The Antennae

"Dad, I drew the antenna on my bee so that you didn't think it was just a black and yellow Easter Egg with a head on it." - Lily

Phew, because he was TOTALLY thinking it was a Steelers Egg,.....you know, with a smiling head on top....


In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb

****This next post may contain too much information for some readers....proceed with caution.****

"Do not make hard and fast decisions over anything in the future, for you are a created being and your will is subject to changes. Decide in whatever matters you have to reach a decision, but without fixing your mind that you will not be moved to other things." --John the Solitary (a 5th century monk) in his letter to Hesychius

In other words, stay flexible....as they say, Man Plans, God Laughs.....like today when I had planned to take the kids to the gym to burn off that extra pre-springtime energy but instead ended up with Lily in Urgent Care getting her eye glued back together after an incident with some ice in which the ice won. (Lily's consolation prize: a little laceration and very pretty shiner.) So much for wearing a helmet!

Ahh, but I digress.....

As it turns out, we are a very fertile couple, Kurt and I. (And before you get all wide-eyed thinking I am going to announce another future chicklet, rest assure, we are not expecting another.) You see, while Kurt was ready to take the plunge and make us a permanent family of six after the birth of Liam, I played the what-if game using my hormonal wild-card and simply could not give my consent to his "clip and snip" plan. And then "my-way" didn't cut it (pardon the pun) and we welcomed Solomon into our family. You know the story. And yet on it goes.

You see, as most people know and some of us are still discovering, at some point, a family has to stop having babies. And as I had recently started repeating the mantra "I will not be a Dugger, I will not be a Dugger" (you know, that family on TV with like 19 kids and counting?) it occurred to me recently that I really don't have that cut off switch. For some people, they just know they are done at one or two or three children. But, you see, I am from a family where if one of something is good then three or six or twelve of that same something must be better....(I can hear my dad now: "I resemble that statement!") And so it is, we have five great children; why not add a David Andrew, perhaps a Quinn, a Mary Diane and a Rebekah Grace, I might ask? I have fought all my adult life to go against my socialization and instead live by the philosophy that "more is not always better, sometimes it's just more." What's that they say? It's the quality not the quantity that counts? And at some point the world stops marveling at what great parents you must be, managing so many kids, and instead questions your very sanity, although I am not sure where that cut off is exactly (though I do believe we entered the shady area at some point in time)....it's kind of like if you have a pet cat no one thinks twice about you other than to assume you must be a cat person; own three or four cats and people think of you as a cat lover; have fifteen cats living in your one bedroom apartment and leave all your life's savings in your will to the cats and you are all of a sudden that crazy cat lady. You know what I mean. How does a person prevent themselves from going over that edge and becoming the crazy cat lady? Or that crazy mom, as the case may be?

Well, for us it meant making a big decision. While natural family planning, over-the-counter and prescription products work well for many people, we knew the only way for us to NOT end up needing a bus to get around in was to take a more permanent route. So, off Kurt went to his consult only to return with a fistful of papers that explained that the procedure was truly meant to be permanent. I could tell right away this was anxiety producing for him as his first comment to me was:

"Karen, the doctor really stressed that this is a permanent solution."

"Well, that's the point right?" I said, all of a sudden second guessing the decision because he sounded hesitant.

And then there was the week of flu and pneumonia and his very stressful time at work and all of a sudden we were a few days away from the procedure. His anxiety was running high, as to be expected and my reaction was to question whether it was the right way to go. So I confided to some friends about it, seeking validation and was surprised by the questions:

"Are you sure you are done having kids?" several people asked.

WHAT?! I don't know? Is five not enough? Am I supposed to be one of those crazy cat ladies? My own TV show? I don't know! (I panicked.) My rational brain was saying, 'Karen, it is time to move forward. This is the right thing. You can't afford a limo, let alone ten kids in college.' While my irrational side, picking up on Kurt's own anxiety, was screaming foul and telling me that the what-if game was perfectly valid and that things really are cheaper by the dozen. I felt like I was the clown fish Marlin, Nemo's father in the movie Finding Nemo, as he was holding onto the tongue of the whale in a desperate attempt to keep from being swallowed while Dory, the forgetful angelfish friend, was telling him it was time to let go. (Of course this was right after she had told him "Okay, he either said, "move to the back of the throat," or he "wants a root beer float." And Marlin said, "Of course he wants us to go back there, that's called EATING US!")

At any rate, there they are, holding on for dear life:

"How do you know nothing bad will happen?" Marlin yelled at Dory, not willing to let go. 
"I don't!" she yelled back, letting go and falling down into the whale in a dramatic moment of faith, soon followed by a terrified Marlin. (The scene ends with them shooting up through the whale's blowhole only to find that the whale had taken them all the way to their destination.)

At any rate, we were both extremely anxious the night before his appointment. We had our St. Patrick's dinner and our shakes (adding a little extra Irish Cream this year I'll admit) and I decided a good run outside would help (I'll reconsider the value of running after Shamrock Shakes next year....ugh....). And that night I had a dream: a slightly older woman, perhaps late 50's, was jumping up and down on a trampoline sporting a flat, bare and somewhat leathery midriff, in her running shorts, doing gymnastics moves to show us what great shape she was in and how much fun she was having. She was obviously delighted with herself while she told us that her husband was going in for his second vasectomy and then a minister came forward applauding the decision because he said there were billions of babies needing homes if she ever decided she wanted more. From the looks of it, she wasn't going to want any more.

I awoke a little freaked out because, why was that creepy woman so tan and so unclothed and why would her husband need to go in a second time and seriously, a trampoline? Really?

But, at 5 a.m. I didn't have time to think much about it. I had a lot to do to make sure I got the kids up, ready and off to all the various places so that  I could get Kurt to the hospital on time. And that is when the kids offered their reassurance: Aidan came reluctantly down to eat some cereal while Solomon decided this would be a terrific morning to fuss instead of going back to sleep after his early feeding. Liam came down crying as well and Madeline topped off the trio with some lovely soprano sobs. Lily, half awake in all this, put on some clothes and then complained her tummy hurt so she was not going to eat breakfast. By the time Kurt came down, I was wondering whether he might share half the valium he was supposed to take. No such luck.

After the hurried shuffle of the morning, Kurt, Solomon and I arrived at the hospital (I think we kept Solly with us as a reminder of why we were there) and we made our way into the waiting room where I made myself comfy as Kurt maintained his composure surprisingly well (thanks be to valium?) After he was called back, I struggled to concentrate on the book I was reading. The receptionist was playing free cell on the computer and taking personal calls when I heard a rather loud yelp from the back room. (And by yelp I mean something similar to the sounds Westley made while being tortured in the Pit of Despair in the movie The Princess Bride.) My heart and stomach sank. Was that supposed to happen? I got up, wanting to run in and tell them to stop, and asked the receptionist if that was normal. She gave me that look older, wise women give to other women and said "Oh, you'd be surprised what comes out of those rooms." I half expected her to start winking at me, while she explained that it had nothing to do with pain and everything to do with the idea of the situation. It was almost always a reaction to anxiety and not to go comparing it with the childbirth experience by any stretch. I wanted to ask how she could possibly know but decided to trust her judgment.

I sat back down, and tended to Solomon who was now ravenous, again. Another man, about my age, came in and took a seat. I overheard him say his last name was Lamb.....I chuckled to myself, our last name being Wolf... (What are the chances?) I had all sorts of funny quips go through my mind, (like, I hope the howling Wolf doesn't scare off the poor Lamb) before deciding to make small talk with him, once he had finished reading through his paperwork of course (the same paperwork we had sitting at home). I even warned him not to pay attention to any noise he might hear from the back. He laughed nervously. (Should've gone with the valium, Mister!) I was glad for his sake that they took him back before Kurt came out, a little shell shocked and shaky to say the least. 

When Kurt finally came back out he was followed by the doctor who I believe must be sadistic. He didn't stop smiling even once as he told me what a great job Kurt did and told us to call with any questions or concerns. Smile, smile, smile. Really, the smile might just give me nightmares. He was like a puppy dog greeting you at the door because "wow, what a great time we had-have-are going to have, yippee!" Psycho....

Anyway, driving home, I have to admit, I was uncomfortably full of doubts. (And it wasn't like I could talk to Kurt....he wasn't exactly comfy either!) I mean, we just cut off an option (no pun intended) and our life is now entering another stage....we have to let our kids grow up....we have to wait for grand babies to hold another newborn in our bloodline....the choice of becoming crazy-cat-lady-reality-show-family-of-20 is no longer ours to make....it is a liberation from biology....freedom from the unexpected (unless God really decides to have a good laugh....) And the thoughts went on and on until, as I was taking the frozen peas back down to a recovering Kurt, I was awoken from my daze by Madeline who asked:

"Mommy, how come daddy can only eat peas today?"

Hee hee hee.....You so totally rock, Squirt!

And I found Kurt, having finished a beer and some ice cream, sleeping through some Sumo Wrestling show....I think we're headed up the blowhole now, ready to face the destination in store for us, whatever it may bring.

Marlin: The water's going down. It's-it's-it's going down!
Dory: Hmm. Are you sure about that?
Marlin: Look! Already it's half-empty.
Dory: Hmm... I'd say it's half-full.
Marlin : Stop that! It's half-empty!

Actually, it's quite full. Thanks be to God.

p.s. If this were a political ad on TV, there would be a voice over saying: I'm Kurt Wolf and I approve this message. ;)


The Rooster Shoes

Why, you might ask, is Solomon so happy in his green outfit on St. Patty's Day? It certainly isn't because of the Corned Beef, Cabbage, Potatoes and slightly undercooked (my bad!) Irish Soda Bread as he can't partake just yet.  And it isn't because of the Shamrock Shakes (our version is your standard vanilla milkshake with added food coloring.....and a bit of Irish Cream for the adults of course....) for he has yet to taste those either. And while I'd like to think it has to do with the new green loveys the kids picked out for him (see the plush Frog and Alligator below), he has yet to fully attach.

So, what could it be he is smiling about? Why, what else but the splendid Rooster Shoes made especially for him by my good and VERY TALENTED friend Kim who thought a pair of homemade chicken paraphernalia would be most fitting for a baby gift!

How cool are these?! Seriously, they are the perfect gift for a Graceful Like a Chicken child. We knew he had big shoes to fill with a name like his, but we had no idea they'd be so chick, I mean, chic! 

Click here to check out these shoes in better detail or here to see the incredibly cool baby wrap snuggly she made, one for me and one for her since she gave birth last week to Solly's best bud, a handsome red-headed boy (you'd think with my partly Irish but totally red-headed father I could have had at least ONE kid with red hair....but alas, it didn't happen. I'm thinking maybe we'll just dye Solomon's...or simply admire Kim's!)

At any rate, a huge thanks to the big guy upstairs for giving me such neat friends! And to you too Kim, for sharing that awesome talent of yours!


Forgive me, Jane!!!!

Ack! I have to express my sincerest apologies to the deceased, and ever turning in her grave, author, Jane Austen for my terrible spelling error in my most recent post, The Scale! It's Austen not Austin...I try to be much better about those things and apparently in my wretched state (that of irritability, not sickness) I made a terrific blunder (which has been corrected). May she show me far more mercy than I did to the goldfish dad! ;)

The Scale

Oh, the old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be,
Ain't what she used to be, ain't what she used to be.
The old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be,
Many long years ago.--Old Folk Song
Mares, hens, whatever....

**Personal disclosure: I get a wee bit more agitated by things when I am ill....shocking, I know.**

There is this ridiculous thing going through medical offices and hospitals these days. (No, not referring to MRSA or anything viral, well not in the biological sense anyway...) This "thing" must have been conjured up by some academic sitting in his office or possibly some young doc going through his psych rotation, lacking much of a clue as to actual practice. What I am referring to is the perceived pain scale, or whatever they call it. (You know the one: Walk into any doctor's office with a complaint and one of the first questions you will be asked is, on a scale of 1 to 10 how do you rate your discomfort?) Why, you might ask, do I think this is one of the most bogus tools used by medical teams?

Take person A: He comes into Urgent Care with, let's say, congestive heart failure. They ask him where he rates his discomfort. After thinking about the city bus that hit him last month, breaking two of his vertebrae, half his ribs and the majority of the left side of his body, leaving him with only one working lung and a bag to collect his urine, he feels pretty darn good. He gives his discomfort level a 3 on the scale. Nurse sees it, shrugs her shoulders a little perhaps and tells him the doctor will be right in.

In walks person B: Little Miss Priss hasn't had as much as an insult to her emotions in her fourteen years of life, much less any bodily harm. She is starting her menstrual cycles unbeknownst to her and is experiencing mild cramps. She is asked of her discomfort and dramatically says it's a ten, would be higher if possible. Nurse gets right to work and maybe even steers the doc her way since she is in obvious misery.

Person A dies. At a 3. Little Miss Priss goes on out into the world, feeling better with a little Motrin, to lead a long, rosy life. Great scale.

So, upon my visit to Urgent Care a few days back, my irritability was running a wee bit higher than usual. I know this because when the snot-oozing kid across from me dropped his goldfish crackers all over the floor and his dad started reprimanding him, I had to really bite my tongue lest I go into a diatribe (see current blog post) about the fact that there are at least a dozen signs in the waiting room that say "No food or drinks"...there's one on each wall, on every side table, hanging from the fish tank, two on the receptionist's desk....I mean really, they have all but tatooed it to their foreheads telling you NOT TO HAVE FOOD in the waiting room. And it ain't your illiterate kid's fault, pop, that he has a bag of goldfish with which to spill all over the germ covered floor. And you know what really gets me? It isn't like this is the only doctor who has such a policy! I have yet to be in a doctor's office, at least those serving sick patients, where this isn't the case. You can see, I had to bite down hard...(so hard I almost had to change the reason for my visit to ROTT: Rapid-Onset Tongue Trauma.)

At any rate, it was while being consumed by these burning feelings that I decided there is only one way to really understand the perceived pain scale. I now view it as the "How serious do you want the medical staff to take you" scale. (As a first rule of thumb, they may take you more seriously if you can FOLLOW THEIR RULES, goldfish dad! And we wonder what's wrong with the world today....mumble mumble....) So when asked about my level of discomfort, instead of wasting time on questions like "Do you mean during the coughing fits that have convinced me to be seen or right this very second as I am calmly and quietly sitting here with a breastfeeding baby who by all accounts is helping my body release 'feel good' hormones as we speak?" I decided to take the approach of wanting them to take my concerns seriously and gave her a simple "I am probably around an 8, maybe a 9 during a really big fit." (Please make note, I'm not certain I hit an 8 or 9 on the pain scale during my last baby delivery and he wasn't exactly delivered by the stork!) While I wanted to make the joke that assuming no 8 or 9 pound bowling bowl was about to exit one of the tiny holes in my body, say a nostril, I actually felt pretty good; I didn't want to offend the sweet and reserved Somoli nurse who had already twice failed to get an accurate blood pressure reading with an electronic cuff (when did they start using wrist bands?)

At any rate, after almost two hours of really great bonding time with Jane Austen (thank you for that Urgent Care!), I was seen by the doctor, who confirmed that my decision to skip out on playing in my indoor soccer league's first game that night was a good one because, in fact, I had pneumonia. Really? That's it? Phew, because for a second there I thought you were going to tell me it was Tuberculosis, or Ebola, or worse yet, a terrible case of "lazy parent using their kid's little cold as an excuse to not parent" syndrome....oh, wait, I confused myself with your next patient....

But in all seriousness, what could be more fun than a big helping of flu followed by a side of pneumonia?! Yay me! (I think I will skip dessert if you don't mind though....feeling a bit, er, full.) Oh wait, I said I was going to be serious....well, in that case, all I have to say is: the old gray mare she, ain't what she used to be, ain't what she used to be, ain't what she used to be....and right now, neither is this little hacking hen.

Now, I bet you're glad you didn't ask how I was feeling on the Perceived Irritation Scale.... ;)

Enjoy your Fat Tuesday! (As for me, I think I somehow skipped ahead to the ashes.)

Laissez les bon temps rouler!


Organs, Illness, Grace

"Mom, what happens when a baby dies? Do you bury them in a box?" Madeline asked.

"Well, it depends. Some people do that," I said, already hoping she'd change subjects.

"What would you do if Solomon died?" she asked.

"Well, hopefully that doesn't happen, Madeline. But, if it did, we would donate his organs so that other sick babies would have a chance to live," I told her.

"What's an organ?" she asked.

"Those are the things inside your body that keep you alive, like your heart and lungs and kidneys," I said.

"Well, how can you donate them?" she asked.

"Well, the hospital can take them out of you and give them to someone else," I told her, hoping we were almost done with this lovely conversation. "So, for example, there is a little girl at our church who needs a kidney and they can take a kidney from someone else and give it to her so she can stay alive."

"Well, how does she live and get around without her knee," she asked, clutching her knees to her chest.

"What? What do knees have to do with...." I pause. Then I burst out laughing....Get it? A 'kid knee'....hee hee hee. (Yeah, I can be slow sometimes...)


"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven." -Ecclesiastes 3:1

"There is little time for anything, and a system for every activity in a family of seven." -Me

The more kids we have had, the more I have realized that big families only run smoothly when there are systems in place. One such system is how we do our laundry. Each child has their own basket and is responsible for bringing it to the laundry room when it is full. Once down there, I simply stick all the clothes from that basket into the washer and dryer and put all those clothes, now clean and folded, back into the basket. I can avoid any hassle in figuring out whose clothes are whose this way. Now, while I still don't enjoy doing the laundry, this system works wonders, especially with two little girls whose clothes are impossible to tell apart.

At any rate, I kept noticing the obscene amount of towels the kids were going through each week. So, at the beginning of this year, we implemented another "system"--the Towel Rule. This is essentially a one towel a week rule. Each child has their own towel that they have to use all week (assuming there is no spontaneous expulsion of bodily fluids like vomit or what not landing on the towels...) and so they have gotten into the habit of hanging their towels up and reusing them. This rule has been fabulous. The Towel Rule is like that person you meet for the first time and seem to just click with on every level, leaving you feeling like you've been great pals forever. BFF Towel Rule! Where've you been my whole motherly life? (Seriously, this is not rocket science and I am stumped as to why we didn't establish it before like other families we know!)

But sometimes, even the best of friends can fail us. Take last night for example. Well, let's backtrack a little. Madeline has had the flu all week. She's been running temps anywhere from 101 to 104.9, has had chills, headaches, coughing. It's been great fun. Oh wait, no, it hasn't. Especially when, the first night she was really sick, she awoke vomiting the mucus out of her tummy and as she turned to tell me she didn't want to be sick, she coughed all that dangling sputum right in my face. ("In your face mom!" that vomit seemed to yell.) There is nothing quite like having mucus-throw-up shot into your eyes. Ugh. While we have all had this terrible cough, she was the only one who came down with the full blown flu-version....that is, until yesterday.

It was right around 3 p.m. when, out of nowhere, my body started shaking uncontrollably from the chills. By the time Kurt came home, having had the worst possible day at his work, I was curled up on the bed hoping to be run over by a train to put me out of my misery. Still, I made my way downstairs to eat dinner with the family and wait for Solomon to awake so I could feed him before taking something strong...well, as strong as over-the-counter will allow anyway. And that is where this story begins....

By 6:25, having taken some night-time OTC meds, I am in bed for the night and nursing Solomon who has been sleeping since 3 p.m. Soon thereafter Liam comes bouncing into the room. He immediately finds a noise-producing toy and sits down to play with it....right. next. to. my. bed.

"Can you find the letter I? I. Good job! You found the letter I. Can you find the letter...."

I grimace in pain. Each sound of that "computer" is like a drill going through my head. I make a mental note to take a hammer to every toy containing batteries upon my feeling better.

Meanwhile, the older kids are getting ready to take baths and pretty soon a fight breaks out about which towel is whose. Kurt has been saying for a week or so that each child needs to always use the same towel so that there is never any question: Aidan would use only blue and white striped towels, while Madeline only brown, etc. After much gnashing of claws and gritting of teeth, the controversy came to a close and each kid retreated to their own corner, presumably towel in hand. Lily comes running in to ask where she can take her bath. I steer her into my bathroom since water is still in the tub.

"Can you find the letter M? W. That is the letter W. Try again. Can you find the letter M? M. Good job!...."

The baby, having been nursing this whole time, pulls away from me, without letting go! Ouch! I'm jarred out of my stupor and realize I can't sleep. I am reminded of where we started 3 years ago, this blog and I. Liam was still a wee little nursing baby, pulling away and hurting me. Ahhh.

Madeline comes in and asks if I need anything. She is going to be a great mom, far better than I am. She brought me a piece of paper, clipboard and pen, in case I needed to write something. Then she brought in the puke bucket, just in case. (Thankfully that wasn't necessary.) She then climbed up on the bed to kiss me on the cheek. My heart swelled and then sank. She had been so sick the last few days and I kept her at an arms distance. I even became impatient in the middle of the night because I was so exhausted from being up with her and Solomon and any other kid who happened to need me at o'dark thirty. I vowed I would learn from her offering of grace and be a better mom. (This is much better than my original vow of waking up each kid at different hours of the night because I am sick....you know, just to get them back....)

The toy Liam is playing with asks if he wants to go out to play.

"Yeah! Woo hoo!" Liam shouts, jumping up and running out of the room. I wonder if I need to tell Kurt to keep him from going outside but then remember he can't yet open any of the big doors.

Pretty soon, Lily is screaming from the bathtub that she doesn't have her towel. 'Really Lily?' I think. Aidan comes running in with what I assume is not her towel as the whole Towel-gate controversy starts over again. (Screaming, gnashing, claws, teeth...) I sigh. Kurt is certainly right but I don't have the energy to tackle this problem at the moment. Liam comes running back in and somehow finds another noise-maker in my room. Why are these toys in my room? I make another mental note to start the spring cleaning and de-cluttering as soon as I am able to get out of bed. This is ridiculous.

I look at the clock. It is 6:47. WHAT?! It has only been 22 minutes??? The kids all find their way downstairs where they play a game call Smatch-it or something like that. Basically, they smash this spinner and have to find the matching card, kind of like a knock off of Memory. All I hear is the smashing on the wooden table. And the noise. My head feels like I stuck it inside a ginormous conch shell and I am consumed by ocean noise, and children. I am comforted, in a strange sort of way, by the sound of the screaming kids. I hear them stampede down to the basement and I assume Kurt has told them they can watch a movie. All is silent.

At this point, my thoughts drift to a family friend who is waiting to hear back about her biopsy for cancer. She is not too much older than I am, maybe ten years, her son is around the same age as Madeline I think. I look to see if I have her parent's phone number in my cell phone. No luck. Irritated that I have so few numbers in there, I decide to pray now, call tomorrow.

I imagine Kurt downstairs cleaning up the kitchen and doing the laundry. It gives me a chuckle. It is too quiet and I remind myself he had a terrible day. The kitchen can wait. I'll be better in the morning, if not tomorrow, some morning at least.

Solomon starts laughing in his sleep next to me bringing my thoughts back to the here and now. He opens his eyes, looks lovingly toward me, smiles and then goes back to his peaceful snoring. I wonder if I have the energy to put him in his bassinet. I start to cough and cough and cough. My head is pounding but even in this moment I feel so blessed, this baby tucked under my wing, the rest happily engaged in some program that will certainly teach them something terrific, or not. The meds must be kicking in. Yet I am still very awake. I read on the label that these drugs can cause excitability in young children. A line from Monsters Inc. goes through my head: "Works on little children AND little monsters..." Works on little children and little mothers, I think, laughing. I debate whether I should take the second pill of the meds (I usually only take half a dose when I am sick so that I can be available to the kids at night....and so I don't roll over on the baby if he happens to be feeding.) I decide against it and pretty soon the kids are running upstairs, brushing teeth, and getting into bed. Madeline comes and asks me something. I don't remember what. Kurt tells the kids to be quiet "mom is sleeping." He comes walking into our room and Madeline yells for him from her bedroom. He yells back, "Just a minute!" I almost chime in on the irony there but decide he had a bad day, I'll keep it to myself. He's doing his best under the circumstances, as am I. Only, my current best is laying still, looking like I've been hit by a monster-truck while holding onto hope that a new day is dawning and with it health and well being.

Madeline woke me once in the middle of the night. I hopped energetically out of the bed (and by energetically, I mean not quite as slow as a snail but not quite as fast as a turtle). She had to go the the bathroom "really bad!"

"Great! Let's go!" was my response (and as she jumped out of bed I thought, way to use those "kid knees" hee hee). Afterward, I kissed her good night and told her I loved her. She told me she loved me too and went back to sleep smiling. So did I.