The Adventure That is Camping With Young Children

So you decide to go camping this weekend with the kids. It’ll be fun, you think. It’ll be relaxing, you dare to dream.

Nevermind that you and the toddler have been suffering debilitating allergies. You just started your second steroid of the month, which hasn’t fully kicked in yet and, so your head has been pounding for eight days straight so hard that you feel the pain in your teeth every time you take a step. Nevermind that the toddler sneezed approximately five hundred times that day, spraying fountains of snot with every achoo. That, combined with her leaky red-rimmed eyes, convinced you to start her on some children’s Claritin, which honest-to-goodness stopped the sneezing by about ninety percent within the hour.  If she’s fine, you’re fine, so you take yourself to urgent care and get yourself Flonase and Prednisone to add to your Singular and Claritin and Sudafed cocktail you already are on. When you text your husband a picture of you and your now-less-sneezy kiddo from the urgent care office, and he asks, “Are we still going camping’, you confidently state, “Of course we are”.  Because you can be miserable at home or you can be miserable camping, so why waste the opportunity for the trip.

urgent care

The night before you leave, the toddler gives you a hard time about going to sleep.  She grabs her baby doll and dragging it up the stairs is whining, “I want to give my baby a bath!! I waa-annn-tttt-oo-oogi-iiiv-eeee-myba-aa-bbb-yyyy-ya-ba-th!”  She must not think you’re really getting her point so she tries a louder tactic, a high-pitched shriek, “I!want!to!give!my!baby!a!bath!”  Maybe it was her being so worked up about the hygiene of her baby doll (was she suddenly not okay with the mashed ground Cheerios on baby’s clothes or the orange marker scribbled all over her face?), or maybe she choked on a large amount of drainage running down the back of her throat that the Claritin couldn’t quite get rid of.  Whatever it was, it caused her to vomit all over the bathroom stool and floor.

As a mother, the first thought you have is, damn, she ate two whole carrots and now they’re on the bathroom floor, and you hope some vitamin K was retained.  You start mopping up the floor and while you’re doing that she seizes the opportunity to take her baby doll to the bathtub and start washing her in the bucket full of water left over from her bath earlier that day.  You find the situation ironic, and slightly annoying, that she is getting what she was originally whining about when you said it was time for bed, but at this point, screw it.  Her puke-splattered baby actually now does need a bath so she might as well be the one to clean it.

You text your husband a picture of the puke, so he can appreciate your current parental situation.

puke2

He asks again, “Are we still going?”

“Yes, damn it”. We will have a fun family vacation.  You’re starting to sound slightly Clark Griswold.

The next day you leave and it takes three times longer than it should to get to the campsite, but that’s okay, you left early. On the way there your toddler tells you her butt hurts, and you realize all of the diapers are trapped in the pop-up, so you stop at the grocery store and buy more diapers and change her in the car, thinking she must have pooped, but she’s just wet. You change her anyway and head to lunch. Somehow in the fifteen-minute span between the diaper change and lunch she pees more than she’s ever peed in her entire life, enough to drench the diaper and cause a urine overflow all over her pants.  But, like the diapers, clean pants are in the pop-up so you just change the diaper and know that even though she has Pee Pants on, the new diaper will at least prevent a urinary tract infection.

Despite leaving three hours ahead for the “hour drive” to the campground, after lunch there are only seven minutes until you can check in, and holy mackerel, the GPS says you are seven minutes from the campground!  This must be a sure sign of an upswing in your luck, you are convinced.

You unpack and head to the beach and pay the nine bucks to park for your hour-long stay, but damn your kid has fun,  and the beach is all she has been talking about doing for a week. She did everything she wanted, she dug holes and made castles and put her toes in the water, and scooped and stacked and to top it all off, the infant didn’t even choke on any sand.  You head back to the campground and ate dinner at the picnic table and the toddler, in camping-loving glory exclaims, “I love picnics! And she makes a rainbow out of her blueberries and then eats them all. The mama in you is thrilled because, antioxidants consumed!  

After dinner you make a fire and put together s’mores, which you’re sure she’ll love, though it turns out she doesn’t even want to try it.  You try to convince her to just try one bite, but after a minute you realize, Why am I trying to force her to eat a sugar-laden sugar sandwich?  So you forget trying to force-feed the s’mores.  You don’t even like them much anyway, as you prefer your sugar in a fermented form.

It’s time for bed and you read the toddler Goldilocks and the Three Bears four times, because that’s what she wants, and all seems well until about five minutes into sleep time and the toddler pukes.  She pukes purple from her blueberry rainbow picnic.  There is puke in her hair and on her pillow and all over her special blankie.  You clean up what you can and hand her a spare blanket that you brought and another ten minutes pass before she pukes AGAIN.  You strip her down and you add a few more items to the soaked-with-regurgitated-blueberry pile and AHA! You have a THIRD blankie.

puke

You smugly think to yourself, This is why we “overpack”, Husband, and mentally note that you were so one-hundred-percent on the correct side of the argument you two had earlier about how you “always pack too much”. Clearly you needed to pack even more, since you gave her your pillow to stack on top of hers so she wouldn’t choke on her own phlegm and puke again, and you don’t have another blanket to wrap around yourself, so you have no choice but to suck it up and let the now-cold blueberry-puke-patch touch your thigh.  You read Goldilocks two more times once you’re resettled.

And even though you are covered in puke and the infant has been screaming this whole time, you laugh.

Because once you’ve accepted the fact that you’re sleeping in regurgitated blueberry and pukey hair, you just let go. You have no choice.  You accept it and say, fuck it, and you can’t believe that for a split-second earlier that day you worried about a few tablespoons of sand in the bed. Now, that sand is just a beautifully sprinkled reminder of that glorious time at the beach.  You feel liberated.  Once you’ve freed yourself from the expectation that all (or most. or some) will be pleasant, all is suddenly wholly good. You squeeze in a little closer to your pint-sized puke-head and share her double pillow, and when you realize that the pillow is also wet with puke, so don’t even flinch as you tuck the end of your blanket under your head and nod off for a few minutes until morning.

The next day you get a bit of retribution. You start the day with a deliciously steamy cup of french-pressed coffee, your spouse wore the infant in the baby carrier while you walked through town and got ice cream, you visited the salt-water pool at the campsite twice, and you read Goldilocks five times before nap, and best of all, there is no puking. And is it just you, or your jeans feeling a little loose, like maybe, just maybe, you magically didn’t gain an ounce from all of those s’mores you washed down with that six-pack of seasonal IPA?

camping

In your delirium you book the next camping outing.

On the way home you stop for a night at your parent’s cottage and you wake up to find that the toddler shit her pants in bed and the infant peed through her onesie and sleep sack.  Since you didn’t “overpack”, your entire family has officially ran out of clean clothes, because they have all been puked on, or shit on, or peed on, and as you should have guessed, you find out your parent’s washing machine is on the fritz.  Your husband hand-washes the shit-covered dress and hangs it outside to dry.  You clean up the kids and let them run around in nothing but diapers and go take a shower, and put your pee-soaked shirt back on as you pour yourself a cup of coffee.

It’s a good thing you drank that coffee because throughout the day you change approximately thirty-five shit-filled diapers between the two kids, many of which are liquid runs.  At once point when you try to get the toddler to sit on the potty, the contents of the diaper leak out into a brown puddle on the bathroom floor.  Since you didn’t “overpack” you ran out of diapers and wipes and have to get more.

You somehow manage to make it out for a pontoon ride and for a lovely half an hour, both kids nap and you enjoy the breeze and you think contentedly, Ahhh, life at the lake.  There is still hope left.  You get back to the cottage and the toddler eats some cheese and crackers and immediately proceeds to puke all over the carpet.  Enough puke for you to suggest taking the carpet out of the house and hosing it off.  Enough puke for your dad to say, “Maybe it’s time for us to get rid of this carpet”.

carpet

You read the toddler Goldilocks another five times in a row while your spouse packs up the car, and you head home a day early.

You gave it a valiant effort.

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In Which Parenting is Like Cutting Off a Limb

Have you seen the movie 127 Hours? It’s based on the real life situation in which Aron Ralston went hiking by himself through some canyons in the desert and managed to get his arm trapped underneath a boulder too heavy for him to lift. He was stranded without hope for rescue and got to the point where me made the decision to cut his own arm off in order to survive. (SPOILER ALERT: he does cut off his arm and he does survive). The movie producers did a fantastic job of depicting his self-mutilation. He sawed through the muscles and tendons with his multi-tool, which was grisly, but the cinematographic artistry peaked when he hit the nerves.  As he stroked the nerve, the screen vibrated and, like guitar strings, the wires screamed out grisly chords.  It made me cringe and grab my arm in response. He eventually realized he couldn’t saw through the bone and he had to break it in the end, but as disturbing as that part was, the nerve scene was by far the most powerful. It was disgustingly well done.

For some reason Aron’s story sticks with me. It pops into my mind with surprising regularity and makes me think. It makes me wonder if I would cut off my own arm in a similar circumstance. I wonder if I would cut off my spouse’s or if he would cut off mine. I wonder what other things I would do to survive. To live. It makes me wonder if what I do on a daily basis is enough. It’s a powerful story.

Sometimes his story pops into my mind just from parenting.

It’s the nerve pain.  It’s the vibrato zing. It’s the razor-sharp adrenaline rushes that slice open my insides and cause chemicals to seep into my blood stream faster than they normally would.

Parenting is gasping and inhaling and sweating and heart RACING RACING RACING. Parenting is survival mode and I’ve been in it for 20,040 hours. The difference between Aron and I is that instead of for actual life or death circumstances, I’m on overdrive for stupid things like these:

ONE:

“Mama!!!!”

THUMP THUMP THUMP.

“I have water in my eye!”

She spilled her sippy cup on her face.

TWO:

It’s a middle of the night moan.

“Ermmmhh!”

ZING!!!!  My head vibrates. My eyes vibrate. My fingers vibrate.

I hear her roll over. She’s still asleep.

or

THREE:

“Mama!” A shriek this time.

Flup!  I can hear my eyelids unstick from one another.  I try to listen over the thumping.  Nothing. I doze off.

“Mama!”

THUMP THUMP THUMP.  Silence. I doze off.

“Mama!”

Silence again.  What the hell?

And then I realize it is Mr. Grouch’s nose doing a whistling sort of snore. My arms are pinging and pulsing and I’m ready to pounce, but my kid was never even awake (Sidebar: This is why we hate you, sleeping spouses. And anyone who asks if the kids sleep through the night yet, because that doesn’t really matter, if we’re still not).

Parenting is constant nervous system misfiring. It is hypervigilance.

Sometimes my spouse gets caught in the misfire, saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing. It’s like he’s bumping the hand that is severing the other limb off, triggering sudden and unexpected searing pain, but, since he doesn’t realize I’m cutting my arm off, he has no idea how he possibly could have struck a nerve.

He usually doesn’t even know he did until I snap at him.  Which pisses him off, and makes me appear too sensitive, and then we’re both in a foul mood because I am snippy and how the hell doesn’t he notice my bloody bleeding stump?

Okay, okay, I’m not really comparing myself to this bad ass who cut off his own limb but sometimes hormones and anxiety make me feel this way.

Maybe I drink too much coffee.

Our loved ones certainly tug at our heart-strings, but I think they tug on our nerve-strings too.  So, if you’re the one who gets treated like you’re always on your spouse’s nerves….maybe this is why.

Parenting is exhausting and can be as hard as cutting off your own arm.  Maybe.

Parenting is exhausting and can be as hard as cutting off your own arm. Maybe.

Today I Did Good.

There are a lot of days I screw up. But today was not one of them, even though it could have been.  After work I had a doctor appointment, and then I picked up the kids from daycare and we went straight to the grocery store.  I knew I was pushing it, but my kids are pretty good and I brought diapers and snacks.  I am ready, I thought.  Immediately upon entering the store my 2-year-old told me she had to go potty.  SHIT.  We’re just starting this whole potty business so we’re at the point that if she ASKS to go, we have to take her. Nevermind that the clock was ticking until meltdown mode for both her and Infant Grouch, or that the public restrooms are bacterial infected cesspools or that I’d be precariously holding both her and the infant, or that she probably wouldn’t go to the bathroom anyway until she was back in the cart (spoiler alert, she later shit in the cart).

So I took a deep breath.

I said, “Okay, let’s go” and we entered the bathroom and to my surprise, she peed!  So I wrangled her diaper back on and said, “Don’t touch anything!” a million times and we washed our hands and we hoped Infant Grouch wouldn’t start screaming (and she didn’t, whew).  Fifteen minutes after we arrived we finally started our grocery shopping.

Toddler Grouch was sitting in the big part of the cart and Infant Grouch was in the small upper seat.  Toddler Grouch kept standing up and grabbing things off of the shelves and shouting cliches like, “I want that!” while knocking over rows of shampoo.  I found myself repeatting, to her, “Sit down. Sit down. Sit down”, and, “Do you need a snack?” and to myself, “Take a deep breath. An ujayi breath.  Fuck it, ANY BREATH”.

I breathed.

The first item on my list was dry shampoo.  Because God forbid I have to wash my hair every day.  (Seriously, who has time for that?)  I was completely out so I needed it and I walked back and forth and back and forth, scouring the aisles.  I walked back and forth as many times as they say “back and forth” in Love You Forever.  Where the hell is it?  I was getting pissed.  The Meltdown Clock was ticking.   After the amount of time it could have taken me to write a graduate thesis, I finally found it.  Why the hell do they have to always change the packaging?  I resisted the urge to ask this question out loud, since little ears were within the listening range.

The next item on my list was saline rinse for the two stuffy little noses that alternate between mimicking spewing volcanoes and crusty manhole covers.  Our household is plagued with sinuses as delicate and narrow as human hairs, so none of us can survive without this stuff.  We were out, so it had to be found immediately. Where the fuck is it?  For the love of God, it’s been thirty-five minutes and so far all we’ve done is pee on a potty (but, Potty Dance!) and make it down one aisle.  The Meltdown Clock is ticking! I finally found it. “God damned fucking packaging changers!” I yelled.  In my head.  I actually held it in. And again….

I breathed.

While Toddler Grouch was screaming, “I wannnnt it” and, “Go away!” and “Poooooooopy Poop!” I could not be the mom who loses her shit because the saline drops now came in a purple package instead of a white one.  I didn’t even yell when Toddler Grouch started screaming in a sort of horribly mean tone, “Go away!”  or as she crushed groceries with her boots and kept stacking items up next to the infant carrier until they almost toppled over.

Instead, I breathed again and made myself smile at Infant Grouch, even though it may have been a bit too toothy, looking perhaps like the smile the Wolf gave to Little Red Riding Hood.

I bought four different types of dark chocolate and a bottle of Cabernet.  But I did not yell.

We got home and I had two tired and hungry kids to feed, and I opened the fridge to get the leftover chicken tenders and fries for Toddler Grouch…..and I realized Mr. Grouch had eaten them.  He was on a plane heading to an out of town business event so I could not give him an evil glare.  I threw together some leftover black beans and roasted vegetables and told Toddler Grouch she could watch a Little Einsteins episode if she ate her food. And after she tried to pull down the kitchen blinds, she did. Somehow after all that she ate beans and vegetables for dinner.  Score.

It was time for her to head to bed and she started complaining.  I started singing the Goodnight Song to her but improvised the words, changing, “It’s time to go to sleep” to, “It’s time brush your teeth” which she somehow found hilarious, so we laughed and laughed about that as we walked upstairs and she brushed her teeth.  Then when we were getting her pajamas on, she said she wanted to wear the coconut tree poop pajamas so I repeated back to her what she said and we laughed and laughed as we joked that, “A told B and B told C, I’ll beat you to the top of the coconut poop pajama tree!”  After we laughed about that we read I Love You, Stinky Face. On the page with the swamp monster on it I always blow a kiss and touch her face with my finger when the kiss lands on her cheek.  Tonight she giggled and told me she was wiping it off, so I gave a million or so kisses to my little slimy swamp monster and she laughed so loud she could hardly breathe as she wiped them off (even though she asked for more on every inhale) but my kisses were no match for her. Before we knew it, we had been laughing for over half an hour.

A day like this I consider a win, and worth recording.

And I still have dark chocolates and Cabernet to top it off.

As If Moms Need More Proof Sleep Deprivation Is Real

A lot of people say they never understood exhaustion until they became a parent. That wasn’t the case with me.  I’ve dealt with exhaustion from sleep issues, and depression/anxiety, so after Baby Grouch Number One was born I think I actually felt better in the mornings than I used to.  I was tired, of course, but I was always tired and honestly having a kid just gave me an excuse to get up and keep moving, and I didn’t feel any worse, most of the time, so I just focused on the gift that is motherhood and welcomed the fact that I felt like shit, on most days. I felt the same amount of tiredness that I used to, but at least I was being productive, and I had newfound happiness.

But, once Baby Grouch Number Two came along, I began to understand how those other people felt. I hit the ground running.  With two, there was not much time for resting postpartum, and I had to keep moving.  I still do.  There is no down time.  The house is constantly a mess, my arms are constantly carrying my little ones, along with bags, bottles, books, baby dolls, diapers, wipes, sippy cups and peanut butter crackers.

So, there’s coffee.

But holy hell, I am TIRED. And even though people always ask, “is the baby sleeping?”  it doesn’t really matter if the kids sleep through the night or not, it’s the cumulative effect of sporadic mid-night wake ups, waking up to pee, hearing phantom baby cries, hormonal changes (hello night sweats!?! ugh) and Mom Ears – supersonic hearing that cause me to wake up when my husband rolls over, or my daughter coughs, or when the tree branch scratches the window outside the dining room, downstairs, on the other side of the house (we’re getting that tree cut down soon).

There is not enough coffee in the world.

Recently there was a study about how moms are sleep deprived, even several months after giving birth.  So, there’s the scientific proof.  But we moms don’t fucking need it, do we?  No. We don’t.  We know it’s real based on the stupid shit we do when we’re in such a state. Here’s my latest:

1) I went jogging with a pal the other day.  Which sounds good, until you hear the rest.  We meet at a local gym (that neither of us is a member at), park our cars and jog from there.  We are typically gone for about an hour or so.  On our last jaunt, I was exhausted (shocker) and had to walk the last half mile.  I got back to the parking lot and my pal was still there.  I thought maybe I wasn’t that slow, since she was still there stretching, but NO.  She was there to tell me, “um, your car door was open this whole time”.  I left my car door open, for an hour, while we jogged.  She looked concerned.  I was embarrassed, since this was one of those friends who you really don’t want your crazy to show, you know? But, she’s seen it, that’s for sure, so oh well. Thank goodness I live in freaking suburbia because my wallet was in my trunk, safe and sound.

1b) I was reminded that I was also pretty loopy after having just one kid.  I went jogging once and didn’t realize until about two miles in that I was wearing two different shoes.

mommy brain

2.  I drink coffee all. day. long.  I have to or I will stop moving.  So I turned on the Keurig the other day and turn around and see this:

mommy brain 3

I forgot to put coffee cup under the spout.  Eff.

3.  I have to pee a lot, from all that coffee, but I’m even screwing up peeing.  I went to the doctor and was supposed to pee in a cup before heading to the room.  I went in, peed, came out, and realiized I forgot to pee in the cup.  The nurse came in the room and gave me a quizzical look.  I gave her a head shake, and a shoulder shrug while saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I forgot”.  I had to laugh becacuse it feels like there is literally nothing I can do about this kind of crap. I accepted it, chugged some water and tried again later (I had to focus, but I was able to complete the task)

toilet

4.  I got in a fight with my husband, I forget about what (of course). We were arguing and then went to the grocery store and then was so tired I forgot I was even mad at him.  Probably for the best, but still.  You know how annoying spouses can be.  So that’s some serious tiredness to completely forget that shit.  And then, I remembered what I was mad about later, and I didn’t even care.  So tired.

5. I’ve lost two car keys in the last few months.  Those fuckers are expensive.  Did Toddler Grouch toss them in the trash?  Are they in the basket they should be, I just can’t see them through my exhausted glassy-eyed gaze?  It’s a modern day mystery.

mommy brain 2

I’m all about scientific studies, so YAY SCIENCE for discovering we’re all sleep-deprived.  Even though we already knew.

Quite frankly, it makes me feel better when I hear that I’m not alone.  It’s things like this (it’s HILARIOUS – click it!) from Momastery‘s Facebook page, that make me smile and think that what I’m going through is perfectly normal and perfectly fine.  I can laugh at myself, (and let’s be honest, a little harder at the other acts of sleep-deprivation that are not my own) and keep on truckin’.  Peace out, fellow Mamas, who do so much, with working brain cells so few.

Any sleep-deprivation stories you want to share with me, so I feel less alone?!