Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Do we know how to live, or what?

As I'm writing this, bear in mind that on Christmas Eve, after the kids were banished upstairs with strict instructions not to come down until morning, I experienced one of the most vicious bouts of occasional insomnia I've ever had. Asleep at 9:30, all stocking stuffing and gift displaying done, and wide awake at midnight. 2:00 nursing? Check. Bath with reading Good Morning, Midnight, by Reginald Hill, from 2:30-3:30? Check. Sleepy conversation with spouse about 3:15 when he stumbled into the bathroom? Check. Two bowls of tomato and roast pepper soup with cheese and bread at 4:00? Check. Back in bed, another feeding of babykins, trying to fall asleep for about 15 minutes? Check.

Then. . . the pitter-patter crashthump of little feet on the stairs at 4:30? Check, check and CHECK!
Eldest: "Mama, we can't sleep!"
Me: "Go. Back. To. Bed."
Them: Thumpthumpthumnpthump.

I'm just about to drop off, nearly weeping from frustration, when I hear thumpthumpthump. It's now 5:30.
"Mama. . . can we at least open our stockings?" said plaintively.
Me: "No. Go away. I'm tired. Wait at least until 6:30."

Lots of noise from upstairs. I can't sleep. They're back. Okay, it's something near 6:30 by now. Their father sweetly reminds me that they're kids, they've been relatively patient, and this is the highlight of the "whole kid year!" I get up, put the pre-made breakfast in the oven, and go to do the present opening thing. With four of them, it took a while and was both delightful and frustrating. I love their enthusiasm, but I'm looking forward to it being a little more seasoned over the next few years. I did get a teeny nap in afterwards with the littlest one from about 9:00-11:00.

Then, yesterday was okay, sleep and all considered. I realized that we had no food in the house, threw together a menu, bought edibles and because I had that tickly nose and throat feeling, got some Gan Mao Ling on my friend Susan's recommendation. It's supposed to ward off impending viruses. But, last night, the baby was reluctant to go to sleep at the regular time, so she really dropped off about 10:00. At 11:15, right as I'm finally dropping off, I hear wailing.

An hour later, I've nursed, rocked, patted, lay the baby down, held, sung, and nearly beaten my head on the wall, but sleep has won. I crawl back to bed, and announce I can't breathe. I can't find a tissue, so I grab a cloth diaper and just whimper. My spouse had earlier said that he felt a little dicey, but nothing definite. Some stomach trouble.

During my patting/nursing/singing/crying hour, he launched himself out of bed and was violently sick. I'm feeling sorry for him, sorry for me, sorry for the baby. He is sick. He takes a bath. Just as we were settling back down, down comes the eldest child.

She's crying because she's been throwing up in her bathroom upstairs. She reprises the activity in our bathroom. I finally fall asleep somewhere in this. She gets in the bath, and the next thing I know, it's 4:00, and I'm nursing the baby again. As I get back in my bed, I realize that the two middle children have come into our bed, from Thing 3's room, where they started the night. I don't like this, because it's crowded.

But it soon becomes more exciting, because Thing 2 sits up in our bed, says nothing, and begins to throw up all over our floor, my slippers, our bed. . . Fun! I find some diapers to start wiping, direct that child to the bathroom, where now there are two in the bath. Thing 3 wakes, insists on getting in the bath, even though it's over 1 & 2's objections, and I continue to strip the bed, wipe the floor, etc. Child 2 now begins a vomit reprise over the edge of the tub. Unfortunately, I'm out of towels. Whoopie!!

I find other things to wipe with, tell the kids they will have to share the final towel when they leave the tub, repeatedly ask them to whisper so they don't wake up the baby, strip the bed and gather the towels, clothes, and other vomity things and get them near the washer, and convince the four year old to return to my bed. At least now we have clean sheets. During this time, the parents have managed to have a tiff -- odd how exhaustion, self-pity (on my part -- how did they do this when I have a cold? Waaaah), and, well, vomit bring out the worst in us. So my spouse takes the comforter and goes to the couch.

I drag the too-big wool blanket off of the second child's bed and spread it over me and the third child, who is now too wired to sleep. After explaining very slooooowly that if Mama's side or hand is rubbed again by a little four year-old hand, she will start crying Very Large Adult Tears, we both fall back asleep.

Only to wake with the baby at 6:30 and more morning heaving by the three sick ones. I take the baby and go on a mercy grocery store run. I buy things I don't usually buy, plus ice and ice cube trays so the next time someone needs ice chips, we'll have them.

Back home, put another load of the laundry in. Blow my nose. The Gan Mao Ling seems to be losing the rhinovirus war. Feed the well child, give liquids to the sick ones. Wonder how much it would cost to hire a maid service JUST to vacuum and mop the floors. Notice that the ants have returned and wonder what dropped food has attracted them.

Take child #3 to get a much-needed hair cut. Fail to communicate well with the salonista, who makes little corners and cuts an odd shape around the ears. I reason to myself that it's just hair, and it grows, and at least that is out of the way.

Oh, yes, it's raining and blowy. Nice day to sit on the couch, drink tea, and knit, right? Ha!

Back home, leave that child, comfort the still-vomiting ones, and take the now-awake baby to the Social Security Administration office. Yes, that's right, what better to do on a rainy post-holiday work day than hang around with grumpy civil servants and an interesting cross-section of the urban population. One of the very very few downsides of homebirth is government paperwork. The SSA had sent back our mailed-in application for a card for the babe, without specifically saying why it had been rejected. This kind of bureacratic mess-up makes my spouse crazy, so I go to deal with it in person. I take the originals of the documents with me, some change for the meters, and head out into the pelting rain.

The office is crowded, my diaper bag is wet through, and it's hard to knit on my easy knitting while holding the baby. Even though I didn't want to be sitting in hard plastic chairs under a photograph of our President, I got to read SS informational posters in Spanish and English, watch some interesting dynamics between the populace and the security guard (Sample dialogue: "Answering questions is not my job so I am doing you a favor."), and play with the baby.

For two hours.

I did knit a few rows, and the baby charmed most of the people around. I don't know how they do it, but having a raspberry blown at you by a bald little drooly cherub makes people smile, instead of calling the police, the way they would if it were an adult doing it. One lady gracefully allowed her raincoat to be pulled, and another wiggled painted fingernails at the little one. It was still good to finally hear, "D129. That's D as in David, 1-2-9. Window 2 please."

I hand over my documents and find out that we need "A medical paper." Finally it's established that we need one of the documents I have plus that "medical paper." Turns out an insurance card will do. Wild rejoicing -- I have one! The Social Security person takes my papers and disappears. After two hours of wonderful, charm-the-pants-off-everyone behavior, the baby has started to have had enough. Banging my keys on the counter and ingesting who knows what random horrible germ is out there is only entertaining so long. It's not wailing yet, more like medium-grade grousing, but I know that that lady with the papers had better show up soon.

Finally she does, all is well, the meter had just run out, and we head home. The sickest child is still vomiting, still hasn't eaten, the house looks like the 4 year old feels just fiiiiiiiine, and no, the dishes have not washed themselves.

I'm making breakfast for dinner tonight.

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