On Gluten and Sleepless Nights

The DragonMonkey got into some gluten the other day.

Frankly, I don’t even know where he found it. The problem is that gluten exists in EVERYTHING and it hides in the strangest of places:

Soy Sauce.

Meatballs.

Cat food.

Ketchup.

Dog food.

Play-doh.

That stinking stuff hides in the stupidest of places, and the DragonMonkey post-gluten is a pitiful sight.

Well, actually, if I’m being honest, during the initial stages he’s just annoying.

Something about gluten in his system turns him into the kind of child that makes me daydream about heading to the corner for a carton of milk and never coming back.

The signs creep up slowly: The first sign that he’s managed to infect himself with some kind of wheat product is an increase in his energy.

Imagine a 6 year old with ADHD who just downed 14 candy bars.

Yeah, we’re talking that kind of increase in energy.

The DragonMonkey bounces from room to room, careening off furniture and clipping corners as he bolts past.

His normally sweet behavior flies out the door.

Every toy is thrown. Every book is slammed against a wall. He has no interest in being held or anything remotely involved with being still.

“KICK!” he cries gleefully, lashing out an unsuspecting cat with his stubby, toddler leg.

The cat gives a pitiful meow and slinks away to another corner.

“HEY!” I say, reaching forward. “NO KICKING!”

SQQQQQQUEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” The DragonMonkey eludes my grasp and bolts into another room, shrieking wildly at the top of his lungs.

“GET BACK HERE. NOW!” I can usually stop him with my Angry Voice, but not when he’s had gluten.

I round the corner into the kitchen only to catch the faintest glimpse of him as he disappears around the bend.

Of course, I may not be able see him, but I know exactly where he is.

EEEEEEEEEEEEE! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!! EEEEEE! EEEEEEEEE!!!! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!! EEEEEEEEE! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

I hear the rapid-fire clomping of his toddler-hooves as he races down the hallway, shrieking in a constant, high-pitched, supersonic scream that makes me fantasize about poking out my eardrums with a fork. It might hurt, but at least I’d have some peace and quiet.

“GET BACK HERE. DRAGONMONKEY, NOW!” I’m exhausted from chasing him all day, but if I’ve learned anything from working with dogs and horses, it’s that follow-through is a must. I stomp after him, cornering him in the hallway.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! EEEEEEEEEEEEEE! EEEEEEEEE..” He barely breathes between his nonsensical, agonizingly high-pitched, fire engine screams of energy.

“Get in the corner, right now!”

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! EEEEEEEEEEEEE! EEEEEEEEEEEE…”

“NOW!”

EEEEEEEEE! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE…”

“Fine,” I do my best to raise my voice over the near-constant set of shrieks that are echoing in the hallway. I don’t know if he can hear me, but it makes me feel like I’m doing something. “If you’re not going to obey, then you are going straight to your crib.” I’m not against spanking, but there are times when it’s appropriate and there are times when he’s just too riled up for it to sink in. For spanking to be effective, he needs to understand the correlation (DragonMonkey, if you pull the cat’s ear one more time, you will get one spank. Do you understand?)

EEEEEEE! EEEEE! EEEEEE!…”

Yeah. There’s no way I’m getting through to him with any kind of words. I reach down to pick him up, and he twists out of my hands, feet and arms flailing violently. Purposefully.

EEEEEEEE! EEEEEEEEEEEE! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! KICK! KICK!”

“YOU DO NOT KICK MAMA! CRIB. NOW!”

I drop him in his crib and do my best to not slam the door behind me.

From inside the bedroom comes the muted sounds of a full-fledged tantrum. He slams against the the sides of his crib, rattling the slats like a gorilla, alternately shrieking and sobbing at full volume.

I lean my head against the doorway and fantasize about living in an alternate universe where it’s legal to eat your young.

It usually takes about an hour or three of this behavior before I realize what’s happening. Once I do it helps.

A little.

A couple of hours after the gluten-infested energy attack comes the rash.

Owww.” The DragonMonkey trots out of the hallway, hand clamped over the back of his diaper. “Da poo. Oww.” He complains miserably.

“Do you have poo?” I reach for him, and he backs away, eyes wide.

“Ow.”

Awww, I’m sorry baby, but if you’ve got ‘da poo’ then Mama has to change you.”

The DragonMonkey spins on his heels and bolts down the hallway, and once again I’m playing corner-the-toddler.

My reward for catching him is that I get to wrestle my way through a diaper change.

“Ow! OWWWW! OWWWWWWWWW! OW! NO! OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! NO! NO! OWWWWWWWWWWW!”

He kicks at my hands and does alligator-rolls on the changing table in an effort to avoid my touch. I have to rinse him off in the tub as there’s no way I’m going to get anywhere near his heiny with a wipe. Besides, I’ve learned to pamper his skin during these episodes.

Sure enough, hours later the blistery, angry looking weals appear. They are puffy and raised, looking like burns against the whiteness of his skin.

OWWWWWW! OW! OWWWWWW!” He sobs as I dab on anti-fungal cream and soothing lotion.

“Sorry, baby. Sorry,” I murmur.

When I’m done I pick him up, and he sinks into my arms, miserable. He’s whiny and fussy, but I find this stage a great deal easier to deal with than the hyperactive stage.

Getting him to sleep is a chore. He wakes up repeatedly throughout the night, crying quietly from stomach cramps.

Yaay for gluten intolerance.

The other night we only had a mild reaction. The diaper rash faded quickly and I thought we would have a chance at a nice night’s sleep.

We put him down with a bottle at 8.

He was up at 8:45, crying.

We gave him another bottle.

He was up at 9.

I went in and rocked him.

He was up at 9:20.

Sighing, I turn to the Bean. “Move over. I’m going to let him sleep with us tonight.”

The Bean pauses the show and I go in to collect my softly crying, sleepy son.

I place him on the bed between us, arranging his blankets around him.

The Bean turns Grey’s Anatomy back on.

We watch the episode quietly, and the DragonMonkey slowly fades off to sleep.

That is, until the credits roll.

The instant the music for the ending sequence begins to play, the DragonMonkey slams into a sitting position like he’s been yanked forward with a rope and begins to clap his hands.

Yaaaay,” he says sleepily, eyes large and glassy. Clap, clap, clap.

The Bean and I laugh at the suddenness of his strange reaction and his robotic enthusiasm.

“Guess he wasn’t completely asleep. Heh. Cute. Want to watch another one?”

“Sure,” I say as the DragonMonkey lets me coax him gently down, his eyes fluttering closed almost immediately.

Forty-minutes later, the DragonMonkey is completely zonked out. His cheeks are flushed and he lays bonelessly between us, immune to the world.

That is, until the ending sequence starts up.

Right on cue, like a miniature zombie he bolts upright into a sitting position and begins to clap obediently. “Yaaaay,” he strangles out in a croak, struggling to open his eyes.

“What the..?” The Bean and I laugh quietly.

I push the DragonMonkey back down to the mattress where he falls asleep almost immediately.

The Bean presses a button and shuts off the tv, the closing credits disappearing with a wink and a flash of light and static.

Yaaaaay,” intones my strange little son, hands clapping together unenthusiastically as he struggles to sit up.

Shhhh,” I soothe, rubbing my hand on his forehead. “Shhhhh.”

The DragonMonkey rolls over on his side, cuddling closer to The Bean as he fidgets slightly.

I start to drift off.

OWWW!” The Bean yelps. “Leave Dada’s nipple hair alone!”

I smother a laugh.

Yaaaay?” says my son.

Shhhh,” I soothe.

A few more minutes go by and I’m nearly asleep, when….

“Hi.”

The feel of warm breath on my cheek drags me out of my semi-conscious dream state.

Hhhhi.”

The DragonMonkey has smashed his nose against the side of my face in an attempt to see me better in the dark. “Hi,” he whispers.

“That’s it. Time for bed.” I pick him up and carry him, the bottle, and the blankey into his room. I shut the door quietly behind me and return to my bed. I heave myself down into a comfortable position and am just drifting off when…

Waaaaaaaaah…” The DragonMonkey’s sleepy wails cut through the silence. Both The Bean and I lay tense, trying to see if he’ll cry himself back to sleep.

Fifteen minutes later his sleepy wails are now angry shrieks.

“I’ll go get him,” The Bean says, returning with an armload of angry toddler. He drops him on the bed between us. Immediately, the DragonMonkey turns to me, holding me tight.

His shuddering breaths ease slightly, and I rub the top of his head in a soft, soothing gesture. “Shhhhshhhh…”

I repeat this for several minutes, eventually lulling even myself into a sleepy, semi-comatose state.

I’m nearly asleep when I hear it.

“Hi.”

Pause.

“Hi.”

Pause.

Hhhhhiiii,” followed by a soft, warm nose being pressed against the side of my face.

“Hi,” he whispers happily.

Shhhh.”

Silence.

“Hi!” This one’s a little louder.

SHHHH!” I pet the top of his head for another few minutes. The second I stop, I hear it again.

“Hi!”

“Do you want to go back into your crib?” I feel bad snapping at him when he’s so happy to be beside me, but by this time it’s after 11.

He stills instantly, rolling onto his stomach and chewing his blanket. Ah, yes. Those are good signs.

I roll away from him and fade away to sleep……

“Hi.”

Pause.

“Hi.”

Pause.

Annoyed, I reach over to pick him up and carry him back into his room.

He begins crying immediately.

I lay him back down on the bed. His eyes squeeze shut as he hugs his blankey tightly.

I lay down beside him. My breathing evens out. His breathing evens out. The Bean’s breathing evens out.

And yet I’m not surprised when I hear it.

“Hi.”

I’m a Terrible Parent

I miss going out to eat.

Don’t get me wrong – the DragonMonkey isn’t necessarily ill-behaved in a restaurant. He doesn’t throw food or scream “NO!” in a whiny pitch at the top of his lungs. He’s just loud. And HYPER.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing something wrong. I see other toddlers his age sitting in their stained, sticky high-chairs, quietly coloring on the kid’s menu. “Blue?” They hold up their crayon and smile placidly at their parents for a moment, then resume their scribbling while quietly chewing on a bite of chicken.

I hate those kids. I hate those parents. They make it look so easy.

Usually, going out to eat with the DragonMonkey ends up looking like one of those calf-dressing competitions a the rodeo.

I walk in with him twisting at the end of my arm like a kite in the wind.

GLOBO!” He screams the instant we hit the doorway, pointing frantically at the half-deflated, sad-looking balloon tied to the wall.

GLOBO! ! GOBO! GOBO! BOBO! BOBO! BOBOBOBOBOBOBOBOBO! BOBOBOBOBO! BOBOBOBO!!!!!”

SSHHHHHHH!!!!” The Bean and I both hiss, faces reddening as the entire restaurant turns to stare at the commotion.

GLOBO!” He shrieks again.

“YES, I see it. Balloon. Globo. I see the globo. Right there.” I point at the balloon, acknowledging it.

The DragonMonkey quiets, slightly mollified. Crisis averted. His parents are now aware that there is a GLOBO!!!! in the room. After all, what if he hadn’t alerted them to its presence? They could have walked by a GLOBO!!!!! completely unaware of its existence. That could have been a catastrophe.

GOBO? MINE? GOBO?” He asks hopefully.

I pretend to not understand. “Yes, I see the globo. What a pretty ballon. Bye-bye, balloon! Adios, globo! Adios!” I wave at it enthusiastically as I bolt past.

The DragonMonkey waves listlessly. “Aye-dye, Bobo,” he says sadly as we leave it behind. Goodbye, my balloon lover. Goodbye, my sweet, sweet Bobo.

The Bean and I settle into a booth with the DragonMonkey on our laps, ignoring the high chair. The DragonMonkey only has about a 20 minute window of sitting in a high chair. If we waste it before the food comes, then we won’t get any chance to eat.

I hand him a crayon.

He takes it with a quiet “Ta-ta” (thank you) and colors for a brief moment before flinging it to the ground.

“Uh-OH,” he says, eyes huge and innocent. “UH-OH!” The crayon is on the GROUND. How did it get there? No worries, he’ll go get it!

He starts to twist off the seat, but I’m ready for him and grab him under his armpits. “No. Sit. Mama will get it.” I’m not going to be fooled by that game again.

I hand him the crayon, and he squats on his haunches, coloring again for a brief moment.

Suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, he flings the crayon with a shriek of laughter. The Bean and I watch it go sailing halfway across the restaurant with an air of resignation.

“Uh-OH!” The DragonMonkey looks up at me again with wide, innocent eyes. Mother, my crayon appears to have magically translocated itself across the restaurant without my permission! Whatever shall we do?

“We do NOT throw things in the restaurant. NO! You know better.” I shake my finger in front of his nose. “The next time you throw something, you will get one flick, do you understand?”

The DragonMonkey stares up at me, eyes huge. Wounded. He didn’t throw anything. The crayon magically FLEW across the restaurant. Why was he getting in trouble? “UH-OH!” he repeats again helpfully. Didn’t I hear him say that?

I shake my head. “No, it was NOT an ‘Uh-Oh’. You threw it on purpose. That was bad. No. If you throw it again, you get one flick. Do you understand?” I start to pantomime, making sure I’m getting the point across. “Throw”, and I mimic throwing, “and you get one flick.” I flick the back of my hand much harder than I would ever flick his and make an exaggerated show of wincing. “Throw equals flick. Do you understand?”

Dah,” he nods sadly.

“You understand?” I repeat one more time.

“Yeah. Dah.” He nods, hands still in his lap, completely crushed at my unfair accusation. He would never throw a crayon. Only bad boys throw crayons.

“Okay,” I say, giving him a kiss on the forehead.

Immediately, his hand whips forward, grabbing the crayon with astonishing speed and precision before launching it an impressive distance away. I turn to him and he bursts into horrified tears, hiding his hands behind his back. He didn’t mean to! He didn’t mean to!

Feeling like an ogre, I pry his hand out from behind his back and flick the back of it lightly. He howls like I’m dipping his hand in flesh-eating acid. “You threw the crayon, you earn one flick. This was your choice.” The second it’s over, the tears shut off like someone threw a switch and he eyeballs the direction the crayon disappeared.

“Uh-oh?” He asks hopefully. Would I believe that this crayon also accidentally flew halfway across the restaurant? And if I’m willing to believe that, since it was such an obvious accident, can we escape the prison that is our table and go get it?

The Bean and I smother a laugh. “Nope. Not buying it, kid. You’re out of crayons now, and it’s your fault. Deal with it.”

The waiter returns with our water.

AGUA!” screams the DragonMonkey in rabid excitement, completely forgetting about the crayons. “AGUA! AGUA! AGUA! AGUA! AGUA! AGUA!” At full volume, the sound of his joyous excitement echoes in the tiny restaurant. If there’s anything that makes his day more than balloons, it’s water. He lunges forward at the glass, and I catch him just in the nick of time.

And so on, and so forth. By the time the meal arrives I’m exhausted. The Bean and I bolt down our food like a couple of starving wolves, barely chewing in an attempt to finish before the DragonMonkey grows bored. We’re frustrated, our nerves are frayed, and the two of us resolve for the millionth time to leave the kid at home until he’s twenty.

Hopefully some of you out there will relate to this scenario.

Hopefully, some of you out there will relate to this scenario so well that you won’t judge me too harshly for what I’m about to share with you.

Last Saturday, The Bean and I sat down to a meal together…. AND ACTUALLY FINISHED IT! The Bean sipped a beer, I chewed my food in quiet relaxation… and the DragonMonkey NEVER MADE A SOUND!

This modern-day miracle was made possible by a wonderful little restaurant called The Rainforest Café. I love you, Rainforest Café.

For those of you who have never had the chance to go there, the Rainforest Café claims to be “Part Adventure, Part Restaurant, and wholly entertaining for the whole family!” Apparently, it “recreates a tropical rain forest with waterfalls, lush vegetation, and indigenous creatures.”

The reality is that the Rainforest Café is an obnoxiously loud themed restaurant with extremely high prices, mediocre food, and lousy service. Half of the restaurant is dedicated to selling overpriced paraphernalia and pushing“Save the Rainforest” propaganda through skewed facts, cheap slogans, and an animated talking tree that gives me the willies. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all about saving the rainforest. I just prefer to have information offered to me rather than crammed down my throat with fanatical passion. I kept expecting to see a sign that read “For every stuffed animal you don’t buy, an evil lumberjack stabs a baby squirrel in the eyeball.”

The other half of the restaurant is filled with creepy animatronic animals that scream, howl and growl in a continuous barrage of “rainforest noises”. There’s a fountain with a giant, plastic alligator that lunges forward and snaps at the air occasionally, an entire wall filled with gigantic, mangy-looking gorillas that beat their chests and show their teeth, stuffed leopards twitching their tails from their plastic tree-perches, and a gigantic snake that looms overhead and hisses menacingly.

The animals are disturbingly poor in their craftsmanship. I mean, it’s 2010. You’d think we would have made a few more advances in the moving stuffed-animal department.

Apparently we haven’t. The animals still move with that eerie, sickly jerking movement that used to terrify me at Chuck E. Cheese, and the jaws still click whenever they open and shut.

The DragonMonkey is TERRIFIED of the stuffed animals.

The Bean and I would never have thought of eating there on our own, but as we walked by the restaurant the DragonMonkey became very, very still in our arms. He turned and buried his face against my neck, peeping out over my shoulder as his arms tightened in a stranglehold.

“Hey, Bean. Check it out. He doesn’t like the gorillas.”

The Bean looked at our quiet, oddly subdued son and laughed. “Yeah, he’s pretty still. I bet if we went in there, he wouldn’t move the entire time.”

We both gave a quick laugh, which faded at exactly the same time.

We stared at each other, eyes widening.

We shouldn’t.

We couldn’t.

No, it wasn’t right.

The poor little guy was obviously terrified. His arms were so tight it was making it difficult to breathe, and anyone who knows our son knows that for him to be still for any length of time means that something is wrong. If we were nice parents we would walk by the restaurant quickly, patting his back and crooning to him in a soothing manner.

Nobody but a heartless, cruel, evil parent would consider tormenting their son by going into the restaurant….

And yet…

“You hungry?” I asked lightly, my voice nonchalant.

“I could stand a bite to eat,” The Bean answered back in a voice just as indifferent.

We approached the hostess standing behind the giant elephant podium casually. “Two, please.”

The DragonMonkey hunched lower in my arms, eyes huge as he stared at the twitching, fake animals lining the walls.

We followed the hostess and sat down at a table, the DragonMonkey completely motionless on our laps.

We ordered our food.

The DragonMonkey continued to be silent and still, occasionally leaning forward to glance around my shoulder to make certain that the flesh-eating gorillas weren’t coming any closer. He chewed his fingers in a nervous habit leftover from his infancy.

The Bean and I chatted casually, enjoying the luxury of being able to finish complete sentences.

The food arrived and we set the DragonMonkey in his highchair, giving him a plate of fries.

He sat quietly, chewing the fries, neck craning as he stared in horror at the menagerie of fake rainforest predators.

At one point he began to get fussy, twisting to get out of his high chair.

“Would you like to go see the gorillas?” I asked in a bright voice. “Do you want down so we can go visit the gorillas?”

He shook his head in silent horror. NO. NO GORILLAS. He liked his high-chair. See? He sat very still and continued to quietly eat his fries, back ramrod straight.

This threat worked for the entire dining experience. Any time he began to be fussy or misbehave, the Bean and I countered with a cheerful offer to go visit the assortment of creepy animals that lined the walls. To our credit, we didn’t torture him. We really did try to make it seem like fun. “Look at the fishies!” we exclaimed in happy voices, pointing at the gigantic saltwater aquarium. “The gorilla is saying hi! Look, it’s waving at you!”

The DragonMonkey stared at these things in apprehensive silence, not fooled in the least by our cheerful prattling. He behaved like a dream for well over an hour.

It was the best dinner of my life.

It’s obvious that Bean and I are going to Hell, but at least we got one good meal together before our trip.

Awkward Moment at Work #732

In the spirit of Mompetition’s videos, which kept me cracking up all evening (and also because I followed the link at the end of the video and had a lot of fun playing around with the free software), today’s Awkward Becky moment will be brought to you in a full-color, stereophonic, cinematic event!

The following conversation took place yesterday morning. So far I’ve avoided returning to the kitchen/break room, since I’m pretty sure I never want to see this guy again.

Ever, ever again.

http://www.xtranormal.com/site_media/players/jwplayer.swfhttp://www.xtranormal.com/site_media/players/embedded-xnl-stats.swf

Waking Dreams

Last Tuesday The Bean came home late, like he does every Tuesday night. I used to try and stay awake and say hi to him, but lately I’ve been too exhausted. I crawled into bed around nine and was asleep moments later.

Exhaustion or not, I’m a light sleeper. The Bean’s night class lasts until ten. Although he tried to be quiet, when he dragged himself through the door at 10:30 and stumbled wearily into our bedroom, I woke up.

Sort of.

The problem is that I have been having some horrifically bad dreams lately.

And, unfortunately, this time when I “woke up”, those evil, bad dreams melded with real life.

This is how I remember the next few moments:

I woke up and the Bean was standing by the edge of our bed, staring down with vacant, soulless eyes.

I tugged the blankets a little higher, waiting for him to say something.

He continued to stare at me, silently menacing, silhouetted by the dim light of the hallway. The Bean’s not really one to just stand there and stare, so I began to get concerned. Who was this person? What if it was some creepy psycho-rapist who just happened to look like The Bean?

I decided to be brave, so I sat up in bed, squared my shoulders, and in what I hoped was a strong, courageous voice I demanded to know, “WHO ARE YOU?”

The Bean continued staring eerily for a moment longer, then replied in normal, soothing tones. “It’s me.”

I felt my tension ease as I recognized his voice.

The Bean continued to stare at me, unblinking.

Sloooowly he raised his “arms”, reaching out to me with distorted, abnormally long appendages.

They looked kind of like this, but much, much worse:

They were misshapen and unnatural, the flesh peeled back in leathery, bark-like strips, the bones of the forearms brittle. Grey. Exposed.

My husband had evil branch hands, and he was trying to touch me with them.

So, naturally, I asked him, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”

And he said, “Your cell phone. You forgot it in the kitchen.”

And then he leaned forward, slowly closing the gap between us, the barklike flesh flaking off onto the sheets as he continued to try to touch me with eerily long, skeletal, branch-like fingers.

So I scooted away and said, “QUIT IT. WHO ARE YOU? STOP THAT!”

After all, my mama didn’t raise no fool. Husband or not, “cell phone” (like I was going to fall for that old trick) or not, I was not going to touch those evil branch hands.

On the other hand, none of this made much sense. I was awake enough to realize that this was kind of stupid.

I mean, my husband doesn’t have evil, flaky, decaying, pointy, scary branch arms OR hands. I may not have the best memory, but this is one of those things that I was sure I remembered correctly. That’s something you might see in a stupid, B-rated horror flick. That kind of stuff didn’t really occur in real life.

On the other hand, I could see them.

But I knew he didn’t have them. It didn’t make any sense. People don’t have evil, scary branch arms, and if they did, they wouldn’t be standing there calmly at the end of my bed, talking about the cell phone I left on the kitchen counter.

It didn’t make sense at all.

But I could SEE them.

“Turn on the light,” I said.

The Bean paused, his six-foot long arms jutting jutting out motionless in front of him. He continued to stare, unblinking, eyelids peeled back from eyes that were no longer human. The warm brown of his normal gaze had darkened into something flat, black, and utterly alien, the vacant cesspools of color swallowing up the white of his eyes.

“Why?” He sounded sweet, reasonable, and calm.

But he had holes for eyeballs and branch hands.

This was so confusing.

“Look, Bean, just turn on the light, okay? I need to see something.”

“Sure, no problem,” he said amiably. He angled one of the arms awkwardly to the side, and I watched as the branch/bones of his forearm extended itself until he could reach the light from where he was standing.

CLICK.

The bedroom light filled the room, and there he was, looking down at me quizzically with his normal, blinking eyes and his nice, pink little arms and hands.

He handed me my cell phone.

“Here you go, Becky. I thought you might need this. Do you need me to set the alarm?”

“Uh, no. Thanks.” I took it from his wonderfully normal-looking hands and lay back down to sleep.

The Next Morning:


Me
: “Ummm, Bean? Do you remember coming in last night? Did you hand me my cell phone?”

(Did you suddenly grow creepy, evil long arms and holes for eyeballs that morphed away into normalcy when touched by the light?)


The Bean: “Yeah. When I came in the bedroom you sat upright, mumbled something incomprehensible, reached out and took your cell phone that I brought in for you, and then flopped back down and went back to sleep.”

All I can say is that it’s a good thing I don’t do drugs.

NaNoWriMo and a Bunch of Whining

Dare I?

It hasn’t been an easy couple of months at our home. Morning sickness faded into a sudden, intense lactose intolerance that took way too long to pinpoint… which faded into a sudden, intense heartburn that registers as intense nausea.

All I can say is that for someone who is nauseous all day long I sure can pack on the pounds.

Sigh.

A woman’s body prepares for any eventuality during her pregnancy, and a significant portion of expected weight gain is allotted as “maternal fat and nutrient stores.”

Doesn’t that sound fancy?

My body has apparently decided to outfit itself for some kind of famine of biblical proportions.

Great big earthquake? Stranded on a deserted island? Nuclear winter? Bring it ON. I’ve got maternal stores for MONTHS.

My maternal stores bring the boys to the yard… and they’re like, it’s better than yours….

No. Not really. But wouldn’t that be nice?

The nausea from heartburn is constant, but compared to the horrors of morning sickness it’s more than livable. Unfortunately, I’ve found a new pregnancy joy: Sciatica. (Have I mentioned how much I dislike being pregnant yet?)

Sciatica is doctorese for “a tiny, two inch section of exposed, raw, bleeding, vibrating, pulsating, excruciating nerve in your back that will cause you to whimper in agony and do your best to claw at the walls while remaining absolutely motionless lest you disturb it further.” Sciatica and heartburn are both proof of something I’ve always heartily believed: people should lay eggs.

The good news is that pregnancy did take care of the worst of my symptoms from rheumatoid arthritis. Except for a couple of breakthrough days the swelling and pain is minimal. Yaaay for small favors. Unfortunately, the long-term damage is still there, and packing pounds on an already heavy frame is not doing my damaged knees any good.

I try to enjoy these months of “freedom” from the shadow of RA, but it’s hard, knowing what is probably just around the corner once I give birth. I know it’s my own faulty immune system attacking my joints, but I can’t help but personify it. I feel like I’m sharing my body with an unwelcome guest, a snarling wolf who batters and howls at the door even on the days when he’s not allowed inside. Those of you who live with constant pain know how it can be— there are good days.

There are bad days.

Unfortunately, there just don’t seem to be any free days.

When I was young, I used to dream about flying. I’d revel in the feel of conquering the wind, tasting its sweetness against my face.

Now, I dream about running.

In my dreams I am young, and my body is agile. When I run, my feet flit along the surface of the ground and I can feel the strength of my youth rising up to buoy me. I dash about, never breathless, never hurting. I twist and leap. My body sings with the joy of living.

There’s a release in every movement, a delight in my strength. The purpose behind my dreams is always thinly veiled substitution for the real plot: freedom from my pain.

I can taste the joy of my pain-free, agile body, and it makes me laugh.

Try as I might to avoid the moment, I always wake up. I hate waking up.

Sallow-faced and puffy-eyed, I slowly heave myself to a sitting position, trying desperately to ignore the rolls of extra flesh and the ponderous, heavy feeling of my body. Of my soul.

I love my husband. I love my son. I even love this unborn little parasite who wedges its little feet down in my pelvic cavity and drums its evil little heels against extremely sensitive nerve endings.

I can love them with all my heart, but if I’m honest with myself, it’s not enough. Maybe it is for some woman, or maybe those women are just better at lying to themselves than I am. I need a reason to feel excited about life. I need a purpose. I need something to pit myself against– something a little more intricate and involved than Just. Plain. Surviving.

Why not NanoWriMo?

I admit, it’s not quite the same as backpacking through Europe and Asia, completing the Tevis Cup or hiking the Appalachian Trail, but at least it would be something.

Besides, something seems to have happened to my words.

I used to have a steady flow of words dancing inside of me. They ebbed and flowed, depending on how I felt, but they were always there. It’s soothing, having them inside of me, whispering silently. In quiet times they were calming, trickling by in melodic spurts.

When life went wrong they’d bubbly up, frothy and angry, surging forth in a heated, scalding rush. I had no choice in those moments but to let them splash out onto paper. There was no containing the words when they reached that point.

Some of my best writing came from those moments. Rage-filled and tear-laden, what it lacked in proper grammar it usually made up for in sheer, violent expression. I rarely showed it to anyone. Who has the strength to rip open their emotional veins , spill themselves onto paper, and then show the result to a stranger? What do you say to them? “Please, be gentle when critiquing my lifeblood. Keep an eye out for extra commas, dangling participles, and the very essence of what makes me who I am.”

Yeah. Right.

Here’s the problem, though: Something has happened to my words.It’s not depression. I know that feeling– I spent the better part of a year after the DragonMonkey was born with my smile mask firmly in place, doing my indifferent best to slog through to better times. It’s not that. It’s more like… that side of me that I prized so highly has dwindled. Where once there was a steady gush, now there’s only a trickle. I can feel them sitting there, quietly dormant inside of me. I know I haven’t lost the ability to feel, to write. It’s more like it’s just gone into a quiet hibernation.

And that, more than anything, scares the crap out of me.

Even if I don’t capture the words on paper as often as I should, I’ve always considered myself a writer. I may lack the discipline to sit down in front of a keyboard every night, but that doesn’t keep me from tasting the phrases throughout the day.

Now, suddenly, when I reach for my words… I find nothing.

This silence is eerie.

So… why not do NaNoWriMo? Maybe it will be the jump start I need to shock me back into life again.

On the other hand… I’m exhausted.

I work over 50 hours a week. I’m pregnant and struggling with finding my way through my newly-aggressive rheumatoid arthritis. I’ve got an almost 2-year old son. I have a husband with 3 jobs who is going to school full-time.

I don’t want to start something that I can’t finish. That would just be depressing. I’ve done too much of that in my life, and I’m trying to shut that door very firmly behind me.

Also, if I’m honest with myself, I’ve never been all that great at fictional pieces. I’m too realistic, and the people in my books tend to be too realistic. By the time everybody’s finished using their God-given common sense, it’s somewhere around the third chapter and it usually makes sense for everyone to just wander off and watch Grey’s Anatomy or do some dishes instead of doing anything book-worthy.

Realism never made for great drama.

On the other hand, I’ve got to do SOMETHING. I considered doing doing NaNoWriMo last year, but I hadn’t even heard of its existence until it was already half a week into the competition. By the time I decided I wanted to do it I was already more than a week in the hole and I knew I’d never finish in time.

Have any of you done NaNoWriMo? I mean REALLY done it? Was it worth it?

For that matter— what do you do to pull yourselves out of your slumps?

I used to:

A: Turn to horses (not a possibility right now for obvious, pregnancy-related reasons)

and

B: Take some time to myself and just disappear from society. I’d quit answering phone calls, quit going online and just spend some time living in my thoughts. I’d spend every spare minute I could outdoors. You’d be amazed how good for the soul a few consecutive nights of walking a beach can be.

Unfortunately, time to yourself and living with a two year old are pretty much mutually exclusive.

So, no words to purge the mess, no time alone, and no horses. I’m pretty much at a loss at how to fix me.

Any suggestions, guys?

Signs You’ve Angered the karma gods

1. You catch a bad cold.

2. You catch a bad cold and you’re pregnant, so you can’t take any medication to make it better.

3. You catch a bad cold, you’re pregnant, and you’re so busy this week at work that there’s absolutely no way you can take a sick day.

4. You catch a bad cold, you’re pregnant, you can’t take a sick day…. And when you show up at work, you discover that today is the company “FUN DAY!” Everyone is getting ready to load up in a shuttle bus to head over to Temecula to tour wineries and spend the day wine tasting! Yaaay! Followed by Mexican food! Double Yaaay! There are prizes and handouts! Triple Yaaaay! FUN DAY is the best!

5. You are one of only 2 employees in the entire office that doesn’t work for the company that’s hosting FUN DAY! (Seriously. Fun Day! That’s literally what it’s called.)

6. As it turns out, a couple of people cancelled so they have room! Come along! Come join in the happiness! Come ride on the FUN DAY bus, filled with happy faces, laughter and merriment!

7. You can’t. You’re so busy at work you can’t even take a sick day, remember?

I’m not sure what I did wrong with my life this week, but it must have been a doozy.