Tuesday, November 27, 2012

household help!

So. Ahem. Let's chat about headaches, shall we?

Frances had one a few months ago, did I tell you that? It was at bedtime. She said her forehead hurt, then she writhed on her bed for some time, and she sometimes liked the cold cloths I put on her head and sometimes pushed them away in pain and frustration. Suddenly she said, "I've gotta throw up" and we made it to the bathroom just in time. A full heaving episode, all her pasta dinner in case you wanted details, and then she felt much better, just exhausted, and fell into her bed and immediately passed out. She was fine in the morning.

But actually, since I go in for the navel gazing full on, I wanted to talk about my headaches.

If you're recently joining us, I have a chronic migraine disorder and have pretty much all my life. I was SO hoping my kids wouldn't get it, but it does run in families - my dad has it too, and my grandmother - but Frances's recent brush with the fabulousness that is migraine is seriously dampening my hope. When untreated I can have 3-4 massive migraines a week, but in the last few years by seriously limiting my diet, taking daily preventative, exercising like a crazy person, and (now!) having botox injections every 3 months, I average one every couple of weeks, and still have low grade headaches pretty frequently. The botox (for those of you who previously overlooked my sincere endorsement) is the only thing I've gotten real relief from but the effect wears off over time. The last few weeks of my treatment cycle the frequency is back up, sometimes daily low grade ones.

Anyhoo, Karen the au pair arrived here 4 weeks after the last round of injections. She was here 2 months, the last of which I should have been having full on headaches since my next treatment was on the very day she left. But in that 2 months she was here - are you ready?? - I only had three (3) headaches. In two months. It's unheard of.

When I told my neurologist, just as she was getting ready to stick my forehead with a needle, she said, "when does the next au pair come?" I told her it was just me again, just me. She paused, looked at me blankly, and she said, "It seems to me that if there's there's a problem that can be solved by throwing money at it, and you have the means, you should throw money at it." Hm.

I don't think it was just the extra pair of hands, though I'm not sure that help can be calculated. I think it was also the adult interaction, the waning of that lonesome feeling.

But now the headaches are back. Hello old companions.

Then! In my brainstorming about a solution to stay-at-home-mom fatigue, I decided what I needed was help with the house rather than the kids. So I gave up one sitter night and instead asked a sitter if she would be interested  in coming two or three evenings for just an hour, and for household help rather than kid entertainment. (When the kids were babies and I so needed a break, I wanted to sitters to entertain them so I could be not be touched for longer than 60 seconds. With Karen here I realized having house help freed me to roll on the floor with the kids or do puzzles or participate in tea parties without stressing that I should be emptying the dishwasher. It made me a better parent.)

Let me tell you, this solution is genius. I am SO pleased with myself for making this happen. Two extra hands for an hour seem like way more than two extra hands. She does the dishes, folds and puts away the laundry, drags the cooler or cat litter (or whatever) down to the basement, generally straightens, and - my favorite - turns down the beds. (hotel turn down service is one of my favorite things ever. It gives me large amounts of pleasure to walk into a room already appropriately lit and ready.)

WE NEED MORE SUPPORT AS PARENTS THAN WE GENERALLY GET!! There it is again, my refrain. Did you know in Europe nurses come visit the home several times after a baby is born, to see how the mom is doing, to check on the baby, to offer any advice or know-how or general encouragement? Here in America, once you leave the hospital, you are on your own. (I'm not going to be on my soap box long here...) The result of this for the US is a much higher maternal mortality rate, did you know?? Not to mention the ridiculous 6 weeks a mom gets for maternity leave here, compared with 12 months there. Really.

Okay, I'm done.

Will see how the household help (plus adult company!) affects the headaches. Right now I'm not seeing magical improvement, but we've just begun.

Friday, November 16, 2012

return of the nap

Clark's decided to take up napping again. I don't really know what's going on. It's not a growth spurt because he's not particularly hungry. It feels more like emotional tiredness and I know all about that. Maybe he's still adjusting to his new school - that's a real possibility.

He'd been talking about his old school since school began, and last week I told him we could go visit. I hoped hoped hoped it was not a mistake. When we pulled into the parking lot Clark said, "This place is familiar. I know this place." Well, yeah. I was so surprised that he didn't remember it more specifically; thought his memory was more long term than I guess it is. He is only four and a half. Four months to him is a lifetime, I suppose.

We got there during Lunch Bunch and he was shy in the hallway, not wanting to go into the classroom. He warmed up as all the teachers and director came out one by one to hug him. Eventually he came into the room, and he played and had a grand time. It was interesting - he played for a short while with two of his old friends, then he sort of went off and played with the toys by himself. He seemed enamored of the toys themselves, like being in the bedroom of a rich kid.

After lunch they have enrichment activities for which you can sign up your kid - cooking or yoga or hebrew or dance - and the day we were there it was the alphabet. He wanted to stay for that and I let him for the first half. When we left he was mad at me and kept telling me he wanted to stay longer.

But since those few moments just after we left, he hasn't brought up the school at all. In fact, later on that evening he told me things about his current school, just little tidbits of his day, more than he usually says.

Still, this past week he hasn't wanted to go to school. He hasn't said he wants his old school instead, as he was doing before; he's just wanted to stay with me, or have me stay with him at school. He's been pretty attached to me overall, in fact.

So - maybe all the activities I have them enrolled in? Maybe.

The verge of a developmental leap? Quite possibly. In the last 3 months or so I've noticed a big shift in his ability to understand things. He's not a baby like he was before, and he's able to understand more and more nuances. Kids are rather amazing creatures.

The attempt to figure out the cause is an attempt to know how to help him, but since I can't figure it out, I think my best approach is to honor it. I've decided to let him sleep during the day as long as he wants rather than wake him in the fear of his sleeping too long and then not going to bed at night.

Today was the first day I let the nap go on forever. And now it's 10pm and I just paused in this blog post to return him to his bed for the 3rd time. Sigh.

As a mom, you really really can't win. That's what makes being a parent such a comical endeavor. We never have a clue what's actually going on, and in trying to respond to something we can't comprehend, we just talk into the wind. Blah blah blah.

Blah blah. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

extracurricular overload

We are enrolled in too many activities.

Aren't we?

I've always erred on the side of too few, have in fact sworn not to have more than one per kid at any given time. I've wondered at friends who are activity-full. So - how did we get here? It's uncertain, and they each are good ideas individually. Thing is, now I don't know how to undo it, or - interestingly - if I even want to.

On one hand, it keeps my house straighter. This is actually a huge plus for me, not just a nice side effect. When the kids aren't here to dump entire bins of superheros on the familyroom floor, we come home in the evening to clutter free-ish, which makes for a much calmer mom. Clutter makes me seriously anxious. There have been times when I've felt anxious and have wondered what in the world I'm anxious about - there was nothing obvious. Then I just straightened the house and the anxiety went away.

My husband doesn't see the clutter. He's not a hoarder or anything, he just isn't bothered by random clothing items heaped on the recliner. Once the piles grow to a certain size he would clean up I'm sure. But even the small ones make me nuts. I don't have many knick knacks, don't collect things, pass on books when I'm done with them unless they are signed or inscribed or something, but there's this pile of papers on one counter that grows like a mold. When the au pair was here she kept the dishes and obvious things clean, so I was free to deal with this asinine pile on the counter and others like it. One of my theories about my crazy happiness when she was here has to do with the decrease in clutter alone.

My newest idea is to drop one of my evening sitters and turn that money into one person who comes for maybe an hour 3 days a week.

But that's a different subject.

First both kids were in tennis because it was convenient. Then Frances added Irish Dance and that seemed reasonable. Then Clark wanted Karate and that also seemed fairly reasonable except that it's twice a week, but he's so absolutely nuts about it that I thought we would squeeze it in somehow. Then Frances wanted (at my suggestion) to try out Karate too, and she of course loves it because who wouldn't. And since Frances tried his class Clark thought he would try hers and now they're both in Irish Dance - both in all four activities each week. And one night a week they go with their sitter to her parents house, where they are regular members of that family.

All this leaves little time for the kids to argue (which makes me an insane person), or to wrestle until someone whacks their head on the floor (which makes me an insane person). It channels energy. This is good.

Plus I get to sit and read my book, as well as observe my children from afar, both of which are things I enjoy. And which help keep me sane.

But I'm aware that avoiding their conflicts is just convenience on my part, a sort of laziness. It's admittedly easier to keep them busy than to deal with the hollering and crying - the conflict that helps them learn how to deal with conflict. The only way to the other side is through, right? Is this why so many parents load up on the activities? Because - what it really comes down to - it's easier? It's like never taking them with you to the grocery. I have a friend with four boys and she takes all four of them with her on grocery trips. On purpose. She believes it's important for them to learn how to deal with boring everyday details like groceries, and that they need to learn how to behave in public, and it's okay for them to not always be entertained. The reward she receives for persevering with all four boys in tow is children who are pleasant to be around, and less work teaching them to behave later on.

At the same time, a sane mommy is a good thing.

It seems to me - logically - that it's really a toss up. That this decision for this minute of their lives really doesn't matter. But it sure feels like it does. Maybe that's just the obsessive mind talking.

Will see what happens.