Tuesday, February 24, 2009

That Was When I Ruled the World

In my English classes, we are starting on the period in British history known as The Restoration (or The Enlightenment or The Age of Reason or any of several other names), which happened around the same period of time that the colonies grew, revolted, and became America. Since so much of the literature we read in this period consists of social commentary and satire, I spend a little more time on background information than usual, and I had my students presenting on various aspects of the period in groups today.

I also had a student selling girl scout cookies in my fourth period as the kids entered the room. So I waited until after the "Relevant Dates and Milestones" group went and mentioned the Boston tea party to charge my cookie tax, paid in cookies. They thought this was hilarious but did not pay up until I insisted "Y'all think I'm kidding. I want my cookies! If you don't want to pay, you can dump all your cookies in the Boston Harbor in an act of protest." They laughed all the way up to my desk to pay me my cookies. I collected five Thin Mints, a Trefoil, a Samoa, and a new flavor called Dulce de Leche.

When I was done I said "Now I'm going to get fat and it's all your fault. I'll have to charge you a fat tax."

It's good to be queen.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Out the Poop Chute

My baby got sick. As in, sicker than any of my four kids has ever been in my eleven-plus years of motherhood. Sometime around 4:00 a.m. Sunday morning, Genevieve cried and asked to come to our room. I brought her to bed, and instead of wanting to nurse as I expected, she seemed to fall instantly and deeply asleep...for thirty seconds, until she threw up. After a complete strip down of bed, baby, and mom, we layered towels over the clean sheets in standard toddler-vomiting procedure so that they could be stripped away one at a time as needed. Sadly, the towels weren't enough to prevent two more changes of sheets before 10:00 a.m., especially once things started coming out the other end as well.

For those of you who don't know her personally, Genevieve is a little cricket bug. On a good day she weighs about 24 pounds, soaking wet. A full day of being unable to hold down a sip of water while any reserves she had seeped out the back door quickly took its toll. Sometime around 6:00 I was changing her clothes again and she was unable to stand up on her own. I called the pediatrician's after-hours nurse, who called the doctor on call, who confirmed that I needed to take her to the emergency room. I loaded up a diaper bag with extra clothes, a towel, diapers, wipes, and plastic bags and headed to Baptist East.

The emergency department at Baptist is undergoing renovations, and so is the parking lot. After circling a few times, I sucked it up and parked in the garage, which meant I had to walk about six blocks carrying a suddenly-heavy 24 pounds of half-awake toddler and an overloaded bag, along with my purse. Fortunately once we reached the E.R. we only had to wait about half an hour, during which time she threw up the water she'd drunk in the car.

The nurse and doctor we saw were wonderful. The nurse remarked immediately that Genevieve's eyes were very sunken and that she would most likely need IV fluids. The doctor concurred, and soon my poor baby girl was being gently but firmly swaddled in a sheet with one arm pinned to her side, then strapped onto an immobilization board with giant octupus-like blue velcro straps so that she would not injure herself by fighting during the insertion of the needle. She was so weak that all she could do was wimper "Mommy, mommy, mommy" pitifully as I stroked her hair and mumured soothing reassurances while fighting back tears of my own.

Once the needle was in, the nurse quickly took blood and a rectal temp, which was 101.2, and then released her to sit in my lap during the actual receiving of the fluids. She also injected some Zofran into the IV line to stop the vomiting, then left us alone for a bit. There was a wallpaper border of jungle animals at chair-rail height all the way around the small room, and after about five minutes, I pointed out the elephants to Genevieve. For the first time all day, she perked up a little and responded by talking about all the different animals, explaining which was the Daddy and which ones were herelf and her siblings. I was so relieved that I almost cried again. The nurse came in and said she looked noticibly better already and chatted about Genevieve's apparently excellent veins. I told her she must have gotten them from her father, because when I gave birth to that child it took every nurse in the hospital to get my IV in successfully. She looked at my apparently veiny hands and scoffed at the lack of expertise. I think the issue is that mine roll when someone tries to stick them. Anyway...

The doctor came back in and explained how the Zofran works and said he'd give me a prescription for more that could be taken orally if needed. He also explained that now that she was hydrated again, the diarrhea would likely reappear, which it did before we even left the E.R. Over the next two days it really never let up, which added an almost bloody butt rash to the mix of her misery. By Monday she was mostly better but cranky, and by Tuesday she was just plain crabby and over it. She really went 72 hours without eating, so it will probably be a while before she's 100% again. Somerset woke up puking this morning but already seems to be doing better, so I'm hoping it won't hit those of us over 30 pounds as hard, if at all.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Breathing Room

It's funny how being in a different space makes everything, well...different. As we settle into the new abode, I can't help being surprised by some of the things I'm noticing. Some are not so much surprising as eye opening, I guess.

I once read an article by an anthropologist who had spent time studying the effects of overcrowding on mice and, later, on people. Well, not just overcrowding but also a shortage of essentials like food and clean water. Long story short, the mice ate their babies, and the humans let theirs wander into the fire and found it funny, or deprived their loved ones of anything they themselves could get their hands on, even if it was something the loved ones needed and they themselves did not, like medicine for a specific illness.

I wasn't quite to the point of eating my young in the small house, but I was getting close. For a long, long time, that house was fine. It seemed to grow as we grew. I felt that people did not really need as much space as we Americans tend to think we need, and I still believe that. But somewhere in the past year or so, suddenly we popped a seam and the house went from cozy to tight like your skinny jeans 20 pounds later. My response to that too-tight feeling was mainly to hide out in my room, yelling at any child who tumbled into my space, and swearing that I hoped my kids either never had kids, or lived far away before they did so that I would not be expected to babysit. Because honestly, for a while now I've been feeling that if I can just get my kids grown and out of the house, I never want to see another child again as long as I live. Ev. Er. And that's a shame, because my kids are beautiful and smart and funny and sweet. But they're also kids, which means they're often spazzy and loud and whiny and needing something, anything, right that minute. Add in the fact that there are so many of them, and the odds that at least one will be doing something undesirable at any given moment go way up. Throw all that into a 1200 square foot house and well, you get the picture.

But now that we have room to spread out, I find myself feeling better. More relaxed and cheerful and less like there's a swarm of spider monkeys climbing up my body and swinging dangerously close to my head. That's not really surprising, but it's still somewhat like waking from a dream in which the bizarre felt normal, and only in retrospect can my rational mind recognize the insanity.

And of course, my being more relaxed and happy has translated to the kids being less clingy and needy. They are even being very cooperative about bedtime, and Genevieve is putting herself back to sleep most of the times she wakes up at night, which is a totally new thing. They're not underfoot while I cook dinner, and they're not fighting over a single couch cushion, b.k.a. "spot!" on the extra-large couch. As a result, I'm spending some time in the evenings on said couch instead of holed up in my bedroom. It's all circular.

Friday, February 06, 2009


Yesterday afternoon, my mom called while I was waiting in the car line to pick the kids up from school to tell me that someone she knew was interested in looking at our house. She was already planning to see another house on the street at 4:30 and was hoping she could stop by ours afterward.

Since we are moving this weekend, my house was at that moment a wreck of boxes and mess that I hadn't bothered to clean, thinking I'd do it all as I packed and purged the house of junk. But I need to sell my house, so I agreed. I walked in the door at 4:00 and started cleaning. I had the forsight to stop by a convenience store and get the girls a treat, (the boys stay later on Thursdays for piano and computer club, so BD would be picking them up), and thankfully they sat happily on a box in my room, sweetly sharing their Cheetos and M&Ms and watching Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for the eleventy-ninth time while I spun through the house like a whirling dirvish. The whirlwind power clean is a maneuver I am exceptionally good at, if I do say so myself, and in an hour I had the house looking acceptable, with a few neat stacks of boxes, packed and unpacked, the main living areas clear with wood floors and surfaces gleaming, the kids' rooms reasonably straight, and kitchen and bathroom at least wiped down with counters clear.

Being able to make a good pass at cleaning in an hour is something I'm going to miss about my little house. As excited as I am about the new house, there is an element of sadness about leaving the our family's home for the past eleven-plus years. When we bought that house, I was pregnant with our first child. I remember painting the living room and stripping the ugly bathroom wallpaper like it was yesterday. I can remember walking into the room we prepared for Calvin and loving the way the light made the room feel peaceful and perfect for a baby. There was the train ride to New Orleans, en route to Katherine's wedding in Pensacola, when I agreed to name our unexpected third child Somerset instead of Veronica if we could move our room into the back den, giving her a room that would not be shared with her two brothers.

When I remember our house in the years to come, I will think about being able to sit on the couch and see the child playing in the bathtub. I'll remember the rare days when I sat in the living room watching snow fall past the big uncovered back windows in the den, and mornings spent on the front porch glider with a baby in the crook of my arm or playing in the exersaucer while the older kids rode bigwheels and tricycles down the neighbor's driveway. I'll think about making ravioli or having cocktails with a group of friends around the big table in the small dining room, laughing and talking smack over the sounds of too many kids running wild in the front bedrooms. I'll miss the walk to the duck pond and the sight of all four kids piled onto the sectional sofa that has been their favorite sleeping spot since we bought it. I'll remember my twenty-five year old self, buying our first house, expecting our first baby, and feeling like an adult but one who wasn't sure how she got to that point or if she knew what to do now that she was there.

Come to think of it, I'm not sure I feel that different now. I still don't feel like a 36 year old woman with four kids and a real job, but my new house certainly feels very grown up. And big! Did I mention all the space? I can already see it filled with our kids and our friends and our beautiful life, and that makes it a little easier to close the 1240 square-foot, one-bath chapter we're leaving behind.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Home again, home again, jiggity-jig

As many of you know, I'm moving this weekend. Into a house with triple the square feet of our current home, and shaped like a square doughnut with an atrium (aka Baby Jail Yard) in the doughnut hole, on an acre, with lawn care included in the rent. With three and a half bathrooms, as opposed to the one we all share now, and five bedrooms. Not only is there an actual master bath, but there is a master closet triple the size of my current bathroom, with built in drawers and shelves and shoe racks, and yards of hanging rods. There's a big, open kitchen with a fancy gas range and double wall ovens and a giant Sub-Zero fridge that inexplicably lacks a freezer. That part is okay, because there's room in the laundry room right off the kitchen for my big free-standing freezer. There's also a toilet in there, but we won't worry about that right now.

I'm probably most excited about all the outdoor living space, because I am an outddorsy kind of girl. But also? The kitchen and the multiple bathrooms and the ginormous closet and all the space, space, space! And doors that close to keep kids out, and the big stone corner fireplace that is identical to the one I grew up with. Did I mention all the space? Oh, and, AND, it's within walking distance of both an excellent elementary school and Calvin's middle school of choice.

I could really only be more excited if we had already sold our current house. We are working on that, and having all our stuff out of the way will make it easier to do some of the small repairs and touch-ups that need to be done. Ideally we'd love to sell it to someone who plans to fix it up/flip it, who doesn't want us to fix anything. A girl can dream, right?

In case you're wondering, we haven't won the lottery. The house is a very 1970s ranch in a good but older nighborhood in not-so-hip East Memphis. It's awesome but a little dated. (The kitchen was redone in 1995, so it's awesome in a 90s way, which is fine with me. Let's be real--I'm kind of 90s myself.) There's a whole lotta grasscloth. So the rent is not as huge as you might expect for a house that size. We are also combining households with my very good friend SAM and her two kidlets. That's right, baby makes nine. I've always wanted to live on a commune. I just never expected it to involve an East Memphis to downtown commute and complicated carpooling arrangements. Oh well, you can't have everything, right? There is plenty of room for all of us, and based on several factors and habits established over the last year, it just makes sense. I predict that changes in the economy and the general socio-political climate will engender more unconventional and creative living situations in the immediate future. Who knows, maybe we will be trail blazers!