Monday, May 30, 2011

Throaty Little Giggles Burst Forth

There are dark times in parenting young children. Dark, sleep-deprived days and nights filled with heavy sighs, creased foreheads, rolling tears, and sometimes great big, heaving giant sobs in front of the bathroom mirror where you have closed the door so you can have just a minute, just one freakin’ minute to yourself. There are days when things get spilled and slammed and thrown and time-outs come flying out of the kitchen faster than you can count to three because let’s face it, sometimes you don’t need to count to three. Sometimes you’re way past three and moving fast towards ten Hail Marys and an Our Father.

It’s hard to remember during those dark, bone-tired days that just around the corner is a day like today. A day when I could not seem to get anything done because every time I peaked around a kitchen cabinet, old Charlie was giving me the biggest shy-guy smile he could throw my way and I would just fall over with joy. I kept trying to get this kid to take a snooze today, but for some odd reason, Charlie would not nap. For some odd reason this five-month-old could not keep his eyes closed longer than twenty minutes. I was puzzled by how alert he was until I realized what was going on.

Today was the day Charlie finally realized that his mommy is hilarious.

I mean the kid simply could not stop laughing at my jokes. And I was shameless. I made noises I’ve never made before just to hear that throaty little giggle burst forth out of his giant baby duck mouth. I found every tickle spot—the crease just inside his chubby little thighs, the spot just beneath his giggly little chin, and the underarmpitties, those delectable little underarmpitties that he leaves open and vulnerable for just a little tickle-tickle.

When I would pick him up after one of our rollicking, stomach-aching, comedy hours, he’d attach himself to my face with a wide, slobbery, open-mouthed smooch. I mean the kid adores me.

There are dark days in parenting young children, but today was not one of them. Today was filled with giddy laughter and slobbery kisses and prayers of gratitude. I mean I can only guess that behind that goofy grin, Charlie was thanking the good Lord above for blessing him with the funniest mommy on the planet.

Friday, May 27, 2011

And the Bees Buzzed On

Disappeared from blogging about motherhood for a while and this is the story of why.  Sometimes being a mom leaves little time for doing anything else.

It all began with the buzzing of a tiny bee. At four o’clock in the morning. The night of the storm.

I had already been up twice that night nursing a congested Charlie who had decided after a few eight, ten, twelve-hour stretches that sleeping through the night was just not his bag. Then we were up with the tornado sirens accompanying the bang and the flash of the thunder and lightning, trying to decide if we really needed to wake up the kids and bring them down to the basement.

Right or wrong, we decided to stay in bed, we decided to try and get some sleep, but an hour later, the bees came. Buzz, buzz, buzzing, as they crept through a tiny crack in the wall, hovered above the mattress and then dove one by one down into Finny’s tiny little sleeping ear.

“There’s a bee in my room! There’s a bee in my room!” Desperate cries from his new big boy bed. We both went running. He was hysterical. A nightmare? A new fear of the storm? Of the dark? Of his new room? We didn’t see a bee, but he heard the buzzing and did not want to go back to sleep. David went into the bathroom to get him a drink of water and discovered water on the floor below the bathroom fan. The roof was finally giving in. We brought Finny into bed with us. 4:30a.m. Just as we all started to fall back asleep, coming down from the excitement of the bee, the storm, the leaky roof, Charlie was up again.

5 a.m. Crawled back into bed after nursing Charlie; closed my eyes. 5:03 a.m. David’s phone rang. Wrong number. I started to laugh but tears came instead. 5:30 a.m. David’s alarm. 6:30 a.m. Both kids awake. Dread.

A week before the bees came, life and parenthood seemed to be skipping along rosily. Finny was using the big boy potty and loving it. All of us were thrilled by his accomplishments and excitedly preparing for the upcoming transition from diapers to underwear. Check! Finny had also moved into his big boy bed in his new train-themed room and was loving that too. Check! Check! And Charlie, who had started sleeping long stretches through the night was now out of the Pack-n-Play and into the crib in his own room. Check! Check! Check!

Then suddenly, in mid-April, the storm began. There was no calm that followed. Just more storm. And the bees buzzed and thrived on every last raindrop.

At the first doctor’s appointment, that next day, she said there was a clear fluid in his middle ear, likely caused by allergies and causing him to hear a constant buzzing, that worsened when he laid down. She suggested Claritin and Benadryl to treat the allergies and clear up the fluid.

We tried this, but Finny is two and stubborn and despite the grape and cherry flavor and my best Mary Poppins, I struggled to get the medicine down. Every night, Finny was in our bed or David was in his and Charlie was getting up every four hours. The rain was unceasing.

A week and three $7,000 roof replacement estimates later, we decided to have the roof repaired. The water was off the bathroom floor, but it continued to pool in Finny’s tiny little Eustachian tube and the bees nagged and nagged. When we went back to the doctor, she looked in his ears and cringed. Puss, she said, was nearly busting out his eardrums. She prescribed Amoxicillin. I picked up the thick, pink, bubble gum flavored liquid from the pharmacist. More dread. How on earth was I going to get him to take this?

Tried shooting it down the back of his throat with the dropper. It all came back up. Tried a cup and a spoon. Both got thrown back in my face. Tried orange juice, M&Ms, chocolate syrup, chocolate ice cream, but he would only ever eat or drink part of it. Had some brief success with some encouragement from Daddy and a cheering section of friends, but then, the novelty of that wore off too.

Three days later, back to the doctor to have the nurses give him another antibiotic via shots to the leg. It would be awful, but at least that way I knew he would get the full dose. One shot in each leg, three days in a row. The nurses warned me that this was a thick and painful shot, but what else was I to do? I was to hold his arms, while they pinned down his legs. The second day, Finny was stronger than I anticipated and he broke free of my grasp and yanked the shot out of his leg. Scratch up his leg. The nurse yelled at me. We had to start over.

A week later, it was still raining and the bees buzzed on. Back to the doctor.

The infection lingered in both of Finny’s ears. Charlie remained congested and she found some fluid in his ear, and I had a sinus infection. I started getting serious about allergies. Bought allergy covers for our beds and pillows. Put an air purifier for Finny’s room. Vacuumed. Dusted. Got quotes on air duct cleaning.

My mom, who has always been serious about allergies, started snooping around our basement and began tearing apart our humidifier, which she discovered had a filter and tubing covered in black and orange mold. “You are breathing this stuff!” she shouted, horrified as she flung the moldy tubing into the sink. I became filled with anxiety that my house was making me and my children sick. I called our heating and air guy out to check out the humidifier, which he discovered had been leaking water all winter. Everywhere I turned there was water seeping in. In our ears, in our sinuses, through the roof, in the basement. And it would not stop raining. Everyday in the seven-day forecast offered more and more rain. No spring. No sun. Just wet.

Now all three of us were on antibiotics. Charlie and I on Amoxicillin. Finny on his third round, a chewable from of Augmentin. All week I crushed up this nasty pink pill and tried to sneak it into his favorite foods. He rejected his Augmentin grilled cheese, so I made brownies and snuck it into chocolate icing. He ate every last bite, so I actually contemplated giving him a brownie for breakfast, lunch and dinner but instead offered him peanut butter sandwiches. He ate the sandwiches, but turned down usual favorites like ice cream, milkshakes, yogurt and mac and cheese. Once again, he was only getting half of what he needed and I prayed that this infection would just clear up on its own.

Then, the plumbing went out. In Finny and in the house. It was almost like Finny and the house had some weird ET-like connection to one another. One leaked water, the other couldn’t drain water. The second antibiotic gave Finny diarrhea and made him dread a diaper change on his raw bottom. So we backed off the Miralax which he had been taking every day for months to help him battle his constipation. A combination of less Miralax and a diet of peanut butter sandwiches stopped him up again and we had three days of agony as he strained and strained to poop. Too much fluid in his ear, not enough in his intestine. WE COULD NOT WIN.

Then, it was time for the grand finale. The day of Charlie’s baptism, Finny spiked a fever and broke out into hives and the pipe beneath the kitchen sink sprung a leak. By that night, his temperature was up to 103.6. By the next afternoon, what began as tiny little red bumps on his legs and torso had spread to his arms, head, face and neck. His ankles, knees, hips and knuckles all began to swell. Serum sickness, the doctor called it. A hypersensitive allergic reaction to penicillin. She said it would get a lot worse before it got better. More medicine. A steroid for the joint swelling, which she said would cause him arthritis-like pain. Benadryl for the itching hives and Ibuprofen for the fever, inflammation and discomfort. He slept with us at night, tossing and turning , feet in the air, itching and scratching his head, his neck, his feet. One day he took three baths just so he could feel some relief in the water. In the bath, I watched him bite his itchy knees. He woke up with swollen eyes and bruising. David and I and my mom struggled to hide our reactions to how awful he looked. The very medicine I had been tearing my hair out for weeks to sneak into his system to fight off the ear infections ended up causing him the worst discomfort I’ve ever seen him in.

And then I saw it. On Wednesday, as the plumber repaired the leaky kitchen sink, I turned on the weather channel and I saw it. Friday, May 20, on the seven-day forecast had a full, bright sun on it. No clouds. 75 degrees.

That Thursday night we went to bed and I did not wake up until 4 a.m. when Charlie woke up hungry. Finny slept in his own bed all night long for the first time in a month. No bees. No itching. When I went into get him that morning, he looked like my little boy again. No swelling. No rash. No bruising. No crying. Just jumping up and down begging for an egg on toast.

The storm had finally passed. We rejoiced over our eggs on toast and celebrated a day with no medicine and a morning filled with sunshine. We ate almost every meal on a blanket in the yard that weekend and celebrated how lovely it was to see each other at 6:30 a.m., rather than 12:30 a.m., 1:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m.

God bless all those mamas who have children who struggle with chronic illnesses like asthma, diabetes, blood disorders, etc. My son had an ear infection for a month and my world was turned upside down. I believe that God never gives you more than you can handle, but sometimes it feels like we’re getting close.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

You Might As Well Stop Whining and Just Enjoy It

Yesterday morning, Finny and I did not like each other very much. We both got up on the wrong side of the bed and spent the morning stepping on each other’s toes…literally. No matter how hard I tried, I could not quite wake up despite my giant mug of coffee, and ordinary things like changing diapers and unloading the dishwasher seemed to be taking an extraordinarily long time.

Somehow, we watched nearly two hours of cartoons, while I puzzled for way too long over whether or not I should fold the clean laundry or try to pay some bills. Charlie moved from seat to swing to blanket and back again and could not seem to find a comfortable spot to play and Finny, it seemed, was everywhere. While I nursed Charlie, Finny hung on my knees. When I peed, Finny followed me into the bathroom, hung on my knees again and waited anxiously for the opportunity to flush. While I emptied the dishwasher, Finny leaned on the rack and attempted to shuffle breakable plates around. My brain, which seemed to be out of the office, struggled to devise a creative way to entertain him or have him entertain himself while I tried to get a few silly little things done, and the result was just a constant shooing him away.

“Finny, don’t touch that! Go do…something.” So, he walked around the corner and climbed up on the kitchen chair to see what fun awaited him on the counter. First he found the tomatoes to fondle and drop and bruise. “No, don’t play with those, honey! You’ll ruin them.”

Then, he poured salt on his hand and licked it repeatedly. “Do not play with the salt! That’s wasting!”

Then, he hopped down and began licking the dirty mop cloth which was hanging and drying from the oven door. “Finny, that’s yucky. Don’t touch that!” More fondling and licking of the mop cloth. “Listen to me, Honey! Don’t touch that!” Even more fondling and caressing of the mop cloth. “AAARRGG!!!! Listen to me or you’re going to your room!” And at that, I firmly grabbed my two-year-old by the shoulders and moved him into the family room. Tears.

So, I decided we needed to go for a long walk. The heating and air guy was coming in an hour, so we couldn’t go far and we just needed a little peace and quiet and a cool breeze.

The cool breeze was sticky and hot and the peace and quiet was accompanying someone else on their walk, but did not show up on ours. After twenty minutes of screaming, crying and whining in the stroller, I finally said, “Finny, you cannot get out of the stroller right now, so stop whining and just enjoy it.” It did not escape my attention, that I too needed to figure out how to do this. Life with a toddler and an infant: difficult and trying, but I needed to figure out how to stop whining and just enjoy it.

A couple hours later, when lunch was eaten, the humidifier was fixed and it was finally time for a snuggle and a nap, I kicked off my shoes and laid down with Finny to read him some stories before bed. About half way through our story about Piglet and Pooh and rain puddles, Finny, propped himself up on his elbow, took out his Tissa, puckered up and gave me a big kiss on the cheek.

I literally felt my heart of ice melting all over the sheets and I let out a huge laugh. Delighted by my delight, this adorable two-year-old who really just wanted nothing more than to be close to me all morning, propped himself up on his elbow again, took out his Tissa, puckered up and kissed me again smack on the tip of my nose. I laughed even harder. And so, he grabbed my face between his two baby hands and showered me with kisses all over my nose and face until I was practically dripping with his sloppy little kisses.

“Finny!” I said between breathless laughter, “Do you want me to finish the story?”

His reply. “No, I just want to kiss you.”

And we finally found something we could both agree on, because I just wanted to be kissed.