Trying to Have it All

6 Jun

There is no doubt that it is tough to “have it all,” have both a career and a family. Some days you rock it, but some days you shut yourself into the EMS room in an ER, gather up your kids via the phone, and threaten them all on speakerphone.

One of the great benefits of a career in EMS is the flexibility in scheduling and, oddly, the long hours. When you do 24-hour shifts, you end up with a lot of days off, and consequently, more time with family. I know I have written about this before, but with my kids in school full-time, I had a lot of time to get stuff done. The problem with this is that I am not good at getting stuff done. I am not good at prioritizing. I am good at lying in bed, catching up on needed sleep, and spending too much time on Facebook and playing stupid games on my iPad. Therefore, I have a second job and I work more.

Usually, this works out well as I am working, for the most part, while my kids are in school. They have a few hours after school to eat junk food and watch too much TV before Oliver and I get home. I get to earn a little extra money. Seems like a win-win to me.

Yesterday, however, was not one of the rocking it days. I stopped by home from a 24 in the morning to see them before they headed off to school. I told them I would be working all day and then Oliver and I would be heading to kickboxing and out for a good-bye dinner for someone we train with. I stopped by home later, while working, made them tacos, and then headed back to work. Everyone seemed good until a couple hours later when I find myself in the back of an ambulance wrestling with the IV pump and a levophed drip, when the texts whining, “O and C are being jerks to me,” and “D is being mean to C,” start rolling in. This is where the yelling on speakerphone comes in. I’m fairly certain my child-less partner was torn between a little scared of the wrath of Mom and wanting to stick around for the entertainment.

I will admit that my normal high level of patience is not at its best at the tail end of a 36-hour shift. I rarely do shifts that long for a lot of reasons. Yesterday was not a great day for Momming, but sometimes that’s how it goes. Today will be better. I got everyone off to school. In the afternoon, we will snuggle on the couch and read Harry Potter. With any luck, I won’t have to threaten to take away anyone’s allowance or electronics. I will allow my current high level of of Mom guilt (am I working too much? should I really have hobbies that take up family time? should I be home every afternoon and evening to spend as much time as possible with them while they’re young?) to return to baseline Mom guilt. And since it is my day off, I will get stuff done (yes, writing counts).


Nobody is Lassoing Anyone Else’s Uvula

11 Feb

We have two new rules in the Frates household today. Duncan just came in from playing outside and asked, “Have you ever had a patient who was playing with string and accidentally got it wrapped around their uvula?”

“No. Let’s not turn that into a challenge, though.” If my next Facebook status is me checking into the Elliot ED, you now know why. Obviously, Owen had to take it one step further, contemplating how he was going to create tiny little uvula lassos. And as soon as I responded with the latest house rule, “nobody is lassoing anyone else’s uvula,” it occurred to me that I left this wide open to lassoing one’s own uvula. And, no, I wouldn’t put that past them. Also, I am totally making the kid that lassos his own uvula explain it the ER doc or whomever I can find to perform a lassoectomy, himself (after I post a picture of it to Facebook and every other social medium I can find). Let’s face it; I am going to be laughing far too hard to get the damn uvula lasso off myself.

Just moments later, Duncan asked me if I threw away the rotten, black banana. “Yes, why?” D – “I wanted to put it in the mailbox and put the flag up.” Me – “No.” D – “Why, is it illegal?” Me – “I’m not sure, but it’s certainly unkind.”

D – “I’m going to make the mail man or mail lady a valentine.”

Me (skeptically) – “As long as it’s not an old banana.” Left it wide open to interpretation and loopholes, again. I’m going to have to keep an eye on the produce and the mailbox between now and Tuesday. The next person that asks me why I believe Duncan is trouble gets referred to this post.

What I Saw

24 Jan

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should be aware that four million of us recently came together across our nation to stand up and say that we will not sit quietly by while our civil liberties are stripped away from us, one by one. What many people, including those currently serving in the executive branch of our government, fail to understand is best summed up by a sign that made several appearances at the march: “You’re so vain, I bet you think this march is about you.”

Some in the media referred to it as a march against Trump, though that is a gross over-simplification. If this was merely about one man, he would not have been elected president, and we would not be in the seemingly sinking boat we currently are. He is a symptom of and the largest and loudest example of allowing hate and fear to rule.

I, along with many others, would like nothing better than for Trump to, “prove us wrong,” another sign I love. Trump failing at the Presidency would be terrible for America, but Trump succeeding at what his current agenda appears to be (dismantling the ACA without first ensuring there is something better, stripping away the very basic right of bodily autonomy for all women, systematically destroying the Department of Education, the EPA, and the right to free press) would be even more disastrous. Attempting to “Make America Great” at the expense of women, people of color, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and every American that does not share the same beliefs and level of privilege that Trump does (and let’s face it, that is nearly everyone) goes against every principle our nation was founded on.

So, while some call us “sore losers” and “cry babies” for standing up and defending our democracy and the rights of our fellow Americans, and pointing out the dangerous and slippery slope the current administration has embarked upon, they have entirely missed the point. I was there last Saturday, marching down the Mall and Pennsylvania Avenue with women, men, children, young, old, gay, straight, transgender, black, white, Christian, Muslim, Atheist and everyone in between, and “sore losers” were not what I saw.

I saw love and kindness and inclusion in too many forms to count.

I saw women in their 70’s and older holding signs saying, “I can’t believe I still have to protest this shit,” remembering a time before Roe v Wade when women routinely died from illegal and unsafe abortions.

I saw people of privilege marching for those without, understanding that when some Americans do not share the same freedoms so many have fought for for centuries, none are free.

I saw people hug the metro officer, after seeing her tearing up from a combination of the overwhelming task of getting hundreds of thousands of people safely into the city and the raw emotion of realizing that while she was working, those same people were marching for her rights.

I saw people offer strangers snacks, tissues, directions, support, and offers to hold their stuff while they were in the porta potty.

I saw people with different causes (the environment, women’s rights, LGTBQ rights, immigration rights) supporting each other’s causes, whether they personally felt strongly about them or not.

I saw crowds part instantly to allow an ambulance through, clap and cheer for a fire engine, and thank every law enforcement officer they encountered.

I saw more than a million people come together in one city without a single arrest or instance of violence, and that same unlikely event occur from city to city across the globe. Peaceful protest is powerful and it works.

I saw people that desperately want to keep America great, that would love nothing more than to say, four years from now, “you know what, you were right – maybe I did overreact,” but whom fear the very real possibility of the dismantling of our first amendment rights, the destruction of our health, our families, and our planet. I will happily be the first to say I was wrong, but we will not sit idly in the name of “giving them a chance,” while they, bit by bit, take away everything that already makes us great.

I Want an Owen

15 Nov

Every once in awhile, I long for the days when my kids were tiny, cuddly babies. And then I remember that I can leave my house with my kids alone and the oldest in charge, and be reasonably sure the house will be standing and all kids will be alive when I return. And I don’t mean just, “I’m running to the store for five minutes” alone. I mean, “we’re leaving you in charge of your two brothers, two of our friends’ kids, and going to a bar. See you in a couple of hours,” alone.

I think every parent has a moment when they realize their kids are old enough to be truly helpful; mine was when Owen first carried a 50-lb bag of chicken food for me. I have long since accepted that many of my technological difficulties can be dealt with by my thirteen-year-old, though from time to time, I have to explain to him that I am not completely inept when it comes to my iPhone. Owen is the person that starts fires in the wood stove for me in the afternoons when I am cold and Oliver is not home yet (I should point out that I am capable, but he is more interested). Owen turns on and sets up video games for his brothers (in this case, I am neither capable nor interested) and will frequently help them by making meals and snacks. I reluctantly have to admit that if I wanted to watch TV before 5pm, I might have to have Owen help me.

Not long ago, we were at a friend’s house renovating a bathroom and Owen was lugging everything outside while Oliver pulled it apart. Her kids are five and seven and she simply said, “I want an Owen.” My response was that she would have one in about five years. If you don’t feed them to lions, or sell them on eBay, which was always my threat, you might just end up with kids that are competent and useful at some point.

In one moment, I lament the loss of them needing me and wanting to snuggle with me, and in the other, I am counting down the time until the oldest can drive (less than 2.5 years) and can cart his brothers around. I guess this is why some people keep having kids, and why I had my tubes tied.

A Tree-Hugging, Peace-loving Optimist’s Guide to Trump’s Election

9 Nov

I promised myself (and everyone on Facebook) that I was going to remain optimistic if my chosen candidates did not win, and I am holding myself to that promise because 1. I am an optimist and I will not let Trump or anyone else change that, and 2. I don’t think the alternative is particularly helpful. But I have to admit, I am not feeling very optimistic today. In fact, I feel devastated in a way I would not have anticipated. Granted, I have far less to lose than many during a Trump presidency; I am an upper-middle class, straight, white girl from NH. And it’s not just the friends and family members that will be more directly impacted than I for whom I am fearful. It is also for all those Americans whose country (or at least half of it) seems to be turning against them. And it is for my children, whom I do not want to grow up in a world in which they have to be fearful.

But since I promised I would do it, and because I need some convincing myself, here goes:

  1. This election has brought up a lot of fantastic discussions with my kids about what it means to be tolerant, kind, and compassionate and a few more scary but necessary conversations about things like consent and the not-so-pleasant bits of our nation’s history.
  2. I have rediscovered the wisdom of people like Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie in listening to my old folk music and it gives me hope that since previous generations have made it through equally troubling times, so will we.
  3. It has shone a light on the corruption in our government while simultaneously reminding us how our government is supposed to work. I hope that it spurs us to hold our elected officials to task for their behavior. Perhaps having a political outsider at the helm will further bring that corruption out in the open.
  4. We still have people like Bernie Sanders in the Senate and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the Supreme Court and I would put either of them up against a dozen haters.
  5. Concepts like the electoral college and the two-party system have always been taken for granted, but maybe this is the beginning of the end for both.
  6. Our children will learn from this election. We get to choose whether they learn to get involved in their communities and government in a positive way and show kindness always or instead to learn to use their position to advance themselves and bully those more vulnerable. We will choose the former.
  7. There has been so much talk of Trump being a great businessman who will be able to fix the economy. And there are clearly many people who feel the economy is not working for them. I do not personally agree with Trump’s solutions, but let’s see what he does with his opportunity.
  8. In his victory speech, Trump spoke of uniting Americans rather than advancing the same hateful rhetoric his campaign has been full of. I hope he is taking the weight of his new responsibility seriously.
  9. If my Facebook feed is representative of much of the population, despite their hurt today, people are being kinder, more understanding with each other. They have reached out to the disenfranchised and have donated to or joined organizations that are making a positive difference. Maybe this has forced us to attempt to unite ourselves.

Optimism is a choice. While there is absolutely a part of me that is humming REM’s “It’s the End of the World,” and remembering my teenage self’s pact with friends to flee to Canada at the outset of the first Gulf War, I choose to be optimistic. I will not forgive Trump for his rhetoric or behavior, but I will make the best of the situation and I will hope, and work for, the best.

Maybe Three was the Wrong Number

19 Sep

There is a dynamic with three boys that is very different with only two boys, though I suspect this would be true regardless of the genders of your children. Now that my kids are getting to the age where they have plans with friends that don’t involve their brothers or other things going on, I find myself more frequently with only two kids at home for short periods of time. I’ve got to admit, it’s kind of nice.

Today, Duncan left for the week for environmental school. Normally, Owen and Duncan get home from school first and then when Calum gets home, he joins Duncan in whatever he is doing (typically playing with Legos or watching stupid videos on the computer). Owen, being the sporadically bitchy teen that he is, sits in his room by himself, doing whatever sporadically bitchy teens do (typically playing with Legos or watching stupid videos on his iPod). Today, Calum wanted to make teeny pancakes. Owen helped him. And not just, “yeah, I’ll get the pancake mix out for you” help. He actually made them with him and showed him how to do things like flip pancakes and use the griddle.

Owen would claim that it’s because Duncan is somehow the problem, but I pointed out that things are the same when Owen or Calum are the one kid missing. They are simply nicer to each other. It seems that with three (and I remember this from growing up with two sisters), someone is always the odd man (or woman) out and that kids who are one of three take turns being the one the other two are mean to, or on better days, the one who is simply not interested in what the other two are.

Oddly, the same thing seems to happen when you add extra kids to the mix. The dynamic changes and they are just kinder (usually). Since I have no intention of sending one of them back to where they came from or of making any more small crazy people, I guess I will just have to enjoy these short periods of niceness when I can get them.


Not Enough of a Worrier

8 Sep

Tonight I attended the parents’ information night on the week-long environmental school my 6th grader will be attending later this month. Based on the stuff the teachers explained, it was clear that they had spent the last several years addressing the varied and extensive worries of 6th grade parents concerning this experience. I left early thinking that I can’t be the only one who isn’t worried about any of this. Or that maybe I was tragically born without some critical parenting trait which allows me to obsess about the minutia of every moment my children are out of my sight.

I probably could have skipped the info session; the packet of information and forms sent home gave me more than enough info. What I need to know: 1. what stuff I should help him pack, 2. when I should drop him off and pick him up. That’s really about it. What other parents apparently want to know: 1. where will they sleep, 2. the mailing address, 3. the qualifications of the medical staff, 4. when, where, and by whom will they be supervised, 5. what they will eat, 6. what activities they will participate in, 7. how they will be grouped, 8. how they deal with homesickness (a bizarre affliction that people in my family are not prone to), 9. if they need flip flops for the shower, etc, etc.

I get that some parents have legitimate concerns about maybe food allergies or health issues, though most of peoples’ concerns seem silly to me. My thinking is that schools have been doing these trips for decades without any major incidents. If kids were getting lost in the woods or not fed for three days, environmental camp/school wouldn’t be a thing. These trips sound like so much fun, I wish they were looking for chaperones.

I don’t care about any of the details, or I won’t until Duncan comes home and talks non-stop for an hour about how much fun he had. And I know he will. That’s when I want to know about activities and sleeping arrangements and meals. I also know I will hug him goodbye and he will be off without so much as a glance back. I won’t spend a single second worrying about any of it. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.