Monday, February 29, 2016

Allow me to express how done I am

People often express surprise that I can manage five children all day. This not only misses a critical point (my elder two frequently escape to my mothers), but misunderstands the nature of children in a large family. It is not about the number of children. It is about the number of chaos-causing children. That means it's really about the number of children five and under. And also, if you happen to have any children who have earned the nickname Honey Badger, that would also be a bad thing, sanity-wise.

This right here is a video about my fourth-born child.

So, third-born is highly sensitive. And I was comforting him, which allowed me to take my eyes off of the Lollipop-Honey Badger child.

This was a terrible mistake.

I allowed her to go an entire five minutes unsupervised. Let us recount how she spent them.

First, she opened the door to the bathroom, as she knows she is not allowed to do. Then she guided her younger brother, Gummy, into the bathroom. He is the reason the bathroom door must be closed, as he is very interested in the toilet. Then she handed him the spare roll of toilet paper and stood back to watch what would happen.

What happened was that infant son shoved (SHOVED) the toilet paper down the toilet and flushed. Or she flushed. Someone flushed, and down went the toilet paper, and up came the toilet water. And it was at this point that I heard a suspicious sound and was roused from my attempts to comfort my third-born over his distress that various other members of the family had had the temerity to leave the house.

Temerity:  the quality of being confident and unafraid of danger or punishment especially in a way that seems rude or foolish

I tried to mop it up. Lollipop kept trying to tramp into the room and wade in the toilet water. After the third attempt I yelled, "Get away!" which set Firefly off into an entirely new emotional meltdown. Lollipop was not too upset. She took the stuffed animal she was holding and tossed it into the toilet water, then ran away.

After I had unplugged the toilet and mopped up the bathroom, I realised that the toilet water had run as far as the girls' room. Where the girls had been constructing a fort. With all of their bedding.

So I'm doing laundry tonight.

The problem with the notion of family planning is that you don't get a brief on a potential child's personality before you get pregnant. Anyone could tell that fourth-born and third-born could not co-exist in the same home without their mother needing to resort to heavy drinking, but how was I to know that before I knew either of them?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Fail Baby

I was reading back in this blog, and I found an entry where I suggested that perhaps I should stop feeding the kids. They make an unholy mess whenever they eat, especially the little ones. In addition, if they were hungry they'd have less energy to destroy things when they're not eating.

My youngest son needs to stop taking me so literally.

I was slightly suspicious when I noticed that my two-month-old was wearing his sister's preemie clothes. It seemed he had been wearing these clothes for, well, a long time. Say, for two months. So I popped him on the kitchen scale (picture some shenanigans with a really big mixing bowl and a receiving blanket) to get an idea. And while my kitchen scale is not as accurate as a baby scale, I don't think it's two pounds off. If it were, my cakes would probably not work out. And my cakes are fine. My baby was not fine.

Well, he was _fine_ in that he was happy, and very pleasant, and really so happy and so pleasant that he was neglecting to mention that he'd really like to be eating a good 50% more milk than he'd been getting.

I generally only find these things out at 4 p.m. Friday, so that I have the whole of Shabbos to fret over them. I dragged the baby over to a pediatrician (it's a synagogue. Of course we have a pediatrician. We have _several_ pediatricians.)

"I'm not telling you not to be concerned," the pediatrician said. "You should be concerned about this."

The next week he approached my husband again. "I think I may not have been emphatic enough with your wife. I didn't want her to be too upset. Maybe I downplayed my concern too much."

Pediatricians are always telling parents not to worry, and here I've got one scared he might not be worrying me enough.

If you ever really want to see a sluggish medical system kick into high gear, show up at your family doctor with a two-month-old wearing preemie clothes. And he was full term.

"You shouldn't feel bad," the various pediatricians told me. "It's not failure."

May I make a humble suggestion? If we want to wash the stench of failure off of this starving-the-baby business, perhaps we could call it something other than "failure to thrive." I'm just saying, maybe we don't need to build the word "failure" _right into the name._ We could call it "exceptional smallness," or "flat growth curve" or "insufficient weight gain." I'm not saying that I would have felt A-Okay about the whole you-are-literally-starving-your-newborn situation if it had had a better name, but I'm saying it wouldn't have hurt.

The lactation consultant is the least exciting place you'll ever be topless. Mine had four different plastic breasts, and an angry looking plastic baby. She told me to go home and institute a feeding regime that would require about 60% of my waking time to be devoted to some part of the baby-feeding supply chain. Nurse, pump, feed the pumped milk, rinse, lather, repeat. So it was totally do-able with four other kids around.

And my mother. Oh, my mother. "I'm failing the baby," I tell her. "You are exactly the mother he needs," my mother said. "He's so lucky. He has a mother who is willing to go the extra mile for him."

I'm not sure that feeding constitutes "the extra mile" in infant care -- I'm pretty sure it's part of the basic package -- but I'll take what I can get.

The baby gained weight. Then he gained a little more weight. Then he went on GERD meds and gained a little more weight still. And he's fine. And he's still got that easy-going personality. You know, the one where he was so easy-going, he didn't mention he was starving.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

My Adulthood is Being Spent Running in Place

There's a truth at the heart of adulthood, and it's this: You're going to spend vast amounts of time and money just to maintain things as they are, or slightly worse. You won't move the ball forward. Not at all. At the end of entire days you'll realise all you've done is gotten back to zero. Except poorer.

An example:
I have a dishwasher. I have had the dishwasher for eight years. Some time about a year ago, my dishwasher lost the will to live. Since then, it's been engaged in a concentrated campaign to force me to put it out of its misery. Attempt have included:
- vomiting crud all over the top dishes
- vomiting crud all over the top dishes and baking it on
- no longer drying dishes
- refusing to close without lifting the door up as you latch it
- refusing to open unless you batter the handle with a screwdriver.

Fool you dishwasher. I'm enjoying battering you with a screwdriver.

Each of these various failings requires one or more complicated, time-consuming, and frequently disgusting fixes. I have soaked the arms in vinegar and then in CLR. I have removed the arms and washed them. I have unscrewed all of the dishwasher parts and cleaned the filter. I have done it again. I have tightened the screws for the door. I have run a cycle just with bleach. I have run one just with CLR. I cleaned out two really gross clogs. I feel pretty free to experiment with this dishwasher, because I don't think it's long for this world anyway, so I'm not suggesting you start taking stuff off of your appliances or anything. Each dishwasher hack rendered the dishwasher in a passable, slightly-less-inferior state.

Well, it became obvious that the water pressure was going, and also the opening-up wasn't going to start happening again. We called in the technician. He informed us that the dishwasher is beyond fixing: the top arm lolls forward, a piece has detached from the plastic basin, and a valve is gone. So we are living with the inferior dishwasher.

At some point in the near future I won't be able to stand it, and I will finally get a new dishwasher.

I do not want a new dishwasher. I was happy with my dishwasher of a year ago, before it decided it wanted to die. Dishwasher technology does not excite me, and I do not lust after china cycles or metal basins. So by the end of this I will have spent a number of very unpleasant hours, the cost of a technician visit, and the cost of a new dishwasher. And what will I get from it? Clean dishes. I _had_ clean dishes. I had clean dishes just last year.

My dishwasher situation is a running in place incident. I spend time, I spend money, and I don't get anything I want from it. I get the status quo ante. But with less money. And irritation.

Other popular running in place scenarios include:
- Almost any reason for which one might see a dentist;
- Tickets, parking or moving;
- Redoing knitting I had thought was fine the first time;
- Teaching my child punctuation, again;
- Any missive or instruction from the municipal government;
- Almost all repairs of anything;
- Replacing or locating lost items, especially those lost by children;
- 90% of housework.

See, the problem isn't that so much of what I do is drudgery, even if a lot of it is. It's that it's drudgery in pursuit of making it to zero. And every morning is a new opportunity to let my life be dictated by the appliance that's stopped working, the newest whim of the local government (twice the parking tickets, half the trash pick up), or the discovery that 53 rows back in this sweater I K2 where I should have P2 and now it looks decidedly odd.

Okay, so this is a worse week than usual, and if it ever stopped raining, I might be more chipper. But I know now why my high school will never invite me to give chipper addresses to graduates. My address would be two sentences: "Large parts of your adulthood will be spent trying to get even to where you were yesterday. And by the time you die, you're going to have done an epic amount of housework."

Thursday, November 6, 2014

I had a baby, and I had a natural childbirth. I regret one of those things.

I am not a hippie. I like a rainbow baby sling as much as the next person, and it's true that I don't own any presentable shoes. But I'm too lazy to be a natural or alternative or whatever you call people who prefer to eat happy chicken. For starters, I do a lot of baking, and all those extra natural eating rules seem to create a great deal of complication to create something that tastes _almost_ as good as the version with sugar, gluten, and red food dye. And I like epidurals. I wish they didn't take it away after the baby is out.

Well Gummy Dinosaur had other ideas. Specifically, he decided to be done with the whole affair in twenty minutes. It is impossible to set an epidural if the baby is out in twenty minutes. Especially if one is spending that twenty minutes . . . well, making a scene.

The natural childbirth books promise that at the end, one looks at one's baby with a powerful rush of endorphins that bears no relation to the inferior, un-endorphined, medicated bonding process. Maybe this only works for intentional natural childbirth. I felt stunned. I felt stunned by the other babies too (except Genomes; That one I was unconscious for), but less uncomfortable. So that's a thumbs down for that experience, and IYH if I get pregnant again I'm having the epidural sited at the 12 week appointment.

My OB says one isn't allowed to have epidurals sited in the first trimester, which is as good a reason as I've ever heard of for aggressive family planning.

The children have dubbed the baby Gummy Dinosaur.

When my brother went home to tell the children that they had a baby brother, the older ones jumped around cheering, then shook hands. Apparently my children think that having a baby is roughly akin to a successful space launch.

When the children met Gummy Dinosaur, Munchkin adored him. Genome adored him. Lollipop was happy enough to hold him and pose for photos. Firefly hid under the Striker bed. I tried to take a picture of that but couldn't quite get them all in the same shot. Will I never have a family photo that captures the essence of my children?

Firefly went home to my mother's house where he and my mother's dog -- she has one of those small anxious headcases of a lapdog -- sulked around the house until I got out of hospital.

Maybe you're considering having five children in fairly close order. If so, I suggest you get very, very fast at doing up car seats. There are a lot of car seats in your future. And booster seats. Our current tally is two boosters, a forward facing, a convertible, and a bucket seat. Having a baby is not a lot like launching a space shuttle, but getting them all to the doctor's office bears a certain resemblance. The man who comes up with a five-point harness that can be easily buckled with one hand will make a fortune.

Gummy Dinosaur is four weeks old. His expression reminds me of an iguana. He is extremely quiet. He grew on Firefly immediately upon leaving the hospital, but the headcase of a dog is still not a fan.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Let's Visit the Dentist

I feel very anxious when I have to visit the dentist.

This is not made better when I have to take a bunch of tiny people to the dentist. Actually, the addition of four smallish children really doesn't make anything easier.

I showed up on time. I am very good about this kind of thing; I get places on time. I don't think they actually anticipated that I would be on time, because the children were seen late. I know this is the type of thing that makes childfree people hate me, but I do think that whenever possible, large-ish groups of children should be processed promptly. This is for everyone's comfort. I do my best in waiting rooms, but it's often not very good.

This time, Lollipop found herself a little old lady and decided to perform Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for her. She also strewed pompoms all over the waiting room, but close enough.

The oldest child informed the dental hygienist that she does not go to school. In fact, she has _never_ gone to school. But not to worry! Because she can read!

The second child informed the dental hygienist that he has a little sister named Lollipop that he loves-loves-loves. He's getting another sibling. He's excited to meet the new sibling. But he loves Lolly. Lolly is so cute and so fun and she should go to the waiting room and meet Genome's little sister.

The third child. Oh, the third child.

First he wouldn't get in the seat. "He's nervous," I explained to the hygienist. "Very nervous." She looked nervous too. I held his hand. He cried. I was holding a large child in the other arm. The older two were milling about. She moved towards him with a very harmless looking instrument and he clamped his mouth shut. "You'll get a prize. Open your mouth and you can get a prize." He opened it perhaps half an inch.

She almost touched him with the instrument.

"Gaga! Gaga googoo!" he burst out. "Gaga gaga!"

"What's he doing?"

This seemed obvious. "He's pretending to be a baby in the hopes of getting out of this."

"He's pretending to be a baby?"

"I a baby! I a baby! Gaga googoo!"

". . . really?"

"Yes, really."

"Is he always like this?"

Yes. He is always like this. His whole life has been like this.

Does anyone know the minimum age for Valium? Preferably the extended release type? Because one of the two of us is going to need a lot.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Return of the Empire of the Zinc Cream Strikes Back. Part Two.

I remember the first time diaper cream was an issue, I actually thought that one of my other children had doused the baby-now-toddler. Oh, how innocent I was. Little did I know that I had accidentally spawned the most accomplished domestic terrorist yet. And this is after two boys.

So, zinc cream. The mistake I made was in feeding them. It is a mistake to feed children regularly. First, it creates a spectacular mess. I don't know why I put food in bowls rather than scatter it onto the floor, perhaps in a festive design. The people who work at fast food restaurants are magic saints of astonishing efficiency to handle the mess of so many toddlers in short order. Second, it gives the children energy. That permits them to then execute their bad ideas. If I didn't feed them, they'd loll about listlessly and harmlessly, without the energy to  destroy my house.

Then, while clearing the dishes, I dropped one on the tiled kitchen floor, where it shattered. Pro tip: buy open stock white catering dishes. I put the children on the couch in front of the TV, locked them out of the kitchen, set a timer for ten minutes, and tried to clear up my little emergency-room-visit-waiting-to-happen. Then I returned to my angels, who were sitting watching television, where they had been placed not ten minutes before.

No wait. They weren't. Firefly was watching his sister, highly amused. And his sister was elbow deep in what appeared to be a pot of marshmallow fluff.

But we don't have any marshmallow fluff.

In ten minutes -- I was timing this -- she got off of the couch, into the children's room, onto a chair, and into the diaper table. She retrieved the pot of diaper cream, unscrewed the lid, and carried it to the living room. Then she spread it all over part of the couch, the floor, the coffee table, and herself.

Because I am the mother of several children, the very first thing I did was memorialise this episode in pictures.

Then I sent it to my husband. Then I changed clothes. Only after all that did I begin the de-lollification of the area. Did you know that diaper cream washed out with dish detergent smells like fish? You know, like my youngest smells now. And my coffee table, and my couch. See that shirt she's wearing? I gave it up for dead. Good bye, shirt. It was a nice run.

Also, I went on Amazon and ordered a high chair with a five-point harness.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A brief break in the Lollcapades

When you are pregnant the first time, you go get a book or you go online, and you read lists of ninety million symptoms. Most of these symptoms you will never experience. Unless you get pregnant five times in a decade, in which case you're going to collect them like a game of Pregnancy Pokemon. And I'm not sure what happens when you catch a Pokemon, but it's probably more fun than, say, a nosebleed. That's an actual pregnancy symptom. I had it with Genome.

So as we near the home stretch of Pending's in utero time, let's review the way each little angel was special to me, even though I couldn't identify their ultrasound photos from a line up.

What was it? Double vision.
Which kid? First.
Why is it weird? Apparently pregnancy makes your muscles relax. Even the eye muscles. Which you probably don't spend a lot of time thinking about, but just so you know, they exist. And if they get too que pasa you will need to consciously bring things back into photos.

What was it? Nose bleeds.
Which kid? Second.
Why is it weird? Because a fetus in nowhere near the nose. What the heck? Absent a tumor or getting socked in the face, adults should not have bloody noses. It's especially creepy to have one while sleeping and wake up to a pillow that looks like you were murdered on it.

What was it? Going postdates.
Which kid? Third.
Why is it weird? Because no one else even made it to 39 weeks, meaning my third child cooked a full month longer than my average, and %@$(*#$%@ was I ready to get. Him. Out. Then he had colic.  Joke's on me.

What was it? Burns.
Which kid? Fourth.
Why is it weird? With my fourth pregnancy, if I even brushed near a hot pan I'd end up with a burn. FYI: I brush up against pans rather a lot. At least three times in the last trimester alone.

What is it? Numb hands and arms.
Which kid? Fifth.
Why is it weird? I'm not talking about falling asleep on my arms and they go number. The arm I'm _not_ sleeping on goes numb. The doctor promises this is some kind of nerve/positioning problem from carrying an engaged baby for, oh, ten weeks, but I don't see why having most of a person hanging out in my pelvis would make my arms fall asleep.