Mother’s Log: Star date Friday

Youngest Progeny
Youngest Progeny

Home… the final frontier. These are the ongoing adventures of the Maternal Parental Unit. Her continuing mission: to get her children to productive adulthood without too many crippling emotional scars.

Mother’s log:
Thursday May 10 4:05 pm: Just received word from Paternal Parental Unit that Smallest Progeny has been stricken by a fever. Vast experience reveals that he will not be permitted back to the Progeny Containment Center until normal temperatures have been attained for at least 24 time units. As an experienced Maternal Unit, I have packed all my critical notebooks in my bag to prepare for tomorrow’s inevitable challenges.

Thursday May 10, 7:55 pm: Checked Youngest Progeny’s forehead temperature with Thermal Lip Technology and verified presence of elevated thermal levels. Appearance of Youngest Progeny is very cute and sweet. Enjoying moment of quiet, cute sweetness, knowing it is of a temporary nature.

Friday May 11, 6:05 am: “Sick” progeny awakens and heads downstairs for marathon Scooby Doo until Elder Progeny proceeds to Progeny Education and Normalization Center (Kindergarten).

Friday, May 11, 7:30 am: Maternal Parental Unit recipient of high quality snuggles from unusually quiescent Youngest Progeny.

Friday May 11, 8:30 am: Maternal Parental Unit restores contraband legos (removed for throwing) in order to distract Youngest Progeny for several hours of positive and educational spacial reasoning. Maternal & Paternal Parental Units log in to computers and begin keyboard movements associated with work email.

Friday May 11, 8:35 am: Youngest Progeny needs to use the bathroom.

Friday May 11, 8:36 am: Youngest Progeny does not need to use the bathroom

Friday May 11, 8:37 am: Youngest Progeny needs to use the bathroom.

Friday May 11, 8:39 am: Youngest Progeny can’t possibly use the bathroom.

Friday May 11, 8:42 am: Youngest Progeny uses the bathroom.

Friday May 11, 8:46 am: Youngest Progeny uses the bathroom again.

Friday May 11, 8:50 am: Youngest Progeny actually starts building with restored blocks.

Friday May 11, 9:45 am: Massive civilization has been discovered on second floor, consisting of train tracks, legos & building blocks. Am summoned to inspect giant Platypus that appears to be the leader of the civilization. Giant Platypus is an indifferent conversationalist, a gap of noise made up for by Youngest Progeny.

Friday May 11, 10:20 am: Youngest Progeny insists he can help debug my javascript. Although not primarily responsible for finding case mismatch between variables, he is satisfied with his contributions to the cause. Maternal Parental Unit sets him up with iPad.

Friday May 11, 10:20 – 10:40 am: Youngest Progeny plays every single iPad game, up through the part where the game actually loads. Asks questions every 15 seconds and has learned how to turn up the volume. Maternal Parental Unit laments that 3 year old is not more skilled at video games.

Friday May 11, 11:20 am: In sick day record, Video Entertainment Device is not enabled until now. Youngest Progeny chooses automotive selection, which his elder sibling refuses to watch since it is a favorite movie of Eldest Sibling’s Closest Co-Conspirator. Silence reigns, or at least a Disney soundtrack.

Friday May 11, 12:22 pm: After consuming energy-producing units, the Youngest Progeny is placed in his Dormation Receptacle. The Parental Units anticipate blissful hours of quiet ahead.

Friday May 11, 12:57 pm: Youngest Progeny is actually asleep. Experienced Maternal Parental Unit was anticipating five minute intervals of resubmitting sleep protocol to Progeny in order for successful execution. He must really be sick.

Friday May 11, 3:33 pm: Begin wondering if Youngest Progeny is still alive. Experience teaches that yes, he is still alive and it is a high order of foolishness to go check. Enjoying non-Kiss108, non-KidzBop, non-Disney music while writing 243 SQL insert statements.

Friday May 11, 4:09 pm: Perhaps a transporter accident has put Youngest Progeny beyond time. Contemplating offering him award and promotion for Longest. Nap. Ever.

Friday May 11, 5:37 pm: This adventure concluded, the people of Homeistan come together in celebration of another day accomplished, and celebrate by setting up an entreprenurial lemon-sugar-water related endeavor on the front porch, to the merriment of all. The universe is safe for another day!

Entrepreneurial natives
Entrepreneurial natives


The Scene After the dinner table, after a lovely family dinner. Grey, as usual, is not sitting down. My husband has his back to him, attending to our youngest.

The Incident Suddenly, my husband feels something impact on his back. His is unhappy about the object that hit his back. (Grey has been throwing lots of things lately and hitting people with them, so he was already on notice.) With a touch of asperity in his voice, he says, “Grey, what was that?”

Grey: A hippopotamus
A: No really, what was that?
Grey: A hippopotamus
A: (voice taking on the glint of steel) Gregory, what did you just throw at me.
Grey: (unfazed) A hippopotamus
A: Grey, I’m not kidding. Joking time is over. WHAT WAS THAT.
Grey: (confidently) A hippopotamus
A: (is about to boil over and explain to someone what the difference between joking and for real is with a time out)
Me: Wait a minute. Grey, can you get the hippopotamus from under the table?
Grey: Descends to the subterranean depths of the table. Returns with this:

Hippo I know, then come p-o-t
Hippo I know, then come p-o-t

Cue riotous laughter from all quarters, after which A ruefully apologizes to Grey.


The less glorious times of parenthood

I think Thane may end up killing me. I debate, as I practice my breathing exercises, whether he’s different than Grey was at the same age or whether I’ve simply blocked it from my mind. I suspect, as is so often the case, a mixture of both.

Mr. Cranky Goes to the Park
Mr. Cranky Goes to the Park

I’m on my own this weekend. My husband is in Washington DC for a work conference. Thursday night, shortly before said spouse left, Thane spiked a fever of 104. The high fever point actually wasn’t so bad. As long as you were holding him, he was ok. Snuggly even. And he slept a lot. But then Saturday he woke up sans fever but with a wicked fierce grump going. Saturday had great weather — in the 50s and sunny. We went for a walk, went to the park, went for another walk. He was pretty happy in the stroller (I thought maybe this wasn’t the right weekend to start Project Teach Thane To Use His Own Two Feet, Already), but at the park, he just wanted to be held. He pitched a royal fit when I took him out at the graveyard and refused to walk.

When we weren’t walking, there was a lot of screaming. Disconsolate wailing at his high chair when presented with (oh, the woe!) his favorite foods. Bitter, bitter tears when his brother was playing with a toy he desired. That particular episode lasted about 20 minutes. Screeching, wailing and agony.

Then dinner time came. I’d made the mistake of telling Grey I’d take him to The 99 — a treat on par with few others in the 4 year old pantheon. It’s a step below Chuck E Cheese, but a step above even McDonalds, if you can believe it. I should have held my peace — I faced oath-breaking to a 4 year old, or bringing the hydra-handed fury of screech with us. Since I really didn’t feel like making dinner, I opted for the latter. Big. Mistake. Oh, the waiting! The gnashing of teeth! And that was just my reaction to Thane’s behavior! Even Grey was bothered by it.

Pity and forgiveness, fellow diners. At least acknowledge that I got us out of there FAST.

This morning, I permitted myself to hope. Maybe he would sleep late and wake cheery? Such things have been known to happen! Perhaps the sun would rise in his crib, leaving the sturm-und-drang as an operatic memory, washed away by humming the chorus to that silly sewing song in the second act? No such luck. Worse, this morning it seemed temperament-based screaming. He DROPPED a CAR on the FLOOR!!!! Has ever a child known such WOE!

And I’m left to discern whether he’s actually still in pain or discomfort in some way, whether it’s a phase, or whether he’s just arrived at 2 awfully early. Moreover, I can’t really go anywhere, and staying here is driving me nuts. I’m headed to church shortly with the boys. You’d think this would be some nice respite, but no. I’m on nursery duty. I’m contemplating begging someone to switch with me, but somehow there’s something in “Help! My kid’s driving me nuts! You take ’em for an hour!” that seems rather, I don’t know, unChristian.

I’d been hoping the ear tubes would make this sort of tantruming a thing of the past. While they’ve been fantastic in terms of verbal development, apparently they do not fix all. The truth is that Thane is focused. He wants this one particular thing, and he will expend vast amounts of effort to obtain it. It doesn’t matter if he can’t have the thing because he is not permitted to, or if he has simply failed to communicate his desires. Quite often the problem is that he wants something he can’t have (the butter dish at the 99, the toy his brother is playing with, etc.) So the ability to communicate will only eliminate a small problem.

The great thing, though, is that this same trait will be an excellent one (applied correctly) later in life. This focus and determination, turned to a scientific problem, obtaining tenure, running a marathon, becoming an Olympic athlete, or finally writing that perfect gaming system will be a tremendous asset to him. We just have to survive to get there.

On our way to the Children's Museum last week
On our way to the Children's Museum last week

Happy as a duck in water
Happy as a duck in water

Edited to add: Then Thane skipped his morning AND afternoon nap. Shortly after being allowed to get up from his attempt at an afternoon nap, as I was on the phone with his father, he fell down four stairs and cut open his eyebrow, leading to lots of blood and a call to the nurse line, which recommends I wake him every 2 hours tonight. (He’s probably fine, but I was alarmed.) Poor husband was totally in the dark about the seriousness (or lack thereof) of his condition for about 15 minutes as I staunched the bloodflow, which must have been really nerve-wracking for him. My cell phone finally ran out of battery. The cat vomited on the stairs. All this is to say: I’m really forward looking to Monday.

On the plus side — Dominos delivers.

I wish I were a Mongol warlord

Last night after a crucible-like evening of thrown food, chores, decisions made on empty stomachs, and children who live in alternate universes in which they are Heat Blast (who does not, it turns out, generally like to sit at the table and eat his dinner politely) my husband turned to me and said, “I wish I were a Mongol warlord. I bet they didn’t feel guilty all the time.”

Practicing his Mongol castle attack skills, in case
Practicing his Mongol castle attack skills, in case

I imagined him perched on his piebald horse, dripping in furs and beads with a menacing look. I looked at him, eating the split pea soup he’d made with a crusty loaf of whole wheat bread he’d made. “I bet that Mongol warlords don’t actually see their children very much,” I replied.

He glumly agreed with my analysis of the Warlord solution to parenting frustration problems, dipping his bread in his soup.

This morning on the way in, I was caught between my compulsive drive to listen to the news, and my great desire not to want to actually hear the news. Wrestling a heavy and recalcitrant 15 month old (almost) out of his carseat to drag him in to preschool to drop Grey off, I marveled at the complexity of my own life. There are so many moving parts and conflicting priorities.

On the average day my life is filled to the brim with problems minor and major. I wrestle with providing my children with all the things they need across a wide spectrum — from appropriate discipline to making sure that Thane has clean clothes at daycare. I work very intentionally to be a good partner to my husband. I try to eat well and exercise in order to keep my body in good enough condition to do the rest of the work. I have a smorgasboard of church tasks that I try to keep up with. In addition to that there’s my spiritual adventure – not the same, but related. Then we get to the fact people expect me to work a job and do complicated stuff and answer emails and write code. On top of that is managing my career, which isn’t at all the same thing as doing today’s work. And there’s handling the finances responsibly — have I gotten all my W2 forms yet? Can we afford to just order pizza tonight already? Do we need to rebalance our retirement portfolio? (Answer: yes, but I’m too lazy). And of course there are my responsibilities as a citizen, which range from being well informed (people tend to ask me questions, so it behooves me to have answers), to voting, to sending contributions of money and effort to wracked Haiti.

Wouldn’t it be simpler to be the harem-mate for a Mongol warlord? If not Mongol-centric, what other, simpler time might I have lived in?

I indulged the fantasy for a few minutes: maybe a Victorian lady, or Medieval peasant. I could’ve been an Anchoress.

You could argue that my degree in Medieval studies was completely self-indulgent. I rarely encounter a burning need to tackle middle English texts in my role as a software engineer. But one thing I learned about life as a Medieval scholar is that people are people, and the broad outlines of our lives have not generally changed.

Victorian ladies had wildly distorted body images, and had to work really hard to cripple themselves appropriately. They also navigated highly political lives with great opportunities for social humiliations. Medieval peasants woke with dawn, had complicated relationships with their finite communities, and had little recourse or opportunity for change and pretty much no privacy. And I really can’t imagine that being in the harem of a Mongol warlord was fun and games, even if you managed to produce some nice little male heirs. Most of all, in all those imaginary past roles, I would face a much greater risk of burying one or more of my children.

I was reading a summary biography of John Donne the other day (don’t ask). His wife bore him 12 children. Two of them were stillborn. Three of them died before they were 10. His long-pregnant wife died 5 days after birthing her final child. “In a state of despair, Donne noted that the death of a child would mean one less mouth to feed, but he could not afford the burial expenses.” ( He loved his children as deeply as I love mine. The poetry he wrote about them is breathtaking.

I bet Mongol Warlords don’t get to sing showtunes with their kids, either

I think I’m content to live in this busy age, when I have the most opportunity to choose the path of my own life, and when my children have the best chance of living to ripe old age of any generation ever in all history. So, after long consideration, I’ve decided that my plan of going back in time to become Mongols is right out, love. Sorry. Have you ever considered getting lost on a desert island?

Revelations in parenting

A lot of parenting and parenting advice revolves around saying no. No, you cannot open that cupboard. No, you cannot watch tv right now. No, you may not hit your brother on the head with a book, even if he’s laughing. No, you cannot have a lollipop. No, not chocolate milk either. No no no no no.

That’s part of the job. The kid’s job is figuring out what they can and cannot do. Flying – nope. Jumping on my bed – only at my house. Building with tinkertoys – yes. Your job is to make sure that the results of their experimentation are non-fatal and comply with the rules of your house.

As a parent, you get in the habit of saying no. And you spend a lot of time working with your children to handle “no” in an acceptable way. You start with tantrums and crying (that’s where we are with Mr. I Find Cat Food Delicious Thane), move on to (in our case) stomping and pouting, and eventually try to get towards a graceful “ok”.

In the process, you stop remembering WHY you say no. You get in the habit of no. You work so hard on acceptable post-no behaviors, that you forget that your job as a parent is NOT actually to make sure your children don’t get anything they want. It is, actually, ok to say yes to things they want, especially when they ask for them in an appropriate manner.

That may sound like an “oh duh” but that was one of my revelations recently. I’d gotten in the habit of “no”, for no good reason. Really, is it going to kill my son to get that 15 calorie candy cane? (Let’s not discuss how I still have candy canes for Christmas, eh? It actually supports my thesis that I don’t end up giving my children nearly as many treats as they’d like.) I like giving my son treats, but I don’t actually like letting him have them.

So now I’m trying to teach Grey how to ask for things in a way which delight the asked and are more likely to result in him getting what he wants. I’m trying to teach him effective, polite strategies for obtaining his heart’s desire. Obviously, he can’t always have it “Mom, may I please, please, pleeeeeeeaaaaase withsugarontop have my own car?”. But the goal of parenting is not to convince children never to want anything, and it’s not to make sure they know their desires will never be fulfilled. I need to be teaching my son good ways to get what he wants (within reason) in a way that is pleasant and satisfying for all involved — and to say “thank you” afterwards.
Happy to have his own gi

I aspire to be the sort of mom who doesn’t talk about vomit

My sons are generally healthy, fit, bonny little boys. I’m very, very blessed by their general health and fitness. But Grey has …. a quirk. When he was about seven months old (wee little Grey!) he got a cold. And with the mucous, he started throwing up. I was concerned, but figured it would pass.

It didn’t.

For about 6 weeks, Grey threw up several times a day. The worst day he threw up nine times. We took him to his doctor. We took him to a gastroenterologist at Children’s Hospital, who looked wistfully at him and commented on how healthy he was. The constant vomit never seemed to, you know, BOTHER him. We have reports that he smiled while throwing up. Because he was thriving despite it all, the doctors just sort of shrugged and said that anything further they did to figure it out had possible bad side effects, so it wasn’t worth doing. It was a grim period. You would not BELIEVE the laundry. Finally, we discovered that Prevacid stopped him from throwing up. He stayed on Prevacid until he was about 13 months old. The barfing did not resume the same way.

Grey threw up all over London!
Grey threw up all over London!

But… Grey has always thrown up at the drop of a hat. Potty training is an accomplishment. But I have my son VOMIT trained. He seems to have quite a bit of warning — usually — that he’s going to throw up and makes sure he has a bowl or a bag or a toilet or something. He actually does a great job of it.

But right now Grey is in the throes of an incredibly mucousy cold. And once he starts coughing, it seems to end up in vomit pretty often, and too quickly for him to take appropriate measures.

Yesterday coming home was AWFUL. He pitched a fit coming out of daycare (despite my best, best efforts to wheedle and amuse instead of order). It was a full-on tantrum of a type that’s become blessedly rare. Then he spit at me for two blocks (his aim has much improved — he hit me, which he wasn’t able to do previously). I informed him he would be going directly to his room when we got home. Then, as I was driving, he took off his shoe, threw it at me, and hit me in the head with it.

Images of Bush in Iraq flashed through my head. I pulled the car over and gave him about the third spanking of his life. I reserve corporal punishment for times he’s put his safety or the safety of others at risk. Throwing shoes at a driver counts for that. But when I say spanking, I do mean a few light swats on the butt, nothing more.

This did have the outcome of having him cry. And the crying led to coughing. Which lead to him throwing up all over the back seat of the car. Again.

I have had better commutes home.

The evening got a bit better with him. He did spend his timeout in his room and nicely apologized. He had some dinner. He went to bed.

This morning, he didn’t want to leave Spongebob and cried bitter tears. I got him into the car by reminding him just how unhappy the “sad” way had been yesterday.

We weren’t two blocks out of the house when he coughed and threw up AGAIN in the car. I turned around and drove back. My husband is home sick today. It seems unfair to put childcare duties on the sick, but welcome to 21st century parenting.

All this is to say: my car is at the detailers. It’s pricey, but there are some things you just have to ante up for. My husband is home sick with a sick kid. Thane is at daycare with an unexpected provider (Abuela has been in the Dominican Republic since August) and when I left he was pitching a fit.

I feel really, really tired but otherwise fine. There’s this sense of impending doom about that. There is no way I can be surrounded by this many sick, snotty people and not succumb. Even for a fantastic immune system (which I have) the onslaught is just too overwhelming. I can only pray that the boys are better by then.

Ah, parenting. Is it the glamour? The riches? The appreciation of our hard work? What keeps us coming back for more? Humanity is a wondrous thing, to choose to do this.

Which brings me to a thought I had last night. I was looking at the curly head of my baby boy, nursing in our remnant night nursing in the soft light from the hallway. And I realized WHY it is that parents hope their children also have children. Sure, there’s the vengeful belief that they should suffer as they have caused us to suffer. But mostly, we hope our children have children because there is no other way they will ever understand how much they are loved. It’s an impossible amount of love and invisible, I fear, to the recipient. Feeling that themselves, looking down at their own curly-haired snot-monsters, is the only way they’ll ever understand.

Parenting yin and yang

Item the first: I said that it was easier having a baby than buying a house. I think it is easier to own a house than to raise a child. (Although I admit that was totally ambiguous in what I wrote.)

Item the second: Last night was one of my worst parenting nights EVER. There’s that point when you’re not sure if you’re laughing or crying and you decide to laugh because if you cry then EVERYONE in the house will be crying. Basically, Thane has a bad 3 hours every evening where he mostly cries and Grey decided to check and see if I still meant what I said and was very sad to discover that, yes, I do. Grey didn’t get to sleep until nearly 10, at which point he had lost all three of his nightlights, his music and his flashlight and I was sitting outside his door holding it closed.

Item the third: Thane woke up every two hours last night, but was a lazy eater towards morning. What’s up with that? Also, so far he’s slept pretty much all day. A growth spurt?

Item the fourth: We had a fantastic time at the Museum of Science with J. this morning. Grey was very very good and Thane slept and I got to talk to a real live adult for more than 20 seconds. Nice.

On my own, pretending he’s beside me

So I have a secret for you. I actually really love my husband. Shhh… I know it’s not kosher to be madly in love with the father of my sons, but there you have it. The truth is out.

This morning I woke up without complaint at 7. (This is how you know it’s really love.) I got myself and my boys ready to go. We drove to the airport, where I spent half an hour saying goodbye to my husband. From the drama, you’d think he was being deployed to Iraq and I wouldn’t see him for another year and he stood a good chance of being killed. In reality, his company runs a big conference every year and every salaried employee is expected to be present and help out. My highly trained, brilliant engineer of a husband is spending 7 days in Nashville doing coat-check. I haven’t decided whether this is a brilliant team building technique, a misguided attempt at cost savings (sorry, engineer salary + travel expenses = much cheaper to hire a local), or some combination thereof.

Regardless, he is gone until Friday and I am missing him sorely already. Let me say first that I really, really don’t know how single parents do it. I don’t have to show up to work. (Actually I had this giddy moment of freedom when I realized that I could be gone as long and as far as the contents of my diaper bag could get me. For a split second I tried to figure out how far I could get and come back. Then I remembered I didn’t have my cell charger….) I don’t have huge monetary constraints. (Hello takeout!) Heck, Grey’s daycare will take him as a drop in which is very likely what I’ll do once the week returns. But man, it’s hard to wrangle two kids by myself. Walking somewhere and not carrying anything or anyone is a huge luxury. You should’ve seen me wrestling it all at IKEA. I couldn’t buy the tasty carbonated beverages due to a tragic lack of hands. The meatballs were purchased with a VISA and at the cost of future feeling in my right thumb. And Grey and Thane were actually being really, really good!

When I was doing my anticipatory dreading of this, I worried about how I would handle the boys when they’re doing their tandem weeping/screaming routine. Granted, entertaining and tending to my sons is definitely a challenge. But I think the hard part will be the loneliness. I was already feeling pretty lonely, spending my days in the company of two people younger than most of my jeans and Spongebob Squarepants. But at least my husband would come home at night and I would deluge him with all the thoughts that had piled up in my head during the day. But I don’t actually have to talk to another adult in person until my brother arrives sometime on the Thursday/Friday border. Of course I will. Tomorrow is church. Monday a friend is going with me to the Museum of Science with the boys. I’m quite sure other things will appear on my schedule.

But mostly, I miss my husband. I really like him. I like doing things with him. My sons are also his sons, and I can lean on him as much as is needed to do those things which need doing.

May my husband return to me soon.

My handsome husband
My handsome husband