THE EDGE OF THE CLIFF

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Last week Joedy and I took Malko to the doctor for a checkup. He got four shots, and the rest of the day, at home, he seemed tired--a little impatient, but more or less fine. He'd had a runny nose lately, and because the last time he had four shots (before we went to Costa Rica) he got a pretty bad cold, which turned into a really bad cough, which I thought was whooping cough, we wanted to watch him carefully. Not watch him so carefully that we would, like, take videos of him coughing in the middle of the night, to show the doctor the next day (SEE? He whooped!! That was a whooping sound! SAVE HIM!!), but enough to make sure he didn't get a really high fever, start convulsing, or start acting strange, as if, um, his central nervous system was damaged.

That night, we let him sleep in our bed. He was still sniffly and a little out of sorts, and he woke up a few times asking for something--a bottle, to be held, his pacifier--but overall he seemed ok. Since the shots didn't seem to have affected him much, the next day we thought he was in good enough shape to go for a hike at Mount Bonnell, a high peak overlooking Austin and the lakes running through it.

It was a fun, beautiful trip: Malko rode on Joedy's shoulders, and on our way back down I lingered to take some pictures. Hurrying to catch up, I turned a corner and saw Joedy standing on a flat rock overlooking the lake far, far below. He was holding Malko in his arms, and though I knew it was ok--Malko wasn't going to fall out of his arms and tumble down the sloping side of the cliff--my danger radar started beeping and I asked Joedy to give me Malko so I could take him to other, safer side of the path (where all the poison oak was).

The rest of the day Malko seemed to get crankier, and I started worrying the shots were having a delayed effect on him. He got worse in the evening, developing a fever and growing increasingly dissatisfied with EVERYTHING, and that night we gave him some Tylenol and kept him in our bed again.

Before midnight, he started screaming and flailing around, and though we tried to calm him, nothing helped: he kept screaming and crying, twisting his body like he was in pain, his face hot and red, tears and snots coming out, NOTHING helping. He just kept screaming--AYYYY! AAAYYYYYYYY! AAAYYY, AAAAAYYY, AAAAAYYYYY!--and I thought, this is it, the shots have hit him. It was scary to see him so upset, to see him in what appeared to be intense pain, and for a while I thought about taking him to the emergency room.

Finally, after a third, bigger dose of Tylenol, he went to sleep. My worries that he was hurt by the four shots lifted, but as soon as I began to relax disturbing images came to mind: images of Joedy holding Malko on the edge of a cliff, of Malko falling out of his arms, of Malko falling off the cliff. I tried not to picture them, but the images kept coming back, and the feeling I had when I saw his little body fall, when I realized that he was too far away for me to catch him--

I felt an overwhelming, sickening dread and fear. I kept trying to fall asleep, but each time I drifted off I'd lurch awake with a start, the sight of Malko falling through empty space fresh in my mind. I tried to shake the awful images and feelings, to tell myself he was fine, and finally, by listening to his steady breathing, I fell asleep.

The next morning we discovered Malko was teething. It explained his recent fussiness and the discomfort he'd been in during the night, and it was an unbelievable relief: he was just teething! The shots hadn't burned a hole in his veins, he hadn't suffered permanent damage from the cocktail of chemicals pushed into his bloodstream. We had survived a hurdle, we were relieved, we were all--phew!--ok.

We had a late, groggy breakfast, and though Malko was happy by then, chewing ferociously on a book, I began to feel depressed. Before I could say "teething biscuit" the depression knocked me down and I was crying--bawling--in Lula's bed. "What's wrong?" Joedy asked. "Malko's fine!"

"I know," I said, hyperventilating into Lula's pillow. "It's just...it's just..."


It's just that sometimes I can't handle it: the fears, the worries, the sadness that come with the happiness of having children, of loving children, become overwhelming. Sometimes, when the edge of the cliff gets too close, I just can't handle it.

TUESDAY NEWS

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Here we are, Tuesday afternoon. Malko just fell asleep upstairs, proving once again that he's happy in his crib, which is such a huge relief! Yesterday he took a really long nap, so long I started to worry he'd wrapped the sheet around his head, but when I opened the door and looked in he was having some kind of intense communion with the big grey stuffed raccoon we recently saved, along with a rabbit (tan, lop-eared), from the thrift store. Today when I looked in the room he was sitting up playing with a long white thing, which turned out to be part of one of the slats of the blind hanging near his bed. That slat's broken now, but at least my child's resourceful at "quiet play"...right?

Joedy just left to pick Lula up from school and to do some grocery shopping, hopefully coming home with stuff to make the pumpkin-chicken enchiladas he was talking about at lunch. Since yesterday we've been straightening up around the house, trying to get our "administrative" things in order--calling Medicaid AGAIN (not to complain! We're VERY grateful!), opening mail, planning the week, making sculptures out of tacks, etc. Malko's birthday and my mother Benita's visit (she left yesterday; Uncle E came too for a few days, as did Joedy's parents, nieces, and nephew) led me to put off the "daily duties" I took on recently in hopes of becoming a Type A person, and by golly was I glad to get back in the ole' swing of things!



Now it's 10:30 p.m. I took the dogs for a walk after writing the above paragraphs and at the park Astrid flushed a deer out of the trees. It ran through the middle of the park and I felt kind of bad for it but there was no way Astrid could have caught it, so I stopped feeling bad for it and started worrying about myself getting hit by a running deer. When I came home Joedy was holding Malko and stirring chicken in a frying pan; I thought it smelled like fish, so he threw the chicken out and we didn't have pumpkin-chicken enchiladas after all (we had salad, but the salad wasn't cleaned right and it was gritty, which totally sucked).

Joedy and I are trying to make our lives smoother so there'll be less stress, and less screaming, and one of the things we're focusing on is the evening: namely, getting Lula and Malko fed, washed, and pyjama'd BEFORE extreme tiredness sets in. Before she starts whining, he starts crying, and WE start yelling! Before the tension becomes unbearable and we all lose it! The plan is to have Lula in bed by 8:30. Tonight we made it by 9:30, which was too late, but even though we're not succeeding every time with the smoothification/destressification it feels good to know we've "got each other's back," we're "on the same page," and we're a "team"! This stuff, this smoothification-of-the-shared-lives thing (which I can't talk about without, like, a bunch of cliches popping into my head), is coming from the couples therapy we've had the last month, and I'm glad to say that now there does seem to be less stress, less screaming, and more...ease. It will be a work in progress, obviously, but it's nice to make some headway.

It's 11 now and I've run out of news so I'm going to exit Internet Land and enter Bed Land, which is a soft warm continent within the greater Bedlam world, usually inhabited by a pair of hairy legs that very kindly do not shy away when I put my freezing cold toes against them.

SNAP-HAPPY-MOMMY

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Nowadays I take my camera with me everywhere, and though I'm mostly satisfied with the ridiculous number of pictures I take I'll always regret not having caught the truck pulled over on the side of a foggy California freeway, strange metal animals peering out from its sides, and the two young goth girls hula-hooping in the park. Also, there was a campy, dilapidated convent in Samara that was completely odd and exquisite...

Anyhoo, here are some recent pictures.









THRIFT STORE VACUUM

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I saw you across the crowded room, nestled between a washing machine and some skis, by the back wall where all the suitcases were stacked side by side, patiently waiting for someone to take them on a safari, or maybe to Niagara Falls. You were different from the others--older, wiser, more mature, with solid steel parts and a burnt orange body that whispered of a time when things were built to last, not break down after just ten weeks like the silly, whining Dirt Devils and clumsy, boorish Hoovers that languished here and there among the electronics, their shiny black plastic shapes screaming "cheap."

Your long metal neck--hard, cold, a little industrial--was made of three parts that clicked together smoothly and led in a curve to your head, or dust-sucking part, whatever it's called: a hefty (but not heavy) orange mouth that slid easily across the thrift-store floor; when I turned you on, I discovered the dust-sucking part was motorized, thus increasing the sucking-ability to three horsepower, which I had a hard time picturing, but which I guessed was good.

I lifted you, my new friend, by your handy black handle, your elegant neck lying firmly on my shoulder, and paid for you: ten dollars and eighty-three cents. I brought you home and cleaned you, rejoicing again and again at things like the brand-new empty bag in your canister, your power switch, so easy to press with my toe, your attachments--nozzle, brush--still there after all these years. Someone came into the kitchen while I was cleaning you and politely inquired if you were maybe, actually, a "piece of crap," since you were the exact same model, down to the color, that his mother had back in the 70's, to which I replied that new stuff is more likely to be crap and anyway, I vacuumed the thrift-store floor with you, and you worked, and anyway, you looked cool, so there.

When you were all shiny I pressed your little switch with my toe and we spent an hour and a half cleaning, and re-cleaning, the twenty square feet of the downstairs of the house. You gripped the bare floor like a leech and I decided never to sweep the kitchen again; for years and years to come I would use you, my trusty new friend; for years and years we'd be together, working and watching the kids grow up, creating memories, sucking up the dust that sifts down and settles, sharing a life.

Today I decided to show He Who Wondered If You Were A Piece Of Crap that he was wrong, that just because his mother had one like you doesn't mean you're not good, so I carried you upstairs and plugged you into the kids' room, where a few pieces of shredded toilet paper were lying on the carpet and some big black specks were scattered around. "Meet the new member of the family," I said. "This thing BLOWS AWAY our old Miele*!"

You were a little louder than I remembered, but maybe it was the fact that we were in a small room, and when I pushed your motorized mouth over the biggest piece of shredded toilet paper it reappeared on the other side, not having been sucked up, and that happened about five more times, until I turned your mouth over and hand-fed the toilet paper into it. "Hm," I said, jiggling the power cord, because maybe not all the electricity was going through it, "something's not working right, I think." I ran you over a few more pieces of toilet paper and the black specks and you didn't suck any of them up without my hand-feeding them to you, by which time He Who Rolled His Eyes And Left The Room had lost all interest in being persuaded that you were an amazing mechanical relic and insane cash-saver to boot, and I was contemplating taking you apart.

It was clear you were averse to carpeting, so I stuck you, not very gently, in the kids' closet. You're up there now, an orange-and-silver shape in the dark, huddled next to a stack of books, some shoes, and a cardboard box full of toys. You're up there now, but I don't think you will be much longer.

*which stopped working so well after I took it apart

HUNKAPPY-BIRTHDOARY

Monday, March 8, 2010


On Sunday Joedy turned 40. Since AARP recently pronounced 60 the new 30, I guess it's normal he regressed, for a little while in the afternoon, to age 10, belting out "The Diarrhea Song" with an accompanying dance that sent Lula and me into another realm, the Diarrhea Is The Funniest Thing In The World realm, from which we didn't return for eight hours, after I'd laughed until my face hurt and we'd embellished every stock household phrase with the d word. Long after Joedy, also known as The Instigator, had tired of our hysterical, almost-dry-heaving laughter, Lula and I were still going strong, swapping cunning witticisms about the pets, furniture, and clothing:

"Hey Lula, I guess
DIARRHEA, I mean Diablo, forgot to brush his hair today!!!"

"Ok Maman, ok"--much laughter, some spraying spit--"I'm going to bed now. I'll just lie down on this nice comfortable DIARRHEA!!!"

"All right, you go to bed then, but don't forget to first put on your DIARRHEA, I mean, pyjamas!!!"

Since Lula and I are much, much younger than Joedy, it's TOTALLY normal that she, and of course I, got so carried away with the whole thing. Totally normal, and anyway, that's not all we did--some of us took videos of the birthday boy going about his day, doing things like playing with Malko in the car while waiting for his signature triple shot/one pump chocolate/soy milk/no whip cream/mocha coffee beverage from the drive-through caffeine dealer near our house, blowing out his candles, getting funky with his birthday card, and telling Lula a story at a restaurant that night. Joedy's mom, dad, and two nieces were with us, and though the plan to all spend the night in a suite at a nearby hotel was thwarted by a certain baby who started screaming at 2 a.m., forcing his groggy parents to take him home, we had a lot of fun altogether (and all together), and the cake was so alluring someone* snuck a piece before the candles were even lit. All in all, a not-too-traumatic 40th birthday, I think, and Day One of his fifth decade has gone pretty well too--no unusual crises or freakouts--so I guess it's all

HUNKAPPY-BIRTHDOARY!!!


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*the same someone who felt sick after eating two more pieces, post-candles

BUSY WEEK IN BEDLAM

Friday, March 5, 2010

Some highlights:

1. Leaning out of the window of the huge gleaming SUV we're borrowing to ask some men for directions. Using these exact words: "We're looking for the food stamps building!" Noting a change in the men's demeanor (I think) to something more fraternal/sober. Feeling happy about not having a problem admitting need for food stamps. Frankly, excited to learn how food stamps actually work.

2. Waking up at 6:01 this morning to be at the hospital at 6:30 to get Lula's four cavities filled, thanks entirely to Medicaid. Having an all-around successful hospital experience despite fears regarding my baby being put under general anesthesia.

3. Watching Lula slip into a much happier state thanks to the "orange juice" the nurse gave her, which made her start giggling about "chicken fingers." Trying to withhold laughter as she bit her finger and said "Do you see my chicken finger?"

4. Starting counseling with Joedy at the YWCA ($10/session). Facing some issues head-on in those first fifty minutes. Thinking how much I value therapy, wanting to yell "we're in therapy" out of pure happiness because it's support, and support feels good!

5. Developing a very itchy rash on the back of my neck which soon made my left eye start to swell up and close. Thinking I was dying from eating too-rare steak at dinner or salmonella-tainted cookie dough after dinner. Later realizing it was poison oak from taking pictures in the bushes at Town Lake. Getting a cortisone shot on my upper butt.

6. Taking Lula to school--her first real school. Falling increasingly in love with the school and the tree-filled, creek-lined park behind it (pictures below). Brimming with happiness that she is so happy and that she has already made a "bug book" (Ants bit. Ants Liv iN Ant PiLS.).

7. Getting Malko to sleep through the night in his new crib, a birthday present from his grandmother. Reflecting on the fact that it's been a year since I've gone to bed at a normal hour and slept through the whole night.

8. Doing eleven loads of laundry in two hours tonight. Forgetting to put two of the loads (the reds) in the dryer. Going back to the laundry mat for them and discovering I'd left my library card there too.

9. Noting change in weather and thinking I could use some new clothes, going to the thrift store. After spending two hours examining labels and wondering if I'd actually wear a black wool turtleneck with leather patches on the shoulders with metal sailorish buttons on the patches, spontaneously deciding not to get ANY of the clothes because I shouldn't be spending money on superfluous things right now. Going back two days later to re-search and re-find much of the stuff, minus the black turtleneck, and ultimately being extremely delighted with my sort of new, cheap, wonderful clothes.

10. Realizing that despite being more or less poor, Joedy's and my (and our kids') quality of life is high: we eat good food, we have fun together, and we have loving and supportive friends and family. There are great resources out there for people who, like us, need a little help, and while I don't think it will be long before we're more solidly on our feet--thus less in need of help--I know I'll continue to appreciate those resources for a long, long time.