Monday, June 26, 2006

File Under "Why On Earth Do You Bother If That's All You've Got?"

I abandon you for a week, I return with nothing but a random bulleted list that lacks real bullets, even. You understand how it goes sometimes, right?

-- Sean is all better. Phew!

-- We were all set to see Thomas the Frickin' Tank Engine on Saturday. Tickets purchased in advance? Check. Game plan for 2-hour one-way expedition established? Check. Two healthy kids? Check and, wait, no check. Fever and vomiting befell poor Miss Allison. Fortunately Thomas returns in September, so we will try again. Instead of a ride on Thomas, Sean and Jeff rode the commuter train into the city and played on an out-of-commission trolly car. Not a bad tradeoff, I suppose.

-- After throwing up a few times on Saturday, Allie solemnly informed me, "My tummy isn't crying any more." Cute, I thought, but a little perplexing. Till I realized that I had been telling her that she threw up because her tummy was upset. And the state of being upset, for Allie, generally involves tears. No more upset, hence no more tears.

-- I have gotten completely sucked in by this book, such that I want to do nothing but read, that I regard such plaintive statements as "Mommy, I'm hungry" as nothing but petty annoyances to be summarily dispatched. 'Tis a good thing, I suppose, that I don't often stumble upon cerebral page-turners.

-- The afore-mentioned book is a welcome relief to this one, which appears to have been written and edited and proofread in approximately 7 days. The typos and mistakes were jumping off the page and smacking me in the face. Only respect for the library's ownership of the book prevented me from reading with pencil in hand to mark corrections.

-- In an attempt to find something other than M&Ms to quench my desire for a sweet and crunchy yet somehow more grown-up snack, I have discovered cinnamon almonds from Trader Joe's. Heavens to Betsy are they ever scrumptious. Am I permitted to feel just a little virtuous for eating nuts, even if they're covered in sugar?

-- You know how you can never be entirely certain that your kids will be models of well-behaved behavior around other people? On the one hand it might be at least a little cute that your son completely commandeers your delightful guests and chatters like a magpie nonstop throughout their visit. On the other hand, it is decidedly not cute when your daughter bites your son on the arm, leaving teeth marks, in the presence of the same company. Nope, not cute at all.

That's all I've got in me for today. Yeah, really. Thanks for continuing to click over to read my increasingly tepid and decreasingly frequent posts.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

(Subtitle: An entire post with no mention of the procedure that shall not be named or its aftermath)

My neighborhood has a tendency to be tomb-like in its silence. Is the term "bedroom community" still used these days? That's what it feels like. Except that you'd be hard pressed to find any actual people milling about outdoors even in the evenings or on weekends.

We get along well with all our neighbors, but we haven't fostered especially close relationships with any of them. I know that if we really needed help with something, I could ask any of them; it's just that we often don't have the chance to do more than wave hello to them.

Part of the problem is that most of the neighbors are older, with children who no longer live at home or in high school. Yet even farther down the street, where the families with young kids seem to be clustered, the most striking quality of the streetscape is the absence of kids playing outside. Most of the parents work, I think.

So when the kids and I are playing outside, very often we are by our lonesome selves. I don't want to write about how different life for kids is now in comparison to my childhood -- it's pretty obvious that kids don't tend to have that sort of freedom anymore. And, as a matter of fact, I do know of some neighborhoods near me that are bursting with young kids who play outside together all the time.

All of this is a long introduction to the pleasant anomaly that was Saturday. In the evening after dinner, we were all outside -- Jeff was finishing up his meticulous lawn care regimen, the kids and I were playing baseball on the front lawn. The one set of immediate neighbors with young kids came home from an outing, and instead of just entering their house they came across the street to chat. I like this couple a lot, but we don't see them much -- she's a pathology resident and works a lot of hours.

What started out as a brief chat turned into an hour and a half of just hanging out. On the backdrop of a perfect almost-summer evening, the kids ran around yelling and laughing, Jeff and Dan tossed a football around, Gina and I chatted and joked. It was so much fun, so ordinary and yet, for us, so unusual. We probably won't have a chance to do something like this any time soon, but it gives me hope that my neighborhood experience can be something beyond a "Hi, how are you" wave.

Now, I'm curious -- what's your neighborhood like? Do you sense any Bowling Alone-like epidemic where you live?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Sleep Delays His Life, Apparently*

For those you still tuning in despite the paucity of content lately, here's the latest wrinkle as we celebrate 1 week without tonsils or adenoids.

Night terrors.

One to three hours after Sean falls asleep, he wakes up crying and thrashing. No amount of comforting soothes him; he barely seems to acknowledge my presence or Jeff's; he remains stiff as a board if we try to hug or hold him. It lasts about 10 or 15 minutes, we've learned, and if we ride it out he falls back to sleep. Repeat this scenario two or three times per night, ending with a wakeup time of 5:00 or so.

We are all exhausted. It's like living with a baby again, and I am totally out of practice with sustaining myself on 2-hour chunks of sleep.

On the Internet I've discovered some anecdotal correlations between anesthesia and subsequent night terrors in young children. I know night terrors do develop around this age, and Sean's never had them before. Coincidence? It's almost as if he's reliving the waking-up-from-anesthesia experience.

Last night was a little better -- only one wakeup during the night and sleeping in till 6:30. We've learned not to let him fully wake up to watch TV, a mistake that resulted in the worst night ever for him. Plus there is only so much Caillou's Holiday Movie one can reasonably withstand. (We are on our sixth viewing of that seasonal classic in the past 2 days. I fear that this convalescence, with its dispensation of our usual TV-watching limits, is breeding a serious TV junkie in Sean.)

Thanks for continuing to send your good thoughts our way. I'll continue to prop my eyes open with toothpicks to keep you updated.

*Note to self: must stop lazily using REM lyrics as post titles.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Not Quite Bouncing Back

For a few days I've been wanting to sit down and write a post, any post, about Sean's procedure and recuperation. But between the rather slow recuperation and a few work deadlines, downtime has been kind of limited.

Tonight, I am not working. I should be, but nyahh, nyahh, nyahh to the deadlines.

Sean's procedure went fine. The traumatic separation I had feared didn't materialize, thanks to the nursing staff's no-fuss, low-key approach. This approach might also be described as "slightly duplicitous" -- Jeff and I didn't realize when Sean left our preop room that he was going straight to the operating room. I'm sure that was a deliberate maneuver designed to avoid upsetting the patient. It worked: a pre-sedated Sean wasn't perturbed at all by the lack of fanfare. Not so much his parents, of course.

The hardest part for us came when Sean woke up, distraught, from the anesthesia. We'd been told that young children are often confused and upset as the anesthesia wears off. Like so many things, grasping this fact in the abstract is one thing; seeing your child writhing about and crying in a hospital bed is quite another.

I'll spare you all the details, but it did get worse before it got better. At one point I was holding Sean in a rocking chair as he cried hysterically, yanking at his IV line and shouting "Let go of me, Mommy!" over and over again. My tears, I think, exceeded his.

Painful as that experience was, it didn't last more than an hour. In fact, we were home about five hours after we arrived at the surgical center. I've been feeling a little sheepish that I felt so traumatized by something as rote and uncomplicated as a tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy, when other parents (Moreena springs immediately to mind) are battling life-threatening illnesses in their children. Still, I suppose it's healthier to feel what I'm feeling and not deny that the experience was heart-wrenching in its own way.

Since we've been home, Sean is slowly regaining strength. He's still pretty weak, though, and very tired. The circles under his eyes are striking. He isn't eating much (not even the fun stuff like ice cream), contributing to the malaise. His emotional state is fragile at best; he's needed me right by his side since Friday, and he dissolves into tears over the slightest blip. Last night, he fell asleep in my arms after crying hysterically over the fact that his Thomas the Tank Engine pajamas were in the hamper.

And I mentioned his voice, right? It used to be low and kind of thick, clogged almost. Now, it's high-pitched and nasal. Think Truman Capote without the lisp. This is supposed to be temporary -- it should readjust to a more normal-sounding pitch and tone in a few weeks. In the meantime, though, it makes him seem so much younger than he is, so incredibly vulnerable. He doesn't sound anything like my little boy. I'm not sure why, but this makes me so sad, as if by assenting to this procedure we have taken away part of what made him Sean.

(You'd be entirely justified to think, right about now, "Melodramatic much, Suzanne?" I know, I'm probably over-reacting.)

Today was Sean's best day, I think, even if he has been up since 5 freaking a.m. He spent more of the day playing than he did lying on the couch, a rubric I've found to be useful for assessing return to normalcy after illness. If the playing/lying down ratio continues to reverse itself, I'd cautiously say we have a good trend on our hands.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Quick Postop Update

Sean's procedure went just fine. There were a few rough patches, especially as he woke up from the anesthesia. Still, overall I think it was a success. The biggest adjustment for us will be getting used to Sean's new voice -- it's much higher pitched. I don't know if it will change further as his throat heals, but for now I am just marveling over how different he sounds.

I'll be back with further details about yesterday, particularly about how you wouldn't want me around in a crisis.

Thanks for all the well wishes!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Little Pitchers, Big Ears, and Tonsils

Just when you are convinced that your kids pay not one whit of attention to what you say (perhaps I shouldn't generalize and just stick with the first person here), they utter a few phrases that dispel that notion and make you feel like Nanny 911 should be paying you a call. . .

Sean was stomping around the other day. "What's wrong?" I asked.

"I'm so frustrated."

"Why's that?"

He sighed. "He just doesn't listen to me."

Oh. (I never did find out who "he" was -- it might have been a friend from preschool, but I'm not sure.)

Next: Allie marching down the hall with her hands covering her ears. "What's up?" I inquired.

"My ears are broken!" she replied cheerfully.

I have no idea who would speak to her so sarcastically. No idea at all.

Finally, picture an energetic 4-year-old running in circles around his room. "Watch out, Mommy! I'm getting distracted!"


Tomorrow's the big day: tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy for Sean. We're going on a little tour of the surgical center today so that Sean can see what will happen beforehand. He confessed yesterday that he was scared about having his tonsils out. I'm sure it will all go fine; I'm more worried about how he'll react when we have to leave him for the surgery than I am about the surgery itself. Poor little guy.

I'll report back on the outcomes over the weekend -- wish us luck!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Absent-Minded Mother Goes to the Grocery Store

It was to be so simple an errand. We had a relatively short list. We zipped, as much as we could zip with the preschooler hoofing it and the toddler in the shopping cart, through the store. We triumphantly loaded our stuff on the conveyer belt, proud that we had had no meltdowns or incidents. In fact, my blood pressure had barely surged at all.

Till I discovered that my wallet wasn't in my purse. Or in the car. It was, I hoped, at home, somewhere.

The very nice cashier stowed my cold purchases in a nearby refrigerated case, and we tore out of the parking lot. Right smack into a rush hour traffic jam.

Once we got home, I ran into the house and found my wallet quickly (thank goodness -- when Allie sets her mind to raid my purse, the contents sometimes end up in the most unlikely places). Back we slogged through the traffic to the store.

Upon releasing Allie from the confines of her carseat, I realized that she had procured a pen at some point (who knew there was a pen in the back seat?). "Allie!" I said, trying to keep calm. "What happened to your face? And your leg?"

"Look, Mommy," she said, pointing to the scribbles now covering her skin. "I have chicken pox!"


Back in the store, we found our cold items, but none of the other stuff. After waiting in line, I asked the cashier if she knew where they were. "Oh. I guess someone restocked them."

Very large sigh.

Keep in mind that I had not the wisdom to get another shopping cart, so as I recollected and juggled the noncold items, I had to corral an extremely busy Allison as she darted hither and yon.

Back to the register, only to find that the line has grown by 8 people. And I was too wimpy to cut in front of them. I was, however, giving a wonderful performance as the frazzled, snappish mother whose children are running more or less amuck. Finally, at long last, we paid for everything, went back to the car, wended our way through the traffic snarls, and arrived home, 2 hours after we first departed for our quick trip to the grocery store.

It is somewhat therapeutic to have written this. You may not feel the same having read it, but thanks for indulging me.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Weekend Roundup

So, it appears that I am not the only one who views child care as something quite distinct from leisure time. Give me a book, a comfy couch, and solitude and then we can talk about leisure. Thanks for all the terrific comments and insights!

And now, I bring you the always scintillating weekend recap. On Friday I took the kids to a newish indoor play place -- I'm always on the lookout for things to do when the weather precludes the failsafe of the park. One of the play stations consisted of dress-up clothes, completely sex-segregated, I am sad to report. (And am I overly squeamish that the thought of communal dress-up clothes makes me uncomfortable?) Sean gravitated immediately toward the Spiderman outfit. Allie took one look at the princess dresses (that was the sum total of clothing for girls) and decided she wanted to be Spiderman, too. That's my girl! A little boy Sean had befriended protested that girls can't be Spiderman; after I explained that girls and boys could pick whatever costumes they wanted, he insisted that she had to be Spidergirl. Whatever, kid.

We had the place to ourselves for a while, until the multitude of Skinny, Well-Dressed Moms and Their Adorable Offspring descended. All of whom knew each other. There's nothing like a group of women who have fashion sense and slender physiques to make me feel like a dowdy outcast blob. And it doesn't speak well of me that I immediately ascribed haughty attitudes to all of them. Why is it that I wouldn't label any other group according to stereotypes but that I readily did so here? Insecurity rears its ugly head once again.

On Sunday we took the kids to their first baseball game. We chose the local minor league stadium since it provides a much more intimate experience. And it's so much less expensive than going to see our perpetual-loser local Major League Franchise. Sean doesn't quite understand baseball yet, but he was still captivated by the proximity to the field and all the excitement that surrounded him in the stands. Jeff seemed thrilled to be able to share his love and knowledge of the game with Sean in person. Allie, on the other, hand, could easily have had more fun sitting in the parking lot. It all required too much SITTING and WATCHING for her taste. As a result I spent much of the game traversing the concourse with her.

I'm not a sports fan and don't watch athletic events in person or on TV much. I was struck by how commercialized the whole endeavor is. I expected the outfield fence to be strewn with billboard ads, but I was aghast at the pervasive product placements and endorsements throughout the game: an autoglass company sponsored several foul balls, a waste management company sponsored a guy running through the stands with a trashbag, a supermarket sponsored a between-inning shopping cart game on the field. Must every single event be so sullied? Or am I just naïve? (Jeff would probably say the latter.)

Hmmm. It seems I always manage to squeeze out the-world-is-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket screeds from otherwise innocuous outings. Let us, then, depart with a cute anecdote: Sean loves his program from the game so much that he wanted to read it as a bedtime story. But wait, it's filled with ads… Shoot, there I go again.

Friday, June 02, 2006

A Little Poll of My Own

The June issue of Working Mother magazine contained this blurb:

The recent American Time Use Survey classifies parenting activities like bathing a baby or reading bedtime stories as separate from "leisure" time. Huh? We tossed this out toe WM's Reader Panel and found that most of you disagree! In fact, the vast majority say parenting is fun 90 percent or more of the time.

Allow ME to say "Huh?" Some parts of parenting are indeed a lot of fun (I would include reading stories in that category). But bathing? Not in this house. And far less than 90% of my parenting duties would be characterized by this grumpy parent as "fun."

I know that Elizabeth touched on this a while back when she discussed a study reporting that Americans have more leisure time now than in the past despite our overarching feelings of being stretched to the limit and stressed out. Depends on how you classify leisure time, she said. Exactly!

Is it just me? Am I just too joyless a mother? Do you think that things like bathing or, say, going to a soccer game constitute leisure time?