Friday, October 17, 2014

Sick Weeks

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One of these two is very sick.  Can you guess who?


The worst part, by far, about being sick for three weeks is that I have missed out on three weeks of being able to smell the (what I can only assume to be) rapidly disappearing new baby fragrance.  Freddie is my last baby, and up until I got sick, I would take every chance to deeply inhale his scent, reveling in the good feelings that come from holding a sweet-smelling, milky-breath baby in my arms.

 20141014_194205(0) Baby who probably smells awesome and my useless aquiline nose

On Tuesday, I was officially diagnosed with bronchitis and a sinus infection.  My doctor said that 90% of these maladies are viral in nature, so while he prescribed an antibiotic, he asked me not to fill the prescription until Saturday if I still didn’t feel well.

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These two acrobats are not conducive to sleep, but they LOVE my bed.


I still don’t feel well.  Like, really a lot.


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Work baby loves work


I power through the days living on ibuprofen, hot tea, and soup.  I hack and cough so hard that I nearly vomit.  I have gone through two boxes of tissues in my car alone, and I don’t spend much time in my car.  My nostrils are chapped and bleeding.  My teeth hurt.  My ears are plugged (what did you say?).



Taking my sinus problems to the park


But life goes on, and I can’t take a break.  I would love nothing more than to spend an entire day in bed, but I barely take care of my family and work obligations as it is – a day off would put me so far behind.  Not to mention the power-nursing baby who is constantly at my side.



My illness hasn’t slowed any of us down.


Instead, we have been to the beach to visit family and friends and we continue to play and exercise and read and live our lives.  We have big weekend plans to pick out our pumpkins.  The boys are probably so used to mom being sick by now that they don’t even notice.






And, obviously, they’re not starved for attention.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


As I was walking my kids to school this morning, a beautiful, young woman waiting at the crosswalk in her car rolled down her window and shouted (nicely) at me.


“I see you walking your herd everyday and I just want to tell you that you are such an inspiration to me!” she said.


“Thank you!” I said.


“Seriously, I just had my first baby and you give me hope that I might be able to do things like that in the future!”


“Thanks!  It’s not easy, but it’s doable!” I said, and then waved and pushed on my way.


Everyday, I walk Charles to school, a half-mile there, a half-mile back, repeat in the afternoon when school is over.  I take Jamie in the stroller, Freddie in the frontpack, and Buster on a leash.  Charles rides his bike or his scooter, and Jamie sometimes rides his scooter about halfway to school.  It’s controlled chaos, made more stressful by the fact that every. damn. day. I see someone run a red light at the major intersection we cross not a block from our house. 


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Tangent alert: WHY DO PEOPLE RUN RED LIGHTS?  Obviously, their time is SO much more important than anyone else’s time or safety.  A few weeks ago, a bicyclist was hit at the same intersection we cross four times daily.  I’m just waiting for another, bigger accident; these selfish assholes see the light turn yellow from three hundred feet away from the intersection, they gun their engines and then speed through the intersection at 40 miles an hour.  Just STOP IT, already.  Don’t run red lights.  You’re putting everyone in danger, especially the small person riding a bike whom you can’t see because he’s small and moving quickly.  Sheesh.


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It was so wonderful to hear such a nice compliment from a perfect stranger.  I know I don’t have it all together, but hell, I look like I do.  The secret is to do the things that are difficult until they either become less difficult or you are numb to their difficulty.


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The walks in the morning and the afternoon have helped with my peace of mind immensely.  It’s a nice, clean break from the mom I am right before we leave the house, shouting “C’mon, c’mon, let’s go, we’re LATE!”  All of the sudden, there we are, in the fresh air, hoofing it up and over the hills to school, Charles calling out the numbers on the busses, Jamie pointing out the garbage trucks that pass, Freddie falling asleep on my chest.  The extra time to walk to and from school twice each day means I spend less time at the office, but it’s worth the extra sense of urgency when I work because I get to that fresh air, that exercise, and that time with my boys.


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Snug in the Ergo, fast asleep.  The cover is a Peekaru (everyone asks).


Sometimes I get overwhelmed when I think about making that mile-long walk, twice a day, everyday, for the next ten years.  But, like most things, it helps to take it one day at a time.  And I enjoy that walk each day.  May I always see it as a joy and never a burden.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

My Other Family

Thirteen years ago, I got extremely lucky.  As I was packing to spend a semester abroad in France, the study-abroad program was assigning host families and I had the great fortune to be placed with the Cauet Family.  They’ve become a second family to me, and we’ve all criss-crossed the ocean a few times to see each other over the intervening years (the ten months I spent teaching English in France were at a lycee nearly next-door to their home… though I lived at the lycee, their house was still my home).


France pig

I had a thing for posing with statues in college.  Also, I still have that jacket.


Cauet Train  Catching the train the day I left for the States in January of 2002, tears in my eyes (and the terrible fashion of the early 2000s and at least 15 lbs of French pastry weight gain)


As a student, the Cauets were not only welcoming, but genuinely open and willing to share their lives – such was not the case for other students.  Within two weeks of my arrival, I attended an all-day (literally: from 10 am to 4 am) wedding of a family friend.  I barely spoke French, was still a bit caught up with the jet-lag, and the whole of French society wanted my opinion or to apologize for the recent 9/11 attacks.  Overwhelmed much?  A friend of my host parent’s daughter began, in October, to take me out dancing every Friday and Saturday night.  She’d arrive at the house, have a drink with the family, and we’d drive to a club on the far side of the river and dance all night (literally: we’d leave around 4 am).  She didn’t speak much English and she crazily put up with my stumbling French for two solid months of dancing at the clubs.  I went on family outings, vacations, trips, and to more weekend soccer games than I can count.  I became, truly, a part of the Cauet family.

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May 2004, after teaching for ten months, when my family came to visit


With Solene, in 2003 (we went to France for her wedding in 2012)


I’m certain that my experience is not the same as most others’.  In fact, I would venture to guess that the Cauets had many other students who didn’t insinuate themselves or allow themselves to be insinuated into the family in the manner I did.  I was lucky.  I was blessed.  I learned French.  I gained a family.


photo 1 (62) Grandmas always have the magic touch!


Even luckier for me, Maman and Papa Cauet were recently in the States for a wedding and decided to hop an extra plane and spend some time on the West Coast.  Having a family so far away is a bit like having a piece of your heart on the other side of the world.  I miss them dearly, but I’m so, so glad for the small bits of time we get to spend together every few years.


photo 2 (63)  Charles and Jamie recognize the Cauets as “ours”


I guess it’s our turn next time.  Honey, when shall we plan our next trip to France?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Family Anthem

This song from The Muppets (the one a few years ago that rebooted the franchise) started popping up on our “kids’ songs” Pandora station recently (I can’t seem to embed the video, sorry), and now, whenever it comes on, we sing it at the top of our lungs.  We sing it when it doesn’t come on the radio, too, like when we’re in the car, brushing our teeth, or walking home from school.


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I sing it softly to the boys when I tuck them into bed.


Everything is great

Everything is grand

I’ve got the whole, wide world in the palm of my hand

Everything is perfect

It’s falling into place

I can’t seem to wipe this smile off my face

Life’s a happy song, when there’s someone by your side to sing along.

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Sometimes all it takes is a silly song from a silly movie to remind you what’s important in life. 


I’ve got everything that I need

Right in front of me

Nothing’s stopping me

Nothing that I can’t be when you’re right here next to me

Life’s a happy song, when there’s someone by my side to sing along.


I’ve been learning life lessons from the Muppets for years.  It’s hard not to feel like everything is great when you wake up singing “I’ve got everything that I neeeee-eeed! right in front of me!”


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I think it’s fair and good to take inspiration, motivation, and life lessons wherever we find them.  We’re a storytelling tribe, and the Muppets speak to me and many, many others.  They tell stories I love and identify with.  Charles, too.  Even Tony is singing the song.


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So much in pop culture is simply terrible – soulless, violent, angry, and mind-numbing – but when you find something that gives you hope, that helps you see things in a more positive light, well, sing it out.  Dance it out.  Run it naked in the backyard and twirl it above your head.  Put on your mom’s shoes and RACE it out, only to fall, giggling, to the floor in happiness.


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I often feel like I don’t have enough.  I don’t do enough, I AM NOT enough.  But I am wrong.  I am lying to myself.  I am deceiving myself into thinking that there is something more or better than this, right here, right now.


Everything is already perfect.  I have everything that I need, right in front of me.


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Wednesday, October 1, 2014


It has been so long (nearly six years!) since Charles began daycare that I had totally forgotten what an onslaught of new germs can do to a family (oh, right, add this to the “poor Charles” list: a cold or infection nearly every day until he was 18 months old).  It began over a week ago with a froggy throat and hoarse voice which quickly turned to a sore throat.  Other than that symptom, I felt fine.


Tony, of course, took two days off from work.  Let’s all collectively sigh about how men are weenies and also about how when they take time off, they actually get to take time off.  You know how I take time off?  I put off doing the dishes and laundry until tomorrow.  I still have to DO them, I just “rest” now (still taking care of the baby and the kids and the dog and the essential tasks of running a household) and do them later.  And there is no time off from work.  I’m the only one who can do my job, so I go in and I do it.  Sometimes, I go in after the kids are in bed and I do it some more.  When Tony takes time off, he sleeps.


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Jealous?  Yes.  Yes, I am.


This mom job never stops, even when your kindergartner brings home a bug that gets everyone stuffed up and coughing within a week.  The kicker?  I can’t take anything for it because no decongestants are on the “approved for breastfeeding” list.


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I’m still sick, but I’m powering through.  The boys recently inherited a large stash of LEGOs amassed by Tony in his youth, so they have been well-occupied for the past week.  Turns out, my fall-back positions on dinner (meatballs, grilled cheese, butter rice, and other easy-to-prepare comfort foods) are universally appreciated and a nice deviation (from the kids’ perspective) from the normal, healthy fare I usually provide.


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If we can just keep injuries to a minimum, I think we’ll all survive.  Easier said than done, of course – Jamie sustained a giant bruise to his back when he knocked himself into the toy box and Freddie was conked on the head by Charles, and Charles, well, Charles falls off of his scooter and scrapes his knees and elbows every other day.  At least he now knows where the nurse’s office at school is.  My guess is that he’ll be there often over the next six years.


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Doesn’t this just scare you shitless?


The best part about the past week-and-a-half is that I have been so occupied, I’ve forgotten to be anxious.  When you can only spare enough energy to focus on treading water, it’s pretty easy to keep thoughts of drowning at bay.


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Although, if I never see another steaming cup of tea again, it’ll be too soon.  I’d vastly prefer to drown my troubles with wine at this point.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Power Play

Tony and I awoke to a boom on Friday morning at 6:30.  The power had gone out and emergency personnel were swarming the street beyond our backyard.  Due to the early hour, there were no sirens, but there was fire.  A transformer on one of the power poles had blown and caught the pole on fire and it was slowing burning down its length.


You guys!  I didn’t know they could do that!  I don’t feel safe at all anymore, knowing now that transformers can explode and catch their poles on fire!


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We were without power from 6:30 AM to 10:30 PM, a long-ass time if you haven’t showered since Wednesday night, which I hadn’t.  I was planning to shower Friday morning because Tony and I were going to go out to celebrate our ninth (!) anniversary, which was really on Wednesday.  Wednesday was a horrible day for me.  Thursday was better, but that’s a relative term and objectively, it was still really challenging.  I really needed a good day on Friday.


Tony left for basketball pretty much immediately after the power blew, and when the kids got up, I bade them get dressed and then I hauled us all (including a grocery sack full of frozen breastmilk that I intended to save, even if the rest of our freezer turned to lukewarm mush) over to my brother’s house for breakfast.  While there, I was temporarily stymied by his coffee machine.  First of all, I was not in a good place; I had consumed no caffeine, I was sleep-deprived, and like a good mom, I fed everyone else before myself.  I was starting to get hangry, and I needed coffee ASAP.  Second of all, Leland has a combination coffee maker/espresso machine – this was apparently too much for my limited faculties.  I couldn’t open the coffee maker side, so I filled the espresso side with water, put coffee grounds in the little espresso maker part, and made myself world’s largest espresso.  It was like a cup of coffee, but it was a cup of espresso.  Wired!


I credit the caffeine with helping me make it through the day without killing anyone.  Indeed, I almost had a good day, under the circumstances.


Tony rented a generator to keep our freezer going, and I finally foisted the big boys off on a good friend for a sleepover.  Tony, the baby, and I went out after all, having a lovely (unwashed) anniversary dinner at Anthony’s where I indulged in my unholy love of moules-frites.  Freddie was chill at the restaurant for almost an hour, which is all anyone can really ask of a baby.


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When we got back home, Tony hooked the generator up to our tankless water heater for five minutes so I could shower in the dark.  And then, almost as soon as the power was back, I went to bed.


Like an idiot, I kept repeating, aloud, the mantra “lemons out of lemonade, lemons out of lemonade” on Friday.  So now I’ve become the unwashed crazy lady pushing a stroller up a hill, baby strapped to my chest, talking to myself.  Let’s hope there are no more exploding power poles in my future.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


At 9:15 last night, I pulled my children from bed (well, no, I pulled one child from bed; the other hadn’t yet gotten into bed, the stinker), sat them on the couch, hugged them fiercely, and apologized.  I apologized for being such an ogre yesterday, for yelling and losing my temper, and for saying terrible things I didn’t mean (“I don’t want to be mom anymore,” and “Fine.  Don’t sleep in your bed.  Sleep in the dog kennel.  I don’t care.”).  I cried, they cried, and then we talked about how we could all do better today.  I would try not to yell.  I would help them with their tasks instead of just being authoritarian about giving directions.  They would try to follow directions the first time they were given.  They would try not to fight and taunt each other.  They would try to be on time for things or at least move faster when I told them they needed to move faster.


It didn’t work, though it made me feel a bit better last night.  This morning, they were up to their old tricks again, alternately concocting elaborate parkour routes around the house and fighting each other like badgers.  They ignored directions, simple, everyday directions like “please brush your teeth now,” and “please get a jacket, it’s raining.”  They whined.  They yelled.  My ears are still ringing.


But I didn’t yell, so I’m calling it a win for the morning.


And, the baby has only burped up on my once today, so we’re already doing better than yesterday.


It was a tough day yesterday, the kind no one can prepare you for before you become a parent.  And I just felt defeated and depressed.  I had thought I was doing so well, too!  Sure, I’m clinically obese, but I got some new clothes so at least I don’t feel as bad as I look most of the time.  And sure, I’m not getting enough sleep, but I’m getting more sleep than I was, and that helps.  And okay, I can’t keep up with the housework and all my responsibilities at home, but we’re all fed and mostly clean and I kind of have a handle on laundry.  And fine, in trying to be a working mom of an infant, I’m doing a terrible job at both working and being a mom, but the business hasn’t collapsed and the baby seems to be developing all right.  In short, we’re managing.


Except when we’re not.  Or rather, I’m not.  Sometimes, nothing goes your way.  I’m surviving, but I’m discouraged.  I feel like I do everything right, and still incur negative consequences.  I exercised like a fiend and ate healthy all through pregnancy, and I still gained so much weight that I can be classified as “obese” by any chart out there.  I try to be a good mom and limit screen time, read to my kids, cook nutritious meals every night, and give my children fun experiences when we can afford them.  Still, they disrespect me.  I have tried disciplining them in every “correct” way out there, and nothing works.  I don’t have the willpower to resist the couch at night for an hour, even though I should be scrubbing the toilets or mopping the floors or just picking up the junk that accumulates on every surface (our housekeeper, and you KNOW I’m a big advocate of hiring a housekeeper if you can afford it, is out with a knee injury).


It got so bad yesterday that, after being late for boot camp and having to nurse the baby right when we got there, thus being even more late for class, I made the decision after doing only ten modified pushups (because Freddie is strapped to my front and I can’t get down on the ground) to take my screaming, whining, tantrumming kids home.  Jamie couldn’t stop throwing a fit over every. single. little. thing. and Charles was taunting him at every turn.  Boot camp is the only “me” time I have, even though I am exercising while managing three children and I can’t do even a third of the exercises because Freddie hates his car seat and the stroller, so I keep him in the Ergo.  It’s the only thing in my week that makes me feel good about myself – I might not be pretty or thin, and I might be exercising next to the new mom who has already lost all the baby weight at 12 weeks post-birth, but at least I’m doing something productive and I feel pretty strong while doing it.  To have to walk away from that, from my one thing, was heartbreaking.


I suppose we all must go through those times when we feel like the universe is shitting on us.  Thank God that was yesterday, and today is today.  My breast pump broke at 4:30 am, but I’m trying not to see that as an omen for today.  I have already borrowed a friend’s for the short-term and my insurance will completely cover the cost of a new one.  I’m wearing a new shirt and it only has one breastmilk stain on it; here’s hoping it will stay lonely instead of inviting all its friends to party on my shoulders.


I’m hoping, at a minimum, that I can maintain perspective today.  Would I trade my children to be thin?  No.  Would I trade my children’s personalities for complacent, obedient ones?  No.  Would I trade my ambitious husband who is gone all the time for a slacker who is home early?  No.  Would I trade my stressful job for a nine-to-five working for someone else?  No.  Sometimes, it’s not about counting my blessings, it’s about knowing how much the alternative would suck.