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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Morning Routine without Carl

When Carl is in inpatient Chemo, the morning routine falls to me alone. (Within days of Carl starting in-patient chemo, I went and bought 3 Alarm clocks.)

I was not cut out for single parenting.

Here I will describe what mornings are like for me, getting up 4 (essentially) teenagers going from 5:30 AM to 8:30 AM. Frankly, I think this will probably be boring reading.

[My children are 15, 13, 12, and 10 right now. After April 14, they will be 16, 14, 12, and 11.] We have 4 birthdays to survive in the next 30 days.

Let me state the obvious from at the beginning : I am not, and have never been, a morning person. I can operate in the early AM, (what parent of more then 2 children can't), but don't expect me to be happy and peppy.

5:40 AM My hideously loud and obnoxious alarm goes off. As soon as the alarm goes off, I hit the snooze button, and get up (really, that button is slammed within 2-4 rings). Staying in bed would only prolong the painful morning process. I go to get Tom up. Tom wants 5 more minutes. Carl used to give Tom a gentle wake-up in the morning, fun and playful, and 5 minutes later reappearing and having a fun and mild struggle with Tom as Tom tried to negotiate more sleep time.

I learned quickly with Carl's 1st inpatient chemo that this was a waste of time for me. I guess one could say I am in no mood to hear 4 children's worth of negotiation in the early morning. I try to be pretty much non-verbal as I get the kids up, since they don't want to listen anyway. They only want to engage in verbal negotiations for their own way and to delay the inevitable. I also don't want to wake up the other kids earlier then they need to be woken up, so like I said, I say very little.

I drag Tom's feet off the bed and on to the floor, and I keep doing that. He protests, and I say, I'll leave you alone once you are in the bathroom. I get him out of bed, upright, and steer him into the bathroom. Many times I think Tom's eyes are closed for all or part of this. Once I get him to the bathroom, the call of nature makes him want privacy there. I go downstairs, get Tom's medicines, go back upstairs, and I go lay down until the alarm goes off again, 9 minutes later. Sometimes I am back in the bed within three minutes of the alarm originally going off, at perhaps 5:43.

5:49 AM My alarm rings again. I hit the snooze button, remember? (A nine minute snooze is crucial to my morning routine). Now it is time to get Tom into the shower. I get up and coach Tom through this step. On rare occasions Tom will actually be asleep on the throne, then I know he stayed up too late the night before. I give Tom his medicines and a cup of water, and it is usually easy to get Tom into the shower at this point. (He will be verbally protesting, but I only reply "Get in the shower" 4 words. It is pointless (and painful) to engage a child in conversation within 20 minutes of waking them up. I used to leave him at this point, (He wants me to leave, and believe me, so do I) . Now I stand there and tell him I won't leave until his hair is wet. This is because sometimes I'd actually come back when the next alarm went off and he would still be standing there, totally dry, with his hands hanging in the water, enjoying the feel of the water splashing his hands, for 9 minutes!

Once I have visual confirmation that the hair is indeed wet, I go gather clean clothes for the day for Tom, and leave them on a chair in the bathroom. Praise the Lord, (and thank you to all of his therapists) Tom can fully dress himself. Then I collapse in MY bed and until the alarm goes off again. (Tom has Down Syndrome.)

5:58 AM My alarm goes off, I hit snooze and get up. I tell Tom to get out of the shower. I ask him if he has shampooed his hair, and the answer is almost always yes (now), because if the answer is no at this point, I help him wash his hair, and he hates that. (Tom bless him, doesn't cheat and say yes when he hasn't washed his hair. My other children aren't always as honest.) You can tell he has washed his hair because he uses way to much shampoo. I swear that child can use up to 1/4 of a bottle of shampoo. I try now and then to get him to cut down on the amount of shampoo he uses, but I am choosing my battles to conserve my energy.

Once he is out of the shower, I leave him to get dressed, and I lay back down in my oh so comfortable bed
until the alarm goes off again.

6:07 AM The long stretch. My alarm goes off, I hit snooze and get up. Tom will be dressed, usually not in the clothes I laid out. I rarely care, as long as he used the clean socks and underwear, and whatever he picked is reasonable clean. Arguing with fashion choices is an inefficient use of my energy. Tom is usually waiting for me to reappear, dressed but doing something non-mission critical. I have him "finish up" upstairs - get his watch, wallet, glasses, and other miscellaneous books and or cards he feels he needs for the day. With luck, this will be the last time he is upstairs. Then I steer him downstairs, (usually he is protesting that he wants more time) with bribes of breakfast - "We better hurry up or we won't have time for breakfast." I try to figure out something that he wants to eat. (He rarely eats breakfast cereals) I get him a juice or milk, and sometimes he makes his own peanut butter or salami sandwich) I sit at the table and watch him eat, and/or gather his shoes, coat, ...

6:16 AM My alarm goes off. Ugh. Now I have to run upstairs and hit the snooze button. Then I go back downstairs, and spend time with Tom, put the dog outside, etc.

6:25 AM The alarm goes off. Ugh. Now I have to run upstairs and hit the snooze button, again. I detour to the boys room to tell Anthony to get in the shower if he hasn't already started. (Anthony now has an alarm clock I turn on almost every night (he doesn't) and is set to go off at 6:20AM ) The 2 boys have to get ready for middle school. There used to be arguments of who would get to go into the shower last, but now it's always Anthony going first. He wants a long 20+ minute shower with absolute privacy, and this is the only time I am going to allow him to get it. Frequently Nathan is still totally not moving at this time, anyway, and Nathan takes a very short shower. Nathan can always make the bus, so Anthony is the one who has to go first. I can hear that someone is in the shower. YEAH. I will frequently knock on the door and say "Have you washed your hair yet?" Answer is usually an angry "NO, leave me alone." "Do it NOW" I'll reply, and go down stairs. Now it is time to stop Tom from eating, by now he is finally interested in eating. Get your shoes and coat on, and you can eat until the van is here. Sometimes I give him a nutri-grain bar for the van ride. If Tom hasn't eaten anything, because somewhere in the time frame the 9 minutes lapped, he can eat breakfast at school, the van arrives there so early. I watch for the van. Hallelujah, the van arrives at about 6:30 AM. I bring the dog inside, and I am back in my warm comfortable bed when the alarm next goes off...

6:34 AM The alarm goes off. I hit the snooze button.

6:42 AM The alarm goes off. I hit the snooze button, and check that the kids are moving. By about now either Nathan is banging on the door telling Anthony to get out of the shower, or I will go in and wake up Nathan gently, (this is rare) and tell Anthony to get out of the shower. Mostly my children, as antisocial in the morning as me, don't want to interact with me, and they keep ahead of schedule just enough so that they can tell me to go away. Sometimes at this time I don't even have to get out of bed, Anthony will yell down the hall that he's out of the shower, or Nathan will report that Anthony is out of the shower. (Thank you Nathan, you are a blessing in the morning. A self sufficient child.) On Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, this is the time that I go into wake up Miranda, because she is goes in early to school on these days.

6:53 AM The alarm goes off. I hit the snooze button, and don't check the kids, especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Bliss.

7:02 AM The alarm goes off. I hit the snooze button, and check the kids. If either of the two boys are still upstairs, it's a bad sign. But now they are getting good at the routine, my alarm clock can be heard from almost any point in the house, and usually they are on-track. If not, I chase them downstairs. With luck, this will be the last time they are upstairs. I frequently have to remind someone to get their socks on, etc.

7:11 AM The alarm goes off. I hit the snooze button. Now I have to make sure that the children will make the bus. I must get up. On Mon, Wed and Thursday, I have to drive Miranda in, so I get dressed. I never take a shower before the boys are gone in the morning. There is no time. Miranda can be in the shower... Now the children are in a state of confusion, wanting and not finding shoes, coats, etc. I am on bus watch duty. THANK YOU LORD that the weather is getting nicer, and I don't have to feel guilty when they don't have mittens, coats, etc. There are homework project and permission slips the children have conveniently lost or forgotten, Chaos reins.

7:15 - 7:20 AM The Steffen Middle School bus comes and goes. On Monday, and Wednesday, I now drive Miranda to the Steffen Middle School. Such Irony. WHY can't Miranda take the bus with her brothers to the Steffen Middle School?

[ This is a total aside ----> ]
Apparently (says the bus company) the Mequon Thiensville District Office Business Manager has deemed it a bad practice to allow the elementary school band students from Wilson School ride the bus to the required attendance Steffen Middle School band practice. (Allowing students to ride the Middle School bus to band practice used to be allowed in previous years). In 2009-2010 school year, the district does bus in the Oriole Lane children to the required Steffen Middle school band practice. The private schooled elementary children do get to ride the Middle school bus.

The bus company, saying their hands are tied, has informed the bus drivers to enforce the District Office Business Manager's decision, and so the bus drivers have taken it upon themselves to embarrass, yell at and scare into tears any poor 5th grade band student whose parent tries to put them on the bus. (Not while the parent is there, you understand, of course.) There are about 25 Wilson 5th grade band students that are impacted by this problem, and I think this problems happens to an equivalent number of orchestra students.

I usually think about this state of affairs while I am driving Miranda to band practice at the Middle School. Usually I arrive at Steffen Middle School with Miranda at about the same time that the Oriole Lane Band Students arrive in their bus.

I actually don't mind so much that I have to drive Miranda in 3 days a week. It cuts 1 hour off the morning routine. I am back home by about 7:30-7:40, on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Then I race upstairs, and crawl into my warm and waiting bed, and read, relax, and sometimes fall asleep.

On the days that Miranda is not driven in, I don't wake her until about 7:45-8:00, well after the middle school boys have left on the Steffen bus. It is best to let her wake up slowly, then she is usually pleasant. She used to always be pleasant in the morning, but she misses her dad, her world is being tumbled about, and so sometimes she acts out, 5th grade-zilla like. That's why I feel she now qualifies as an almost teenager. If she wakes up particularly late, and is pleasant, I'll drive her in, (because, really, I am already used to it...) My main goal is to have Miranda be pleasant AND take the bus in. I haven't kept statistics on how often this has happened.

There have been at least 2 or 3 times in the 2009-2010 school year (and I think on chemo days) when she was up so early and ready when the boys got on the bus, that I showered and we went to Einstein Bagels and ate breakfast there. (Einstein Bagels for Breakfast was fun. We would see some of the same Elementary school kids and parents eating breakfast there as well - not Wilson parents though, it is miles out of the way for Wilson students.) But that was awfully early, and Miranda (and I) would usually rather sleep in, and we haven't done that recently.

The hateful alarm is silenced for the rest of the day once Miranda is up and out of the shower. She eats breakfast slowly, dreamily, and I watch and drink a glass of milk. Since she is a slow eater, I'll clean up the debris field left by the others at the table, empty (and reload!) the dish washer, and put the dog in or out a couple of times. We will watch for the bus while I brush her hair (if she chooses to let me that morning, and if there is time.) At 8:20AM the Elementary School bus comes.

Most days, all the energy is sucked out of me by now, and I go back into bed.
I race upstairs, and crawl into my warm and waiting bed, and read, relax, and sometimes even fall asleep. This is possibly not the best sleep pattern to get into. Remember, though, that this is after making four children get out of the house from 5:30 AM to 7:20 or 8:20 AM, to 3 different schools.

I frequently feel like I have run a marathon by the time all of the children are gone.
Some interesting points:
  • Tom, the High Schooler, (who has Down Syndrome), is nowhere near ready to get up and make the bus without major adult intervention.
  • Anthony almost never turns on his alarm clock the night before, but when he was sleeping over at someone else's house, he turned on the alarm to go off on Saturday. Fortunately I checked the alarm Friday evening. Sweet child.
  • Nathan, the self sufficient child, is a blessing.
  • Miranda is getting very used to me being attentive to her - Could you go upstairs and get this, or that... I'm now looking forward to her going to middle School next year, out at 7:20AM.
  • Yes, we have 4 children sharing one large bathroom with a shower. No way am I letting them take a shower in my MB bathroom.
  • Having children take a shower the night before isn't really an option. It takes long enough to get them to go to bed, without that delay tactic.
  • I don't encourage my children to become morning people because, as God knows, they need their sleep and they won't go to bed at a reasonable time.
  • Lastly, Carl still has the harder job on those days. Chemotherapy is no picnic.
Well, if you read the post this far, you should know why I have no photos.


Tammy said...

Jeanne, and you call me a saint?
Thanks for the insight into your daily routine. I get up by 5:00 to get me and two kids out by 7:15, not sure if I could do it with 4 anymore.
We love snooze don't we.
Take Care, thinking and praying daily.
Lots of Love.

marie norgal said...

wow. as a person who loves morning and chooses to get up at 4:30am, you have opened my eyes to a whole new world. not a big fan of the snooze button and i have never gone back to bed in the morning. once i am up -- i am up. of course, cup of coffee in hand, within one minute of waking up!
still praying for carl every day. he has got to be getting tired of this. call you tmo (thursday) to talk about friday. love you both

Debra said...

Hi Jean and Carl,

I continue to follow Carl's treatment and stay interested as to how you and the kids are doing.

Sounds like all is going as well as planned. I liked your gratitude awarness to realize the giftness that Froedtert is so close. God is good and we were never promised life without trial. This is were our faith is developed.

Call if you'd like.

God's Time,

Deb Schiel (Dr. Hackbarth)

HangingInThere said...

LOL mom very amusing to read. love you-