There were stories of additional bombs that had been found but diffused; I still don't know if those reports were true.  We went to a friend's house in the afternoon for a play date; her husband, who works as a lawyer in the Prudential Center (which overlooks Copley where the bombing took place), was working from home, as he wasn't ready to return to the city yet.  It felt good to talk with them, to compare details and reports we'd heard, to hear her husband's experience having been looking out the window watching when the first explosion happened.  It was scary to hear that there didn't seem to be any more information leading to a motive and there were still no suspects.  I hated the thoughts that this could go unsolved, that the hateful people who did this could get away with it, but surely they'd fled town immediately following the attach and could be long gone by then.  The identities of the three who had been killed were released.  I couldn't bear hearing their stories, learning of the lives they'd led before the attacks which had been taken from them, one victim was an 8-year old boy; I couldn't look at the faces of their families.  We learned that over 150 people had been injured and treated, of which many had limbs blown off on impact or had to have amputations later at the hospitals...  It was all just too painful.
            On Wednesday, I decided that we would get out and enjoy the beautiful day we'd been given.  No hiding and being fearful for us.  I dressed the kids warmly, packed snacks, and whisked them off to Drumlin Farm.  We had a great time - the kids love the Farm, and it was sunny and warm, a perfectly blue sky, lots of baby animals and old favorites to see, too.  We left in time for a picnic lunch at home.  Just simple, pure fun, for the kids and for me, too.  I checked the news in the evening, only to find that there wasn't really anything new, and I felt like as more time passed since the attacks, it seemed like they would never catch the hateful maniac who did this horrible thing.  I had to leave it alone, try to get some distance, and cautiously try to move on. 
             On Thursday morning, a small sense of security was beginning to re-emerge.  We were headed for another play date, this time back to our old "hometown" of Watertown, with our best friends who we'd met during birthing class with our oldest children; Quinn, Peter, Maddie, and Finnoula.  I lived in Watertown for 8 years - my husband and I settled there in August 2002 when we moved to the Boston area; we rented for 3 years, and then owned a condo for 5 years right in the heart of Watertown Square.  I love Watertown; the feel of community, the proximity and ease of getting down into Boston, the restaurants and shops and playgrounds and amenities - we gladly would have stayed in Watertown except that housing prices are very expensive, and we just couldn't find a single family house with a yard and enough space for our family as it was growing exponentially, at the time.  Having walked Quinn around the Town in his little stroller for the first two years of his life, I know Watertown like the back of my hand, there are few streets that I haven't been down there, and it's just a comforting and familiar place for us - we still make the 25 minute drive every Sunday to attend our same church there, where we used to walk to from our condo, where all three of our children were baptized.
         We met these three other families at Isis Maternity while pregnant with our oldests, and though Peter's family and mine have moved a little farther away now, everytime we get back together, it is always like we've never been apart.  The kids fall into a comfortable pattern of play, and the younger siblings - my girls, Peter's sister Sara, and littlests, Juliet and Ewan - are the next wave of fun.  They want to be just like the big kids, and it's so heartwarming to see them all getting along together and having simple, joyful fun (even despite any hiccup that might happen, as with all child's play, it's not the end of the world).  And it's always great to talk with the other Mom's, who I feel like I can share anything with; we are just comfortable and open with each other, and I feel so at ease being with these friends.  We've shared so much together, from our birth stories with all of our children, parenting stresses and concerns from newborn Day 1, miscarriages, personal feelings, family stories and secrets, supporting one another as women and mothers, and so so SO much laughter.  That morning, we, of course, talked about the marathon bombings, where we'd each been when we'd found out, any breaking news we'd heard, but so many other topics came up, the conversation just flowed like it always does.  But all good play dates have to come to an end, so around 11:30, we packed up and headed home, taking a short drive around my old stomping grounds on our way.  We had another play date in Sudbury in the afternoon, with the friends we'd seen on Tuesday afternoon, whose husband was still working from home, not wanting to deal with the chaos and crime scene in the city.  I watched the news that evening, while making dinner, because the authorities finally had a break - after reviewing 10's of 1000's of videos and photographs, they found the two bombing suspects.  The two men, one wearing a black hat and sunglasses, followed by a second man, wearing a white hat backwards, big noses, both carrying nylon backpacks, turned the corner according to a store's surveillance camera.  Other photos showed them dropping the bags at the two locations, the man with the white hat was also pictured minutes after the blasts making a cellphone call, as though he had waited to watch the misery.  My mind was racing, my heart pounding - just seeing these men, knowing that they had worked together to erase lives and purposely cause death and pain to as many people as possible.  It was so disturbing and sickening to think of how they had selected where to place the bags (beforehand? or did they decide once they saw who was standing where?), they targeted the poor Richard's family and other bystanders, they knew exactly who was about to be intentionally harmed by those bombs... Contrary to my usual nighttime routine, I went to bed around 11 p.m., which is early for me, just feeling mentally and emotionally drained, exhausted from several nights of nightmare-interrupted sleep.  I tried to block the thoughts from my mind, and get some rest.
            Friday morning, I drifted awake as Quinn climbed into my bed around 6 a.m.  Doug was already in the bathroom getting ready for work.  Shortly thereafter, I heard him talking to someone, his voice echoed on the bathroom walls... or was he talking to one of the girls?  No, he came into our room and said that our friend Shaun had just called (a guy who lives by texts and email and tweets, but does not talk on the phone) - they were on lock-down in their condo in Waltham, the town just west of Watertown, where I'd just been the day before.  I set Quinn up with some Lego's on our bedroom floor, the girls were still sleeping, and I rushed downstairs and turned on the TV.  Sure enough, there had been a lot of activity and developments overnight.  The photos released the night before had panned out, and the white hat suspect was caught on a 7-11 store camera in Cambridge, wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt but the same brown curly hair and big nose.  They had names for the two suspects now, Tamerlan and Dzhohar Tsarnaev, 26 and 19 year old brothers, originally from Chechnya; they knew where they lived in an apartment in Cambridge, were piecing together their lives since coming to the US around 2000.  After the 7-11 visit, they murdered Officer Sean Collier, an MIT Police officer, then hijacked a black SUV and raced westward, ending up in Watertown, of all places, where police recognized the vehicle and the newest photo.  A high-speed chase ensued, during which the suspects were throwing explosives, including another pressure cooker, out at the police cars following them, they were cornered and a massive gunfight broke out, seriously injuring public transit officer Richard Donohue, and critically wounding the 26 year old suspect (who later died at the hospital); the younger one then jumped into the SUV, backed over his brother to get away, but then ended up fleeing on foot, supposedly wearing a suicide vest and carrying a bag of guns and explosives.  The Watertown police managed to determine a 20-block perimeter of where the suspect could have ended up before the sun came up.  They issued a multi-town lockdown - the entire city of Boston, Watertown, Belmont, Waltham, and a couple of other towns - every person was to lock their doors, draw their blinds, and stay inside until further notice.  Most people in the 20-block area were evacuated, though as I watched throughout the morning, there were many close calls and suspicious houses being searched, as the authorities went door to door, searching homes and yards, trying to locate the hiding suspect who was considered armed and very dangerous.  I was just in disbelief that this was all happening in my old town of Watertown, where I'd just been the day before, with my kids, playing out in the open at a playground we'd been to a million times.  And here now, in our old town was a major crime scene only a mile or so from our old condo, with news stations broadcasting from places I knew well and had frequented in my time living there - houses we'd looked at buying, stores I went to all the time, my old mechanic, the sandwich shop and carwash, the Target and Friendly's that I'd just been by the day before, the street I used to cut down, the bus line I lived on for many years as a commuter.  This was my town and these were my people - normal, middle-class, hardworking and proud, ethnically diverse, with loving families, hearts of gold...  And I was suddenly very concerned about my new town, my current location - what if the suspect had gotten away and wasn't in Watertown at all?  What if he fled west and could be closer than that, and desperate to get away?  And why hadn't they left town yet?  They'd spent the days since their heinous attack trying to get back to normal themselves; the younger one in the white cap had attended his college classes, went to a party in his dorm, went to the gym.  The older one had a wife and two-year old daughter.  How were all those regular people they'd encountered in the past days any different from the ones they'd just mutilated in the city?  Had they been planning more attacks?  Is that why they left their apartment with bags of guns and explosives on Thursday night?  Was younger brother following his brother along or was he just as corrupt as big brother?
         I took a break from the TV to get the kids outside in our yard Friday morning - it was 70 and mostly sunny, just too irresistible to stay inside hiding in uncertainty and fear.  I was definitely watchful and on edge the entire time though, watching the fences on all sides of our yard, half-expecting someone to jump over them at any time, but I felt a little better that neighbors were out front of their houses, riding bikes in the street.  I checked the news in the playroom while Quinn was upstairs, and then had it on and off when my friend Joanne brought her two 5-year olds over to play.  We talked at length about the bombings, new reports from the day, things she had read (she always seems to be better informed than me!)...  After dinner, our neighbors came over to watch as the news unfolded, or didn't unfold - we didn't know what the case would be and what the night would hold.  My in-laws arrived and we put Quinn to bed, and finally, I poured myself into the breaking news, the tv reports, the state police scanner online.
         We watched the live feed on TV, of the barricades up and down Mt. Auburn St, blocks from our old condo.  We saw the replay of events from the afternoon - the lock-down had been lifted for areas outside the 20-block perimeter;  homeowner David Henneberry who lives just outside the perimeter went out to his yard to check things out, saw blood on his boat, lifted the tarp, and sure enough, there was a bleeding man inside with dark, curly hair; he alerted the police immediately, and shortly thereafter, around 7 p.m., a solid 10 minutes gunfire ensued.  I cannot imagine being that homeowner, gingerly walking his yard after a day on lock-down, only to find blood, and then having the courage to investigate further when a murderer is on the loose!  We all owe him a huge thank you, he is a true hero!
           After the 7 p.m. showering of gunfire, we heard reports of police trying to determine if the suspect was still armed, whether he was wearing a suicide vest, whether they could work out a surrender, how injured was he.  The police scanner seemed to have information sooner, and around 9:30 p.m., we heard "captured! got him!" and minutes later, the television echoed that report.  The final suspect in the Boston Bombing was finally in custody, after a massive manhunt.  I think we all clapped in the room, and smiled profusely.  It was just such a major relief, and I felt so much pride in the cities and towns and all the work they did to catch this guy.  I can only imagine how much intelligence went into it, so many things that happened behind the scenes, that the public wasn't aware of.  We continued to watch on TV as the streets of Watertown filled with the residents who had been on lock-down all day, who had been peeping out their windows and watching on TV as things unfolded only streets away.  We saw three girls we know from church, people cheering and clapping and saluting the police officers in the area.  I was filled with pride at their efforts, of the community I saw before me, remembering that we had once been a part of that same town.  It was amazing how just that same morning I was so thankful that my children and I didn't live there anymore, and now, at the end of the day and the end of this wild week, I wished that we could be there to be part of the community, with those people.  I was so relieved that the hunt was over, although I knew that the work was far from over.  Hopefully the emotional rollercoaster is over now and my blood pressure - everyone's for that matter - can go back to normal, and justice can be served.  I hope "he" cooperates to make up for the all that wrong doing, even if only in a tiny way.  I hope it helps those affected most to heal.

             Over the past couple weeks, I've really come to find a sense of pride in living here in the Boston area, and just a renewed feeling of patriotism as an American.  I will always be a Pennsylvanian at Heart, but I have to admit that this is a good place to live, too.  The strong history, the good people willing to take a stand and help complete strangers in need...  I like to think that the same can be true for any place in the United States, and we can see that is true when these sad tragedies that take us by surprise.  I remember hearing the "Star Spangled Banner" from such a young age, learning the words dutifully, singing it in school, before football games in high school, at professional sporting events now.  It wasn't really until this week, thinking about the meaning of the words during memorials for those lost and injured in the Boston Marathon Bombings, that it really hit me how meaningful the words are that Francis Scott Key chose back in 1814 - "the land of the free and the home of the brave"...   Patriot's Day will have a new meaning for me now based on the tragedy and the triumph of 2013.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Boston, You're my (current) home

      Holy Shit, what just happened here today?  It was a beautiful sunny day, mid-50's but warm.  It was Patriot's Day, the Massachusetts state holiday commemorating the bravery exhibited by the colonials back in 1776, which coincides with a big Red Sox game in the morning and the running of the Boston Marathon. 
      Back before having kids, I would often watch some of the race, walking across the Common (park) from my downtown office, and another year, we went to the Red Sox game, and then ran over to Copley Square on Boylston St to watch some of the runners cross the finish line.  This year, I forgot it was even Patriot's Day until this morning.  I probably wouldn't have carted my three kids all the way to the city to watch the race, and I didn't realize about the parades and reenactments closer-by in Concord until it was too late.  However, given the tragedy that took place, I thank my lucky stars that we weren't anywhere by at home.
      At 2:50 p.m., as hundreds of runners were crossing and nearing the finish line on Boylston St in Copley, two explosions rocked the spectating crowds.  Three lives were lost, over a hundred wounded, peoples limbs were lost, and thankfully, two additional bombs were found and dismantled before they could do any damage...  It's just crazy to me that this could have happened, that a race that many were running to raise awareness for a cause and money for a charity, could be a target.  What possible motive could there be for such a hateful and meaningless act?  What more did they mean to do that didn't actually happen?  Could it happen another day?  I hope to God that they find out who did this and can figure out their motives, but holy shit, it has been a crazy day trying to grasp that it even took place.  I gave up trying to keep the television off, to keep Quinn away from the news, but I knew of so many people that were either running the marathon, spectating, had gone to the baseball game, having been down there doing all those same things myself (minus the crazy running part)... I just had to know what was happening down there.
      I know that I may often come across anti-Boston, but that is more out of missing my home state of Pennsylvania.  But I really do like the city of Boston (not everything about it, still hate that crazy accent and rude people, but overall!).  There is so much history everywhere you look, it's actually a fairly navigable city, and even though getting into the city can be a pain, I loved when my office was downtown, and I'd take the bus and train into the city.  It is always bustling, and there's so much to do at any given moment.  So many museums, the Boston Common and Public Garden is beautiful anytime of year, so many shops and restaurants, and action.  I look forward to taking the kids into the city for different occasions - riding the swan boats and seeing the Make Way for Duckling statues in the spring, going to a Red Sox game, meeting Bobby Flay at the Copley mall in a couple weeks, hitting the USS Constitution (if it's ever docked when we get there!), ice skating at the frog pond, walking the Freedom Trail and seeing the Old North Church...
      It's a shame that so much promise can be shifted by one act of hate, that so much beauty can be marred by one act of violence.  Will it keep me from taking the kids into the city in a couple weeks to meet my culinary hero, Bobby Flay?  I don't know, but I'll have to give it some serious thought before then, and at this very moment, I'm very scared to think of taking them down there (and straight into Copley, the current crime scene).  What would I ever do if were in that same situation?  I'd like to think that we'd be lucky and would make it through alive, but you can't ever know for sure, and I'd never be able to live with myself if something happened to one of my babies.  A parent is not supposed to outlive their child, it's against all of nature.  One of the victims today was an 8 year old boy, and his family won't get to take him home alive.  I cannot even imagine that pain and suffering.
      I can only hope that justice is served, that the guilty parties can truly pay for what they've done.  I hope the city can be put back together, and that the spirit of the city can survive, that the camaraderie can carry it through to another day.  There are so many songs and stories about Bostonian pride, and it's a day like today that makes me just have to give in and show some of that pride, too.  While I really am a Pennsylvanian at heart, I have to make a little room for Boston in there.  As the song says, "Boston, you're my home"!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Wrath of Streptococcus

     Who knew strep throat could be a full body experience?  I had no idea, I barely remember the last time I had strep throat - high school maybe? - but on Monday morning, my journey began.
      I woke up Monday morning with a scratchy, raw throat, the kind that is brewing under the surface with the promise of lots of pain to follow.  Sierra, the oldest twin, had come down with a fever and scarlet rash last week, which was then diagnosed as strep throat (her antibiotics almost immediately took care of her symptoms luckily), so I just knew that it was my turn.  I'd escaped so many of their illnesses this winter, having only come down with one short-lived cold myself the entire season, but the misery of strep throat, I knew, loved company.
       Driving Quinn to school, the body chills and aches started, a sure sign that a fever was coming, too.  I dropped him off and since I still haven't found myself a good primary care physician, I immediately drove to the MinuteClinic at CVS in the next town north of us.  I winced at the stiff cool breeze as I loaded the twins into the double stroller, piling in their snacks and books to keep them busy.  Luckily I was the first patient of the day, the girls ogling the Nurse's every move on their Mommy; taking my temp, swabbing the back of my throat, the heartbeat clip on my finger, taking my blood pressure (always very low, 102/64 today), checking for swollen glands under my chin...  Shockingly, the strep test came back "negative", but they would still send it out to a lab, and we'd get those results the following day.  Guess my gut had been wrong, though I knew my throat would not be.
       So, I winced again at the breeze as I reloaded the twins back into the van, and since it was apparantly just a virus, I figured I'd better get some necessities from the store since I could just feel I'd be in no shape to do it again soon.  We hit the post office, texted my husband 'my turn to be sick', and then my head started swimming the whole way through the grocery store; I picked up whatever I saw and thought we could use, apples, baby carrots, cinnamin swirl bread for the girls...  I even bought Ibuprofin, and I do not take pills, I just never do, not for allergies, not for headaches, nothing.  I firmly believe that my body can heal most anything, but I had to give in to this particular evil within. We stopped back at school and picked Quinn up, and upon arriving home with all three ducks in a row, all hell broke loose within my body.  
       My throat was completely blocked, that full, blubbery pain in the back where you feel like you're gagging, and you just can't swallow and each time you try to swallow, a horrible pain shoots out.  I also knew I had a fever; I was shivering and trembling, so so cold, like I was standing outside in subzero temperatures, yet sweating bullets at the same time, all while making the kids lunch, anything I could throw on a plate to fill their little bellies before I could put two of them down for naps and only have one left up to neglect.  I knew my afternoon would involve me and the couch, and if the girls were napping, at least I could keep Quinn occupied in other ways while I melted into the cushions.
       I apologized to the kids that Mommy wasn't being much fun just then.  I told them that Mommy was really very sick, but that I just needed to lay and I'd be better and able to play again soon.  I got the girls layed down for naps, comfy clothes on for myself, and directed Quinn to the armchair with his VTech Learning Tablet to babysit him while I layed on the couch next to his chair.  And oh my God, it all hurt.  I'd taken the ibuprofin but it was not doing anything.  Every single bone in my body hurt, I'm guessing all my joints were inflammed.  My skull ached, my neck and every vertebrae in my back was on fire, my knees and legs and pelvis were killing me, and yet I couldn't stop shivering despite the heavy down blanket I was covered up with.  It's the kind of cold that starts from the inside, radiating from my bone marrow, stretching out from within, spreading up and down my skin.  I know people say some pain is like being hit by a truck, and I can totally understand that - but it's not like the aftermath of being hit, it's that moment of impact when you can just feel your body shattering and the pain is numbing and you can't hear anything because your ears are smothered by the sounds of an explosion. 
        Of course the girls didn't nap that day - why would they?  Of all days that I just needed them to nap and be indisposed for a little while, where they'd be safe and happy and resting peacefully?  Not Monday, my worst Monday ever.  I'd dozed for maybe 25 minutes on the couch before I had to give in to the calling for Mommy, and I knew that I really shouldn't let Quinn veg-out on his tablet for much longer anyway.  It was an absolutely beautiful day - sunny and almost 70, one of our first spring-like days after a very long, snowy winter.  I managed to cut up some apples and grab a box of Angry Birds (graham crackers), somehow managed to get Quinn's and the girls jackets and shoes on which is a daunting task even on the best day.
        The kids were overjoyed to be outside in the nice weather.  They flew like little birds from the backdoor, cheering and smiling, their arms in the air, the warm breeze rustling their soft hair feathers.  Within minutes they had their jackets off, like pink and orange and bright blue leaves decorating the ground in the yard.  I grabbed my hat and winter coat, and sat on the back deck stairs, still freezing even in the warm air - okay, "sat" is a graceful to describe me, I was slumped like a slug across the two steps between the patio and the deck, but the sun was warm on my black yoga pants and the patio was warm on my legs, and truthfully, unless one of the kids was in danger, I couldn't have moved even if I'd wanted to. 
         I layed there watching them, through tears (from the fever, not from crying), as they were jubilently swinging on the swingset, pushing toys around the deck, playing bus stop with the wagon, eating their snacks from colored bowls on the deck, giving me a teasing look as they threatened to go up two many rungs on the ladder or attempt the slide on their own.  I would call out safety instructions every now and then - 'don't go any higher', 'don't walk in front of the moving swing'...- and apologies - 'sorry Mommy can't push you on the swing today', 'sorry I can't play tag'.  Thankfully, Doug got home at 5 that night, which is early for him, and he took them for a walk, the girls in the wagon and a bike ride for Quinn, while I somehow mustered the energy to boil and bake something for dinner.  Then I layed down on the couch and mentally and physically checked out.
        In my fevery dreams, I tossed and turned and could hear things taking place around me - the kids got home from their walk and ate dinner, Doug gave Sierra her amoxicillin, he spent a long time doing dishes after dinner while the kids ran around the house, jumping on me and eventually playing in their book room.  He wrangled the girls to bed and bathed Quinn, and at some point, he came back to see what I needed.  My temp was 102, my body was still aching and my joints burning, I wasn't hungry, my throat raw, but I ate some apple slices to take more ibuprofin, and it must have done some good because I actually fell asleep.  I vaguely remember walking up the stairs to my own bed, bringing an extra blanket to cover up my freezing body.
         Tuesday morning dawned just the same as the night had been.  I gagged on the giant lump in my throat, which only made it hurt worse, and I pulled on a cardigan sweater over my pajamas, as if a very uncool tribute to Kurt Cobain, and went downstairs and prepared the kids breakfasts slower than a snails pace.  I laid my greasy head on the table while they ate, since I had no bowl of my own, telling them again that "Mommy is still really very sick, I'm sorry I'm not talking very much".  Lots of television ensued that morning, as I layed on the couch under my down-blanket cocoon, coming out more frequently than I really wanted to but I had to get them snacks or diaper changes or other things.  I took them down to the playroom, and I layed at the bottom of the steps so they couldn't get past me if I happened to close my eyes for a minute; surely I'd feel them crawl over top of me, right?  I prepared lunch very slowly, again, just putting together things with very little preparation involved that could still pass as a meal.  I found I could still do some things as long as I moved slowly and if I whispered the word of what I needed to get (cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese; grapes grapes grapes grapes), so I wouldn't forget what they needed before I got there to retrieve it.  I can only imagine how crazy I must have seemed, but luckily the kids aren't old enough to know what crazy is, or to be alarmed by it.
         I got the girls down for a nap and halleluh, both girls slept that day!  I succumbed to Quinn's repeated requests for a tv show (I'm sure he sensed my state), and he layed on the couch with me, under his own little blanket, as I dozed in and out during that wonderful 30-minute reprieve.  I heard my phone ringing it's vibration on the counter, but I was powerless to answer it.  After a little while, I heard Kelsey wake up, so I grabbed my phone on my way out from picking her up.  The kids sat on the couch watching yet another show (sorry little brains, I'll make it up to you somehow).  Under my downy shield, I listened to a voice mail - CVS got my strep test back from the lab and it was "positive"!  'Thank God', I thought!  At least it was something treatable and not a wait-it-out kind of sickness anymore. 
        Sierra awoke moments later, so I let her join in the show while I slowly prepared snacks for the car.  I left the girls in their regular shirts and sleeping pants, and put the girls dress shoes on them because the slip-on option was much more appealing than tie laces or even zipper boots, even if they looked like the cutest little clowns you ever did see.  Quinn was excited that he didn't have to wear shoes in the car.  And off to the drive-thru cvs pharmacy we went.  I was so dizzy, my head was swimming, but I had to get those pills, though I probably had no business operating a motor vehicle that day.  I picked up my penicillin and drove home, resuming my place on the ground/steps in the back yard so the kids could play (yes, I made Quinn get shoes after all).  I had put a frozen pizza in the oven for dinner, which I served with baby carrots.  Cardboard Dinner served everyone (hey, they were organic carrots though!).  Doug came home at 6 and took over again. 
          By Wednesday morning, I was still in pain, achy from another sleepless night and the inflammation, but Quinn was now complaining of a sore throat.  We thought it might have just been an act, because he was still chasing his sisters around, playing, jumping off the couch, doing his usual routine, but we decided I'd better take him into the doctor.  Doug stayed for a little while that morning to help with the kids so I could shower, and he set the appointment for 10 a.m.  We left at the same time, him to the office and me making another shaky drive with three precious cargos in the car to get to the pediatricians.  Quinn was positive for strep (brave little guy didn't even flinch when they swabbed his throat), so they tested Kelsey, too - also positive.  I'd had three doses of penicillin by them and an ibuprofin that morning, so my bones weren't quite as painful and my fever was coming down so the shivering was at a lull, but my head was still throbbing and I was barely holding it together mentally, just enough to function.
         We drove to the Rite Aid pharmacy, and went next door the grocery store to buy more popcicles and milk.  The girls were being rambuncious in the double stroller, squealing and trying to grab their brother, making it hard to steer, and when Quinn wasn't playing "can't touch me" with the girls, he was running up and down the aisles (some show of sickness...).  My head was pounding and my vision was all shaky because I was dizzy, my field of vision bounced and rattled with every step I took.  My neck hurt, but cracking it only made the dizziness worse.  We went down the bread aisle, Quinn skipping ahead of me and step-dancing, when my ears picked up the sounds of the terrible Muzak that was playing overhead, a provocative techno beat and strange raspy vocals talking about "we don't have to rush tonight, baby, let's take our time tonight" or something along those lines, and in my head I'm thinking how that's highly inappropriate for a grocery store on a Wednesday morning, and it's so incredibly loud and pulsing.  The girls are hanging out of the stroller, my arm is breaking under the weight of the gallon and a half of milk, Quinn's dancing and probably drawing attention to the odd music, and I notice an old woman in the aisle with me, and I'm sure she's embarassed by the song (assuming her hearing aid is turned up to hear it).  I catch a wave of dizzy and try to head us up the aisle toward the checkout, and two more elderly folks turn the corner, and in my head, I imagine they're hearing the song, too.  As we turn out into the main aisle, there are 5 more white-haired people, and I'm surrounded and can't help but smile because I'm completely lost in my head, feeling like I'm having some kind of strange drug-induced trip, but it's only penicillin, and listen to those horribly sexy words being blatantly sung loudly to all these old people.  I actually laughed out loud, it was too much for my fragile mind to handle, too funny not to recognize, and we pushed our way to the self-checkout because I just need to get the hell out of there.  We paid, and I gulped in warm, moist air as we leave the store, to pick up the kids' medicines.  The same song is playing in Rite Aid, but it's much quieter and there aren't any old people, and I just feel sick to my stomach.  All I can think is, 'What was all that?'
         At any rate, we got back to the comfort of our own home, and I'm putting the kids lunches together with a little more ease this time.  I was surprised that both Quinn and Kelsey had come down with it; yes, I know it's highly contagious, but they'd been acting perfectly fine, hadn't had any symptoms.  If their poor little throats felt anything like mine did, or if their little bodies were just as achy as mine, I felt so bad that I hadn't noticed, or worse, that they'd caught it from me and there I'd been lost in my own feelings of illness to consider this.  I don't know if it was the timing of the penicillin and that maybe it was finally doing it's job, or the fact that I realized that my babies were sick, but I was suddenly able to put my own sickness aside to focus of their needs.  I started Quinn and Kelsey's doses of amoxicillin, continued Sierra's rounds, seeing all our medicines lined up at dosing time was quite a sight.  I read them books despite my raspy, still sore throat, cuddled with them, tried to cook them healthy, less-shortcut meals, focused and tried to spend time just playing whatever they wanted to play.  It was actually really nice to just BE with them for a change, instead of worrying about all the other things on my "To-Do" list that I knew I had no hope of doing (like painting, building shelves, etc) since I wasn't fully recovered myself.
          By Saturday, everyone is mostly back to normal, other than needing to continue the meds even though the kids think they're feeling better already.  10 days it will be, not a day less - I'm not taking the chance that this horrible round of strep comes back.  I'm in no hurry to ever feel that way again!  So thankful that it is all over now...  Fingers crossed we've met our quota on sicknesses for this winter season.  Bring on spring!

Monday, January 28, 2013

First Solo-Playdate Anxiety

    I'm having some serious mommy guilt right now, and questioning my judgement and parenting skills.  Quinn is on his first ever solo playdate, without me!, and I'm suffering with my decision to let him go. 
    Last week, I accepted an invitation for Quinn to go over to a classmates house for a playdate.  No problem, right?  The little girl had been to our house a few weeks ago, had a nice lunch and some fun playtime, and we've been to other playdates at other classmates' houses and they've always played well together.  She is a wonderful little girl, so sweet and precocious and friendly, and her mother is always very warm and inviting when I see her at their school; she frequently offers to help me as she sees my hands are full with three kids.  Plus, they live only a few blocks away from our house.  It occured to me on the drive to their house today that, wait a minute - how well do I really know them?  Sure people may appear nice on the surface, but what if I'm completely naive and miss something?  What if they have a torture chamber in their basement?  What if they skip town with him and I never see him again?  Should I have been to someone's house before leaving my child there?  Checked for hidden dangers or red flags or proper childproofing?  Does this make me a terrible mother, maybe I didn't do my due diligence before sending him to a new place?  What if he gets there and he's scared or sad to be away from me?  What if my assurances to him about his safety aren't true?  And I can't help but loosely remember a quote from "Girl with the Dragon Tatoo" - something about the urge to offend someone being stronger than the urge to flee a sense of danger.  Should I have had that talk with him already, about the inappropriate touching and not keeping secrets from us?  Ugh, I've completely dropped the ball!
    And am I really ready for him to go over to someone's house without me?  There are other friends whose houses I would not have any concern sending him to, places we've been more time than I can count; maybe I should have practiced there first?  And it's not even that I have any reason whatsoever to be concerned about the current playdate - I guess I'm just having some separation anxiety myself.  
   We pulled up to the house, and I went around to get Quinn out of his seat.  He suddenly realized that I wasn't staying this time, and he was understandably a little anxious and started the "But Mommy, I'll miss you" and "I want you to stay, too" as we walked up to their door.  I assured him that he would be perfectly fine, and that we only live a few blocks away, and he can call me or come home anytime he's ready.  I nervously reminded him to be a good friend and remember his please and thank you's.  We were barely able to knock before the door swung open, and the little girl was beaming at his arrival.  I walked him inside and was met by the mother, a big grin on her face and super relaxed and inviting.  It was warm and clean in the rooms I could see, and it seemed open and bright; nicely decorated, not cluttered, comfortable but orderly.  Quinn threw off his coat and shoes, and ran to play with his little friend, so I could tell that his anxiety had faded, but I had a heavy heart as I smiled back, finalized the details of his return home, mentioned that he might be scared of their dog (which she said would stay on their back porch, no problem), and slowly walked back to the car (where the twins were waiting and asking why they couldn't go to play, too).
    I brought the twins home and fed them lunch.  We read three books, changed diapers, and sang a couple songs before laying them down for their naps.  They went to sleep immediately, peacefully, both tired from restless nights and having been under the weather for a couple weeks now.  I made myself some lunch, surprisingly ate it while it was still hot!, and then slowly realized how quiet the house is.  Part of me is a little excited for some time to myself - it's rare to have some time alone in the afternoon, when I feel more motivated and think I might actually be able to accomplish something.  Even when the girls are sleeping, most days I tidy up the lunch things and do a little dinner prep, but then I play with Quinn and truly enjoy the one-on-one time we have together.  So then the other part of me speaks up and misses him being away right now, and starts to question whether he's okay over at his classmates' house, whether I made a good decision to let him go...  So instead of being productive (not that writing on this blog isn't productive!), I find myself just killing the time until I see him come down the street, up onto the porch, and back into our home, and into my arms. 
     I know that he's <probably!> perfectly fine where he is, and is <probably> having a pretty good time right about now.  And I also know that it's <probably> just my insecurity and inexperience making me feel guilty about letting him go.  I know that the first time leaving him at a friends house will be the hardest time, and that it's a totally normal thing to and will happen more and more frequently now that he's getting older (5!).  For now, I'll just keep looking out the window until I see them walk around the corner (oh no, it's snowing!  Did I dress him warmly enough?  Will he be cold?).  Waiting to hear his footsteps again...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Five blessed years ago...

      Five years ago tonight, I was in the throws of labor with my first born child, my handsome, inquisitive, wonderful son Quinn.  He was initially due on January 1st 2008, supposed to be a New Years Baby, but there we were, a week later before he was finally coming full steam ahead.  My pregnancy had been amazing - I did prenatal yoga, ate what I was supposed to (well, baby wanted cupcakes, and baby always gets what he wants!), took walks 5 days a week, tried to reduce stress at work, dreamed about names and nurseries and all the things that go along with planning for a baby.  Other than some heartburn in the last two months, I didn't have any issues or complications.  I was one of those annoying woman who loved being pregnant and literally just glowed!
        I was finally admitted to the hospital on Tuesday afternoon, the 8th of January, after three days of Braxton-Hicks contractions, two days of seemingly real contractions, and then having a non-stress test and biophysical profile at the hospital - I went to my doctor's office Tuesday at lunchtime to talk about an induction since the baby was over a week late, and she found that I was 5 cm dilated and ready to go to the hospital to have this baby.  After 26 hours of labor (despite having wanted a natural birth, I caved and took an epidural halfway through), 4 hours of pushing, and an emergency c-section, Quinn was finally born into our lives.
        I have such vivid memories of that remarkable day - I will never forget the thoughts and emotions (fear of change and of pain, feeling overwhelmed, sheer joy, the impatience of just wanted to hold him) I had on the insane 12 minute drive from our condo to the hospital; hearing the static electricity in the air in the hallway while walking the halls, getting ice chips and popsicles, and leaning on the wall during contractions; how warm and soft the blanket on the bed felt on the cold skin of my legs felt when I had to lay down to be monitored; kneeling on the bed over the headboard and seeing the TV's reflection in the glass of a picture on the wall, hearing my Mom and husband laugh about the episode of Family Guy that was on; the feeling of neverending pushing, feeling so exposed and desperate for him to be born already, and then the feeling of being rushed to the operating room.  Not long after that feeling, I had the most important moment of my life - seeing my baby boy for the first time.  He didn't cry at first, just looked around with those big inquisitive eyes; I swear he gave me a look immediately, like he knew me already.  I can honestly say that the past five years with him, getting to know him, teaching him and learning from him, have been the happiest of my life.
        It has been an amazing journey that we've had together, from learning all the things that go along with infancy and toddlerhood, and now as we're looking ahead to kindergarten next year.  It was "Me and Quinn against the world" for awhile there, and I treasure those memories.  He has taught me how to be a mother, and he is in my thoughts every minute of the day.  I dream of him at night, and love waking up to him crawling up our bed in the morning.  He is such an amazingly smart and caring boy, so skilled and strong at so many things, and he is learning in leaps and bounds on a daily basis.  I'm completely in awe of him! 
       He has truly taught me the meaning of life and love.  For him, I have had to think about things in the immediate and things 18 years into the future.  For him, I have given up many things of myself, but have not regretted it for one minute.  I will always try to protect him from hurt and the bad things of the world.  I will always try to help him process his feelings and to be sensitive to the feelings of others.  I want him to know that he can do anything he sets his mind to, and there are no limits to how far he can go.  And I want him to know just how much I truly love him, to the very depths of my heart and soul, and I am immensely proud of him and thankful to be his Mommy.  He will always be my first little love, and I look forward to so many more birthdays to celebrate together.  Happy 5th birthday, my sweet little boy, Quinn!