In Which My Family Is Nearly Blown to Smithereens

For Pioneer Day, our ward puts on a party. There’s food, fireworks, more food, and snow cones! My father-in-law is in Utah already, so he decides to join us.

John is uncertain about staying up to party. He is also uncertain about Grandpa, who is still a little foreign to him.

We buy some chips and rolls at the Creamery. (PSA for Canadians: there are “All Dressed” chips at the Creamery.) Then we head down to Kiwanis Park, where John runs around with the neighbor kids, plays with a ball, and eats irresponsible amounts of Mom and Dad’s food.

Status: John likes parties.

After a while, everybody’s belly is full, and we start to settle down to wait for the fireworks.

Status: John is super tired. John does not like parties.

A group of people set off some end-of-the-driveway fireworks across the park, while we’re waiting for the real deal. John’s mouth drops open. About this time, Ethan brings us a snow cone, and we just sit on the grass, eating snow cones while John signs “more” in between fireworks.

Status: John loves fireworks. John also loves snow cones. I am Mom of the Year.

After about half an hour of the driveway variety – and after John has eaten at least half of my snow cone – we hear the first few professional fireworks go off. I suddenly realize that the place we’re sitting is only about 30 feet from the fireworks themselves. This is a great show.

Status: John is terrified. Fireworks are the devil.

I pick up a screaming John and leave my husband and father-in-law to head for the edge of the park, where the fireworks won’t be exploding directly over our heads. John is screaming. I am missing some really good fireworks. After walking about 20 feet, I hear surprised sounds from the crowd behind me and turn around to see a few large fireworks bounce off the ground just behind my husband’s head, another one land in a group of blanket-sitters, and one explode into a pine tree, which fortunately does not ignite. I start walking a little faster.

Status: John thinks we’re in a war zone. He’s probably scarred for life. I am no longer Mom of the Year.

After walking (and screaming) for a good two or three minutes, we reach the edge of the park, where nobody is sitting, we get the whole lawn to ourselves, and the fireworks look much smaller. My husband texts us to ask where we are, and slowly start walking to join us. We watch the fireworks from a safe distance behind the trees, and John calms down. He still climbs up my torso for the big ones, but he starts signing “more” again, so maybe he isn’t scarred for life.

Status: John loves fireworks, but only from a safe distance.

After a grand finale (which is terrifying, but still prompts a request for more), we pack up, put the baby in the stroller, and come home. It’s 10:30. John walks into his room, shuts the door, and walks to his crib. I put him to bed.

Status: John is exhausted. ♦

Why I Can No Longer Leave My Baby Alone in the Bathtub

Many moms have told me that if I leave my baby in the bathtub for longer than 10 seconds unsupervised, I will return to find a tiny, drowned body and a lifetime of remorse. There are horror stories to accompany this tale. For the first few months of his life, I refused to let him leave my sight when there was water anywhere in the room.

I’m over it. When he was 3 months old, I took every precaution, and he still ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. Now, I chuck him in the wave pool at the water park and he jumps around like some kind of fish on a spring.

So yesterday, I left him alone in the bathtub for a few minutes while I cleaned up his high chair and a few dinner dishes. (The current state of the dishes is a story for another day, when I know the conclusion.) I usually figure as long as I can hear him happily chirping and splashing, I know he’s not drowning.

He chirped. I washed dishes. After a few minutes, he started chirping louder, and then yelling “Mom!” Then the chirping stopped.

I turned off the water, listening to see if he was okay. The chirping did not return. I heard sounds of a struggle, then a soft thud, and a short cry. I dried my hands, told myself not to panic, and hurried to the hallway.

He met me halfway, running naked down the hall. He was thrilled. He had single-handedly pulled down two towels, climbed out of the bathtub without hurting himself, and now he was free, naked, and Mom knew how clever he was! I was legitimately impressed. But now I can’t help feeling a little doomed. I’m just one step closer to that day when he learns how to open doorknobs, and I never get another moment’s peace. ♦

The Nightly Scream-a-thon

My son is crying himself to sleep. Correction: screaming. Screaming himself to sleep.

He’s been going through this phase lately, where he’s perfectly fine until I come into the room. Then he sees me, screws up his face, and turns on the faucet. Tears everywhere. I need Mom to hold me. I keep racking my brain to figure out if I’ve been  rewarding the wrong behaviors, but I usually only give him significant attention when he’s happy (or at least, calm enough to breathe normally).

I’m beginning to understand the term “crybaby,” and hoping he’ll grow out of it. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that most of us never really grow out of it; we just get a little more articulate.

Five-year-old: I need attention. I’ll pick a fight with a sibling, get hit, and whip up some tears.

Ten-year-old: I need attention. I’ll tell Mom and Dad all about the bully who picked on me at school.

Fifteen-year-old: I need attention. My life is in shambles. I don’t know who I am, what hair color I want, which gender I’m supposed to be, what my (chosen or biological) gender is supposed to be angry about, and my parents are ruining my life.

Twenty-year-old: I need attention. I’ll go post a vague status update on Facebook, with some song lyrics that may or may not be depressing/suicidal.

Thirty-five-year-old: I need attention. I’ll post something on Facebook about how overwhelming my kids are – but I’ll make it funny enough that people will stop to comment.

Fifty-year-old: I need attention. I’ll post pictures of my grandkids. People will tell me they’re adorable.

Seventy-year-old: I need attention. I’ll talk about my medical problems and brag about the days of yore.

We all do it. So here’s my takeaway question: is it really a problem? Is this a thing we’re supposed to get over entirely (and don’t), or is this really just something that’s supposed to change with time? I mean, I’d like to think I’m independent enough not to need validation from the world around me…

…but I am writing a blog. ♦

Paying Debts by Cleaning Up

Friday morning, the baby destroyed his crib.

I woke up to hear the baby crying, and staggered into the nursery. Experienced parents will know the feeling: I walked into the room and my nostrils were assaulted by the smell of the world’s most horrible diaper. The smell was so strong, I knew instantly that the problem was not contained. The entire crib was a biohazard.

Okay, the entire crib wasn’t a biohazard. Just one half of it. And all of Jonathan’s body. And all of his clothing.

I didn’t even try to change the diaper; I just stripped myself, stripped him and wiped up some of the damage, and then turned on the shower. John was fascinated with the running water, and he was cute enough I let him live.

“You owe me,” I said to Ethan after I had fed the baby, changed his sheets, and put him back to bed for a nap.

Sunday afternoon, I was taking a nap and woke up to see Ethan holding a fluffy green towel with our baby in it. John looked quite happy and comfortable, with his hair spiked into a little faux-hawk. I could hear the washing machine running in the other room.

“Now we’re even,” said Ethan, and went to get the baby dressed. ♥

Space!

We were late to church on Sunday. Actually, we were on time, but because baby John is in the crawl-everywhere and talk-to-everybody stage (with or without intelligible syllables), we opted to pretend we were late and just stay in the foyer listening. It’s hard to chase a baby through the pews inconspicuously.

Oh, he’s crawling now, by the way. He’s been crawling for maybe a week and a half, and he’s just frustrated he can’t quite walk without help yet. This child is determined, and I need to clean everything off our floor at home before he eats it.

Anyway. I digress. John was gurgling his way around the floor in the foyer when a really sweet old lady came walking toward the doors. She paused in front of Jonathan, looking down and smiling at him. She looked up at us, then looked adoringly back at the baby.

“Space,” she said sweetly. Then she opened the door and left the building.

I smiled a little bit. I must have heard her wrong, I thought. I glanced over at Ethan. He had the same face. We looked after her, thinking she might come back and explain. She got in her car and drove off.

“Maybe she meant to say something about his face,” I said, and we both started laughing.

“Or maybe…”

Or maybe she’s just crazy. At least she liked the baby. ♦

Some Days…

For those who’ve been on the edge of their seats for my latest update, I apologize. I’ve been having panic attacks. They suck, and I’d rather keep my sanity than my blog stats.

But hey – a few weeks and counseling sessions later, I’m back in the game and much improving. Know how I can tell?

Because the other day, I had a doctor’s appointment. I drove me and my baby to the hospital (where my clinic is), and found approximately eight million small families swarming through the parking lot, eating hot dogs and cotton candy and lugging teddy bears around. There were “Teddy Bear Tour” signs directing them around, and hospital staff showing them the Life Flight helicopter, the different entrances, and I presume the interior of the hospital as well. Great, I thought. Now kids won’t be afraid of the hospital. Maybe these kids have siblings in the hospital, or something. Or a terminal illness. Or their moms are pregnant. Or something that would require a basic knowledge of what goes on in the hospital. This is a good idea.

Needless to say, however, there was no parking available in the parking lot. I parked three blocks away and lugged my growing seven-month-old to the clinic. It must have been a hundred degrees. It was definitely in the nineties. We got to the clinic twenty minutes late, but they fit me in, I had a good check-up (while a baby-hungry nurse fed and played with Jonathan), and then I carried the baby laboriously back to the car. The hot dogs smelled good, and I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. I promised myself I’d eat lunch as soon as we got home.

Trouble was, I’d locked myself out of the car. Which is not a problem if you have the key. But the key wasn’t in my pocket. Or the car. Or my purse. I realized it must be in the exam room three blocks away. I sighed, then shrugged and laughed. At least John was happy. We walked back to the clinic, John starting to show a little sunburn.

I was hungry. I briefly considered asking the Teddy Bear Tour for a hot dog, but I realized there was a possibility I would be stealing food from a hungry, paying, terminally ill child. I decided against it.

We got to the building, explained our dilemma to the other woman in the elevator, who looked sympathetic, then we walked back to the clinic. I turned the door handle, and nothing happened. It was locked. Apparently, the entire department had gone for lunch together, simultaneously, just after my appointment. I was locked out of my car, stranded at the hospital with my baby. Doomed.

I found a bathroom, changed the baby’s diaper, then went to the cardio clinic and asked the receptionist if there was any chance she could help me. No dice – nobody had keys to each other’s clinics. Also, the custodian was not on-site. I was going to have to wait until they came back from lunch.

So we camped out on a cushy little bench on the main floor and sang silly songs. We read a Little Critter book. We slobbered on the bench. (Okay, he slobbered on the bench.) And after about forty minutes, the nurse who thought Jonathan was adorable came back. She was happy to see him. She was also happy to find my key for me, and we set off again, a little hot and dehydrated but triumphant.

The reason I know my anxiety is improving? I didn’t panic. Instead, I laughed and played with a baby. A particularly cute, happy baby at that. ♦

Why I Don’t Teach Sex Ed

I’ve been staying with my family for the last few days, and by this point, I have little modesty left about breastfeeding/pumping. So I was just sitting on the sofa with a pump on my right breast, talking with my parents, when my brother came wandering by.

My brother is 22. He has Down syndrome and Autism. He’s seen the baby. He’s seen me feeding the baby. He’s seen me pumping milk for the baby. But apparently, he’s never really taken the time to figure out what I was doing, and apparently I’ve never taken the time to explain.

He stopped mid-stride and froze, like Bigfoot. His face was frozen in blank horror, and his eyes went from my face to the bottle on my breast, slowly filling with milk, as he connected the dots. After a few very long minutes, we explained with some comment like, “This is where I get the milk for the baby.” He was beyond weirded out. I couldn’t find any non-weird way to explain any further. “Boobs make milk, man. That’s why mommies have them.”

He went to sit down on the recliner as we laughed at his reaction. He leaned warily away from me, eyeing the contraption attached to my chest. Dad told me that, shortly after little John was born, Andrew signed, “Baby. New. Throw up.” I laughed.

“I didn’t throw him up,” I said to Andrew. “It’s more like I pooped him out,” I said, reflecting. Then I saw that look come back onto his face and realized this was not accurate, nor was it any less unsettling than the idea of throwing up a baby. “Well… the doctor helped…”

“…”

“…He’s okay now. The doctor helped me get John out, and everybody’s okay.”

Andrew was looking at me with a face that said something like, “I really don’t want to believe you – but I just saw you make food out of boobs, and at this point, I’m really not sure what kind of world I live in anymore.”

A few minutes later, he was on the couch, giggling, holding his shirt up and pointing to his own nipples. I offered to let him use the pump, but he didn’t follow up after I finished pumping, and I figured it was best to just leave it at the explanation we’d offered him: only moms make milk.

Meanwhile, I feel like I’m failing miserably at teaching sex ed, and I haven’t even touched the subject of how the baby got there in the first place. I’m just gonna leave that one to my parents. Oy. ♦