Thursday, September 15, 2011

Going Solo

I have officially (well almost) survived being a solo mum for 4 and a bit days.  I am quite proud of myself actually.  I dropped James at the airport on Sunday afternoon and only got lost 4 or 5 times on the way home.  Three of those times were inside the parking lot at the airport and poor Ben, my kiwi voice on the GPS, was getting rather frustrated with me I think.   During one of those getting lost moments the kids wondered aloud what was going on since Ben kept saying “Mate, turn around when possible”.  I told them that I was a little bit lost but it was ok we had Ben.  Emily then pipes up and says “Mummy, if we’re lost and we’re in Boston could we get lost near the cupcake shop?  Then could we maybe go in and buy a cupcake?”  I let her know that the chances of me getting lost near anything familiar would be quite remote and that the chances of me finding the cupcake shop on purpose were even more remote.  

Each morning during my solo parenting stint I set the alarm clock for 6 am and then just about died of fright each time it went off.  I’m not really a fan of alarm clocks.  I then leapt across the bed, crushing a small child in the process to wildly press buttons and make the torture stop.  I did this every morning (including the child crushing) so that I would not miss buses or rides to school.  Actually my main motivation on the getting out of bed early was that I refuse to be one of those mothers who roll out of bed and take the kids to school in their pjs.  It just can’t happen.  I just know I would have a car accident and have to get out of the car in my pjs and the police would laugh and I would end up in the hospital with my kitty cat pjs that say ‘cool cat’ on them and it would not be cool.  

A similar thing did actually happen to me shortly after having Emily.  We were swimming in the pool together and while getting the baby changed I put my back out so badly I couldn’t move.  Fortunately we were in the family changing room so James was with me but I literally couldn't move.  They called an ambulance and took me to the hospital.  I still had my togs on.  And to make it worse I didn’t just have my togs on I also had some of James’ on too because I didn't want anyone to see my legs.  So I was wearing half my own togs and some of James’ board shorts and they wheeled me into the emergency room like that.  Then there was no room so they parked me in the hallway so everyone was looking at my strange attire as they went by and I was still mostly wet.  

Then I needed to pee.  I still couldn’t move but I couldn’t just lay there so I had James help me up.  I could only go one way so I had him come round to my left side and help me sit up on the bed then swing my legs down.  They had me parked up against a curtain behind which was another lady obviously more seriously injured than me since she had a cubicle.  People had been coming and going for a while and all kinds of things had been carried in and out of her cubicle.  I could hear them talking but really wasn’t paying much attention.  I was more worried about how I was going to hold on while we moved at a snails pace towards the loo.  Firstly, though, I needed to get off the bed.  

Just as we got my legs swung over the side of the bed and James stood directly in front of me trying to help me get upright someone entered the woman’s cubicle.  As they did so they whipped the curtain in a rather dramatic move which pulled it completely open right in front of me.  There she sat completely naked from the waist up, attached to a double breast pump while someone tried to feed her a sandwich.  James started to turn so that he could grab the curtain and pull it back, I whispered “just keep looking at me, don’t turn around” and saw a grateful look pass over the woman’s face as someone in her cubicle jumped for the curtain.

Needless to say, nobody had thought to bring my clothes with them that day so I stayed in the emergency room and then had to hobble home from the hospital later on still dressed in my mismatched swimming outfit.

Anyway, all that to say I don’t think its a great idea if I leave my house dressed in my pjs and to avoid that I needed to get up before the kids in the morning so that I could shower and dress in time and without an audience.

I didn’t sleep very well the first night James was away.  Partly due to the fact that I missed him and partly because I wondered what on earth I would do if he was killed on the plane trip.  You see he had flown out of Boston on a cross country flight on September 11, the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York.  I have to admit I did ask him whether he had life insurance before he left.

I got up the next day and ran on coffee and nerves for the whole day.  Kaitlyn asked me why I was tired and I told her that I didn’t sleep well since Daddy wasn’t there.  She tipped her head to the side and said “well, I don’t think you should take someone else’s daddy to sleep with you because then their mummy would miss them too”.  Wise words from my girl.  I solemnly agreed that this would not be a good solution to my missing daddy problem.

I managed to get everyone fed and bathed and into bed before crashing myself.  I slept the second night out of sheer exhaustion and when I woke it was to find an Emily in my bed.  She was not in there to cuddle with me.  She was in there so she could sleep where Daddy sleeps to feel near to him.  I hadn’t even heard her get in.  She repeated this every night he was gone.

We decided that since Autumn (or Fall) is James’ favourite season that we should give up the idea of it still being summer and decorate the house for the new season.  I had started collecting autumn decorations last year and saved them all up so I wrapped the short banister in fake autumn leaves and put out pumpkins.  I bought scented candles that have autumn smells and got cinnamon flavoured pine cones and pot pourri.  

We even decided to make a special welcome home sign for James.  I cut up coloured paper into smaller pieces and drew the outline of all the letters for ‘welcome home daddy’ then we started decorating.  We did glitter paint, cotton balls dipped in paint, stickers, sequins and more glitter paint.  We left them to dry and then this morning James called and said that rather than going straight to work from the airport as planned, he had decided to come home first.  It was nearly time for Emily’s bus and then it would be time to take Kaitlyn to school and we hadn't strung the sign up.  

I didn’t even know if I had any string.  Emily stood in the middle of the room and said “I’ve got a great idea” she always does have a great idea but sometimes they’re not so great, “I can go and get some wool from the attic and we can string it with that”.  Actually this idea wasn’t so bad so I agreed.  Kaitlyn and Emily disappeared up into the attic (its a walk up one so no ladder involved) and I could hear them thumping around up there.  They finally emerged with a ball of pink baby wool.  Emily said “it was easy, I found a box that was labelled James and Naomi Box 4 and that’s where the wool was.  I’m not sure if its wool or yarn but I think it will work”.  

I stuck the letters to the wool (or yarn if you’re American) and we took the sign into the living room to hang up on the curtains.  It was only then that I saw my mistake.  I had meticulously taped all these letters making sure they were the right way around but had failed to take into account that we here in the Western world read from left to right.  Our beautiful sign now reads ‘YDDAD EMOH EMOCLEW’.  Oh well, I was really out of time by then so that way it will stay.  

We also had out very first proper lounge suite delivered yesterday morning.  Over the weekend James and his dad had moved our old furniture outside to make way for the new ones so we’ve spent the week sitting on the floor or the rocking chair in an empty lounge.  I moved the electronics gear around while James was away and did what he said was not possible.  I put the tv on the mantle shelf above the fireplace (its a tiny tv) and made the cables reach to a small bookcase where I had put all the other boxes, dvd players, xbox, etc etc.  It all fit and as far as I can tell it all still works.  It doesn’t look very pretty but I just wanted to be able to put the furniture into their proper places right from the start.  

Of course now our yard looks like it should also have a broken down car sitting in the middle of it.  Our grass is mostly weeds and doesn’t look all that wonderful even though it is mowed, we have kids bikes strewn all over the place, an overgrown garden and now a dilapidated lounge suite littering the side of the driveway.  The rubbish removal guys were supposed to come yesterday to take them away but they didn’t arrive.  I’m thinking that if anyone is following me up our street I should just keep driving so they won’t know its my house.

My other quite remarkable achievement is quite stunning.  I have finally managed to successfully plunge a toilet.  Now I don’t know what it is about American toilets.  I have never met a bunch of toilets more predisposed to blocking up in my life.  I think I remember dad calling the plumber once in my whole life to unblock the toilet and I don’t ever remember him having to plunge one.  In fact the plunger lived under the kitchen sink so I’m pretty sure it never went anywhere near a toilet in its life.

When I first moved here I wondered what it was with all the plungers.  It seemed that every self respecting toilet was kitted out with not only a toilet brush but also a plunger.  I didn’t really know why.  That was until the toilet blocked on me.  It’s not even that terribly big things have to go down there for it to block either.  They just seem to be able to cope with a certain amount of flushes and then they go on strike.

I remember the toilet in our apartment when we first got married was particularly problematic.  Our apartment was above another one and one day it got blocked up and instead of plunging (as is customary in these parts) I just flushed it again.  That was a mistake.  The neighbour downstairs came up and wondered if we were having a problem since water was now streaming into her kitchen.  I was every so slightly mortified.  

Well, it seemed that as soon as James left the toilets began playing up.  Now we have three toilets in the house but depending on where you are in the house when the urge hits you it could be troublesome to get to some of them.  At first it was the one in my en suite that blocked.  I could deal with this by using a different one but then the one downstairs packed up.  This I couldn’t deal with because when you’ve had three kids using your bladder as a punching bag and your pelvic floor muscles as a trampoline over the years its not really possible to gallop up a flight of stairs to get relief.  Not unless you want to clean the stairs afterwards anyway.  

So with trepidation I took hold of the plunger.  I plunged with vigour and what do you know, it worked!!  I’ve never had success before and now it is a job firmly held by James in this house.  I was so proud of myself.  I went up to the en suite ready to tackle anything only to find that it was already unblocked.  Not sure how that happened but I’ll take it.  

Our last night alone we were invited to a friend’s house for dinner.  We had a lovely time and got home after dark.  As I drove up the driveway I realised that the garage door was open.  Sometimes the automatic opener malfunctions and opens it right after it closes.  Normally I hang around to check that it stays closed but I must have forgotten.  I remembered that I had sent Emily back in the house to get the baby a sippy cup before we left and wondered if she had locked the internal access door.  I decided to get James on the phone just in case some person of ill repute had decided to make himself at home while we were gone.  I called and got voicemail.  I repeated this 4 times and he didn’t pick up.  

By this time the kids were chomping at the bit to get out of the car.  I decided to be brave and go check out the house.  I got everyone out of the car and armed with a cellphone and a nappy bag I entered the house.  I systematically went through each room and checked each cupboard, no marauders on the ground floor.  The kids were wondering why I wanted them to stay with me rather than run off upstairs.

I climbed the stairs slowly, expecting that at any moment I would be attacked in a hideous way.  I checked all the rooms and closets, the kids thought I’d gone a bit nuts but I didn’t want to scare them by telling them there could be a horrible person lurking under the kitchen sink.  I tucked them up in bed and went to bed myself.  I realised that I had forgotten to check the attic, the basement and several cupboards downstairs.  Oh well, I was too tired to worry about it anymore.  I went to sleep and awoke again in the morning to the horrendous sound of that alarm clock I dislike so much.  We had survived the night and James’ trip away.  He was on the ground in Boston and we would see him when he got home from work.  

He changed his mind again about coming home first but I didn’t have the energy or time to change the sign so there it hangs for all to see ‘YDDAD EMOH EMOCLEW’.

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