Loneliness and big hugs

Benjamin has had two relatively tear-free days at school.  He seems to be adjusting to the concept, enjoying himself more and making friends.  This morning, however, when I mentioned it was nearly time to get dressed for school, he got sad again.  He started crying.  (My poor guy.)  I asked him how he was feeling, and he said, “I don’t want to go to school.”  Upon further questioning, I got answers that progressed to, “I don’t like the kids”, “I don’t want to go”, “I don’t like it there” and finally, “I’m all alone there — I feel lonely.”

That’s the real issue, I think:  I’m pretty sure he actually does like the kids, and he does like the school.  He’d stay there all day if Dan, Liam & I were there with him.  (Actually, I think he’d probably be pretty happy even just with me.)  I am so proud of him for being able to voice how he feels.  I am so impressed that he understands why he feels that way.  I want to reassure him that his feelings are normal without feeding them.  I want to validate the way he’s feeling, and I want to encourage him to continue to be honest about his feelings, but I’d rather not have it turn into tantrums about going to school.  It’s hard.  I tell him that it makes sense that he feels that way, that I understand, and that when I started school, I felt lonely, too.  And then I tell him that some of my best friends, even now, are people I met at school.  (That’s actually pretty cool — I have friends I’ve known since kindergarten, and he’s played with their kids, so he knows who they are.)

I think that helps him a little, but getting dressed for school, he was still a little sad (although no more crying).  Just before it was time to go, Liam toddled over to Benjamin, fell against him, then took his arms and wrapped them around him, giving him a big hug.  He let go, smiled up and Benjamin, and then tucked his head against him and hugged him again.  And again.  Benjamin smiled and hugged him back.

Then they lost their balance and fell in a heap on the floor, laughing.  (No injuries.)  I told Benjamin, that if he feels lonely today, he should remember Liam’s hug and remember that Liam and I will be there very soon to pick him up.  As he was leaving, he said goodbye to all of us, and said, “Bye Liam!  Liam loves me and I’ll see you soon!”

I love my boys.  I am so happy that I have them in my life, but even happier that they have each other.  Liam isn’t even 1 yet, and he’s already loving Benjamin and providing emotional support.  I feel so lucky to be their mom.

Grumpy pants

2 sick kids, 2 sick grown ups, almost no sleep plus a cup of coffee spilled all over the floor, the walls, the end table and the side of our big, comfy living room chair = me as Ms. Grumpy Pants.  (Nice to meet you.)

I haven’t been in a foul mood all day, but it’s been there, just under the surface.  I have a lot to be happy for today, actually, and when I remember that, things go better.  It looks like out house will actually be sold sometime in the next 7 days, drastically improving our financial picture.  Dan joining the rest of the family in the ranks of the ill is a bummer, but at least he was able to get excused sick leave from work today, so he was able to be home with us most of the day, without being charged any time off for it.  My kids are sweet and funny and wonderful (when they aren’t being fussy, whiny and incredibly needy).

Truth is, I hate being sick.  I have never been good at giving myself a break, psychologically or practically, and I am constantly giving myself a hard time for not doing more, regardless of how I’m feeling.  So, regardless of my understanding that I’m sick, it starts to get to me that the house is in such a state, the laundry isn’t getting done, we’re watching tv all day and we’re eating carryout for dinner.

Here’s hoping that we wake up feeling better tomorrow, or at least that I do better on excusing myself for my daily responsibilities.

Please come console your brokenhearted child

So, today, it happened.  Just over an hour after I had left him, I got a phone call from one of the teachers, saying, “Ben is very upset and is crying a lot.  We think you should come and get him sooner than we had planned.”  (They all call him “Ben” all the time — it doesn’t bother me, but I’m surprised at the 100% assumption of using the nickname.)  As I was only 15 minutes away, having coffee, I was happy to oblige.  When I got there, he was hysterical — “Mommy!  Mommy!  I want my Mommy!”  I could hear him in the hall.  I walked in, Liam in my arms, and sat down on the floor in front of him and gathered him up in a huge hug, Liam and all.  His face was wet, red and swollen from crying.  My poor guy.

I asked him, and the teachers, what it was that had upset him so much, and they all said it wasn’t anything in particular.  The teachers surmise that after watching a few kids have tearful goodbyes with their own parents, he decided he ought to find out where I was.  He was happy immediately upon my arrival.  A few minutes later, I asked him how his day had gone so far, and he smiled and said, “It was great!”  I told him we were going to go home, and he wanted to stay.  The teachers recommended that we go ahead and leave early today, and then come in later tomorrow (hopefully missing most of the tearful goodbyes between other kids and their parents) and keep it short.  We’re also making sure to plan for his time tomorrow to coincide with outside playtime, which, so far, is his favorite thing.

My poor little guy.  It breaks my heart that he wanted me and I wasn’t there.  For my entire walk there, I kept thinking, “He needs me and I’m not there”, and I kept reminding myself, “No, he wants me, he doesn’t need me –he’s actually safe and fine.”  I’m encouraged by the fact that he still characterized his day as “great” and that he wanted to stay.  I asked him, later on this afternoon, whether he wanted to go to school tomorrow.  He said yes.  I told him that Liam & I would take him in the morning, and drop him off, and then come back a little while later.  He didn’t like that — he wants us to stay.

I’m not entirely sure if this is the right thing for him.  I see the way he desperately wants to play with the other kids, and I am happy to hear him tell me about the fun he has.  But, he misses me.  I know that, eventually, he’ll have to be without me, even if he misses me, but I wonder if he isn’t still a little too young for it to be forced on him.  I do like the fact that he likes school, he just wants me to be there.  For tomorrow, we go back to school.  From there, we’ll see.


I yelled at Benjamin today.  Again.  I feel awful.  Again.

It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen from time to time — I’m stressed out, and one of the kids does something that is, legitimately, frustrating or anger-worthy, and I get upset.  But, I get more upset than is warranted by whatever it is that they did.

Today, it was an empty soda bottle to the back of my head, courtesy of Benjamin.  (But, of course, that isn’t *really* what it was about — it started hours earlier as frustration towards Dan.  However, Dan was at work, and I hadn’t had an opportunity to talk to him about it yet, except by text, so I was keeping a lid on it.)  So, Benjamin chucked the soda bottle and I turned around and yelled at him.  “Do not throw things at people!”  I was angrier than I needed to be, but not totally out of line.  He was shocked, but not overly upset.

Then, to calm myself, I walked away (from the dining room to the kitchen — not far) and took a few breaths.  But, for some reason, this set him off, and he followed me, crying.  For some reason, this set me off and I turned around and said to him, “Stop crying or go away until you can stop crying!”


Awesome.  I’m the crappiest mom EVER.  (Ok, not really, but I didn’t know that I had that particular gem of parenting in me.)  I’m really disappointed that I said this to my child.  I walked away, again, to try and compose myself, he cried harder, and I fell apart, crying and apologizing (another winning move) and then he cried even harder.

We cuddled and kissed and played a couple of games and watched tv and I gave him a bottle and I think we’ve made up.  I upset him, to be sure, but like before, I think me being upset was the most traumatic part for him.

I do not want to yell at my kids for stupid stuff — certainly not because I’m irritated with Dan.  I have to get a handle on my stress levels.

My own words

Things can get crazy here pretty quickly.  This afternoon, I had just made Benjamin lunch and set it on the coffee table when he asked me to identify something in a new book of his.  I turned my back on the coffee table for all of (literally) about 30 seconds when I heard a crash and turned around to see Liam, covered in tomato sauce and Benjamin’s lunch (pizza) face down on the floor.  The pizza wasn’t that hot (thankfully) so no harm was done, just a big mess and a need to reinvent lunch for B.

I picked Liam up, picked the pizza up, put Liam back down (he was covered in sauce, and I didn’t feel like smelling like pizza the rest of the afternoon) and turned around to get a napkin (again, maybe 20 seconds of walking from one side of the living room to the other to pick up a napkin) and turned around to see my very fast youngest child assaulting my computer (which, very foolishly, had been left on, unlocked and within reach of my kids).  By the time I got to him (about 4 seconds later) my computer was covered in pizza sauce, he had completely changed the way my Outlook interface looks and started to compose a message to a listserv at MITRE.  (I still haven’t figured out how to change the interface back, because babies have special computer ninja powers that allow them to access otherwise unknown features of applications and the operating system.)

At this point, I, my youngest child, my floor and my computer are covered in pizza sauce, when about 90 seconds earlier life was peaceful and I was feeling quite together.  A little frustrated, I sat down, scooped Liam up (pizza sauce and all) and said, “Argh, Liam!  What am I going to do with you?”

At which point, Benjamin came up to me with a patient and understanding expression and said, “Mommy, I know little brothers sometimes mess things up, but Liam doesn’t mean to.  He’s only a baby.”

After removing my jaw from the floor, and saying something like, “I know, baby, I’m just frustrated”, he responds with, “Sometimes people get angry, but it’s ok” (still patting my shoulder).

I guess he’s been paying attention, after all.  And, he’s right.  So, I gave both Liam and Benjamin big hugs and lots of kisses, cleaned everyone up and we all shared leftovers for lunch.

(Thanks, Benjamin.)


Getting myself together

I have not had an easy week.  It hasn’t been a bad week, just very busy, with lots of stuff to do (and some weird and random things thrown in, just to keep it interesting) and it followed on the heels of having guests for over a week.  Whenever I have a week like this, I struggle to keep my head on straight.  It’s my natural tendency to succumb to the pressure of the stress and freak out — become irritable, short tempered, sad, anxious, angry.  For reasons I don’t think I will ever understand, when subjected to more than usual stress levels, my brain somehow flips the importance of things — things that shouldn’t matter too much to me (like how clean my house is, whether or not I’m on time to a play date, or whether we got a chance to cook the chicken in the fridge before it went bad) become vitally important, and things that really ought to matter (like what kind of day my kids are having or whether or not I’ve eaten in the past 8 hours) threaten to take a back seat.

I’ve fought this fight all week.  Some days went well, and others not so well.  I freaked out over little things more than once, but I managed to win a couple of those battles, too.  As the week has gone on, the stress has increased, not decreased.  I knew I had to do something to bolster my defences, or things would continue to deteriorate, so I planned to spend all of today resting and playing with my kids — nothing gets me back to “good” faster than some time alone to read plus some time to enjoy my boys without having to be anywhere or do anything in particular.

Circumstances conspired against me, however, and I wasn’t able to do that for a lot of today.  I did get a little bit of reading in during nap time (while BOTH children were sleeping at the SAME time) and I got a little play time in.  But, I’m still not quite to where I want to be . . . so I’m replanning my day tomorrow with some recuperation and recharging time.

I am not giving up easily.  I want to be the best mom I can be for my kids:  I want to take challenges in stride, let little things go and keep a positive, mature and level-headed outlook regardless of what happens.  Or, at least get closer to all of those things than I am now.  I’m really, finally realizing that the only way that is going to happen is for me to be in a good mental place.  It’s like getting enough sleep if you’re an air traffic controller — you can’t fake it, you have to sleep.  Lives depend it.  My kids’ happiness and sense of security depend on me getting my head together.

So, for tomorrow, reading Harry Potter and playing trains with Benjamin are on top of my to do list.  This is important.

Crying in public

I have one of those faces — if I have cried, anytime in the past 4 hours or so, you’ll be able to tell when you look at me.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m so fair, or because I have a lot of pink in my complexion, or just because when I cry I tend to really let it out, but I can’t hide it.  I’ve never understood when people say, “Go in the bathroom, splash some water on your face and pull yourself together”.  All I get is a wet face.

Being overwhelmed, homesick or just stressed — I’ve cried several times since I’ve been here.  And I have definitely gone out in public after crying (without waiting the requisite 4 hours to get the evidence off of my face).

But I doubt anyone would notice.  Not because people don’t really make casual eye contact here (although that’s also true) but because it seems to happen all the time here — people cry in public.  It’s not something I’m accustomed to from home — there, we’re all very busy pretending to have it together and showing everyone how happy we are all the time.  If you see someone crying in public, you’ll avert your eyes and probably be embarrassed for them.  Here, it just happens.  People (mostly women) will just be walking down the street in tears, or very obviously recently in tears, with no shame about it.  No one pays it any particular attention, as I can tell.

It’s awesome.  It’s really liberating for me, as someone who has to hide for hours after crying, to have one less thing to worry about.  I can cry if I need to, and even if I’ve cried recently, no one is going to care one bit if it’s obvious on my face as I walk down the street.  (I’m working on not caring whether or not they care, but I’m not there yet.)  I haven’t taken advantage of this liberation yet, but I’m sure opportunity will present itself soon enough.

On the mend

What a day.  Woke up this morning to discover that Liam had apparently scratched his eye — his left eye was red and had a semi-visible scratch on it — on the eye ball.  (And yes, this is a remarkably similar injury, down to being in the same eye, as my horse was discovered to have yesterday.)

So, we proceeded (as parents do) to discuss taking him to the doctor, versus seeing if he improved on his own, and the logistics of each plan.  Dan went to work, and called from the office to talk to our new pediatrician, who, it turns out, doesn’t have office hours on Thursdays, so he called her cell and left a message.  Hours passed, and I stared at his eye all morning (he seemed to really enjoy all the “face” time with mommy) and tried to figure out whether I should leave him alone, take him to the emergency room or call another doctor.

Dan finally got a hold of our pediatrician, and after some debate back and forth (always made easier by language barriers) we decided to have him seen by a pediatric opthamologist who, conveniently enough, works out of the same office as our pediatrician (across the street) . . . but who is also out of the office on Thursdays.  I’m a mom — I said I wanted to see the specialist, and after a few more phone calls, she decided to come in (on her day off) and meet us.

Meanwhile, I’d had existing plans to meet with a potential primary care doctor for myself today.  Her office is on the next block from here, so I went ahead and went to that appointment while the pediatric ophthalmologist came in to meet us.  My new doctor (who is amazing, and, weirdly enough, has the same name as my childhood pediatrician) took a look at Liam’s eye, too, and wasn’t worried.  But, as I am a mom, that didn’t do it for me.  (I did find out that my new doctor does *house calls*.  How great will that be in January when I have the flu and don’t have to tote both kids out in the snow to get a diagnosis?)

So, after that, we headed to the pediatric ophthalmologist — who was also wonderful.  She had, in fact, come in on her day off, with both of her children (one of whom is 4 months old) just to see us . . . and tell us that Liam is completely fine.  We got some drops for his eye as a precaution, but she’s not worried about him.

Benjamin, Liam and I then headed off for the pharmacy, to get the eye drops . . . and then I get a text from Dan.  He has (because some part of him still thinks he’s 12) jumped down half a flight of stairs at worked and pulled a muscle in his leg and is in the infirmary.  (Yes, really — and he’s going to be fine.)  They set him up with an ice pack and he took a nap while resting his leg.  Then he got a note from the nurse excusing him from the rest of the day at work, and tomorrow as well.

So, today, we met two great doctors (one of which came in on her day off to see us) and got a day off of work.  (Granted, Dan is in some pain, but perhaps there is some education in there for him, as well.)  Good work, Austrian health care system!

Splashing in Puddles

This morning started off rainy (and cold).  While Dan & Liam napped together in the living room, Benjamin and I decided to take Bailey out for his morning walk.  I got B all suited up in his rain gear (which I haven’t been able to do for over a month) and we headed out into the rain.

Benjamin loves to jump in puddles.  I know that’s a kid thing, but I don’t know that I’ve ever seen someone with the endless enthusiasm he has for it.  He just doesn’t get tired of it.  I don’t think he would stop on his own until he fell down from exhaustion.  All along our path to Bailey’s walking spot, B splashed in puddles.  He doesn’t discriminate:  big or little, clean or dirty.  He splashes in them all, and all with great vigor.  He gets soaking wet.  He gets really dirty.  He doesn’t care.  (I am grateful that we now have our things, so we have plenty of clean pants for him to wear.)  He also doesn’t care what anyone thinks about what he’s doing (we sure did get some looks — this is apparently something Austrian grandmothers do not approve of).  He is completely “in the moment” and it’s a great thing to witness.  I feel so lucky to get to be a part of things like that.  We walked along with Bailey, and B jumped in puddles and asked me to help him put his hands in his pockets when he got chilly.  He is just the cutest thing.

Then, Dan & Liam joined us, and we headed to McDonald’s (I know, it’s a theme) to get coffee.  Dan & Liam went inside to order, while Benjamin and I stayed outside with Bailey (and the puddles).  After a few minutes, B decided he wanted to go in to join Dan, and not thinking about it overly much, I opened the door to let him in.  The floor was unbelievably slippery (Dan later said even the stroller had trouble) and B got a few steps away from me and fell flat on his face on the floor.  (My poor, sweet, little guy.)  I was still in the doorway, and when I went to go towards him to pick him up, I ended up with Bailey on the other side of the door and me still holding the leash.  Eek!  So, poor Benjamin is on the floor, crying, I’m stuck trying to extricate myself from Bailey and the door.  Two very nice guys who were standing there helped Benjamin up and helped him over towards me (which I am incredibly grateful for, but I don’t think I actually thanked them — I only had eyes for Benjamin).

Ugh.  Not one of my best mom moments.  We were having such a lovely morning, and then I do something short-sighted and poor B ends up getting hurt.  (He is fine — I don’t know how he managed it, but he ended up with only a little bruise.)  I had a really hard time not berating myself for it the rest of the day.  I think this is one of the hardest things about being a parent — I don’t mind suffering if I make a mistake, but it is torture to see one of my kids suffer for a mistake that I’ve made.  I hate it.

He’s ok.  To him, we still had a nice morning, and a great day.  I ended up the complete opposite of Benjamin and his puddles:  embarrassed, guilt-ridden and stressed out.  I’m trying to hold on to his perspective.  I *want* that to be my perspective.  But I also wish that the results of my imperfection could be visited only on myself.

That’s it, I’m taking a vacation

Without going into a ton of detail, today was another tough day.  (The summary involves an argument with my husband, vomit from both kids, and baby poop, enough to need to call housekeeping, on less than 4 hours of sleep.  Not pretty.  Although I honestly handled it better than I would have expected this time last week.)  When we were planning this adventure, one of the things I reiterated to Dan repeatedly was, “The only way I can imagine myself doing this is if I think of it as a 1-2 year European vacation.”  The thought of “moving” to Europe was too much for me, but the thought of visiting for extended period sounded pretty good.

I’m going back to that way of thinking.  I think it’s the only way I’m going to make it through this.  So, the laundry may not get done in a timely fashion, I may not use my free minutes during the day to get things done which need to be done and I make absolutely no promises on how neatly my house will be kept.  I will accept that I’m not going to “learn” to truly speak German (although I promise to try my best).  I’m going to go out, walk around, play with my kids, see the sights, drink coffee, eat ice cream and maybe even send some post cards.  If the opportunity presents itself, I’m going to sleep in, too.

I’m on vacation.