Into the Night

Posted: June 4th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: City Livin', Firsts, Friends and Strangers, Housewife Fashion Tips, Husbandry, Other Mothers, Scary Stuff, Sleep | 8 Comments »

Last Saturday night I was woken from a dead sleep by a woman’s voice calling out, “Help me! Help me!” It sounded like she was on the sidewalk in front of our house.

It wasn’t a frantic in-the-moment scream—more of a weak, plaintive call. More after-the-fact, if you know what I mean. And it was terrifying.

It seemed clear that it was up to me to do something. And on behalf of all women in need, I wanted to put a superhero cape and come to that woman’s rescue.

I sprang out of bed, yelped something at Mark, then grabbed the phone and dialed 4-1-1. From the other end I heard, “City and listing.”

This is why you don’t want me around in an emergency situation.

I came to my senses, hung up, and dialed 9-1-1.

Mark took a moment to rouse. He had four huge pork butts cooking in our back yard smoker—an overnight process. He’d likely gotten to sleep late because he was out tending to them in the back yard.

So I was alert and ready to react first, but I faltered. I was too petrified to walk outside and suss out the situation. It’s horribly selfish, but I was afraid of what I’d find when I got there. And, ashamed as I am to admit it, I was scared that whatever had gotten her might get me too.

Plus, two men broke into a house on my block a few weeks ago. The guy who lives there was home at the time, and chased the intruders away with a knife. (I know, time to move to Montana, right?) We actually live in a lovely, charming neighborhood—despite what you may have heard about Oakland—but with this other incident fresh in my mind I was worried that the calling-out voice was part of some no-good plot to get us to open our door.

And then, who knows what.

Mark was peering out the living room blinds as I sputtered our address into the phone to the police dispatcher. Then Mark walked past me onto our front porch and I frantically whispered, “Wait—you’re going out there?! Be careful, honey!”

The calm 911 lady was asking me good basic questions I could answer, and assured me “a unit” was on the way. Then from the porch Mark said in a somewhat surprised tone, “It’s an old woman. She looks disoriented, but I don’t think she’s hurt.”

And since I had on a nightshirt and long underwear bottoms (sexy beast that I am), I ventured out to the sidewalk, still clutching the phone to my ear, while Mark ran in to pull jeans on over his boxer shorts.

The woman was in our neighbor’s driveway. A plump white-haired lady in her eighties wearing a pale blue nightgown and with a scared, lost look in her eyes. I recognized her as someone who lives one block over with her husband and caregiver. I don’t know her, but I’d heard she has Alzheimer’s.

“I’m here. I’m going to help you,” I cooed as I walked up to her. She was leaning against our neighbor’s steel blue Toyota Camry, with her hands on the back fender to steady herself. Their driveway slopes down to their garage, and she was sort of inching along, heading downhill, and wedging herself further between the car and a retaining wall.

“Don’t walk down there,” I said gently. “Just stay where you are. Help is coming.”

My new best friend at 911—who I was still on the phone with—asked me to get her name, then told me the elderly woman’s husband had just called the police to report her missing. This was reassuring, hearing that the police were connecting the dots.

Apparently she just wandered out of her house in the middle of the night. I’ve heard people with dementia sometimes do that.

Next thing I know a squad car came slowly down the street, scanning a flashlight up and down the sidewalk. Mark ran up and waved them over as the woman clutched my arm and stepped out from the driveway, back on level ground.

Maybe I’ve been reading too many fairytales, but I have to say that suddenly being surrounded by four tall, strapping police officers in perfectly-pressed navy blue uniforms drained the last drops of adrenaline from my system. And made me suddenly feel a bit self-conscious about my own get-up.

I told the nice 911 lady that help had arrived. Then she thanked me, and asked my name before we hung up. (Maybe she wants to get together for lunch some time?)

In my best attempt to exude a lighthearted everything’s-going-to-be-alright vibe, I said, “Dorothy, these handsome men are going to walk you home now, okay?”

I looked down and noticed that she was barefoot. Her toes where curled over each other in way that I guess toes get when they’ve been around for so long. I was shivering in my PJs and fleece slippers. Who knows how long she’d been outside, barefoot and confused in a thin cotton nightgown.

Back in our house, our hand-off of Dorothy complete, I hopped into bed as Mark stripped off his sweatshirt and jeans and flung them on a chair by his bedside table.

“Let’s not get really old like that and have Alzheimer’s,” I said.

He mumbled some form of agreement as he peeled back the covers, and we nestled into our familiar mattress grooves.

After a few minutes I said, “You know, that pork you’re smoking is going to be really good I think. I mean, the smoky meat smell appears to be drawing old women out of their beds and into the night.”

Mark groaned and rolled over.

“I’m just saying,” I added. “Imagine by morning… A whole group of neighbors could be gathered by the back yard fence trying to get in—like zombies or something.”

“Good night, honey,” he sighed, like a teacher whose patience was wearing thin.

And I knew it was time for me to stop talking and try to fall back asleep.


No Gifts, Please

Posted: May 1st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Birthdays, Drink, Firsts, Friends and Strangers, Holidays, Husbandry, Sleep | 17 Comments »

I had a hangover when Mark asked me out on our first date. To be clear, I didn’t get it as a result of going out with him, but at the time he asked me out I was nauseous. I was headachy. I was leaning against the wall to remain upright. My pallor was a sickly shade of green.

And yet he looked past my bloodshot eyes and potential for rampant alcoholism and found me desirable! What a keeper.

We were at a Christmas party, hosted by dear friends of mine. And even though I’d spent the day in bed, moaning, drinking water, and shying away from bright lights and loud noises, I knew I had to make an appearance at this shindig.

So I moved through Elizabeth Kubler Ross‘ Five Stages of Hangovers:

#1 Guzzle Water

#2 Down Advil

#3 Eat a Greasy Breakfast

#4 Return to Bed

#5 Attempt to Shower and Dress [Note: This should not be done prematurely, or could require that you repeat steps 1-4.]

My plan was to spend 20 minutes at the party. Tops.

Not long after my arrival Mark appeared. Charming and friendly. And although my senses were dulled, I thought I  discerned an air of nervousness about him. In the kitchen we chatted for a bit over the butcher block island, as I rummaged through its drawers for more Advil.

And then as I made my farewell sweep through the living room, he stopped me.

“I um, actually have something for you,” he said. And pulled out of—okay my memory fails me here—his pocket? a man purse? the hands of a bikini-clad assistant who was standing beside him? Anyway, he pulled out of SOMEWHERE an envelope. And handed it to me.

Inside were a bunch of magnets. And I think some stickers too. They all said

Chicken Candy was this wacky website idea I’d been ranting about when I’d met him once before. It was the Internet Boom, and nearly any URL you could conjure was already taken. And somehow we’d gotten to talking about the idea of candy that was made out of America’s favorite food—chicken!

I know, it’s odd. I don’t really remember how we got on that topic—and I know right now you’re thinking that I seem to have blacked out a lot during this time in my life, and maybe you should be finding my email address to send me a kind but firm message encouraging me to seek treatment for my drinking problem. (Here, let me make it easy on you. It’s kristen at motherloadblog dot com.) But really, I assure you that my poor memory has more to do with—I don’t know, genetics—than it does with

Oh, sorry, where was I? Just had to top off my glass.

Anyway, so here’s Mark handing me these magnets. He’d designed a logo and there was even a little picture of a chicken on them. And it was a really funny and creative thing for him to do. I mean, how often does a guy A) listen to something you said, B) remember it, and C) do something original with it?

Right, not often.

Some time you should have Mark tell you about his internal dialogue as he handed that envelope to me. It went something like, “What the fuck have I done? This is not cool. This is the most insane stalker-ish move I could ever make and she is totally freaked out by me right now.”

I did find it unusual, but in a flattering way. I was generally at a loss for words—for everything that night—but I somehow managed express to him the wonderfully thoughtful and whimsical nature of his gift.

And I did not puke on his shoes.

Later, on my way to the coat closet he sought me out again, and nervously, shyly, asked if he could take me out to dinner.

The rest, as they say, is history.

My birthday was five months after our first date. And, this being The Olden Days before cell phone texting, Mark and I would chat online using AOL Instant Messenger. And sometimes we sent carrier pigeons.

It was almost like Downton Abbey.

In fact, I saved and printed out all our epic IM conversations since they were so damn clever and cute and we were both trying so hard. I knew even then that they were part of some history in the making.

On the morning of my birthday Mark texted me a link that said, “Click here.”

It’s okay, you can go click on that yourself. Check it out, then come back and I’ll be right here.

Okay, did you look? Did you click into the site? Did you read the About Us (I love that part)? And the Gizzard Truffles? Wait, what was your favorite product? You know, I didn’t even know what schmaltz was at the time.

Yes, the gift he gave me was the sticker taken to the Information Superhighway. He made a whole damn website for my pretend Chicken Candy company. And gave it to me for my birthday.

And it was hilarious.

I showed my boss at the agency where I was working and she wanted to hire him on the spot.

Anyway, I’m ten days shy of my next birthday. Twelve years later, that is.

And I actually woke up pretty hung over this past Saturday. I swear this is a very rare occurrence, but I do understand if you still feel the need to contact me directly with your concerns about my drinking. (Again, it’s kristen at motherloadblog dot com.)

For this hangover, Mark let me sleep late. He got up and fed our daughters breakfast and shushed them when they started talking too loudly near our bedroom door. When I finally woke up he brought me a glass of water and an Advil, and asked me what we should do as a family before he went to his 1:30 tee time.

And then the girls ran into the room screaming and fighting and jumping on the bed and handing me pictures they’d drawn and asking if I would read them a book and could they please have some of their Easter candy?

Ah what a difference 12 years makes. And I wouldn’t change a single thing about them. (Except that I should’ve drunk more water—or less wine—on Friday night.)

Thank you, Mark, for being an exceptionally funny, smart, handsome, handy-around-the-house, IT savvy husband. (And no, I’m not going to say “and friend.” Or “and lov-ah.” But hell, now that I mention it, those things too.)

Happy very-soon birthday to me. I am the luckiest gal in the world. You and the girls—and the vast pretend proceeds from Chicken Candy World Enterprises—are all the presents I need.


Travel Don’ts

Posted: July 24th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging, Firsts, Friends and Strangers, Money, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Sleep, Travel | 13 Comments »

Here’s how NOT to fly cross-country with your two young children. Consider this a parental Public Service Announcement.

1. Take a flight scheduled at the end of the day, at the end of a weekend of 100-degree temps in New York City.

2. Before the flight, go to an expensive restaurant for brunch. Buy your children blueberry pancakes, which they refuse to eat (a first), though they nearly fight to the death over the side of bacon (giving you a perverse sense of pride). Watch as they have concurrent meltdowns over a small sticker, in front of your friends from London whom you see once every five years, and whose children are not only perfectly mannered, but also have British accents (which makes them seem MORE polite).

3. At the end of said over-priced, un-eaten meal, discover that the restaurant is cash only. Watch your two devils and your friends’ two angels as she runs to an ATM machine. Set down the insufficient cash you have and promise your friends you’ll “get them next time” (i.e. in five years).

4. Take taxi back to other friend’s apartment and discover it’s the one cabbie in New York City who doesn’t take credit cards. Drive with him to ATM where you’re so jangled you withdraw only the cash you need to pay him. Thrust the money his way, and drag your whining children—who are exhausted and grumpy, as well as ravenous—inside.

5. Realize that the worst possible thing you could do right now would be to take a 6-hour plane ride. Check!

6. Frantically finish packing and call car service. Ask kids to try to pee. Have urination standoff. Give up. Drag luggage halfway down hall to elevator and have three-year-old announce, “I have to tinkle. Really bad!” Head back to friend’s apartment, at which point (you later learn) the car you’ve called gives up on you and leaves.

7. Schlep:

  • 1 immense roller bag (containing 3-weeks worth of clothing, toiletries, and 2 bottles of marina sauce made by your hometown priest)
  • 1 carry-on small duffle bag
  • 2 car seats
  • 1 double stroller
  • 1 laptop bag housing a computer and DVD player
  • 2 empty-bladdered children

Call for another car to come while schvitzing on 100-degree sidewalk (See: earlier-referenced NYC heat wave). Realize you have to pee. Ah, irony.

8. Watch your three-year-old doze off on the short ride to the airport, and realize your chances of getting her to sleep on the flight have been officially shot to shit.

9.  Arrive at airport 45 minutes later then planned. Hand driver credit card, which he swipes several times without luck. Watch as he takes his card-swiper-thingy outside, holding it up to the sky like a carrier pigeon he’s about to set free, in an attempt “to try to get a better signal.” Time ticks on. Your three-year-old wakes up from her car seat and bellows wild-eyed, “I need Baba [her stuffed animal lamb who's is wedged God-knows-where in some bag piled on the curb]!!!” Driver gives up on getting a signal for his credit card machine and/or making contact with alien life forms. Tick tock, 40 minutes until flight departure. Driver asks you to call into his office with your credit card. You call twice and get busy signal. You age five years—maybe even nine—and nearly bust an artery in your neck.

10. Struggle into airport and realize you were dropped off near Virgin Atlantic terminal when you need Virgin America. Ask someone if they are next to each other… of course they aren’t. Haul aforementioned bags, car seats, strollers and children with weakened, rapidly-aging body.

11. Check in. Oddly, without incident.

12. Wait in security line. Ten minutes later realize it’s just a line impersonating the security line and set out to find actual security line.

13. Ascertain that Security is downstairs. (You still have your big-ass stroller, though other bags were checked.) One elevator broken. Wait as working elevator is crammed like a clown car with a sizeable Indian family. Door will not close since Grandma’s wheelchair repeatedly blocks elevator’s invisible eye. Tick tock. Check cell phone: 4:00PM. Reference boarding passes to see that it’s boarding time. Stop to reflect on all the fun you’re having. Have thoughts interrupted by three-year-old’s ear-piercing scream, “I. WANT. BABAAAAA!!!!”

14. At front of security line TSA agent asks you, “Why do you have only two boarding passes here?” Have full-bore flop sweat and begin to whimper and paw through purse when he looks down and says with a chuckle, “Oh, HERE it is…” then winks at you. Determine you hate all men. Except your husband who you can’t wait to thrust the children at when (if?) you eventually arrive in San Francisco.

15. Experience public act of deeply-mortifying mothering when, in the security line with 10 minutes ’til take-off, your five-year-old refuses to enter scanning machine. Scream head off, drag her in. She wriggles free and flees like a feral cat. Compassionate TSA agent ushers kids through. Maybe all men not so bad after all.

16. Sprint like madwoman to Gate B25 with children stacked on top of each other on one seat of stroller and laptop loosely jostling in the other. Arrive to hear “final boarding call” announcement and, panting, hand boarding passes to ticket-taker lady. Three-year-old proffers high-decibel request for stuffed lamby, with glaring omission of word “please,” and without British accent.

17. Ticketing agent writes you up stroller tag and says, “I’m sorry ma’am, but I’ll have to take that carry-on. Our overhead bins are totally full.” At which point you burst into tears. You blubber like a baby howling, “No! You CANNOT take this bag!” (Which contains books, crayons, coloring books, snacks, wipes, and extra clothes. Oh, and Baba. At that point a wild boar could not force you to hand over Baba.) Ticketing Agent Woman fears you and your tears—especially after they trigger both your children to start sobbing in an if-mom’s-losing-it-we-probably-should-be-too moment of solidarity. She sends a male underling down the ramp with you, where you learn there’s plenty o’ room in the overhead bins. (Clearly that other chick just had it out for you. You decide you hate all women.) The carry-on bag with Mommy’s Flight Survival Contents gloriously remains with you, and you settle into your seats.

18. All is well with the world.

19. Flight delayed 30 minutes due to storm/air traffic control/your shitty luck.

20. Flight delayed an additional 25 minutes. God making sure you know He’s still watching. Clearly somewhere, somehow you’ve been a very very bad person.

21. Lift-off. Joy!

22. Discover the plane has wifi. Battery dying on laptop, but looky here—there’s a power socket! Children ensconced in small back-of-headrest TV screens. Losing brain cells rapidly, but also not bugging you.

23. You start documenting your day. You chuckle to yourself as you type. See? You haven’t lost your sense of humor! In fact, you feel a bit smug. Victorious even. Why, you’ve survived evil airport employees, demanding ill-tempered children, and non-functional credit card machines. You made your way through that security line, girlfriend—even if it did mean getting publicly clawed at by your child. You even resolved to always carry more cash. Oh, see how far you’ve come!

23. From your peripheral vision you notice your three-year-old makes an odd wiggling motion with her upper body. Then suddenly a warm pinkish liquid gushes forth from her mouth covering your arm, her lap, her legs, and nearly filling the cavernous void between her seat and yours. Why, of course.

24. And now your day has gone perfectly wrong. Giving you statistical hope that something this miserable is likely to never happen to you again.

25. Mop everything up with the help of an amazingly-kind flight attendant. Decide to un-hate women. And marvel at the fact that Baba has remained virtually un-touched by puke. What excellent luck.


Sleep Whisperer: The Outcome

Posted: March 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Friends and Strangers, Miss Kate, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Parenting, Sisters, Sleep | No Comments »

I was trying to be thrifty. Instead I ended up adding years to my life.

Or at least my appearance.

I’d run out of under-eye concealer—a critical mother’s little helper—and found an old tube of it in our bathroom drawer. It was a drugstore brand. But in the harsh light of the recession, and the harsh light of day on my dark under-eye circles, I decided to give it a whirl.

And you know? It wasn’t half bad. A good color match. Good even coverage. And the spongey applicator was kinda fun.

So on a Target run with my mother-in-law I decided to get more. Expensive schmancy make-up be damned!

As I crouched down to find the right product and color I zeroed in on the shape of the tube, then read the label and staggered back in horror. What I’d been spreading on the delicate moisture-craving skin under my eyes for weeks was not some creamy emollient make-up. It was tinted zit cream.


The last time I had a zit I had a Michael Jackson poster hanging in my bedroom. (It was this one, if you must know.)

Anyway, I have sisters who are 10, 11, and 12 years older than me. I learned at a wee tender age the critical importance—the necessity—of a good eye cream. When my sibs were in their twenties, experiencing their first anxieties over sun exposure and laugh lines, I was a smooth-skinned tween. My sister Judith saw me as someone with the potential to capture her youth. So she hooked me up.

I had to be the only 12-year-old on the block religiously using Christian Dior eye cream twice daily (dabbing it on gently with my ring finger so as not to pull at that delicate wrinkle-prone skin).

So this recent mishap with the mistakenly-applied harsh, drying zit cream has undoubtedly set me back dog years. Benzoil peroxide, you have robbed me of my youth.

At least I’ve gained back some beauty rest to balance it all out. Yes, party people, the update on the Sleep Whisperer, the Snooze Czar, the Sand Woman—the person we paid excessive amounts of money to get our three-year-old to finally frickin’ give up the ghost and sleeeeeep—is this….

[Drum roll please.]


And really, not just that. She went to sleep and didn’t call out to us once. We put her to bed, and then—she slept! Until she got up in the morning!

It’s like a miracle.

Of course, last night she got up once. But really—once! That’s just a little bit! It’s a helluva lot less than getting up the many many times we’d miserably gotten used to.

And that’s only four days into our new program. So I’m still willing to allow for a learning curve.

What’s funny is, I was totally skeptical at first. Ms. Very Expensive Sleep Helper Lady came to our house Monday evening for our first meeting. I had a mild hide-the-People-magazines sorta freak-out in the moments before her arrival. But I pushed past that.

When I answered the door I drank in everything about her.

She was a bit older than I’d expected. She sat on the couch, all smiley and friendly. She said she liked how our living room was decorated. She munched on the nuts I’d set out. She was the spitting image of my friend Jill’s mom.

There was every reason to like this woman, but as we launched into our meeting I grew concerned. She didn’t have a clipboard. She didn’t goose-steep through Paige’s room making observations and jotting notes while skeptically muttering “uh-huh” under her breath.

If this woman was going to solve this nasty problem, shouldn’t she be more stern, or clinical, or ruthless?

Instead, she was mellow and friendly. She was NICE.

We chatted for a while, then Mark’s mom and the girls came back from their dinner. Nice Sleep Specialist made cute “what’s your dolly’s name?” type small talk with the girls. And then she and Paige went into Paige’s room for A TALK.

Mark was all hopping around on one foot wanting to eavesdrop. I was at the point where if this stranger was hypnotizing my daughter in order to make her sleep through the night—or threatening or terrorizing her in some way—I mean, as long as it worked, I was game.

They emerged from the room and Sleep Lady announced, “Paige has told me something very interesting. She said that it’s Baba [her lamb lovey] who wakes her up at night. And that is why she then calls out to you.”

What ensued was this: A conversation in which it was explained to Paige that Mom and Dad need their sleep. If they get woken up in the middle of the night, they don’t get their rest and can’t do a good job at work and will be cranky.

At which point Kate (who is heretofore written out of the will), chimed in, “My mother is ALWAYS cranky.”


Instead of hiding my People magazines I should have considered hiding Kate.

Anyway, what the Soul Sister of Sleep did was flipped the dynamic a bit. Paige was to say “shhh” to Baba in the night if Baba woke her up. This way Paige was no longer the bad guy. She was the good guy who we were enlisting in the effort to get mom and dad a good night’s sleep.

I was leery.

First off, were none of us going to cop to the fact that Baba wasn’t really the one doing the waking up? Were all the grown-ups going to play along with Paige flagrantly shirking responsibility for it all?

Apparently “at this age” (i.e. three years old) it’s easier for kiddos to test out new behaviors or express themselves via a proxy. Have the teddy bear use the potty. Show me on this doll what happened to you. Yadda yadda yadda.

Weirdly, it WORKED. I mean, it kinda didn’t really take on the first night. But we all kept talking trash about Baba needing to stop pestering Paigey when he woke up. She still bellowed to us a few times from her bed, and Mark went in to remind her to tell Baba, “Shhh.”

The next night we were told to ratchet things up a level. To close the bedroom door if she called out to us. She hates having the door closed, and screams her head off.  But what I liked was we only had to do it for five minutes. Then we’d open it and ask Paige if she and Baba wanted to take another chance at being quiet.

Night three: Bliss! In fact, I was lying awake intermittently wondering if and when she’d wake up. She never did. Our house was oddly quiet.

I did notice in that time that our refrigerator produces one ice cube every twenty minutes. This is apparently the kind of huge insight I’ll be making with my new-found well-restedness.

Well, that and I’m planning to start accusing stuffed animals of my own indiscretions. The next time Kate publicly calls me out for crankiness I’m casting all the blame on Barbie.

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Posted: March 17th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Husbandry, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Parenting, Sleep | 13 Comments »

“So, Louie next door?” my mom said. (This was some years back). “Turns out he’s a necrophiliac.” She announced this quite matter-of-factly.

Louie, our long-time neighbor at the house I grew up in, certainly qualified as a small-town eccentric. One of those men who never married. Not that that’s so odd, but he always lived with his parents. Eventually—years ago when I was a kid—they died of old age, and he just stayed on in the house.

Louie must be in his seventies now, and I doubt the guy’s ever had a girlfriend. But I also couldn’t imagine him with, well—with a corpse.

Whaaat?” I bellowed at my mother. She was imparting this freakish tidbit with the emotion she might use to mention we were out of paper towels.

“Well the other day I was in the yard,” she explained, somewhat defensively. “And I went to the side of the house to rake. I looked up and there’s Louie, lying down in the middle of his garden. I thought, ‘Ohhh God, he’s had a heart attack!’ I thought he was dead.”

“Wait, so what—?” I asked, wondering how this was going to tie into his predilection for necrophilia. “Was he spooning with a dead body?”

Mom looked at me confused, and forged on with her story. “So I dropped my rake and ran toward him and the closer I got I started to hear snoring! And it turns out he’d been out weeding and—” she snaps her fingers, “he fell asleep! Just like that! Keeled over on top of his tomato plants. After I shook him awake he told me he just got diagnosed with necrophilia. You know, that disease where all of a sudden you fall asleep.”

Mom!” I moaned. “Necrophilia is when people are into having sex with dead bodies. What Louie has is called nar-co-lep-sy!”

Ah, what a difference a few syllables make.

When I was just in Little Rhody, I bumped into Louie when I was in the old ‘hood. And as it turns out he didn’t nod off during our brief conversation. But I nearly did.

I wish I could peg my exhaustion to something glamorous like jet lag (“Just in from Paris and mon Dieu! Je suis fatiguee!“) or a night of reckless partying. I’d even accept staying up late writing as an enviable reason for sleepiness. Alas, it was none of those. Just standard mommy fare.

And I don’t want to name any names here, but it’s all Paige’s fault.

Miss Paigey came home from the hospital a star sleeper. She snoozed through 12-hour nights consistently as an older baby. You’d toss her in her crib and she’d fall asleep on her own—no excessive nursing or rocking required. It was brag-worthy stuff.

It wasn’t until age two-and-a-half, newly installed in her Big Girl Bed, that our taken-for-granted nights of sweet slumber were suddenly shot to shit.

Yes, any glimmer of desire I’ve had to ever have a third child has been beaten out of me slowly and painfully by Paige. Because she’s been waking up several times a night since last July—let’s see, that’s NINE LONG EXHAUSTED MONTHS AGO.

Here’s the routine: She’s miserable getting to sleep—coming out of her room or bellowing from her bed multiple times. Then in the deep of night she calls out to us (or rather me: “Mama!”) and Mark or I get up and tell her it’s time to go to sleep. And she does. Until the next time she gets up and yells for us again.

So I’m getting all the sleep deprivation a newborn provides, without the weight loss from breast feeding. Though if this continues much longer I’m considering getting the girl back on the boob. Hey, I mean, she’s three years old, but I’d like to get some benefit from all these REM interruptions.

If each night isn’t grueling enough, we’re all too aware that every new one we pass this way cements this despicable pattern more firmly into place. We know we have to make it stop, but we’ve got NO IDEA what to do.

I’m a huge champion of calling the pediatrician for anything. And I’m always telling other folks to do the same. Someone’s kid is being weird about potty training? Cawl the dawk-tuh, I say. Toddler won’t eat anything but mac and cheese? See if your pediatrician has advice. Don’t know what color to paint your living room? You’d be surprised what that man can help you with.

So, of course, when Paige suddenly started erupting in the night like Old Faithful, I took my own advice and dialed the doc. I had, for all intents and purposes, a monkey jumping on the bed.

Mama called the doctor and the doctor said—? Well, the doctor said, “Say the same thing to her. Don’t make it fun for her to visit with you in the night. Be boring.”

Boring. Right-o!

So, we’ve tried that. Our sentence: “It’s time to go to sleep, Paige” is droned with such emotionless monotone that Mark and I should both be awarded Oscars for how fantastically boring we can act.

Weeks—now months—have gone by. Boring has gotten us nowhere.

We’ve threatened to close her door if she doesn’t stop yelling at night. We’ve made chart after chart to recognize her (rare) full nights of sleep. We’ve warned the neighbors and spent nights trying to ignore her wails. I’ve stayed with her until she’s fallen asleep, and brought her into our bed after her sixth wake-up.

NOTHING works.

I’ve scoured BabyCenter, The Motherboard, and Mamapedia seeking the wisdom of pediatric pundits, sleep specialists, and other mamas. I even posted on some message boards seeking advice—something I’d never done before. I got gratifying misery-loves-company responses: “I have no advice, because I am going through the same thing you are. I just wanted you to know that you are not alone in this! My 3yo does the same thing.”

And I’ve gotten tips—most of which we’ve already tried—or couldn’t. We don’t, for example, have a dog that can bunk in Paige’s room with her. And we’re leery of approaches that involve Mark or I huddled in a sleeping bag on the floor by her bed. Seems some things just substitute another bad habit we’ll eventually have to break.

But one piece of advice drew me in. A mama suggested we get this $23 turtle that’s a hybrid stuffed animal and nightlight. Said her kid loved it. There are buttons on the turtle’s shell so the kiddo can turn it on easily themselves. It projects stars onto the walls and ceiling, and stays on for 45 minutes then turns itself off. Paige gets up in the night? Don’t call for Mom or Dad, just hit the button, see the lights, and go back to sleep!


I clicked the “Two Day 1-Click” button on Amazon with the smug sense that I’d solved this nasty problem. I showed Paige a picture of our dazzling sleep solution (so simple! a turtle!) and she loved the idea. In fact, she was heartbroken that night when I told her it hadn’t already come in the mail. (She’s got high expectations for Amazon Prime.)

When it did arrive, I gently carried the box in from the porch like it was a fragile priceless relic. Herein laid the solution to our endless stream of shitty nights of sleep. I nearly wept with joyful optimism.

At bedtime that night we turned on the turtle she’d named Tina and Paige screamed, “No! Light off! NO TINA!!!”

Alrighty then. On to Plan G. Or are we on Plan H by now?

Big Sis Kate, who I think of as my Second Lieutenant Mother, even has some skin in the game. Last week she made a totemic construction paper chain and gravely taped it to the headboard of Paige’s bed. “Here’s how it works, Paigey,” she explained in her most patronizing tone. “If you wake up in the night, you just reach up and shake it. Then you’ll fall back asleep.”

Yeah, a nice idea, but that hasn’t worked so much.

Finally, finally, we can’t take it any more. Mark and I are crying out “Uncle!” to anyone who’ll listen, and lying in our bed, limp with fatigue, waving white flags.

Which is to say, we’ve decided to pony up $150 an hour for a sleep specialist.

But here’s how it is with me. On the days of my long-awaited haircuts, my hair looks fabulous. I bring my car in for a rattling noise, and on the drive over it suddenly disappears. If I want to get over the flu, I just make a doctor’s appointment.

I’m not sure what this means. That I procrastinate long enough that whatever was ailing me gives up the fight?

Of course, the thing is, once you see one of these patterns emerging you think you can harness it, right? Like how many couples do you know (or have you heard of) who’ve had fertility issues then decided to file adoption papers—with no real desire to adopt. I mean, everyone knows you get knocked up the second you have your home study, right?

Yawning and bottomed-out, I finally emailed the Sleep Whisperer—a nurse who got several five-star Yelp reviews from formerly irritable parents who have, under her guidance, successfully gotten their kids some shut-eye. All without mention of restraint straps, door locks, or duct-taping mouths—though God knows at this point I’m open to anything.

And the next night, A MIRACLE HAPPENED. Paige slept through the night. We woke up Sunday morning—at like 8AM. Feeling oddly well-rested I turned to Mark and ventured, “How many times did she get up?”

And he said, “SHE DIDN’T.”

I immediately emailed the friends we’d hung out with the night before. I was mildly hysterical. “Paige slept through the night. So we are now coming to your house for dinner every night. We must  replicate everything about last night, including outfits, food—even conversation. Think of it like Groundhog Day. Eventually we’ll come to love the ritual of it all.”

I was certain that the Universe laughed at me the minute I was willing to shoot up a flare for help. But I didn’t care. It was over. Our long national tragedy was coming to an end.

But then the next night she got up roughly a million frickin’ times.

Our meeting with the sleep specialist is Monday. I have no idea what she is going to recommend, but I can assure you we will follow her directives with OCD precision.

If this fails, I’m not sure what we’ll do.

I guess we could spring for a plane ticket to have Louie come visit. Maybe if he and Paige spent some quality time together she’d pick up on his knack for falling asleep.


Please Review the Chart, Doctor

Posted: September 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Books, Husbandry, Miss Kate, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Parenting, Sleep | 4 Comments »

Yard sales reveal people’s souls.

I mean, aside from seeing someone’s chipped dishes and pilly wool sweaters, you see their cast-off books. And that’s really where it’s all laid bare.

I mean, I laughed about this when I was selling crap in front of my old SF swingles pad years ago. I had a slew of dealing-with-the-loss-of-a-loved-one tomes. None that I actually ever read, mind you. Even my mother’s death couldn’t bring me to read a self-help book.

The story my yard sale items conveyed to folks stopping by my stoop seemed to be, “This girl needs help, but she’s not getting it.” At least not from these books with un-cracked binders.

Of course, noting this with with my friends delighted me. A couple beers into our sale I was making people volume-discount offers. “You want that coffee maker? How about we toss in this Donna Karan tank top, and a copy of Rabbi Grollman’s Living With Loss, Healing With Hope? I’ll make you a deal you can’t resist!”

It’s this kind of thing that I find funny.

Anyway, if you want to get your finger on the pulse of the McClusky family’s current issues, go no further than our refrigerator. That’s where, amidst the birthday party invitations, emergency contact numbers, and magnetic letters, you’ll find our charts.  Specifically, Kate’s ‘Putting On Shoes’ chart.

Because, when Kate is required to wear anything other than flip flops or Crocs, well, let’s just say it’s not pretty. Not at all pretty. But aside from my fears that a lifetime of Croc-wearin’ will cause her feet to splay into ungainly knobby troll feet, there are also (blessedly) school rules about footwear.

But making the switch is brutally painful. Anything remotely binding—shoes or clothing—sets Miss Kate off into fits, as if we, her loving parents, are burying her alive.

We’ve tried pleading, coaxing, and buying expensive sparkly sneakers that were acceptable in stores then rejected later at home. And we’ve tried good old-fashioned might too. “You WILL put those shoes on this instant!”

Turns out, none of those tactics work.

So, we’ve made a chart. Which is to say, we’ve resorted to long-range bribery. If she puts her shoes on in the morning with no screaming, wailing, or other full-head-rotation Exorcist-like behavior, she gets to put a sticker on her chart. Get ten and we’ll buy her a new book. (It’s no Barbie Dream House, but it seems to be sufficient incentive to make the system work.)

And hopefully by the point the end-goal is reached, putting on shoes will have become an easy-breezy part of Kate’s morning ritual.

Although Mark’s mother is coming to visit next week, and I seem to remember Kate having had another shoe-puttin’-on chart when she was here once before… Ah well.

The other chart on the fridge is Paigey’s. Her issue? Popping out of her Big Girl Bed. Calling out to us in endlessly repeating cycles through the night. General night-time hell-raising. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but Feel. My. Pain. Please.

Mark labeled Paigey’s chart her Sleep Chart, but when he blearily made it yesterday morning, I know he really wanted to call it ‘Paige’s Stay the Fuck in Bed Chart.’

This is Paige’s first chart and it’s giving Kate one more big-sis opportunity to show little Wigs the ropes. Because, in case you were unaware, Kate is the authority on everything. Absolutely everything.

So our breakfast conversation yesterday went something like, “When you get ten stickers you get something, Paigey.” (This in Kate’s patronizing sing-songy voice.) “Maybe you want a Mickey Mouse toy? You’d like that, wouldn’t you, Paige? Well you just need to get ALL the stickers, then we’ll go out and you can pick out ANY Mickey Mouse—”

At which point I jumped in with my oft-spoken “I’M the mother! Thanks, Kate” refrain.

God knows I could use a few charts of my own. But I prefer to keep my self-improvement on the down low.

Besides, I shudder at the thought of Mark emerging from the basement office with a print-out and sitting me down. “Now, Kristen. This is your new chart, and this is how it’s going to work…”



Posted: September 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: California, City Livin', Friends and Strangers, Kindergarten, Milestones, Miss Kate, Moods, Music, My Body, My Temple, Other Mothers, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Parenting, Sleep, Summer | 1 Comment »

I am so very tired.

It’d be one thing if it was just on accounta getting up at 6AM day after day, since in some late-night at-my-computer moment of bravado I signed up for the FIVE day-a-week boot camp. (Oy! What was I thinkin’?) I mean, that alone would be a really excellent reason to be tired.

But add to that the fact that my darling dumpling of a two-and-a-half year old has decided to regress to the sleeping habits of a two-and-a-half month old. This from the girl who has always been a star sleeper.

Alas, no more.

Who knows if it’s her new Big Girl Bed, or a sudden spate of nightmares, or some over-achiever desire to get back at us in advance for all the ways we’re certain to deny her things, dislike her boyfriends, and piss her off in the course of her life.

Whatever the case, she wails for me from the moment I click her door closed at night. But—from all we’ve read—when I go back in to comfort her I’m just rewarding her yowls. So now Mark uses his resonant I-used-to-be-a-DJ voice to say through the closed door “It’s time to sleep now, Paige.” It’s friendly, but firm.

Oddly, this at times has the effect of Paige stopping mid-hysterical-sob, and responding in a sunny tone, “Alright, Dada!”

But the relief is only temporary. Once we get into the dark cozy REM hours of the night she rises up with the gusto of a pregnant vampire on the prowl for a midnight snack. She cries. She screams. She beseeches “MAAAAA-Ma! Dada! I waaaaaaant you!” And sometimes, just to mix it up, she tramps out of bed and ambles down the hall to our room. (It’s always creepy to be awakened by a child standing silently by your bed. Even if she’s yours, and she’s cute, and she’s not holding a meat cleaver.)

Mark and I alerted the neighbors that we are not waterboarding Paige, despite what her tortured nighttime vocalizations might infer. And we’re methodically working our way through different approaches to getting her to freakin’ sleep again. Although she’s had some intermittent nights of solid sleep—just to really fuck with us—for the most part nothing has worked.

So if you’re interested in coming to babysit for a week and taking a crack at this issue yourself, we’ll happily vacate the place at a moment’s notice.

Sudden thought: Is this some Darwinian toddler phase that emerges to remind parents who’re considering another child about the hellish newborn months of sleep deprivation? Not that we ARE considering another kid…

At any rate, something to think about.

In the final school-free days of summer, and with me work-free, it’s actually been somewhat manageable plodding through the days in a sleepy haze. Sometimes it’s even fun, in a distorted art student life-perspective kinda way.

I mean, have you ever had one of those days that unfolds like a play? Kinda like when you’re reading a book and you know that the writer was really trying to get a movie deal, just based on how it’s all laid out? Well, I had a day last week that felt totally like it wasn’t meant to be a day, but some sort of series of staged events.

For starters, my sleepiness was keeping me more distanced from things way more than I’m used to. Un-shy gal that I am, I usually feel pretty integrated in whatever’s happening around me. But it’s like I was in some weird deaf-mute alternate universe where things were unfolding around me in strictly choreographed little dramatic sequences, and I just happened to be there watching. Like some invisible Ebenezer Scrooge.

It started at boot camp. As most of my days recently do.

Instead of the punishing rounds of weights and bands and medicine balls and lunges/squats/lat blasts, we did our usual punishing frenzied-fast warm-up but were then told we were going to have a break in our routine. We’d just be running around the lake.

And can I just say that Lake Merrit is a fascinating place at 6AM? It’s like when you’re driving to the airport at some ungodly early hour and you can’t believe there are other cars on the road. Something that always prompts Kate to ask questions like, “Are the people in those cars taking a plane to see Grandpa in Rhode Island too?”

Yeah so there are ALL THESE PEOPLE awake and out and doing exercisey stuff at the lake. As I ran I got totally absorbed in watching them pass by. It was like I was in some Spike Lee movie and was gliding along smoothly on some conveyor belt that let me really stare at each person as they passed by.

There was a trio of old Chinese ladies in foamy trucker-style baseball caps and over-sized fleece jackets. One young woman had on a blue silk scarf babushka-style, and was clutching a cell phone to her ear as she scuttled past. There was even a buff black guy, pitted out in gray sweats, who was bobbing in place and doing little boxing jabs. (People really DO those?) Even the dogs looked like they were from Central Casting—one small, white, and scruffy, a big dopey Lab, then a vicious looking brindled Pit. An assortment as diverse Oakland’s human population. Everyone seemed to placed there intentionally to set the tableau of “the lake at dawn,” but it was so well-done, I almost couldn’t buy it.

Do you know what I mean? Like, I was totally anticipating the credits where the scarf-clad woman on the phone would be Babushka Caller #1.

And then later, when I’d shaken myself loose from the scene, gotten home, showered, and collected the still-on-summer-break kids, we went to the lake. A different, swimming lake. And there it was just more of the same. A series of mothers and kids on blankets under umbrellas lined up along shore. They were too perfectly spaced out to be real.

I saw one Mama I vaguely know and we start chatting, while our kids (her boys, my girls) ignore each other. Then, Mother #1—at the far end of the beach—her umbrella get swept up in the wind and tumbles a few times. She catches it, and runs up to my kinda friend. “Hey, could I borrow your hammer again?” Uh… HAMMER? And then Kinda Friend pulls a big rubber mallet from her L.L. Bean bag as if it’s a bottle of sunscreen.

“You, have a mallet with you?” I ask, trying to modulate the shock out of my voice. She carries it, she says, to secure her beach umbrella. Really bang that bottom stake down into the sand.


And this woman is so petite and mild mannered. She’s a nurse for God’s sake. In my sleepy haze it struck me as surreal for her to have a sledge hammer in her tote. And to act like it was no big thing.

After she leaves I get to chatting with Mom #3, the one closest to my blanket. She’s got her own two kids and another in tow who’s a total terror. He’s taking buckets of wet sand and running up from the shore to dump them on people’s blankets. In fact, since I’m standing a bit away from it, he chooses my blanket for this lovely gift. Mom #3 was mortified. She was virtually pulling his ear to get him to apologize, and clearly wanting to illuminate some NOT MY KID sign over the boy’s head.

Later in our conversation, Mom #3 and I were swapping school stories and she tells me that Holy Terror Boy goes to none other than Kate’s soon-to-be new school.


It was three days before school started. I took this tidbit as any rational mother would—as a strong premonition to Kate’s future life of crime.

As the day wore on Mortified Playdate Mom’s umbrella goes flying. As I run down the beach with her to help grab it, she turns to me and says, “Ugh. I wish your friend with the hammer was still here.”

And I just kinda stopped, imagining the morning tableau of mothers and kids arriving lakeside, and—despite not knowing each other—all taking turns with the beach-umbrella mallet like some weird “We Can Do It” poster come to life.

Later that day, we drove through the car wash. Kate and Paige were with me, and they’re pretty enthralled with the drama of the whirling brushes, long slappy rubber strips, and squiggly squirts of pink wax. We happened to be listening to our Nutcracker CD at the time. And as I put the car in neutral, I turned the music way up and we sat back. It was as if each new swishing slapping squirting movement came in perfect syncopation with the music.

It was better than fireworks.

If you have never been very very sleepy and gotten your car washed to the soundtrack from The Nutcracker, I highly recommend it.

1 Comment »

Digging Out

Posted: August 10th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: California, Discoveries, Extended Family, Little Rhody, Milestones, Moods, My Body, My Temple, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Sleep, Summer, Travel | 2 Comments »

One night last week my sister walked into her kitchen to find her nine-year-old son in a laundry bag. A bag that he’d voluntarily put himself in. Because I guess that’s what you do when you’re a nine-year-old boy.

It was mesh, so it wasn’t like he was struggling for air or anything. And he wasn’t alone. He was hanging out with his best friend. His friend who, for nearly A HALF-HOUR, had been trying unsuccessfully to un-knot the top of the bag.

And here’s the thing. My sister was upstairs THE WHOLE TIME. Had the boys thought to get her for help? Apparently not. She even asked if they didn’t find her because they thought she might be mad or something. They said no. Word was, they just hadn’t thought to get her.

I can’t help but think this is a boy thing. Like the young male version of not asking for directions.

As my sister was working to free him he tells her, “I’m starting to feel kinda weird in here.”


I’d have lasted four seconds in there before screaming and thrashing around like a Tazmanian Devil. Not only would someone upstairs know I needed help, the whole block would.

But the fact is, sometimes you get yourself into a tight spot and it’s kinda hard to know how dig yourself out. I was like that for a short while when I get back from Little Rhody. Not in a super bad place, but just glum. The craptastic Bay Area weather plus a large dose of nothing-much-going-on had me in a vague fog. And seeing as I generally operate like a chihuahua on caffeine (at least, in the words of my dear friend Kevin), this nebulous floating about was distasteful.

So I did what any sane woman would do. I started washing down pillows.

You know, took on an extremely low priority project and threw myself into it as if I was single-handedly redoing the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Oh, did I wash pillows. Then I tossed them in the dryer with tennis balls to dry and fluff ‘em all up nice. Once one set was done I’d nearly yank a pillow from beneath Mark’s sleeping head to start in on more.

It was a strange yet effective form of therapy. I was making just enough progress on an utterly unnecessary project that my morose mood was replaced by a mild sense of satisfaction. And since I have an addictive personality, I took my usual more-is-more approach. (Note: If anyone in my neighborhood would like their pillows laundered, please leave them on my front porch. I probably won’t hear the doorbell ring since the tennis balls in the dryer are fairly loud.)

Today, having come near the end of what turns out to be our thrillingly-large pillow inventory, I stumbled across a twin duvet I forgot we had. Perfect for Paige’s new Big Girl Bed! And an excellent item to, well, wash.

Pillow mites are watching their nightly newscasts and shielding their children’s eyes from pictures of me. I’m like the Saddam Hussein of the pillow mite community.

I’m considering opening a bed and breakfast for severe allergy sufferers. Why hoard all this pristine hypo-allergenic bedding for my family’s sole use?

Anyway, speaking of Paigey’s Big Girl Bed—and believe me, she and I seem to spend half our days discussing its merits—the other thing I’ve been doing to occupy myself is re-arranging the furniture in her room. This, it turns out, is also good therapy—albeit somewhat disorienting to the poor girl. She leaves her room for a five-minute snack, and on her way back in slams into a dresser I’ve impulsively moved catty-corner in her doorway.

I just can’t help myself. I’ve explored varying degrees of good and bad feng shui (a bed facing towards the door = a no-no). I’ve exhausted nearly every configuration of the contents of the room. And finally on this “project” I’m also slapping my hands together with a smug sense of accomplishment. I’ve settled on one layout I’ve been willing to keep in place for three days now. This, it seems, is progress.

Other things have helped my disposition get sunnier, despite the thick Bay Area fog. We’re off to Palm Springs at the end of the week—a trip I hastily planned in a desperate heat-seeking mission. And one day after our return from there, we set out for our Minnesotan lake vaycay.

And back on the homefront I signed up for a boot camp. You know, I’m paying some petite drill sargeant to yell at and disparage me as I do wind sprints by Lake Merrit, then fall to the sidewalk for endless rounds of push-ups. At 6:30 in the morning. This started today in fact, and aside from the regular Advil-overdosing I anticipate I’ll be doing, I think this ass-kickin’ is just what my lazy ass needed.

Though waking up at 5:45 was especially brutal. Miss Paige, ever the ringer for sleep, has been discombobulated of late. For years babysitters have gloated about “how easily she goes down.” But in the past few weeks her Sleep Super Power has been out of whack. At bedtime she’ll appear to have fallen asleep, but 45 minutes later will call out, “I want MY MAMA!” in her most desperate and dramatic wail. We’re popping up two to three times a night to settle her down, like she’s a newborn again. You’d think the steady thrum of the tennis balls in the dryer would soothe her back to sleep. But no dice. Much more of this and I’ll be asking for my money back.

Then in the morning, the poor thing calls out to us as if she’s shackled to the mattress. This happens to be my favorite non-intelligent behavior in my children: the fact that once they moved into twin beds they didn’t figure out that they were FREE TO GET OUT on their own.

But really, like I said, sometimes you’re just feeling stuck—be it in a laundry bag, a funk, or a bed that you forgot isn’t your crib any more.

So what’s been happening most mornings is we send Kate into Paige’s room to tell her she can get out of bed. Then she pops right out like a trained Cocker Spaniel and shows up in the kitchen, beaming and wild-haired, announcing proudly, “I got up, Mama!”

Hopefully by the time she goes away to college we’ll get her self-prompting to get out of bed. In the meantime, she’s one member of the family I’m happy to keep in the fog.


My Good Egg

Posted: October 10th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Housewife Fashion Tips, Husbandry, Miss Kate, Mom, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Sleep, Travel | 4 Comments »

I’ve not always been the best bed mate.

Mark may not often admit that, the dear, unless you catch him on a morning when I’ve had what he refers to with restraint as “a particularly active night’s sleep.”

You see, he’s a light-as-a-feather sleeper. And I could slumber heavily alongside a train track. I’m a deep deep sleeper who’s also on the move, stretching, flopping over then back like a fish, pedaling an imaginary bike, or curling fetally into what Mark calls my “comma position.”

I do sleep as a high-impact sport.

Mornings, the volume of my hair snarl and the intensity of Mark’s bloodshot eyes are the indicators of  just how fervidly I’ve thrashed through the night. Usually without ever pulling out of my corpse-like slumber.

I am not a night-time tinkler. (In fact, I hold mortals who speak of “getting up at night to pee” in mild to moderate disdain.) Before kids became part of our traveling show, I’d fall asleep on planes prior to take-off, and be nudged awake before landing by flight attendants insisting I “return my seat to the full upright position.” At the dramatic height of a movie or TV show, I could suddenly nod my head, let my jaw hang lax, and conk out cold.

Sleep is my super power.

Of course, I’ve been pregnant twice too. So Mark’s also suffered through months of me engaged in nighttime aerobics, but wielding a large inner baby and scads of assorted pillows I’d pack around myself like I was some fragile teapot being sent through the mail.

I suddenly discovered what it was like to wake up in the night, uncomfortable with a hip that seemed it was being crushed in a vice. Add to that, I was having to pee. (Me!) My pillows were my desperate effort to defend my long-cherished run of failure-proof sleep. They were my mental and physical support. Like a full-body nighttime bra.

Yet even they failed me. Because whenever I rolled over I’d need to reconfigure the innumerable group of them on the new side.

As if that weren’t bad enough, once I’d finally get settled the skin on the soles of my feet would feel dry. (My own personal crazy-lady pregnancy thing.) So I’d reach to my bedside table for lotion, sweeping my glasses to the floor, clanging my glass of water, and ultimately, upsetting my strategic pillow array. Waah!

Poor Mark. A frat boy after a night celebrating his 21st birthday couldn’t sleep through that.

Often, understandably, Mark would give up and schlep to the couch. And as long as his pillow and blanket were gone by daybreak, so friends or house cleaners wouldn’t question the health of our marriage, I was admittedly happy to be alone. Doing snow angels in the sheets with my immense baby-filled body. Not worrying about moving too much and keeping Mark up, I’d fall asleep nearly instantly.

Alas, it’s likely Mark’s days of pregnancy-induced couch sleeping are over. (Sniff!). But this week I’ve had a cold. I NEVER get sick. My take on colds is akin to the mortal weakness of night peeing.

And Mark’s been so horribly busy at work. At night he gets to crawl into bed with me sniffling, snorfling, coughing, and worst—doing the Bruno triple throat clear. From my lump on the left sife of the bed I radiate germs and self-pity like rays from the sun. And my already unsexy cadre of nighttime attire has bottomed out with the cold-weather return of my flannel Lanz of Salzburg granny gown.

Let’s just say I’m no Betty Draper.

But through it all Mark’s been the attentive tough-love nurse. “Have you even taken zinc? Or Vitamin C?” he’ll ask, then sigh, trundle off, and return with a handful of pills and a tall glass of water.

This morning he delivered a cold pill and some decongestant or other before I even got out of bed. I mean, at least that’s what he SAID he was giving me.

But seriously, if you haven’t met my husband, let me tell you. He’s a good egg.

When the girls were wee babes and I was getting up a lot at night to nurse, since Mark holds the title of World Featherweight Sleeper, he’d be up too. In fact, he’d be the one shaking me to consciousness when the monitor was blaring baby cries and crackling static at Volume 11, right at my ear.

“Uh, honey? Kristen? The baby is up.” And I’d've been on such another stratosphere of deep sleep I’d walk heavy-legged and dull-faced down the hall towards the crying.

But when I got back into bed, without fail, he’d have fluffed my pillows.

I know it seems like a small thing. But it was such a sweet act of I-wish-I-had-boobies-and-could-help-out-more kindness. If I weren’t so damn tired, I’d have taken his face in my hands, planted a big smooch on his forehead, and blubbered happy words of appreciation.

Turns out having one’s head drift down into two perfectly fluffed pillows is an exceptional simple pleasure. Especially when you’re months into no more than three or four hours of sleep at a stretch.

And another thing about that man, because I’m on a roll now. When he’s cooking? And cutting up carrots for something? He chops off a little nubbin of one and brings it over to me wherever I am. You know, like where I’m setting the table, or digging in the bottom of the closet for my other clog.

I don’t even remember how it is that I told him about this, but the reason he does it is it’s something my mother would do. She spent 70% of my childhood cutting up raw vegetables to set in front of me. Or handing me a piece of celery off the cutting board, before dumping the rest into a pot.

Speaking of her, I had that phone thing happen today. The thing people talk about when someone close to them dies—still getting the impulse to pick up the phone and call the person, then having the realization that you can’t.

Google really should work on that.

Anyway, what’s weird is that it’s been ages, like, over five years, since mom and I have had one of our meandering, sometimes only mildly-interesting daily phone calls. So I’ve been over that phone call habit for a while now. Or so I thought, at least.

But earlier tonight, after Kate’s dance performance and before dinnertime, I was tired. I’d been on Mama duty all day, with a ragged voice, goopy cough, mounting headache, and two young unsympathetic charges. I was summoning my last bits of patience and energy to get a bare-bones frozen ravioli and salad dinner on the table.

I was cutting up carrots to steam—’cause it turns out my mother’s veggie-pushing got passed down in the genes—and as I turned on the oven to warm some bread, it started. Not that I thought I wanted to call her per se. It’s more that this string of thoughts about feeling worn out, and the girls arguing over books in the other room, and it starting to get really cold at night here now that it’s fall—this series of thoughts I was running through in my head were things that were somehow sort of customized for her. The kinds of things I’d be telling my mother if I could.

And then that one part of your brain that can be sitting back when another part is doing something else, it prompted me with the thought, “Hey, seems like you want to be calling your mother right now.”

Which had the potential to take me to the brink of feeling far worse about the state of things than I already felt. I mean, feeling sick and tired is one thing. But the dead mother trump emotional card always beats out everything else.

But blessedly, before I could even go there, the lock on the door clicked in that barely audible way it does when Mark comes home. And Kate sprang off the couch with an amped-up need to tell a story, and Paige, from her spot on the floor stretched out her arms for her tragic pick-me-up-you-don’t-KNOW-how-much i-missed-you act.

In a snap, that little door click redistributed all the energy in the house. And when the door swung open, it was like all the thoughts swirling around in my head got sucked outside in the back draft.

Sometimes that man has just got perfect timing.


I Could Have Told Him So

Posted: April 15th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Friends and Strangers, Husbandry, Misc Neuroses, Other Mothers, Parenting, Sleep | No Comments »

Fearful as I am to do so, I have a confession to make.

For some time now—several months, really—despite the fact that I’m a mother of a one- and three-year-old, I’ve been getting blissful, uninterupted nights of sleep. Just like normal people without kids get.

I mean, with the exception of a trip to Lake Tahoe a couple months ago, which had us all bunking in one room and therefore victims of Kate’s nocturnal verbal outbreaks (and door-banging trips to the potty), my blissful nighttime slumber could be in some kind of Serta Sleeper TV ad. Okay, so my hair gets a lot nappier from sleep than those mattress models’ apparently do, but STILL. What I’m sayin’ is we put those kids of ours to sleep in the evening, and God bless ‘em, we don’t hear from them again ’til morning.

So Saturday we visited our friends Kristen and Suneel and their delicious 5-month-old Jackson. (Total future husband material for Paige.) At one point Kristen turned her tired eyes to us, and looking almost uncertain whether she should even venture to do so, asked how sleep was for us at this point.

Now, I’ve passed through the portal into parenthood, and as part of that process I’ve been fully indoctrinated in Belief in the Mighty Power of Jinx. Particularly when it comes to discussions of successful sleep patterns. Aside from it being socially malodorous to brag about one’s child’s good sleep–especially to other potentially sleep-deranged parents whom you’d like to retain as friends–it also inevitably brings into play the potential for the good sleep spate to, well, shit the proverbial bed. For karma to spit in your eye and say, “Ten hours of straight newborn sleep, you say? Well here’s a night you won’t soon forget.” [Roll track of demonic laughter.]

This is all to say, as much as I wanted nothing more than to allay this new-Mama friend’s anxieties about how many years of crappy sleep she was staring down the barrel of, I was also—selfishly, I admit—fearful to even answer her question.

Blessedly, that night, despite having uttered aloud that our sleep was actually quite good these days, thank you, our familial sleep groove went unaffected.

But then, Mark had to duel with fate. And out of the blue in the kitchen last night, he mentions all casual and stuff, how we never even had to sleep train Paigey Wiggle in order to arrive at her current state of excellent sleep-through-the-nightery.

You think you know someone. But what ON EARTH would compel him to utter such a thing aloud?

Yeah, yeah, it’s painfully—exhaustingly, ahem—clear where this is headed. Which is to say that Paige decided to enter an unprecedented middle of the night cry-a-thon last night. In her 15 months of life the girl has not bawled as much as she did last night. There was cacaphonous wailing, and possibly even rending of garments, though it’s hard to tell with those feety pajamas. The girl had me out of bed three seperate times, alternately shoving my breast and/or a dropperful of Tylenol into her mouth to quell her insistent wake-the-whole-house-up-when-it-was-really-otherwise-quite-cozy-in-bed fury.

Finally I just decided to hold and rock her for roughly EVER until I was certain she was in a deep deep sleep and any small lurches of my body didn’t make her fear I was going to set her back into her crib and re-ignite the earsplitting wail. As sleepy as I was, it was pretty damn cute that a few times as she was about to doze off she’d wake herself up to reach her arm out to make sure I was still there.

Still, my sleeping uninterrupted would have been cuter.

The whole incident made me want to get in the car and drive like a crazy lady the hour-plus trip back to Woodside to pound on Kristen and Suneel’s door at 3:30AM—when, God knows, they may well have been awake with their baby anyway–to tell them how horribly terribly sorry I was to have forgotten the most important piece of parenting information I could ever hope to impart to dear friends such as them. Whenever it is that wee Jackson does start sleeping like a champ, for the love of God, DO NOT UTTER A WORD ABOUT IT BETWEEN YOURSELVES OR TO OTHERS.

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