Sunday, November 26, 2006

Worst Parents in the World

Last night, E wouldn't settle down for bed time. We had been to a birthday party and thought she was just revved from all that sugar. So we practiced tough love. First we made sure her diaper was dry and that the room temperature was comfortable. Then we ignored her while she screamed and pounded on the door. This went on for some time. We congratulated ourselves for setting boundaries and for not caving to a two-year-old's whims. She woke several hours later and was hard to soothe. Tough love again. More screaming. Once again, we traded self-congratulatory comments across the pillow.

This morning, J noticed that E's hair was matted and that her ear was oozing a bit. She has tubes, and some drainage is normal with a cold, so we weren't alarmed.

Then, during her afternoon nap, both ears exploded. Pus. Blood. Ooze. She has a double ear infection. This is quite a feat considering the tubes. It must have been hurting badly last night, but we were so focused on the sugar she consumed that other possibilities didn't occur to us. So she suffered longer than necessary.

Tonight, she is more comfortable. The antibiotic drops are doing their thing, and the ibuprofen is helping with the pain. She went to bed without complaint.

This parenting thing is tricky business. I think we get a lot right, but when we goof, we really goof. This time, we erred by assuming that she would be able to alert us to something serious. Last night when we asked her what was wrong, she asked for her books, she requested water, and she cried to be let out of her room. She never said a word about her ear. We should have known that her communication skills aren't yet sufficient to express what is wrong. She can sing the "happy birthday cake" song, but she can't say that her ear hurts like a bitch. She screams and we try to interpret. Last night, we got it wrong. Very wrong.

I wonder what therapy she is going to need later in life. Because of us.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I have stress dreams that are good barometers for how my life is going.

In the first, I am behind the wheel of a car in the parking lot of Target. It isn't my car. It is big, old and non-responsive . The brakes barely work and the steering is off. If you have ever been the driver of a bumper car at your county fair, you may be familiar with the sensation of driving this beast. In my dream, I am desperate to avoid shopping carts, cars, and pedestrians. Somehow, I do manage, but barely.

In the second stress dream, I look out across the horizon and see tornadoes coming my way. Whichever way I run, they follow. I thank the jackasses who made the movie, Twister, for this dream. I think tornadoes might be cool if they were predictable and filed a flight path first. As a side note., my fear of tornadoes is not without merit. I have seen two, up close and personal, in the last four years. The first time I saw one, we were out shopping for a car. I pointed out the tornado to my husband and the sales staff. As I started formulating a survival plan--the freezer room in a nearby minimart seemed to be the best bet--the men, my husband included, ran outside gawking at it. I don't know if they were brave, or (more likely) if the Y chromosome kicked in and overrode their sensible, cautious side, but they weren't thinking about seeking cover. Luckily it went the other way. The second tornado appeared on a jut of land just across the harbor. I stopped the car and called 911 to report it. I thought the man in front of me was doing the same, but it turns out he was taking pictures with his cell phone.

In the final stress dream, I am a passenger in a plane that is going down. Matthew Fox is not on board. My fear of flying can probably be traced to the death of a childhood friend's father* Then in 1994, I had a horrible flight out of Colorado Springs which involved turbulence and a short dive in which people screamed and luggage flew out of the overhead bins.

My stress dreams have returned. It doesn't take a psychologist to realize that the common theme in each of these dreams is control or lack of it, to be more precise. Lately, I've been in reaction mode at home and at work.

At home, Baby M has had a cold and has regressed on the whole sleep through the night thing. She wants to be held most of the day and she hasn't been eating well. This has left me stupid from sleep deprivation and in pain from a nasty case of plugged milk ducts.

E is doing better, but she is two, which means she is opinionated and of limitless energy. She has taken to walking around with her pants and diapers around her ankles declaring that she needs to go potty. This is now a ritual activity complete with reading materials (thanks, J), toilet flushing and hand washing. It was cute at first. Unfortunately, she doesn't quite have the awareness in advance that she needs to go and only tells me after the fact. This does not curb her enthusiasm so we are spending a good bit of time in the bathroom which is, of course, making me a bit insane. I'm considering installing a wine bar in there to help me relax.

On the work front, I have the text hanging over my head. And a publisher who is truly not nice. I also have the department's assessment report to write, but to do that I'll need to analyze the data in all my free time**and to work with a colleague who, while well-intentioned, is a bit much. Do I really need to know that she and her husband made love*** last night? Do I need to hear about the patriarchy that stand in the way of her making full professor?

Finally, I'm fat. Well, not so much that my ass is going to be featured on the news tonight as an example of American gluttony, but fat for me. The baby weight is being stubborn. My father-in-law said something to me about it today over Thanksgiving dinner as I was eating seconds.****

All this is to say that my stress dreams have returned and I am feeling a bit out of control. This must end: I need more control or at least the illusion of more control. Now. I've started a small experiment. Starting two days ago, I am doing my best impression of someone who has things under control. If at the end of a week, I don't feel slightly better, I'll try something different.

I'm keeping the house neater. Specifically, I'm not going to bed with anything out in the kitchen, I'm insisting that messes should be cleaned as they are made (pretty amusing with a two-year-old in the house), I'm planning meals head of time*****. I'm selecting outfits the night before they are to be worn. I'm checking bank balances. I'm thinking about the text.

What am I missing? How do you hold things together?

*I recently realized that the crash was the same one that claimed the life of Steven Colbert's father and brothers).
**I have loads of it, if we count the hours I senselessly devote to rest.
***Her words, not mine. This sounds so cheesy to me. So 1970s. So herpes era.
****Was this comment necessary? I think not.
*****This week is easy. Leftovers. I plan for the family to eat the leftovers right down to the turkey bone marrow.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Three Months: A Short Thanksgiving Story

Last Thanksgiving, I was seriously depressed. Mood and FSH levels are inversely related after all. Despite the dire fertility diagnosis, I was not willing to accept the RE's word that my ovaries were cooked. I was mid cycle and armed with an ovulation prediction kit, Preseed, and the conviction that I would have another baby even if it meant second mortgaging the house and cycling across the country at a high FSH friendly clinic. I was a woman on a mission.

Thanksgiving morning I took food to bleary-eyed friends who had a three-day-old baby. Later, my in-laws spent the day with us which meant I had to sneak off to the bathroom to pee on a stick and then obsess. The lines almost matched which meant I was close to ovulating. Hope! Now if the in-laws would leave already.* After hours of discussing whatever my in-laws discuss** they finally left, we did that which needed to be done, and somewhere over the course of that long weekend we did what seemed impossible: we conceived naturally.

M is three months old today. And I am so grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

*Family holidays stress me out, and I was feeling raw and intruded upon. With a possible LH surge, my normal impatience for their departure was somewhat intensified.

**Good God, these people can talk. For hours. About nothing.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


When my first daughter was a month old or so I remember reading a post on my new mommies board from a woman who was clearly delusional. She explained how she treasured the nighttime wakings and feedings and would miss them when they were gone. The words treasure, gaze, and bond appeared. It was a Hallmark post, dripping of saccharine.

I remembered that just now as I got up with Baby M. It is 4:30 a.m. and she is nursing. I adore my little one. I do. But for the record, when these night wakings are over, I will not miss them. What I treasure right now are eight unbroken hours of sleep.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


J's 20th college reunion is this weekend. Here. He didn't care to attend any events, and I am extremely thankful for this. You see, I work at the college he attended, and I'm not at all enthusiastic about turning over $80 per person to my employer to drink cheap wine and eat crappy cheese and crackers when my most recent cost-of-living adjustment was so small I needed to borrow a microscope from the biology department just to see it. Plus, this is pure conjecture, but I'm fairly certain that the only people who attend reunions are people who are there for bragging rights. You know, people with big houses, nice cars, kids who don't get dirty or snotty, and law or medical degrees. Republicans.

Let's just say we fit in none of the above categories. Our house is small and cluttered. We have about 1500 square feet downstairs and a finished room above the garage that would be a good bet for Mission Organization makeover. We have a 1996 hatchback with body damage and are considering splurging on a Honda Fit if two car seats will fit in back and if we can swing a payment on top of childcare. My kids get dirty. Very dirty. Snotty too. We are humble public servants making crappy wages. I'm a democratic sociologist, but people in this part of the country don't get it so I usually just say that I'm a democrat and cope as they look on me with fascination and pity.

So I was feeling good about getting out of reunion duty and not having to mix with people I don't know and can't relate to. But my relief was short-lived because college friends of J's called. They are in town for the reunion! Why didn't we go?! It would be so great to see us! It's been too long! They have to see the BA-BEE!

How to describe them? She is a stay-at-home mom* whose Christmas letters always start with "we are blessed" and then go on for five pages to document their Tahoe vacation, big new house, perfect children, and perfect lives. She got a masters degree in education, spent half a year teaching and hasn't worked outside the home since that time, not even before they had kids.

He is a lawyer. Not just any lawyer, but the one on the back of the phone book in his city.** My brother happens to represent insurance companies and has been on opposite sides of the aisle from this guy more than once. My brother says this guy is a shyster. Now please understand that my brother is himself a bit of a shyster who once sent a certified letter to a new neighbor because their dog kennel was three inches over the property line. So when he calls another attorney a shyster, I have to take his word for it.

I'm pretty sure this couple is Republican. They just have that vibe. I guess I'll know soon enough because J invited them over here tomorrow morning. He told me this at 8 p.m. tonight and we had a fight at 8:05. I threw the F bomb, he called me names. I finally gave up because it won't change the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Blessed (turn your injured neck into a check!) will be here in the morning.

Let me set the scene for you. The house is cluttered and none too clean. There is stuff everywhere. Baby equipment that replicates when we aren't watching. Puzzles. Crayons. Books, magazines, newspapers.***I haven't vacuumed this weekend because E is terrified of the vacuum and she hasn't been anywhere without me. Though I just mopped on Wednesday, the kitchen floor needs to be mopped again because J made pumpkin seed brittle**** and there are sticky spots everywhere. We don't have baseboards. We renovated this house two years ago, E was born and most work stopped. It really bothers me that we don't have baseboards. It almost bothers me as much as the clutter. There is nothing I can do about that by tomorrow morning.

Now that I have calmed down, I have a plan for getting the house looking as nice as it can considering all. I told J he must take the kids out of the house for at least an hour in the morning as I don't have time to coddle a toddler who thinks the vacuum cleaner is a monster. My plan is simple. First, I am going to pick up everything that doesn't have a home and throw it in a Rubbermaid bin that will then be deposited in a dark corner of a closet and probably forgotten until we move again.***** J will be totally pissed when he realized I done this, but he'll deal. Once surfaces are cleared, I'll dust and vacuum. Then I'll mop. Then I'll wipe down the front bathroom. Then I'll make the beds. Easy, right?

*Nothing wrong with this. She just has a bit of that Stepford Wife thing going, you know?
**This is true. A mutual friend confirmed it.
***No, I'm not a hoarder, but I do have the last two days worth of papers out because I might get to read them and because I need to find the TV and Real Estate sections.
****You don't want to know.
*****You think I'm joking, don't you?

An Update: I sent J and the girls into the cold morning air so I could clean the house. Then this couple was two hours late. She talked nonstop the entire visit about her children. J went to lunch with them and reports that the monologue went on for the entire meal. On the plus side, they send their kids to public school so they can't be all bad.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Fear and loathing

Ah. The publisher will be here Friday. For four days. Four long days. She isn't pleased that I'll have M with me, but unless J grows boobs and starts lactating, M is coming along. I could pump, but there are a few problems with this. First, it takes me two pumping sessions to make enough for one bottle. I don't understand this, but that is just how it is working out. Second, the baby doesn't take bottles well. She arches her back and wails as if we have abandoned her. She is getting better about this, but it is hit and miss. Finally, I can't leave J with two girls for that long. Well, I could, but it wouldn't be pretty. He looks strung out when I get back from yoga and that is only 90 minutes; I can't imagine how strung out he would be after a few days. It isn't that he is incompetent. Not at all. It has more to do with M's reluctance to take a bottle and E's tantrums. I told the publisher that I would need to bring the baby and she was OK with it six weeks ago. I'm holding her to it. She was forewarned.

The text is not going well. If I had it all to do again, I would never have signed up for this. It will go down as my biggest professional mistake. Still, I'm not a quitter. Really, I am not. It's just that it seems bigger than me. So much bigger. My social science is a broad field. While I am more than competent at teaching the introductory courses, it has occurred to me that my area of expertise is fairly narrow. This means that to write with authority on certain topics, that I have to dive back in the literature and really educate myself. This takes time and energy. Both are in short supply.

Then there is the feedback from the editor and publisher. The publisher thinks I am too spare in writing. She may be correct. I have a journalism background and I'm stingy with words. I was trained to get as much information into as little space as possible. Old habits are hard to break. It is depressing for me to get her feedback. The editor is less critical, but he doesn't have a background in my field so we don't always speak the same language.

When I think about it, my biggest problem may be psychological resistance to this project. The publisher has been very cruel at times and domineering at others. I fear her. I loathe her. She has told me that "we own your time" "you belong to us" "we could have gotten a bigger name for this" and the list goes on. I am not the most assertive person, but I am unusually passive around her. It feels bad and lends a bad vibe to the project.

Between now and Friday I need to finish a chapter. I don't think it will happen, but I'll give it a try. I think that if M will give me more than three hours of sleep at a time, that I may get more done. Send little M some sleep vibes. A clear head would do me good.