Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Morning Swim, First Attempt

(Note: I wrote about half of this yesterday before collapsing from exhaustion. Just pretend you are reading this yesterday.)

Back in April, I bought a summer pass to our local rec center because I wanted to give the children more opportunities to swim and also get myself into a swimming pool more often. It has long been a fantasy of mine to go swimming on a regular basis. If you dug around the interwebz, you'd probably find more than one place where I mentioned my desire to go swim laps. Or whined. I might have been whining. My goal for the summer is to try to hit the pool once a week. Today, after the bulk of the schoolwork has been finished at long last, I decided to do a trial run on a morning swim.

The indoor pool opens before I ever care to be awake and is largely reserved for lap swimmers. The outdoor pool opens at 10am. The plan was to leave home around 9, get Ella and Marian (and maybe Sam) signed into the babysitting room by 930, send the big kids to the gym, swim laps for 30 minutes in the indoor pool, round up all the children, and give them an hour in the outdoor pool. We should be home by noon, in time for lunch.

Here is what actually happened:

We didn't leave the house until 1015. Why the delay? Nobody got dressed when they got up like they had been told. Nothing was together. Breakfast wasn't finished until after nine. We ran around trying to get everything ready. Lots of arguing about goggles. I am slow. Children stare a lot.

     Action Item #1: Get it all together the previous night.

We arrive at the rec center. I boldly walk to the front desk and declare my ignorance. I ask how to get into childcare and how to get a locker. I sign for a locker key and have to leave my car keys.

Sam and Marian agreed to stay with Ella in childcare. Since this was their first time, I had to fill out the information sheets for each of them. I learned that, surprise! all children must have some kind of foot covering in order to be allowed free movement. Even the 8m old. The lady told me Ella would have to be confined to a jumpy chair. Something, something protecting feet from getting stepped on? How socks accomplish this, I am unsure. Also siblings are not allowed to pick up baby. Oh yay. Certain this will not end well, the childcare worker picks Ella up and turns away from the door and I sneak out. The time is 1050.

     Action Item #2: Find footwear for Ella.

I make my way into the locker room. I shove all our supplies into the locker, take my coverup off, grab my towel, and without shame, carry my green floaty noodle into the pool area. I discover all the swim lanes are claimed so I have to decide which person I get to bother and ask to share a lane. I decide to ask an older lady who seems to be swimming slowly. She agrees.

And there I am. In a pool! I am sorry to admit I have forgotten how to float. I need that green floaty noodle. However I am undeterred.  I start kicking laps, back and forth. I try to float on my back. I remember how to do this, but discover that getting water in my ears makes my eardrums feel like they might explode. Was it always like this? No matter. The slow, older lady regularly laps me. My legs burn before I swim one length. No matter. I am swimming in a pool like a boss. A boss with a green floaty noodle. I swim for 30 entire minutes. I attempt to get out of the pool. I cannot pull myself out of the water. I have to cross two rope lines to get the steps. Under the water, ears exploding, under the rope, out of the pool. I did it! I swam by myself for exercise!

     Action Item #3:  Figure out how to stop the problem of the exploding eardrums.
     Action Item #4:  Remember how to float.
     Action Item #5:  Get stronger.

I dry off and go to retrieve Ella from childcare. It's been an hour and close to noon. (How does it take 15 minutes on either side of the pool?) I open the door to find her crawling all over the floor. They decided to make an exception to the no crawling without socks rule just this one time. Whatever. I am told she got significantly upset several times, but Sam and Marian did an outstanding job of calming her down. Everyone survived! Grace and Olivia appear out of nowhere.

Now back to the locker room to get all the children ready to swim in the outdoor pool. This takes a ridiculous amount of time. We finally go out to the pool and have to apply sunscreen. This takes an even more ridiculous amount of time. The Kroger brand spray sunscreen doesn't want to spray. It takes my two hands and a lot of pressure. I have to rely on the children to spray me. They could barely work the can. Ella has to be sprayed too. She is unimpressed. The stranger child watching her scream while I tried to cover her in sunscreen observed, "I feel sorry for that baby."

     Action Item #6:  Don't cheap out on sunscreen.

Finally the children are given leave to get in the pool. It is now 12:30, 30 minutes after I expect to be home. We are having a learning experience. Ella is hungry so I feed her. She and I get in the pool at about 12:40. She is unsure but splashes a little while I hold her on my hip. The lifeguard whistles everyone out of the pool at 12:50 for a ten minute break. We are, indeed, having a learning experience.

The children want a snack. We don't have food. I am that kind of mother. We decide to wait out the break, get back in the pool another 15-20 minutes and then go home.

While in the pool after the break, I have Ella on one hip and Marian on the other walking back and forth at 3.5 feet in the very crowded pool because neither can swim. Marian asks to go play on the slide that's at 1 foot depth. She quickly changes her mind and attempts to drown herself by walking back out to me further than she can touch. Fun times. (M was fine. It's mostly horrifying in retrospect since I didn't know she was coming and I turned around to find her flailing for me. She didn't even cough any water.) Ella, in the meantime, falls asleep on my hip. This makes twice she has conked out in a pool. Is it that relaxing or is this a stress response?

     Action Item #7:  Try to avoid the 1 o'clock pool break.
     Action Item #8:  Talk to Marian (again) about pool safety. (How do you keep two non-swimming children safe in a pool at the same time? There's only one of me.)

Finally, it is time to go. We get out, dry off, and head back home. We pull into the driveway at 230pm. We are starving. Crankily, children are tended and fed. I eat lunch at 3:20. I collapse in a heap for the rest of the day.

     Action Item #9:  Figure out how to go on a morning swim and eat lunch before late afternoon. 

So there it is! I successfully executed a swim outing. It didn't go exactly as planned, but I managed to do it. I fought multiple rounds of discouragement but decided it was a preliminary run. We will try again next week.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Purge, Part 2

This really isn't a post, just an update to say we are still doing school. Hurrah. I feel time slowing creeping and I want to be finished probably more than the children so I can get on with organizing all the things. Did I say children? Well, I meant child. Two of the three children are finished with their schoolwork. The third perseveres. Mostly though, I want to think about how to approach the work.

The first thing I have to do on my summer vacation is not related to school at all but to the baby. I have not written any thank-you notes for anything related to Ella's arrival. I heap ashes on my head. I am sure people will raise their eyebrows at getting an acknowledgement nine months after the fact, but I will send them anyway in my humiliation. It's not that I didn't mean to write them. It just kept not happening.

After that bit is finished, I have decided to start in Sam and Marian's room. It is a mess, but easily brought back to reasonable. Any ideas for stuffed animals? After that, I will move to Grace and Olivia's room, which really cannot be described. I know they have a floor because the living room ceiling has not collapsed. That's all I can really say about that room. Then, I will work on the toy area in the room that connects the upstairs bedrooms. Those three rooms will probably take me two weeks. Maybe? Hopefully not longer. Hard to say. There's so much stuff.

I will then move to the kitchen, I think. Or my closet? Depends. I want to do the kitchen while the children spend a week at my parents and are not home. I think that whole week will be dedicated to the kitchen. The pantry, the closet under the stairs, both fridges, all the freezers, under the sink, the drawers. I have to be careful not to be sucked permanently into the kitchen.

I think the last item on my agenda will be the paperwork. I think. It's hard to know what you should give a cursory pickup and what you should take the time and deep clean. The goal is to deep clean all of it, but I am trying to prioritize. The bookcases and several closets need totally reorganized, but what can wait?

So I will keep you updated on progress and grope around trying to find the next best thing to do. Ideas, as always, are welcome.

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Secret Life of Ella

Ella is a wonderful, delightful, beautiful baby. She is generous with her full grin. Even to strangers, she does not hide her face. She delights in her siblings, smiling when they approach her, especially Sam, to whom she gives special adoration.

When we go out in public, people stop to tell me how good Ella is. She is so very content. In church, she is mostly quiet, making pleasant baby noises. Our fellow parishioner exclaim over her. What a good baby she is.

And she is a good baby! Ella is very easy to please. It isn't a complicated affair. After nursing and clean diapers, she only really requires one thing. Her sole requirement is that I hold her. That's it. Notice I did not say that she be held. Oh no. It is a very specific set of arms she requires.

As a result, I regularly change the diapers of a screaming baby since I cannot both hold her and change her diaper simultaneously. Mealtimes are conducted to the soundtrack of screaming baby. (Yes, I can hold her and eat, but sometimes I don't want to.) Showers are spent trying to decide if that sound is the water or the screaming baby. Baths are a special favorite where she screams as if she is actually dying from the time she hits the water until she is dry with the diaper replaced. I get dressed to screaming and get ready for bed to screaming.

I brush my teeth holding baby. I do laundry holding baby. I make school checklists and help children with schoolwork holding baby. I make the bed holding baby, which is more strenuous than you might think. If it can be done holding a baby, I have probably attempted it. Otherwise the wages of free hands is screaming baby.

I do usually get a couple of hours of sleep at night while she is in the crib, but sooner or later, she will wake and realize she is not touching me. She may not be hungry, but she definitely needs to grab my face in order to go back to sleep. And as she gets more mobile, she is more satisfied on the floor. She will accept being held by her father or her siblings for minutes at a time. But soon and very soon, she will be screaming for me again.

Ironically, she was our most chill newborn. She hardly peeped when put down, even the very first night. She slept through the night before she was two weeks old. She was magic baby. Then, around four months, it all changed. She went from being always content to having a list of requirements.

Still, there are worse fates than having to hold a happy baby all the time. It isn't a horrible way to spend your time. When she begins to cry, all I have to do is pick her up. She immediately shines her benevolence on us again. And the strangers at the grocery store will exclaim, "What a contented baby!"

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Purge, Part 1

I've decided to start a series! Hurrah! I think if I write little blurbs and updates about purging the house, I'll be more accountable and less likely to slide into overwhelm despair. This decision might drive every one of my three readers away from this little outpost, but so be it. Last summer it was all pregnancy all the time. This summer will be organizing and getting rid of a mountain of things. So here's the first post. Right now, I am just thinking and deciding on a plan of action.

First decision: Should I tackle the kitchen again or head straight up the stairs for the kid junk?

Points for the kitchen: I am finicky about the kitchen and cannot function in it when things are not just so. As a result, I have not really spent any kitchen time since January 2017. Really. A meal here or there, but that's it. A clean and organized kitchen means I could maybe meal plan and cook regularly again. We eat out entirely too much because the kitchen makes my brain freeze. If I organize the kitchen first, the upstairs cannot be retrashed while I am working on it. Also, I've already purged it once, two years ago, so it isn't quite as out of hand. The stuff I got rid of didn't come wandering back.

Points for the kid junk: The upstairs is traaaassshhhed. It's hard to overstate. There is so much junk without homes. So much stuff that just needs to leave. Because of the overabundance, the stuff wanders all over the house. If the upstairs was purged and organized, the overall house clutter would decline significantly since that is a major source of it.



Unrelated to starting the purge, I have a vision for my bedroom closet that doubles as the bathroom linen closet. I think it would be easier to keep up with items in stock if each had it's own little canvas box. I am thinking about those small 6in canvas crate boxes you might get at Target. I see a shelf with a dozen little crates, one with toothpaste, one with deodorant, one with contact solution, and so on. Is this an organizational dream or am I plain crazy? Is this too fiddly to keep up?

Friday, April 27, 2018

Quick Takes

I don't think I have ever done a Quick Takes post. I don't have a label anyway. So here are some random thoughts that have been bouncing in my head in the form of Quick Takes


The older I get, the more I think a UBI is the best solution to our poverty problems. Of course most people hate this idea. The more conservative end are scared to death someone might get something for nothing. "Here, have some bootstraps to eat." The more, um, not conservative end are scared someone might choose something unapproved. "You're poor, therefore too stupid to do right without all our required advice." Not to mention the entire scaffolding of government jobs dependent on a steady stream of poor people to help. But how about we just cut everyone a check and be done with it? Although Finland is shelving their UBI program so maybe it's not it, after all. Still, less bureaucracy, more aid without strings.


Related, one of the ongoing conversations in the working mother world is the cost of childcare. I have a third rail opinion, I think? By definition, you must pay your babysitter less than you make. How do you pay the person caring for your child an appropriate wage without making your own work not worth doing because of the cost of childcare. I think in the realm of childcare, it's not possible in most cases. I think most childcare workers are underpaid and most parents are unable to pay more. A Gordian knot. And I wonder how many jobs exist solely to prop up the childcare question? As in I pay you to watch my kids so you can pay me to watch your kids. I wonder about the sustainability of it all. 


Somewhat related, is volunteering a problem everywhere?  It seems no matter where we go, those organizations are bereft of volunteers. The Cub Scouts, AHG, church (forever church), softball, the community garden, everywhere is the constant plea for volunteers, and yet the same 15 people who always do all the work keep doing all the work for that organization. Do we have unreasonable expectations on people's time? Does everyone feel pushed to the brink like I do? Or are there people who do flat nothing? Did it used not to be this way? I don't have good answers. I know that I don't think I have time to volunteer for much of anything and feel immense guilt because of it. People say 'Seasons of Life' but then I hear retired empty-nesters tell me they are busier than ever. Frankly, I don't believe them, but I definitely could be wrong.


Touching on my last post, I thought I'd add that since the beginning of winter, the only significant weight loss I've had was achieved by the week I spend sick as a dog with some GI plague. Five pounds in a week. Not in the recommended way. Part of the trouble with dropping the weight is that when I cut calories, I don't just get hungry, I get compulsively hangry. This is a new experience. In the past, I could be hungry, eat a bit to take the edge off, and maintain the calorie deficit. This time, eating a bit does not take the edge off. If anything it makes me hungrier and so I compulsively eat until I'm back to where I started. I know, intellectually, the body likes to maintain its weight, but I have never quite experienced it in this way in the past. Dave mentioned that the weight also might be a little stickier because I am only feeding baby what she eats instead of pumping off eight extra gallons at work like I did last time around.


So I splurged and bought a summer pass to the local rec center. This is my official experiment to see if I can become the type of person who goes to rec centers to swim and exercise and stuff. My goal is to go once a week. I struggle with getting out of the house in a timely manner so we shall see how I end up handling the logistics of getting myself and five children ready to swim once a week. Do I need a swim cap?


The other big summer news is that maybe finally I shall purge the house. It's summer so no homeschooling to worry about. I do not have a crazy escaping toddler. I won't be pregnant. Please God, the dryer won't break, and we won't get lice. I need to start planning my method of attack. Is anyone interested in hearing about this? I feel like this is the topic that will never die, but maybe that's only in my own head. This summer is the summer, right?


Hey yall, my cute baby:

Photo by Marian

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Weighted Winter

I have been cold my entire life. I have shivered under blankets while my parents kept the heat at an economical temperature. I bring sweaters to restaurants. I wear long sleeves and pants long after everyone else has moved to shorts. It is just the way my life has been. Winter is long and cold.
The only time I have ever had relief from the cold in winter has been during pregnancy. The hormones and the built-in heater meant I was warm. While the increased heat was nice, the pleasantries of pregnancy hormones meant I wasn't really enjoying it.

This winter has been entirely different. Due to circumstance of birth and age, I spent the winter officially overweight. The most striking aspect of this experience, aside from having no pants that fit, is that I am not cold. I am not cold. It is so weird.

My usual winter bed has flannel sheets, a heavy cotton blanket, an acrylic blanket, a fleece blanket, and the quilt. I wear heavy flannel pajamas and fleece socks. And still I shiver.

This year the fleece blanket was never taken out of the closet. The heavy flannel pajamas were never worn. The regular sheets returned before March. I threw the blankets off of me nearly every night, much more likely to be overheated than cold.

I didn't not wear multiple layers under my heavy coat. I wore one layer under an open, button down overshirt. My flannel-lined jeans were only missed that one week the temperatures hovered in the single digits.

It has been eye-opening, this experience of winter warmth. It isn't half bad, being functional through the winter months instead of trying to quiet your chattering teeth. However all good things must come to an end. I am ready for this experiment to conclude as the summer begins. Warmth in winter is good. Extra warmth through the summer? Maybe not so much.

I have been patiently waiting for the pregnancy weight to come off by itself, as it always has in the past, but now at seven months postpartum, I am still a good seven pounds up from my pre-pregnancy weight. It has always been gone by now. And my pre-pregnancy weight was a good five pounds higher than it ought to have been, which in itself was a good five pounds heavier than the glorious ideal of my previous postpartum weight experiences. I don't think it's likely I'll ever see that weight again. I'll give it until June--nine months on, nine months off, dontcha know, and then I suppose the real effort will begin.

In the meantime, I probably need to buy bigger shorts because none of mine currently fit. Hopefully by fall, I won't need even more new pants to replace the two pairs I have thoroughly worn out this winter. I hate buying pants. But I'll have fond memories of this winter that I was neither pregnant nor freezing and marvel.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Scenes from the Hospital III

It was our last day in the hospital. I had technically already been discharged and we were waiting on the hospital pediatrician to sign Ella's discharge papers. We were living on hospital time. As we waited, expecting a doctor to show up any moment, a lactation consultant stuck her head in the room and asked if we needed any assistance. I started to send her away because, really, what could be said that I didn't already know. Then I thought about the blisters that were already starting to form and reconsidered. I told her this was my fifth baby so I already know what to do, but if she had time and nobody else needed help and we were still here when she returned, I wouldn't mind a glance and an opinion. She agreed and left to check on other patients.

My nursing history is such that my babies generally latch well, I get horrible blisters for no discernible reason, the blisters heal within a week or two, and we go on to nurse uneventfully and relatively pain free until weaning. I figured this time would not be any different. I didn't want to take her time for what I considered a hopeless but temporary situation and prevent her from helping another patient with bigger issues.

In spite of my past nursing experiences, my experiences with lactation consultants have not been great. With Grace, at the baby friendly hospital, the nurse recommended the shove technique where she shoved baby's face into my breast, held it there, and wouldn't let her move. Latched? Not latched? Whatever. That head wasn't moving. With Olivia, the LC told me that I was, in fact, not in pain because the latch was right. My mind and pain receptors must have been deluded. With Sam, Lactation never bothered to check on us. With Marian and the midwife, she confirmed the latch looked good and that was the end of that. My hopes were not high for this latest consult.

After awhile the lactation nurse returned and we were still waiting on the discharge papers. Hospital time. I told her we could give it a go and see what she had to recommend.

She told me that mothers with nursing experience tend to use the cradle hold and tend not to get a deep enough latch because of it. I nodded and latched Ella on. She said her latch looked great even though I was using the cradle hold. I nodded again. I know. She looked and thought and thought and looked.

Finally she had an idea. She prefaced with a warning that she did not know if it would work, but that if I changed the angle of attack, it might be less painful. She recommend I use a cross cradle hold, make sure baby was as parallel to the floor as possible, and use my free arm to help support her weight along with a generous use of pillows. Her idea was that the 20-30 degree angle off parallel that I held baby might be causing a touch of friction, even though the latch looked fine. She grabbed a bunch of pillows and encouraged me to hold her as straight as possible.

I latched Ella on, guiding her head with my opposite hand. And...nothing happened. Nothing. No pain. No agony. No curled toes. No feeling of expanding blisters. No nothing. Baby just ate. Nobody was more shocked than I was. The sky opened and music was heard--or maybe that was the Cuddle Time announcement? Maybe pain and blisters were not inevitable with a new, newborn. I copiously thanked this lactation consultant who took pity on my poor grand multipara, AMA soul.

By the next morning, the blisters had receded and I didn't have any more latching pain as long as I remembered to keep her parallel. A totally unexpected result.

Eventually we adjusted and I could return to my lazy, cradle-hold-at-an-angle ways. Now I just have to worry about the pain associated with Ella wanting to nurse and also wanting to have enough space to look around. I don't think an LC can fix this one.

Thus ends the trio of funny hospital moments I meant to tell you about six months ago.