shannon’s mid-day update to a working mother

she who is queen and princess of all she surveys and most of what she doesn’t, who has been almost downright unpleasant company since about halfway through the grocery store, who greeted a delightfully shy two year old girl at the deli counter by swinging her arm as if to hit the poor girl, and who told me repeatedly that she wanted her mommy, and who is eating her lunch after coming directly off the bench of a timeout for hitting her brother while they were in the dining room and i was in the kitchen putting groceries away …

yes, she … she just took a bite of her ham and cheese tortilla, and through her chewing smiled at me and told me she loved me more than chocolate ice cream on a cone in the whole wide world.

breaking up is hard to do

we’re pretty much done with bad news. had enough. not interested. can’t take any more. seriously.

so when shannon walked through the door the other evening and announced “i have terrible news” it was all i could do not to break into tears. and that was before i even knew what was wrong.

and then he hit me. hard. told me that kresta had called him and given her notice.

now, i’m thinking that we haven’t said nearly enough about our daycare situation for anybody to understand how truly devastating this is. kresta and her two daughters — elizabeth, 4 and piper, 2 — have been spending three days a week with eamon and mairin since i went back to work last december. finding kresta was our own personal version of winning the lottery. we could not afford to send both mairin and eamon to the daycare that mairin was attending when eamon was born, and as much as s and i really love our jobs neither of was ready to quit. the search for quality day care is not an easy one — it’s kind of like job-hunting, apartment-hunting, and having a hangover all at once. but after informal interviews with about a dozen people who responded to a craigslist ad, we were ready to meet two women face to face: jamie and kresta.

we liked jamie. she said “holey-moley” a lot, but hey, she’s from the ‘burbs. she was sweet and affectionate and clearly was looking for a family she would feel comfortable with. we liked that. and she was up for trips to the zoo, the park, the children’s museum. she seemed nice and good and fine.

and then we met kresta.

kresta showed up at our front door, piper and elizabeth in tow, about half an hour after jamie had left. the three girls took to each other immediately, tearing around the front yard and hollerin’ up a storm. kresta was smitten with 7-week old eamon, and it was easy to see that she meant it when she talked about loving to care for infants. when piper had an unexpected accident we grabbed a spare pair of mairin’s pants for piper to wear. kresta was mortified — less by piper’s accident than by her own lack of preparedness for it — but i simply realized how natural it was for all of us to look out for each other, to help each other out. in that moment i was sold. kresta and her girls stayed so long playing that she had to call her husband to assure him that she wasn’t being held hostage by psycho-craigslist-posters. it was all i could not to offer the job on the spot.

it took s & me about 4 seconds to talk things over and agree that we wanted to hire kresta. she was thrilled. she’s a PT nursing student and was looking for a position to carry her through until elizabeth starts school — at least a year and half away. perfect. perfect. we were all so happy and it was all so perfect.

and it has been a thing of beauty, this relationship. the kids adore each other. mairin asks about piper and elizabeth all the time when they’re not here, and has even named two dolls (well, one doll and one weird disney-princess-head) after them. she has lengthy conversations with ariel/elizabeth and bald baby doll/piper about thomas & percy & gordon, or about grocery shopping and running errands, or going potty. you know, the stuff of toddlerhood. eamon is smitten by the girls as a group: if he’s having a rough morning it only takes mairin, piper and elizabeth sitting around him singing a song to send him into infant ecstasy, huge toothy grin and arms a-flappin’. mairin is an obedient gem of a child for kresta, eamon doesn’t like to be taken from her arms, piper gives me a hug every morning when i head off to work…it’s a good, good thing.

when kresta needed to register for summer term classes we gave her the password to log onto our laptop so that she could stay home with the kids and just register online. when she told us later that afternoon that one of the classes she needed had been full neither shannon nor i thought much of it. big deal, right? you miss a class here, you take it another time, you fill it in with something else, life and the educational system carry on.

or they don’t. for kresta, missing this class threw her PT schedule off enough to set her back a year — something about prerequisites and how often courses are offered and what she’s eligible for as a part-timer…all stuff i understand and believe but just didnt bother to think about,  having never been a mother in school on a part-time basis. after a lot of conversation with her own family, kresta decided that she couldn’t afford to be set back a year. even though the only way to avoid that is to go to school full time. starting this summer. well, starting may 11. which means the end of our good, good thing.

kresta called shannon and told him over the phone. she was sobbing and so so sorry and so so sad that it was hard for them to get any useful information from each other. so kresta and i talked later that evening, and i got the skinny and we both cried but i told her i understood and would probably have made the same decision myself. and i would have — family first and all that — but still. still.

and now the new craigslist ad is up, and we have three potential new caregivers to interview this week, and everything will work out one way or another. in the meantime, every morning that kresta comes over we three adults look at each other and it’s obvious that we’re fighting tears. kresta says she doesn’t know how to tell elizabeth and piper that they won’t be coming over any more. my heart breaks into a million little pieces when i imagine my weekly monday night conversation with mairin: instead of yes! piper and elizabeth are coming over tomorrow!, i’ll have to tell her no, they’re not coming tomorrow, or the next day. no, honey, even if you set out elizabeth’s favorite dinosaur cup for breakfast she won’t be here.  even if we make pancakes and eat them from the monster plates they won’t be able to come over.  yes, honey, i know you miss them. yes, i know you want to play with them. i know i know i know. i just can’t do anything about it.

so while this will work out just fine, i’m certain, i also feel a bit like this is another cincy-bite-in-the-butt. something was finally working and now it’s not.

okay, so really, REALLY this time, cincinnati, i mean it. enough. please. just for a little while. okay?

smith’s disease

now, there have been any number of ailments — physical, psychological — that, over the years, i might have labeled “smith’s disease.” but this one comes to us from a real honest-to-god doctor (not we fakers with mere doctorates) as a legit diagnosis.

it all started when mairin was outside with her bfitwww, leo. as is her wont, she took off her pants. leo was in shorts, and i was admiring their sturdy little toddler legs, slightly muscled and completely blemish free.

but by the time mairin came in she was covered in little bug bites.

i was stumped, having just seen her milky white gams on parade. she’d gone into leo’s house briefly — did maybe one (or more) of their three dogs have fleas? she’d spilled bubble-soap mixture all over herself — was she having an allergic reaction? she’d been at the zoo earlier in the day — had she contracted some deadly tropical skin disease? but she wasn’t scratching and didn’t really seem to notice, so being the carefree mother i am, i decided i didn’t really need to pay attention either.

not long after that she started acting sick. breathing through her mouth, sitting glassy-eyed and slack-jawed next to me on the couch while i read to her. she leaned her head onto my arm and i realized she was warm. not necessarily feverish warm, possibly only just-been-playing-outside-warm, but warm. so i’m thinking maybe she’s just worn out. it’s been a big day, what with the zoo and the bubbles and the fleas and the tropical insect bites. i decide this is nothing a little tlc won’t cure, so we snuggled and read some more.

but later when i checked her forehead again she was really heating up. so shannon went for the thermometer and eventually (much searching, some battery replacement, and a trip to the store later) we learned that her temp was up at 102. and those bites! there were easily 2-3x more than before, and they looked kinda angry. and they’d spread — in addition to covering her thighs they were behind her knees and down her calves. so she got a nice cool bath and her thomas jammies, and extra kisses and cuddles — at which point we all agreed that the fever was gone, we noticed that the bites had vanished, and mairin celebrated by eating two pieces of pizza before her weary little self was bundled off to bed.

when she woke up at 2:30 am to go to the bathroom i was mildly surprised that the fever was back but shocked to see the return of the bites, flaming angry and red in new configurations. since she was sitting down and leaning forward i checked her back — nothing — but her temp was back up to 103. i decided just to repeat our earlier success: meds, tlc, and back to bed. as usual, shannon was the one with the presence of mind to worry — and in checking the rest of her found that her poor little tummy was covered with the little bites, too. i don’t do my best thinking when i’m exhausted, but eventually shannon convined me that this was a little weird and that maybe we should find out if something was wrong.

an e-visit with dr. sears and webMD left us worried that it might be chicken pox but more generally certain that it was some sort of viral rash. relieved, i dropped off for a few extra zzzs before eamon could wake me up for his pre-dawn, pre-breakfast (like a hobbit, he eats breakfast 3-4 times per day.) when we all finally got up, mairin’s skin was clear, her fever was down, and all was well with her knee-high little world.

until the afternoon. the bites re-appeared, her temp shot up, and she started acting for all the world like she was genuinely sick. so i took a photo and sent it off to dr. auntie erin, who confirmed our suspicions that yes, it was probably a viral rash, that yes, it was a little different that most viral rashes, and that yes, mairin would probably survive it. after erin consulted with a few e.r. colleagues who confimed that yes, what we were seeing was similar but also different to what they might expect to see in a viral rash, the little viral bugger earned its name: smith’s disease.

smith's disease, 2009

smith's disease, 2009

personally, i think a disease that flares up of its own unpredictable accord, flies in the face of traditional medical definitions, and makes you feel alternately miserable and then just fine thank you very much, is really much more a chabries’s disease. but as i said, i’m not the doctor.

you can take the girl out of grad school…

at our university, doctoral candidates’ dissertations must be approved by an outside reader. which approval comes after the committee has reviewed and approved the diss. this can be, as one of my students is learning, incredibly stressful and more than a little unfair.

after getting his reader’s comments my student and i embarked on a revision plan that we both believed addressed the pretty reasonable observations made by the reader. then. then. then his reader read his reviewed dissertation and wrote a second review, twice as long as the first, going into much greater detail about what needed to be changed and why. and refusing to pass the dissertation until all of these changes were made.

i had an hour-long phone conversation with this student pretty late last night. i went to bed angry on his behalf and also revved up with strategies for advocating for him. and so i dreamt of being back in some not-quite-recognizable town where i’d lived before, on a crowded and not-quite-recognizable sidewalk of a street i’d been on countless times before. in front of me were all my graduate school comrades — people i was close to, people i barely knew, people i might not even recognize IRL on an actual street, people i still talk to almost every day. the sidewalk was crowded, and people were jostling each other but also meandering, stopping to exclaim in front of changed store-fronts, to reminisce about hours spent in dark bars, or to catch sight of an old friend and stop/hinder/divert traffic to get to the person for conversation. it was quite sociable and everybody was happy.

except me. i was pedaling furiously on my tricycle, trying to wend my way through the crowd: get out of my way! you’re in my way! you’re slowing me down! but i was so low to the ground — below everybody’s knees, more or less — that nobody really saw me or paid much attention.

teacher/scholar/administrator or toddler? you decide.

the (eerie) ties that bind

a chronology of freakiness:

item 1: in one of the 45-minute naps that passed for a good-night’s sleep, courtesy of  eamon and The Fever That Ate 2009, i dreamt that i was taking care of a young mairin when a skeevy creepoid tried to wrest her from my loving arms. KIDNAPPER! i yelled and hugged her to my chest, trying to run but finding my dream-legs leaden and unmoving. skeevy creepoid dude made another move for her. RAPE! i screamed, and tried even harder to get away. i woke from the dream just as mairin herself, sleeping in the next room, started crying out “mommy, mommy, MOMEEE!” heart pounding, i stumbled out of bed and went to her. she was sitting up in her bed and when i sat down next to her she threw her arms around my neck and would not let go. i reassured her that everything was OK and i would see her in the morning. she kissed my cheek, whispered okay, mom, snuggled back under her covers and drifted back to sleep.

item 2: mairin and leo were playing at their new game in our adjoining front yards: each holds one end of leo’s jump rope and then, keeping the rope stretched to its full length between them, they run around squealing with delight. they have done this a lot over the last few weeks, and they both love it. i have never thought anything of it, except to think that they are too cute when they play together. so i’m holding eamon, watching them play at their game, and suddenly think oh my god mairin is going to hurt herself. and that instant — THAT INSTANT — she tripped and fell. since her hands were busy she didn’t really break her fall with them very well, and so she smacked face-almost-first into the concrete. she lifted her face to me and she was covered in blood from the nose down. i passed off eamon to leo’s mom, grabbed mairin and dashed into the house to rinse her mouth, test her teeth, reassure her she was fine, try to convince her to let me put ice against her rapidly swelling lip, and miss the piece of gravel ground into her gum (never fear, shannon found it as soon as i would let anybody else touch her).

item 3: mairin is walking around the house. i think to myself wow, she’s doing so well with the potty training. WAIT! maybe she needs to go to the bathroom! at which exact moment in time she turns to me, crotch in hand, and says mom, i need to go potty. please give me some privacy.

so there it is. eamon may be the one who refuses to literally detach from me, but apparently some spooky part of me isn’t letting go of mairin. either that, or massive sleep deprivation has launched us into a new astral plane.

you’d think i’d have more to show for it

given that i have lain awake most nights this last week, clever-sounding one-liners running through my head, you might think i’d have written a post or a dozen by now.

the problem with writing ideas born from sleep-deprivation is that by the faint and dull yet somehow buzzing light of morning they have lost their brilliance.

so forget my wit. (wit? what wit? oh, your humor is too cruel.) here’s a snippet from our real life, instead.

m: mommy, where is daddy?

c: on a bike ride.

m: with his friends?

c: no, tonight he went by himself.

m: oh. on his bike?

c: yes, sweetie.

m: mommy, i want to be a daddy.

c: […!…] really?

m: yiss. when i grow up i want to be a daddy.

c: oh. how come?

m: daddies have bikes.

[note: insert your own version of the long and tortured conversation between shannon and carole when carole recounts this conversation to shannon and shannon tells mairin that mommies can have bikes too. who was the better feminist — carole for letting mairin want to be a daddy and so not foisting gender roles upon her but also losing the opportunity to tell her that girls can have bikes? or shannon, for helping mairin see that girls can have what boys have but also reinforcing the notion that mairin could be a mommy if that’s what she wants? i think we’re waiting to finish the argument until at least one of us has had a decent night’s sleep.]

long overdue family-ramble

gus is the laughin’-est kid i ever have seen. he sees mairin, he laughs. he sees his dad, he laughs. (he sees me, he lunges for my breasts, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue.) you blow on his face, he laughs. he wakes up in the morning laughing. and blowing raspberries. which makes him laugh. the kid is amazing. perfect in every way.

mairin is going to be the death of all of us. she has turned into the world’s most loving toddler and smothers everybody with affection. and i do mean smother: she will jump on top of eamon, wrap her chubby arms around his neck, and croon “i love you beebee, beebee-noni-eemon i love you.” i tell her to be gentle. she turns on me with a glare: “i am being gentle, mommy.” and then i am pronounced “gabba-mommy” which sometimes seems to be a step down from “noni-mommy,” but which still comes complete with hug so i think it’s okay.

mairin and eamon are now sharing a room, with mairin bribed out of her crib and into her big-girl bed with the promise of a sticker every morning that she gets up after spending the night in the bed. “mairin’s big-girl sticker chart” has the place of prominence in our entryway, and she has earned herself two stickers in two nights. not too shabby, little girl. of course, she did wake up at 2:24 this morning crying for blueberries, which woke the entire family.

which ruined the first good night’s sleep any of us has had in a week. eamon has decided that while being 6 months is pretty cool, and sitting up and rolling over and chewing his toes are great ways to while away the hours, he would prefer, thank you very much, to spend his days eating like a real  infant: on the breast, every two hours, day or night. especially night. by last sunday i was so frazzled that there was talk of me abandoning the whole stupid family idea and striking out on my own, somewhere, anywhere, without children, so help me god. i’m better now, thanks for asking.

which is partly thanks to shannon, who ordered me A WHOLE BOX OF JENI’S ICE CREAM for my birthday, and so now has renewed status as THE BEST PARTNER EVER (a status he lost due to my sleep deprivation, see above). the box came yesterday, and i had the grace to share my belgian milk chocolate with mairin, leo and leo’s mama while we all sat outside enjoying the late afternoon sunshine.

tomorrow i am taking the day off work to test-drive a new decade. i started out loving my 30s but they got kind of questionable for a while there and they’ve ended with a deafening thud. i’m really forward to the fresh start.