It’s Gotta Be Friday The 13th

It’s not even five frikkin’ thirty in the morning and both kids already up. I had to change the sheets on both their beds and now Sam wants to nurse. These kids are supposed to be asleep so I can get some work done right now, ya know?

What? What’s that you say? When do I sleep? Are you kidding me?

I don’t even have any artwork to show you, because it’s too frikkin’ early in the morning and I haven’t had a chance to get to the office and scan it in. This is just ticking me off, folks.

P.S. – I’m looking at switching over to Blogger Beta in the next week or so. I have no idea how badly that might screw things up, but from what I understand, once I switch, I’ve switched for good. So keep your fingers crossed and pray I don’t accidentally flush the whole blog right down the toilet, okay?

Mommy Needs Personal Time

Let me ask you something, moms. How far would you go to get a little time to yourself? Just a little peace and quiet, some time to sit alone, drink a cup of coffee and do something just for you. Would you kill to get some time for yourself? Because I think that’s what I’m about to do.

This past week has been nothing short of a disaster for me. I’m still struggling with the synopsis of my novel, trying to write it so I can send the novel out the door to a publisher and hopefully get it sold before the end of the year. I’m getting nowhere with this however, because I’m not getting any time to write. My writing and my artwork are secondary to everything else going on in this house. And I’m starting to resent it big time.

I can’t recall most of Saturday, mainly because I ended up being so sleep deprived. I was up all night with Sam, I remember that. She woke up to nurse at around 2AM. By 2:30, she was still wide awake and fussy. Since I’d been up late and was dead tired, I woke Michael up and asked him to take her so I could get some sleep. At about 3:15 I woke to the sound of hacking and sputtering and crying. Seems my genius husband decided Sam needed to fuss it out so he put her in the bassinette on her back, completely forgetting she was still congested from the virus she’d contracted earlier last week. He, of course, was sound asleep in bed, so I got up and tried to nurse Sam back to sleep again. By that point though, she was too congested and so at 3:45AM I ended up standing in the shower with her in my arms, trying to steam the snot out of her. She eventually started breathing easier but still wouldn’t go to sleep, so at 4AM I took her downstairs, put her in her swing, and then I started cleaning.

I cleaned until 5:30AM, when I ran out of things to clean. Sam still wasn’t asleep. So I sat down with my drawing pad and pencil and started to sketch (and here I’ve been complaining about how I never have time to draw anymore. Silly me!). Sam was dozing, but kept waking back up every time she nodded off. By 6:30AM, I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore so I took Sam, who was still fighting sleep, upstairs and tried nursing her again.

At some point, she and I both fell asleep in the bed. Michael got up around 8 AM, I think. Cassie got up shortly after. Then around 8:30, Michael headed out to karate class, leaving Cassie alone downstairs watching TV. I don’t like Cassie being left alone like that, so I crawled out of bed with Sam and went downstairs. Cassie watched Sesame Street. Sam snoozed in her bouncy chair. I lay on the couch nursing a pot of coffee. Not a cup, mind you. A pot.

When Sesame Street was over, I somehow got off the couch and started cleaning house again (because kind person that I am, I only cleaned the downstairs of the house at 4 AM so as not to wake up anybody sleeping upstairs). Michael waltzed in around 10:30 AM and announced he was going upstairs to take a shower. I told him to take a frikkin’ number, because now that he was home, he was going to watch the kids while I took a hot bath.

I vaguely remember the bath. I also vaguely remember dozing in bed for a brief period. I had lunch when I got up. Then Michael took Cassie to the playground so I could work on my synopsis for an hour or so. Only I fell asleep at the computer and dreamed about Elmo instead.

And that’s the punch line to the joke, folks. My darling husband graciously gave me an hour or so to write, but I was so damned tired I couldn’t do it. I think by the time he came home, I had managed to write two or three lines. That was it.

The rest of Saturday was a blur of breastfeeding Sam and managing temper tantrums from Cassie. Underneath it all was an almost overwhelming feeling of resentment. That feeling carried over into Sunday, when I got up early to clean house once again. However, I took my frustrations out on the dusting and when I was done an hour and a half later, I decided things weren’t going so bad after all. Michael took Cassie with him to church, then to the playground and the hardware store. I used the free time to sketch, take a much needed walk, and take care of Sam. It was a nice day, and I was almost starting to feel human again. Cassie was sound asleep when Michael returned from the hardware store, so he put her into her bed and headed out to do more errands. I sat down to work on the synopsis, and then everything went to hell in a hand basket again.

Sam woke up first, fussing and snorting and demanding to be fed. I sat down with her in the glider and continued writing while she attacked my left breast. It was a little distracting since she wouldn’t settle down, but I was determined to work. Then fifteen minutes later Cassie walked in and announced she was done taking a nap. Frustrated, I took both kids downstairs and brought my laptop along. I spent the next two hours trying to write between sessions of bouncing a gassy infant and distracting a cranky preschooler. I think I completed a grand total of three sentences.

You can imagine the rest of the evening. Dinner came and went, accompanied by the now-routine sets of tantrums and fussiness. Then the bedtime routine started, with extra whining and pouting thrown in to top off the day. Somehow, Michael and I managed to get the kids into bed without one of us winding up in jail. Then as he went off to watch the nightly news, I sat down at the dining room table and planned a way to get my work hours back.

Remember my initial question? How far would you go to get a little time to yourself? I made a decision that I’d go pretty damned far. I decided I’d get up at 5 AM if I had to, well before anyone else in the house was awake, and spend the early morning hours either drawing or writing. I plotted my whole day around that idea, and then made a plan to keep Cassie up and moving as much as I could during the day so she’d be worn out come nap time and therefore would actually take a nap instead of pop out of bed to drive me crazy.

I had a plan. I set it in motion. The next morning, I woke up at 5 AM. I showered, got dressed and was downstairs by 5:45. I was running a little late, and I still had to pump breast milk and get the coffee going, but even so, I figured I’d still get in 40 minutes of “me” time. Ha ha. Twenty minutes later, I was still swearing at the coffee maker and the breast pump, both of which had decided to piss me off by refusing to function. The coffee maker was giving me brown-tinted water rather than full-blown java juice, and the breast pump wasn’t giving me any suction. I reran the coffee and futzed with the pump. By 6:15, I had milk and joe, but only fifteen minutes left to work. I sat down with a pad and pencil, determined to use what little time I had left. Then Cassie came bouncing downstairs demanding a sippy cup of milk. A minute later, Sam woke up howling to be nursed.

The rest of the day went pretty much the same way. All my plans and hopes for stealing time to work were constantly fouled up by one child or the other. Nap time, which I had reserved for working on the novel synopsis, was a complete disaster. Cassie had fallen asleep earlier in the car, but as soon as we got home she woke up and wasn’t tired any more. Attempts to get her to lie down devolved into a screaming match. Then Sam woke up from her nap and that was it for work time.

That’s about when I finally hit the end of my rope. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I called Michael up and let him know that the moment he came home, I was packing up my laptop and leaving. Not for good, mind you, but I had to work. He could take the kids for the evening. I was going to the library to write.

I made my escape at 6 PM, the moment Michael walked in the door. I have never felt so free and so guilty at the same time. It was amazing how quickly I could get out the door when I wasn’t saddled with two kids, but I also felt terrible because I’d just abandoned my post and left my darling husband at the mercy of two screaming brats. Good thing my guilt only lasted about five seconds, otherwise I never would have made it to the library where I spent two and a half hours doing some blissfully child-free writing. I managed to complete two pages of my synopsis before the library closed.

I headed home around 8:45 PM. Cassie was screaming in the bath tub. Sam was draped over Michael’s shoulder, spitting up for all she was worth. Michael was struggling to keep calm. I almost choked trying not to laugh at him. I set my laptop up by its rightful place beside the glider, reclaimed Sam and sat back down to nurse. Half an hour later, both kids were in bed. Michael and I sat collapsed on the couch. When he asked me about my evening, I had to admit how good it felt to just leave the house. “Maybe that’s something you should do twice a week,” he suggested. I never loved that man more than I did at that moment. “Once a week,” I replied. “I want at least one evening during the week home with you and the kids.”

I’d like to say things took a dramatic change for the better after that. They haven’t. Over the past couple of days, I’ve continued to struggle with tantrums, diapers overflowing with runny green poop, malfunctioning coffee pots, and a serious lack of work time. None of this is going to change anytime soon. But I’ve made arrangements with Michael to escape to the library again tonight. I figure it’s only fair. Next week he leaves for Colorado on a business trip and I’ll have both kids to myself for six days straight. I want to complete the synopsis before then so I don’t end up going all week with this unfinished project hanging around my neck like a stone. That would just make me want to kill Michael the moment he walks in the door, and I certainly don’t want to do that.

I got up this morning before 5 AM again just to steal a little more work time. But now it’s 7 AM. The kids are up. The grind continues. I’m just holding out until this evening when I can make my escape from the asylum again. I keep telling myself I’ll survive.


The Descent Into Hell

The Italian poet Dante wrote a story called “The Inferno.” It’s an amazing piece of work, wherein Dante describes his descent through the nine circles of Hell, guided by none other than Plato himself. Plato gets to play tour guide in this one because he was a non-Christian but, in Dante’s opinion, still one of the good guys who ended up residing in Purgatory. Dante’s “Inferno” is written in intricate rhyming stanzas with brilliant imagery, calling up all the details of the nether realm, right down to his visitation with Lucifer at the very bottom of Hell. It’s truly astounding to read.

My own descent into hell last not was not nearly so imaginative. It started early yesterday afternoon. I was having trouble getting Sam to go down for her nap. Normally, I can nurse her down with no problem during the day. It’s night time that’s usually the nightmare. But yesterday, I couldn’t get Sam to settle to save my life. She’d nurse and fuss and fuss and nurse. I tried repeatedly to put her in her bassinette, only to have to pick her up again because she had blown out her diaper or spit up all over herself. Sometime around 5 PM, she finally fussed herself to sleep. Cassie didn’t get up until 6PM from her nap so I managed to squeeze in an hour of work. Then things really got interesting.

Michael left at around 7PM to go to karate class. I went through the usual evening routine of misbehavior and tantrums from Cassie. I had to hold Sam through all of it because she kept wailing. I finally got Cassie into bed just before Michael came home. Being completely exhausted, I put Sam down in her car seat to cry for a while as I tried to prepare for the next day. I kept hoping she’d cry herself out and fall asleep. That never happened.

Fifteen minutes after Michael got home, Sam’s wailing turned to shrieking. Michael picked her up and held her while I finished off my evening chores and tried to do most of the next morning’s chores as well. She fell asleep on her daddy around 10:30 PM. Relieved, we took her upstairs and put her back into the car seat to sleep (she still can’t sleep lying flat on her back). I went back downstairs to get a drink. When I came back up, Sam was awake and screaming again.

The screaming went on all night. Michael and I took shifts trying to comfort her. I tried nursing her, but Sam kept popping off and on again. Michael took her downstairs around midnight and after an hour of rocking her and patting her back, he got her to sleep for half an hour. As soon as he brought her back upstairs and put her back in the car seat, the screaming started all over again. So we ran a hot shower and I took Sam in with me. She calmed down a bit but wouldn’t fall asleep. I got dressed and tried to nurse her. She wouldn’t nurse. I checked her temperature. It was normal. We changed her diaper three times, each time discovering it was full of that damned green watery poop that has plagued us for the last seven weeks. After the last diaper change at 3 AM I took Sam back downstairs and tried putting her in the swing to lull her to sleep. It worked for a few minutes. Then she started howling again. I grabbed a blanket and a pillow and lay on the floor with her. She nursed a little bit and sometime around 4:30 AM fell asleep again. Then she woke up screaming at 5 AM. I took her back upstairs and crawled into bed with her. She nursed again and finally fell into a deep sleep around 5:30 AM.

Then at 6:30 AM I woke up to the sound of Cassie screaming bloody murder. I sent Michael out to check on her. He came back and said she was on the toilet and wouldn’t talk to him. She wanted me. I sent him back out again to try and calm her down. The screaming got worse. Since Sam was finally asleep, I put her in her bassinette and went to see what was wrong with my three-year-old daughter.

Cassie was in hysterics, crying and screaming so hard that I was afraid she’d puke all over herself. I tried calming her, but she was inconsolable. Frustrated and tired, I sent her back to her room and shut the door. Michael lay on the hallway floor, semi-conscious. I waited for a minute until Cassie’s sobs slowed. Then I pulled myself together, grabbed a washcloth, and went in to soothe my sobbing child.

Even now, I still don’t know why Cassie was screaming. I never could get a coherent answer. It may be that she just woke up knowing that Michael and I had descended straight into hell and she wanted to contribute to that experience as much as she could. Or it could be that she was a little jealous of all the attention Sam was getting through out the night. Or it could simply be she had a nightmare. I’ll probably never know.

As for Sam, she continues to scream in between short naps. There’s snot coming out her nose now, and she feels a little warm. I’m going to take her temperature again and keep watching for strange green poop. Later today, around 3 PM, we have an appointment with the pediatrician. In the mean time, I’m doing my damnedest to stay awake and take care of both kids.

I’m in hell, people. That’s all there is to it. The bitch of it is that I don’t even have someone cool like Plato to give me the 25 cent tour.
And people wonder why the mommy and the baby in my profile picture have horns on their head…

Mommy Can’t Work Because…

Boy was yesterday a real peach. Remember that mid-life crisis I was talking about a few days ago? Yesterday was a prime example of why I’m having one. I was up most of the night before with Sam, who just could not settle down to save her tiny little life. All night long she fussed and grunted and kicked and thrashed in the bed beside me. I tried nursing her, but she kept popping off and on. It’s not a comfortable way to spend the night, nursing a baby like that. I kept waking up to find Sam beating my chest with her tiny little fists as she screwed up her fat little face and wailed. “Mommy! I can’t sleep! If I can’t sleep, you can’t sleep either!”

Normally, after a night like that, Sam would be out cold all the next day. Not so yesterday. She continued to fuss and cry all day long, only taking little cat naps here and there. Cassie, of course, was all hyped up and raring to go as soon as the sun came up. In fact, I’d say she was up before anyone else, except that I never really went to sleep so it doesn’t quite count. As you can guess, I spent all day dragging after Cassie and hauling around a screaming Sam. We did make it to the YMCA, where I managed to get in 30 minutes on the elliptical machine without falling asleep. Then we came home, had lunch, and I tried to nurse a very fussy baby while Cassie jumped around the living room like a howler monkey. She made just about as much noise as one too. Once Sam was done popping on and off the breast, I decided I deserved a break and I trundled everyone into the car and headed off to the mall.

My excuse for going to the mall was to pick up the contact lenses I’d ordered last week, but I had a secondary mission as well. There’s a Barnes and Noble right next to the eyeglass place. I had this little fantasy of taking my well-behaved children with me to the bookstore, where I would spend half an hour or so browsing through the graphic novel section and then go to the café to grab a cup of coffee and sit in the café while Cassie munched quietly on a cookie and Sam dozed in the stroller. This little fantasy of mine should tell you exactly how sleep deprived I was yesterday. In my right mind, I would have known better than to hope for such a lovely little scenario, and I never would have bothered to try it.

There’s a play area in the mall, sandwiched right between the eyeglass store and the Barnes and Noble’s, so I decided to let Cassie run around there for a while and burn off her excess energy. I sat zombie-like on the bench for thirty minutes, dreaming of my coffee, while Cassie ran around screaming with other kids. Sam sat quietly in my arms watching her sister. It was the only time yesterday she was calm. When thirty minutes was up, I told Cassie it was time to go. I did that little count down thing you’re supposed to do – “Cassie, you’ve got ten minutes left.” “Okay, Cassie, just five more minutes before we leave.” “Three minutes, Cass, then we’re going to the bookstore.” “Cassie, it’s time to go!”

The countdown thing doesn’t work very well, in my opinion. Actually, I think it just outright sucks. Cassie acknowledged every announcement with an “Okay, Mommy!” But when it came time to leave, she had a complete meltdown. I had to pick her up off the floor and shove her shoes onto her feet because she refused to do it herself. Then I had to drag her screaming from the play area. It was already 2:30 by that point, which is normally about the time I try to settle her down for a nap. I was really determined to go to the bookstore though, and it was only a few feet away from the play area. Cassie finally calmed down when I told her she’d get a treat from the café. Unfortunately, Sam only remained quiet long enough to let me browse for five minutes before she started to howl. So I ended up rushing Cassie through the café, grabbing a couple of fruit smoothies and a cookie to go, and then taking the kids home where I could nurse Sam while Cassie enjoyed her treat. God knows, I wasn’t going to subject everybody in the bookstore to my kids when I could barely tolerate them myself.

So my dreams of a quiet, relaxing afternoon kind of went up in smoke. This was quickly followed by my dreams of a quiet, relaxing work period also going up in smoke. I’m trying to write a synopsis for my really gay fantasy novel so I can send it out to a publisher by the end of this month. It’s rough going, trying to reduce 82,000 words to just a few pages. I was really hoping to get at least an hour to spend on it yesterday afternoon. However, while Cassie went down okay for her nap, once again Sam wouldn’t settle. Every time I tried putting her in her bassinette, she had a huge spit-up so I had to pick her up and clean her off. I finally got her down around 4:30ish. Then fifteen minutes later, Cassie woke up, skipped into the bedroom and demanded we go downstairs and play Little People again.

I just wanted to cry. The moment she walked in, I knew my work time was over. I spent the next few hours playing dollies, nursing babies, reheating dinner and otherwise dragging myself through the daily grind of mommy-hood. Michael called at six to let me know he wasn’t coming home for dinner. In fact, he didn’t get home until I put both kids down for bed. He’s got this paper he has to write for a conference. The same conference he’s leaving for in two weeks. The one where he gets to go to Colorado for seven days and I get to stay home and take care of the kids all by myself. Keep watching the news around that time. I’m sure right after Michael gets back, you’re gonna read about a homicide in the headlines.

What The Hell Happened To My Life?

I’m having a midlife crisis. This is my second midlife crisis, actually. The first one happened right after Cassie was born. Now it’s happening again with Sam.

What’s my problem? Before my first child came along, I had no idea who I was or what I wanted to do with my life. I was 33, had two degrees in communications, and had never once gone after any of the things I dreamed of doing when I was in high school. Pathetic, isn’t it?

When I was a teen, I knew I wanted to be an artist. Hell, back then, I was an artist. I drew all the time, I had no lack of ideas. Everybody who knew me knew I could draw. I was even voted most artistic in my senior class. Problem was, at some point I sort of lost my way. It started even before I graduated from high school, to be honest. Even as my peers were proclaiming me most artistic, I was slowly letting my artistic interests fade away. I wanted to draw and paint, but I didn’t pursue it the way I should have. I should have taken art classes in high school. Instead, I took band. I should have drawn every spare minute of the day. Instead, I pissed away the days by doing other things, like watching TV, goofing off and hanging out at the mall. That wasn’t to say I still wasn’t creative. By the time I was sixteen, I had gotten heavily into fantasy and science fiction costuming. But my real passion, art, just got left in the dust to wither and die.

It didn’t help that my dad insisted I could never make a living as an artist. I wanted to go to art school. Dad insisted that I major in something “useful” instead. Since I hadn’t spent the last four years of school preparing for art school by taking art classes and building up a portfolio, guess who won that argument? And the end result? A bachelor’s and a master’s degree in communications, two pieces of paper that I’ve had almost no use for in the last 15 years. Yep, six years of my life and several thousands of Dad’s money devoted to a subject I really couldn’t care less about.

To be fair, it’s not Dad’s fault. He also swore my sister Carolyn could never make a living as an actress, but she fought for what she wanted, and she prepared for it by taking acting classes every year in high school and by being heavily involved in school musicals, dance productions, and the chorus. She showed Dad up front what she could do and what she wanted and then she went to college and pursued her dream. It is entirely besides the point that now at 33 she is getting a new degree in something else – physical therapy – because making it as an actor in New York is almost damned impossible. What matters is she pursued what she wanted. I didn’t. Carolyn at least has several years of theater performances and a production company to show for it, even if she is now changing course.

So here I am, mother of two and still wishing I could be an artist. I haven’t been completely without my artistic successes. I have a tiny portfolio of very nice 3D and 2D graphics. Too bad I only complete two or three pieces a year though. I do have a couple of animated cartoons done, the only instances where I had any use for my degree in broadcast communications. I’ve even got a couple of nice colored pencil drawings floating around the house. But none of this is enough to make me feel like I can stand up and shout “I’m an artist!”

To be an artist, I would have to draw every day. I don’t do that. To be an artist, I would have to turn out a prolific amount of work. Do I even have time for that? To be an artist, I would need to do any number of things – take classes, enter shows, submit work for publication in a magazine or online gallery – that I simply don’t do. Why the hell not?

Because I don’t know how. I haven’t been practicing this shit and at the age of 37 I know no more about being an artist than I did at the age of 12, which was probably the last time I took my drawing seriously.

I’ve got to change something. I’ve got to go from being the stay at home mom to being the artist again, because honestly folks, I feel like I’m dying here. I am not suited to just being a mom and I know it. I’ve got to have something more. I recently bought myself a subscription to ImagineFX magazine. Paid $150 to have it shipped to me from the UK every month. It’s a gorgeous mag, full of 2D and 3D digital fantasy and sci fi artwork. I’m reading every issue from cover to cover, devouring every detail inside. And it’s killing me, because every artist published in that magazine is between the age of 16 and 24.

What the hell happened to me? I’m 37. Is it too late to change things now?

Who The Hell Stole My Time Off? One Pissed Off Mommy Is Ready To Rant

I had one good thing happen this weekend. My best friend came over for dinner Saturday and I got to watch a movie that wasn’t about a Disney Princess. The rest of the weekend pretty much sucked. If I thought people wouldn’t drop dead of a heart attack, I’d lay it all out in my native tongue (swearing), but the way I’m feeling, expressing myself would probably kill someone.

You see some days, everything just clicks. The whole day runs smoothly from 5:30 AM until 10:30 PM and everything gets done. Those are the days when I’m doing things for my family, like house cleaning or shopping or running errands. Then there are days were I want a little “me” time and the whole thing goes straight into the crapper. In fact, on those days, it feels like someone is deliberately screwing me out of my personal time. And I get pretty pissed about it too, can you tell?

I busted my ass last week to finish off a story for ERWA’s Blasphemy theme week. The story got an okay reception, people said they liked it, but the important thing to me was that I got it written and out the door under a tight deadline, in spite stuck in a chair nursing 50% of the time. I’d also gotten some paying artwork finished up as well in the past two weeks, so I was feeling pretty good and figured that after working so hard, I deserved a little time off.

Well, time off when you’re a mom doesn’t exist. I ended up racing around on Friday trying to run errands that I hadn’t been able to get to earlier. We had lunch with my best friend Mary and her son and that was great, but then after they left I had to put up with a couple of fussy kids. Neither one wanted to take a nap, so I got screwed out of my usual free time because nobody would go to sleep long enough for me to do anything I wanted to do. Then Michael came home and informed me he would be working all weekend. Okay, I figured I could deal with that. Mary and I had made plans to get together again on Saturday and as long as Cassie and Sam took a nap I’d still get two or three hours of time to do my fun stuff.

Now I swear to you, all I really wanted was some uninterrupted time to draw. That’s all I wanted. And it’s not like I’m trying to recreate the Sistine Chapel, by the way. I just wanted to practice some cartooning. But to make that one little thing happen, I had to get up at 5:30 AM. I knew if I got up at 5:30 AM, I could get the morning chores done, have time to exercise, and then take Cassie and Sam out to a playground or some place and wear them both out.

It didn’t happen. Sam was up all Friday night. I managed to drag myself out of bed around 8 AM after Cassie ran in and woke up Michael and me. It took forever to finish the morning chores. I did get a walk, but then had to come back and finish up more chores. Then Michael took off for work, leaving me with two cranky kids. I got Cassie down for a nap at 3:30PM, an hour later than I’d planned, but Sam wouldn’t fall asleep, so I ended up lying down on the bed with her to nurse her down. Guess which one of us ended up taking the nap?

So two hours later, I woke up and discovered my free time was gone, thanks to sleep deprivation. I decided I could live with it, as I still had Sunday afternoon to look forward to. Mary called, I told her to come over, and we spent the evening eating pizza and watching the kids horse around while we enjoyed a non-Disney Princess movie (I can recite “Beauty And The Beast” in its entirety, so the breather was much appreciated).

Mary went home, Michael took Cassie and got her ready for bed and then Sam went nursed and went to sleep. I was happy. I was going to get a good night’s sleep and get up early on Sunday so I could get my free time.

Guess what? I was screwed.

Sam woke around midnight, grunting and fussing. She continued to grunt and fuss all night. I was still wiped out, in spite of my two hour nap, so the only thing my tired little brain could think of to do was nurse her in bed. I spent all night curled up around this grunting, fussing, farting little twerp and got no sleep until just before my alarm went off at 5:30 AM. I turned off the alarm and went back to a fitful slumber. Thirty minutes later, Cassie came into the room and climbed into bed with us. Four people do not fit in a queen size bed, let me tell you, especially when one’s a farting infant who can take up three times the space of a full grown woman.

At 7:30 AM, I commanded the family to get out of bed, because I knew daylight was a wastin’. Cassie refused to get out and screamed when I repeated my demand. She got her first time out of the day at 7:35 AM. Somehow, we got through breakfast and then Michael headed off for work again. I spent the next five hours muddling through chores that should have only taken two. Sam kept screaming to nurse. Cassie kept pestering me for milk, or her doll, or to fix her bow, or to do something else. It was non-stop harassment all day. I called Michael before noon to come home for lunch. He asked did I want cheese for the sandwiches. He offered to get some on the way home. Like an idiot, I said yes and told him I’d serve lunch when he got home. Michael then went on a three-year shopping expedition, which I think ended at with him discovering the North Pole. Sometime around 12:45 PM, I had to break down and feed Cassie and myself. Michael came home just as we were finishing up. He had cheese. And yogurt. And milk. And deli meat. And fruit. And about twenty other items I hadn’t asked for. It wasn’t the shopping that took so long, he told me. It was standing in line waiting for the deli clerk to slice the cheese that had been the problem. Riiiiiiiiiiight.

Sam started crying again so up I went to the glider to nurse her. Did I mention that I now have to pump out some excess breast milk before each feeding to keep her from overloading on the lactose in the foremilk? So she howls for five minutes while I hook up my raw, chaffed nipples to the breast pump from hell and bleed off two ounces. Then we nurse. And nurse. And nurse. Sam nursed for fifty minutes and would not let me unlatch her. Meanwhile, Cassie kept hovering around wanting to know when we were headed out for the museum to see the pirates. Again, I’m an idiot. I promised Cassie we’d go do this no matter what, event though we’re rapidly running out of time before her scheduled nap, AKA my free time (2:30 PM). At 1:30 PM, I finally get Sam unlatched and we all hustle out the door to get to the museum.
The museum was nice, if you like taking things at a three-year-old’s pace. We whipped by all the interesting exhibits to get to the kids’ area where Cassie got her face painted up to look like a pirate. She got a sword balloon too and a little pirate doll. Then Sam started to howl AGAIN to be fed. Fortunately, the Scottish Dance Theater was getting ready to perform so I convinced Cassie we should go watch the dancers while I nursed Sam. That lasted about 20 minutes. Then Sam unlatched and howled some more. I wanted to stay to see the dueling exhibition (they had pretty boys dressed up as pirates and enough Johnny Depp look-a-likes to choke a sea monster), but Sam was fussing and Cassie wouldn’t sit still so I called it a day and we headed home.

Cass fell asleep in the car. Sam did not. I had to haul Cassie up to bed and sit and nurse Sam some more. Cassie woke up about five minutes after I put her down. It was now well past 2:30 PM and my free time was rapidly disappearing before my eyes. Over the next hour I nursed Sam while continuing to send Cassie back to her bed. After finally getting Cassie down, I had to soothe Sam was suddenly extremely fussy. I finally got her down for a nap at 4:45 PM. I went downstairs, had a drink and then banged my head against the wall as Cassie popped out of her room announcing once and for all that nap time was over.

And so it went, on and on and on. Things just kept going wrong the rest of the day. Michael didn’t leave work until late, so yours truly had to make dinner while keeping an infant calm and a preschooler entertained. We had waffles and scrambled eggs. Yes, I know. That’s not dinner. I don’t care, it was all I could come up with as there was no chicken thawed out. The rest of the evening flew by in a blur. I recall taking ten minutes of “me” time to scribble down a small cartoon and another five to run up to the office and scan it in. Woo-hoo, there goes my creativity for the day. Michael took over with Cass and got her to bed. Sam refused to calm down until 10 PM. The night didn’t get any easier either. Sam woke up grunting and farting again at 2:30 AM and all I could think of was, “Here we go again.”

By sheer force of will, I made myself get up at 5:30 AM. I felt ugly and vile, but I knew there was no way in hell I was going to get any time to myself if I didn’t get up at the crack of dawn. And somehow, as I muddled through a morning of temper tantrums, household chores, exercise, more chores, more tantrums and a couple of sessions of pumping and breastfeeding, I suddenly managed to click back into my normal routine. It caught up with me at noon, when I found myself relaxing on the couch, holding a contented baby and watching Cassie play happily with her Little People. We were all dressed, the chores were all done, and the afternoon was wide open.

Cass went down easy for her nap today. Sam’s a little fussy, but I can live with that. I’ve had some time to draw and plenty of time to finish off this rant. I may even get a little more work in, if I take Sam downstairs and let her fuss it out on the floor while I sketch. I won’t get everything done that I wanted to do today, but I got something done that satisfies the artist in me, and that’s enough to keep the mom in me from going off the rails.

We’ll see how tomorrow goes.

Why I’m Not Suited To Being A Mom

I don’t know where Michael gets his patience from, but I’m at the end of my rope with this colic thing. That’s not good either, because colic tends to last a couple of months and we’re only in the first few weeks.

Last night I was prepared. I nursed Sam to sleep and set her gently in her basinet with the back positioner all set up to keep her on her side. She’d taken a couple of comfortable naps in it during the day, so I was confident she’d be fine there at night. That turned out not to be the case. As soon as I set her down, she started fussing again. I tried stroking her arms and legs to soothe her. That worked a little, but then when I headed off to get my shower, she started howling. I decided to let her fuss it out for a while. After all, I really needed a shower. As soon as I was out and dry though, I fought back my natural instincts to let Sam continue screaming and I went and picked her up.

That’s right. My natural instinct is to let the kid scream. See how evil I really am? Any normal woman would have rushed right in to pick up her child and soothe the poor thing. I’m like, “Go ahead, scream your tiny lungs out.” At least until I’m ready to sleep that is.

I picked Sam up and she immediately tried to latch on through my t-shirt. Sooooooo, I climbed into bed with her and let her nurse for a while. Now she’d already nursed for half an hour at 9 PM. This was 10 PM and she was screaming for it again. I’m supposed to let Sam go three hours between feedings. Yesterday she only went an hour or two between feedings. It might be that four week growth spurt, but I really don’t know. What I do know is that Sam had already stripped all the skin off my nipples the night before and I was in no shape to let her nurse all night again. Plus I was back to being bitchy and frustrated, so after fifteen minutes, I pulled Sam off and tried to get her to sleep.

She started fussing instead, and then started screaming. She passed some gas, hit me with her tiny fists and started kicking me in the stomach. I propped her up on my thighs and tried bouncing her. No good. I draped her over my stomach and tried patting her back. Even worse. I started swearing and tried putting her back in the basinet to cry it out. After fifteen minutes, Michael got up and tried calming Sam. He held her to his chest and rocked from side to side until she settled down a bit. Then he took her downstairs to give me some sleep time. While he was down there, he managed to soothe her into slumber land, something I couldn’t do.

That bastard.

The fact that he can get her to nod off and I can’t really pisses me off. I her MOM for god’s sake, I’m supposed to be the kind, nurturing, caring one. I’m supposed to be the one with all the patience, the one with the magic milk-producing boobies, the one who’s best at soothing little babies.

Quit laughing at me, damn it. This isn’t funny.

I fell asleep for a few hours. I woke up four hours later and panicked because I couldn’t find Sam. I forgot that Michael had taken her downstairs. I thought that she was still in bed with me and I’d somehow lost her under the covers. Then my brain turned back on and I remembered where she was. After reassembling the bed, I headed downstairs and found Michael and Sam side by side, sleeping peacefully on the floor. It was 2 AM. He’d had her for four hours.

I woke Michael and got them both back upstairs. We put Sam in bed with me and she woke just enough to latch on and feed. She nursed for maybe fifteen minutes before pulling herself off and going back to sleep. The rest of the night went pretty peacefully, with Sam only waking twice more to briefly nurse. I got up at 6 AM, feeling well rested but resentful because I can’t do what Michael can do.

Michael told me it took half an hour for him to calm Sam. I spent over an hour trying to soothe her but all she wanted from me was to nurse which I couldn’t let her do without risking her gorging herself and making matters worse. Why the hell Michael’s able to get suffer through 30 minutes of rocking and back-patting and finally succeeding to get a screaming monster calmed down is beyond me. All I can say is I’m just not cut out for this kind of work.

Of Cats And Critics – Both Stink!

Okay, I’m pissed. When I set my beautiful, framed drawing of an apple on the kitchen table last night, it was clean and perfect. This morning, I came down and found a stinky brown smear smack dab in the center of the glass. One of the cats apparently decided to comment on my art by leaving a little kitty ass print on it. If I find out who did it, I’ll kill ‘em.

Damned cats.

Why Parenting Is Hell

Sam is a limp noodle right now. We had a long night full of screaming and fussing and wanting to be held and nursed all night long, with Michael and I arguing over whether or not we should get up and hold the baby. He wanted to get up and rock Sam. I wanted to let her fuss it out. We hadn’t figured out the rules yet last night, so we sort of screwed ourselves in this department. Hopefully by tonight we can agree on what we’re going to do.

Sam’s first few nights home remind me of Cassie’s first night, although Sam and Cassie are two very different babies. Sam screamed last night, but not like Cassie used to scream. You ever noticed the animated cartoon up in the corner, the one of the demon mommy holding the screaming demon baby? That’s Cassie and me. She was a demon child, the original angry baby (so very, very angry) and boy did she know how to howl. I remember when I had my C-section and the doctor pulled Cassie out. Michael said, “She’s out! The baby’s finally out!” But we didn’t hear so much as a peep from her. I got a little scared and said, “What’s wrong? Why isn’t she making any noise? What’s she doing?” “Just kind of looking around,” Michael said. Then the nurses took this strangely silent child to the clean up table, pricked her heel to get some blood, and that was the last time Cassie was ever quiet. Since that moment, my eldest daughter has made her presence know with as much ruckus as she can summon.

So Cassie was a screamer, and her first night home was no exception. My mom and dad came to stay with us and help out that first week (they’re here now too). Mom handled all the cooking and cleaning. Dad sat on the couch and read the entire time. Michael did things like assemble the swing and put batteries in all the baby toys. I stumbled around trying to figure out how to breastfeed and stay sane. The first day home was agony. I couldn’t even figure out how to bath Cassie. I had to watch Mom do it. She screamed bloody murder through the whole thing (Cassie, not Mom). I was terrified, and oh-so-grateful my knowledgeable mother the nurse was there to hold my hand.

Then night time came and my parents went to bed and Michael and I were on our own.
Cassie started out the evening by crying non-stop. I responded by nursing. These days, nursing is old hat for me. Sam latches on and we just go. No pain, no fuss, no problem. When Cassie latched on in the beginning, it was all I could do to keep from swearing a blue streak. In fact, many times I could only hold off from swearing the first few minutes and then I had to cut loose because it felt like someone was sawing my nipples off with a dull steak knife (put that as an 11 on the 0-10 pain scale). Of course, every time she nursed, it started off contractions in my slowly shrinking uterus, which also hurt like a bitch. And then there was the C-section incision, and the fact I was still having bowel problems. I was in my own little personal hell, screaming demon baby and all, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why you see horns on my head and Cassie’s in that darling little picture I put up in the bio section.

So I suffered through nursing. Then I went to put Cassie down in the basinet next to our bed, with vague hopes of getting an hour or two of sleep before she woke up screaming again. I got two minutes. The howling started out low, quickly built up steam, and then threatened to shatter the windows. My parents, both of whom claim to be going deaf, slept through it all. Michael, who can usually sleep through anything, actually woke up, and yours truly, who will jump out of bed if she hears a flea fart in the next room, was about ready to throw herself off a cliff.

Cassie screamed, and Michael and I took turns trying to soothe her. At first, we tried rocking her in the glider. She hated that. Then I tried nursing her, which only seemed to plug the noise as long as she had one of my nipples to chew on. As soon as I detached her, the screaming started again. We massaged her and pumped her legs. It quickly became apparent that the only way to get Cassie to calm down (not sleep, but just calm down) was to carry her as we walked around the bedroom. She had to be held upright and kept moving without stopping. The only time Michael and I got a break was when I sat down and nursed her again. Because I was in so much agony nursing her, I refused to let him sleep while I was sitting in the chair. In fact, the first time he did lay down to sleep, I picked up a box of tissues and threw them at him. “Wake up, you #&%#@! I ain’t suffering through this alone!”

The night seemed endless. We walked, nursed, swore and lamented. I threatened to kill Michael more than once. At one point, I did let him sleep five minutes, during which time I made my only attempt at singing a lullaby. Unfortunately, I was so fried I could only remember the lyrics to one song – “Why Don’t We Get Drunk And Screw” by Jimmy Buffet. To this day, Michael asks, “You couldn’t remember the words to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?” Hell no.

Dawn came eventually. At 5AM, Cassie finally wore herself out and went to sleep. I placed her in the basinet and laid down in bed next to Michael with a heavy sigh. “Sweetie,” I said to him. “We’ve shared some good times and some bad ones, and I love you. But no matter how much time passes, I will never, ever look back on this night and laugh.”

And then from the basinet we heard, “BBBRRRPPPZZZZT!”

“I’m not laughing,” I told my husband as our daughter farted again.

“Still not laughing!” I insisted. But Michael already had tears in his eyes and couldn’t keep from shaking.

By the third time she’d farted, I couldn’t help it either. I laughed too. Cassie had stayed awake all night, screaming because she had to pass gas and couldn’t. That was when I finally understood that parenting was hell, and I was perfectly suited for the job.

Tech Support Hell

Man, do I feel sorry for the tech support guy who just dealt with me. I am not exactly a technophobe – I’ve been using computers since the early 1980’s, a few years before I entered high school – but I sure as hell get pissed when something about the computer doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to.

In this case, the problem was my e-mail. I could get and send e-mail from my home address, but no e-mail was coming through my business address, which is supposed to relay any messages straight to my home address. After digging around for a while with some help from my local web host (Philip, you’re the best!), we came to the conclusion that AT& was blocking his server. The problem was, we couldn’t figure out how to contact AT&T to get them to unblock it. They don’t advertise a contact e-mail for this sort of thing, and we know because we searched. So after several days of trying to figure out whom to talk to, I bit the bullet and phoned their tech support. I got just about what I expected.

First off, the guy who answered my call said his name was “Steve” but he spoke with a distinct Indian accent, which left me wondering if his name was really Steve or if that was just the name he was supposed to use to mask the fact that good ol’ AT&T out sources its tech support to Delhi. Lest I seem ethno phobic or racist, I’m not going to complain about talking to a tech support guy located on the opposite side of the world. Even when tech support used to be located inside the US, I still often found myself talking to someone who learned English as a second language. I believe math and computer science were their first languages…

Anyway, “Steve” answered my call and did his best to step me through the problem. Now, I knew what the problem was, but there was this slight language, or rather accent, barrier. You see, Steve spoke fluent English, but I could barely understand a word he said, so I had a hard time answering his questions. Plus, he started his approach to my problem by eliminating the stupidest, most obvious causes first, which I’m sure he was required to do. I am familiar with the drill, having been a tech support person back when I worked for the Air Force. I always had to make sure the person I was talking to knew how to turn the computer on before we could go any further.

So Steve made sure my computer was on, I could access the internet, my e-mail program was running properly, etc., etc. All of which I understand he has to do, but that didn’t lessen my irritation any. I had already been struggling with this problem for over a week and not getting anywhere, and now I’ve got some dweeb on the line asking me if my computer is turned on? But I grit my teeth and let Steve do his job. Slowly, patiently, I explained again and again that I was not getting any e-mail sent through my business address. In fact, I had sent several test messages myself which had not gone through. They made it as far as my web host’s server, but they couldn’t get any further. Steve asked what error message I was getting when the e-mails didn’t go through. I had to explain several times that I wasn’t getting any error messages, or even any bounced e-mails. My test messages just went to the web host server and sat there, completely blocked. Steve insisted I had to be getting error messages or bounced back mail. No, I said again, not getting anything of the sort. We went through this several times, with me getting louder at each repetition, before I somehow finally said the right combination of words to Steve that made him realize what the problem was. He sent me to a website that had the e-mail address I needed to request my web host be unblocked by AT&T and he explained that all my web host needed to do was send their ISP to that address and the problem should be solved in a day or two. I bookmarked the site, thanked him profusely, and got the hell off the phone.

Again, here is where I feel sorry for Steve. He didn’t ask to play butt-boy to an angry stay-at-home-mom/small-business-owner suffering from e-mail dysfunction. He was just trying to do his job. Unfortunately for him, tech support has always been the kind of sucky job that puts its employees in frequent contact with bad-tempered individuals like yours truly. I know, I had his job once, and I always got yelled at because some dumb-ass couldn’t figure out that the reason his computer didn’t work was because he’d kicked the power cord out of its outlet AGAIN.

About five seconds after I hung up the phone, I started to feel guilty about yelling at this poor guy stuck out in India, just trying to do his job. I was reminded of a similar incident from my “gainfully employed” days. Janice, a truly amazing co-worker of mine, and I were trying to solve a technical problem in the conference room where we worked. The whole conference room was brand new, with several thousands of dollars of audio-visual equipment installed, including new computers, back screen projectors, and video tele-conferencing capabilities. It was a top of the line set up back in 1999, and so complicated it now reminds me of the entertainment center my darling husband has set up in our living room (see my earlier post on that). The guy who sold it to us knew diddly-squat about how to run it, so he sent the technician in to talk to Janice and I. The technician was a fellow named Kim from somewhere in South Korea. Very nice guy, very smart, and of course, his first language was not English, but math and computers and electrical engineering. I also think he might have spoken Korean, but I never asked. So Janice asked him a question about how to display the video-teleconference on one screen while the computer was displayed on another (or some such non-sense; it was important at the time but I forget why), and poor Kim thought she was talking about something else, so he kept giving her the same wrong answer and she kept asking the same question over and over and over again. And each time Janice had to ask her question again, she got louder and louder, just like I did with “Steve” this evening at AT& Just before Janice started screaming loud enough to shatter the conference room windows, I interrupted and said, “Janice, he’s Korean, not deaf.”

Well, Janice calmed down and we eventually got our conference room problem solved and Kim left as quickly as he could. In fact, I don’t think I ever saw him in there again when Janice was at work. And thinking back on that incident, I feel pretty sure I’ll get my current e-mail problem fixed, too. But I’m also pretty sure that Steve out in India is praying as hard as he can that he doesn’t have to deal with anymore calls from me. If he does, I apologize in advance. Being tech support is hell.