Friday, September 28, 2012

one year later

Exactly one year ago, Daniel had a surgical procedure to have his adenoids removed and get tubes in his ears. It's a fairly common treatment for kids like him who have had frequent and/or chronic ear infections. I bet a lot of you readers (are there a lot of you?) had this done when you were young, or have a child who had this done, or know someone with a child who had this done.

It's a pretty simple thing, and the risk of anything going wrong was really, really low. And while Daniel's surgery was successful and routine, it was still an awful day, to be totally honest. Some people just don't cope with anesthesia very well and, evidently, Daniel is one of them. (To be clear, he's not allergic or anything; he just got really, really sick.)

Once that ugly day was over and done with, though, it was amazing what a difference those tubes made. Once he was brushing his teeth and told me he could hear the water running in the sink. He didn't remember what that sounded like. And another time he woke me up in the middle of a stormy, rainy night because he didn't know what the noise was on the roof. I wonder what else he missed that year of the ear infections before he got tubes? Since then, he's had a couple of ear infections, but they weren't such a big deal as before, and could be treated with antibiotic ear drops.

Today, one year later, it was Anya's turn. The poor girl has had about 8 ear infections in the last year. Because they were frequent but not chronic (they cleared up in between and her hearing test was normal), she did not have the adenoidectomy, just the ear tubes. For that reason, and also because I've been through this once before, I was not nearly as anxious this time around.

And you know what? This time things really did go a lot more smoothly, and it was all because the procedure is so short. (Also, having your adenoids removed is rather painful, whereas ear tubes are not.) The pediatric ENTs at the children's hospital really know their stuff, I gotta tell ya. It took the doctor ten minutes to put the tubes in. They wheeled her back to the OR, and only twenty minutes later, the nurse came and got us because she had woken up. She had a sip of water, mumbled something only vaguely coherent about watching lots of TV, threw up the water, and then after an hour or so, she was wide awake and ready to go home. This afternoon you wouldn't even know she'd just had surgery earlier in the day. We made a chocolate cake, she read some books with Stuart, and then we walked over to Daniel's friend's house to pick him up from a play date.

(Sweet, blurry girl posing with a not-quite-finished mitten I'm making for her.)

So, here we are. My kids have tubes in their ears and I hope that we are forever and ever done with monthly earaches and ten days of vile medicine. Once or twice a year is plenty.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

family values

Yesterday morning at breakfast, I said to Stuart, "Wouldn't it be nice if your workplace allowed flex time? Say you could take one afternoon per week - just one! - to volunteer in the classroom and pick up the kids from school and be the one to make dinner. Then you could be more involved in the day-to-day household work and childcare and spend more quality time with Daniel and Anya. I would have the opportunity to accompany and teach piano for one afternoon without the constant interruption of picking up the kids and throwing dinner together and paying the sitter. You could make up the work hours in the evening or early morning."

It would be nice, but it's not going to happen. Most workplaces do not allow for this sort of schedule, and it's unfortunate. For all the lip service paid to "family values," it seems that employers don't actually value time with family. If they did, more parents employed outside the home would have schedules that allow them to be available to their kids after school, spend time with them, fix them healthy meals and eat together. If time with family was considered valuable, employees wouldn't feel pressure to work 50, 60, 70 hours per week.

For many, the 40-hour work week has gone by the wayside. I once read an article that 40 hours anymore is considered part time. What's so wrong with the 40-hour work week anyway? It's not lack of work ethic, people. It's family values. Even people who don't have kids surely value their non-work time. In my opinion, people who have time to eat well, exercise, and spend time with their families, and explore their outside interests make for a happier, more productive workforce.

I feel stuck in a position of not being able to work for wages as much as I'd like to. I often feel somewhat resentful about it, too. (I know I've expressed that here before.) My frustration comes and goes depending on how smoothly things are going at home and with the kids and how much paid accompanying work I am able to do. Often these feelings of resentment and frustration don't stem from any one thing in particular, but rather the general notion that because I am a mother who values time with my family, my work options are extremely limited. Sometimes I take this negativity out on my husband and kids, which isn't fair to them at all. It's not their fault our society works this way. But I am far, far from perfect, so it happens anyway.

I just wonder what we - and I mean the collective "we," not just me and my husband - can do to change this.

Monday, September 17, 2012

round 2

I'm afraid we're in for another round of ear tubes, this time for Anya. The poor child has had eight ear infections since last August! We saw an ENT early this summer. At that time, her ears were clear and her hearing was normal, so we thought there was a slim chance she would just outgrow them. Alas, no. Within just hours of coming down with a simple cold, she'll complain of an earache, and then we're off to urgent care to confirm the diagnosis and pick up a prescription for antibiotics. This has happened twice in the last month, so tubes it is, I'm afraid. Since we've already seen the ENT, all I have to do is call and schedule the procedure. If they're not scheduling too far out, we could have all this done by Halloween.

It was around this time last year, September 28, to be exact, that Daniel had surgery to remove his adenoids and have tubes put in. The day of the procedure was extremely stressful, but he's only had two ear infections since then, and he can supposedly hear better now (except, of course, when it's time to clean his room and put on pajamas!), so it was definitely worth it. Now, at least, I know more or less what to expect.

Between Anya's ear troubles, a couple of big performances in November involving me traveling out of town, being on the parent board at Anya's preschool, taking on some extra accompanying work, and volunteering at Daniel's school (which I haven't actually started, but I should soon), this is shaping up to be a rather busy and stressful fall.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Saturday, September 01, 2012

the complications of childcare

I'm not sure where I got the idea that I would have more free time as my children get older. Madison schools start on Tuesday, and like most other parents in the city, I'm more than ready. In part, this is because I have work to do. I've taken on a bit of work for students at the school of music, and I have a big gig in November (more on that in a bit), so I need to practice. As it happens, when you are with your kids day in and day out, there is no time to practice, except for maybe a half hour after dinner when your husband takes them for a walk and you do your best to concentrate at the piano with a messy house, a dirty kitchen, and the day's fatigue wearing on your ability to focus. It's not an ideal mental state, but it's better than nothing.

Once school starts, I'll have more time, but of course, any time is more than nothing, which is what I have now. Daniel is in first grade (!) and Anya will be attending 4-year-old kindergarten at her preschool every afternoon, and that precious time that is supposedly all for me is filling up fast with rehearsals, lessons, and practice time, plus all the stuff I have to do at home and required volunteer hours at the preschool. Still, this is good. This is more than I've been able to do since Anya was born, and I have missed it.

I've got this gig coming up in November. My friend Dr. Julia and I have been trying to come up with a way to perform together again for the last couple of years. She teaches in Florida, so the logistics of such a thing are understandably complicated. This summer we finally got our act together and picked out a program and scheduled some performances this fall and winter. (None are in Madison, oddly enough, even though I live here and her family lives here, though we're hoping to do the program here sometime next spring or summer, when her schedule allows.)

Our first run of performances will take me out of town for the better part of a week in early November. Stuart is unable to take any time off work and I'm not bringing the kids along with me, so this makes things incredibly complicated. Because did I mention the time I spend transporting kids from place to place? They don't go to the same school yet (since Anya's still in preschool), and there are piano lessons and they're both trying out gymnastics this year (we'll see how long that lasts...) and thank goodness neither one of them is interested in playing soccer because I think that would just break me. It's exciting to see them learn new things and all, but I'm not crazy about playing chauffeur.

(My readers with older or grown children, you have my permission to laugh at me now and shake your heads and tell me how it's only going to get worse. Go ahead. Get it out of your system.)

What to do while I'm out of town, then? Stuart can't help out. I have plenty of friends and neighbors I could call upon to host my kids after school for playdates in the afternoons while he's still at work, but this whole business of driving them around to various activities is asking too much when they've got their own families to worry about. Plus, it's not just one day, it's a bunch of days. I could hire a nanny for the week, but that would put me out a couple hundred bucks at least, and I'm not getting paid for these performances (the fun gigs never pay, alas!).

This morning I called my parents and asked them to come up here and help out. They are willing, and didn't hesitate to say yes, but I still feel bad that I had to do it. They will spend an entire day driving up here from Kentucky in order to spend a whole week transporting their grandchildren to and from school/piano/what-have-you because I will be gone and can't do it myself and can't figure out a way to make it work otherwise.

I feel both guilty and annoyed that I'm going out of town for four days without my children. Guilty that I have to ask so much of other people in order to make it possible. And yet annoyed that my youngest is nearly five and this is the first opportunity I've had - EVER - to travel alone for a professional gig. I've never spent a night away from Anya, and the only times Daniel has been away for a whole night were when Anya was born and then once last year when he was invited to a birthday sleepover (I couldn't sleep because I was waiting for The Call in the middle of the night that he'd woken up and freaked out and wanted to come home. That Call never came. He had a fantastic time.)

It's all just so freaking complicated. I suppose if I weren't schlepping them everywhere, I'd be paying big bucks for somebody else to do it. Last week I exchanged several calls and texts from a friend who was frantically trying to figure out after school care for her daughter; she and her husband are professors whose schedules change every semester, and she was having a hard time figuring out what to do those hours of the late afternoon when G would be out of school but they would still be teaching classes or in meetings. I don't envy that. Well, actually, I have to confess that I do, just a weensy little bit, but only the part about teaching classes and going to meetings. The childcare stuff is a pain in the butt.