Grateful for heat and a hot gas fireplace and worn-in flannel pajama pants and the draft stopper Sophie made with Nini for the window by her bed and the space heater in the boys’ bedroom and my black kettle and a (mostly) working stove and being able to put additional quilts on all of my sleeping children tonight. Grateful for the wonder of what negative daytime temperatures feel like without the worry.
May all living things find such simple, necessary comfort tonight and tomorrow.
“[W]hat a severe yet master artist old Winter is. … No longer the canvas and the pigments, but the marble and the chisel.” —John Burroughs
Last Sunday I spent much of the day in bed, writing. I had a 2,000-word article due first thing Monday morning. I also had a sore throat, runny nose and a terrible headache. Everything ached. I was exhausted.
Monday morning, I rallied. I felt (a little) better. Andy went to work. I cleaned less than normal and kept the TV on longer than normal. But, as colds are prone to do, I felt worse as the day dragged on and when Andy came home, I went to bed.
At around 2am I looked up to see him standing next to me. “Bee, Are you awake?” I was. Sore throats and headaches are difficult to sleep through. “There’s a bat in the house,” he said.
And, there was.
(It eventually found the door.)
Tuesday, I tried. I really did. But in the end Andy picked up Sophie from preschool and stayed home the rest of the afternoon, trying to work from the couch and amuse the kids all at the same time. I took NyQuil, at noon, and slept and slept and slept, not hearing and not caring about the chaos that was happening outside my door.
Andy went back to work Wednesday. My mom offered to come over and help but I felt better. I cleaned. Played Candy Land. Put train tracks together. Convinced Sophie to play on her LeapPad next to me in bed while the boys took their nap. But again, by evening, I was miserable (and this didn’t help). Andy came home and I took my shot of NyQuil and went to bed.
Thursday, Sophie woke up with a terrible cough and a 101.6° temperature. I kept her home from school. I bribed the kids with milk and a TV show so I could shower. After my shower I came downstairs and discovered Owen’s entire Thermos of milk had spilled all over the couch, soaking through three down-filled cushions and the frame.
It took more than an hour to soak up the milk and strip all the cushions so that I could wash (ignoring the spot-clean only instructions) and line-dry them.
That afternoon I (finally) had a doctor’s appointment. Despite my flu shot, turns out I had had a mild case of the flu. I was on the upswing, though. No temperature. No all-over achey feeling. Just a lingering cough and a sometimes-headache.
I felt better about having had to ask Andy for help on Tuesday. And I felt worse about not allowing myself to accept help the other days I was truly feeling bad. Even a mild case of the flu deserves time in bed.
That night I ran to Target to pick up some medicine for the kids. They were all feverish now. And coughing. And constantly demanding tissues for their runny noses. Or, as James screams, “MY NOSIES, MOMMY! MY NOSIES!”
This week had been bad. No one felt good, a fact that tinged everything. Owen whined and cried, constantly. James refused to listen, ever, and was put in time-out multiple times each day for hitting. Sophie, more than once would yell “YOU’RE NOT BEING FAIR!” to me when I would ask, quietly, for her to, say, pick up her puzzle before watching a show.
All of this was swirling around my head when I saw the gold stars on one of the $1 shelves at Target. I realized, then, that I had spent much of the week drowning in negativity. From the beginning of this whole motherhood business I’ve put a lot of stock into the idea of a well-timed compliment. And, for the most part, it’s worked well for me. Daily I remind myself to praise my children for their good deeds as much as I (if not more than) scold them for their bad ones. But this week, there was little positive and a lot negative. Coupled with being sick. And it snowballed. The angrier and more frustrated I got with them, the angrier and more frustrated they got with me. The kids needed some gold stars.
Except I got mailboxes instead. Little tin mailboxes for a $1 each. And temporary tattoos and Tootsie Pops and kazoos and lollipops and Silly Putty and bubbles. Nothing expensive. That night I poured all the treats into a bag and hid the bag in the pantry. I put the mailboxes on the stairs. Sophie noticed them immediately the next morning.
I apologized for the rough week. I acknowledged that we were all sick. I reminded them of the things they had done/were doing that turned me into oh-my-god-what-were-we-thinking-having-all-these-kids Mom and how I very much wanted to go back to this-life-I-have-is-pretty-damn-great Mom. I said if they worked on not whining/not hitting/not fighting/not screaming/etc./etc./etc., I would work on taking notice of the times they were being kind, the times they were being good, and acknowledging that.
Cue the mailboxes.
If the flag’s up, that means someone is doing a great job and a treat’s inside. I don’t want to bribe my children (although I fail at that, daily). And I realize this is a form of bribery. But these mailboxes saved me. I never put a treat in the mailbox as a direct result of them doing something good (like not hitting when upset, cleaning up, staying in bed at nap time, etc.). Rather, it’s simply an unexpected middle-of-the-day surprise, after a couple hours without (for the most part) screaming, hitting, whining, talking back.
They loved it. Attitudes changed instantly. Bonus: It was a new plaything. They ran up to the playroom and spent a great deal of time “writing letters” to each other and putting them in each other’s mailboxes.
I was thankful.
Things are still iffy. Today, there was only one mailbox treat (and even Andy said, “Are you sure they deserve one today?”). And I haven’t been able to bring myself to give one child a treat and not the others—rather I wait until everyone has been reasonably well-behaved for a period of time. (Although I imagine singling out positive behavior would make a deep impression.) I’m still on prescription cough medicine. Two of the kids still have low-grade temperatures. And now Andy doesn’t feel well.
But the week is done. We made it, if barely. We made it despite the sickness, potty training mishaps, flying bats, milk-soaked couches and the bead that got stuck up Sophie’s nose. (Saturday Sophie suddenly was in hysterics, going on and on about a bead that she “just put close to her nose, to smell it” but was actually stuck up her nose. Thankfully we were able to get it out our own, although it took a good half hour, several sets of tweezers, a detailed description of the differences between “exhale” and “inhale,” and a lot of tears. She’s promised not to do that again.)
Here’s hoping for a better week this week. Considering I leave for San Francisco to visit my brother, alone, early Friday morning, I’m sure it will be.
And I’m sure, when I return late, late Monday night, I will be more than eager, well, let’s just say eager, for the chaos to resume on Tuesday.
“In spite of the six thousand manuals on child raising in the bookstores, child raising is still a dark continent and no one really knows anything. You just need a lot of love and luck—and, of course, courage.” —Bill Cosby
Sophie dressed up as Rapunzel for her preschool Halloween party (she was just a little bit excited).
a preschool Halloween craft
preschool Halloween goodies
Pumpkin carving time! (Somehow we managed to not do this until Halloween. As such, we only had time to carve one. Boys, if you’re reading this as adults someday, I’m sorry. But to be fair, you wanted nothing to do with carving Sophie’s pumpkin so I’m pretty sure we would have ended up carving all of yours for you.
Sophie chose Rapunzel for her pumpkin (of course).
And she did much of the carving herself this year.
The boys’ costumes, on display, because they refused to wear them.
Grandma and Pop Pop came this year and dressed up, too!
All three understood trick-or-treating this year. They were great at saying “trick-or-treat”—still reminding them about the “thank you” part.
It was so cold. And spitting rain. James had no hat and his teeth start chattering so I made him wear mine. Warmed by the excitement of it all, I’m sure all three would have stayed outside much longer than we allowed them.
“A grandmother pretends she doesn’t know who you are on Halloween.” —Erma Bombeck
I try very hard not to overreact to medical issues with my children. In fact, I usually under-react. Twice now, during well-child exams, the pediatrician has discovered ear infections. Cue the oh-so-that’s-why-he-has-been-so-cranky-and-tugging-his-ear-and-this-cold-never-seems-to-go-away-I’m-a-terrible-mom response. I will never be one of those mothers insisting on antibiotics unless absolutely necessary (largely because I’ve now had c-diff for a year and a half thanks to antibiotics I was given for a cough). I often take the “let’s give it one more day” approach before asking the nurse on the phone “do you think we really need to come in?”. And my last post, the one in which I talk about taking Owen in because he was having trouble breathing? The pediatrician said it was “probably” OK I didn’t take him to the ER the night before leaving me to believe I “probably” should have.
For a month, Sophie has had small bruises running up and down her spine. Her shins are always bruised. She’s active. She wrestles with her brothers. She falls and bumps into things and apparently has no sense of spatial relationships when doing somersaults in our crowded living room. But the bruises on her spine did give me pause. I would wonder how they got there and then I would explain them away in my head, thinking about the time she slid down the steps or the side of the bed.
And then last night I found myself up with her from about 3am on. She had a fever. She couldn’t sleep. I gave her Children’s Advil. We watched the Sprout channel. I noted the dark circles under her eyes and thought about how tired she always seemed. I made her oatmeal at 5am.
At 8:30am I called the school to say that Sophie couldn’t come—she had a fever. The kids and I watched our morning show. We played Set Junior. We had a hat party, cleaned the playroom, did chalk drawings, dressed up stuffed animals, had lunch. Sophie seemed fine.
She was curled up on the couch, eating popcorn and watching a movie, her dress bunched up around her when I noticed the bruises again on her bare back.
I don’t know why I did it, but I did.
I Googled “child bruising spine fever.”
Two seconds later I found myself on The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s home page.
I messaged Andy. “Just call,” he wrote. “Better now while they’re actually open.” (When I do finally cave and call the doctor, it’s usually nights/weekends, which I’m sure our pediatrician loves.)
So I called. And they asked if I could come in at 4:30pm. It was 3:45pm. Now, looking back, I’m sure they gave me that time because that was the last appointment time before they closed for the day but after spending five seconds on The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s home page I was sure they gave me that time because they needed to see her right away and that I was going down in the record books as the worst mom ever for not taking her in a month earlier when I first noticed the bruising.
Andy must have sensed my underlying panic, because he met me there.
We waited a long time.
The pediatrician looked at her spine. He noticed two very, very small bruises near the bottom but said the other discoloration was the result of some big vein that runs along the spinal cord and a shadow. He noted the dark circles under eyes and asked her if she was tired. She gave a very dramatic yawn and fell back on the examining table, as if going to sleep (yes, we’ve entered that stage now). He felt her belly and checked her lymph nodes and listened to her lungs and noted her temperature and looked for other bruising (there was none besides the usual shin bruises) and noted her excellent weight gain. And then he checked her ears.
She had a g** d*** ear infection.
Of course. I mean, she did tell us last night her ear was “hiccuping.”
Not only am I the mom who consistently doesn’t take her children to the doctor when she should for ailments that require antibiotics to cure, I’m also the mom who when she does take her children to the doctor is convinced her children have cancer.
I can only imagine what’s being written about me in my children’s charts.
“If you treat a sick child like an adult and a sick adult like a child, everything usually works out pretty well.” —Ruth Carlisle
I don’t know what’s worse. Using my legs and arms to pin Owen against myself, a nebulizer mask over his mouth and nose while he thrashes and screams, feeling him soften every few moments only to say, muffled and between sobs, “all done, Mommy, all done.”
Or looking at the look James gives me at the doctor’s office while I’m doing this to Owen—watching James cry and scream from across the room, not understanding that what I’m doing to Owen doesn’t hurt and is, in the long run, going to make him feel much, much better.
Our entire family got hit with a cold this past weekend. Colds always land in James’s chest and he had already done the doctor’s visit with the nebulizer treatment and the every-four-hours at-home albuterol treatment. He’s on day three of steroids. This has become the norm for James. He’s calm with masks over his face now. He inhales the medicine, knowing it’s helping him breathe, feel better.
But Owen. This is all new to Owen. Andy and I averaged about two hours of sleep each last night, staying up with him, watching the retraction in his chest, listening to the wheezing, calling the doctor on call, sharing James’s albuterol with him, debating the ER.
So tired. Everyone is so tired.
Owen had to have two 10-minute nebulizer treatments at the pediatrician’s office today. Ten minutes is a long time when you’re pinning a 2-year-old down and when the 2-year-old’s brother, full of steroids and lacking sleep, is beside himself with worry for his twin brother.
When it was all over, I asked James if he wanted to hug Owen. James said, between tears, “yes.”
Oh my heart.
Of course Owen, furious at the world, refused to accept James’s hug and pushed him away.
Even on the bad days, the really bad days, there are moments—these small and beautiful moments.
We’re all breathing.
“There’s no other love like the love for a brother. There’s no other love like the love from a brother.” —Terri Guillemets