Family Life / Growing Up

A 25 Minute Blog about Chaos

I have 25 minutes to write a blog. I’m just going to write and see what happens.

Little kids. I’ve been kind of in denial about how much time and attention my daughters need. Before I was married, I had new dads tell me how rewarding it was to come home from work have his kids greet him at the door with gleeful cheers and hugs. Yes, that does happen and it is heartwarming for those precious 15 seconds.

What happens for the next 60 minutes is a mess. Imagine me holding a little girl  in both of my arms because I just scooped them both up on my way out of the garage and into the house. I am then expected to visit with them both and entertain them both–at the same time. Actually, that only happens for a few minutes until something crazy goes down…

  • …like the day when Stella slapped me in the nose and my eyes water…
  • …so I put Norah down to try to get a game started for both of them and then she flipped out like I abandoned her at a dirty bus stop…
  • …so I picked up Norah and then put down Stella–then Stella acted shocked and very disappointed in me. She marched out of the room in stunned silence, squatted in far side of the house and cried out her despair. Then she flopped down on her belly and rubbed her face into the tile floor…
  • …so I carried Norah over and try to console Stella together. I leaned over to pick her up and Norah got nervous that I might put her down, so she lifted up her feet to avoid the inevitable planting on the floor. I lost my balance and wobbled around and lost my flip-flop and ended up stepping on Stella’s hand…
  • …Stella screamed more…
  • …Chef Candyce left the kitchen to see what all the commotion is about. I’m too flustered to even explain the situation.

Different versions of this “Daddy’s home!” scene plays out each day. But from my point of view, it all feels the same: chaotic.

It’s ironic. A courtship between a guy and a girl is all about being charming and composed. The wedding day beams with grace and dignity. Then a few years later you welcome this beautiful baby into your life. And that’s when the composure comes unraveled. Outside of the house, I’m put together pretty well, but inside the house, I am a mighty bull that gets wrangled to the ground by two hyperactive monkeys.

Toys. I had this quaint idea about kids and their toys. I would select a few fine toy from some designer online toy boutique. Then Norah would fall in love with the toys and care for and adore them because they are her prized possessions. Her little friends would look forward to coming over because Norah had unique and inspired toys that made them feel unique and inspired. Plus clean up would be easy because it’s just about putting the three toys on the bent-wood Eames shelf in Norah’s play studio. (I don’t think that Ray and Charles made a bent-wood shelf, but somehow this made its way into my fantasy.)

So far, this toy fantasy hasn’t happened at all.

Play food. I have fresh produce in three varieties. Let’s talk about apples. I have a hollow plastic apple, a polyester plush apple, and a crack your skull wood apple. Now imagine every other fruit and vegetable with those same varieties. It looks like a grocery store semi-truck jack knifed and flipped in my living room, spilling 1000s of food items onto my floor.

Dolls. I live in an orphanage of baby dolls. Without exaggeration, I think there are 30 baby dolls in my house. Maybe 50, if you count the ones stored carefully in the airtight plastic bins in the garage.

Barbie. Somehow the boomin bods of Barbie and friends showed up on my living room floor. Candyce explained that the girls needed some toys for their new plastic play pool. So she grabbed a couple mermaids off the shelf on her way out of the toy store. But these aren’t just sweet mermaids like little Ariel, these are sexy babe Barbies. I have nothing political or abrasive to say about tan Barbie and her tan friends. They can be hot if they want to, but they showed up in my house about 5 years too early. And this bothers me.

Okay, 25 minutes is up.

Up. All. Night.

Over the past couple of weeks, I feel like I’ve been pushed to my limits to take care of my sick girls. I’m also become more aware of how I’ve taken comfort for granted.

Back in Phoenix, it was midnight runs to the 24/7 pharmacy for medicine, Gatorade, and saltine crackers for a sick Candyce and Norah. Then sleeping on a cot in the corner of my own bedroom so that I could stay away from the sick ones, but still be close enough to care for them if their stomachs rejected the little food and fluid that they brought down. It was changing out puke buckets and scrubbing toilets.

Here in California, it’s been more vomiting from both Norah and Stella, but the worst has been ear pain. These ear aches are horrible because your child wanders into sleep for just a few moments before they’re jolted back awake by the sharp pain deep within their ear. It’s hours of tears and screams.

Through all of this, it’s interesting how uncomfortable a parent is willing to be in order to make sure their sick child is comfortable enough to fall asleep. I’m sure part if it is because parents love their kids, but it’s a lot more about what does it take to get your own head back on that pillow. A little sacrifice now means more sleep later. I got through the blazing heat of the 65 pounds of blankets that were heaped onto my legs because my stillness meant that Norah could fall deeper into sleep. Later that same night, I fell asleep sitting up in a chair because it soothed Norah’s ear to be upright. There is nothing about falling asleep in a chair that is comfortable.

[dropcap style=”font-size: 50px; color: #9b9b9b;”]F[/dropcap]inally on Christmas Eve we had a silent night. It was magical to wake up on Christmas morning fully rested. In the few days after Christmas, it was all well.

But Stella has acquired a nasty habit of getting really angry at night. I’ve found that the only thing that calms her down is to walk her around the neighborhood through the dark of the night. It’s bizarre to go from being happily asleep in my own warm bed to getting out onto the street in yesterday’s clothes with a baby on my back, both of us wrapped with a down comforter to keep off the December chill. An hour later, Stella is finally asleep and I’m ready to climb back up the stairs and slide back into a cozy bed.

Even still, sometimes all that attention is not enough. Stella falls asleep for just fifteen minutes and then she’s up again and angry at the world. So for the past two nights, Candyce, Norah, and I relocated in the middle of the night downstairs and all fallen asleep on the couches. At least there we’re away from riot that is Stella.

Last night was round 3/4/5 of sickness was last night. Candyce and Norah got a cold that made it hard for both of them to breathe. I flopped out of bed and explored the closets of the house to find a humidifier.  Luckily it worked quite well. I woke early in the morning with a thick coating of dew on top of my pillow and blankets. That’s bizarre. This whole thing has been bizarre. And it doesn’t show any signs of stopping.

[dropcap style=”font-size: 50px; color: #9b9b9b;”]L[/dropcap]ucky for me this is all happening on vacation. Yeah, it’s not ideal, but at least it’s not interrupting work the next day. I’ve been thinking too about how life has been different without the comforts that I took for granted before these rounds of sickness hit my family. Comfort is good, that’s why we reach for it. But too much comfort makes you a less compassionate person. Inevitably it turns you greedy too. It’s not enough to sleep in a warm bed within the shelter of a home, it has to be a super nice bed within a super nice home in a super nice city.

At this very moment, I feel very lucky just to have 30 minutes of solitude where I can write a blog.

01/02/2013 Update

New Year’s Eve —> New Year’s Day was not fun. I took turns taking care of Stella (teething) and Norah (ear ache) until 5:30 in the morning.