To sleep, perchance to dream

That’s right, suckers. I have a master’s degree in Shakesepeare. Lot of good it did me.

Noodle has been sick. For a week. The longest week of my life (excluding the week before she was born, when SHE WOULD NOT COME OUT, and the week after she was born, when Bucket went back to work, when SHE WOULD NOT STOP CRYING). Huh. These grey hairs I keep finding might be from her.

Last weekend, she started acting a little cranky. Then a little more cranky. And then, all hell broke loose.

I took her to our doctor’s office on Monday because she was flooding snot and had a fever. The Serial Misdiagnoser nurse practitioner looked in her ears, listened to her back, and tried to look down her throat, but Noodle was screaming and thrashing, so it was virtually impossible. “Just a bad cold.” I debated about whether to push it, and decided no. Dumb move.

No sleep on Monday night. No nap on Tuesday. No sleep Tuesday night. Short nap on Wednesday. And so on and so forth, with snot sticking to everything, and her hot little body clinging to me and screaming. And I was getting more and more tired, and more and more sensitive, shall we say? By the time Bucket got home at night, I was Zombie Mama, walking wide eyed through the house, mechanically making dinner and putting children to bed and going to sleep myself at 9pm.

Only to wake up to Noodle in the next room screaming, “MAMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” in the middle of the night.

And then Peeta got this new Lego Harry Potter Wii game, which was clearly created by some singleton who hates children and their parents. It has no useful directions, so your child is left trying to wander around rooms and use magic with no understanding of what they are doing, until they break down in tears, which leads their mother, who has been reading walkthroughs from the Internet, to break down into tears and seriously contemplate burning the game and hunting down its creator to make them play the game in a locked room full of children for an unspecified number of hours.

And then it happened. At about 9am on Thursday, an hour before I was to take her to her first dentist’s appointment, I called Bucket to tell him I was about to start researching places with safe haven, and I cracked. Gasping through my tears, I ended up telling him that:

“I can’t cook risotto tonight! It’s tooooooooooo hot and I am tooooooooo tired! I caaaaaaaaaaaaaaan’t!”

And Bucket, wise man that he is, gently said, “That’s fine. We can go out to dinner, or I will cook, or we can get take out. Do you want me to come home now?”

I said no. I pulled it together and brought her to the dentist and she was an angel (of course). She took a short nap and played with her brother. We went to dinner and had Mexican food with margaritas and ate ice cream outside, and I thought life might be worth living. I thanked Jesus (and Mexico) for tequila and its medicinal properties.

I took her to the doctor yesterday morning, to see the Awesome Nurse of Love, who took one look at her snotty face and listened to her phlegmy cough and felt her hot little head and gave me drugs. Oh, drugs. The only way they could have been more welcome was if they had been for me.

It’s Saturday morning and I just slept until 9am. I had forgotten what sleep felt like. It is fucking glorious, if you’re wondering.

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The kid is a sucker

So Noodle has this beastly cold that involves a fever, copious amounts of neon snot, and a whole lot of screaming. Today, she decided she wasn’t going to nap, in her bed or in bed with her poor, defeated mother who just needed a little bit of rest.

Two hours later, Peeta gets off the bus and Noodle throws her arms around him. She pats him on the head and says, “Hi, Peeta.”

I tell him to ask her if she took a nap today. She says yes.

“LIAR!!” I yell.

“You’re still a good girl, Noodle,” says Peeta, holding her hand.

“What?! She DIDN’T EVEN NAP!” I shriek.

Peeta looks at me, shrugs his shoulders and says, “Hey, I love her, man.”

Wherein I question the soundness of my decisions, part II

So we get to the guest house, and it’s all very nice, but we are tired people and we want (and we want the children) to go to bed. We get everyone in jim-jams, send Peeta and Julie to their bunk beds (Peeta made Julie sleep on the top bunk–sorry Jules!), and get into our very comfortable, clean, queen-sized bed with Noodle.

Mistake #1: Not taking one of Julie’s miraculous little green sleeping pills.

So we get into bed, and Noodle immediately becomes chatty. “Hi,” she starts to say, patting my head. “Eye,” she says, poking me in the eyeball. I growl at her and tell her to go to bed. She starts to bounce around, yelling body parts. And then it happens.

“Dickhead! Dickhead! Dickhead!” she screams, jumping up and down on the bed.

I smother a laugh, and Bucket does too, but it is too much and soon we are laughing openly at her, which does not help.

“Dickheaaaaaaaaaaaaaad!”

After a few minutes, it stops being funny and we start growling again.

“Dickhead! Eye! Nose! Dickhead! Ear!” is all we hear for a long time until she realizes she is no longer getting attention and quiets down.

Mistake #2: Saying any kind of inappropriate word in front of my sponge-child. In my defense, I had said the word dickhead a number of days before on the phone to my mother, and at the time, I thought myself clever for not saying my preferred word, fuckhead. But at the time, she started dancing around yelling dickhead, so I should have known she wouldn’t forget.

Mistake #3: Laughing at her while she shouts out said inappropriate word. Noodle, like her brother, is a performer (oh God, we’re so screwed) and will do virtually anything that gets her a laugh.

So Bucket and Noodle fall asleep and I lie in bed, with my eyes scrinched shut, desperately trying to sleep. It is now 1:30 at night and I am Tired. But suddenly, the entire Adele songbook pops into my head.

“Bong. Rumour has it! Bong. Rumour has it!”

“Rolling in the deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!”

“Never mind, I’ll find someone like youuuuuuuuuu!’

Mistake #4: Letting my children dictate which music is played in the car, which is all music from the pop station.

Mistake #5: Not listening to my friend Jeff’s constant rants about how much he hates Adele and how she should be smited. As I was lying in bed, all I could think of was, “Jeff! You were right! I wish she had been smited before all she wrote all these goddamn catchy songs!”

Just when I get Adele out of my head and think sleep is going to happen, a roving pack of wild dogs runs past and decides to have some kind of fight to the death outside our window. And then the world’s biggest plane flies over the guest house. And then the dogs come back. And then another plane.

The last time I looked at my clock was 5:30 am. Our alarm went off at 7.

Mistake #6 (the biggest mistake of all): Going to Africa. I think Noodle was trying to tell me something when she was screaming “Dickhead!!”

There’s a new man in town

Not really. It’s the same man. Or the same boy, I should say.

Henceforth, Tibs shall be known as Peeta. And no, it has nothing to do with the Hunger Games (Give me a little credit. Or maybe not, since I am referencing teen fiction in an open forum, proving that I have read it). Peeta is Noodle’s special name for Tibs, and it seems more appropriate to call him a name we all use, rather than Tibs, which used to be his favorite Ethiopian dish, but has now been replaced by doro wot anyway, so the name is entirely out of date.

You are dismissed.

Wherein I question the soundness of my decisions, part I

I’ve made some very good decisions in my life. Apart from marrying Bucket and adopting Peeta and giving birth to ol’ Noods, I’ve done some smart stuff. I don’t want to brag, but I haven’t screwed things up too badly yet. Please note the use of the word yet.

So it was a little surprising that I considered it wise to take my two small children and my husband and put them on TEN PLANES to three African countries. What do you mean, only a fucking lunatic would do such a thing?

I am that fucking lunatic. Something I only realized when I was about halfway over the Atlantic.

Let me explain: our friend Daisy lives in Botswana. Cool, right? Even cooler if you are cheap bastards like us, who will justify flying down to SOUTHERN AFRICA so that we can stay with friends for free for six days. This is when you realize I never took any math after 11th grade (when I was in a class nicknamed alg-tard). Bucket has no excuse. Because as we all (or everyone but me and my husband, apparently) know, three roundtrip flights from Boston to Johannesburg, via Addis Ababa and Mekelle and Kasane and Gaborone, are slightly more expensive than six nights’ accommodation in a hotel.

As usual, I digress. So we arrived at Logan airport with 300 pounds of luggage (most of it donations, but two bags for us), ready for our Boston-Detroit-Amsterdam-Addis flights, when we were informed we had been bumped. But oh yay, we were on the direct flight! Which was five hours later. And we were still being charged for excess baggage. Let me take this opportunity to say: bite me, Delta.

So we kicked it with my mother at a restaurant in South Boston, drank some Bloody Marys and Guinness, and tried to psych ourselves up for the flight. We went back to Logan and waited at the gate. I ran into my friend Maura’s mother and immediately reverted back to my 12-year-old self, calling her Mrs. W and realizing that I couldn’t even remember her given name because I had never used it. (It’s Kathy, isn’t it, Maura?) It was very odd to be talking to someone as if you are 12, while you are holding your daughter and discussing your friend’s two children.

We all got on the flight, and poor Mrs W. was sitting directly behind me. Of course, someone I know had to be behind me, to suffer through an 8-hour flight with my children. Not a complete stranger, whom I would feel only moderate guilt at having tortured.

It started out okay. Peeta immediately started watching one of the 47 Harry Potter movies, so he was quiet. Noodle was being passed back and forth between me and Bucket, and she was actually kind of quiet. Mrs W even said she was very good (Mrs W was always very kind), which was when I knew it was all about to go terribly wrong.

Noodle started to fidget. She started to squirm. She started to interrupt my festival of Ryan Gosling movies. And she would. not. shut. up. And then she really got going. Oh, Lord, the shrieks. Bucket took her and started wandering back and forth up the aisles, which I’m sure the other passengers appreciated. Share the pain!

Finally, after much snarling back and forth, he handed her back to me. I sang her a song, and she passed out in my lap and I was left to watch the rest of Drive (which I do not recommend, as it is disturbingly violent. Unless, of course, you enjoy watching heads get kicked in and squish like pumpkins).

And we landed. I spent the whole flight awake. The other three slept. Do not ask me if I hated them all a little bit when we got off the plane and they looked all bright eyed, and I was ready to pass out. Because I did.

We said goodbye to Mrs W and sat in a cafe for a few hours, where I downed a cafe latte and then fell asleep on the table. Face down, clutching my bag. There may have been drool, but I think not. That’s right; I’m sophisticated.

The second flight was uneventful. I slept for something like five glorious hours and then woke up while the others slept.

And then we got to Khartoum (because no trip is complete without a stop in Sudan). The pilot suddenly appeared on the loudspeaker. We couldn’t leave because “a light” had come on, and we couldn’t go until they figured out what it was. The man across the aisle then told me that the same thing had happened to him in December and he had been stuck for four hours.

Four more hours. On the plane. With the children. And our friend Julie waiting for us in the Addis airport.

Suicide started looking good.

After an hour and a half, they fixed it (I don’t want to know what it was or how they fixed it, but I am happy we got the hell out of Khartoum). And we were on to Addis.

Except that we had been sitting on the plane breathing dry air for so long that Peeta started to cough. And cough. And cough. And then he started to gag. Right before landing, he puked. All over his lap. And my leg. Which means that two years running, in the final minutes of a flight to Ethiopia, one of my kids spewed on me. (Last year, it was Noodle.) If you have never changed a 7-year-old’s clothes in an airplane bathroom, let me emphatically not recommend it. I never understood the appeal of the mile high club, and my feelings haven’t changed.

When we deplaned, we were greeted with a visa line about 40 miles long. Just when I was about to give up and go to sleep on the airport floor, a beautiful man took us out of the line and put us at the front. Ethiopia, I love you.

We found Julie and our minion from the hotel, and then we waited for the other party from our plane. And we waited. And we waited. After about an hour, the minion told us we were leaving. So we got in the van and started heading to the guest house, when we got a call and turned back to the airport. They had found the missing party. We drove back to the airport, the minion jumped out, we waited for about 15 minutes and then we left again. Without the minion or the missing party.

We got to the guest house at 11:30pm Ethiopian time. Which was 3:30pm Boston time. Which was approximately 26 hours after we arrived at Logan. Which was I decided that going to Africa with a 20-month-old and a 7-year-old and taking eight more planes might have been a very bad decision.

Score one for the mama

There are things people don’t tell you about having kids. Their nails grow like weeds and you are eternally cutting them. Baby poops get a lot grosser after they start solid foods. 18-month-olds often go through a delightful phase called the 18-MONTH-SLEEP REGRESSION, or, as I like to call it, hell.

Noodle stopped sleeping through the night and started waking up screaming, as if she was in agony. Then, she stopped taking naps. I would put her down, and instead of waving goodbye and curling up over her knees to go to sleep, she would stand in her crib, yelling and shaking the walls of the crib like she was a caged animal (I know this because we have a video monitor on which I spy on her regularly while she’s sleeping).

After about four days of this, I took her to the doctor to get her ears checked because we’re about to go to Africa and the last thing I want is an ear-infected child flying to Ethiopia for 16 hours. But no, her ears are perfect. As the doctor said, “There’s nothing wrong with her. Well, maybe there’s something wrong with her, but it’s not her ears.” Did you hear that? Even the doctor has diagnosed my daughter as evil!

Three days ago, she wouldn’t nap for the sixth day in a row. She played quietly for about half an hour and then started the shrieking. And shrieking. And shrieking. I had things to do, though, so I ignored her and locked myself in my office where I couldn’t hear the blood-curdling screams. Let it be said that this is the first time I’ve let her cry it out. I am a big ole sucker and usually go running in as soon as she whimpers. But not this time. I let her scream for two hours before she eventually keeled over from exhaustion and fell asleep. Which is what you do when you’ve been sleep-deprived for a week (Noodle, not me. Or maybe me, now that I think about it).

Three days ago, and she’s slept beautifully since.

Mama: 1. Noodle: 948735983247529352987.