Archive for ‘mental health’

October 9, 2017

It all makes sense now…

by Decemberbaby

1985. I’m five years old, and my family keeps remarking that I have “no zitsfleisch” (literally, “sitting flesh”) – I simply can’t sit still. My teacher remarks to my mother that I’m paying attention… to everything except the lesson. My mother asks the teacher to ask me a few questions about the material. Turns out I’ve heard it all. Mum figures I was bored.

1990. I’m becoming more out-of-sync with my peers, socially speaking. I don’t have many friends. It often feels like the other kids are being rude or mean to me. At least I’m excelling academically. I’ve learned to sit still, but something is always moving – usually my toes, tapping out a pattern inside my shoes.

1997. I have friends now. I’m still a good student, except in math and chemistry. As equations get longer, I can’t seem to do them properly. I understand how it works, I understand what I need to do… but somehow I get derailed and end up with the wrong solution. The only time I can succeed at math is when my dad sits next to me and keeps me focusing on the next step. In the end, I drop math. I’m still tapping my toes.

2001. I’ve done a couple of really cool things in the last few years: I wrote and produced an album of original songs; I ran a half-triathlon (and came second in my age class). The album never got anywhere – I didn’t really bother promoting it at all. The triathlon was a one-off: fun to do once, but I felt no need to repeat it. I’m bursting with creative ideas and often can’t wait in meetings – by the time my turn to talk comes I’ll surely have forgotten what I was going to say because of the twenty new ideas that have flashed through my brain in the intervening minutes. My apartment is littered with half-drunk glasses of water and cups of tea – every time I put my drink down and do something else, I forget where I left it… so I go to get a new one… several times a day.

2005. Despite my amazing memory for names, numbers, and trivia, I tend to forget a lot of things. Leaving the house involves a few false starts: Oops, no keys. Oh, my sunglasses. Where is that cheque I had to mail? I’m great at organizing systems, but not so good at keeping them organized. I’ve learned enough about myself to know that I have lots of good ideas – it’s the follow-through that I’m terrible at. I joke that I’d rather build a new table than clean the one I have.

2015. I have four children and am now responsible for organizing 5 (sometimes six) lives and schedules. I miss a lot of things. Double-booking myself is a frequent occurrence and I usually just hope that someone else will cancel and it will magically work out (it often does.) I’m often late. I forget to do things that need to be done. I’m terrible at imposing (and maintaining) structure and routines for my kids. My husband is frustrated with my constant failure to remember and follow through. I’m frustrated with myself. What is wrong with me? While reading a book about how to help my child who has been diagnosed with ADHD, the penny drops. I speak to my psychiatrist who assesses me and says, “well, looks like you have ADHD.” What a relief – it’s not my fault. I can work with this.

2017. Things have improved tremendously. I’ve stopped berating myself for being inconsistent and careless. My husband understands now and helps me develop better systems so I can remember and get things done. I’m still terrible at implementing routines at home, but I don’t beat myself up over it anymore. My toes are still tapping and I still have abandoned water glasses everywhere. I still find it extremely difficult to maintain focus on things that are hard for me, and I still get distracted by minutiae – but now I can see it happening and get myself back on track much more quickly. I’m still bursting with ideas. Nothing has really changed. Everything has changed.

I’ve heard it said that “labels are for clothing, not people”; but I disagree. Labels come with care instructions – and I definitely needed some of those.

 

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November 13, 2015

Better living through chemistr- I mean, manual labour.

by Decemberbaby

Wood pile

See that? It’s my new antidepressant.

Until a few weeks ago, I had never wielded an axe. But we had these two trees in our yard that had to come down, and given how much I love wood fires it seemed prudent to keep the wood. Unfortunately, the arborist wasn’t willing to go as far as splitting the logs for me.

That’s how I wound up on Amazon, buying an axe.

It arrived two days later. I had watched a youtube video and read a few articles about how to split wood, and so I ventured out into the backyard to get started on my woodpile. I set up a large stump as a chopping block, cleared the area around it of tripping hazards, and picked out a couple of good-looking logs to be my first victims.

I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow (pun intended.) Instead I’ll just tell you that the entire time, I felt like some Hollywood princess on a reality show about trying to live like pioneers. The axe bounced. The wood toppled over. I chipped off tiny little pieces of kindling when I’d really been aiming for the centre of the log. After an hour I was sweating profusely and my arms were shaking. I had split a grand total of ten logs. It felt good.

I definitely had that post-workout high. And then there was the satisfaction of doing something productive and useful (something I could actually physically point to and say, “that wasn’t there before, and now it is.”) It was so unlike the feeling of completing any other household chore. You know that feeling? “Look at that clean floor! I just mopped it and it looks so goo- oh. It’s okay, honey. I know you didn’t mean to spill the entire bottle of juice (sob).”

In psychology 100, we learned about “learned helplessness.” Scientists put puppies in a box with a little divider. Once the puppies were settled on one side of the box, they were given a mild electric shock. The puppies moved to the other side. At this point, the control group was left alone (only receiving shocks if they returned to the first side of the box) while the experimental group was given shocks no matter where they moved. It didn’t take long for the puppies in the experimental group to just lie down and give up. That’s learned helplessness: the feeling that whatever you do, nothing will ever change. And learned helplessness is a factor in clinical depression.

So much of our work is cerebral, ephemeral, or both. It’s easy to feel like what we do doesn’t really make a difference. There’s so little concrete work in our modern urban lives. That’s why I’ll be heading out most mornings to swing an axe, chop some wood, and achieve a better life through manual labour.

September 3, 2014

Is this thing on?

by Decemberbaby

*tap**tap* *feedback noise*

So… it’s been a while. How’s it going?

The past year has just been so full of everything, good and bad, that it’s hard to know where to begin. I offer no excuses for my absence, and I would like to thank both of my loyal readers for sticking around.

Anyway, for those of you who are here because you like hearing about my life, here’s the update (in no particular order):

  • The children are now ages 6.5, 4, and almost 3. K (girl, 6.5) has lost four teeth and is currently sporting the adorable gap-toothed look. N is as sweet as ever. R just started potty training and has now gone 26 hours with no accidents.
  • Mr. December is pretty much the same, although this past year he started a very demanding volunteer position, which I’m tempted to blame for at least some of my blogging hiatus. For the record, I’m very proud of the work he’s done (even though I won’t be blogging about it.)
  • We still live in our little house, although we’re slowly putting together plans for a second-storey addition. I’m getting to the point where I’d really like to have my own bathroom (separate from the kids, anyhow,) not to mention the fact that we’re going to run out of room sooner or later because:
  • I’m pregnant. Once again, I’ve lost all my infertility cred. Come January, God willing, we’ll have four children.
  • Depression still looms large in my life, though I’ve finally gotten the hang of treating it like any other chronic illness.
  • I still sew, but I’ve found that I have less and less time for it. You’d think that evenings (after kids’ bedtime) would be a good time, but I’m usually too tired to contemplate going downstairs and starting to sew. Instead I stay up way too late on Facebook, arguing for common sense in the face of hysterical helicopter parenting.
  • I still bike, although I haven’t done any really serious biking in almost a year, and it looks like I won’t be biking any significant distances until maybe March or April, or whenever the ice melts around here.

In short, life is good. I am well. And I plan to pick up blogging again, even though at times I am, as Elizabeth Bennet says in P&P, “unwilling to speak, unless [I] expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the eclat of a proverb.”

And on that note, I’m off to bed. ‘Night!

May 1, 2013

Coping

by Decemberbaby

I’m typing this outdoors on a beautiful, warm, sunny day. The sky is perfectly blue. There’s a breeze. My children are affectionate and adorable. And I’m numb to it all.

Oh, sure, I appreciate it intellectually. I’m impressed that spring is here. But all I can summon in response to anything right now is “meh.” And isn’t that just the best description of depression? Everything is just “meh.”

I don’t know what exactly has exacerbated my depression, but something has, and it’s cast a vague dullness over everything. At the same time, the smallest annoyances overwhelm me. I’m fully aware of my symptoms, and equally aware of how out of proportion my responses are, but trying to stop it is rather like trying to plug a leaking dike with your finger.

And so here I am, engaging all of my coping mechanisms. I forced myself to bike the children to school this morning because I know that the fresh air and exercise does me good. I didn’t feel up to being alone with R (I’m not sure what I feared more – that I might fall asleep, or that I might stare off into space and hurt her feelings with my indifference,) so we went for some visits: first with my Mum, and then with my elderly great-aunt and great-uncle. It wasn’t the magic cure that people seem to think; visiting and helping someone who is in worse shape than you doesn’t necessarily make depression go away. But it used up some time, and it forced me to interact with people, and R had some interaction with someone other than me, so I suppose it was a good thing.

Back at home, I decided to do a project that seemed simple enough – laminate some pictures onto hardboard using some Mod Podge. For whatever reason it didn’t work as expected, and I just gave up and… wandered away, really. It’s a common problem when my depression is bad. How common, you ask? Well, I washed my paintbrush, left the hardboard and pictures where they were, and went to the bathroom… where the floor was littered with the remnants of yesterday’s decluttering project. At times like this I’m tempted to call myself names and decry my lack of focus and productivity. Happily, I’m self-aware enough now to remind myself that it’s a symptom of a disease, not evidence that I’m a worthless layabout.

And so entered the next coping mechanism. I sat down, determined to write out a plan for a simple DIY project and email it to Mr. December. The whole thing should have taken me 20 minutes. An hour later, I finally finished and sent it off. At least I accomplished something today.

What else have I done to cope? Hmm. I overcompensated for today’s indifferent parenting by pulling over behind an ice cream truck and treating K to an ice cream. I’m not sure if that’s a healthy coping mechanism or not, but at least now she’ll remember today as “the day mummy bought me ice cream from the ice cream truck” instead of “the day mummy yelled at me to get myself dressed because she couldn’t cope with my shenanigans.”

And I’ve forced myself to sit down and write this blog post even though I’d rather just not. At least I can get to the end of the day and list a couple of things that I’ve done from beginning to end.

I’ll wrap up the night (after the kids’ bedtime, which is truly painful when I’m like this) with a cup of decaf tea and a crossword, take an ativan and hope that a long night’s sleep will lead to a better day tomorrow. In the meantime, meh.

November 27, 2012

Addiction

by Decemberbaby

Hi. I’m Sara, and I’m a cycle-a-holic.

I didn’t think it had come this far, but here I am. My knee hurts badly; I know that I shouldn’t bike tomorrow morning, and that makes me feel bereft. I don’t bike every single morning but I don’t take kindly to knowing that it’s off limits for now. The cravings are beginning. Driving the car is, at best, a necessary evil. There’s no joy in it; it just gets me from A to B and back. But cycling… aside from the obvious fitness benefits, it does wonders for my seasonal depression. Also my soul, my wallet, and my general sense of well-being.

Here’s why:

When I’m cycling, I’m close to the ground and there’s nothing between me and the world around me. I sing out “good morning” whenever we pass a pedestrian. We stop to examine the fire hydrants that haven’t been installed yet. We greet the same construction workers and crossing guards every time. Cycling gives me this sense of being part of the city instead of separated from it in a metal-and-glass bubble.

Nature is right beside me all along the road. I see the trees in various stages of autumnal undress, the places where there are more weeds than grass, the wetness of the road after a night of rain. The air feels clean in the morning, especially on the residential streets that make up most of my ride. I can see the sky – not a piece of it through a windshield, but the whole expanse – and I often marvel that even on cloudy days there is usually a clear patch of blue peeking through somewhere.

Throughout my ride, I have many opportunities to make it easier or harder for myself. I can relax and ride slowly if I feel like it, or I can push myself to the limit and set a new time record. I can lean into the turns more, challenging my skill and balance. I’m up against my own limits, and I often astonish myself.

I can chat with my children, point out landmarks, and ruffle their hair at stop signs. I get to watch them wiggle in time to the music from my iPod. When I greet pedestrians with a smile the children and I get to watch wizened old faces and jaded young faces break into a tentative smile or a grin and a surprised laugh. Even the grumpy-looking old man with the tiny dog (practically a fixture in our parking lot at drop-off and pick-up times) looks handsome when he smiles at us.

Even at my fastest, my speed probably tops out at 18 km/h. Fast enough to get where we’re going, and slow enough to not feel harried and rushed. Traffic means very little to me, gliding along residential streets and through pathways where cars can’t travel.

It’s possible to drive a car on autopilot. We’ve all done it, I’m sure, getting somewhere and realizing we have no particular memory about the journey. I’ve never been able to bike on autopilot. Cycling makes me feel connected – to nature, to the city, to the people, to myself and my limits. To God.

To paraphrase the milk commercials of my youth, cycling does a body good… but it does a soul great.

 

June 6, 2012

Work-in-Progress Wednesday – mental health day edition

by Decemberbaby

I am severely sleep deprived, and it’s starting to show. This morning I woke up (that’s too strong a term for what happened, actually. Let’s say I achieved consciousness) and realized that my limbs felt heavy and my speech was really slow. I made Mr. December drive K to school (anyone who is sleep deprived has no business driving a car, in my opinion, although I understand the necessity of driving sometimes) and I went back to sleep. I just need to catch up before I really make a mess of things – for the past five days I’ve had a case of what I call “the stupids”, which means that I was aware that my decision making abilities were way, way off – or seriously yell at the kids for all the little things that are driving me nuts right now (why are there stickers on everything? Why does K need to hoard toys and then haul them all over the house? And so on.)

Right. So it’s “restore my mental health” day today, which seems fitting since yesterday I found this door while on my way to an appointment:

I definitely need to get my hands on that key. In the meantime, here’s my progress for the week:

In Progress: choosing my apps

I really, really like Remember the Milk. I like it enough that I bought the Pro version. It’s a bit like a hybrid between a calendar and a to-do list, and it lets you tag things, set priorities, schedule tasks, set deadlines, postpone… and to-do items can have notes attached, so if my to-do is to phone someone, I can have all my information right there – telephone number, what we need to talk about, reference numbers, etc. It’s really awesome. Even better is the fact that I can use it on my iPod and on my Mac, so I can organize lists and notes on my Mac so that the typing gets done faster, and then sync it with my iPod to be able to refer to it throughout the day.

Yesterday was the first day that I organized myself with RTM, and it went very, very smoothly. I got everything done. Even more amazingly, I was able to see that I really have no spare time in my day, and I could see how long it will be before all my items actually get done, and so I was much more able to say “no” to new commitments.

I’d still like a month-at-a-time calendar view. I think I should be able to sync it to my iCal, but I’m not sure. I’ll play around with that this week.

In Progress: weight watchin’

I’m up two pounds this week, and I know exactly why: when I’m exhausted but circumstances dictate that I can’t (or shouldn’t) sleep, I eat to keep myself awake. Also, I was exceptionally testy on Shabbat and so had Mr. December go out on Saturday night and get me some cookie dough and some ice cream. I ate all of it.

I’m hoping to make this week a better week, but there’s only one thing I can prioritize at a time, and right now it has to be sleep.

In Progress: Upcycling clothes!

I have a whole lot of t-shirts stashed in my workshop. In (seemingly) unrelated news, most of K’s stretchy play dresses have seen better days. This week I’m going to make her some play dresses (and matching bike shorts to wear under them) out of my old shirts. Wish me luck!

So nu, what are you up to this week?

April 11, 2012

Work-in-Progress Wednesday – Passover edition

by Decemberbaby

It’s been quite a week. Quite honestly, I had to force myself to sit down and blog. Not because I’m out of ideas, or because I don’t have time to sit at the computer – if I can get a score of 82,000 in online Tetris then surely I can scrape together fifteen minutes for a blog post – but because… actually, I don’t know why. It feels vaguely like a depressive symptom, but it could be exhaustion instead.

You see, last week R decided to stop sleeping at night. I was up with her until 2 or 3 in the morning, three nights in a row. And yes, I still had to get up the next morning to take K to school. It was so bad that I actually started drinking coffee – the taste of which I still can’t stand – to get myself through the day in only a mild mental haze instead of the full-on fog in which I woke up.

On the upside, one of those sleepless nights led me to an amazing discovery regarding:

Passover Cleaning (complete!):

On night three of not sleeping I decided to put R into the ergo, strap her onto my back, and go for a walk. As I marched up and down Eglinton I pulled out my cellphone and kvetched (that’s “complained”, to those who don’t speak Yinglish (that’s a mix of Yiddish and English, for those who’ve never heard of Yinglish)) to a friend of mine about the Passover cleaning that wasn’t getting done because of R’s messed up sleep patterns. Since she’s more Jewishly observant than I am, I asked her my burning question:

“I understand that if there’s chametz in my house over Passover, I’m not allowed to use it or benefit from it after Passover. But what if I don’t want to use it or benefit from it? What if it’s a single Cheerio behind the piano?”

My friend asked her husband, an Orthodox rabbi, and a whole discussion of the situation ensued. The liberating upshot was that we are obligated to do our due diligence and check – visually – for chametz. If it’s smaller than an olive, it’s considered dust or dirt, but not chametz. And we’re not trying to get rid of dirt, we’re trying to get rid of chametz. Oh, and we have to get rid of chametz, but we can keep kitniyot (legumes) around even though we don’t eat them on Passover.

Wild, right? So the next day we pulled out the fridge and stove and checked for chametz under them; I checked the cabinets, removed chametz from the fridge, checked under the couch and behind the piano and in the playroom… and I was done. I did not scrub out all the cabinets. I did sand and oil the countertop, but that needed to be done anyhow and it felt vaguely therapeutic.

So. Passover cleaning was completed. And how fitting that on the festival of our liberation, I was finally liberated from such a crushingly difficult tradition.

In Progress: Weight Watchin’

Note to self: Matzo is not very filling. That’s why I can eat six or seven boards in one sitting. With butter. Also, don’t nosh on the candied almonds that Mum put out for the guests. Ten almonds are good – fifty are not better.

Yeah, I gained 2.6 pounds this week. But last week I lost 2, so I’m still at 17 pounds lost overall. I’m sure when my eating habits go back to normal I’ll drop it again.

Completed! Baby Quilt

Another fabulously liberating discovery: basting spray! It keeps all the layers of the quilt together as I’m sewing, so that none of the fabric shifts or bunches. It saved me tons of time and stress and made the quilting process very easy.

It’s a very simple design, but I love the flower shape that I quilted. See it?

It’s even clearer from the back, thanks to the minky-type fabric:

Doesn’t it look cozy? Just like with the last quilt I made, I seriously considered snuggling up with it and keeping it for myself.

Alas, it was a gift, so I had to send it on its way. First, though, I attached a label. This time I printed directly onto a piece of satin ribbon, then used the iron to set the ink.

Still in progress:Kids’ table

After a few weeks of use, we concluded that the way I attached the table legs, while clever and useful, was not particularly stable. This week I plan to change that. If I get a chance, I’ll also start working on the stain/paint. At any rate, I need to finish this project because I’ve got quite a backlog and I don’t want it to get forgotten in the shuffle. It’s really a neat little table.

In progress: Baby quilt for nephew

I don’t have a nephew… yet. But apparently there’s one in the works, and I have until mid-May to make him a quilt. I’ve ordered some of the fabrics for it, but I really want to find something nice for the back. This week I’ll go to some fabric shops and suss out my options.

 

… and that’s it. What are you up to this week?

February 9, 2012

I upped my medication, so up yours.

by Decemberbaby

Those of you who have just started reading my blog might have missed or glossed over the fact that I struggle with clinical depression.

There’s something I have to get out of the way first, before I can get to the point:

Clinical depression is not the same thing as “feeling depressed” (aka “sad”). Although it can be triggered by a sad event, it can also be triggered by nothing at all. A comment such as, “What do you have to feel sad about? You have a charmed life!” completely misses the point. Depression isn’t about sadness, not really. It’s about:

  • A lack of motivation. The lack of motivation in depression isn’t laziness, and it’s very difficult to think your way out of. It’s sort of like losing your appetite: you still need to eat, but you have no inner urges making you do so, so you have to force yourself. When the motivational drive is malfunctioning, absolutely everything becomes an uphill battle: I’ve had to give myself a pep talk just to get up and empty the dishwasher. And lest you say, “hmm, still sounds like laziness,” I’ll tell you that during depressive episodes I’m also unable and unmotivated to get any of my creative projects done.
  • Faulty reasoning/attribution of causality. I’m having a hard time thinking of an example, actually, but I know depressive thinking when I find myself doing it. I’ll add a proper example when I have one. The attribution of causality thing has me blaming myself for being unmotivated (“lazy!”) and saying things like, “I’m a terrible mother. A good mother wouldn’t lie in bed staring at the wall while the baby cries his heart out. I don’t deserve my kids. Why am I such a bad mother? I thought I’d be good at parenting, but I hate it. My kids are a burden.”
  • Fatigue. Yes, you’re right, everything is blamed for fatigue these days. But now that I’m on the right dosage of the right medication, I see the difference between fatigue from depression and regular old tiredness. When I’m in a depressive episode, fatigue is an emotional and cognitive tiredness in addition to the normal physical need for rest. I need to sleep because I can’t cope. You know how you can be exhausted but happy, like at the end of a great party? Well, depression precludes that kind of tiredness.
  • Social avoidance. During a depressive episode, I don’t call my friends. I assume that they don’t want to be with me or help me because I’m such a leech and never help them (see faulty reasoning, above.) At the same time, I need my friends even more. With other people around, I find it easier to get the little things done (dishes, cooking dinner, etc.) Also, having people over forces me to take a shower and get dressed.

Skeptics will say that the above symptoms could just be personality flaws, and if depressed people would just “snap out of it” or “work harder” or “change their thinking” none of those things would be a problem any longer. To them, I say that there is a marked difference in how I feel on the proper medication, even in ways I didn’t anticipate (and therefore couldn’t just be a placebo effect):

  • Motivation. I’m able to get things done without having to work myself up for it. I feel like I want the kitchen to be clean, and I get up and clean it. I see a dust bunny on the floor and I get a broom and sweep. I don’t have to overthink these things in order to start doing them. Creative projects come to mind, and I’m able to plan and execute them. There is not enough time in the day for everything I want or need to do (when I’m depressed, the opposite is true – bedtime can’t come soon enough.) When I’m not depressed I have a reduced tolerance for things like aimless web surfing.
  • Reasoning, logic, and attribution. Even when I contemplate the possibility of bad things happening, I don’t have a sense of doom about them that would push me to fear the worst. I can correctly attribute negative outcomes, and I don’t resort to attacks on my own personality or value as a human being. For example, I might say, “This table I built is uneven and wobbly. I didn’t have the right tools and decided to go ahead anyway, and I valued quick work over quality work. Next time I’ll get the right tools and give myself enough time to do it well.” Normal thinking, right? Right. But it only happens for me when I’m medicated. No matter how hard I try, I can’t think that way when I’m depressed.
  • Higher energy and no fatigue. I wake up in the morning and I’m ready to get up and do things. I may be physically tired, but it’s not a struggle to move myself out of the bed. As the day wears on, I might choose to nap because I’m physically tired, but it’s often a tough choice because there are other things I need and want to do. At bedtime I’m physically exhausted, but I’m still thinking straight and able to cope. Most significantly, I’m able to be tired and happy at the same time. Until several months ago I didn’t realize that was possible.
  • Social participation. I get in touch with my friends and initiate plans to see them. I notice when people around me need help and I’m able to offer it. I find it easy to host people for shabbat dinner without getting overwhelmed.

Right. So that’s my take on clinical depression. Back to my intended post for today:

So about two months ago we (my shrink and I) upped my meds. Since then I’ve had all kinds of epiphanies: it’s normal to wake up in the morning and feel somewhat refreshed and ready to start the day! It’s normal to be able to do daily tasks without needing a motivational speech! It’s not normal to assume that everything is my fault and that I’m a bad person!

After five years of either deep or mild depression, these realizations have been so liberating. I finally, finally feel like I’m meeting my potential as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, and friend. I finally am able to do all the things I envisioned myself doing –  preparing breakfast for my family, playing with my kids, creating things with my hands – and truly loving my life, rather than just going through the motions. It’s amazing and wonderful. As I told my shrink at our last appointment, they’re going to have to pry the meds out of my cold, dead hands. There’s no way I would consent to go back to the way things were.

There are naysayers. You might be one of them. There are people who like to tell me that with exercise/cognitive behavioural therapy/nutritional supplements/meditation/yoga I can eliminate my depression without drugs. To those people I say, “read the title of this post.” To the rest of you, a question:

Has this post changed how you think of depression? How? Why? I want to know. Leave comments here please, instead of on Facebook.

November 21, 2011

I know how she does it.

by Decemberbaby

For the first five weeks of R’s life, Mr. December organized things so that I would have to do little or nothing in terms of taking care of K and N. He “mobilized our resources” and had grandparents and friends doing the school pick-ups, bathtime, and quite literally everything in between. Last Wednesday was the first day “off” with nobody but myself to take care of all three kids.

(Yes, I do have household help, but she’s been unwell and has been leaving around 1 p.m. everyday – precisely when K is home from school and all three need to be taken care of.)

To all those people who eyed my pregnant belly and my two young kids and said, “you’ll have your hands full!” I say, “you were right.” But there are different kinds of handfuls. My three kids are more like a handful of M&M’s than a handful of baby scorpions. Wonder of wonders, I love the time we spend, just the four of us. Last week we all went grocery shopping. I had two babies in the cart and K following me with her own little cart which we filled with groceries, seeing as my cart was full of babies. This morning I got everyone dressed, fed, and off to school. Seriously, I took N and R to the drop-in program at our local elementary school. We were there by 10:00, and that was after doing some laundry and cleaning the kitchen.

“I don’t know how she does it,” people might exclaim (mightn’t they?). But I know how. Two simple words:

Lowered. Expectations.

I’ve developed a few guidelines for raising three children without losing my sanity:

1. Accept that at any given time someone will be crying. It might be me or it might be one of the kids. As Marlo Thomas told us all back in our childhood, it’s alright to cry.

2. Assume that it will take half an hour, or ten minutes per child, to leave the house. Dress and ready the kids starting with the least mobile one and ending with the most mobile but least responsible (i.e. the toddler).

3. Relax the household standards of dress. Pants are not strictly necessary. Reserve fussing over outfits for times when there are witnesses.

4. Remember that I asked (begged, entreated, prayed) for this. A house full of children is a blessing I used to think would never be mine. Hug and kiss the kids whenever they slow down enough to be caught.

Anybody else have some gems of wisdom to share? Like how to deal with potty-training regression without going back to diapers?

 

January 25, 2011

Advice at 6:30 a.m.

by Decemberbaby

Dear Snarky Advice Lady,

I am a psychiatrist. This morning I woke up with the flu, and I now have to cancel my appointments for the day. It’s 6:30 in the morning. Is it ok to call my clients now, given that they’re all mothers with small babies?

Dr. E.

Dear Dr. E.,

It is NEVER okay to call people at 6:30 a.m. When I heard the phone ring this morning and looked at the clock, my first thought was, who died? That thought woke me up so completely that I was unable to get back to sleep. And as you know, sleep deprivation is a huge risk factor for postpartum depression. “First do no harm”, my backside!

You have shown an appalling lack of common sense. Next time, leave a voicemail for your receptionist and ask her to cancel your morning appointments. Or get with the twenty-first century and send a text message or email to your first patients of the day.

But never, EVER call me at 6:30 again. Ever.

Oh, and feel better soon.

– SAL (Snarky Advice Lady)