DI-Why

When Charlie was just a few months old, he came down with a nasty virus. He was in daycare at the time and our child care center seemed to always be ground zero for the really awful illnesses that my kids caught with such ease. I took time off from work to care for our sweet little Charlie at home and I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I knew we had to take him to the emergency room. I had been hanging clean laundry up in my closet and when I finished and reached down to pick Charlie up from the bed, he was stiff. His whole body. He was so little at the time and so new-baby malleable that to pick him up and feel his muscles so rigid was alarming. I knew he was really ill.

Bob and I ended up spending the majority of that afternoon and evening in our local hospital’s ER. Charlie was officially diagnosed with a “virus of unknown origin” meaning, the hospital didn’t know what he had, admitted there was really no good way to figure it out, but acknowledged that it was absolutely making him miserable. It was just something that we had to wait out. They wanted us to remain in the ER so they could hydrate Charlie and monitor him closely for a few hours before discharging him. With a compassionate shrug, the doctors and nurses left us on our own to sit and wait and watch. Our fears placated, Bob and I settled in to spend a few hours staring intently at Charlie.

Now, it should be noted that our local hospital at the time was more urban, less spacious and a bit more bare bones than the hospital we utilize now. The ER in the town closest to where we currently live has private rooms, individual television sets, a staff eager to accommodate and valet parking. The ER we took Charlie to that night had a long wait time, a maxed-out staff, absolutely no snacks, and the only thing separating us from the next patient on a stretcher was a thin curtain and about four feet. I’m certainly not complaining because I didn’t even know ERs came in fancier versions until we moved from the city but still, if we were able to even snag an extra blanket from a nurse that night, it certainly didn’t come all toasty warm from one of those giant blanket ovens our current hospital uses.

Sitting with a sleeping four-month-old and a lack of sufficient snacks left us with nothing to do but eavesdrop on the medical emergencies of those around us. It was fascinating. Directly next to us, on the other side of the curtain, was an intoxicated man who was handcuffed to his gurney and guarded by a sheriff’s deputy. He talked loudly for probably a solid hour about assorted topics before falling asleep and, thus, falling quiet. We heard other random snippets hear and there of bumps and bruises and broken bones but eventually, as evening settled in and the bustling quieted down, both Bob and I started listening intently to a husband and wife that were seeking treatment across the aisle from us.

It turned out, the wife was in the emergency room because she had been experiencing chest pains. It actually seemed quite serious from the tone of the doctor’s voice. The doctor was still unsure of what type of cardiac event she had experienced but he began reviewing with the couple the results of some preliminary testing and explaining to them some additional tests he would like to run before admitting the wife overnight for observation. It was at this point that the couple began to protest. They were concerned about how long all of this was going to take and seemed distressed about the necessity of spending an entire night in the hospital. Bob and I, unabashedly, leaned in for a closer listen.

“You see,” the husband began to explain to the doctor, “we have dinner reservations.”

It was at this point that Bob and I looked at each other with saucer-like eyes and tried not to laugh. Dismissing a possible heart attack in favor of keeping hard-to-get dinner reservations was just the MOST Northern Virginia thing one could do. I mean, I can appreciate a great meal, too, but I wouldn’t risk betting the sommelier knows how to use a defibulator. The ER doctor said about the same.

The conversation quickly escalated between the ER doctor and the husband and wife. Eventually, as the doctor was explaining the “against medical advice” discharge paperwork that would need to be completed before they could leave, the husband looked at the doctor and asked, “So, tell me, what’s worst case scenario here?”

Without missing a beat, the doctor looked at the husband wearily and said, “SIR, your wife could DIE.”

A few minutes later, the husband and his possibly-having-a-heart-attack wife were on their way to dinner to, presumably, eat mussels or foie gras or something like that. Shortly afterwards, Bob and Charlie and I headed home to rest up, recuperate and probably eat some Goldfish crackers.

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Ever since that fateful emergency room visit, Bob and I have used the Worst Case Scenario query to address some of our toughest life decisions.

Should we move the entire family to Richmond? What’s the worst case scenario?

Are you up for having a third baby? What’s worst case scenario?

Is it possible to still buy a waterbed? What would be the worst case scenario?

Maybe we should get that odd rash on the middle kid looked at? What’s the worst case scenario?

Does this egg salad smell weird to you? Worst case scenario?

It’s actually a highly effective tool in distilling a problem or issue down to it’s possible outcomes. If the answer is anything other than one of us dying, we typically proceed.

All this to explain that Bob and I are thinking of renovating our kitchen ourselves. I mean, what’s the worst case scenario here?

Mother’s Day Is Just The Worst

I saw all of your lovely pictures on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. There were a lot of nice breakfasts and brunches and early dinners. Plenty of hugs and kisses and homemade cards and pretty flowers. There were naps granted and lots of quiet time. One of my mom friends even got to read a book! It looked really nice. You all looked really nice.

I was excited yesterday, Mother’s Day, because the shower I took was long enough that I got to shave my legs. Well, from the knees down anyway. Not my whole legs. No one has time for that! But still, for a day that’s supposed to be all about me, that extra-long shower felt pretty luxurious. Sure, I had to let Millie watch a fifth episode of Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse in exchange but I say, “WORTH IT!” (Maybe. I don’t know. That show is really, really terrible.)

Mother’s Day has to be my least favorite holiday of all of the holidays. (And, that’s saying a lot because I find Halloween to be a giant all-around pain.) Mother’s Day is loaded with a weird combination of unrealistic expectations and forced relaxation. Like, for some reason I just expect that my kids will suddenly be more considerate and thoughtful and less screechy because it’s a special day for ME! Less bickering over the iPad and more playing Lego nicely with one another. Less hitting and more hugs. Fewer tantrums because the wind is blowing too hard and more general acceptance that I don’t control the weather. Surprisingly, that doesn’t magically happen. Also, there’s nothing more conducive to relaxation than everyone telling you repeatedly to “just go relax!” as the dishes pile up and someone spills a drink all over the kitchen table and you realize someone else showered with the curtain outside of the tub and everyone is fighting while all of next week’s prep is being ignored so you can sit in the bedroom and listen to your husband yell, “CHILL! OUT!” at the kids.

Such a special day.

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The high point of my Mother’s Day: brownie and ice cream consumed around 10:00 in the morning on Friday. It was all downhill from here.

My Mother’s Day weekend started on Thursday, when I sent Bob off on a weekend away with some of his high school friends. Now, in hindsight, the timing of this trip was probably ill-advised. However, the date was settled on back in September of last year and Bob deserves a weekend away and a break from the drudgery and some fun every once in awhile. He pledged to be home mid-day on Sunday so I got over all of this pretty quickly.

But, on Friday afternoon, I discovered something so awful in Millie’s bedroom that I don’t know if I can even adequately describe the horror. It rivaled the Great Poop Incident of 2013 only… it was pee. There was some sort of a horrible, absolutely tragic series of potty accidents followed by a completely misguided attempt to cover up what happened and then 24 hours passed before I realized that things were… wet… everywhere and it all resulted in me standing in the middle of her room cry-yelling, “WHY? WHY? WHY? WHYYYYYYY?” Millie, unfortunately, has not been able to answer that question because every time I ask her what in the sam hell happened in there, she politely requests to “talk about it later.”

Two things that made this situation worse: 1. Millie rarely has accidents and 2. the entire floor of Millie’s room was absolutely COVERED with stuff at the time this all went down. Despite our best efforts (asking nicely, cajoling, bribery, hollering), Millie’s bedroom closely resembles a pit of despair and garbage. She hoards anything and everything in her room so when she had an accident(s), there was TREMENDOUS collateral damage. I spent Friday, a good portion of Saturday and even Sunday sifting through the belongings I picked up off of her floor for anything that could be salvaged.

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Definitely not garbage. Must be kept. Do not throw away! Might smell a little like pee.

The good news? Millie’s room is finally picked up! The bad news? I sent an email to my dad asking him to bring their steam cleaner with him when he visits next week for… “unfortunate reasons.”

I haven’t even begun to recover from what I witnessed. I have a feeling it will be some time yet.

On Saturday morning, Charlie didn’t ask for breakfast when he woke up so the emergency red light emoji immediately started flashing in my brain. When he got dressed but also wanted to lay back down in bed, I knew it was all over. He was vomiting before we even hit 9:00 a.m. Now, normally, a stomach bug while solo parenting would send me into a bit of a panic but not this time. With what I had lived through the day before in Millie’s room, a little puke could barely make a dent in my armor. I set Charlie up with a floor bed to minimize damage, plopped a tiny screen in front of his face, refused his requests for food and got to work wiping down the house to prevent the spread of whatever he had.

Not to bright side Charlie’s stomach bug but having him out of commission meant relative peace and quiet for the other two kids who play together nicely. That gave me an opportunity to make progress on Millie’s “situation” and work on getting Charlie’s room ready for his new bed. Combined with a delivery of wine and cheese from friends Saturday afternoon, my Mother’s Day weekend was awful but manageable.

Then, on Sunday, with Charlie feeling better, the kids all started fighting again before I even swallowed ONE SIP of coffee, Bob had not arrived home yet, the house was getting trashed and everything was becoming awful rather quickly. My friend, Jenn, texted me Mother’s Day greetings and by the end of our messaging, I got the impression that she was actually putting her phone down and backing away slowly, like I was a bomb about to go off.

Bob arrived home with a funny card and some chocolate and flowers and that all helped but our kids were AWFUL yesterday. WE didn’t even want to hang out with them. HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! Now, leave me alone.

Anyway, it’s all over now. Except for the stomach bug. That’s not over. Millie woke up this morning, asked for the barf bucket and then promptly went back to sleep for FOUR hours.

A mother’s job is never done, amirite?

Eight

Eight is probably my favorite of the little kid ages. Young enough to want a first-thing-in-the-morning hug but old enough to get themselves ready for school with little intervention. Young enough to still be tucked into bed with stuffed animals each night but old enough to procure their own snacks. Young enough to laugh uncontrollably at a fart joke but old enough to be completely rational about concepts that would send a toddler into a tantrum.

Charlie turned eight years old about a week ago.

Charlie, at eight years of age, has asked for a later bedtime. As it currently stands, I send all three of the kids packing at 8:00 each evening. By that time of night, I have been on the job for 14 hours straight and while I love my children dearly, I no longer wish to see or hear them. To their rooms they must go. Charlie’s quest for a later bedtime messes a bit with my timeline but he was adamant so we found a compromise. I explained that he still had to head to his room at 8:00 p.m. but could now stay awake until 8:30. Charlie considered this a victory. More of a moral victory for sure, since when I check on him each evening around 8:05 or so, he is always sound asleep.

Charlie, at eight years of age, is still petite in stature. He is wee for his age. Shorter than his peers but just sort of tiny all over. His arms and legs are like matchsticks, especially when compared to Millie, who is one solid mass of a kid. I have trouble picking her up anymore but not Charlie. Charlie I can still swing up in my arms with ease and he still wants to be picked up. I feel like Charlie is part rechargeable battery, gathering his energy by hugging others. Most mornings, when I swoop him up for a big hug, Charlie still does that thing that little ones do where they tuck their arms down at their side, pinned almost by your arms so they can lean into you, head on your shoulder and you can completely envelop them in a hug. It’s like a kid version of a trust fall and someday, when you ask me, I will tell you that it is one of the things I miss most about this age.

Charlie, at eight years of age, tries valiantly to hide his emotions. You can see the tough kid resolve when he gets injured or his siblings have wronged him or when something doesn’t go according to plan. For years, Bob and I wondered when Charlie, our high emotion middle child, would cross this bridge. When he would better understand complicated logistics and the nature of time and we longed for the day when deviations and impatience wouldn’t result in a complete meltdown. We’ve finally arrived there. But, Charlie still feels deeply. A couple of weeks ago, a nice man from a neighboring town came to our house to buy our bunk bed set. With Henry in his own room, I was eager for Charlie to have a traditional bed. One that made changing the bed sheets 100 percent easier. After we loaded the bunk beds into the buyer’s trailer, Bob and I went inside and found Charlie’s bedroom door shut. When we entered, we found Charlie sobbing at his desk. We hurriedly asked what was wrong and he tearfully explained, “You’re selling EVERYTHING that I love!” Charlie was upset but didn’t want us to know. Bob and I hid our relieved smiles and promptly went about extolling the graces of his New! Bigger! Better! bed.

Charlie, at eight years of age, is working hard at school. We abruptly switched Charlie to a different elementary school at the beginning of March and he managed the big change with aplomb. He is thriving there, working towards mastering the basics that seem to be so difficult for him to master. His new teacher convened a big meeting a couple of weeks after his arrival. The conference room where we met was filled with various school staff and advocates that all want Charlie to find success. When the assistant principal asked me if I had any insight to share on Charlie, I paused. I thought for a bit and then explained that, yes, school will probably never be a favorite of Charlie’s however, if any one of them around that table were hopelessly lost in the woods, Charlie could help them survive for three days, no problem. Charlie’s skill set lies elsewhere but he’s got a huge team of people at his school working to help him learn, figuring out what interests to tap that will finally make things click. I’m confident we’re on the right path.

Charlie found me busy on my laptop the other day. He asked what I was doing and I said, “Writing! It’s just a modern version of your typewriter, Charlie.”

He grinned and replied, “Well, I AM kind of old-fashioned.”

Yes, you are Charlie. My old soul outdoorsman is now eight years old.