Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Some Mornings are Better than Others...

Some mornings are definitely better than others. This morning, I woke up grumpy. I hadn't slept well, something was worrying me about work, and it's Wednesday, which means I have three more days of making lunches for the kids.

Some days, I'm just tired, and these are the days that everything goes wrong.

This morning, for example, Stow worked desperately to get under Sky's skin. First, he repeated everything Sky said from the moment Sky opened his mouth to say "good morning." Then Stow escalated to randomly shoving Sky every 10 minutes or so. He interspersed these two behaviors with high-pitched (and totally unnecessary) shrieks and the occasional grab for the cereal box Sky was reading in an attempt to tune out his brother.

Sky does MUCH better when he can get up early and get through his morning routine without the noise and activity of his siblings to distract him. He does worse (much, much, much, much worse) when someone decides to bug him. No matter how much I intervene, a sibling bent on giving Sky a hard time can cause a mountain of heartache.

By the time Sky finished breakfast, he was in a state. It manifested itself as this:

Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom. Listen. I really think we should have a garage sale and sell all of my toys for the same price and then buy all new ones. Then I won't have to worry about all the pieces that are missing because Stow keeps going into my room. Mom, Mom, Mom, why aren't you answering me? This is a good idea. Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom. I don't think you understand what it's like. It's not my fault all the pieces are missing. It's Stow's. That's why I think we should sell everything and buy it again. Mom!

Now, just imagine this as a never-ending loop. Background music, if you will, to the other chaos of my morning.

Pink needs to wear green and to take a Dr. Seuss book to school. Do I know where her green t-shirt is? And, where are all of our Dr. Seuss books? She has a play date after school, so she needs her epi-pen and Benadryl, just in case. But, when I go to get the emergency medicine pouch out of my purse, it's gone. Vanished.

Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom. Listen. I really think we should have a garage sale and sell all of my toys for the same price and then buy all new ones. Then I won't have to worry about all the pieces that are missing because Stow keeps going into my room. Mom, Mom, Mom.........

Why is the epi-pen missing? The most likely culprit is Stow. He takes things that aren't his all the time. But, then again, I am so tired and so distracted, I can't remember when I saw it last or if I moved it. I don't normally, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything.

I ask Stow if he's seen it. He stonewalls. Then he tells me he put it in his shark backpack but that it's not there now. In the back of my mind, I am running through scenarios in which Pink has an allergic reaction and I rush to my purse only to find the epi-pen missing. This makes me panic (even though it's all in my head) and my interrogation of Stow intensifies. He gleefully takes Ren on a wild goose chase through the house. No epi-pen.

I'm irrevocably unnerved.

Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom. Listen. I really think we should have a garage sale and sell all of my toys. Mom, why aren't you listening? Don't you care?

I put together a back-up emergency medicine bag with a spare epi-pen and a new box of Benadryl, and I wonder if Stow ingested the allergy medicine at some point. The purse sits high on a shelf, not easily reached or put back into place by a three year-old. It's a mystery, but I can't untangle it.

I look at the clock. Twenty minutes to bus, and I haven't had a shower, Stow is not dressed, and Pink's hair, which she didn't comb after her bath last night looks a lot like a complex series of bird nests. Ren is irritated because I have started to yell. He takes over so I can get ready for work.

In the seven minutes it takes me to shower and get dressed, Stow has fallen down some steps. He tells me Sky pushed him. Ren tells me Stow brought it on himself--he was shoving and hitting Sky, and Sky doesn't know his own strength, even in self-defense. I get a bandaid and an ice pack, and  I go into a rather long explanation of how to respect each other and care for each other as I am also making sure they have socks and shoes and backpacks and hats and gloves and lunches. The seven minutes I spent in the shower was enough to help me stop yelling.

As we wait Sky takes advantage of the uneasy silence to launch back into his diatribe:

Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom. Listen. I really think we should have a garage sale and sell all of my toys for the same price and then buy all new ones. Then I won't have to worry about all the pieces that are missing because Stow keeps going into my room. Mom, Mom, Mom, why aren't you answering me?

My nerves are frayed. Ren's nerves are frayed. We need him to stop. I try a logical response:

"You know, buddy, if you sell the stuff at a garage sale, you'll only get about 10% of the original cost back. So, if I bought it for $20, you're only going to be able to sell it for $2. You won't be able to buy as much."

This is just enough to send him careening in a different direction.

You HAVE to do something about Stow. I just can't take it. Plus, why did you guys get me a solar robot for Christmas? You know the sun isn't bright enough in the winter for it to work. I just don't understand why you guys don't get me........

At this point, I send him outside to wait for the bus. Stow, meanwhile, takes off his hat, gloves, and boots, and start climbing up and then rolling down the steps over and over again. Ren decides Pink's hair needs another comb through. Pink refuses. Cries. Keeps crying but begrudgingly goes to the bathroom to get her hair combed for a second time.

The first bus comes. Pinks rushes to get her boots on but is hampered by Stow who is so intent on giving her a goodbye hug, he knocks her down. Sky is still ranting as he walks down the driveway toward the bus. I hope he stops before he gets on, but I can't be sure he will. Five minutes later, Stow's bus comes and we frantically try to get all his snow gear back on him for the third time this morning. He trips gleefully down the driveway and on to the bus and then waves at us from the window, blowing kisses as the bus pulls away...

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Breaking Up Isn't So Hard to Do After All

We said goodbye to a longtime member of our family last week. We'd been preparing for the end for nearly a year, but this this past Sunday, departure became imminent. 

That's when our washer of nearly eleven years decided to stop working. Of course, it did this with a washer drum full of water (and, therefore, of sopping wet clothes) and on a day when 1) we had a ton of laundry to do, and 2) very little free time to figure out what to do about a broken washer. Plus, one of the kids was complaining of a stomach ache.
So long, farewell, alverderzane, good night...
Months ago, when the ball bearing started to go, I looked into having the washer fixed and quickly realized it wouldn't pay to have it repaired. People told me the end could come in a matter of days, weeks, months, or even years, so we decided to wait. And watch. (And listen -- since the machine screamed every time it drained, sounding vaguely like a room full of 12 year-old girls at a Justin Bieber concert. Or, a dying cat. Or, some combination of both.) 

We listened to the machine scream for months and months and eventually got to the point where we could ignore it completely. I suppose we could've sent the washer to the appliance graveyard earlier, but, you see, we just weren't ready to let it go. Before you imagine this is due to some sense of nostalgia associated with washing newborn baby clothes or something equally sweet and noble, I feel I should be honest here. We didn't want to replace the old washer because we were still trying to recoup our losses from paying to store and/or move the darn thing so many times. Even though the washer was 11 years old, we'd only used it for 8. The other three years (first while we lived in Japan and then when we moved into a rental that only had room for a stackable washer/dryer combo), we paid monthly storage fees for it. We also paid to move it four separate times. To get that money back, we needed to use the machine for at LEAST another half a century. 

Stow saying goodbye.

It wasn't meant to be, though. So, we scooped out the water, wrung out the clothes, and said farewell to our not-so-trusty old machine. We also learned that sometimes it really is better to just sell something instead of lugging it here and there and everywhere, especially if you're leaving the country for a spell.


Normally, Ren and I go through a long, ponderous process before we make any major purchase. But, Stow had a tummy ache, and with midterms and parent-teacher conferences on the horizon, I knew I had a very narrow, 90-minute window in which I could get to the appliance store and purchase a new one before having to wait for at least two weeks. So, I did something I never do--within minutes of learning the washer had washed its last load, I left to buy a new one.

In the end, we got this:

So. Shiny. 
I'm really hoping I don't regret this impulse purchase. For what it's worth, I DID spend 45 minutes standing in the middle of the store googling washing machine reviews on my smart phone. Plus, they were having a President's Day sale, and you KNOW I can't resist a good sale.***

***Ren told me I shouldn't tell you about how we bought the floor model in order to save a little extra money only to have the delivery guys accidentally drop it off the back of their truck and then try to convince us to take it by saying it looked fine and that they didn't have any more in stock anyway. I guess he didn't want me to tell you that story because he was afraid I'd brag about getting a brand-new-straight-from-the-box machine for the price of the floor model when the manager learned his guys were trying to convince us not to worry about a little four-foot drop to the pavement. Ren thinks you will all be annoyed by our dumb luck, but given how things tend to go for us, I figure it's safe to assume that no one reading this blog will accuse us of being too lucky.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Just when I think I've got a handle on all the craziness in our lives, we end up in the hospital with a major asthma flare.

Pink P hasn't had an asthma episode for over TWO years. In fact, her asthma has been so well-controlled that she has been off of her maintenance medicine for months and months, and she almost NEVER uses her emergency meds. I mean, I still send the emergency inhaler and talk to her teachers about it at the start of every school year, but I kinda thought we were done with asthma.




Only, it's not terribly funny. It's not funny to be awakened at 1 in the morning by a kid who says she can't breathe. It's not funny to be so tired (from the lack of sleep caused by daily 4 a.m. wake- up calls from a three year-old) that you don't really register how serious the symptoms are. It's not funny that once you understand what's happening all the interventions seem to work (if only briefly) until suddenly none of them are working. That moment during the asthma flare when you realize that you're not going get ahead of it no matter what you do and that you have to go the the ER? That moment sucks. And, what's worse is when people at the ER finally get the pulse ox monitor on her finger, and you realize her O2 levels are hovering around 90%. It's not funny watching your child breathing so hard it looks like she's just run a 440. Worse is watching her do it for HOURS until all the medication finally kicks in.

It turns out that Pink P's asthma is not gone nor is it being well controlled like we thought. Luckily, she was only in the hospital for a night, and every day her lung function seems to be improving. But, I am going to have to start worrying about Pink's asthma again, and I am not sure I can manage the worry.

See, we have a lot going on on a daily basis. Some days Ren can't walk. We don't know when or if his back might get better (though we kind of assume it won't). Sky and Stow still very much struggle with sensory and communication issues that make chaos part of our daily lives. Sky gets picked on by kids who don't know him and makes some colossally bad decisions when he fails to read non-verbal cues or to properly interpret what is being said to him. Pink P still has a peanut allergy. And asthma.

There are so many things over which we ultimately have very little control, and I deal those things and the fears they can cause by tidying them away in a tiny compartment in my head (I imagine it as a kind of treasure chest with a very large skeleton key for the lock). This is how I function. I know that worrying about what I can't control will only make me crazy, so I deal with what I can and try not to dwell on what I can't.

But then we have days like last Friday, when one of those contained fears blows off the hinges and bursts out of the box demanding to be acknowledged.

We've all been a bit traumatized by Pink's hospitalization. None of us expected it, and it has reminded all of us of the many things we have to be afraid of. Yesterday, through tears, Pink told me she wished we could go back in time when "life was better" and "all these bad things didn't happen to us." I'm the parent, so I said what I was supposed to -- that our family is awesome and that we have the strength to overcome these challenges, that there are all sorts of neat things going on now and that there is a lot to look forward to in the future. But, I said it fighting back tears myself because in a lot of ways, she's right. It's not fair. This stuff is hard for anyone and especially for kids.

Over the next few days, I'm sure I'll figure out how to repair the hinges and get all of my worries back into the box. The kids' anxieties will fade, and we will get back to the hum that is the chaos of our daily lives. I don't know if that's right, or healthy, or good.** I can tell you this, though. Life is hard. Helping kids process the hard stuff is even harder. All we can do is keep getting up in the morning and believing that we will find the strength and grace to face whatever the day throws at us, knowing that when we fail we still have tomorrow to try again.

**Our family therapist seems to think we're doing okay, so I'm going to go with that.