Monthly Archives: March 2008

Parenting confession

Because Ms. Prufrock asked for it.

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One of the best-kept secrets of parenting, something no one reveals to people considering having children, is that, no matter how well a child is sleep trained, the sleep deprivation does not end until the kids hit puberty.  Children are needy little buggers, and they are never so desperate for parental attention as they are at four in the morning.

Unfortunately, all our nocturnal woes were not resolved when the boys began to share a room.  There are good runs, days and weeks at a time when the kids are snoring by 8:04 PM and do not wake up until 7:16 AM.  We relish those stretches, because we have come to know they cannot last.  Someone will find a way to bust apart our slumber sooner or later.  In fact, the only way I can think of to ensure that I get a good night sleep each night is to move out of the house. 

There is a children’s book called Peace at Last about a Father Bear who roams the house one night looking for a quiet place to sleep.  Zachary loves it, which I find ironic, since he is the very disturbance I most want to escape.

I am OK with getting up to calm his nightmares, and I am there by his side if he finds himself covered in throw-up.  It is all the other reasons he seems to find for getting out of bed that I could do without.  Like the string of ten mornings when he woke up between four and five every morning and would not go back to sleep.

Oh, sure, the first reason was always valid, coughing or a need to urinate.  Of course, we provide him with a little potty right by his bed, so he really does not need to drag my sorry butt out of bed just to witness the undertaking, but it is hard to tell a three-year-old that you would prefer if he could hold off on nighttime training for a couple of decades.  I get up and I help him, a bit grumpily but with the understanding that this was the deal I signed on for all those many months when I wept to have a child.  If only the child would then go back to sleep.

During this particular run, he would lie in bed for forty-five minutes or so, waiting until Jacob and I had finally fallen back asleep, and then come trotting out for more water.  Or to pee again.  Or to tell us he did not want to go back to sleep.  Since I knew full-well exactly how tired he was, I finally came to the conclusion Zachary did not want to go back to sleep.  He was willing himself awake solely to torment his mother.

So, I started to get angry.  “Just use the potty in your room,” I grumbled.  “You do NOT need more water,” I groaned.  “Stop waking me up!” I snapped.  Like the proverbial man who put a snake in his pocket and then was surprised when he was bitten, I just could not get over my son’s ability to cut into my sleep time.

J is always calmer with nighttime wakings, mostly because he himself is not fully awake.  But there is also the cold, hard fact that I have never been particularly gracious towards people who wake me up.  Just ask my poor husband, who goes to elaborate measures to ensure that, no matter what he does, he cannot be accused of rousing me out of bed.

Those who awaken me are conducting an assault upon my person.  They are ripping into not just my time and my space, but my body.  Denying me sleep is intentional infliction of distress, even when it is unintentional.  I can usually remember that my children are just children the first night it happens.  But when Benjamin teethes for three nights, then Zachary goes through a run of four AM wakings, and then Benjamin has a nightmare, we are getting dangerously close to the two-week mark, and I can even begrudge the hugs I need to provide to remedy bad dreams.

“Just go back to sleep,” I find myself telling the toddler, as though he has any control over the situation.

Genetics

            Zachary looks nothing like me.  Well, OK, he is a stringbean with a belly-button, all limbs flying about from nowhere, so maybe he has my body type.  But his face and his coloring are all his father and his father’s father before him.

            Benjamin is just the reverse.  He has J’s body, a massive trunk with little flipper-like limbs stuck about the edges.  His body reminds me of a seal or a python, sleek core strength.  His coloring he gets from me, down to the wavy dark hair.  And his face.  When I look in the mirror now, I love my eyes, I love the shape of my face, I love my smile.  I cannot help it; I love them because I see my little boy looking back at me.

            I have but one childhood picture, and in it I cannot be much older than Benjamin is right now.  My face, like his, is round with toddlerhood, and my hair, like his, is still wispy and fine.  I am giggling, and I can practically hear the sound, because it looks just like the giggles that come out of my younger son.  This picture hangs on the wall in our hallway, two over from a picture of my mother when she was 17. 

            If Benjamin looks like me when I was two, I look like my mother when she was a woman.  Yes, her high school graduation picture features a woman with tighter skin and a clearer complexion, but she looks much like I have since I passed through puberty. 

            I sat on a step between the two pictures one evening, resting for a moment as the boys played naked before their bath.  Benjamin’s body of steel came bounding over, and his smooth muscles wiggled into my arms.  He looked up and pointed at the picture of my mother.

            “Mama,” he said, as his brother had two years before him.

            “That’s my mommy,” I told him.  Big grin as he nodded in assent.

            “Mama.”

            “That’s my mommy,” I tried again.  “Did you know I had a mommy?  And I’ll bet she loved me just as much as I love you.”  Bigger grin, more emphatic nod.

            “Mama.”

            Then he squirmed down, ready to invent a new game wherein he ran down the hall, threw himself into my arms, pummeling me with the sheer force of his existence, and then ran back down the hall again.  Over and over, giggling the whole way.  I watched his face as he approached, glancing up at my own toddler face.  Then I braced myself for the force of impact, as 27 pounds of baby-steel launched into my arms.

London with children under 5 (part 1)

I realize this may not be of interest to everybody, but if it is up on the web, people who need this information can find it.  Feel free to click away if it is not of relevance to you; my feelings won’t get hurt.  Also, feel free to add points in the comments if you have any ideas.   This is part one, containing general information.  Part two, with information on specific sites, will post sometime in the next week. 

            When we found out we were moving to London, my in-laws started buying us books on things to do in London with children.  Knowing us as they do, they had a hunch that I would enjoy an opportunity to read through several different books, folding down corners and making color-coded marks in the margins.  I am, after all, the woman who reads Zagat’s Guide as though it is a book and then highlights the entries with various colored markers depending upon the location, cuisine, and affordability of the restaurant.  I am not compulsive, really I am not (shut up, PokerChick).  But it just gives me so much satisfaction to be able to break down my leisure opportunities into easily digestible chunks.

            The problem with all those books, however, is that they are not broken down by age.  Book after book told me that the museums in London are very child-friendly because they had activity packs and scavenger hunts.  That’s fantastic, except we moved when Zachary was 21 months old and Benjamin was not yet born.  Zach had only recently mastered walking; he was not yet up to running about the National Portrait Gallery with a pencil seeking a painting of a woman with three eyebrows.

            That’s where these posts come in.  We have been in London almost two years, and we are grateful to be leaving, as life in London has not been easy.  Nonetheless, it has been fun.  We have seen and done almost everything the city has to offer for children under four.  We have taken day trips, we have schlepped about the city, and we have figured out all the hot-spots for the toddler and pre-school sets.  All without interrupting nap-time.  And, now, I am happy to pass it along to any hapless traveler or relocater who is trolling the internet wondering what the hell to do with the children once the thrill of the double-decker busses wears off.  First, some practicalities, later, specific sites.

Busses – But, let us begin with the busses.  As adult tourists to London, you have probably exclusively relied upon the Tube.  Let me tell you something, baby.  Most Tube stations have no elevators.  And lots of stairs.  Which is all well and good when you are nineteen with a backpack and a Rough Guide, but it sucks when you have a diaper bag, snacks, a stroller, a sleeping baby, and a whining three-year-old.  Go for the busses.  If you have two adults, one can take the kids up top to sit in the front and look out the window while the other can man all the crap and the stroller downstairs (I always gun for that job).  As our kids have gotten older (three-and-a-half and nineteen months), we have hit a point where we can fold the stroller and put it on the luggage rack so we can both go up top with the kids, which is such a thrill for them, but less restful for me. 

            Be advised, the busses can be slow during heavy traffic times.  But, they are often much more door-to-door, which is very helpful if you are not staying right by a convenient Tube stop.  Let me say it again: transferring Tube lines with a stroller is akin to the seventh circle of hell.  So, go to Transport for London’s website, put in the postcode (get the whole postcode because the second part is specific to the street) or location from which you will begin, and it will tell you ALL your options.  Anyone out there have more to suggest about getting around?

Breastfeeding – Let me tell you some places I have breastfed.  Walking to the Tube.  Entering the Tube.  On the train.  In Covent Garden.  Sounds lovely, no?  Well, not every mother really wants to show off her swollen ta-tas to a gawking tour group of teenagers from Maine or Italy or wherever.  And, not every baby is focused enough to feed in public.  Like my kids, who stopped breastfeeding in public at three months old because it was way too distracting.  In fact, come to think of it, they refused to breastfeed with anyone else in the room.  Benjamin sometimes got distracted when I turned the pages in a book.  So, even though I have no shame about baring the girls when it is time for my boys to eat, I am an expert on quiet places to feed.  Every now and then, it meant a bathroom stall at the Café Rouge in Brighton.  Usually, however, I was able to fare much better.

            You see, the British women I have met are far more squeamish about breastfeeding than were the women I knew in Philadelphia, which, let’s be honest, is just not one of the world’s most squeamish cities.  So, there are lots of quiet places designated for breastfeeding.  Almost every site you will go to probably has a “Family Room” or a “Breastfeeding Room.”  Windsor Castle, for example, has a lovely one.  Unfortunately, that was all I got to see at Windsor Castle, but my husband says it is an OK place to take kids.  (Skip the doll’s house with young kids – they just get frustrated that they cannot play with it.)  At any rate, most sites have these rooms, quiet places to feed and change the baby (very handy when the two-year-old has an accident in the middle of the Queen’s apartments).  Ask.  Just ask.  They are ALWAYS willing to help, if only to prevent those brazen North Americans from embarrassing everyone by lifting their shirts in public.

Diapers – As I mentioned above, the places for breastfeeding are usually in the same area as diaper-changing facilities (in the case of Harrod’s, too close and very stinky, so I insisted upon being given a dressing room to breastfeed in – more later).  Diapers are called “nappies” in England, although most people know the word “diaper.”  Diaper pails are not common.  Diapers usually go into bins but you are expected to have “nappy sacks,” plastic bags designed to hold the stinkers.  You can imagine how I feel about buying plastic bags just to throw away diapers.

Formula – Because London’s water is a little more, shall we say, alive than the water in Philadelphia, the formula canisters advise people to boil the water, then cool it, before making formula.  This process alone would be enough to keep me breastfeeding in London.  I suggest using bottled water to mix your formula if you cannot boil it.  Please, please, try to find it in glass bottles, which are better for the planet (and make sure it is STILL water).

NHS and my son

Last week, I posted this post and this follow-up post on an experience I had with the National Health Service (NHS).  You all made some excellent comments (and I apologize I have not replied to many; I am a sinking ship here).  A few months ago, I also posted this.  Today, we present another encounter this expatriate family has had with socialized medicine.  Hopefully, this week or next, there will be one more post in this series.  As before, comments and respectful discussion are very welcome.

            At first I thought it was diaper rash, but that made no sense because he was daytime potty trained.  Probably not diaper rash, despite the delicate location of the angry red bumps.  We tried creams.  I suspected that if I took him to the doctor too quickly, he would tell me it was just a rash or eczema and send me along home on the assumption it would clear up on its own.   

We have private insurance, which in the UK means that we have additional coverage on top of NHS, so that if we are referred to a private physician, it is covered.  We have to go through our NHS general practitioner first, of course, as he is the gatekeeper.  So, after two months of creams, we took Zachary to our NHS general practitioner.

            “Eczema,” he declared.

            Really?  I myself have eczema, and this did not fit the usual profile.  It was persistent, and it did not go away with the usual creams.  The doctor gave me a new one, with nice things like hydrocortisone. 

            Two months later.  Same GP, since under NHS there are no pediatricians unless the child has a special condition. 

            “Eczema,” he said, seeming bored with my insistence on a treatment.  A new ointment.

            Two months later, we came back.  “Eczema.”  I was starting to feel pretty sorry for my two-year-old son, who had now been walking around with red, itchy bumps for almost six months, but the doctor seemed rather unconcerned.

            “You know,” I said, “since we do have private insurance, perhaps we could see a dermatologist, just to be sure.”

            “Fine.  Who would you like to see?”  He found a name, wrote out the referral.  “I’ll be interested to see how this comes back,” he commented.  “I suspect she will tell you it is eczema and there is nothing to be done.”  Stupid, pain-in-the-ass, spoiled American wasting the medical resources on her demanding notions that everything be treated immediately. 

            One week later, J took Zach to the private dermatologist.  “Looks bacterial,” she commented.  “Let me culture it, but I think we should get him on antibiotics and an antibiotic cream.”

One more week.  No more “eczema.”

Dream

A shout-out to Chris, who found a home for my beloved cat. 

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Thank you to all of you who have asked how I am doing, and I am truly sorry I am not doing a better job responding to all the intelligent comments on last week’s posts.  To be honest, I am having a really rough time holding my brain together with Scotch tape right now.  Last week, I could not identify an Edith Wharton quote.  This weekend, I could not remember a single David Mamet play I had seen, except for Betrayal, which is a wonderful play by Harold P-nter, a fact I remembered at 2:45 in the morning when Zachary began waking us up.  This may seem like nothing to most folks, but remember that my life was literature (specifically turn-of-the-century American literature and dramatic literature) for a long time, and now I can’t make my brain work properly.  I am sure it will come back, but in the mean time, a real post below.

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            A group of us were in the woods somewhere.  I do not frequently set my dreams in the woods, but such dreams are not unheard of.  We were working at some sort of forced labor, with a rather nasty woman overseeing our efforts.  Although the work was unpleasant, there was the assurance of a hearty meal at the end.

            However, the woman in charge capriciously decided that the more favored group of woods-dwellers would be fed, while we would get a scrap of bread and a bit of water.  Perhaps it was a throwback to my Nazi dreams, perhaps it was a remembrance of the woods outside my childhood home, or perhaps I have seen too many episodes of Lost.

            Someone spoke up.  She spoke loudly and firmly and confidently, voicing our refusal to be treated so badly anymore, as well as our refusal to remain silent in the face of such abuse.

            Then the dream shifted.  Our hungry band of workers had figured out how to quietly take the eggs of wild birds without even disturbing them, and we were creeping across a field in the woods, united as we gathered large, speckled eggs.

            And then we were assembled again.  A woman at the front of our group (oddly dressed in a penguin suit as sometimes happens in dreams) declared our strength, our courage, and proudly proclaimed it scrambled egg day.  (Only a pregnant woman would dream about eggs being empowering.) We would not be kept silent under someone else’s thumb; we would join together and find our own nourishment. 

            I awoke thinking of all the people who have supported me as I found my voice to face my childhood.  The old friends who read this blog who never comment and I do not even know are there until they send me an email out of the blue.  My MIL, who reads every day, which must get her an in-law gold star.  My husband, whose support for this journey has been unwavering and unparalleled.  People I have never met, who have my back and listen to the truths I need to tell.  And, then you, those who have lived through it, too.  Until I started speaking, I had no idea how many of us there are with something like this to tell.  It makes me feel stronger to know we are all in it together, but sad because I would hope there were many fewer.  Really, what is it about hurting a child that makes it such a popular sport among adults?

            Please visit Jennifer at Thursday Drive.  Start with this post, then go to this one.  One by one, we will tell our stories, and no one can stand up to the silence without others there.

NHS and me (part two)

For part one of this two-part post, click here.  All respectful comments welcome; I hope this post will encourage an intelligent conversation about health care.

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            So, the next morning found me arriving at the Early Pregnancy Unit at 8:15 AM.  The clinic opens at 8:30 on weekdays to care for things like bleeding in pregnancy and other such scares, and they do scans until 1:00.  Women experiencing bleeding at other times of the day, as I had learned the previous evening, are instructed to return at a more civilized hour.

            Apparently, I was not the only pregnant woman in SW London a little nervous that morning, because there were already four other people ahead of me.  I sat down to wait.  Too anxious to open the book I had packed for good measure, I fell back on the world’s oldest pastime.  I people-watched.

            The woman who came in right after me was probably a few years older than I am.  She wore a wedding ring, but unlike some of the other women in the waiting area, she was sans father, just like me.  I came to the conclusion that she must have other children, and the baby’s father was probably administering oatmeal and toothbrushes while she sat and waited to see how her pregnancy was doing.  I sort of wanted to strike up a conversation with her, this woman I had determined was in a situation much like my own, but this is England, and such things aren’t usually done.

            Next to me was another woman, this one without a wedding ring.  I look, you must understand, not to judge whether someone has conceived a child out of wedlock, but because she was there with a child, perhaps just under two years old, and I sort of wondered whether there was a man who might have provided a bit of childcare so that she could come for her scan without a stroller and a diaper bag.  Chances are that there was a man, of course, but he was already at work, worrying the whole time about his partner, their child, and their unborn baby.

            The woman, however, seemed completely unconcerned.  She was wholly focused on the little boy, playing little games and offering him peanuts as he sat in his stroller.  As I watched them ever-so-subtly out of the corner of my eye, I pondered a few things.  From their clothes and accessories, it was clear they did not have much money, and I wondered whether, exhausted from caring for her child all day and the first trimester of a pregnancy, she might go to a night shift when someone else took over care of her child.  I thought about the snack puffs her son dropped on the floor that she left lying there, and wondered why she did not pick them up.  Mostly, I contemplated what I always think about when I see something like this: how in the hell do other people get their kids to sit contentedly in a stroller that is stationary?  Is it something kids are just born with, or is there some trick of parenting that convinces a child to remain happily seated even after the ride as come to a full and complete stop?  Is there a class I can take to learn this skill?

            When she got up to go in for her scan, rolling her completely placid child in ahead of her, I started watching a woman who clearly did not have other children.  There were two reasons I suspected this woman was terrified of losing her first pregnancy, and neither had to do with the business attire that had no breakfast spills on it.  One reason was the anxiety in their eyes.  It was not stronger than mine, but it was more confused because her entire status as a mother was hanging in the balance.  This was not a woman who had been through the ropes; she was a woman afraid of being hit in the head with one.  The other reason I suspected she did not have other kids?  She had a man with her, while J was at home overseeing the troops before school and other forms of childcare kicked in.

            And, there were a few other women waiting, although it seems inaccurate to call them women.  They themselves were children, girls with small, round firm bellies and teenaged boys by their sides.  Because, of course, teenagers can get pregnant, too, and their pregnancies can have scares, too.  Not that these girls looked frightened.  The stereotype of the pregnant teenager is a little girl, cowering in the corner, terrified about her future.  These girls looked strong, in control, as though they had no idea that the sky could fall tomorrow.  Teenagers –pregnant or otherwise — never seem to know that the sky could fall.

            And we were called in, one at a time, according to our numbers.  The woman pushing her toddler in an umbrella stroller, leaving a trail of snack puffs behind.  The career woman with a briefcase and a husband in expensive shoes.  The teenaged girl with the big hoop earrings.  Me.  It did not matter how we got pregnant, whether we were married, how many degrees we had, what age we were, or if we could afford to buy a drink at the vending machine.  They saw us in the order in which we had arrived. 

            An hour later, I left, sonogram in hand and smile on face.  There was a heartbeat, and there was a brain, a good start as far as babies are concerned.  It was 17 hours later than I would have liked an answer to my questions.  It was less attentive prenatal care than I am used to.  But was it, perhaps, the level of care that I needed?

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Tune in next week for a very different experience we have had with the NHS…

NHS and me (part one)

Part one of a two-part post.  Part two will post tomorrow.  I will close comments today so no one feels pressured to comment until reading the second half tomorrow.

Updated to add: This happened two weeks ago.  There is no reason to be worried about me at all.  Thank you to those of you who have sent me concerned emails.

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              Now that you know my big secret, I can tell you about the trip I made to the A & E (otherwise known as the Emergency Room), which will give me a chance to comment upon the NHS (National Health Service), which will give us all a chance to have a rousing debate about health care, which will raise the intellectual level of this blog about 73%. 

            So, I had some bleeding, and I won’t get more detailed than that because there are some men who read this blog.  I had bleeding with Zachary, too, so I know it does not always mean the dreaded M word, but I have been around the block enough times to know that bleeding during a pregnancy is usually something to get checked out.  So, I called the community midwife, who told me to go to the A & E.  Having dealt with NHS a few times in the last few years, this sounded to me a little suspicious, a little too direct, as it were.  So, I called my GP, whose receptionist confirmed.  I should hightail it over to the A & E.  Fortunately, J was working from home, so he took the boys and I took a cab.

            I waited maybe 30 minutes, then I was called in to speak with the nun who was cast as bouncer in this particular hospital.  She sent me to pee in a cup.

            Let me pause to explain that, since we did not have to do any fertility treatment for this baby, it has felt rather unearned, not real, even.  I kept thinking maybe there was another reason for the missed period and the two pink lines.  So, I was actually a bit anxious about the pregnancy test at the hospital and was relieved to see that the nun also came to the conclusion that I am pregnant.

            My relief was short-lived.  After calling the gynecologist on duty, my nun turned to me.  “You’ll need to come back tomorrow morning for a scan.  They don’t do scans at this time of day unless they want to rule out an ectopic pregnancy.”

            “And they don’t think I have an ectopic?”

            “No,” she replied, which was a relief, because given the options, I’d rather go with a non-ectopic pregnancy.  Of course, I would prefer to hear that from a medical professional than from a nun, but I guess the doctor has some way of determining the placement of the embryo by talking to a nun on the telephone.

            And, then it happened.  I do not do these things on purpose, I can assure you.  In fact, I find it as mortifying as a loud fart in a small elevator with four Calvin Klein underwear models.  I burst into tears. 

            You see, the thing is this.  I understand that there is not much that can be done if it is a miscarriage, and I understand that nothing was going to change between 4:45 in the afternoon and 8:30 the next morning.  But, my GP and my midwife had both told me I would be seen immediately at the A & E, where instead all I got for my efforts was another cab ride home.  In the U.S., we had good health insurance and lived near a lovely hospital, so when I had bleeding with Zachary, I was scanned that very night.

            Had I been more familiar with NHS, I probably would have been less emotional at the news that I would not be getting an answer immediately.  As it was, I was frustrated that a system that is supposed to be rather centralized has primary care providers and emergency providers singing a very different tune.  And, let’s be honest, I just really wanted to know.

On the road again

            The movers came for the first shipment of children’s books, wooden trains, and t-shirts, the items we deemed essential for our stay in temporary housing when we get to Los Angeles in just a couple of weeks.  It did not take them long, as we necessarily tried to limit what we set aside for this shipment.  We will be in a small, furnished two-bedroom apartment until we find a house, and there will not be room for tents with tunnels or oversized dolls’ houses.  This shipment went air, so I kept fuel economy in mind with each item I set aside.

            The next shipment will be packed up in just two weeks, our last day in London, as we scurry about attending Zachary’s Easter Hat parade and fitting in nap time.  And then, the children will wake to an empty house, and we will head to an airport hotel for the night before our departure.

            I have seen my life disassembled like this time and time again.  When I was younger, I packed and moved everything myself, hoodwinking friends into lending me vans and taking one end of the box spring down three flights of stairs.  Now, with the relative luxury of a corporate move, others come in and pack for me.  It is a nice perk, having someone else do the packing, although I cannot imagine they could get people to move this often any other way.

            In the past, moves have been towards school or towards jobs – Philadelphia, Washington, Chapel Hill.  When we moved back to Philadelphia, I was following J’s career, for the first time moving to a city for no reason other than someone else.  I had no job waiting, although I found one as I finished graduate school.  But, I was returning to a city I had lived in for six years before, and Philadelphia had a stronger pull on me than any other place.

            Then we moved to London, a great adventure, a two-year foray into another land.  And now, we move to Los Angeles, returning not to Philadelphia, but to yet another new city.  Again, we will broaden, we will grow.

            Yet, I wonder to myself.  If something (heaven forbid) happened to my husband, where would I go?  Not to Massachusetts, a place that lost its hold on me the day I no longer needed someone else’s roof or food.  Not Los Angeles, which pulls us only through the force of J’s work.  Not Philadelphia, where we have sold our house.  My friends are scattered about the country, a few in each place I have lived but even more in places I have never been as they themselves have moved.

            The truth is, I have no career right now.  I could build one up again rather quickly, but I could build it anywhere.  This has been a great asset with all the moving about.  I have no family to speak of, or at least none that speaks to me.  Moving to London has loosened many of my friendships, too many time zones and too few visits.  And, the children are so young that they have no real ties anywhere.  The only thing that anchors us is my husband’s work.

            I am a woman defined by my husband’s work.

            I am from nowhere and I have nowhere to go.  I have no family beckoning.  I have no career.  My children are not in schools.  We are, all four of us, easily transferable.

            And I am, I fear, easily erasable.  For, beyond the walls of wherever we are currently calling home, there is no place for me in the world.

            I usually end on a hopeful note, because I am, for reasons no one has ever quite been able to figure out, an optimist.  Today, however, my optimism is tired.  I have grown out and up many, many times.  I want to spread roots down.

About time

            When we were in college, a group of about twelve of us was planning where to go to get some food.  Since most of the people in the group were men living in J’s house, we probably could have just cooked there, if we had been able to locate the kitchen through the stacks of dirty dishes and across the moat of mysterious sticky substances on the floor.  This not being the case, we needed to decide on a restaurant, preferably one where the entire group could eat for under $40.  As always seemed to be the case when this particular group got together, there were 72 opinions and everyone had a voice.  One place was closer, one place was cheaper, and one place had 25 chicken wings for $2.  After twenty minutes or so of negotiations, I snapped.  “We could already be sitting down and ordering by now.”

            “Uh, oh,” J’s roommate said.  “Emily’s getting hungry.”  Indeed, I was, and my blood sugar was dropping.  And, since this young man had spent innumerable Saturday evenings in my company, he knew the warning signs, which feature but are not limited to crankiness, irrationality, and outright bitchiness.  The time had come to chose a place and get me some calories, fast.

            So it is that I have come to recognize myself in my son.  Benjamin could get out of bed in the morning and happily play for twenty minutes before breakfast, although he starts screaming once he sees the food in preparation, unable to wait three minutes once he knows sustenance is possible.  Zach, on the other hand, needs to eat.  Fast.  When he was younger, we gave him milk the moment he got out of bed, on the principle that he could not last through a diaper change, walking down the stairs, and breakfast preparation.  He has since given up milk in the mornings, which is a story for another time, and he has replaced them with temper tantrums.

            Zach is so hungry when he wakes up that something is bound to set him off.  If we are lucky, it does not happen until we actually get down to the kitchen, which means we can ignore him and get food on the table.  Sometimes, however, it happens before he even gets out of his room.

            This morning, he came to wake me, as usual, cheerful and snuggly, which is how it always starts.  Then, we went back into the room to get Benjamin, and the trouble began.  In the time Zach had been snuggling with me, the clock had progressed three minutes, a phenomenon with which he is quite familiar.  This morning, for some reason, the change in the clock was devastating.

            “I want it to be seven-zero-zero,” he demanded.

            “Zachary, that is not what time it is anymore.  We snuggled, remember?  The clock got later while we were snuggling.”

            “I want it to be seven-zero-zero!”  He began that dramatic screamwhine perfected by some three-year-old a few millennium ago and since handed down, one child to the next.  I suspect that Maimonides, Shakespeare, George Washington Carver, Galileo, and Sir Walter Raleigh all employed similar tactics when they were three.  So, I took his brother and left the room.  Benjamin wiggled out of my arms the minute he saw a box of trucks ahead, and I spent the next few minutes corralling him into the bathroom for a diaper change, which was where Zachary found us once the hysteria had subsided.

            His heart was still racing, his eyes were ringed with read, and he was trying to hold down sobs.  I had finished lassoing his brother and applying a fresh diaper as he played with a cement mixer, so I turned to Zach and pulled him into my lap.

            “Are you OK now, baby?”  Whimper.  “It is hard getting so upset like that, isn’t it?”

            “I don’t want the time to ever change,” he pouted.

            “It’s hard knowing we can’t control everything, isn’t it, babe?  We can’t make the clock say what we want it to.” Actually, we can, but that is sort of cheating.
            “I want the time to go back to where it’s supposed to be,” he whimpered into my chest.  And, although I knew that it was the low blood sugar talking, I had to admit he had a point.  It must be so devastating to realize that time marches on, stopping for no child, and that it is out of our control.  That, no matter what he does, he will continue to get older, day in and day out, and that, after cuddling in my bed in the morning, he is three minutes further along the road from babyhood to independence.  I want to catch time, to keep our moments together, really, I do, but as an adult I understand the impossibility.  Zachary, caught off guard, rages against the forces of time and nature, knowing all too well that so much of the universe is out of his control.

            “Would you like oatmeal for breakfast, boys?” I asked as we walked down the steps.  Zach, who is just now coming to learn that eating helps his horrible mood take flight, replied, “Yes, oatmeal” while Benjamin cheered “RAIDEY!”, which is his way of asking for raisins.

            As he ate his oatmeal, Zach came back to himself, laughing as Ben played funny tricks with his napkin.  Blood sugar, he is learning, is perhaps the one thing he can control.

Takin’ care of business

            I am faced with a dilemma: I cannot read all of the posts that pop up in my Google Reader unless I:

            A) Stop changing Benjamin’s diapers

            B) Never, ever leave a comment

            C) Cut out about half the blogs in my Reader

            D) Stop conversing with my husband.

None of these options appeal to me.  And, so, the obvious answer is to not read everything that pops up.  Here is the only way I can think of to keep blogging and keep a real life:

            As it is, I do not post or read posts on the weekends.  But, clearly I am a minority with this restriction, because I find myself spending Monday and Tuesday frantically trying to catch up.  So, from now on, each Monday morning, when I power up the computer and log into Google Reader to find 217 posts waiting for me, I will simply hit the “Mark All As Read” button. This option clearly sucks, but Benjamin would get some nasty diaper rash if I went with option A.

            That said, I don’t want to miss the important stuff, so if you post anything earth-shattering between, say, Friday afternoons and Monday mornings, do me a favor and leave me a note in my comments so I can pop on over.  I’d hate to miss out if one of you posted that you had found cure for cancer.  Starting this past weekend, please.

            Thanks, folks.

            Jennifer, at Thursday Drive, gave me this lovely award:

 

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(E is also for Emily, in case you were wondering.)  Jennifer truly deserves it, and she has recently begun a series of posts that promises to be riveting.  I suggest you bookmark her immediately.  You all gave me so much encouragement in a similar project, and I know she would love to have your support.

            I would like to pass it on to two amazing blogs I have recently discovered, blogs that require time for quiet reflection. Tales from the Reading Roomis written by an insightful and eloquent bibliophile.  Although I know many of you do not like fiction in blogs, Very Short Novels is worth an exception for the muscular yet nuanced voice (plus, all the posts are under 299 words).  Please visit these blogs, as they are truly excellent.

Because it wouldn’t be a post without something about at least one of my kids.  This weekend, Zachary said to me: “I heard you, Mommy.  Sometimes I can’t hear you because I am just too busy playing with my brother.”

Bossing his brother around, I think he meant to say.

            In my infinite wisdom, I have planned a baby shower for a friend four days before we move.  Fortunately, it is a very low-maintenance baby-shower, and pretty much everything is taken care of, as we will be going to an afternoon tea.  However, the guest of honor has agreed to do a few baby shower games, and I am not all that familiar with such activities.  This is the part where I ask you for suggestions — any favorite games?

               Because this is a rather lovely woman, I would prefer to stick to games that have a certain level of dignity.  In other words, we will NOT be measuring her belly or guessing the contents of a poopy diaper.  But, I would love suggestions of interesting activities to allow about 9 women to interact around an afternoon tea.  Lighthearted games are great; embarrassing ones are probably a bad idea.

                Oh, and L — don’t read the comments, or you’ll ruin the surprise.