Calgon, take me away! (And then fold my laundry.)

Baby boy is almost ten weeks old and I can count the number of times I’ve had more than three consecutive hours of sleep on one hand.  In fact, I could slam my hand in a car door and probably still manage to count this out.  He’s not a bad sleeper, whatever that means anyways.  It’s a digestion thing for him, I think.  But his innocence does not revive these weary bones and spasm-ing lower back.

The relentlessness of these tiny baby days is at times overwhelming.  There is no point at which you punch-out.  And when you’ve got a – let’s say – untalented night sleeper, you don’t even have some semblance of reprieve.  It is just constant yet unpredictable life-sustaining dirty work, and totally mine to handle.  This is not to say I don’t have a great partner who saves the day by letting me sleep through breakfast on the weekends.  Because I do.  And I am so grateful.  But he works.  And refuses to lactate.  By and large, the baby and kid work to be done needs by me.

I have come to realize that I must never be trusted with any state secrets, because sleep deprivation is something I do not cope well and it could be used against me quite effectively.  At three a.m., slumped over a changing table and fumbling for a baby wipe, there is nothing I would not give up or cop too.   Crop circles?  Yeah, that was me.  No one wants to hear my secrets, though.  Because I am whiny, oft times incoherent, and utterly monothematic: them kids! Them kids! Them kids!  I bore myself.  But I’m too tired to feel much one way or another about it.

My brain has been breaking all over town.  A couple weeks ago, I took both of the kids to the downtown farmers market to meet friends for lunch.  As we somehow tumbled out of the car and into the indoor food court, I passed by loads of gorgeous fruit and vegetables.  I looked on a mountain of cantaloupe and thought, I want some of that.  I must get some after this lunch that I am already late for so forgetthecantaloupeandlet’sgo.  When I went to get my melon forty odd minutes later, I stepped out into a wasteland.  Empty concrete slabs.  Large market sheds shading no one at all.  Ohmygod.  I hallucinated a farmers market.  I was very close to turning and running, but given the baby strapped to my chest and my war-torn pelvic floor, I was smart enough not to do that.  Heart pounding, I saw a security guard and as one grasp onto reality – and not a living episode of Scooby Doo – I asked meekly, was there a farmers market today?  Yeah, he said.  On the other side.  These are the flea market sheds.  WELL MAYBE THEY SHOULD LOOK DIFFERENT SO PEOPLE DON’T HAVE PANIC ATTACKS, I didn’t say.  Days later, I open the door to beckon my dogs: Billy and Sugar.  And a cracking voice spews out “Bigger! Shirley! Get in here!”  Um, Bigger and Shirley?  Oh dear.

Yesterday was a low point.  I ran my fingers through my hair before washing my hands and caught a glimpse of redness on my scalp.  Upon closer inspection, yep, I appeared to some kind of leper.  For some reason, ringworm popped into my head. Which is not – as a matter of fact – a worm, but instead a fungus.  Only a smidge less awful than it sounds.  Now, I’ve never had ringworm or known anyone with ringworm.  I have no idea where this thought came from, other than perhaps in past lives, I’ve also been a mom and this information has just been imprinted on me.  (And so was my law degree just a futile attempt to evade my jammy-handed destiny??) But you get it from damp places and dirty kids.  I raise a toddler in Tennessee.  Check, check.  Then the internet told me that ringworm can result in bald spots.  Well I made an appointment for the next day with the acute care clinic.  My body image has taken enough hits in the past few months.  Bald spots?? Enough’s enough, fungi.

Today was the appointment, and Eli had to accompany me given the uncertain time frame.  It all started out well enough, with both me and Eli crying wildly while stuck in parking structure gridlock because he is frightened during car rides and because my sanity is so viscerally linked to his well-being that when unable to soothe his cries I fall apart.  Then I get in to see doctor young resident.  She asks me when these symptoms appeared.  I truly have no earthly idea.  A fortnight?, I offer, trying to deflect.  Heh. Heh. Eeehhh.  I get one of those “could be one of a few things” diagnoses and instructions to slather cream on my head twice a day.  (My poor husband. It’s like I’m a real live super model, isn’t it honey??)  But no one suggests that I will go bald over this.  So I’ll take it.

Today both children have napped like champs.  The kitchen has been cleaned and my ancient computer has decided to recognize the charger and turn on for once.  Also I’ve decided to order a pizza for dinner.  And I am left, with my glorious, full, and only maybe fungus-y head of hair.

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Save me, Maria Montessori!

Having defeated her mother with little effort, 
it’s time for this warrior to move on to a bigger challenge.

The other night was one of our more epic (no) sleeps.  After Eli awoke at 3, there was just so much pooping and nursing and rocking and finally a little bit of (mom) crying and begging, and then he went back down at 4:30.  Now, I am a bad sleeper.  My kids come by their troubles honestly.  No matter how tired I am, if I am not properly wound down, I do not sleep.  And an hour and a half of baby wrangling at a time of night that is less than conducive to rational thought (“I will never sleep again.  And my brain will waste away.  And I will hate everything forever.”) is definitely enough to wind me up.  So I tried to take deep breaths, to quiet my thoughts, but every time I was close to slumber, Will sniffed, sneezed, or rolled over, and BAM, I was awake.  He was having one of his somewhat frequent nighttime allergy attacks.  Not so long ago, I was sympathetic to his condition.  I don’t deserve a medal for being nice to my husband when he felt sick, of course, but I want to mention it.  Because last night when he had an allergy attack, I wanted to chase him out of our home with a fiery torch and tell him and his monstrous allergies to never return.  My arms and legs could not muster the strength to help me fashion a torch, though, so instead I had to rely on that which never tires – my acid tongue – to have a good old fashioned verbal freak out.  Even his absence didn’t help, though, because by the time he was gone, Eli was done sleeping soundly, and it was just a pile of horrible hours until I fell out of bed in time to eat before Will left for work.

Eli finally got back to sleep after Will left.  So I was able to tend to my beloved chores, but get not a minute more rest.  Edie followed me around hoping I might turn back into a mom.  Alas.  When Eli finally woke up, it was time to get going.  Up he went onto his changing table and, like clockwork, Edie said she HAD to go potty.  She had JUST gone.  Are you sure, Edie? Yes. Can you wait? No.  Ok, go sit on the potty and I’ll be in to help you as soon as I get Eli changed.  And then for the second time in two days, she goes into the bathroom and – inexplicably – pees on the floor like an angry cat.  It. is. maddening.  She’s too young to even know what she’s doing or why.  But she’s old enough that she does it deliberately and then immediately be totally flummoxed as to why she made that decision.  Then I yell.  And she cries. And there is no resolution.  And I know that I’ve turned into a mean person but I am just so out of it.

Edie has passed the two and a half mark and she’s a full-fledged maniac kid.  A kid with a lousy mom.  I think it would be tasteless hyperbole to say I’m the world’s worst mom, given the horrors out there.  But, for the past several weeks, I’ve definitely been the worst mom I’ve ever been.  Since Eli was born, I’ve been exhausted and most of the energy I have is funneled via biological imperative into the care of the new baby.  From Edie’s angle, she’s down one mom.  So with the pillar of her existence stepping aside to prop up someone else, my little girl hasn’t been treated like the little girl she is.  And she screams about it. Which makes me beg her not to scream. And this makes her scream more.  Sometimes, I scream too – a tactic which is wildly, wildly ineffective and yet incredibly tempting to try.  It breaks my heart, but unfortunately for both of us, too often I push away my sadness and just feel mad instead.  When she wanted my attention the other day, she said to me “Mommy, can you take me to my room? I’m gonna scream.”  That is, she asked me to take her to her room to scold her for screaming.  She rightly figured that was a good way to get some time with me.  Add that to the innumerable times my Edie has held up a mirror to things I was trying not to look at.

But next week, Edie and I might both get a little relief, because she’s starting preschool.  Three days a week, she will be attending a local Montessori school.  I was really on the fence about doing it.  She is only two and half, and I feel a bit as if I am outsourcing raising her.  The thing is, even if a good mom could keep her two year old happy alongside her new baby – and, ergo, I am not a good mom – then, that’s just how it is.  I can see that I am lamenting a non-reality – that is, a universe where I am enough for Edie right now, both in stimulation and affection.

It’s a great school, and it’s right up her alley, pedagogically.  Montessori Method is all about respect for the child, integrating them into the world around them, and independence.  When we took her in for her interview, we had to wake her up from her nap and toss her into the car half-sleeping, half-crying.  I did not have high hopes.  But after we arrived, and I leaned down to explain that a teacher would like to meet her and show her some projects in a classroom, Edie dropped my hand and clasped the teacher’s.  She marched forward and did not look back.   I’ll try to do the same.

Spent the morning swearing…

The most unceremonious ceremony of my life.

 
Swearing IN that is!  (My personal expletive use is restricted mostly to Oh Man and  guttural shouts of anguished frustration.)  After passing the bar here in Tennessee, my last step was to take my oath and get sworn in at a court house.  The traditional way to get this done is to attend the mass swearing in ceremony.  The ceremony I was invited to, however, was held the day before my due date.  RSVP’ing to that would have tempted the universe a little too much for my taste.  Though I could’ve claimed to have The Vapors if I’d gone into labor.  That always gets you out of a jam here in the South.  The amniotic fluid might have betrayed me, though…

So when a neighborhood friend offered to do me a post-birth favor to lighten my load, I automatically wanted to say no.  Because that’s what I do.  I claim that I’ve got everything under control, even though that is rarely the case.  It is decidedly not the case these days, of that I’m sure.  I am achingly tired, emotionally wrought over the constant clash between me and Edie, and feeling a million miles from Will.  In short, I am a real delight.  My cousin gave me a little piece of advice that I have tried to live by lately: when someone offers to help you, say YES.  That is really good advice for most women I know, especially moms, and really especially moms with a new baby.  (So, Agusta, your potty training advice got me nowhere, but you’ve redeemed yourself now.)  With that in mind, and this offer in hand, I hesitantly typed out a request for her to watch Edie for a couple hours so that I could finish the task of becoming a Nashvillian Legal Eagle before my temporary law license expired.

Around 10:30 am, I dropped Edie off and left for the courthouse.  Wearing cropped yoga pants and a seven week old baby strapped to my chest, I really was the picture of professional aspiration.  Don’t bother with the metal detector, lads!  I’m made of organic cotton and spandex!  I was hoping that one of the clerks would congratulate me on my new status, but that didn’t happen.  It is so exceedingly rare for me to step into the lawyer side of me these days that I was a little desperate for some reassurance that the side still exists.  I did get to sign a great big book, and some pieces of paper did get stamped.  So that seems official.  It was not terribly confidence-inducing when I asked whether they would be sending confirmation of my oath to the Tennessee Bar Association, or Tennessee Supreme Court, or .. anyone?  And I got a whole lot of shrugs and “I don’t think so” ‘s. (How will anyone know I took the oath, then?  Yes, thank you, I think that’s a good question, too.  I am very good at questions. Ah, you don’t know.  I see.)  While the book was big, I don’t think it was magical, and it was definitely stored on a dusty shelf in the Clerk’s office.  I’m thinking my work is not *quite* done.  But I got out of the house, I parked, signed what was truly a remarkably large book, remembered my PIN number so that I could get money out of an ATM to pay for parking, later found my parking ticket, and made it home with only one child in tears.  Now I’m ready for the courtroom as soon as I get enough sleep not to commit legal malpractice.

The First 14 Hours of My Day


The times are close approximations.  The indentured servant-esque activities are real.

3:02 am.  Eli wakes up.  Nurse baby.
3:17 am.  Eli poops while nursing.  He falls asleep. 
3:18 am.  Get up to change sleeping, poopy baby.
3:19 am.  He’s awake.  He needs to poop some more.  Sit on yoga ball and wait for him to finish his business.  Yoga ball strengthens core, prevents baby from rolling onto floor, and helps legs not collapse in exhaustion.
3:35 am.  Back to bed.  Nurse Eli again.  Doesn’t work to get him asleep.  Proceed leg twitching-stationary baby bouncing.  Will rolls over and says “Did you say something?”  I say, no, I did not.  I note that apparently the sound of my youth being sucked into the ether wakes up my husband.  Interesting. 
3:45 am.  Set Eli down, pray he stays asleep.
4:10 am.  Finally drift off myself.
5:30.  Will’s alarm goes off to wake him in time to go to the gym before work.  I’ve liked him better than I do at this moment.
6:11 am.  Eli is back up. Nurse. He poops. Get up. Change him. Blah blah. Yoga ball.
6:45 am.  Eli is back to sleep.  I get up.
6:46 am.  Make coffee. Start oatmeal.  Will comes home from the gym.
6:52 am.  Switch laundry so cloth diapers are dry for next diaper change.
7:00 am.  Take a shower.  Get dressed.
7:28 am.  Tip toe out of room with sleeping baby.  Greet very awake 2 year old and her dad. 
7:35 am.  Get Edie dressed.  Take her to potty.  Help her add stickers to potty-training sticker chart.  Tell her she needs two more to get a book!  She tells me she wants a new book now, though.  I tell her, just two more! But she wants it now.  No one wins this argument.
8:02 am.  Eat oatmeal.  Drink glorious coffee.  Spend a few minutes with husband while I’m at it.  
8:10 am.  Edie jumps out of her highchair, wearing her huge long-sleeved oatmeal hazmat bib which is covered in said oatmeal.  She runs around shrieking with delight, yelling “I’m running away from you” to no one in particular.  As she approaches the couch with her hailstorm of sticky breakfast paste, Will snatches her and tells her “I don’t like this game, Edie.” in his sternest voice.  She shrieks again, with pure delight.  Will washes the child.
8:15 am.  I take the dogs on a walk.  A chore, but a privilege.  The air is as thick as soup, but it’s under 80 degrees and I am alone(ish).  We have a nice little walk.
8:32 am.  I am back.  Will wanted to leave for work two minutes ago.  He has packed Edie’s lunch as per my exacting, dictatorial instructions and I am pleased with this.
8:33 am.  Goodbye, dad.  Edie announces that when dad leaves, she’s gonna cry.  She makes good on her promise.
8:35 am.  Edie goes to the potty.  Gets a sticker.
8:41 am.  Put together cloth diapers.  Straighten up house.  Simultaneously answer 9,000 questions of varying comprehensibility.  “What’s your favorite song, mom?”  “If I take off your hair, are you a daddy?”  “Do we go to school today?”  “Can I have a new book now?”  “I will not scream when you help me with my pants.  Is that a deal?”  Et cetera.
9:05 am.  Eli is awake.  Feed baby.  Change baby.  While I finish changing him, Edie announces she needs to go potty.  I tell her, GO TO THE POTTY, THEN!  HURRY!
9:18 am.  Set Eli in his crib to go help Edie in bathroom.  She gets another sticker.  And now has earned a new book.
9:21 am.  Gift Edie her book.  Read Edie her new book while Eli grows increasingly unhappy to be staring at his mobile.
9:30 am-9:55 am.  Dart from here to there trying to get us all out the door.  Pile lunch bag, mini diaper bag, baby carrier, Eli’s car seat, and large reserve diaper bag on to kitchen table.  Get Eli in car seat.
10:00 am.  Attempt to leave.  Note that Edie is newly shoeless. And unremorseful.  Beg her to get her shoes on.  Watch her blink at me with vacant, emotionless eyes.  Sigh and retrieve her shoes.  Put her shoes on.
10:06 am.  We are all in the car.  I google the address for the Science Center and we are off.
10:08 am.  Edie asks me to play Fibber Island on the radio (a song from a kids album).  I say not now.  She says I need to play In the Middle of the Block then (another song from this album).  I say, seriously, no.  I am not playing her music right now.  But she wants to hear Fibber Island.  No.  Ok. In the Middle of the Block, then.  Again, no one wins.
10:10-10:20 am.  Eli cries like his feet on are fire any time the car drops below 20 miles an hour.  I’ll have to show him the movie Speed some day.  Bet he’ll like it.

10:21 am.  Arrive at Science Center.  Pile out of car.  Pile into building.  Rifle through purse and breeze past crowd through member only lane.  I am still cool sometimes.
10:32 am.  Meet up with other moms and kids.  Commence trying to monitor Edie while Eli sleeps or nurses in the baby carrier.
10:40, 10:52, 11:10 & 11:17 am.  Ask Edie if she needs to go to the bathroom.  Answers: NO!
11:25 am.  Edie walks up to me having peed herself straight through to her shoes.  Eli senses that this is a good time to wake up and cry.
11:28 am.  Change Edie in bathroom.  Simultaneously breastfeed Eli in the carrier to prevent infant meltdown.  Get Edie out of bathroom and ask around for some Purell to kill off whatever flesh-eating-swine-turtle-encephalitis-virus she probably picked up from touching every surface in that bathroom.
11:40 am.  Ask another mom to mind Edie so I can go change Eli. 
11:42 am.  Change Eli.
12:00 pm.  Go to lunch room to eat.  Watch Edie spread hummus all over her person while I nurse Eli.  Eli poops himself.  Leave to change Eli again.
12:55 pm.  After dragging Edie out of the lunchroom, down the two flights of the Adventure Tower stairs, out of the gift shop, around the cement ramp to the parking lot, and into our car, we three arrive home.
1:02 pm.  Change Eli.  Set him in crib so I can get Edie ready for her nap.
1:15 pm.  Edie has gone potty, washed up, and put on pajamas.  Eli starts to cry.  I ask her to go read some books in her room so I can try to get Eli to sleep.  Miracle of miracles, she complies.
1:23 pm.  Eli isn’t asleep, but he’s fed and drowsy, so I try to put him down and rush off to Edie.
1:25 pm.  Attempt to rock Edie to sleep.  She opens her eyes once every 2 minutes to make sure she never ever falls into this accursed sleep. 
1:40 pm. Eli begins to cry.  Put Edie in bed.  Remove every toy and book from her room, save for her best teddy and security blanket.  She does not love this.  In fact, she’s raging mad.  But so help me God, the child will nap.  Kiss her head and promise she gets it all back. AFTER SHE SLEEPS.
1:42 pm.  Pick up Eli.   Change him.
1:50 pm.  Nurse Eli and rock him to sleep, all while typing this post with my non-dominant hand.
2:00 pm.  Call Will.  He picks up, but is a little too busy to chat.