[su_heading size=”18″]Getting Children Up in the Mornings[/su_heading]
In order to start the day without chaos, I wake up early enough to get the children’s breakfast and lunch made.
It is so quiet. So unbelievably quiet. I’ll just fit in a few minutes of time to myself, before making the meals. Next thing I know it is 7:00am and the tornado is about to hit.
QUICK…wake up the kids, get them dressed, find the socks, get them fed. Why did I stubbornly use that time for myself? Tomorrow I will wake up at 5:00am, an hour earlier. Baddy sleepily arises absorbed in his own quiet fog. I am very aware that although his body is moving he is not necessarily awake yet. I very patiently wait for him to drink his pot of coffee before I begin a conversation. I must be gentle and quiet so as not to disturb my sleepy morning bear of a man. “So I’ve been thinking…, ” I begin when I think he is ready for me, and immediately get accused of being to “on” in the mornings.
I leave him to visit each room to wake up the boys, singing, “Wake up, wake up, everybody wake up,” or “Morning has Broken”, bursting into Brevitt’s room to open the shade and let the sun shine in. Sometimes I do little skits with their Ugly Dolls, rapping Brevitt to awaken, “yo, yo you lazy head, it’s time to get out of your way to comfortable bed,” and then I’d get the gift I was waiting for, Brev’s beautiful smile, his hair sticking out in every which way.
Axel is handled much more delicately. If I don’t wake him slowly with lots of kisses and low light, than he starts lashing out with his Scorpion tail demanding me out of his room. That tail is something I try to stay clear of at all costs.
Sometimes I have my assistants. Whomever wakes up first has the assignment of gently waking the other sleepers. When Tucker crawls into Brevitt’s bed and sings the wake up song to him Brev opens his eyes and tackles him for a good hour.
This is what having children is all about. The interaction and love that occurs between them is so very precious. I nurture that love with all my might and try to teach them how to respect and admire each other and not be jealous.
I am always in awe of how boys wake up with abounding energy and carry it with them until the moment sleep descends upon them. Even in his sleep, Brevitt continues the fidgeting, kicking and sleeping horizontally across the bed, which prohibits us from wanting him in our bed anymore, but we can’t help but love to feel his warm nine year old body snuggling up to us when he does still into our bed. If we fall asleep like that I inevitably am abruptly awoken either by his foot smooshed against my face or by his calling out sports plays in his dreams.
The boys love it when Dad doesn’t get up on school mornings. They see it as payback time for all the morning that he has insensitively yanked the blankets off of them and honked the bike horn in their ears to get them out of bed. I hand them the bike horn and in they march to noisily wake him up. What could be better than receiving the green light to make noise first thing in the morning?
I wouldn’t say that we made it home from visiting Grandma in Florida without incident. The fact that we made it home at all is very significant. The turbulence was brutal and I was reduced to an absolute useless mess while my boys searched for land through the airplane windows. I saw the sun again and realized that we had gained altitude. What the???? The pilot announced that it was too windy to land anywhere, not Vail, not Denver, not Steamboat so we were just going to hover at 40,000′ up in limbo. Greaaaattt. I had been through this before, nothing worse than hovering when three boys have to pee and the seatbelt sign is on.
Walking back to our seats I looked at all the innocent and beautiful children and parents on the flight and felt miserable for the people who had died in airplane crashes. I hate flying! We tried to land again and plunged down into the black storm clouds. I thought about Baddy and tried to force out the image of his hearing the news that his entire family was gone. I thought about my mother and how much I loved her and needed to express that to her. I thought about my boys and how I needed to watch them grow up.
[su_heading size=”18″]Watching Children Grow Into Daredevils[/su_heading]
Wednesday’s are Baddy’s evening to be full on testosterone with his friends. In the wintertime they race up mountains on skins as the sky shows off it’s magnificent sunset, skiing down with headlamps on. In the summer they mountain bike through ridiculously difficult mountain terrain, usually clocking something outrageous like 40 miles and 4K vert. It is amazing that they don’t get more hurt as they compete with one another in their speed both uphill and down, and show off their technical abilities. It is a spectacular site to watch the eighteen or so men ride in on their bikes at night with a blanket of black enveloping them. Baddy lives for these evenings that end with a meal, beer and lots of comradery. I sometimes wish that I could be a fly on the wall to watch the difference in Baddy’s character when he is with his friends, but than I think about it and realize that it’s probably best to let my ignorance stay blissful.
[su_heading size=”18″]Fighting Depression as a Mother[/su_heading]
When life gets you down from environmental stresses, it’s not always easy as a mother to fight off depression and be there for our children.
Yesterday, in my miserable sorry assed state, I reflected upon how I had been running my life lately.
My biggest struggle in all of our financial adjustments has been cutting out extra-curricular activities for the boys. What I realized is that I have to develop my new role as mom/camp counselor or it is going to be a very long summer.
After picking up the boys from school I screeched to a halt below their school road, parked vini-man and took the boys on a hike. Having been met by such resistance to anything lately, I was surprised that they were actually excited to go exploring with me. They have not been enthusiastic about doing anything unless they have their friends with them.
We hiked up to a scree field and they had a blast climbing all over the rocks, getting filthy. They engaged in the activity of splitting rocks to see if they could find any jewels inside. Axel has always had the keen ability to find very cool treasures in the wilderness like the time he pulled out of a Snowmass creek a brown polished stone that we recognized as being a gizzard stone from a vegetarian dinosaur. How cool is it that dinosaurs treaded right where we were standing millions of years ago? What’s even cooler is that we now have the Snowmass Mammoth Discovery Center to interpret what we find.
When they asked me why there was volcanic rock everywhere in the scree field I took an educated guess and talked about how the volcanic rock from deep in the earth had been disturbed by the slide, ending by telling them what I always tell them, “Let’s look it up online when we get home”. If only I had an Iphone to give them accurate answers to all of their questions. Than again, I prefer to be disconnected from the electronic world when I am with my children.
When Thumper scared himself by thinking he found a hibernating bear in a little cave, he came running toward me, fear on his face, tripping over his wet, untied, high top sneakers. He was certain that he saw something breathing and wanted to leave before we got attacked. Axel, not so easily convinced, crept up and looked in. “It’s just a rock,” he stated reassuringly.
After our hike we went to the market. Last time we were in the market Thumper had a really hard time. The first thing he managed to do was to accidentally fall against a pyramid display and end up with a heap of cans in his lap. Next he picked up a six pack of glass Orangina sodas and the cardboard broke. As the bottles went crashing to the floor we heard over the loud speaker, “Clean up in aisle 13”. At that point he looked at me and started to cry. He was so frustrated that he was doing everything wrong and told me that he needed to get out of there. I couldn’t really blame him. I looked up and saw a friend of mine in a fit of giggles, she had witnessed everything and was getting a real kick out of spying on me and my boys. I was glad that we had been such a source of amusement for her in such a mundane place.
This time at the market things went a lot smoother, apart from when they lost all of my quarters in a candy vending machine. It is so annoying that markets strategically place vending machines in the front of their facilities to tempt our children. I looked at my three dirty, shaggy boys in their tattered clothes and unkempt hair and demanded that they get their money back. I refuse to do their dirty work for them anymore. The sooner they learn how to function on their own in the real world the better. They shyly approached the customer desk and asked for their money back. The woman was horrible to them but gave them what they asked for. Another lesson learned on how not to waste money.
In the market I had a real awakening. My children were growing up and I was no longer enduring frustration and anxiety when entering a large public place. No more lost children, tantrums or bathroom visits. They took care of themselves and each other now. When I forgot my environmental bags they ran to the car to get them for me conscientiously avoiding cars. I recognized that my hard earned efforts were coming to fruition as I observed my big, responsible, charming, albeit shaggy, boys help me out in the market, without being asked.
At the end of the day I happily collapsed into sleep at a reasonable hour. This morning I pounced out of bed like Catwoman. Sometimes a melancholy day can truly work wonders on your constitution.
[su_heading size=”18″]Boys Need to Be Trained By Their Mothers[/su_heading]
Convinced that children are directly related to the swine family. All my life I knew I wanted to have kids but was so unaware that what that really meant was that I would turn into the modern, female version of, Sisyphus. My huge boulder is the endless loads of laundry and the hill I must climb is the pigsty I am always cleaning. Parenting classes have helped me to understand that I am doing my children a disservice by cleaning up their mess for them. I will let them decide who will be their maker. Boot camp drill Sergeant, Jillian with whistle and clipboard in hand or toy gun slinging cowgirl, Jillian with chaps and a lassoing rope?
January 1st I decided to stop doing everything for the boys and teach them how to clean up after themselves. I am doing their future wives a favor. Once again, I sit the children down and discuss the new rules of “Team Livingston”. I dig deep to be effective and tell them that if they want a dog they must show me that they are responsible enough to handle one.
The chore chart resurfaces. It comes and goes depending on my motivation to actually follow-through on it. Parenting classes have taught me to be fun and make a game out of everything. What they don’t factor in is mommy’s cycles. Day 8 I am the most fun and funniest mommy on the planet. The kids remember why they adore me. Each day brings less patience and less games. About day 15 I am losing my ability to sing, “clean up, clean up, everybody clean up”. Day 25 the kids learn to stay out of my way. They see that my fangs are out and I am frothing at the mouth. If it is a full moon they might even see me crouched down on all fours ready to leap.
Why is it that boys are such natural slobs? It is so easy for them to pee and yet they somehow get urine everywhere. I see their good aim as they write their names in the snow, a habit formed by Baddy who loves to pee off of the deck. Why can’t they aim like that into the toilet? While cleaning the toilets I hesitantly look up and there it is..the yellow spot on the ceiling!
Axel is comically the absent professor. Absorbed in all of his projects he leaves a trail of messy trash wherever he goes. Shavings from wood and crayons are found directly adjacent to the splat mat, glue guns are left on and in threatening positions, potions are found in the freezer, rocks are everywhere. When I see Axel eating with his cousins at the table without a place mat I say, “Axel, know thyself! He gives me that sweet, knowing smile and I return it. We are working on communicating and listening better to one another. Every day I tell myself not to yell at Axel. How could I yell at that sweet, wise old soul? EASILY! “AXXXEEELLLL, why are you putting your shoes on with only one sock on? Why is there a mound of sugar next to the sugar bowl? Why are your clothes all over the floor? Snap out of your dream world and get ready for school!”.
Being in tune with my frustrations, Thumper has started to help me out a lot more. He has taken over Baddy’s role in the house when he is gone and as great as it is I have to constantly remind him that I am the only one who needs to yell at his brothers. If it is day 8, I get the giggles and tell him to stop standing by my side repeating my orders. Day 25 I tell him that I am about to strangle my parrot standing next to me.
The dog ploy is working and I am in total denial that this means we are getting a dog. Whenever the dog is mentioned Baddy’s eyes glaze over. He was never enthusiastic about having three kids and now I am throwing a dog into the equation? He truly thinks that I am slowly dripping over to the other not so quite right side. Hopefully he will still love all of us once Muki enters the scene and destroys his labor of love. Urine on the ceiling will not be our only challenge.
[su_heading size=”18″]Teaching Your Children Table Manners[/su_heading]
I stopped taking my kids to restaurants for a while after our traumatic experience when fine dining in Florida. My mother and I took the boys out to a little French restaurant at six pm. After a day of organizing beach activities we were ready to treat ourselves to a nice meal and be waited upon by a well trained staff. We justified our decadence by incorporating a lesson on table manners while we were eating.
Florida is an anomaly. Unless one can endure the typical “family restaurant” it is best to forgo the desired pampering and stay at home. The restaurant was filled with ancient couples who had smartened up and stopped visiting their grandchildren long ago. I am certain that when the grandchildren came to visit them they were told to stay at the hotel across the causeway.
As soon as we walked in to the restaurant I scanned the ornery crowd and knew we were doomed. There was not one taker who would be charmed by my adorable brood. No smiles, no cooing, not even at sweet big, blue eyed, two year old Tucker. Than things went South. The boys got restless and I had forgotten to bring my tool belt of games to play with while waiting to be served. Grandma Nicky and I sent the kids outside and told them to go play in the parking lot before a possie started.
When the boys proceeded to smash their faces into the restaurant windows, two biddies who were giving us the evil eye from the start, approached our table. They launched into a tyrant of accusations which they concluded by admonishing us for taking our children out to dinner without proper training. Grandma Nicky, who was the antithesis of these old bats, was ready for battle. “Trained at what?”, she pompously inquired in her stately British accent.
After the women left, the wait staff came over to our table and asked us if everything was alright. We apologized for the behavior of our offspring. They soothed us by informing us that those woman were regulars who complained about everything from the temperature in the air to the size of their lettuce leaves. My mother gave me license to do her in if she ever became old and crotchety like that. It is more likely that I will get there before she ever does.
[su_heading]Our Baby’s Flight for Life[/su_heading]
Taking a flight for life from Aspen to Denver when our middle child was 12 days old was one of the biggest scares of our lives. Now I just picked him up from pre-college at California College of the Arts, and our little Axel-Baby is the epitome of health and rising success.
When Axel’s older brother, Brevitt, was two, Baddy and I left him with his grandparents and took a trip to Maui to escape our daily chaos.
Upon arriving at the Outriggers Resort in Wailea, we were told by new friends we met that Hawaii is known for either embracing you or spitting you out. We were wholeheartedly and thoroughly embraced from the moment I stepped out on our balcony to surprisingly see a spout of water shoot out from the sea below me. We had no idea that February was the month that Humpback Whales migrate to Hawaii to mate and give birth to their calves. From then on we became excellent spotters, spoiled with displays of grandeur from young and adult whales playing and breaching, almost as if they were performing solely for our own amusement.
Being the adventurous kind, we wanted to get more immersed in Hawaii’s wonders, and so we rented a kayak to take to the sea. The man renting out the kayaks walked us through the instructions, explaining the water and warning us about the difficulties of getting out beyond the rocks and the waves, “but you guys are from Aspen, your strong and athletic, you’ll have no problem,” he said, pumping us up with his words, which was just what I needed to hear since the whole time he was talking I couldn’t escape the visions in mind from Open Water. A movie I never even saw, but nevertheless forever damaged just by what I knew.
We got into the boat and as we started to row my gaze fixed on Baddy’s strong biceps and I began to admire what a stud he was, wondering how I had managed to land such a competent and rugged man. Next thing I knew we were washing up against the forewarned rocks along the shore. The instructor came running over to us to save us from capsizing and dragged us back to the shore to start again. Baddy began impersonating a tourist, in a white tank top, fresh off the bus and we could not stop laughing at ourselves.
When we finally did make it out to sea, all became quiet and calm. We were away from everything, just the two of us paddling alongside a beautiful island in the tropics, when suddenly I looked down to see an enormous shadow passing beneath us. We watched mesmerized as the whale slowly passed beneath our boat. “Jump in and swim with it,” I quietly yelled out, more to myself than to Wade, but numbified we watched and soaked in the enormous magnitude of nature so beautifully going about her own business.
As we continued on our explorations, Maui continued to amaze us with exotic flowers, fruits and colors, like none we’d ever seen out in the wild; Bougainvillea growing everywhere, mangoes ready for picking trees, Eucalyptus trees that softened when I squeezed them, as if they were breathing with me. To no surprise to anyone, the romance of our “disney world’ vacation led to the conception of Axel, Hollywood style, under a waterfall we discovered in the heart of a tropical forest.
On November 4th, 2001, Axel Grey Livingston was born. Named by Baddy after Axel Rose from Guns and Roses, and Axel Merckx the famous Belgian bike racer.
On the birthing table deep in labor, I questioned the name – it seemed so harsh for a sweet, new baby, but Baddy was adamant that Axel was far superior a name to my choice of Sebastian. He insisted that Sebastian would grow up with a skip in his step and flowers in his hair, whereas Axel would be a rock star in life (turns out he was right).
When Axel was twelve days old he got a cold and I called the doctor in concern. “He just doesn’t seem himself,” I said to the nurse on the phone. Her rude questioning of his age again implied she questioned my instincts and she dismissed me. The doctor told me to do the saline rinse and all would be fine, but he was wrong and Axel’s condition worsened, ending him up in the hospital with an oxygen tank over his head.
When we were waiting to see what the diagnosis was, another doctor came into the room to give Axel a Nebulizer treatment (which, by the way increases the heart rate). When I questioned why he was getting this treatment, the doctor looked at me dumbfounded, excused himself and hurried out of the room. It turned out that the treatment was meant for the child in the room next door. Soon after, I was watching the heart monitor and saw that Axels heart rate had jumped from 142 to 280. I called the nurse in and she stared at the screen. “Do something,” I yelled.
Turns out mama-bear did know her baby after all (trust your instincts). Axel had SVT (Supraventricular Tachycardia), which meant that his heart’s electrical system wasn’t working correctly.
Immediately, Axel was put into an incubator and rolled onto a Flight For Life jet which took off straight up into the sky and flew us to the Children’s Hospital in Denver.
It all felt like a dream as I sat on the jet next to my baby who seemed to be fighting for his life. Life stood still as we lifted straight up into the air and flew weightless in the sky. The second we landed the panic set in again.
Baddy drove down to meet us and we lived in the hospital for four days, capturing a glimpse of what life is like for parents who need to drop their lives and their families to stay with their sick children for months on end in the hospital.
I pumped my breast milk in between the feedings so that I could sleep for five hours in the tiny closet-like room we were given to parents with children at high risk.
Those precious hours of sleep would be disrupted by my strong and steadfast Baddy quietly sobbing after visiting Axel. Wrapping my arms around him he broke down, How can such a little person survive with his heart pounding so fast?
The days that we spent in the hospital felt like an eternity as we waited for Axel to get put on Dijoxin to make his heart beat stronger and with a more regular rhythm.
We were numb with despair, running on automatic, when a friend popped her head in, carrying behind her an enormous garbage bag filled with presents for Brevitt and I. She and her children had spent days individually wrapping each gift, and as Brevitt and I unwrapped each token of love, I saw how the compassion of others can truly help to heal.
When finally we were told that Axel could be brought home as long as he stayed connected to an oxygen tank, we excitedly packed up to leave and resume our lives.
Back home we did what we could to bring comfort and security back to Axel’s life. He had been completely traumatized by vagal maneuvers; placing an icepack on his face or sticking a thin device down his throat to create a physiological response that believe it or not switches the electrical current back to normal.
We did what we could to start anew and bring him as much love and comfort as we could muster. Thumper fell in love with his little brother and held his little hands all day.
Axel, A.K.A Feisty-One, has since grown out of his condition but I am certain that all of that poking and prodding on him as a baby has left a permanent imprint of a distrust of doctors and hospitals on his psyche and he lives with that subtle fear that the SVT can return at any moment. But for now? He is a rockstar determined to live as strong and healthily as he possibly can.