I'm falling behind

There is so much to tell you all about, goat death and the GH's birthday party, my immigration physical, the homeless guy who gave me money, but right now I'm busy teaching a 5-year old math, and trying to get the pee off of the floor in my bathroom at the same time. But I did want to mention that this month I nominated Journey Mama for a perfect post hosted by Suburban Turmoil and Petroville. And yes, I know that I'm a day late and that the awards went out yesterday, but yesterday I was trying to decide if I'm moving out of this apartment by touring all of the other apartments in this or a lower price range and hating them all, we are not moving this year.

I nominated this entry for several reasons. First I think it's incredibly well written, to the point that I felt that I was living part of her experience, and second, because I admire the attitude she has and the grace with which she is dealing with something really hard. So go over and read it if you haven't already, I'll try to be back later with more.


Note to Self

Never strip off your pajamas and then walk in to your own private bathroom in your own master bedroom at the back of your apartment in order to clean up before getting dressed. Otherwise you may find yourself standing naked in your bathroom as all of the children of the neighborhood congregate on your bed, right next to your clothes. You may then find yourself yelling through your bathroom door something like "Go out of the bedroom and close the door, go out now, I don't care what you're playing just get out, get out now, GO! LEAVE!, CLOSE THE DOOR NOW!!!!"

Don't even do this when your children are under the supposed supervision of their father since he obviously doesn't see anything wrong with letting everyone play in your bedroom while you are trying to get dressed.


Sober and Thoughtful

The past week was the week of remembrance for the 6 million Jews who were murdered during Ha' Shoah/Holocaust. I went to synagogue, which I rarely do, because the guest speaker was David Faber. Last year I read his book, Because of Romek, and I wanted to hear him speak.

The day before I ironed. I never iron. I carefully ironed my clothes, and my children's clothes in a sort of private homage to the man we would meet tomorrow, who had lived through so much, whose people had been so severely wronged by the rest of the world. The man who endured unimaginable horrors and lived to tell the rest of us about it. It was silly I know, to iron, I'm sure he didn't notice, but I didn't know what else to do.

He's a short little man, his movements careful and sparse, he moved with the care of most elderly people, and something more besides. His hands shook with the effort of raising them above his head to show us the pictures of his family whom he watched die, or the shook with emotion, it is hard to tell. He told us quite simply of being a boy when the Nazis came to Poland, of running and hiding and running and hiding over and over again. He told us of the dreadful day when the SS troopers burst in on them and shot his five sisters and his mother while he hid under the couch. He told of staying in that little room with their bodies for two days, not knowing what to do until the smell became unbearable and he bid his mother goodbye. He told of being forced to watch as people were gassed at Auschwitz, of finding a little baby girl among the dead bodies who was still alive because her mother has been nursing her as the room filled with gas and she hadn't breathed it in. He tells of a guard taking the baby from him and throwing her into an oven, and of Eichmann torturing him for trying to save her. He tells of Colonol Eichmann, the man Hilter put in charge of the "final solution" rejoicing as he saw the people dying and exclaiming how beautiful it was. He told of watching thousands of people burned alive, of never forgetting the sound of their screaming.

It was incredibly difficult to listen to, impossible to turn away from, and I found myself wondering why I was trying not to cry. I should be crying, we should all be crying, grieving over the existence of such pure evil, over the cruelty that mankind is capable of.

He brought up something that I had never thought of before. When the Nazis invaded Poland they immediately began rounding up and executing every Jew, in every city. How did they know where they were, how did they find all of them so quickly? The Polish people told them how to find them, that's how. Neighbors betrayed neighbors, people who shopped at the same markets sold others to their death. Hate was the vehicle by which the Jews were slaughtered, hate wrote the blood guilt on almost every head in every neighborhood in Europe. Canada and the US turned away boatloads of people trying to escape persecution in Germany, the world did not care or want to know, they let suspicion and hate to make them complicit to mass genocide.

I'm afraid that it's not all that different now. What did the world do when Rwanda was torn apart by hate, or Liberia, or Bosnia? What do many Americans do now when they see a middle eastern person. Fear and hate are still very much part of the social climate today, what have we learned?

He also pointed out how that hate was fostered for 2000 years by a Christian church who somehow misread their Bibles and thought they had license to hate Jews. A church who committed atrocities toward many others as well. He was so gracious about it too. "Christianity is a beautiful religion" he said, "but Jesus was a Jew, he wasn't a Christian. Christianity wouldn't exist if Judaism hadn't existed first." He's right. That is one of the reasons I am teaching my children about Judaism, about Jesus the Jew, not mainstream Christianity, except how it fits into it's original context.

Where am I going with this? I can't decide. It's an important story, it's one that we forget at our peril. In the past I would be cast back into despair, overwhelmed by so much evil, unable to live with hope knowing how fragile life is in the face of determined people fueled by hate and fear. I would question G-d. How could He let this happen, how could he possibly think human freedom is worth this much pain and suffering. I would think around the beaten circle I always find myself in, questioning, struggling, pushing to find a point, a reason to go on, to not just end it all now because it's all so pointless. After David spoke the rabbi said only a few words, but they were well chosen. He said that rather than cause us to question G-d, this kind of thing should make us question man instead. Personally I took it a step further because I know myself, and I know that it is possible for me to choose hate and to nurture it and allow it to grow, we all have that ability if we give in to it to blame and fear. I have suddenly realized that the only option for me if I am to go on living in hope is to choose to fight against the things that cause me to despair. I can either give in, or I can actively oppose it.

I have spent so long wondering if there is a point this cycle of life, birth, death, birth, death, raising my children to raise their children to raise their children. Some times it seems pointless. Edmund Burke said, quite famously, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." In a way, perhaps quite microscopic, I can find a point to all of this if I will actively fight evil in all of the forms that it shows up at my doorstep, including hopelessness. And I can teach my children to fight evil instead of perpetrating it. I can actively practise goodness and teach them to do the same. Mir said something to this point last week after the Virginia Tech shootings. Perhaps this life really is a struggle of good versus evil, though it doesn't usually look like it does in the story books. But I do know that I'm finished with being a spectator helplessly wringing my hands. I've chosen sides, and I will no longer do nothing.


Because one person asked

Because someone asked if there were any pictures of me earlier this week here is the most recent picture of my self. This is passover dinner. I am the one holding the baby with the OMG why didn't anyone tell me that I have that much cleavage hanging out?

So help me, you had better not die or I will kill you!

Do you ever have those days when you feel as though just getting your children through it alive is an accomplishment, and sometimes it’s because you might kill them yourself? When the last bedroom door shuts and the last pair of tiny eyes closes in slumber you sigh in relief and think to yourself, “I’m so glad that’s over.”

Today was one of those days.

It started well enough, breakfast, school, making muffins, lunch, playing at the playground with friends. And then…

We walked to Kinko’s. The Boy likes to take his scooter along as we go and as is habit ride ahead to the corner and then sit down and wait for me, until I get there and we cross together. He never crosses the street by himself: he knows to wait for me. There is one corner however that gives him problems. Because we don’t often cross at that corner but turn and continue on the same sidewalk he can get too far ahead. Just two days ago I had spoken to him about it and reminded him to always make sure he can see me behind him or he’s gone too far. Today as we approached that corner the Girl was lagging behind a bit. As I saw the Boy approach the corner I shouted, “wait” to remind him to stop. Either he didn’t hear me or was ignoring me, I’m not certain which it was because it was pretty windy today, and he kept going. So I shouted for him to stop as he rounded the corner and vanished from sight. He usually waits at the corner; the problem is that I can’t see him past the hedge. One second goes by, two seconds, I don’t see my son. I can’t run to catch up because I can’t leave my little Girl behind where I won’t be able to see her. Grabbing her hand I go as fast as I can with a baby strapped to my front and a short person beside me. I am hoarse from yelling his name; if he can hear me he should be in sight by now. We round the corner and there he is a block and a half away on an incredibly busy 8 lane street. He didn’t stop, he didn’t even slow down. He is waiting at the curb, back to me, going the wrong way. He apparently doesn’t hear me shouting over the wind and the traffic. Not once in the 3 or so minutes it takes me to reach him does he look behind him to make sure I’m close. By this time the moment of panic has turned into fury and I want to tear the child limb from limb for scaring me like that and being so disobedient and dangerous. Instead I grab the scooter from him, throw it in my little shopping cart, and tell him he will not be riding it for a week because he broke the rules, and he can’t ride on it if he can’t do it safely. He cries the rest of the way to Kinko’s.

While I am trying to make sure that my package is properly addressed and paying the nice man named Richard who’s poor lot it is to help me every time I go there to mail something, only today the Baby actually smiled at him instead of wailing because I’ve stopped walking, my children are suddenly MIA. I hear yelling from the little bathroom there as the girl screams, “I have to pee!” and the boy tries to drag her out yelling, “Come back to Mommy.” (Yes, today I was that woman.) “At least the Boy has learned his lesson.” I think. I finish paying Richard and go to help the Girl who suddenly has to poo even though I sat her on the toilet 15 minutes ago, just before we walked out of the house. I tell the Boy to wait right outside of the bathroom door for me, which I leave ajar just in case he needs to call me. I get the germs cleaned off of the girl and I and walk out the door to… a lonely shopping cart standing next to the door. A quick scan of the store while dragging the girl behind me and I still can’t find him, anywhere. I’m about to walk out the front door and start searching the street when I think to check the men’s bathroom. And I find my son who somehow didn’t think there was a problem with disobeying a direct order to wait here and wander off without even telling me where he’s going, even though I was well within earshot. I tell him there will be the standard consequences when we get home.

We walk perhaps 30 feet out of the store and onto the sidewalk. The children are checking out a drain that crosses beneath the sidewalk from the parking lot and drains onto the street. I say get up, let’s go and I see them move and assume they are coming toward me. The next thing I know my child is sticking his head way out into the street to look in the drain from the other side just as the light changes and a hundred cars come zipping past us. I think I might have screamed the next, “get up”. And he comes to me with a quizzical look wondering what my problem is this time. After the discussion, consequences, never ending explanation as to why that was dangerous, and disobedient I’m glad to report that he did nothing else that he shouldn’t the rest of the day, and he vigilantly checked in at the Target garden center every couple of feet to make sure he could still see me and ran to me immediately every time he heard me call.

But the day isn’t over yet.

After getting home the kids asked if they could go to the playground again. Now, I can’t see the playground from my window but it’s only about 10 steps away from our front door. We live in a gated community so it’s relatively safe, and I had seen several kids and parents that we know playing there as we came home. I was in the middle of nursing the Baby, but I told them to go ahead, to only go to the playground and I will be there in a minute when the Baby finishes. I sit and nurse while listening to the sounds of kids and parents playing through my open front door. When I get to the playground I see the Boy, but where is the Girl? Has anyone seen her? No? Where did she go Boy? He doesn’t remember. I send the Boy home and begin my walk of the neighborhood. For the first two minutes I keep expecting to find her around the next corner, playing with someone or digging in the dirt under a tree or looking at the cats in one neighbor’s window. After the first few minutes go by I’m retracing my steps and there’s still no sign of her. I double back, check unlikely places, no one has seen her. I walk the circuit again. By this time I am berating myself for being a totally negligent idiot. It’s been 5 minutes since I realized she was missing, 7 since anyone has seen her, she could already be dead. Every crying child I hear through apartment doors is my little girl, some one has taken her and doing terrible things to her and I wouldn’t even know how to find her. I know the stats, it only takes 5 minutes for a child to be molested, raped, murdered; if kidnapped she is already gone, different clothes, different hair, I will never see her again. My heart is squeezing in my chest, I’m fighting back tears, I am praying, inside I am fighting against all sorts of evil, imaginary and real to get my daughter back, and I round the corner to my house and she is standing there, pee dripping down her legs. “Mommy I had to go pee but it already camed out, my pants are wet.”

As I pick her up and squeeze her tight, pee and all, I demand to know, “Where were you?”

“I went to a friend’s house but her mommy told me I should go home now because they are having dinner.” (This is a huge no-no, they are not allowed to go to anyone’s house with out first asking, but she did it anyway.)

The child’s parent’s are from India and unbelievably hospitable, they just invited her in and fed her snacks, until they realized I didn’t know where she was.

All children are appropriately chastised, bathed fed and in bed now, except the Baby. My husband wonders why on earth I would need some time to unwind after the kids are finally in bed. Gee, I don’t know…


Love Is...

...When your auntie spends her weekend sewing you silly hats and horse shaped pillows, because she knows you like them. She sets up tents in the back yard and sleeps outside with you so you can pretend you are camping, she draws and cuts out dozens of paper fish and tapes magnets to them so you can pretend you are fishing with the special pole she also made you.

She makes you pretty costumes, and lets you play with her things. She reads you books, she makes cookies and pancakes for you and lets you "help", she even makes you your own special apron. When she went to India she bought you bangles and shoes. When she went to Thailand she came home with a little seat that fastens to her bicycle so she could take you for bike rides with her. She always seems to be thinking about you and how to make your day special. And, of course, she gets up from whatever she was doing to come outside and swing with you when you ask her.

Happy Love Thursday


4 months

You are already 4 months old. I haven't really noticed how much you've changed because it happens a little bit at a time, but you have grown so much. You are still quite tiny compared to some babies but all of your newborn sleepers are getting too tight in the feet, so you must be growing. Yesterday when I gave you a bath I noticed what a chubby little tummy you have gotten as well.

You are just beginning to hold onto objects and put them into your mouth. You have managed to get a toy spider in there to suck on, much to your sister's dismay I might add. You try to grab at everything in reach, including breasts and hair. And there is a constant stream of drool coming out of you these days. It takes less than an hour for you to soak all the way through a bib and into your top as well, and that's when you aren't spitting up.

You continue to be very chatty and talk to us all the time. Your happy sounds are something like nnndluuuurb, with the emphasis on the second syllable, and ngggle. You just start laughing this week. It's the cutest sound in the whole entire world. Your daddy would startle you, and you would blink and throw your head back, and then after a slight pause you would burst into giggles; sharp little hiccups of delight. After we scraped our gooey selves off of the floor he did it over and over and over again, just to hear you laugh. You have no idea what power you wield.

Little boys of 11 or so stop to greet you at the playground, competing for a chance to make you smile. Older guys shed in an instant their cool detached tough guy persona when they see you coming. You have a way of drawing people into their more real selves. Just by being there you help them to stop pretending. Of course this may be a gift that all babies bring, but I happen to think that you are special.

You get stronger by the second. As long as someone will hold your hands to keep you from falling over, you can stand now, and you like to do it a lot. Your eyes get even bigger and you let us know how cool you think you are with your vigorous noises. Rolling over from front to back is old hat now. You are starting to yell at the way you find yourself stuck on your back after accomplishing that particular maneuver. Soon enough you'll be able to go the other way, and then diaper changes will never be the same again.

Your back is strong, you can hold yourself out straight from the waste when I lay you across my shoulder. You lift your head as high as you can and kick your feet in glee as you look down at the world from such a great height.

Your favorite thing right now is the swing, and you will happily stay in it for ages while I get things done. Hooray for swings. Even though I was awake with you all last night, what was that all about by the way, I thought it was gas and then you yelled and yelled until I nursed you, and then I think I nursed you for the rest of the night without stopping, I feel blessed that you have come. I am trying to suck in every moment, the way you smell, the way your soft warm head feels against my lips and cheeks, the way you snuffle and sigh and settle in to me when I pick you up. Babyhood is gone so quickly, soon enough you will be among the others pestering me with questions, challenging my authority, spreading toys all over the house and laughing and yelling with the rest of them. I hope the time of gurgles and sighs, and nursing, cuddles doesn't disappear too fast.

At the same time that I am treasuring this time with you my heart is bleeding for the other babies out there. Babies that are lost before they are born, babies that have no mother. I want to hold them all in my arms next to you. After the Girl was born I turned inward, I focused only on our little family and the people immediately around us. I was afraid to think of anything larger or more frightening, I closed my heart for a time to suffering, because I couldn't make sense of it, and the thought of it scared me. I am still afraid of suffering, but since you have been here it's as though a door of my heart has swung wide again, to embrace every child I encounter. I read adoption stories of babies whose parents have died. I look at the pictures of children who have been shuffled around from home to home because they haven't got parents who can raise them, I hear of babies discarded at their birth, and I let them into my heart. I weep for them, but not without hope. Before you it would have been mostly in despair, and now it is with the hope that something can be done.

Something about you, and your passage through me into life has left an indelible stamp upon my spirit, and I am grateful for it because I still feel joy and life resonating in me because of it, because of the way you helped me to surrender, to let go of control, and to trust G-d a little bit more than I have been able to before. It isn't logical, but there it is anyway, and every day you smile at me and it stops me in my tracks and I feel newly blessed all over again.


I heart the internet. *Updated

Mary thinks I'm a good writer, I got this nifty award from her for this post.

The thing that's so cool about this blogging thing is the way I can put something out there and people respond and we dialogue and connect through words. I love the way that works. And I really like the people I have "met" since doing this.

Also, where else would I have learned how to turn my favorite bra into a nursing bra, for about a dollar total cost? Imagine that, a nursing bra that fits properly for less than $80!

Or to make my own sling after I lost my other one, for a fraction of the cost of replacing it. It's so simple that I'm thinking I could start selling these, after I invent my own pattern that is.

And here is where I learned just about everything I know about baby wearing and using my wrap, they even teach you how to make them.

The International Breastmilk Project is taking my extra breast milk to feed AIDS orphans in Africa. I'm really excited about this idea, and they take care of all of the expense of blood tests and shipping and storage as well. Go buy a cute T-shirt or something to help them out.

I get really excited about the things Google can teach me if I will look, and the people at the other end of the computer who freely share their knowledge, lives and hearts with the rest of us. And I'm happy about all of you that drop by to read my humble offerings, and leave a note in response. I'm honored by the way some of you have shared with me in the comments and amazed at how these words can connect us.

So here's a great big cyber hug from me to all of you. It's a friendly hug, not a creepy hug. Can you feel it? Good. Have a great day.

*Updated with the actual link I meant to put in.


Our Weekend in Pictures

The Genius Husband's little sister just turned 18. Whoopee. Growing up where I did in Canada 18 was huge, because not only were you legally an adult and able to vote and order your own cable, but you were legally allowed to drink alcohol also. Imagine the parties, okay don't, it's kind of pathetic to imagine a bunch of kids under 20 getting hammered BECAUSE THEY CAN!!!

This birthday party was a family affair. Well, family, friends, and every guy at her college who knew it was her birthday. The rest of us found their attempts to get her attention amusing. She wanted greek food, and then somehow the Scots-Irish blood took over and before we all knew it there was a scaled down version of the Highland games taking place complete with caber tosses, broad sword fights, balancing contests, spear throwing, archery, and a whole lot more fun. Can you tell she has a lot of brothers?

This is the Boy with a "broadsword" constructed for the occasion so they could beat on each other with minimal damage. Notice the funny shoes? The birthday girl made those for him when we realized that he had forgotten his and his feet were hurting.

The Girl is taken for a ride.

This picture is blurry but I had to add it because how many single guys do you know that would hold and entertain their little baby neice the last 2 minutes of whatever game he was watching, and keep her happy and laughing?

Boy with spear. He kept inching closer, and closer, and closer to the target. Driven by the need to get a bullseye no matter how close he had to stand.

My mother in law competed in the caber toss event. She claims to have beaten my husband by getting it farther, he claims to have let her win by throwing the heavy one when she was throwing the smaller one. Um, she's close to 60, so she wins for getting the thing in the air, not to mention farther than every one else.

The boys built themselves a pit BBQ after a trip to northern Thailand. It of course needed to be large enough to spit and roast and entire animal over, not that they've done that since they built it, but it is handy for cooking steaks and chicken and the like. The Genius Husband in the kilt he married me in, different shirt, decided he needed to pose with a bottle of Irish whisky to complete the picture.

And the table full of hand made greek food, just to mix it up and keep everyone guessing. See that dish full of Dolmas to the right? It felt like hours and hours that we spent flattening out grape leaves, spooning lamb meat into them, and rolling them up, and they were gone in a matter of minutes.


Siblings, Boys, and Princesses

Today is good, I slept 8 hours last night, the house is almost tidy again, and I can think straight. I even exercised.

I came inside this afternoon from cleaning out the vacuum filter, again, and privately coveting a Dyson, to loud happy sounds bursting from the bedroom. The Baby was in her swing, the Girl sat behind her pushing her, and the Boy was acting out a drama for her benefit between two toy horses. She stared at him without blinking, eyes wide and adoring, and added to his silliness her own chorus of vocalizations. It's a picture perfect scene, especially since I can ignore the messy bedroom behind it. As soon as I rounded the corner to look they all froze, staring at me self-consciously, paralysed grins just fading from their exuberant faces. Perhaps it's not okay to be having this much fun, are we doing something wrong? The Boy feels just a touch self-conscious about his little play. And then I smile warmly at all of them and walk away, letting them know that I'm glad they're having fun. Apparently I'm seen as a party pooper around here.


My children went outside to play while I vacuumed, the Boy wearing the red pirate shirt I made him last year and carrying his swords, and the girl in her princess dress. I kept one eye out the window while I worked, noticing the other two boys who came to join the fun, hollering at them all to get out of the landscaping and stay on the grass, noticing the ongoing duel that the boys had engaged in with the swords. At one point I looked up and noticed 4 little heads staring through my front door. A second or two later as I vacuumed the threshold, I realized they were trying to get my attention so I turned off the vacuum and listened.

The boy with the serious blue Caucasian eyes and Hispanic skin and hair told me that the Boy hit him with his sword. Really, you say you were fighting with swords and one of them actually hit you. Forgive my lack of shock and or empathy. The Boy quickly informed me that they had been playing rough.

Turning back to the boy with the startling blue eyes I told him that the rule at our house is that if you play rough you don't get to complain about it when you get hurt. If you don't want to get hurt, don't play rough. He looked a little surprised at my casual reply so I told him that I doubted the Boy, who is younger than this boy, wanted to hurt him, and confirmed it with my son who was ready with an apology.

The oldest of the boys gave it one last try. "But he had some blood on him," he informed me.

So I of course asked to see the offending injury and carefully examined the tiny scratch in the fleshy area between his thumb and index finger. It probably did hurt a little though any blood had long ago dried off.

"Would you like band-aid?" I asked.

At this point he looked like he was starting to feel a little bit silly about the slightly sissylike tattle-taling he had endeavoured; up rose his latent machismo and he declined. Why if you don't need a band-aid do you feel that you have to even tell me about it?

Five seconds later they were beating on each other with swords again. While the girl sat on the grass watching them, looking for all the world like a medieval tableau.

It's a tricky thing raising boys to be men, especially for women of our culture and generation. We don't know how easy it is to emasculate until it is too late, at least my acerbic tongue and I don't. It's so easy to shame, to shrink, to undermine with stray words, by being overly protective and solicitious, and by making their normal behavior out to be bad. I wondered what this boy's mother was like as I watched his little shoulders square the longer we talked and his posture improve, just because I treated him as I do my own boy child, and expected that he could be strong if he chose. I look to my husband for guidance in how to do this, obviously. He teaches the Boy to develop his strength, not repress it, to learn it's limits and possibilities, to learn what it is for. He teaches our son that he has been made strong to help others, especially those weaker than himself. He teaches him that he may never hurt someone out of anger or cruelty, he teaches him to respect women and legitimate authority, and he teaches it without forcing him to stop being a boy or forcing him too early to be a man. He teaches the Girl to be strong as well, a princess dress is a fine thing to wrestle in, the same rule applies to her. I'm glad that my children have a dad who helps them to be bigger and stronger, and in moments like this one I'm glad I'm married to a man who can help me figure out how to effectively deal with boys.


On Surviving a Tired Day

Mary at Owlhaven is asking everyone what they do to get through the days after the nights of no sleep. I was eagerly trolling the comments looking for tips because the nights here have been mostly sleepless since the common cold has once more darkened our door. I don't do well without sleep. Anyone who has lived with me even a little while can tell you that I'm crabby and cranky and irritable if I wake up tired. This of course is an indicator that I am not nearly as good a person as I'd like to think that I am because when it gets difficult all sorts of meanness, and I mean that in the old fashioned sense, comes leaking out of me.

My MILly, who raised 8 children, has recently admitted to me that she is able to run on no sleep for days and days before it starts to bother her, and that perhaps she is a freak of a physical specimen and it is harder for others. I'm glad that she has realized this because many times in the past she has been decidedly unsympathetic. I tell her that I am sleep deprived and she would glibly say something like, "Well, that baby is doing it's job, they're bringing you to the end of your strength so that you can learn to rely on Jesus."

Most of the time we are on the phone when she says this, which is good, because I usually want to punch her when I hear it. That is her genuine experience however, so I don't think she means to be glib. My experience feels decidedly less spiritual than that.

A typical sleep deprived morning around here goes something like this. About 4 hours after I have managed to get to bed, one of my children will wake me to tell me about their dream, or to check their behind for poo. I will mumble something incoherent, hug them and tell them to go out before they wake the Baby. Then I will sink back into oblivion a few seconds later, until the next child sits at my bedside hissing, "Mom, MOM, MOM!" at which point I wake up again to answer whatever question they have, or to listen to the story about the Lego plane they have constructed while I am slumbering. Sometimes I fall asleep on them while they are telling me, but they hardly ever let me stay that way. Eventually the Girl will come in and demand, "Mommy, I want you get up. Get up Mommy. Get up. I want you to make my breakfast."

Or I am awakened by them screaming at each other over some small and silly toy, or pushing at each other in a doorway that has plenty of room for them to walk around each other if only one of them would be less stubborn and change course.

As I get up I usually am choking on a wave of self pity and sometimes actually am in tears because of how terrible I feel, and because there is no end in sight. Everything I do on a sleep deprived day has an edge to it. My voice is sharper, my patience is thin, I am easily over whelmed by the onslaught of sound that living with children entails. I say over and over again, "Mommy just needs you to stop talking so I can think," as I try to get one thought to form itself out of the haze into a definite course of action.

On tired days I can only think about one thing at a time, and we all know that Mommy's don't have that luxury. On tired days I feel angry at my children for needing me, for pulling at me, for constantly assaulting me with their presence. On tired days I have to apologize at lot, my children crumple and cry when I tell them to do things and end up hissing it through clenched teeth while I hold on to the edge of my sanity and try not to yell. On tired days I look for that reserve of strength and it is gone. I look for that great spiritual fountain of patience and endurance that I hear others talk about, and I do not feel that I find it. On tired days I muddle through, stumbling toward the possibility of sleep again, teeth gritted against the physical sensation of struggling through quicksand, or pressing through a fog. The necessary energy that it takes to propel children through the daily routine of chores and school and life is missing, and I long for a break.

I am not proud of this, I am not proud of my inability to cope, my tendency toward irrational anger or self-pity, but it is there nonetheless, and I must somehow go on in spite of it. So in response to Mary's query I have been thinking about the things that do help me get through those days, including today, and wishing I had more wisdom for myself and others.

I think the thing that works the best for me is to not try at all to have a normal day. Mommy is tired, throw the routine out of the window. I also need to accept, if at all possible, that things will be more messy today, that life will be rough around the edges and to let it all go. So I will sometimes turn on a feature length show, usually a treat only for weekends, and lie down with the Baby until it's over. Sometimes that nap is enough, but during those never ending tired weeks I am afraid that it will become routine, so I use this as a last resort.

I only try to get done what absolutely must be done today, everything else can wait. Of course a week of this can cause things and my stress level to pile up which is why I don't go to bed without doing the dishes and thinking about what I need for dinner the next day. If I see a messy kitchen in the morning I am overwhelmed and can't deal with it, far better to do it the night before.

I try to remember that my children are more important than paper work, tax returns, ins forms, laundry, dirty floors, and all of the other things I seem to be drowning in. It's easier to remember this if I sit down and spend time with them instead of treating them as the flies buzzing around my head as I try to work and swatting them away in annoyance. I will take up residence in a comfortable chair and get them to tell me stories. I will read a few books to them, if I can stay awake long enough. I will hug on purpose, and store up Mommy kisses for the time later in the day when I need to concentrate on something else and need them to play quietly on their own. I will try to remain open to my children.

But what works the best, for all of my days, when I remember it, is to sing. I sing happy songs. I sing songs that are short and cyclical and get stuck in my head, the kind that end where they start so that I keep singing. I sing songs with words that lift me out of the self pitying fog I can lose myself in. I sing songs that restore my perspective. It works when I am tired and walking the floor with a sleepy baby. It works when I am picking up yet another Lego after I have stepped on it. It even works when I am exhausted and wish I could, just once, sleep until I am not tired anymore.

Recently I have been singing the first part of the standard Hebrew Bracha/blessing to a tune that my sister in law wrote. In English it means, "Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the Universe, blessed is Your name." With this one little act, my terrible day is turned into one of praise as my children sing with me. Miraculously I have never turned from singing this to yell at a child, to groan in irritation, or snap in annoyance. Singing this gets me through and helps me to be a better mom. Baruch Hashem.


I'm holding the baby

For the past few weeks stories have been circling around in my head. Random thoughts intersect and chase each other down, my fingers itch for a keyboard. I have so many things I want to write about, but I haven't.

Instead I walk around holding the Baby while she fusses. She has the cold that we all have, and it makes her miserable. So I walk, and rock, and entertain, and in the times when she is asleep I try to stay on top of the housework and the school work and take care of my other children who feel neglected if I don't take care of them once in a while as well. Sometimes I sleep too, rarely. Because, as much as I like writing, and as much as I want to devote time to becoming a better writer and recording things to remember later, it's more important to me to hold my baby when she cries, to wipe the tears and feed the bodies of the children who need me, and to live life as it is right now.

So, I'll have lots to say when I get the time. Until then, I'm holding the baby.


The most afraid that I have ever been.

Two summers ago I got on a plane with my 3 year old son and one year old daughter and flew to the town I grew up in to attend my great grandmother's funeral. Since I was already paying for the ticket I decided to stay a few weeks to visit since it had been a long time since I had gone home.

One night while laying in bed in the tiny room I shared with my children I heard a sound from the boy that was suspiciously vomit like. Instantly alert I hauled his tiny body out of bed and into the bathroom to avert total disaster. It was only after I got him there that I noticed that he wasn't breathing, or rather, that he was barely breathing. His entire body was shaking, he couldn't talk, his chest heaved from the effort of trying to draw air into his lungs, and he was coughing like a barking seal in pain. The sharp pungent smell of urine filled the bathroom and I realized he had just peed himself I could see that he was terrified, suddenly so was I.

At this point part of the back of my brain started to fuzz over, loud clanging noises were ringing from some point in between my ears, and it felt like I was trying to see through a greasy haze. My mother came in and asked what was going on, but I didn't know what to tell her besides that I thought he was choking.

A month before that I had met a woman who told me a horror story of her son breathing in part of a Christmas ornament and it getting lodged in his windpipe. The hospital hadn't believed her that he was choking on something because he was still drawing in air through a tiny little hole in the top. They had to get X-rays to find it. I also watch a lot of the discovery channel from time to time and those shows about people having anaphylactic responses to bed bug bites or the like that almost kill them continue to freak me out for a long time afterward. Staring at my child who was obviously not breathing well, I couldn't think of anything else.

My mother scared him a little bit more by starting to talk very loudly until I said, "Go get me the phone."

For the first time in my life I dialed 911. By this time the thick haze was swirling around me, and the clanging sound was almost deafening. I told the operator that my son seemed to be choking and the address. She answered, "Okay, we need to monitor his condition I want you to let me know if he starts to turn blue."

In my panic stricken completely befuddled state, I thought that meant that they weren't going to send an ambulance until he started to turn blue, so I responded, "But he's choking. He's barely breathing."

She once again said, "Okay, but is he turning blue?"

Feeling desperate, like I was in a negotiation for my son's life I repeated once more, "He can't breath, he's shaking, you need to send someone right away."

"The ambulance is on the way ma'am," she informed me, "We just need to know if his condition gets any worse."

Relieved I handed the phone to my mother and sat down on the toilet with the Boy in my lap. In another minute the bathroom was full of friendly paramedics in blue uniforms examining my son and speaking calmly to me about what might be going on. The noise in my head subsided a bit. They told me they were going to take him in and we started to move out to the ambulance, me carrying the boy. My mom and I had a running conversation as we moved down the hall that went like this.

"I guess the girl should stay here with you while I go since she hasn't woken up yet."

"Yes I'll watch her, what do you need?"

I looked down at my self in my pajamas and around at all of the paramedics and responded, "A bra. Oh, and my purse. Oh shoot, I forgot it at grandma and grandpa's house today, it has all of the insurance information in it."

I panicked for a minute while the paramedics assured me that it would be alright they could deal with that later. After all, we were in Canada and everyone has health care in Canada if they are a resident, it's mandatory, and paid for if you can't afford it. They assured me that the paperwork could wait until tomorrow. As I was about to walk out the door my mother shoved a lacy blue bra into my hand and a big wad of change in case I needed to make phone calls from the hospital.

I climbed into the back of the ambulance holding my now calmer son in my arms, a fistful of change, and my underwear. Once we sat down they gave me some oxygen and asked me to hold it close to his nose. For some reason I was obsessed with getting my bra on, and not just because it really hurts me to go braless for very long and I was still breastfeeding the Girl at the time, but more because I felt naked without it on. In my now completely addled state i decided that it would be a good idea to try and put it on under my shirt in a moving vehicle while holding a three-year-old boy in my lap, and oxygen tube and trying not to drop the fistful of change. Somehow I managed, though just thinking about how it must have looked to the paramedics still makes me blush.

Upon arrival at the hospital, did you know they have an entirely separate section for children brought in by ambulance that is away from the noise of the ER, the pediatrician informed me that it was croup. I hadn't heard of croup except from the Anne of Green Gables movie, I didn't even know that kids still get it. Now I know that croup is normal in children and is caused by their throats swelling shut due to a combination of cold virus, irritants in the air, and a horizontal position. I also know that cold fresh air, and cold drinks and popsicles help loosen up the throat again so that they can breath easier. They gave the Boy a steroid to drink to further relieve the swelling since it was fairly bad and sent me home with a just in case dose for the next evening. He has had several episodes since that night, but we've never needed to return to the hospital.

That is why last night, when I heard the Girl wheezing and struggling to breath I simply put a second pair of pajamas on her, opened up the window over her bed all the way and filled her sippy cup with ice. The Genius Husband held her in his lap upright until she fell asleep again and then, in a moment of sheer brilliance, laid her down with a pillow under her neck in CPR position for maximum openness in her throat. She slept most of the night, albeit restlessly, and I lay awake most of the night listening to her laboured breathing. I may now be an old hat at treating croupy toddlers, but that doesn't mean I'll ever forget the panic of feeling that my child could die in front of me, it makes me a very light sleeper on the nights when croup visits our house.


Happy Passover
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