Happy Father’s Day

It’s such a lovely feeling to be married to someone that you’re proud of.

My husband doesn’t say much, so you will never find him on Twitter or Facebook or any other kind of social media promoting his work. I, on the other hand, never shut the hell up, so I’m just gonna go ahead and do it for him:

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Awesome cartoon courtesy of Lucius Wisniewski. Isn’t he talented?

 

My husband is not only a stellar artist, but he’s a phenomenal father who loves his children more than he will ever articulate. I know this because he bites his lip to keep from laughing at June when she openly defies me or throws a tantrum. I know this because the minute Henry feels a tiny bit warm or is in the slightest amount of pain, he starts pacing and frowning and snapping at people because he’s just so worried. HIs love for his children is in the bite mark on his lip, the terrified feeling in his stomach. He adores them; he agonizes over them. He doesn’t talk about it endlessly, like I do, but I can see it.

And I can see it in his artistic ability. Flipping through his sketchbooks, you can see pages and pages of cartoons — all of them starring our children. All their little personality quirks. Snippets of conversation. Portraits. If an artist draws what he loves, then we are very well loved.

Happy father’s day to my sweet husband. Thank you for loving us — in thought, in deed, in expression, and in art.

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Looking for Shangri-La when you’re stuck in Toddler Land

It occurred to me lately that I’m trying to find Nirvana and it just doesn’t exist.

Every morning I wake up and rush around, trying to find it. Here is how my crazy-anxiety-brain works: If the house is perfectly clean and the children are fed and the laundry is put away and the dishwasher is emptied and nobody is crying or fighting, then my anxiety will go away. My heart will stop pounding. My skin will stop crawling. My head will stop buzzing. That’s the idea anyway. I have no idea where this idea came from because this has literally never happened. Shangri-La doesn’t exist. I mean, that’s the point, right? Once you find it, it means your journey is over. And the journey with two toddlers is never, never, never over. There is always more to clean. There is always someone whining, screaming, or peeing on the floor. And yet I keep cleaning.

My anxiety lately has been through the roof. I don’t know why. Maybe my hippie best friend is right and I need to cut out the gluten. Maybe I need to increase my zoloft. Maybe I have OCD? Maybe I have a progesterone problem. But I think searching for Shangri-La is a symptom, not a cause.

Anxiety is such a heavy cross when you’ve got two small children. As much as I love them, they make it exponentially worse. Their tiny, squeaky voices (which I adore) are just relentless. June never stops talking. Everything she says I find impossibly cute and nerve-destroying all at once. Her two thousand constant questions. Her acting out. I’ll be frantically trying to vacuum (because if I just get all the crumbs off the floor, then maybe I won’t feel like running out the door. No crumbs will mean that all order has been restored and my anxiety will magically dissipate. Right?) and June will dump a bucket full of glue and glitter right in front of my vacuum ON PURPOSE and oh my gosh, the restraint it takes for me not to scream and pitch everything out the window (including the toddler) and light myself on fire and run down the street screaming is just heroic. Instead I just scream at her and fight back the urge to cry.

Parenting: I nailed it!

I’ve had anxiety before, but I’ve never had this weird, panicky-anger, which is throwing me for a loop and making life with two small children almost unbearable. Part of me hates writing posts like this because it makes me sound like Complainey McWhiner and I definitely love my life. But I definitely do not love this anxiety that creeps up on me like a rising tide and overpowers me before I even realize that it’s there. I don’t even realize how stressed I am until mornings like this, when my heart is pounding and I’ve literally vacuumed and mopped the entire downstairs before 7 am, and I’m yelling at Henry to just STOP SHRIEKING, for the love of God, because I don’t know why he’s upset and seemingly nothing I’m doing is helping. Maybe hand-washing and rearranging all the dishes in the cupboards will help?

(Spoiler: it doesn’t.)

What’s frustrating is that I know it’s futile. It’s impossible to have a perfectly clean house AND two well-behaved, expertly-groomed toddlers. But I still keep trying. And it just rachets up my anxiety even further. Just as soon as I load all the dishes in the dishwasher, Henry will empty all of the tupperware out of the tupperware drawer, giving me something else to put away. The more I clean, the more mess they’ll make. And the less attention I give them, the more they act out. But for whatever reason, I just can’t get out of this weird OCD cleaning loop. I have to clean, and I get panicked when I don’t.

What do you do with all this weird stress-anger? How can you keep from snapping angrily at your baby when he’s upended an entire sippy cup of milk on your freshly-mopped floor? Why is a clean house even important to me right now?

Aaaand June just shit her pants. For the third time this morning. That’s three times before 8 am.

 

Calgon, get me the hell outta here.

 

Hold On

One of the most trying things about toddler-wrangling is their neediness. Their urgency.

You think you leave it behind when you finally crawl out of the newborn stage, but you don’t. Not really. It just changes shape. They still have immediate, urgent needs, and so much more of them, it seems. As an infant, they would wail for food. Wail for comfort. Wail for a diaper change. That was mostly it. And then they’d sleep the rest of the day. With toddlers, there are so many more things to wail about. So many more. And they never sleep.

I just! I need! I have! A red marker! And I need! A green marker! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! MOMMY HELP

Apparently, when you’re two, everything is an emergency, and everything needs to be treated with the immediacy of a level-red terrorist alert. As a result, the most commonly-used phrase in our house is hold on. I must say it to June twenty-five times before noon:

Yes, I know you need help pulling up your undies; please hold on, I have cookie batter on my hands.

Yes, I know you can’t get the cap off your marker, I heard you the first four times; please hold on while I catheterize your brother.

Please stop climbing on me, I know there’s a spider on the wall, I’ll kill it in like, two seconds, just hold on. HOLD ON.

I KNOW the Netflix stopped working, but I’m giving Henry a bath; just hold on for five minutes. HOLD ON. STOP SHRIEKING. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

I will pour you some cereal WHEN I’M DONE BREASTFEEDING COULD YOU NOT.

Unlike June, Henry doesn’t have five million requests for stupid shit, but he makes up for it with his god-awful whine. On a good day, he sounds like Beaker. But if I don’t get him what he wants quickly enough, it escalates into just straight-up screaming.

Not even crying. Literally just one shrill note.

Obviously, my anxiety goes through the roof when they’re like this. One of my old PTSD triggers, for whatever reason, is a shrill, unrelenting, loud, or repetitive noise. Thanks to modern medicine and therapy, I’m no longer thrown into an endless panic spiral. But it still grates on my nerves probably more than it should, and after thirty seconds of high-pitched screaming and whining and begging, my heart starts to pound pretty quickly. It’s one of nature’s greatest ironies — children, with their whining and their incessant needs, can trigger your “fight or flight” mechanism unlike any other. Yet raising children is one situation you can’t just flee from on a whim. Not without legal repercussions, anyway.

Oh you need dinner? BRB never coming back

And there’s an existential anxiety there, too, when they need something and they screech super loudly and I have to tell them to just hold on, hold on! When you’ve got two baby birds screeching for food, you start to feel inadequate when you can’t feed them fast enough. Because, you know, feeding them is your job. It’s like, a basic requirement of living. They’re HUNGRY, for God’s sake — listen to them! They’re starving! What kind of a mother lets her children STARVE??

Oh God, they’re gonna starve! I’m the worst!

And let’s not kid ourselves — there’s an anxiety there that no matter how many spiders I kill and markers I un-cap, I can’t give them everything they need, at all times, all at once. It’s anxiety that I’m not enough. That I just can’t do it. That I just can’t meet their needs.

Anxiety that maybe I’m just not very good at this motherhood thang.

What other job can you say you’ve waited your whole life for, and have now done for years, and still you have no idea what you’re doing? Are there any other jobs where you can mess up every single day, irrevocably, and not be fired?

I know they won’t always be like this — I know. And I’m not doing a horrible job, I get it. It’s just an anxiety I have to learn to deal with. Story of my life.

And I know that I’ll miss this some day. I know. I will miss this urgency, this constant screaming excitement. It’s overwhelming, but it’s the same thing that makes her scream with delight when she sees soap bubbles. It’s the same thing urgency that makes her run into my arms and scream mommy mommy mommy! when I get back from the grocery store. It’s not all terrible.

It’s one more two-year-old thing I’ll have to say goodbye to. Yesterday I told June to “JUST HOLD ON” maybe sixty times. Not an exaggeration. Yesterday I was more than ready to say goodbye to this particular stage of being two.

And then we went to preschool. And now I’m not so sure.

When we got there, she dashed up to the front door and judo-kicked the handicap button on the door. The door swung open and she ran inside, pell-mell, past the secretary, jabbering about her pigtails, and ran through another set of doors, down the hall, to her preschool classroom. She needed to get to class. There were crafts to be done. And songs to sing. It was an emergency, as always. Henry and I huffed and puffed behind her, trying to catch up.

Gotta get to pre-school, mom! Let’s go, mom! 

I love watching her pigtails swing back and forth as she’s running away from me down the hall. I love watching her back-pack (“pack-pack”) bounce all over her tiny body. Sometimes I love her toddler excitement. Okay? I do. Sue me.

But I’m still gonna tell her to slow down. Come back. Don’t you want to hold my hand?

Just hold on. 

Goodbye to Two

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June got mad at preschool today — really mad. For her, anyway.

June, Henry and I go to a mommy-and-me preschool type thing right down the road from our house, and all of us love it. It gives us structure, it gives Henry exposure to other kids, and it gives June some much-needed socialization. She’s usually introverted and shy to the point of catatonia. But not today.

Today we were sitting in our semi-circle with all the other kids and their mothers for story time. Instead of a story, the teacher pulled out a wooden Melissa and Doug birthday cake and we sang Happy Birthday to the three kids who had turned four over the weekend. Apparently, June was not having it. She left the reading circle, sat with her back toward everyone else, and crossed her elbows, clearly pissed.

“I NOT singing that song, Mommy,” she said. “I just NOT singing it. It’s MY birfday TOO.”

“No, sweetie, it’s not your birthday until next month. We’ll sing happy birthday for you next month. Right now it’s their turn.”

“NO.” She said, sticking her feet straight out in front of her, in defiance. “It’s my birthday NOW. I three NOW.”

And it hit me: Whoa. She’ll be three soon. One more month, and I’ll no longer have a two year old.

And, ouch, my heart. On the way home, trying to hold it together, I made a mental list of things we’ll be saying goodbye to, when two is officially over: This is the last year she’s going to reach for me to hold her when we walk down the steps. This will be the last year she’ll plop down on my lap and kiss me on the lips and say “I yuv you!” without provocation. This is the last year she’ll pronounce frustrating as fushing! God willing, this is the last year she’ll eat ONLY CEREAL for every single meal.

“Mommy, can I have some — ” NO

I’m not ready.

I want more.

I know everyone tells you not to “wish the days away,” but the newborn days suck, and I definitely wished them away. All of them. I would happily hold them in my belly until the twenty-fifth trimester so I could avoid the nursing-for-a-half-hour-every-forty-minutes stage. (Otherwise known as the is-that-blood-jesus-christ-my-nipples-are-bleeding-again-somebody-please-anesthetize-me stage.) It’s not my favorite stage. I cherish my sweet newborns, I do. I hold them and kiss their milk-lips and nibble on their cheeks when they’re sleeping. And then I toss them in their baby swing and run like hell so I can take a shower and ice my nips.

And I’ll probably get crucified for saying so, but anything before eight weeks is so boring. They’re cute and everything, but it’s just a lot of work for not a whole lot of payoff: How’s the baby? Uh, he weighs, like, ten pounds now, I think? He nurses a lot still. He really likes playing with this kleenex box full of scarves. He doesn’t *quite* hold his head up yet — but maybe soon! Wow. Riveting. All that excitement totally makes up for the ninety cumulative minutes of sleep I got last night.

Oh, yes, it will. But we parents of newborns call it “the scare ball”

When I think of being pregnant again, I inwardly groan, because pregnancy. And newborn stage. And bleeding nips. But when I think of having another one- or two-year-old, I could have a million of those and never get sick of it. Two is when some of this parenting stuff actually feels like it’s starting to pay off. Two is when you can opine on their personality instead of run through a laundry list of boring milestones.

I am not a weepy, emotional mother by any means (unless I skip my zoloft for five or six days and then let’s just say I’ve been known to binge-watch Keeping Up With The Kardashians all afternoon and cry when Kim loses her earrings in the ocean). I am not nostalgic and I never cried when my babies reached their milestones. I never told them to slow down, you’re growing up too fast! I told them to hurry up and sleep through the night, so I don’t feel like killing myself!

I am guilty of wishing the days away. I am lazy. I don’t like work. Motherhood is hard. Sacrifice is really really hard. Having bleeding nipples and no sleep and wonky anxiety hormones sucks so badly. I’m not nostalgic for these moments. Probably because I’m in the thick of them.

Truth. And I’ll scrapbook WHEN I’M DEAD.

But two is the exception. It’s kind of throwing me for a loop. It’s so very challenging and so very, very joyful. Even when I’m scolding her for throwing her underwear at me yet again, or when I’m leading her by the hand, screaming, into Time Out because she threw a toy at her brother (“FINE, I SHARE!”), and I just want five minutes where she doesn’t ask me for another bowl of goddamn cereal, I feel so much joy and love in my heart that I catch myself smiling when I shouldn’t be. I sneak upstairs where my husband’s working and relay everything naughty she’s done and hold back laughter until my abdomen aches.

I’m not ready to say goodbye.

I want more.

A Day in the Life of a Mom and a Wife

Look. If I have to read one more debate about stay-at-home mothers (SAHMs) and Working Mothers and who works harder and sacrifices more, I’m going to puke.

SAHMs work hard. Working Moms work hard. Everyone works hard in different ways. Why is THIS the conversation I keep seeing over and over again in the blogosphere. Can we move on now?

Even less do I like the self-congratulatory treacle I keep seeing on the Huffington Post and my Facebook news feed — letters from SAHMs to working moms, and vice versa, about how amazing the other one is, and how hard they workYou’re the best! No, YOU’RE the best! YOU work harder — no, YOU do! 

UGH. Like, who farted, right?

Can we quit blowing each other for a minute? How about we agree that moms are moms, and different methods of mothering have different advantages and disadvantages. Both have their unique challenges. Why do we need to quantify these challenges, and debate them, and dissect them endlessly? I don’t know about you, but I have a hard enough time getting them dressed and halfway presentable in time for preschool. I’m not going to concern myself with which mom is working harder, and who deserves more praise, and why.

Whether you work inside or outside the home, you deserve one of these. Every single day.

I stay at home with my two children, Henry (12 months), and June (2.5). I fully acknowledge that I’m very privileged to be able to do so. I will also fully acknowledge that it’s hard, and grueling, and sometimes I’m so desperate for grown-up conversation, I want to gnaw my own arm off so I can chat with the paramedics. It’s hard. It’s boring. Is it harder than going to the office and picking your kid up from daycare every day? I don’t know. I suspect not. And what does it matter?

I mean, that would be sweet, though. Don’t get me wrong.

So. I’m not going to sit here and try to make the case for being a SAHM or a Working Mom. All I can present to you are the facts. I’m a SAHM, and here is how I spend my day. You can judge for yourself. Or not. Here we go:

Who run the world? These people.

7:30 AM: Wake up, immediately catheterize Henry and change his diaper. Dose him with his medicine. Clean half of it off the floor when he spits it out in disgust.

7:40 AM: Change June’s diaper and put her in underwear. Change her underwear approximately four times because she can’t decide between Dora and Hello Kitty.

7:50 AM: Run around getting breakfast for both children. Usually a colorful array of berries, bananas, and dry cereal, which is then smeared into a collage on their clothes, floor, seat, and walls.

8:20 AM: Inhale some food and check e-mail until one of the children start throwing food on the floor, signifying that they are finished eating. Clean the children and strip them down so I can wash all the berries and crusty cereal out of their clothes and hair.

8:30 AM: End up completely bathing them in the kitchen sink. Throw all the berry-smeared clothes, the high chair covers, and the towels in the washing machine.

9:00 AM: “Oops, Mommy, I think I have to go –” Clean up puddle of piss on the floor. Clean up piss footprints leading into the bathroom. Clean up piss-soaked Dora The Explorer underwear that June threw in the sink, for some god damn reason. Bleach the sink. Wipe down the toddler’s piss-streaked legs and feet. Grab a random pair of underwear out of the diaper basket and ignore the shrieks of protest. NO MOMMY NO MOMMY I WANTED HELLO KITTY!!! HELLO KITTY MOMMY! DORA IS A BAD IDEA!!! Yeah, well, so was your conception, I want to fire back. Throw the piss undies in the washing machine.

I usually start praying fervently right about now.

9:25 AM: Henry crawls around on the floor and upends the recycling bin while I set up a “craft” for June. Our crafts include a) mixing snow and Ovaltine into a cup to make a milkshake, b) painting on paper with a mixture of water and food coloring, and c) gluing googly eyes on fuzzy pom-pom balls to make a “creature.” Those are the only three things she wants to do, on any given day, ever. Any one of these will entertain her for a full ten minutes, until she moves on to the next craft. Henry upends the recycling bin, open and shuts the kitchen cabinets, and scavenges for snacks on the floor. I forget what I’m doing at this point, between crafts. Probably sitting on the ground, staring off into space.

10:45 AM: Time to catheterize Henry again. Henry, in case you aren’t a regular reader, has some special needs, due to being born with Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele. The only special need of his that really affects us on a day-to-day basis is that he needs to be catheterized four times daily. Catheterization is really no big deal. Basically, we stick a pee-tube in his wiener and empty his urine into his diaper so he won’t have to overwork his bladder or something. I would link a YouTube video showing how it’s done, but I don’t want to get put on some list. Think of it as threading a needle: We stick a tube in, pee drains out, and then we take out the tube. Simple.

It’s like threading a needle. Except with pee spraying everywhere.

What’s not simple, however? Trying to navigate the pee-tube up his pee-hole while he’s twisting and turning to get away from me. So a procedure that should take about thirty seconds somehow turns into a five-minute wrestling match, Henry writhing on the floor and trying to crawl off into the other room somewhere, while I’m pinning his arms down with my legs and swearing quietly so June won’t hear. I give him my phone to play with so he holds still, and make a mental note to wipe the pee off of it later.

11 AM: Time for naps. Children won’t nap. This isn’t how it happens with my Sim family. Try to comfort them in vain:

Tell June for the hundreth time she can have cereal after she takes a good nap — because God forbid she’d have to wait more than an hour between eating. Comfort her when she cries I NEED CEREAL I’M SO HOOONNNGRY like she lives in a Sudanese refugee camp. Take her out of the room and change her diaper so Henry won’t have to hear her yelling about being hungry. Hold June down with your arms and legs and forcibly strap a diaper on her, ignoring her cries of I DONT YIKE DIAPERS, I NEED DORA UNDIES.  Drag June back into the nursery and dump her on the bed. Pat Henry on the head absentmindedly while he tries to writhe his way out of his swaddling blanket. Praise Jesus and all the angels and saints when they both stop crying and drift off to sleep. Eventually.

11:30 AM – 1:30 PM: Go downstairs. Half-heartedly fold a basket of laundry and leave the clean clothes sitting in the basket for the next six days. Shove some granola in your mouth as a snack. Join the children in their room and sleep like the dead.

2:00 PM: Henry wakes up. Time to cath him again. Tell Henry to stop being such a douchebag and hold still; make a mental note to go to confession.

2:05 PM: June wakes up. Change her back into Dora underwear.

2:06 PM: Prepare lunch.

2:08 PM: “Mommy, I smell poop! It’s coming from my butt!” Clean up poop smears on the floor. Empty out June’s poop-filled underwear. Gather the poop-streaked toilet paper (“I wiped myself, mommy!”) and dump it into the toilet. Bleach everything. Wash hands. Multiple times.

2:30 – 4:00 PM: Feel incredibly, insanely guilty that you’ve spent all day running around laying out crafts for June and changing her underwear while Henry has been digging through the recycling and eating cereal off the floor. Play on the floor with Henry. Revel in how beautiful and intelligent he is. Read stories to him. Lovingly pry his hands from your head when he wants to pull your hair. Alternate between paying Henry attention and paying June attention, as they are both competing fiercely for it.

4:00 PM: Put on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and let both kids watch like six episodes. Lay on the floor and pretend to do yoga but really take a mom-nap.

4:30 PM: Remember you forgot to defrost something for dinner. Crap.

4:31 PM: What can I make for dinner? Text Lou: can we order pizza for the third time this week? No? Allrighty then.

4:32 PM: BAKED POTATOES. I AM GENIUS.

4:33 PM: Throw a few baked potatoes in the oven and set it to 400 degrees. Bam. Dinner served.

4:35 PM: Run around cleaning up clutter, sweeping, wiping down counters, shoving more berry-smeared clothes in the washing machine, and throwing sippy cups in the dishwasher so the house is some semblance of clean before Lou walks in the door.

5:30 PM: Take the kids on a walk around the neighborhood. Yell exercise time, exercise time! Yay! Mmm — smell that fresh air?! Ignore how the kids are clamoring to get back inside the house. Walk two blocks and then come back.

5:45 PM: Shove the children into Daddy’s arms the minute he comes through the door. Collapse on the couch and tell all of them you’re going to check some VERY IMPORTANT E-MAILS and demand that they not disturb you, as you are VERY BUSY and IMPORTANT. Proceed to check Facebook while ignoring their cries for dinner.

6:00 PM: Realize you’ve burned the baked potatoes. Order pizza.

7:00 PM: Serve pizza to starving children. Strip off their sauce-laden clothes and throw them in the washer on top of their berry-and-cereal-smeared clothes. Catheterize Henry. Rinse June off in the sink. Diaper them both. Clothe them both. Carry them up into our bed, where they both insist on sleeping, and dump them there. Tuck them in lovingly and then run the hell out of there before they can protest.

7:30 PM: Collapse on the couch. Watch maybe one episode of The Wire before starting to fall asleep. Go back up to your room and watch your children sleep quietly. Stroke their hair and kiss their eyelids. Thank God for these precious gifts. Resolve to do better tomorrow. Resolve to be the mom they deserve.

7:35 PM: Polish up your resume. You know, just in case.

So just what the hell is new with us lately?

1. Henry is almost one. I cannot comprehend how the little person who I just had inside me is now scooting across the floor, upending my laundry baskets, and yelling at the top of his lungs.

I continue to be amazed at his progress. No, he can’t walk yet. He probably won’t for a while — we need to get his feet straightened out which can’t happen for a variety of reasons until he’s eighteen-ish months. But damned if he doesn’t get where he needs to go — scooting, rolling, and almost crawling. He sits up unassisted, he can get up on his hands and knees and rock back and forth, he scoots, and he can get from laying down to sitting without any help from anyone. No cognitive delays and barely any physical delays, which is downright astounding considering he was supposed to be paralyzed.

I know. I know. I feel like I am always harping on that. I feel like every other word out of my mouth is HE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE PARALYZED!!!! THE DOCTORS SAID HE’D NEVER MOVE AND NOW HE DOES OMG OMG!!! So I apologize for being a broken record. But when the doctor sits you down and tells you that your kid is paralyzed — your life changes. Your entire worldview changes. And so every time Henry gets up on his hands and knees, or scoots from one place to another, it feels like this huge victory because multiple people had told us he wouldn’t be able to do that exact same thing.

Every SINGLE time he meets a milestone, I judo-chop the air with glee. He did it. He’s doing it. He’s doing exactly what you said he wouldn’t do.

And that is pretty darn inspiring.

2. I’m going to the Edel Gathering!!! When I first heard about the Edel Gathering — a two-day getaway (I like to call it a “conference” so it sounds like I’m extremely busy and important) for Catholic ladies featuring a dream team of Catholic bloggers and authors — I immediately got a nerd boner. Cocktails with a bunch of fellow Catholic ladies? Two days away from my kids? Talks and toasts from my favorite bloggers?! KARAOKE AND A CRAZY SHOE CONTEST??!?!?!?!?!?!?! I almost started salivating with desire.

I will be VERY upset if I can’t find an exact replica of these for the crazy shoe contest.

Unfortunately, the prospect of going was so far off my radar that I literally wouldn’t allow myself to think about it, lest I get too sad. The gathering is in Austin, Texas (We live in Chicago), and, oh yeah, I’m poor as shit. But then.

THEN.

Lou filled out our tax return a few weeks ago and thanks to our meager salary and our two babies, we are getting a ton of money back. Most is going to our student loans. But a modest amount is for us to splurge with. We hardly ever splurge, and we’ve had a ridiculously stressful year, so we decided to go for it. Lou is buying some original art. And I staked out the Edel website all morning and bought tickets as soon as they went live. Our splurge money should just barely cover the cost of a conference ticket, one round trip flight, and a delicious gin and tonic that I will nurse the entire night. I am unbelievably excited to go. And if you read this and plan on going, hit me up on Facebook so I can force you to hang out with me at the conference.

Literally. So. Excited. Somebody hold me.

3. June. Having a two-year-old is my favorite thing in the world. Sure, it’s trying. I haven’t gotten proper sleep in months since my particular two-year-old won’t sleep unless she’s on my pillow with her nose pressed up against mine. Two year olds are relentless, and mine specifically has no understanding of why she can’t have cookies and goldfish crackers for every single meal of the day, and she physically takes my face in her hands and turns it toward her when she thinks I’ve been looking at Henry a few seconds too long. I mean, it’s darling, but it’s frigging exhausting too.

But aside from the constant attention she demands, my two year old is a delight. I swear I spend a third of the day wanting to rip out my hair and the rest getting snuggles, hugs, and laughing at the ridiculous things that come out of her mouth. Such as:

June: Mommy, what this book say?

Me: The title is, “The Naked and the Dead.”

June: NAKED?! NAKED?! WHAT?! NO!

[opens it stealthily, closes it immediately]

June: I saw a bum.

* * *

Me: Do you think you’ll be a doctor when you grow up, June?

June: Nah. I just be a pretty lady.

* * *

Me: June, can you hold my hand in the parking lot, please?

June: Nah. I good.

* * *

June: Mommy, Jake say ‘shut up’ and ‘stupid.’

Me: Oh, that’s inappropriate. We don’t say those words.

June: Mommy, Barney say ‘shut up’ and ‘stupid.’

Me: He did, huh? Well those are rude words. Tell Barney not to say those words.

June: Mommy, daddy say ‘shut up’ and ‘stupid’.

Me: Really? Well that wasn’t very nice. Thank you for telling me.

June: Mommy…Shut Up and Stupid said ‘shut up’ and ‘stupid.’

Me: I think you’re just trying to get away with saying ‘shut up’ and ‘stupid.’

June: …. shut up.

* * *

June [to a dog that got close to her face]: Excuse me. I need some space.

* * *

June [whispering, at a church tea party]: Mommy … let’s get out of here.

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June [at the same church party]: Mommy …. God told you to get me a cookie.

Precious baby.

Her favorite thing right now is to change into her Monsters, Inc. pajamas and watch “Monsters, Inc” in the basement with her daddy after he gets off work. At least once a day she asks to do a “craft,” which consists of either cutting up pieces of paper (just sitting and cutting random shapes) or mixing snow and chocolate milk mix in a big bowl and eating it with a spoon. She loves puzzles. Blocks. She adores watching TV, which I let her do a fair amount of since she does it so darn interactively. She can quote whole snippets of dialogue from her favorite cartoons and knows pretty much every nursery rhyme, thanks to Barney. Basically, if she’s drawing, doing a “craft,” watching Adventure Time, or “helping” me clean, she’s a happy girl.

And as long as she’s asleep by 730, I’m a happy mama.

Pediatrician visit

I’m not a disciplined writer. I just write when I have the compulsion. It comes and goes like motion sickness. I’ll be sitting on the couch and it will just come up in a glut, like vomit, and I’ll have to run to my computer to get all the words out. Sick.

We went to the pediatrician on Saturday and they did the whole well-child thing for both the kids, back-to-back. The doctor did a once-over on Henry and checked in his mouth told me he wasn’t teething when he very obviously is. Then he moved onto June. The doctor checked her ears, and her eyes, and down her throat, and then her chest.

And her chest.
And her chest.
and her chest.

And he checked it for what seemed like forever.

What I was doing, in the meantime.

I closed my eyes and started saying Hail Marys. Oh there BETTER not be a problem, God, I kept thinking. I kept making eyes at Lou, who was calmly and comfortably sitting next to me, and he reached out and squeezed my elbow, not understanding or not acknowleging how long the doctor was taking to examine her chest. And when the doctor motioned to June to lay down on mommy’s lap while he listened to her heart more, I felt the familiar wave of anxiety and hot sickness like on the day that we went in for a fun little gender reveal ultrasound and got hit with a mack truck that is Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele.

I fall into this little trap sometimes where I think that because I had a child with a neural tube defect and we endured one month in the NICU and countless other problems, I’ve already gone through the worst thing that can happen to me, and therefore I’m immune from all other bad things that could happen. Like the chickenpox. I also fall into this trap where I jump immediately to the worst possible conclusion — probably a defense mechanism of some sort. Or just rampant anxiety. I can’t watch Monsters Inside Me or Dr G: Medical Examiner for precisely this reason — I’ll start to get convinced that every slight headache is a horde of maggot larvae hatching in my brain, or something. So when the doctor hovered over her chest and listened, and listened, and then made her lay on my lap and listened again, and again, I went from thinking hmm, he’s awfully thorough to welp, better call the Make-A-Wish foundation. 

We’ve had a rough year. A rough, rough year. Henry’s diagnosis. My grandpap dying. Mental health problems. The NICU. A new family member. A mild car wreck. This nurse called us up and told us we qualify for food stamps, for the love of God, and then called my precious boy an adverse outcome. So when the doctor checked June’s chest and frowned slightly, I closed my eyes and thought are you FUCKING kidding me right now, God? 

I’m not proud to say that my first reaction was one of utter anger and disbelief. On the outside, of course, I was completely stoic. I’m great in a crisis. I can shut down and deal with the situation at hand and stave off an emotional collapse for a long, long time. So I asked detailed questions and didn’t lose my cool. But on the inside I was fuming. I alternated violently between thinking, Thank you, God, for our health, for these children; we are so blessed. You’ve blessed us immeasurably. Whatever the outcome of this, thank You, thank You for these children. And then in the next minute I’d think, you know, God, I haven’t had dinner yet, and maybe you should take me out to dinner first before you FUCK ME. Are you kidding me right now? These children are my life. Why are you doing this to me? I already have one ‘sick’ child. You cannot do this to me again. YOU JUST CAN’T. 

And I do realize how selfish and disgusting I sound, thanks. Because really, with Henry’s Spina Bifida, it’s tempting to think of our family as this wretched gang of Dickensian street urchins that has been, as of late, anyway, really down on their luck. In reality though, we have it pretty great. In reality, Henry is pretty much just like any other four-month-old, which is extraordinary considering he’s developmentally more like THREE months old, and he was a month premature, and he has this whole hydrocephalus and spina bifida thing going on. But he’s really awesome. And he seriously has the best attitude of any baby I’ve ever met — perpetually happy, talkative, social, smiley. And really, we have had far more than our share of blessings: a steady paycheck, excellent health insurance, a roof over our heads. Lou and I are blessed with an awesome marriage and there’s not a day that goes by — not one day, since the start of our relationship six years ago — that he doesn’t squeeze my hand and say thank you for being my best friend, and my wife for life. (This dude has been calling me his wife since the first month we started dating, I swear.)  I mean, we’re ridiculously spoiled. But that doesn’t protect me against the stabbing fear in my stomach when the doctor lingers a little too long over my precious baby’s chest and knits his eyebrows together. It doesn’t shield me from this rush of terror and anxiety and absolute anger. I spent the rest of the day simmering in a silent fury, wanting to punch God in his stupid face, wanting him to come down and explain Himself and just what the hell He means by scaring me like this and wanting to tell Him that there better not be anything wrong with my baby. Better not. Or else. OR ELSE. Pretty intimidating, I know.

So, the doctor finally stopped listening, at which point I was almost in tears, and said that what he heard was a slight heart murmur, and that he was referring us to a cardiologist. Cool. Except not.

To be honest, I want to be all

but then I’m like nevermind, Jesus, you’re a terrible driver. You’re driving me right into a panic attack.

Prayers, please, that it’s totally nothing?