Stress, Ebola and Preteen Mood Swings…


Germaphobia and kids

The Doctors office. It’s on my list of things to do in hell when I get there. I don’t know if there’s anything crueler than locking a germaphobe in a tiny doctors office with a bunch of kids for hours on end, but they’ve been doing it to me for years. Do anyone else’s kids just sit quietly and wait? I don’t know. My kids do their level best to take the place apart. Maybe it’s because there’s almost never been less than three of them and they tend to egg each other on in all things, but it’s insanity to lock a bunch of people with boundless curiosity and no impulse control in a room full of things that they’re not supposed to touch. A room crawling with virus.

So the last week has seen us in our own mini-family land rush to various doctors offices across the county as we fulfill our commitment to the state by proving that we are not requesting permanent legal placement of two small children into a home that may be lethal to them in some way. That’s right, physicals and TB tests for everyone involved. Six kids and two adults. Yay. Break out the Purel and let the rodeo begin.

So yesterday found me for the third time filling out endless paperwork, telling people not to touch anything and pinning people down so they could be injected with immunity producing miracle drugs. Like Noah’s Ark, we broke them down two by two. The littlest two went with me first and lately doctor’s visits have been a prime opportunity for the 5 Year Old to indulge in the kind of soul-soothing drama that she requires. I mean, is there any place with greater potential to be the center of all adult attention? It affords repeated opportunities to wring your hands and ask in a quavering voice if you’re going to have to have a shot. And this can be done no matter how many times your exhausted adult has explained to you the full scope of the visit. It’s a chance for someone who already has issues with ‘dead air’ and nonsense questions to scale a whole new level of her own private conversational Mt Everest.

All the while, her brother is wandering around button pushing, touching, opening and closing and climbing anything and everything, and pausing every few moments to lick the excess Ebola off his hands. We were all sick two days later, but the shots were handled with relatively little fuss and chocolate handed out to calm people who have been manhandled in the name of science. It has long been my policy to stand in front of trembling children with absolutely giant sized, unwrapped candy bars held ready at eye level to both medicate and distract them once they have had the steel driven into their puny little arms.

Visit number second involved Middle Son and Oldest Daughter, who decided silently to enter into a competition for child with most personality in front of the doctor and the nursing staff. With 11 year olds, this is usually not something good, as eventually one of them will cross into the land of disrespectful speech and smart-alecky tone. On this visit it was my normally charming and gentle daughter who was overcome by a combination of sibling rivalry, impending vaccine stress and unsteady hormones. The combination produced a gentle, but clear talking to by the Doctor about her improper interactions with the adults in her general vicinity. I was a tiny bit surprised but I did not intervene. While I will not let someone abuse my children, I have no problem with their experiencing the natural results of their actions when delivered appropriately, and it was. Our doctor is very nice, but no push over. In the end, I also had to break up the stress she was unwittingly pouring out onto the nurse after the second shot by forcefully reminding her that the nurse was doing her job, not fulfilling a personal vendetta. She’s a very good girl, but I begin to see what people mean when they say that puberty is an alien abduction.

Visit number three involved my two ‘Stress Cats’ – Oldest Son and The Kid. I had back up this time in the form of the Golf Pro, but really, his effectiveness there was canceled out by the presence of the 2 Year Old. And here we go again, except the rodeo was for real this time. While we were still waiting for the Doctor, and telling the 2 year old to stop touching stuff and don’t lay on the floor until we were blue in the face, I drew the short straw on a diaper change and thoughtfully excused myself and 2 year old to the next room. Halfway through the change, I heard the screaming erupt in the other room and realized that I may not have drawn the short straw after all. It’s all a matter of perspective, am I right folks?

The screaming it turns out was from the finger stick. Oh great, I think, because that means that it can only go down hill from here since we still have 11-year-old booster shots and TB tests still to go. From there on out, both kids bordered on the edge of panic, greeting everything from the earphones for the hearing test (“is that going to hurt?!”) to the Otoscope for the ear exam (“What’s that?!!”) like skittish, wild-eyed, wild horses. In the end, both kids went down with stress, “My stomach hurts. I don’t feel good. I’m dizzy.” We had to skip the TB test because we couldn’t get them read over the weekend, so The Kid gratefully escaped having only gotten a dose of Flu-Mist up the schnoz. The 11 year old, well his panic got the best of him and he had to be held down. Like horses, you basically have to put your full body weight on their neck, pinning the non-shot arm underneath you and holding the other one down exposed. It also helps if you think about the drink you’re going to have that night.

Despite my all but burning the fingerprints off my hands with Purel, I am pretty convinced that I acquired 3 separate colds from the three different visits.

And we still have to take the two Stress Cats back to be rodeoed through their TB tests. Dear God…



Turkeys and Families and Such…


Right. Thanksgiving.  It’s here again.  And I’ve been avoiding it again, while at the same time longing for my own collection of warm thanksgiving memories. But holidays have long been a complicated affair, crossing three and sometimes 4 households as we try and navigate all the complicated dynamics within our extended families. I so often feel that I am the hub for and endless number of spokes. It is dizzying.

I’ll give you all the factors that annually have to be taken into consideration: Our own home, the triplets father’s home (which includes their grandparents and an Uncle), my Mother’s home (which at times has included another Uncle), the Golf Pro’s  family home (their family’s traditional gathering place every Sunday and Holiday), occasionally a rehabilitation facility where Youngest Daughter’s birth mom is getting treatment.

Add to this mix the various times that some of these parties are not talking to each other and the fact that they ALL want to see some of the kids. Being in the middle of this over the past 8 years has been exhausting…and has not ever really allowed us to establish our own holiday traditions. Which I regret. I often wish I was one of those people who was more comfortable getting my own way come hell or high water. But I’m not, so here we are….often so busy trying to accommodate the needs of other family members and perhaps that is why I don’t plan them differently.

This year, watching the Pioneer Woman’s Throwdown with Bobby Flay inspired me to do just one thing.  To swear that I would have a peaceful family Thanksgiving in my home with my kids next year. I concede, that with elderly relatives, it may not be on the actual day, but I will claim a day for my family to be together and strengthen our own bonds instead of spreading ourselves across the greater L.A. area. I don’t expect to never have to do it, I just miss the idea of a holiday with the kids and I at home.

Are we always this owned by our extended family or is it just that I am so very bad at saying no and guarding the need to carve out my own life? Will I remember when my children marry that it will be my turn to take a step back and become the extended family?  I hope so, and I hope that this experience will have made me sensitive to the needs of some future young family.  It’s not that I won’t want to share holidays with them, it’s just that my place will be different and the health of their new family will be best preserved by letting them build their own customs and family holidays without the pressure to keep observing mine. I hope they can count on me for that.

And with 6 kids I wonder too what their holidays will look like. Will they take turns at each others houses? Will they celebrate individually with their families? Will there be rifts and years of misunderstandings?  I suppose it’s all possible, I’m just sorry that I have spent so much of this time in our lives accommodating everyone else rather than teaching them to build traditions for their own families in the future. Hope it’s not too late…



Punked…


That’s what it’s like to live with lots of kids. Ashton Kutcher and his crew have got nothing on these people.  Their plots may not be as elaborate, but they manage to make up for it with their determination, commitment and relentless dedication.

One of their favorite techniques is to ask me a question without having ANY interest at all in the answer. Any. At All.  They get me good on this one. Me being the chronic over-explainer that I am.  And they all do it, even the baby, who has excellent powers of observation.  Seriously, they have already stopped listening before they have even finished asking the question.

…And knowing this, I answer anyway. Often, while I am carefully searching my brain for just the right words to phrase an explanation in a way that is accessible to them and appropriately tailored to their individual developmental level, all the while trying to recall if there have been any recent personal or historical events that I can ground my example in so as to make it more relevant to them and thereby…the Golf Pro will say “You know they’re not listening to you, right?”  Huh? Wha?  And it’s true. They are already engaged in a heady argument about who touched who. Arrrrggggghhhhhhh! I have been Punked. Again.  They are Charlie Brown and I have turned me into a Peanut Parent.   “WHAH WAH WHAH WHAH WHAH WHAH WAH WAH.”  That is the sound of my voice in their head. Who does stuff like that?!

They do. And when they do, it is like living with 6 of the worst college roommates ever…