Suburban Playground began as a zine when I was staying at home with Renn and in desperate need of something creative to do that didn’t involve taking care of the baby. I was going to write about our day to day life, my personal struggle with feminism and it’s take on mothering, and try to dispel the stereotype that all suburban moms are Barbie dolls/soccer moms. At the end I planned to have a review of a suburban playground, talk about the quality of the playground equipment and quality of parent conversations, and maybe have some kind of rating system. Four swings or something. It would come out quarterly and I would have a small but loyal fan base and maybe make a few bucks off of subscriptions.
I got as far as the cover and some photos of a cool playground down on the coast. And then I got a full-time job and abandoned the project.
During the last presidential election I kept hearing about bloggers on NPR. Let’s face it, that is just plain cool and much easier than trying to keep up with a zine. My geeky brother asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I asked for George W’s defeat and my own blog site. He was able to grant one of those requests, and suburbanplayground.com was launched.
Rory has been sick with an ear infection, congestion, and cough for a while now. It would be easier to give a cat the amoxicillin than it is to give it to Rory.
This is the story of Wednesday night.
The night before I had only slept for about 2 hours, so needless to say I was exhausted. I wanted to go to bed by 8pm, but everyone was all jacked up at it was more like 10pm before we were all settled down in bed. Rory nursed for a little while and then fell asleep, but she was really wiggely, and coughed every five or ten minutes. I lay in bed next to her, trying to go to sleep. By midnight, suffering from sheer exhaustion, I am praying: Dear God, please heal Rory and help her sleep so I can get some rest. No luck.
Midnight, and I wake up Greg. I can’t take it anymore, I say, I’m going to sleep in the other room. I take the quilt and my pillows and wander into Renn’s room to sleep on the guest bed (Renn has never spent a night there -- his toddler bed is next to ours). I throw some clean laundry on the floor and lay down, pull the covers up. I am almost asleep. Chirp! What the hell? Chirp! Echoing through my skull. Chrip! The smoke alarm dutifully lets me know that the battery is running out. Chirp!
The smoke detectors are hard wired into the ceiling -- 10 feet up, and we have no ladder. The battery is for back-up, in case the power ever goes out. No luck tonight. Chirp!
I put my head under the pillows, try to block out the sound. Chirp! Every five minutes or so. Chirp!
I pray: Holy Mary, Mother of God, please, please, please let me get some sleep.
I give up on the holy. Perhaps it is not God who has forsaken me. Perhaps this is the work of a Demon. Demon be gone!
I picked up the pillows and dragged the quilt into the living room in the hopes that the couch was far enough away from the fire alarm to get some sleep. I heard the rest of the family snoring in the bedroom -- oblivious to the demon chirping. I settled down on the couch and turned on the satellite radio in the hopes of drowning out the noise. I found a nice New Age station, lay back and tried to relax. Chirp!
I was almost asleep, so close, when Rory started to cry. Go back to sleep, go back to sleep. But she was powerful for my Jedi mind tricks. Chirp! No luck -- she was still crying.
I got up, picked up the pillows and the blanket, turned off the TV, and walked back to the bedroom. I glanced at the clock in the kitchen: 3am. Nice. Only 3 hours until I had to get up!!
I climbed back in bed and started to nurse her. Greg had slept through everything. I woke him up and cried. I should just go to a hotel! I said. Maybe then I could get some freaking sleep! I lay there nursing her, the song “I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that” the soundtrack to my insomnia.
At 4am she fell back asleep. I finally dozed off shortly thereafter, finally immune to the chirping smoke detector.
My alarm went off at 6am.
I initially attempted to write every week. Then every month. Now I just do it when I get a chance and have something to say, which is less frequent than I would like. I struggle with the work-family-life rollercoaster I am on.
Yesterday I spent all day at work having to deal with a problem that never would have happened if people would just do the job they are paid for. What a mess – cleaning it up took all day! So I didn’t get a lot of other things done that I needed to do. Plus the lunch that I brought had gone bad, so I didn’t have much to eat. I got out of here a little late, which meant that traffic down the loop to the daycare was horrible.
When I picked up the kids, all was well, they were in good moods. It was cookie day (I hate cookie day! Why do they push so much sugar??) so I bought each of them a cookie. In the car I gave them both a juice box because they are always thirsty when I pick them up (I don’t think the daycare gives them enough to drink). Renn decides that he doesn’t like the pink juice box, only the blue one, so he throws his on the floor. At the same time, Rory looses her straw. So she’s crying that she needs a straw, I reach behind my seat, pick up Renn’s juice box, pull out the straw, reach for Rory’s juice box, and give her the straw. All while driving (no wonder people have wrecks). Then Renn looses his ever-loving mind because Rory had his straw. He pitches a fit, crying and, yes, screaming, and I (still relatively calm at this point in the evening) explain that he didn’t want the straw, he threw it on the floor and so it was fair game. He keeps on so I try to just ignore him. When we get home, Rory has chocolate all over her face and hands from her cookie. Renn wants me to put Mary Poppins into the DVD player and I have to pee. So Renn’s bugging and I’m trying to get Rory clean and go to the bathroom and I am starting to go insane. Greg works Tuesday nights, so he is not home for all the fun. Finally I get the movie in and then I want to check the mail, which of course they both come along for. Neither of them watched the move – the songs just played in the background like a twisted funhouse soundtrack.
When I get back it is time to make dinner (it’s like 5:45 at this point). I am going to make a bean dish that in normal circumstances takes 10 minutes to throw together, plus heat up chicken nuggets for them since the chances of them actually eating the beans is slim. Rory decides she wants me to hold her, which is impossible while I am fixing dinner. So she proceeds to hold on to my legs and cry while I am washing the canned beans and chopping garlic. I grab some ham out of the fridge and give her some and this seems to appease her. Then Renn wants some ham too, so I (and this was such a bad idea – I should have known better) fix one plate piled with slices of ham and put it in the middle of the table. I naively thought they could each take slices off the plate. Of course, Rory grabs all of the ham. Renn starts crying that Rory won’t share, and he is yelling at her to share. I throw the beans and the canned tomatoes in the pot and yell at them to both share. Rory throws all the ham on the floor so Renn won’t get it. Renn cries. Then Rory cries. Then I open a bottle of wine and pour myself a glass.
Finally dinner is ready. They both eat the chicken. Rory throws her beans on the floor. Then she keeps standing up in her chair. I tell her to sit down and she gets that little “screw you mama” look on her face and stands up. Then she gets a time out. She cries and then comes back to the table, gets the look on her face again and stands up. Back to time out. Crying. Back to the table. Renn says he has eaten all of his chicken and he wants M&Ms. We had bought a big bag of the snack size M&Ms at Walmart to give away at Halloween, but this weekend Greg helped himself to them, revealing their existence to Renn who has now fixated on the fact that they are in the pantry. Since he had eaten all the chicken, I gave both of them a package. I later discover that he had in fact not eaten the chicken, but thrown it under the table. I take the remaining M&Ms away from him and explain that we do not lie to each other and he cries.
After dinner they get all of their books out of the bookshelf and throw them all over the living room. I attempt to watch the Gilmore Girls. I only hear about half of it. Renn decides he wants to draw. I tell him he has to put the books up first and find his notebook. Rory pinches him. He cries. He pushes her. She cries. I wish that I had another glass of wine (I never drink more than one glass with the kids around). Finally the books are put away, Renn gives Rory a sheet of paper, and I manage to find two pens – a red one and a black one. I give Rory the black and Renn the red. Renn decides he doesn’t want red, so he tries to trade with Rory. She refuses, so he tries to force her to trade. She screams and takes his pen. She’s got both pens, screaming at him, he’s crying and trying to take the black pen back and then I loose my mind, yell at both of them, they keep fighting, and then in a very ungraceful, immature move, I grab both the pens, all the paper, and stuff the whole thing in the top of one of the kitchen cabinets. Both of them have a melt down. Rory gets over hers pretty quick and goes back to the books, but Renn gets nearly hysterical and I put him in time out. He refuses to stay in time out and I threaten to spank him if he doesn’t stay there (we don’t spank the kids). He finally settles down and the two of them line all the books up in a row across the living room floor in a “bridge” and walk back and forth across it.
At 8:00 I decide I have had enough and we are going to bed. Renn refuses to brush his teeth, and Rory gets mad and cries when I take her toothbrush away. We go into the bed room and I discover that the sheets are inexplicably missing from all of the beds (they are sopping wet in the washer – Greg had thrown them in the wash that morning, but not the dryer). I get sheets for Renn (Rory still co-sleeps) but I can’t find a sheet for my bed. What on earth. So I lay a flat sheet over the mattress and we all go to bed. Then Renn decides he is scared and wants to sleep next to me.
At this point I am tied of fighting and just really want them to go to sleep so I say ok. Rory falls asleep. Renn starts crying because he is worried about dying, He says he doesn’t want to die and squeezes my hand. He is really scared (he has just recently made the connection that people die). I try to explain it to him and tell him he doesn’t need to worry about it, that mommy and daddy have the job of protecting him. He keeps crying and we talk about God and heaven and he feels better that God will fix him in heaven and says he wants me to be there with him but Daddy and Rory can stay home. Then I am tearing up but I don’t want him to see this and get scared again. Finally we both fall asleep.
I often debate about how much personal information to put out there, especially about the kids. I have been wanting to write an essay on Renn and his penis, but I wonder what he would think about it if he reads it when he is older. I don’t want to embarrass him or have him resent it. For the record, having a son has been very enlightening on that topic.
Instead, I put personal things out there about myself.
Fun with Kids
I tell you what — you have not lived until you are navigating through rush hour traffic, rubbing prescription cream on your “milks” to combat an infection caused by your nursing daughter’s thrush while your son begs to go to Jack in the Box to get a hamburger and toy, to which you have already agreed (about a hundred iterations ago) and your daughter wails for no apparent reason.
mmo : february 2006