Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sick Day

Yesterday, we were on our way to school, hurrying because we had an appointment with Jackson's teachers for his parent-teacher conference (yes, I know he's not even 4). It had been an incredibly full weekend, mainly driven by my decision to outift the family with biking equipment so that we could ride together. More on this to follow, I'm sure.

In our freshly-cleaned home (Matt had his class over to watch the documentary on Dietrich Bonhoeffer the night before; this has been an old trick of ours - when the house gets too dirty, invite folks over! It gets clean every time...), I made a pot of oatmeal, dressed the boys in freshly-cleaned clothes, and refreshed their freshly-cleaned sippy cups. We're not exactly a well-oiled machine (as anyone who has ever had a morning appointment with me knows), but we were doing alright, eeking out the door right on time.

On the way to school, we passed Egleston Hospital. This is the inspiration for lots of morning drive dialogue because of Jackson's most recent experience there. It usually involves the youngest boy in the backseat suggesting that he needs to go to the 'ospital to get a cut (i.e. have surgery). By the time we've passed the next stoplight, conversation has progressed to cranes, or scooters, or the Dan Zanes song they'd like to hear for the 239468569875th time in a row (in case you're wondering, the top-played song on my iPod is Tennessee Wig Walk).

But yesterday, we passed the hospital, and Cooper commented: "I don't feel good."

"Oh, Bean, you're okay." I passed over his comment as if it was a beige stripe on a tan wall.

Cooper responded: "Blgggggggggggggh."

Mama: "Take your hands out of your mouth, Cooper. It will make you gag."

Cooper: BLGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Matt, doting father that he is, just happened to be rubbing Coop's chest when we saw the oatmeal again. This always, always, always happens to Matt. Always. I think it's God's way of rewarding me for birthing the boys without medication. (What's that? You didn't know I'm a natural birthing machine? Oh! Well. Now you do. I'm never going to let anyone forget this. It's great currency when I'm feeling tired or lazy or ... if it's Monday, or something. Anyway, back to Matt catching Cooper's breakfast...) So, Matt dutifully does what he must to prevent the mess from being larger than it could be, which is waaaaay more than I could ever do. It's the one mom-task that makes me want to flee and forsake my parenting responsibilities for about 10 minutes or so. Then, I'm totally back in the game. I swear.

We finish the drive to school, and apologetically deliver Jackson to his teachers, and return our attention to our half-dressed baby. Matt, after washing his hands with the intensity and fervor of Lady Macbeth, snagged some extra clothes from Cooper's cubby and we turned on our heels and headed back to the car. Cooper was warm, and it was clear that he wasn't going to school. Matt had class that night, and lots to prep, so it looked like it was me and C for the day.

Before dropping Matt off and heading home, we made a quick run by the store for sick-day provisions (SOUP!) and Dancing Goat for must-have essentials (COFFEE!!!). Cooper was lethargic, but cheerful, which is the best kind of sick to be. We got home, and I wrapped him up in our favorite couch blanket, turned on his favorite show and unloaded the groceries. He stayed burritoed for about 8 seconds before popping up and quipping, "I need some MIIIIIILK."

Bearing in mind my loathing of vomit, I was a little hesitant to meet his request. I'm just not the best at handling this particular mess, and the couch and rug had just been washed the day before... you know... the hassle of cleaning again...

But, Cooper is nothing if not persistant, so I got his milk for him with fear and trembling. We sat down on the couch, and I remembered the gorgeous cup of coffee that was waiting patiently on me. I got up to get it, and hear a tiny voice say, "I go pee pee."

"Okay, Cooper! Let's go to the potty!" Mustering enthusiasm is hard sometimes.

"My yeg is wet." ["yeg" is CJ speak for "leg."]

"Your leg is wet? Did you... Cooper!?!?!!!"

A lovely spot spread out from around his bum. Apparently, a sick day at home with mom also means that one is free from expectations like eating a variety of foods, or ... wee-ing in the freakin' potty even though you've been potty-trained for nearly TWO MONTHS.

So, I washed the couch cushion for the second time in twenty-four hours (thanks, IKEA!), and said a silent prayer of thanks that I was washing out one bodily function instead of my least-favorite other. I returned to find Cooper cuddling with his bicycle helmet, as if it was his most beloved stuffed animal.

"Cooper, do you want to cuddle with Mommy?"

"Yesss." He crawled up on my chest, and proceeded to flop around about 18 times before settling down with one arm around his helmet. He looked up at me, disquieted.

Cooper: Mommy? You hold my helmet?
Me: Sure, baby.
Cooper: I wanna hold my penis.
Me: Um... Okay.

Who am I to deprive him of this comfort? He sighed and settled in with hand shoved down his pants. This is always a clue that he's tired, so when his show ended, we headed upstairs for the world's easiest naptime transition. He fell asleep in about 8 seconds.

With all of this free time, I wondered what all I could do.
Go on a bike ride? Too irresponsible, what with the sleeping, sick baby and all.
Read a book? Too ... studious.
Get ahead on my writing for work? Too responsible.
Do a massive overhaul of everyone's clothes? PERFECT!

So, I spent the first hour of Cooper's nap engaged in a ritual that I've dubbed "Sad Boxing." This involves me emptying out the drawers of one (or both) boys and examining the labels. Anything that is clearly too small gets put into a "sad box." This originally started when Jackson was an infant and beginning to grow out of clothes. I was so emotional when this proof of his everlasting growth and maturity began to materialize, that I couldn't even weed out too-small clothes without turning it into an event. The orginal sad box is barely larger than a shoebox, and holds all of J's original 0-3 month clothes and many of my tears.

I've been putting this particular rotation of clothes off for a while for a few reasons. One, it was a huge, disorganized mess from the last attempt. As I put tiny clothes away, I also pull down the appropriate box of Jackson's to fit Cooper. So, it's no easy feat. It's also a little sad because there's not another baby coming around to fit into the tiniest clothes. Since Jackson is 22 months older than Cooper, his baby clothes got put back into rotation almost immediately.

My blogmother, Catherine Newman, when describing how she feels about the newborns of others, she says she's moved beyond nostailgia to flat-out envy. I totally get that. I'm one of the rare folks who loves those first few weeks of babyhood. My goodness, they coo, sleep, eat and poop. They're awake for 8 minutes, get fussy, and repeat the cycle. I know I was totally sleep-deprived, but there was something about the utterly changed rhythm of those days that I loved. My first maternity leave with Jackson was so liberating. My only job, each day, was to wake up and care for this amazing little flapping creature and make sure that he didn't perish. Beyond that, anything else I did was gravy. Shower? A huge accomplishment! Lunch? Totally optional! Vacuum? Not a chance!

So, while my still-a-baby boy slept in his big-boy bed, I switched out his wardrobe. I packed away two boxes of clothes that have no promise of being seen on a baby any time soon, and with a heavy heart, headed downstairs to enjoy some quiet time of my own.

I made the mistake of doing what I always used to do on my lunch breaks at home: watching A Baby Story on TLC. It's hugely clich├ęd, but this was my ritual: Wake up, eat breakfast, nurse baby, pass time, nurse baby, put baby to bed, eat a meal with both hands while watching tv shows of other people's babies, retreive and nurse own baby, etc. But yesterday, it was too much. I turned it off and pointed myself to more productive activities: conquering Matt's laundry. Just for kicks, here's a short list of the things I found in Matt's pockets:
  • kleenex
  • a chewed-up lid to an Arden's Garden smoothie
  • wadded up kleenex
  • ketchup packets (Seriously. Ketchup? Matt doesn't even like ketchup! He doesn't even know how they got there!)
  • kleenex
  • paper
  • receipts
  • $.57, mostly in pennies
  • kleenex
It was a nice pile of plunder. I also did 7 loads of laundry yesterday afternoon. Seven. As in, the number of completion. Laundry rules my life in an evil and cruel way. Mainly because I don't mind doing the laundry, but I can't ever seem to get around to folding it, so it sits in corners, glibly tormenting me with its helplessness and inability to do anything but wait on me to put it away. But yesterday, during Cooper's marathon nap, I caught up on every piece of laundry in our room. It feels surreal, like the house elves I've been praying for finally showed up to do their job.

(Seriously - how great would it be to have actual house elves to clean while we were away?! I would suspend a hefty portion of reality to make this so.)

By the time Cooper woke up, he was feeling tremendous. Aside from the fact that he ate 4 bowls of applesauce yesterday and little else, it was as if nothing had ever happened. We went and got J from school, who lamented the fact that he had to be there "alone" all day. He missed his baby brother, in sweet and almost surprising ways.

Since Matt was teaching his class, the boys and I spent the evening together, playing in the backyard and tinkering with our bikes. We had chicken soup and crusty bread for dinner. We tumbled into bed easily and early. We sang together our new closing for the day:

God we thank you (God we thank you),
For our day (for our day)!
All of us together (all of us together),
Thank you, God (thank you, God).
(sung to the tune of Frere Jacques)

It was the best kind of sick day - one that didn't involve much sickness, really. Cooper and I got to spend some rare and wonderful time together, and we were grateful for this unexpected gift of a day, a single day, that gave us the opportunity to stop and rest and work where we needed it the most. At home.

Here's to sick days that call us home, for rest, love and comfort.


Bechrist7 said...

How inspiring! I'm so glad the two of you had a sweet day! If you do happen to inherit any of those "house elves" please send them my way. I have at least 4 loads of laundry to do and no time to do it! I love hearing your wonderful "mother words." Thank you for sharing!

Loving Landon said...

i too get sucked into a baby story....and i too have baby envy - we have a 'sad' box - but I have found joy in handing some outfits on to others and watching them be happy in them...