Domestic Bliss Report

Motherhood is hard work. If we don't stick together, we'll all fall apart.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Etiquette for playdates--some questions

It says something about our changing times that this post even exists. Back in the day, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, kids could just wander around their neighborhoods and find other kids. It was not unusual to just show up at a friend's house to play without any phone calls or pre-arrangement being done by parents. Summer days were spent wearing bathing suits traveling from one house with a pool another as beverages (and parental patience) were exhausted, all with the call, "Be home when the streetlights come on." The next time my mom sits down for coffee with one of my friends' moms in the kitchen while we play Barbies will be the first, and I'm 36.
But now, it must be done. Since this is kind of a new thing for me, I'm not sure how to go about this. It's rough, you know? Finding kids isn't as easy as it once was. Finding kids you like is harder still. Finding kids you like that get along with your own is beyond tough. I don't want my kids to miss out on friends because I forgot to bring a snack, you know?
So, here I go in no particular order.

Who arranges it? Mom to mom, or do the kids call each other? How old is a child before circumstances transition from all parental arrangement to kids? Does anyone just show up asking "Can Susie come out to play?" without calling anymore? What if you have someone over and they never invite you, or vice versa?
Where do they take place? Does it alternate? Does it depend? I mean, if one is allergic to dogs and the other has one, it's obvious. Same goes for apartment living versus 2100 square feet and a backyard... mostly. Are they initially at some common ground like a park? What if the kids--or parents--are just getting to know each other?
Does Mom have to stick around? What about siblings coming along? If your oldest is close in age to their youngest, what do you do? How many visits transpire before a child can be dropped off, and does that count as babysitting? Should the visiting child bring snacks to share or is any feeding up to the host?
How long is a typical visit? If it's a 15-minute ride over, an hour is barely time to turn around especially in the winter when you're talking boots and coats and all. But three seems a bit much and probably would include a meal, which presumes some warning for the meal preparer. I wouldn't want to send a kid home to eat, or put off our meal, when Mom is thinking it was a lunch date.
How do you other moms find friends for your kids? Like I said, it's hard. Don't tell me it's the fault of homeschooling, either. Just because the pool is bigger doesn't mean the water's any better.

Comments are open. Thank you!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Morning bliss

Peaceful morning. The big three were all awake without incident. Our youngest was having his first breakfast (I've told you, they eat like hobbits) in his sleep, snuggled next to me in bed. Dale came in with a polite request to turn on the television; they still haven't figured out which remote does what. I heard Daddy grind the coffee before he came back.
He curled up next to me. I was warm, still half-asleep, nestled between my husband and my newborn. Tranquility.

"Is he nursing?" asked my beloved quietly.
"Uhm hmm," I responded without opening my eyes.
"Oh. Because he sounds like a breast pump."

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Today being what it is...

I'm re-posting this.


Spread-eagled like old hookers in the sack,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge
Till on the smoky bars we turned our backs
And toward some stranger's bed began to trudge.
We screwed asleep. Many had lost the thrill
But screwed on, a fraud. All went numb, all blind,
Drunk with fatigue, deaf even to the kill
of deadly HIV he left behind.

Sex! SEX! Quick, girls! An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting on the clumsy condoms just in time.
But someone was still holding out and waiting
And looking afraid she'd run out of time.
Dim, through the drunken haze and culture lies,
Another girl like me, I saw her drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
She plunges from me, smothering, choking, drowning.

If in some college dorm room you too could pace
Behind the student that was taken in
And watch the salt tears rolling down her face,
Her hopeful face, dreaming that she'd hear from him
If you could hear at every jolt the blood
Come gargling from the fun-corrupted wombs
Of us deceived, our babies less than mud
Our bodies scarred, small secrets taken to our tombs
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To women ardent for some interesting story
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
pro voluptate mori.

With acknowledgement to the late Wilfred Owen

Monday, January 21, 2008

Because I can watch and nurse

Just some quickies about television.
I've started watching Miss America: Reality Check. I remember watching the pageant back in the day with my mother and sister. We'd each choose a favorite or two to "root" for, besides our own Miss Michigan, of course. We'd admire the hair, dresses, and talents. I haven't watched in years, though.
Well, watching the TLC propaganda has me thinking. Holy cow, I would so not fit in with those women. Leave aside the fact I'm at least twelve years older than they; I don't think I've spent that much time on my hair and makeup in my whole life than any one of them have in a single episode.

I happened to catch an advertisement My Big Fat Redneck Wedding, too. I'll admit to attending one where the groomsmen all wore John Deere hats at the reception (Dale's side). I've been to a wedding reception at a park where the meal was Tubby's six-foot party subs, the bar was a new trash can full of ice and beer cans, and the band was a boom box (my side--and I'm not kidding).
This one on TV, though, had all of the groomsmen in camouflage. I'm not sure if this is worse or better.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Another crucial thing I've forgotten

How difficult, and how necessary, it is to leave your child.
I don't mean on the doorstep of a church or for a week's vacation in Maui. Or to go to work, for that matter.
I'm talking about the simple thing of walking around the block, for example. Alone or with a dog, but without a child. On a regular basis.
You need a time period where you aren't listening for the baby to fuss, where someone else's arms must be sufficient, where you aren't holding a precious little hand so you can be alone with your thoughts. It's vital to your well-being and there will be a toll taken if you don't get it. Your patience will fray, your memory will diminish, your head will ache, your teeth will fall out. Okay, I'm kidding on that last one, but the rest are real. For me, anyway.

Just because it's necessary doesn't mean it's easy, though. I do remember the first time I left Madeleine to walk around the block. I kept thinking, "This is the farthest I've been from her" for the first half of the trip. I remember how torn I felt to be a Eucharistic Minister at Mass and leave her with Daddy for that five or ten minutes it took. I think we were thirty feet apart.
But now, with the fourth baby in the house, I know the signs of needing some time. I get short-tempered, unreasonably crabby with the kids.
I tell my beloved, "I need to go for a walk." He knows by how I grit my teeth and say it almost under my breath what's going on. He will say, "Go. Happy walking," or something to that effect. He loves his kids and wants their mother sound, healthy and patient with them.

Just put on your coat and check your watch. Promise yourself that you'll be back in ten minutes if that's all you think you can stand and just go. Walk at whatever pace you like; you're not going for distance but endurance. Maybe you'll be able to build up to twenty minutes, which even a nursing newborn can last without you.
Look around. Listen for the sounds you don't hear when you're shepherding another child or children and be grateful for the brief opportunity not to gush over the new rock this one has found, or helping another jump off that tree stump, or the calling the other one back. You'll be able to do all of those things next time. This walk is for you.
You'll be glad you did. If you're still not sure, think of the enthusiasm they'll greet you with when you return! Especially the one who's been trying in vain to entertain that new one for the duration of your trip.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

I still need practice at letting go.

Santa brought Madeleine this paint-it-yourself flower vanity. It came with paints, beads, and string so you could even make contents for the drawer after you'd painted the thing. Cute arts-and-crafts project I thought we could do together.
But three weeks after Christmas, we still hadn't done it. It was itching her something fierce and each time she asked, I felt a little more guilty and was a little more short-tempered about refusing. With the baby, school had taken a back seat and "electives" like art really got short shrift.

Yesterday was the worst. I was in tears with Lou having evening fussies, squeezing in Rachel's bath, Dale wanting to play Risk, having dinner, all squeezed in to the two hours remaining between swim class and bedtime. Madeleine was in tears because I'd snapped at her about the vanity--again. Daddy offered to do it, but when he saw the disappointment in my eyes, suggested a few games of tic-tac-toe instead.
This morning, I chucked the chores. Lou was asleep in the papasan. I caught Madeleine and said, "If you do one page of math, we'll do your flower vanity after. As long as Louie stays asleep, that is."
While she worked, I cut open the packaging, found some newspaper, and got a container of water. By then she was done with math and we got started. The other two kids materialized and I found paint brushes for them. By this time, Lou had roused himself and wanted to be held, so all I could do was supervise.
Turns out that's all I needed to do. They all worked together creating something more Jackson Pollocky than it would have been, but who cares? I think she enjoyed making it more that way that she would have with Mom demonstrating how to use the stencils and checking for careful brush-washing between colors. What's important is it's done to her satisfaction. And it took about twenty minutes.
What was I so worried about again?

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Other things I've forgotten in three years

1. How frustrating the Fourth Trimester can be--instead of being attached to my abdomen and leaving my hands free, the baby is attached to my shoulder (or breast) and ties one hand up

2. How quickly they grow out of newborn anything and into 3-6 M, or size 1-2 diapers

3. Five minutes of dishes isn't much, but it's better than nothing

4. Not vacuuming won't make the rug fall apart; actually, after three kids, it's probably the dog hair holding it together

5. How much concentration it takes simply to poop when you've only been doing it for four weeks

6. How distressing gas can be until it finds its way out--one end or the other

7. How vital it is to make sure the wipes are stocked in the diaper bag

8. It's not the baby that's so heavy--it's the carseat

9. "Race the baby" (trying to get home before having to nurse the baby) is always a losing game and you'll end up pulling over anyway

10. If they've been fed, changed, and burped enough to have hiccups and they're still crying, they probably just need some quiet cuddles and sleep--which wouldn't hurt you, either.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

It became one of those days.

Now, at dinnertime, is the first time where I could lay Lou down for more than five minutes without him crying. Daddy has actually come up with a nickname for it: "going Red Dwarf." His face--all of him, really, even his feet--gets almost maroon. I don't remember any of the older ones doing that.
So I had to have "help" with everything, meaning the Big Three's cooperation. It was, merciful God, generous in coming. Dale unloaded the dryer and took the basket into his parents' bedroom, as it was all ours anyway. Madeleine didn't complain while I managed to braid her hair, even though Louie went off before we were half done. Rachel has been understanding about not holding her little brother, a very quick way to get him hysterical. They have been patient with my short-temperedness and even tried to tidy up some.
Dear husband understood that enchiladas might not make it to the menu tonight because wrapping them takes two hands. While I do have a sling, there's no guarantee Lou will be in the mood for it.
When I finally got to lay him down, I did dishes. I can walk away from that to get him if necessary. He stayed asleep. I've sorted socks and wiped off the table, helped Rachel finish at the potty and disciplined Dale for practicing "karate" on the love seat. I even read the local newspaper.

I know these days of baby-craziness will end just like it has with the others. As I watch him with tear-smeared eyes, looking so cherubic as he (finally!) sleeps, I remember someone else's wise words. These are the longest days but the shortest years or my life. Someday sooner than I realize I'll watch him run away from me after a butterfly, or walk away to play with friends, or drive away to college. I'll wonder where my baby went. And be willing to trade almost anything for one more moment of holding my baby in my arms--including no shower, a sink of dirty dishes, and a pile of laundry yet to do.


It's been one of those mornings.

Around twenty minutes ago, I was losing my mind.
The dryer was going with a load of clattering buckles, clips, and snaps. The new Brad Paisley CD is going (note to husband: check out the lyrics for I'm Still a Guy). Louis was crying in my arms. The pot on the stove was boiling with tortellini for lunch. I was trying to help Dale with a word search. And I still hadn't had a shower.

Sometimes, the only way out is through.

I set the baby down, which apparently was what he wanted. Dale got bored with the word search and agreed to pick it up again later. Lunch has been served and consumed. The dryer and CD are still going, but I'm in the living room instead of surrounded by them both.

Now, I still haven't had a shower, but I haven't had a tantrum either. Hopefully I'll get the first without resorting to the second. And you know, if I'm taking the time to blog, it can't be that bad, can it?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

My husband's witty observations

"People in commercials depict certain behaviors that would result in domestic violence in any other context."
Definitely. Like where the wife gets a re-fi on their house and spending the money on a vacation... as a surprise to him.
Or the more recent one where she mocks his decision on their tax return software. I really want to make a very inappropriate "box" remark, but will refrain.

When I checked our home page and was told that tonight's ER was a rerun with Dr. Greene, he started. "Isn't he dead?" Yes, the character was killed off some time ago. "It must be a zombie episode. Can't you see it? 'What should we do, Doc?' 'Braaains...' It would be great!"
Yes, I still watch ER years after it jumped the shark. I've told you I'm a creature of habit, right?

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As the season draws to a close...

I'm feeling introspective. I'm compelled by this little boy I've recently met to stop what I'm doing, sit down, and mull the world around me.
I think of Christmases past. There was the one in middle school somewhere when I knew everything I was getting. Boy, was that depressing. Taught me a lesson--surprises are good.
There was the one right after my semester in France. Back in 1992, the customs guy just waved us through. He didn't want to be in the airport on Christmas Eve any longer than we did. Lucky for one of the guys in our group; he had a couple bottles of wine in his backpack. He'd wrapped them in socks so they wouldn't clink together. My brother and I went to Midnight Mass together when I finally got home.
There was the year my mother-in-law got me the red plaid flannel pajamas, which were something I'd really wanted.

There has been only one Christmas where I missed Mass. It was 1996 and it was also my first Christmas away from my immediate family. Since Dale wasn't Catholic, we went to the Methodist service. I don't recall what time it began--it may have been midnight, but probably was earlier--and it was in a barn.
Yes, a barn. A dog was even present. I know it was to remind us of Jesus being born in a barn and all but that's not what I was thinking about. I'd already read the disclaimers telling how Jesus wasn't really born December 25, the shepherds wouldn't have been in the fields then even in the Holy Land, yadda yadda. Even now I'm not concerned about the specific True Date of Jesus' birth; I know it actually happened and the precise date is less important to me.

As the snow gently fell through the loft, my thoughts were on all those who had nowhere to go. Those in warming centers for the homeless, and those who didn't even have that. Those with only a soup kitchen the next day for a meal, and those without even that. The young and old, near and far, alone or forgotten. I went with my future husband back to his parents' house and beheld a mountain of gifts softly lit by the light of the tree. The size of the pile was more a testament to their generosity than modern materialism but I know without the abundance of our surroundings it would not have existed.
Every year since then, despite the candles, incense, carols, and lights, my mind has gone back to that frigid night in the barn. This year as I held our own newborn son, I blinked back the images of him not having the blankets and hats and safe arms that he does. And I felt grateful.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Returning to "normal"

Meaning I'm adjusting to this new level of chaos, I suppose.

I'm not fazed anymore by wading through My Little Pony, a plastic castle and its itinerant equipment, Strawberry Shortcake, Holly Hobbie, and an aircraft carrier (with fifteen die-cast planes! WHEE!) in order to get the mail. The wrapping went out in last week's trash--except for the gift bags; even Santa recycles those--and this week the last of the packaging will go out.
This weekend will bring Epiphany and the packing up of our Christmas decorations. It's nice to have the Christmas season after the day itself as a gradual come-down. It's given me a chance to listen to the Toby Keith Christmas CDs I got. We'll be able to move the toy box back to its original position when the tree is taken apart and put away and maybe we'll develop storage for all of the toys.

Daddy returns to work for real tomorrow; his first day since before the birth. I'm feeling grateful that it's a short week for him. Before bed, I'm going to get one last load of laundry done to be prepared for his absence. Heaven only knows what chores will get done tomorrow.

I do have some resolutions for the new year/new month, but I'll post on those... I almost typed "tomorrow." Ha, ha! Someday. How's that for more honest?