The Bruno Triple Throat Clear and Other Unfortunate Legacies

Posted: March 26th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Daddio, Discoveries, Miss Kate, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Sisters, Sleep | 1 Comment »

I wandered into a used clothing store yesterday in that aimless way that mothers sometimes enter stores where they have no interest in the products but just want to gain a feeling of exasperation from wedging a bulky bright red off-road stroller through narrow clothing-lined passageways and tight corners populated with old women burrowing through rayon blouses.

Halfway through my why-the-hell-am-I-in-here-and-how-will-I-ever-get out realization, a woman in the store sneezed. Not just any sneeze, but a deafening sonic boom aaaaaah-choo! that caused everyone in the place to recoil in shock. It was so sudden, and so terribly loud, it created what I indelicately like to refer to as a “tampon-expelling moment.”

Anyway, the gal’s apparently sent shock and awe through other shopper-packed stores because as some of the older patrons were still blanched by the event and readjusting their wigs, she made a brief and unembarrassed announcement.

“Sorry!” she called out. “Yes, I’m a loud sneezer. I inherited it from my grandfather.”

Okay, so who really cares about Grandpa’s sneezes? If I were her life coach I’d help her work up a better post-sneeze remark.

But the little episode did get me thinking about The Bruno Triple Throat Clear. It’s one of those divorce-able habits that are the patented (and only) approach the women in my family unconsciously (and constantly) use to clear their throats. It’s a kinda “mmm-mm-mmmm.” A peppy throaty trifecta that actually makes me miss my mother to even think about because it’s one of those little things that was just so her.

And, as it turns out–unfortunately for our spouses–is so my sisters and I too.

Of course, my annoying habit is one thing, but Mark ran into the room where I was the other day wild-eyed, as if he was about to report a family of rabid badgers had set up house in his boxer short drawer.

“Kate!” He bellowed right up in my face. “She just did The Triple Throat Clear!”

Of course, I could just smile coyly, thinking about how she sucks all the water out of her toothbrush after using it, then gives it two quick taps on the edge of the sink before putting it away.

“Oh. Really?” I eventually said. “Huh.”

Maybe some of the stuff my family does is easier to pick up on since there are four of us, and we’re all girls. That has to make it easier to detect our shared annoying habits, right?

Case in point. We were all just back in Rhode Island for my Dad’s 80th birthday extravaganza. I think it was after the party, later at home, when we were beaten down from excessive socializing, daytime alcohol consumption, and the sweet relief of having the shindig successful and behind us. I walked into the living room to see my sister Judy sprawled asleep on the leather couch, her left arm slung up over her face and her mouth gaping open. It was the exact stance I’d seen Ellen in on the blow-up mattress earlier that morning. And that night, in front of one Law and Order show or another, my father nodded off, head turned to one side, mouth agape. (He didn’t do the arm sling thing. We got that part from Mom.)

At this point in my life, I can tolerate the humiliation of knowing that every time I fall asleep on an airplane the flight attendants could set a cocktail napkin and bag of nuts in my open mouth. (The Bruno Flung Arm Sleeping Maneuver is thankfully too difficult to enact in a seated position.) What concerns me at this juncture is which shameful traits my little innocents will pick up from me. Which crosses of mine, as it were, they’ll have to bear.

Miss Paige has always been a star sleeper. (My genes, thank you very much.) But in the past few weeks she’s somehow realized that she can sit up in her crib and look around her room. Something she finds so fascinating–reviewing an unchanged space she sees every day–she now does it at the beginning of every nap. The problem is, tired as she may be, she hasn’t managed to make the connection that she has to lie down again in order to sleep.

So I’ve been having to go into her room and readjust her, gently pushing her shoulders down onto the mattress. At which point she looks up at me grateful and groggy, and dozes off nearly instantly.

The other day, she started in on the why-am-I-still-sitting-up-when-I-want-to-sleep-now? whine. (It’s amazing how you can categorize their different laments.) I was hoping that something in her brain would finally fire and she’d realize she could solve the problem herself. And a few minutes later, as if I’d willed it to be so, she was totally quiet. So I waited a bit, then cracked open her door to take a peek.

And there she was. In a seated position but pitched forward, totally face-planted into her blanket, and sound asleep.

Of course, like any sensible mother I didn’t dare move her for fear she’d wake up and her nap–and my cherished child-free time–would suddenly evaporate. So an hour or so later when she eventually came to, I went in to get her. Her face was pink and indented in the pattern of the lovely afghan that Aunt Terry knitted for her. But she was well rested nonetheless.

Well, she’s found a solution. Since that first ergonomic nightmare of a nap, she’s fallen asleep a few other times the same way. One of these days I’ll put a silencer on my camera shutter and take a picture of it. It seems wretchedly uncomfortable, poor dear, but at least I can say for sure, she didn’t get that one from me.

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Night Moves

Posted: March 14th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Discoveries, Miss Kate, Sleep, Travel | 1 Comment »

Last summer when we were visiting our friends Mike and Myra they made a brilliant remark about Kate’s state of unrelenting chatter. (And blessedly, it wasn’t that she’s her mother’s daughter.)

“We remember when our kids were her age,” one of them said. “We called it The AM Radio Phase. From the minute they woke up in the morning ’til they went to sleep at night it was Non. Stop. Talk.”

Now, growing up with my mom’s ancient New-England-chic beater Volvo–one of the last vehicles to roam the planet without an FM dial on its radio–I typically equate the AM scene more with Dan Fogelberg and Carpenters songs (the lyrics to all of which I’m ashamed to say I still know by heart). But I guess many of the AM stations are exclusively about the talking. And since I’m pretty sure Mike hadn’t overheard Kate humming “Top of the World” that day, I’m assuming that’s what he meant.

At any rate, Mark and I often marvel (and claw at our respective scalps) over Kate’s ceaselessly crashing wave of talk. And we luxuriate in the blissful aural peace that her bedtime brings.

But then we shared a room with her and Paige in Lake Tahoe recently, and we realized Mike and Myra were actually slightly incorrect. The thing is, Kate doesn’t “turn off” when she goes to sleep.

The first night she muttered a variety of random words throughout the night. No complete sentences, but a fugue of unassociated words timed in perfect syncopation with my having just dozed off from her last utterance. The second night she woke us by distinctly (and quite loudly, I’ll add) calling out, “No, bumble bee! No! Go away!”

If it weren’t for the deep dark hour of the night, or the superfluous amount of alcohol I’d consumed earlier in the hot tub, it might have elicited a soft-hearted maternal “aw” from me.

After three nights sleeping en masse, we gratefully all beat paths to our respective bedrooms when we arrived at home. Well, Mark and I still share.

That night, so as to ensure our move to uninterrupted sleep wasn’t too harsh a transition for Mark and me, Kate called out from her bed late-night. When I went into her room, her eyes were closed and she rolled over, clearly still sleeping and huffing defiantly, “I don’t like black beans!”

Good to know at 4AM.

A few days ago on the drive home from preschool, which I think I should start videotaping since those brief rides are the setting for some of our best (and most confusing) mother-daughter conversations, Kate said, “Did you know, Mama, that when I was in Lake Tahoe I had a dream that a bumble bee was wanting to sting me?”

I hated to take the wind out of her sails, but I couldn’t help but say, “Well, yes, actually. I did know that, Kate.”

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Report from the Night Shift

Posted: January 9th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Husbandry, Miss Kate, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Sleep | 2 Comments »

Last night The McClusky Sisters besieged my sleep with a brutal one-two punch. With Mark gone to wait in endless taxi lines at CES in Vegas, I’m running solo on the ‘renting. And hanging on by a thread to tell the tale.

So, is it just me, or is waking from a deep sleep to find a small child silently standing inches from your face scary as shit? I mean, maybe I’ve watched The Shining a few too many times in college, but I can’t begin to fathom how parents of twins survive seeing two kids standing in a hallway in the middle of the night. Horrific on so many levels.

The suddenly-standing-right-there kid is one thing, but the plaintive cry of, “I don’t waaaaaaanna sleep!” called across the albeit small house–and a look at the digital clock revealing it’s 1:32AM–is quite another. Even if you know every other time you’ve heard this lament The Whiner has successfully been marched back to bed with some threat like, “It’s the middle of the night and yes, you WILL sleep!” hissed into her ear–even knowing that’s probably how it’ll go down, the vision of what your night could turn into if the little beastie did refuse to sleep is just unspeakably ugly.

Waking up this way is less than ideal, but half of what I’m all pissy about is that Kate’s sleep issues are something I realized–how to say this?–I blame totally on Mark. Since he still can’t lactate (damn it) the natural division of nighttime labor has been Mark serving as Kate’s night nurse and me tending to Paige’s milk-swillin’ needs. Mark’s just such a softie. He ambles out of bed and gently ushers Kate to her
room instead of blowing a whistle loudly in her face as I might do in
order to, you know, break the cycle.

With sleep being my Super Power (along with parallel parking), I’m usually able to snooze through most of Kate’s creepy suddenly-standing-there late-night visits to our room. And I drown out her vocal requests with the patented pillow-over-the-head approach.

So while Mark’s slumming in a luxury hotel, getting buttered up by every hi-tech trade show gadget pimp, and eating out at Bouchon, Craft, and the best Thai restaurant this side of Chiang Mai, I’m home wrangling with the wretched nighttime duet that he and Kate sometimes dance.

I mean, I don’t mean to sound bitter.

But maybe my lack of REM is actually mustering in me a wee bit of co-parenting empathy on this subject. In the past, when I’ve stretched, smiled and offered up a well-rested morning greeting to Mark, commenting on how Paigey “slept through, God bless her,” he’s often looked back at me through bloodshot eyes muttering slack-jawed that Kate “was up four–or mabye it was five–times.” It’s not that I don’t feel bad for the guy, but when he adds that from 1:30 to 3:00 he “couldn’t sleep at all,” he loses me.

As a professional sleeper I know there’s some good shut-eye to be gotten between those 30-second back-in-your-beddie-bye jaunts. It’s always baffled me that between these quick promenades Mark’s often in bed wired and wild-eyed.

But now, like some Scrooge who grew a heart overnight, I’ve come to understand Mark’s plight. The thing is, after the girl cons you into thinking she’s ready to doze off at the first tuck-in, you foolishly climb back into bed, and just when your body temp’s returned to duvet-level warmth and you’re drifting off into a dream about having had a really popular prom date, SHE’S BACK. This time wailing loudly near the baby’s bedroom door. “MAMA!!! I. Can’t. SLEEEEEEP!”

Suffice it to say, it’s jarring.

If it weren’t for fear that she’d disturb The One That Insists On Drinking Milk From Your Boobies If Awoken, you wouldn’t be springing out of bed in a flash to hush hush hush her and direct her back toward her room whispering a strained aren’t-your-blankets-so-cozy-honey pep talk in her ear.

If it’s not already clear, we’re quite religious about not solving this problem by inviting her into our Child-Free Zone, I mean bed.

So, more soporific promises from Kate and another walk back to my own bed, but this time I can’t help but be wary. Why get cozy when the other shoe could drop at any moment? She could be back again before I even have time to lament the oh-so-wretched hour. And when the rattle of the heater cranks up I find myself straining to listen, thinking I’m hearing her door crack open again. It’s like that one ring on the Motorola RAZR phone that always had you thinking it was ringing when it wasn’t. (Admit it. You always fell for that too.)

So, not one to be rooked into nodding off again, this time I’m on ambush alert. I’m almost wanting her to get up and just get it the hell over with. Will she do the spooky silent child by the bed move, or the bellow from down the hall? What’s it gonna be, Kate?! BRING IT ON, SISTER.

But eventually enough time passes, and I let go, roll over, and well, you can guess what happens when I just drift off. “MOMMY!!

Digital clock now says 2:53AM.

To anyone who may have seen me carrying a child fireman-style over my shoulder while growling “No more getting up, and I MEAN IT!” threats under my breath, thanks a bunch for not calling Child Protective Services.

I think this process took place five times last night. Or maybe four. I lost count some time after losing my will to live.

And once Kate lost interest in seeing how far she could push me before I’d put her up for bid on eBay, her World Wrestling Federation partner, Paige, tagged in.      

It was like Paige was perched in the corner of the ring waiting for the bell to sound so she could pounce on my last 3 hours of sleep like a rabid monkey. (I know this is mixing a metaphor, but on such limited sleep this is the best I can muster, people.)

And what a show Miss Paige put on! The baby who generally gets up once at night–if that–squawked first at midnight, prior to Kate’s onsalught, then came at me with two additional awake-itudes spaced out for maximum snoozing interference at 4:00 and 5:30.

At 5:45 I crawled to bed. Cold. Tapped dry of milk. Frantic for sleep but gun-shy about giving into it. And desperately, miserably missing my partner in parenting, our family’s fearless father, my dear sweet Mark.

He who was alseep in some hotel bed. Likely a bit boozed up after some work party or dinner. Stretched out solo in a huge king bed, maybe with another one like it nearby just for throwing his books and clothes and cell phone on.

Hopefully getting a deep restful night’s sleep to fortify him for the family life awaiting his return. At which point I will never again doubt, question, or criticize any of his middle of the night sleep shenanigans, because I’ll be so damn happy happy happy to just have him back.