Friday, February 16, 2007

When Mom Gets Sick

The last time I had a fever I was single and working at my first full-time job. I took three days of sick-leave and slept, off and on, in a fevered haze. That was nearly 10 years ago. But now, three children later, I have no sick leave, no vacation days, no flex time, no comp time, no personal days, and no luck finding someone to work my shift. So when I began to feel sick last week I knew I was in trouble.

It started out innocently enough; I was achy and the back of my throat tickled. By that night the ache had progressed to the chills, the tickle to a sore throat, and I was fatigued. I asked my husband if he would mind feeding the kids, then putting them to bed. “Sure, honey,” he said, from behind the laptop, and with that, I headed to my room.

About 30 minutes later, Leah opened the bedroom door. “Mom?” she asked. “Are you better yet?”

“No, Leah,” I said. “I’m still sick.”

“Because,” she said, my answer irrelevant, “We’re hungry.” I could imagine Kaleb sitting at the bottom of the stairs, having cheered her all the way to the bedroom after unsuccessfully trying to distract his father from the laptop. I rolled out of bed and went down to throw something together.

30 minutes later I was back in bed, trying to shiver myself into a pocket of warmth. 30 minutes later Zack was lying down next to me, his body warming my back, a handful of my hair in his fist. 30 minutes later, Leah was next to me on the floor, and long after I lost consciousness Kaleb was curled at the foot of the bed.

And if that had been the worse of it, I would be one lucky mamma. But by Wednesday, Valentine’s Day, I had the fever (and not the good kind). Rich had volunteered to go to Kaleb’s school party and put together the craft I had prepared for his class. But that still left me mothering children for an entire day while weak and delusional. To make matters worse, while loading Zack and Leah into the van to pick Kaleb up from kindergarten, Zack took off down the sidewalk, giggling as he looked back at me over his shoulder. I was spent. I yelled and found my voice gone. Then I cried, a voiceless wheezing cry, a sad sight to behold: the crazy women on the sidewalk in silky PJ bottoms and a worn-out college sweatshirt, tears streaming down her face as she waved her arms at a little boy who seemed frantic to get away. I paced a few times behind the van before climbing into the driver’s seat to wait Zack out. Penitent, okay maybe more bored than penitent, Zack returned and we went on our way.

But I’m guessing all moms know what it’s like to be sick with no time off. You get up, with or without tears, and do what you gotta do—take care of your children, in a catatonic daze sometimes, but it gets done. The laundry may pile up, the house may get dirty, the meals may be drive-thru, but the kids will be taken care of. And if you’re lucky, a little girl will say a prayer for you, unscripted and before a meal that’s about to make you puke. “Dear Heavenly Father, please bless my mommy that she will be happy soon and not sick anymore.” Amen!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Little Too Comfortable in Their Own Skin

Just this morning my husband said to our 4-year old daughter, “Leah, don’t you think you should at least put some underpants on?” She was completely naked, sitting in front of a heating vent. Thereafter followed a short lecture about modestly to which she responded, logically, “But my clothes are right here, Dad.” And she was right; her bare bum was practically sitting on them. Lesson lost.

I love how uninhibited children are. Just last summer my kids discovered that if they turned the hose on low enough, they could make a huge mud puddle to wrestle in long before being exposed by Mom. The first time it happened, I plucked them all up and dropped them into the tub. By the time I had gotten clean clothes for everyone, Zack had slipped out of the bathroom and was back wallowing in the mud, naked. Of course, by the time I reached him no one could tell that he didn’t have any clothes on. That little boy, nearly three now, still loves to strip down to his skivvies. In fact, I have to man-handle the kid to get him to keep his pull-ups on.

And then there’s Leah. Sweet, sweet Leah. Last week we were at McDonald’s having breakfast with Rich’s great uncle. She ran from the playland to tell me she had to go to the bathroom. And as we walked away from our table I looked back to see that the girl had already pulled her pants down to her knees and was waddling behind me. “Leah,” I whispered, loudly, pulling her pants back up with one quick finger, “We don’t pull our pants down until we’re right by the toilet!”

We’ve had countless talks about the private parts of our bodies and how we need to keep them covered. We recognize that it’s a fine line we’re walking: keeping our children clothed without causing them to feel shame at what’s beneath the clothing. But from the look of my bare children traipsing through the house, they know no shame.

But there are surreal moments when my children demand privacy. Leah squeals every time Zack barges in on her in the bathroom. “Zacky, I want privacy!” And just yesterday while at church, I was coaxing Zack to use the toilet. As he sat in the stall, he yelled at me, “Mommy, I want pry-acee!” To which the lady in the next stall giggled.

Okay, so we haven’t achieved that perfect balance yet, and until we do I’ll have to endure odd moments when my children are uninhibited and naked, probably in public.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Room-Mom Flunky

“Ben,” Mrs. Casey said in her sweet southern twang. “That glue is never going to dry.”

Mrs. Casey is the teacher’s assistant for my son’s kindergarten class, and I had just finished my first shift as room-mom for Mrs. Schiffern, Kaleb’s teacher. I had been asked to supervise a group of four children as they decorated two gingerbread men with red and green sparkle glue.

Mrs. Casey was looking first at Ben’s page, his two gingerbread men hidden behind gobs of glue, to Kate’s page, then to Jonathan’s and Carter’s. “None of these are going to dry.” Her hands were now on her hips as she looked at each of the children with eyebrows drawn. Then she looked straight at me and, still talking to the children, said, “You know we’re not supposed to use that much sparkle glue.”

Every day the kids in Mrs. Schiffern’s class break into small groups and go to their “centers” where they all participate in a learning activity. I was asked to come and man one center on Wednesday mornings. How hard can it be? I had thought. I went to graduate school. And this is just kindergarten.

And here I sat at the end of our first center, elbow to elbow with Mrs. Casey as we scooped sparkle glue from the gingerbread men with plastic spoons. “I guess I should have given you more direction,” she said.

“Maybe I should work at a less-advanced center,” I said.

“Maybe,” she said.

I’m sure teachers and TA’s alike love any type of volunteer they can get their hands on, but I think that day Mrs. Schiffern and Mrs. Casey had second thoughts when Leah and I left our post for the first time mid-December.

But they continue to allow us to “help” on Wednesday mornings. In fact, just yesterday I was allowed back at the craft table where the kids glued small triangles of colored construction paper into an imaginary quilt square. We finished the task without event, that is, until I got up to put my coat on. I knocked a desk organizer off Mrs. Schiffern’s desk, scattering pens, pencils, erasers and scissors everywhere. I dropped to my knees to clean them up.

Mrs. Casey looked at me, smiling. “We just can’t take you anywhere, can we?”

“I’m so sorry,” I said. “I guess I’m not much of a volunteer.”

“You’re entertaining anyway,” she said.

Wait until they hear that I plan to enroll Leah in Mrs. Schiffern’s class next year. So while it looks like Kaleb will move on to first-grade without question, I’ll be held back.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

My Husband, the Shopping Impaired

My husband, shopper extraordinaire, can get a deal on anything. And I’m grateful, really. Because of Rich we have sheets with a higher thread count than our SAT scores, combined. We can dress our kids in Eddie Bauer, head to toe, for less than $10 total. We all have designer emergency packs, complete with dehydrated food and mini-flashlights in our favorite colors. We have three tubs of Christmas lights, two tubs of cleaning products, and 10 tubs of camping supplies (did I mention that we’ve been tent-camping two times in our 8 years of marriage?).

He’s a shopping fiend, genius, mastermind, madman. Unfortunately, when in the blinding rays of a good deal, he can loose all sense of practicality. About two months ago he brought home a king-size bedspread that he bought for less than $20. Great deal, right? It’s white. The man bought a white bedspread when we still have children coming into our room in the middle of the night to vomit all over it. The man bought a white bedspread when we still have children coming into our room in the middle of the night to pee all over it. The man, well, you get the picture. Although I should give our children more credit. It stayed miraculously white until just last week when Zack discovered his Dad’s contraband Cheetos stowed under the bed. Needless to say the white bedspread is now spotted with Zack’s powdery, orange hand-prints.

About the same time Rich bought the white bedspread he also purchased a cordless phone. Now I understand that cordless phones are very practical devices, near necessities in this day and age of multi-tasking. But were I to purchase a cordless phone I would be certain it came with a paging feature. You know how they work. You loose the cordless receiver and you push a button on the base causing the phone to beep until you find it (usually hidden between couch cushions or under the easy chair). Now were it just a matter of couch cushions and easy chairs, we could live without the paging feature. But we live with Zackary William Belknap, resident two-year old, a.k.a. DestructoBoy. Since we have moved into our new house he has put everything from my measuring cups to my maxi pads down the laundry shoot. Never mind what’s been pushed through the rails of our old heating vents. So a paging feature on cordless phone is invaluable. And we have now lost the cordless phone (and yes, I checked the laundry shoot).

In my husband’s defense, he says the bedspread is really a comforter and the whiteness would be preserved by a duvet cover. He says potato, I say white bedspread. And regarding the pageless cordless? He says only that a 2-year should not be able to sneak away with a telephone unnoticed. What about a 40-year man and a bag of Cheetos? I say, it’s genetic.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Move (across the border of sanity)

Moving is a stressful experience for everyone, I’m sure. It’s taken me four months to recover from our move to Idaho Falls, although I still have this uncontrollable twitch above my right eye anytime someone uses a form of the verb “move.” But that’s fairly common, right?

My husband’s new job required that he move nearly a month and a half before we did; I was left to oversee the sale of our home. Our first buyers backed out a couple weeks after they made their offer. We had disclosed termite damage in the basement, and when their inspector encouraged them to have someone verify that there was no current activity, they walked away. That made me, prone to emotional hyperventilation, a basket case. What if we did have termites? What if we never sold our house? What if we never sold our house and had to commune with termites until the walls fell to the ground like sawdust? I practiced due diligence and had my own termite inspector come and see if we had any live critters (picture me rocking back and forth in a corner while a complete stranger thumps on every piece of wood in our house with a hammer and pick). He cleared us and we continued to show our house.

And after a couple more weeks we had another offer. A good offer. A solid offer. A seemingly irrevocable offer. But that didn’t calm my troubled mind. Oh no, it teased my mental stability. I could hardly sleep, and every time my realtor, “Bird Dog” (yes, our realtor called himself “Bird Dog”), phoned my cell I got the dry heaves.

But our second set of buyers signed the paperwork and that fateful day arrived—the day when, with the help of my mother-in-law, I finished cleaning our house and locked the door behind us for the last time.

My nerves, buzzing like a downed power line, put everyone on edge, including our two cats who were resisting transport. But finally, close to ten o’clock that night we checked into a hotel where the kids soon conked out, strewn across a double bed. My mother-in-law and I stayed up late watching CNN while talking about how relieved we were to finally have the house cleaned and the U-Haul packed. You’d think we were home free.

But no. We still had one cat to loose at the hotel, two vomiting fits to endure on the drive, and a rain storm to pass through sans windshield wipers. But we did arrive at Idaho Falls, September 22, 2006, each nerve intact. Who ever said moving was difficult? (Does someone have a wooden spoon I could bite on?)