Friday, November 30, 2012

Do Your Ears Hang Low?

My new pastime is visiting the pediatrician's office.

We've gone three times in the past five days. Three separate visits for three different kids with three varying ailments. It's just what we do.

I feel like I need to friend the office staff on Facebook since they pretty well already know all of my daily troubles as well as my weekend plans, and I know how their kids' sports teams are doing, what their holiday plans are, what their childhood Christmas decorations looked like (yes, really) and where they like to shop for shoes.

At today's appointment, I asked Dr. M what course we might expect Jack's current illness to take. I wasn't sure if I should snort or hang my head when he responded, "We'll, there's what I tell everybody else, and then there is what I tell your family."

He gets our weirdness. He knows from experience that Murphy's Law applies with a vengeance to my boys and their health.

Among other things (like rare syndromes no one has ever heard of and pretty much the gamut of behavioral health issues) we are particularly known for our cursed ears and their predilection for infection.

Last week, our ENT dug a giant wad of spongy fungus from Jack's left ear. Not really your everyday ear problem, but that's the way we roll.

That office visit was rather like something in a horror film. Let's not go there.

At our house, we plan ear tube surgeries like other families plan summer beach vacations.

Baby is already on the second ear infection of his short life and threatens to follow in the path of regularly recurring bulging red and painfully pus-filled inner-ears like his brothers.

"Maybe Truman won't have as many ear problems," Dr. M optimistically suggested at a recent visit. "You need ONE kid who has healthy ears."

Cluck, cluck, silly Dr. M. Don't you know that simply thinking something should be doesn't make it so?

Nevertheless, I value the concern. And the otoscope. And the endless supply of stickers.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


This evening Jack said a new word.

When his big brother flippantly hopped up onto the kitchen island's counter top and started walking around, I barked, "Dood! What are you doing?" Jack laughed and immediately repeated, with perfect enunciation, "Dood!" He said it a few more times, just to feel how it sounded rolling off his tongue.

Jack has never been able to say Henry's name, though in therapy we have tried to help him attempt it. I'm thinking that Dood is a perfectly reasonable replacement name. This means that because Jack is now capable of saying "momma," "papa," "baby," and "dood," he can almost name everyone in our family. Only Charlie remains. Maybe Chachismo needs a different, more easily pronounceable nickname. Hmmm.

Jack also took up spitting on people and things. He thinks it is hilarious. I think it is boorish. And also a major drag. But if I discourage this behavior too strongly, Jack finds my reaction totally funny and completely validating. Current approach: essentially ignore the spitting.

In other news, we ate crazy amounts of pie this week, which I don't really regret.

We also saw a bunch of movies. This was part of my Survive Thanksgiving Break Master Plan. It worked. Watching "Lincoln" made me grateful I live in this fascinating land. Watching "Life of Pi" made me glad I am not in a lifeboat in the Pacific with a tiger. Watching "Breaking Dawn Part Two" made me realize that I am really really done with that series.

We spent silly time with cousins. We cut a fresh Christmas tree and adorned it with things that the baby likes to pull off and deposit elsewhere in the house.

I gave thanks for a warm house and my boys who fill it; for good food and books (both life-sustaining); for Jeff and for a messy, sprawling, seriously not-boring life.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Few Disparate Observations

A) Jack is equally horrified and ecstatic annually when the pre-lit Christmas tree comes out of storage and once again takes it's place in the corner of the family room. He fears it, yet he also loves it. One might conduct a fascinating psychological study on the dichotomy of emotions wrapped up in the advent of the Christmas tree at our house. Jack "helped" Jeff carry the tree in from the garage by sounding off a few enthusiastic courtesy grunts. He does this when we are lifting heavy things and he is not lifting anything, but watching us with amusement.

B) Family dinners with my extended family are not unlike eating in a raucous and deafening cafeteria, where one must be fast and scrappy in order to survive.

C) When it snows like two feet of snow in early November, it feels like Christmas.

D) Sundays at church with Jack make me want to scream and throw things in the chapel. But he is already doing that, so I refrain.

E) There is peace on earth when former sitters/therapists return from college to visit, and offer to take Jack on a sensory walk away from the chapel.

F) I think I may need to twist the arms of my support group friends into meeting weekly through November and December to help me face the holidays. They may be able to help me piece together the scraps of my mental "health."

G) I shouldn't count on finding any of the dozen or so tubs of frosting I purchased recently to have on hand. They will not be neatly stacked in the cold storage room, ready to top the sugar cookies I baked of a quiet(ish) moment on a Sunday afternoon. This is because they have ALL been secretly injested with a soup spoon, over an indeterminate period of time, by one unnamed person who lives in this house. We know who did it. He knows he did it. And believe me, he is completely without remorse.

H) This bullet features the nickname of the frosting tub offender. Ha!

I) If you are wondering to yourself why I didn't simply whip up a batch of buttercream icing for the homemade sugar cookies, I have nothing polite to say to you right now.

J) It is almost possible to take a Sunday afternoon nap around here without risking the discovery of a Code Brown upon awakening. Just let Jack have the vacuum while you rest. You may not be sleeping because of the din, but you will always know where he is and what he is doing.

K) Babies in little bright green Adidas are ridiculously cute.

L) The new James Bond film is rad. It's darker and less cheesy than many of its predecessors. Daniel Craig doesn't toss out quips like, "he lost his head," while pummeling the bad guys.

M) There is nothing sweeter than a sleepy, happy four-year-old, freshly bathed and tucked cozily into his bunk bed.

Monday, November 5, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, Which Isn't the End of the World

There are two currently popular schools of thought when it comes to "when Christmas-y things should begin happening."

The dispute--between those who favor the moment Halloween is finished and those who like waiting until Thanksgiving has passed--is all over Facebook and the radio and even, to a mild extent, my neighborhood.

This morning as I shuttled the school carpool, my eldest son listened to a few bars of my (totally charming, by the way) She & Him holiday album before asking, "What is this weird stuff?" From her seat, our third-grader carpool charge furrowed her brow and narrowed her eyes at me, while saying, "Isn't it a little early for that?"

I informed them that because I was driving the car, I picked the songs. And if they didn't want to listen to some warm, happy music, then that was their problem.

I'm super nice to be around at 7:55 A.M.

I just don't get why people are grumpy about other people enjoying Christmas.

So they aren't ready to put up a tree and sing carols and bake cookies yet. Fine. Wait until you're ready.

But why do we have to moan and wail about a radio station playing continuous Christmas music starting in early November? Why are we snarky and cynical about our neighbors or Facebook friends who are adorning their homes with lights and holiday decor before we do?

I'm really not sure why we all can't just live and let live on this one. Is it that many people associate the holiday season with stress, and thus do not want to see it sneak up on them sooner than it must? Is it that they want to avoid Christmas Creep, where December is no longer special because the season stretches longer and longer?

Who's to say?

Here is my take on the discussion: if celebrating the season early makes you feel happy, then by all means, please indulge. If the two radio stations (which ALWAYS play "soft" and "cozy" hits, mind you) bother you with their holiday music in November, change the station. Or listen to your iPod and quit bellyaching.

When I commuted 45 minutes each direction to visit my preemie in the NICU twice a day all through the month of November of last year, I listened to Christmas songs on the radio the entire drive. Listening to nostalgic and beautiful songs became something I looked forward to with all the driving back and forth between my baby and the rest of my family. And putting up the Christmas tree in mid-November was a happy outlet that diverted my mind from the gavage feeds and newborn weight gain and milk-pumping issues which otherwise filled my days.

It seems that my Jack is of the "embrace the season" school of thought, like me. Today on his outing during therapy he chose a massive candy cane roughly the diameter of PVC piping at the dollar store, and giggled as he licked it and stickied up his therapist's car on the drive home.

When we went for ice cream later in the evening, I also treated my sons to a substantial helping of Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra, James Taylor, and Vince Guaraldi's holiday hits. I heard no complaining this time.

As we arrived home, we noticed that our neighbor had illuminated his house with tiny red and green lights.

Christmas is coming, folks. The goose is getting fat. And you seriously don't need to let it ruin your day.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


*Author's Note: this post was penned on a day when my children and I have experienced Halloween hangover, which is ironic since none of us drink. You know what I mean. Just keep this in mind as you commence reading.*

Yesterday reminded me that holidays are for normal families.

We (my decidedly not-typical family) tend to tool along moderately well most of the time with our  daily routines specific to each of the boys. But throw a holiday at us with cultural and familial expectations, as well as a whole lot of breaking with those life-saving routines, and you know what happens?

This happens: my family life is like a satellite, while holiday traditions and expectations are like the earth. We cruise along relatively peacefully until we attempt to approach and engage in the holiday, and then we burn up entering the atmosphere.

I do not recall with fondness the irritating and storied history of my children behaving poorly at holiday events, such as:

--The Christmas Model Train Show where young Henry became a horrific spectacle when mom and dad didn't buy him the $2000.00 antique Lionel locomotive he yearned for, and where toddler Jack proved to all the old guy train aficionados who run these gigs that he truly didn't understand NOT touching the train displays.

--An unpleasant string of visits each October to a local Fall Festival which features bouncy castles and giant trampolines, where we struggle loudly and publicly with waiting in line, taking turns, moving on placidly when our turn ends, and coping with crowds.

--The Thanksgiving dinners in our home where our guests have sat awkwardly alone at the table while Jeff and I each addressed different tantruming children.

Halloween used to be sort of a scary day for Jack, but not for the obvious "spooky" reasons. He was terrified of wearing a costume all day at school, parading around the school for crowds of people to eye, and trick-or-treating.

For the first time this year, Jack decided that wearing a costume wasn't all bad. He left it on for almost the entire dance party at school.  He also peacefully ignored the trick-or-treaters who graced our porch, in favor of doing puzzles on his ipad and munching on fun size candy bars while curled up on the couch. This is the good news.

This is the bad: Charlie took over as the kid who wouldn't wear a costume, wouldn't march in his preschool costume parade, and wouldn't trick-or-treat.

Maybe it's my fault for perpetually trying to make the holiday "normal," when we just aren't.