August 24, 2011

What dreams may come... come now!

It’s been at least three weeks and, truth be told, I’m not really sure when the last time was that I had a full night of uninterrupted sleep. I’m pretty sure there was a night in June? This happens from time to time and usually tapers off after a month or two. In the middle of an insomnia phase, though, boy howdy. It’s fun for the whole family.

I don’t only just stay awake or wake up frequently to watch the clock. I wander, aware in the back of my mind that none of this is real but unable to stay in bed. I get up, talk to myself, respond to urgent problems like being convinced I have to get FULLY dressed at 2 A.M. I go into the kids’ rooms, I have nightmares and run screaming into the closet, I yell at my husband for not getting up and believing me when I tell him that Cici has fallen out the window and needs medical attention. (He knows the drill and ignores me completely. In the event there ever really was a night time emergency, he wouldn’t know about it ‘til morning.)

At this point, a full sense of unreality has begun to make itself fully at home in my head. I can usually pull it together in the morning after an initial period of total desolation. Then the coffee and the regular business of life takes over. But when mid-afternoon hits, usually right around the time I need to pick up my kids from school, EVERYTHING GOES WONKY.

My eyes won’t work. Literally, my vision becomes impaired, focusing in and out randomly. My daughters’ unending habit of repeating their questions 47 times suddenly comes in very handy since I simply can’t process the intricacies of language the first 46.

So I sit down. I reach for the remote. Jack is handed a very large bottle and several toys that are probably inappropriate for his age and will therefore entertain him for much longer.

TV on, baby distracted, I lose it— consciousness, that is. Oh, not entirely. The mom in me won’t allow my hold to completely disintegrate while my kids are with me. But for the most part I let the Electronic Babysitter step in and just collapse back on the couch.

I can’t really go on like this for too much longer or bad things will happen, so I’ve had to pull out the big gun. I’m not talking about Tylenol PM, Benadryl or other, high end, sleep aids. No no. It’s time to get SERIOUS.

It’s time for the Intellectual’s Devotional.

This book has rested on my night stand for years. Like my bedside Bible, it doesn’t always get a lot of use. But when I need it, when I really NEED it, it’s always there for me.

Made up of mini-primers on philosophy, science, literature and everything in between, it’s 365 pages worth of detailed information to “help you roam confidently with the cultured class”.

In other words, in anywhere from two to five pages, I settle into a level of deep sleep comparable to what I and the 100 or so other students in History 101 experienced my first year of college.

It’s better than the best narcotics, without the hangover. Best of all, research now says that short study sessions before sleep are significantly more effective for long-term learning than night-long vigils over the books. So not only will I get some rest, I’m improving myself in the process! Pretty soon, I’ll be the star of social gatherings everywhere, able to “impress [my] friends by explaining Plato's Cave Allegory, pepper [my] cocktail party conversation with opera terms, and unlock the mystery of how batteries work.”

Seriously, people, who could ask for more?

August 22, 2011

Home Alone

It’s 10 A.M. and the house is so quiet. I’m sitting on my bed, in my very own room, surrounded by my notebooks and random scribbled index cards. I spend almost no time in this room, though it is arguably the nicest in the house— peacefully painted a barely-there blue, just enough light from the windows and somehow remains cool even in the middle of the afternoon.

And it’s so quiet.

Today is the first day of school. We were up by 6 in the pre-dawn, out the door by 7. The girls were eager to get going, hair for once smoothly brushed (I pulled out the hairspray, ever hopeful to fend off the Bam-Bam chic they usually sport). Anna’s school was all a-bubble with students and parents waiting outside for those doors to first open. I made Anna lead the way in through the masses even though she kept trying to hide behind me. We got her settled in her class, name tag on and teacher calmly saying hello as if she and Anna were old friends.

Anna clung to me a bit as I left, but never left her seat and didn’t shed a tear. As for me… well. No tears were actually shed, but I won’t deny a misty sheen to my vision as we walked to the car.

Silvia was much harder. Jack and I walked her in. I helped her pick out a cubby, hang up her Very Own Special backpack (a big deal, indeed), said hello to the teacher and then settled her down at a table to color a picture while we waited for some more kids to arrive.

She wouldn’t color. She wouldn’t face the table, instead turning sideways in her chair and trying to lean into my arms. I waited a few more moments then kissed her pale, scared face, pulled her tight arms from my neck and left. When I glanced back, she was standing by her chair, facing the door, arms crossed in front of her. Watching me.

This time, the misty sheen over my sight was accompanied by a tight jaw and focused breathing. Damn. That was hard.

Instead of working out as I had planned, I took Jack home and we played quietly for an hour or so.

Quietly. No screaming, no thunder-booms of laughter and toys hitting the ground, no pounding feet echoing across hardwood floors. Just me, a baby and some little cars rolling back and forth, their wheels creating a subtle humm-humm between us.

Jack just went down for a nap and here I am— ensconced on my bed, writing on my own time, listening to nothing but the sound of the fan overhead. I haven’t had a full-day away from the girls since the last week in May, when school finished and we decided to keep them out of summer camp to spend their last weeks in Colorado free.

Strangely, I just don’t know what to do with myself. Chores? Sure, but that feels a little like a waste of quiet and solitude. I could watch TV (and by that I mean NOT Sprout or Nick Jr. or the Disney Channel), but again… precious silence too fragile yet to break.

This is so WEIRD.

And the weirdest thing? I miss my girls, big time. After all the stress and irritation of being home with them, locked inside because of the heat, you'd think I'd be doing a tippy-toe happy dance around the house (so as not the wake the baby). I'm surprised at myself, too. By Friday I'll probably have my dance moves perfected. Today though, I really want to call the schools and ask someone to go check on them, make sure they’re not huddled in a corner crying. I won’t, of course. I did that when Anna first started preschool, but I have three kids now. I’m a big, tough experienced mom, thick skinned and blasé about such things. What-EV-ah, they're fine, who cares. Time to LIVE IT UP.

(I’m gonna go hide the phone now, before I crack and get myself officially labeled as “THAT” mom.)

August 15, 2011

Sleep Training in reverse

You all remember, if you have kids, those first months (or years) where you walked around in a zombie-like stupor most of the day, soaked in the rancid marinade of sleep-deprivation. As a breast-feeding mom with my first child, I even worried about drinking too much coffee to sustain me. The chance it could filter through and keep my infant EVEN MORE awake was worse than caffeine withdrawal. I did get over that fear pretty quickly when it became clear there was no real way, mathematically, she COULD stay awake more. Anna would literally be up constantly. She’d fall asleep attached to me, wake up screaming every 30 minutes or so, then take up to an hour and a half to soothe back to sleep. Then it would begin again. All night long.

Torture. If the government really wanted to get information from someone, they should just strand them with a days-and-nights reversed newborn. A spy would cry for mercy after a week.

Eventually, just as with potty-training or any other life skill babies have to learn, sleep triumphed. For Anna and Silvia, it was about when they were a year old. Jack was six months old, for a very important reason and not just because he is totally awesome (which he is).

I let him cry. After four months of colic and finally overcoming the shock of three kids, I felt a lot less nervous about sleep-training. Basically, my guilt didn’t have the energy to override my need for seven hours of unconsciousness. It took about a week and we were there.

All that time, all those years, all that energy focused entirely of getting my children to SLEEP. Yet today, I walked into my daughters’ room at 6:45 A.M., turned on the light and shook them both awake. I wrestled them into clothing and marched them downstairs. By 7:30 and they were up, dressed and combed (but not fed), despite much protesting.

What the hell?! I woke a child up, broke the cardinal rule of parenting? My mommy-self from years back wants to slap me around the head and lock me in a closet.

Here’s what has happened. School starts in a week and everything is flipped over on its messy-haired head. Anna has to be at the bus stop at seven in the morning, Silvia at preschool (three days a week) shortly after that. Instead of trying to get my little ones to sleep past sunrise, I’m now struggling to get them up before the first glow of dawn.

A whole new journey of sleep-training has begun for us all. In my experience from the last school year, I know it’s also something we’ll have to re-visit again and again throughout the school year, getting harder as the mornings get darker. My kids don’t want to wake up. Six years ago I’d never have believed how annoying that would be.

Fortunately, I can now rely fully on the healing power of that delicious hot beverage (that I seem to mention lovingly every day), coffee. Because the only way they’d get a taste of it now, filtered or otherwise, is if I handed it to them in a brightly colored cup. And as much as I do want them to wake up without a fight... that’s not gonna happen.

I don’t share. That coffee is MINE.

August 10, 2011

Oh, brother or, in this case, sister

The girls always run up to Jack’s room whenever he wakes up to cheer him on until I get there (i.e., to keep him occupied while I limp towards the coffee machine like the addict I am). This morning, instead of the usual jumping, yelling and giggling I heard all kinds of shouting with no giggles at all.

“You get out! We don’t NEED you in here!”

Silvia, expelled so rudely from the room, plopped herself down on the floor of the hallway. Tears in her voice but more mad than sad, she tossed back at the closed door, “Yes you do! You’re my sister and you’ll ALWAYS need me!”.

Even with my irritation at the 6:30 A.M. screaming match, I couldn’t help but smile. Wise words from a 4-year-old.

Sometimes all these kids seem like... well, a whole hell of a lot of kids. It’s always so LOUD and some days there is way more fighting than communion. I’m always Mama in the Middle, called on to mediate. I find myself saying, “Work it out or walk away!” almost as much as I say, “Because I said so!” and of course, the tried and true, “NO!”.

And Jack is only one! It seems like too long a road to imagine them all grown up. But seeing as I have myself kind of done the growing-up thing as have many dozens (okay, hundreds) of people before me, I know eventually they’ll get there. My cousin, after many years with her life centered around the basic wants and needs of her kids, just started back at work now that they’ve reached a certain level of teenage independence. The mind boggles.

When that happens, as the parent becomes smaller and their own lives become bigger, it’s the people with your shared history who come along for the ride more than anyone else. Whether you believe it or not, eventually, your brothers or sisters are the ones whowill know why you tick, the people you called at 3 A.M. when you needed an illicit ride from some forbidden location like The Waffle House or a military base (theoretically, of course). They remember that awful nickname you had when you were six and love Hudson Hawk as much as you do in a visceral sort of way (or is that just my brothers?). When you lose your mind and maybe spend some time in the psych ward, they're the ones who drop it all to be there before you can even ask.

You don't always get along, you probably piss each other off more than any other person in the world and all that shared history can sometimes be as much of a burden as it is a blessing. But in the words of my wise little daughter, you’ll always need them.

Five minutes after being kicked off the island, Silvia was again running about with Anna, circling their brother on the floor as he tried to drink his morning bottle, preparing their joint plan of attack morning game. They communicate in a language I don’t speak. And that’s as it should be.

So every time I get overwhelmed, frazzled, furious and generally over-mom-ified, I try to remember that I already gave them the best thing EVER, each other, which in turn makes me, you know, totally awesome. Eventually my kids will understand that... and then maybe they’ll stop begging for cookies, Angry Birds stuffed animals, candy rings at the checkout counter and "just one more show". Hey, a girl can dream.

In the meantime, until this day of revelation arrives and they thank me (by the way, thanks mom!), I’ll stick to mohitos, cappucino and solo escape fantasies to help drown out the fighting.

August 08, 2011

Shut up! And also... yum!

It hurts, I'm not going to lie. I am out of shape and it HURTS. Lunges, squats! Get down low! Pulse it ladies, only 16 more! ONLY?! This from the gorgeous blonde in the front who wears those lightweight tanks with the shelf bras and actually gets support from them.

It sucks but I'm there. I get up, I rally the troops, I run back and forth from the car three times before we make it out the driveway. I forget my deodorant (sorry). I've been getting off my (not so firm) ass and making it to class. I am there for a purpose. I would NOT be there if there wasn't a goal firmly (Ha! I'm so punny!) within my view.

Apparently, though, the three ladies in the back of the room have a very different goal. They get up early, put on the unflattering stretchy clothes (and make-up, what's up with that?), take the time to set up the step and get all the weights and bars and mats and whatnot.

Then they chat. FOR THE ENTIRE HOUR. Occasionally they flail their weights around in the general movement of the exercise but more often than not they're still doing vague knee bends after the rest of us have moved on to floor exercises.

I try and ignore it. Everyone tries to ignore it, including the instructor. I catch her glancing at them in the mirror more and more and then the little comments start. "You really need to THINK about the muscle contraction here. You need to FOCUS on your form. Don't CHEAT yourself." As in, shut up and get 'er done, dammit!

So to these ladies, I'd like to offer some friendly advice. If you have so much to say, please go to Starbucks, it's right around the corner, down a few lights on the left. Get a cup of coffee. Settle into one of the comfy couches and have a good natter (I'd lay off the scones though, because I haven't seen you break a sweat yet). Also, get the hell out of my class before I start throwing weights at your head. It'll be the light ones, since I'm still working up to the heavier ones and that's a lot of shoulder work. But it'll still hurt. Much love and kisses, Megan

On the bright side:

I have discovered heaven, neatly disguised as a healthy protein and calcium rich snack, Oikos Greek Yogurt with caramel. They write the caramel part really small on the label, as if to say, it's nothing, it's no big deal, you are still being delightfully diet-y (if that's your thing). But it's SO GOOD. It tastes like pudding and it's creamy and cool and SO GOOD. In my house, it is simply referred to as Mommy's Special Yogurt. They also have a chocolate one, but it's not as tasty.