Dear new dads: What you need to know about zombie wives and octopuses

My younger brother and his wife are just about to deliver their second child. As the bossy, overbearing, experienced, perceptive, insightful and wise older sister, I believe it is my duty, (because of my exhaustive list of qualifications), to relay some very pertinent information to him in regards to upcoming changes in his parenthood.

Now that I have had a few (ahem…seven) babies of my own, (all of whom are still living on this earth and none of whom have disowned me as their mother up to this point), I feel compelled to share a small slice of reality-pie that is soon to be delivered doorside and served ala mode.

To you, dear brother, and all future fathers of TWO,  here is a  very simple guide to keep you from screwing this up:

Beware the humming.
If at any point, you arrive home from work and your dear wife is outside on the porch softly humming “What a friend I have in Jesus,” you’re in for it. Hymn-humming is a code that she’s temporarily lost her mind and can only sit on the porch in a rocking chair and stare absently into space. Don’t interrupt her.

Just go quietly into the trashed living room, hold the wailing baby and quietly scrub the poop and sharpie off the sofa. Do this with a weeping infant in one arm, while consoling a hysterical, naked toddler who is stomping on your feet, clutching your legs and hitting you repeatedly in the butt with her fists. The 15 minutes you spend doing that sums up your wife’s entire day. It’s really no wonder she’s lost her senses.

“But it’s only two kids,” you might say. Yeah, but it may as well be ten, so shut up and grab the mop. There’s pee on the floor.

Give extra compassion.
Take time to give your wife extra love. Give lots of hugs. Hold her closely and stroke her hair.

Make no comment about the fact that her head is an oil slick, that your fingers got tangled in all the snarls and that an endangered species of small birds is now nesting there. Your wife only gets a shower once every eight days, so it’s best to make all of your observations silently. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll make no comment that her chest smells like sour milk and that her leg hair is now as long as yours.

Instead of mentioning your observations aloud, tell your bedraggled wife that motherhood looks good on her and that she’s as attractive and as beautiful as ever.  In other words, you need to LIE. 

Do NOT ask when she’s going to start working-out again.
Let’s not place unrealistic and fantastical expectations on a woman who has just created an entire human BEING a mere fortnight after she delivers, m’kay? For the love of elastic waistbands, that’s just not wise.

This may come as a shock, but she isn’t going to begin Zumba class next week. The best you can expect from her are random bouts of loud crying jags. If she musters up enough energy to dance around the house to “Thriller,” see it for what it is; a warning that your sleep-deprived-zombie-wife (who is still getting a small bit of exercise) needs a day off.

Make dinner for yourself.
While you’re at it, make some for her too. Your postpartum wife has eaten goldfish crackers and string cheese for each meal. Between the toddler tantrums, diaper changes, nursing, and the up-all-night feedings, there is just no energy left to put together any type of meal plan that would actually make sense to humans.

*HINT* Clean up the kitchen after you’re done. Make it tidy, but not so clean that she feels worthless or guilty that she couldn’t accomplish such a simple task in her day. There’s a very fine line between being helpful and acting superior because you managed to get 20 entire minutes to yourself to clean something. A good man would leave a few crumbs on the counter to show his wife how much she is really needed. If you aren’t brave enough to approach this line delicately, then forget the whole thing and order Thai food.

Hold the dang baby.
If your wife asks you to hold the baby, then it’s your job to HOLD THE BABY. Don’t turn around and set him back down. Otherwise your wife (and your baby) will both know you’re an imbecile, because you can’t follow very basic instructions. This will result in your baby updating his Twitter feed with frequent requests for more intelligent parentage. Please avoid this trap, for yourself and men everywhere. I promise you won’t have to hold him forever- just long enough for the mother of your child to do something she’s longing to do- like eat with 2 hands, without hearing a screaming infant.

Learn to eat like your wife does.
You love your wife. If you wish to endear yourself to her and create a moment of camaraderie and bonding, try eating dinner one handed. This would best be done by securing the use of a small, livid octopus and suctioning it to your left nipple. Be sure to wrangle that slippery (and seething) mollusk using  only your left arm while trying to politely eat cold lasagna. Now hold your plate and stand up to do this. There. You’ve nailed it.

NEVER WAKE A SLEEPING MOM.
Dear God in heaven. If you ignore all my other hints and only heed one piece of advice, this would be it.

If the mother of your children is (finally!) sleeping, DO NOT wake her up in order to ask stupid questions or make stupid statements. There are acceptable reasons to wake a sleeping mom, but let’s be honest and admit that you have never come across one yet. I realize this can get tricky, so I’ve included some sample scenarios to help you out.

Acceptable reason to wake up a mother: A tornado is coming and you have to get down to the cellar.
Unacceptable: Asking if she remembers the login password to your fantasy sports league.

Acceptable: There’s a (large) fire in the kitchen.
Unacceptable: Asking “Do I own a raincoat?”

Acceptable: The bathroom is flooding and you need to locate the water shut-off.
Unacceptable: Asking why the television remote is covered in Desitin.

Acceptable: There’s an unstoppable natural gas leak coming from the furnace.
Unacceptable: The toddler has a gas leak.

Good heavens, just let the woman sleep. Figure some stuff out on your own. That’s what Google and Siri were created for. It’s okay to muddle through and do your best. Sure, she will yell at you later for doing it all incorrectly, but don’t you get it? When she yells, she’ll be RESTED. It’s the safer option for you. Trust me.

There are other hints I could offer, but it would put you at an unfair advantage and it’s best for your male counterparts if you flounder a little like the rest of them.

My final word of advice is this:

Enjoy this time with your young family. Kids grow quickly and soon these tough months will be part of your past. Keep some memories tucked away for laughing at later. The baby will stay asleep someday. Your wife will feel normal again soon. Be as helpful as you know how to be. You won’t do everything perfectly, but you also won’t screw up too badly either.

Unless you forget to place that order for an octopus.

*This post has been featured on Scary Mommy
*This post has been featured on For Every Mom 

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You won’t find a mermaid in this lagoon.

Life with many children is filled with wonderful moments. It is also filled with difficult ones. The problem is, you never know which moment you will get.

Quick as a wink, my day can fall completely to pieces. I can be swimming along peacefully, backstroking through a thick fog of tranquility, and the very next instant all hell can break loose. I’m not sure why that happens so swiftly, but I do know this: it catches me off guard every single time.

Take yesterday for example.

Mr. Diaz loaded up our giant van and hauled our oldest children down to the car wash. He didn’t do this because he’s a super awesome dad who wants to spend a few extra moments with our dear offspring. Nor did he do this because our children like sitting in an enclosed space while giant soapy brushes slap and lick the sides of a vehicle that’s roughly the size of a barge.

Nah.

He took them to the car wash because he needed bodies to hold towels over the windows in the back of the van where there are leaks. I can’t blame him for this. What did we have children for anyway if not to do mundane, Red-nex-ican tasks like that one?

Meanwhile, I was back in my kitchen loading the dishwasher and the other five children were occupied and quiet.  Every parent knows “Occupied and Quiet” is a summons for disaster. Sure enough, Squidgy baby began to cry, flailing and wailing while flopping in the jump-a-roo.

Suddenly, a scream pierced the stillness and I immediately knew it was my 2 year old, Chatterbox Toddler. I scurried down the hallway to the playroom and he ran up to my legs and clutched them as tightly as a modish purse snatcher holds onto a Kate Spade.

“Owwww,” he sobbed through his big tears, “Head owwwwwy,” 

Chatterbox Toddler was wet. He had a blossoming red welt where he had conked his noggin. He held onto me and screeched his dysphoria -a cacophony now mixed with the sounds of a wailing baby back in the living room.

I noticed my wood floors were wet too, as if a preschooler spilled a gallon of water and attempted to mop it up by using the least absorbent material on the planet, which in this case was an old baby quilt. Instead of the spill being soaked up, it spread the liquid from one side of the floor clear to the other.

A slight movement from the back of the room caught my eye.

Our resident preschooler, Humdinger, stood there stark naked and frozen in place; one leg lifted up in the air and ready to go into a pair of underwear. He had been quickly trying to change into dry clothes. It didn’t take long to figure out what had happened. Humdinger had masterfully created his very own ‘Slip-n-Slide’. From his pee. And his brother had involuntarily taken the first ride.

I can’t really say what coursed through my mind in the next few moments.

I bear vague memories of solemn, sincere prayers to Jesus Christ and perhaps the thoughts of mild profanity. Three kids were vociferously bawling; the very angry baby back in the living room, the naked preschooler holding one leg up through a pair of faded Batman underpants (who then did a perfect swan dive into a naked flop-tantrum across the cold floor). And, of course, the still-screaming toddler who had just been the first contestant on his brother’s low budget version of “Wipe Out.”

The real tragedy for the toddler was not the loss of dignity after a brief glide in his brother’s tinkle. No. What really upset him was the tragic loss of a beloved banana he had mashed into the floor with his legs as he fell.

Moving quickly, I abandoned the semi-creamed banana, left it bobbing in Urine Lagoon and hauled the toddler up to the bath for a quick rinse.

As is normal in my house, a tranquil afternoon had unraveled in a matter of moments.

A protesting Humdinger was forced against his will to get fully dressed in clean, dry clothing. The baby was forced against her will to wait out her bounteous troubles inside a jumpy manufactured to look like an absurd rain-forest. The toddler was forced against his will to abandon his favorite fruit. And I was rudely forced against my will to get down on tired hands and knees and mop the entire floor before other children ran into the room exclaiming “Hey! A free banana! That looks delicious!”  

45 minutes later, the baby was wiped, changed and dozing peacefully. The preschooler was occupied with a giant floor puzzle that still magically retained all the pieces, and the toddler had been awarded the consolation prize of a few crackers to snack on. With the crisis handled, the chaos of the afternoon slowly faded back down into a lull.

Mr. Diaz returned shortly with several children, wet towels, and a sparkling clean van that had been washed on the inside as well as the outside.

A kid, who heard the van pull up, sprinted into the house from the backyard where he’d been playing. He kicked off his muddy boots, threw down his dirty coat and peed right there on the floor.

It shouldn’t be surprising.

Around here, windows aren’t the only things that leak.

That ain’t a puddle you want to jump in.

The entire career of Motherhood is broken down into two parts. 75% of motherhood is yelling instructions to children through a closed bathroom door. The other 25% is exchanging bodily-fluid horror stories with anyone else who has ever parented for more than 45  minutes.

Dealing with disgusting bodily functions quickly becomes a topic of interest wherever more than one mother is gathered. In fact, it becomes a BADGE OF HONOR, when you win the gags and open mouthed stares of other moms after exchanging fluid-filled horror stories. Every mom knows this. It’s a competition.

You would not believe what came out in Everly’s diaper,” comments Jessica at her park date. “I found a small pinecone, a medium-sized stuffed buffalo, a jade earring and a zipper.”

“Oh, you don’t even want to KNOW what happened when Lilith and Crispin had the flu last week,” responds Amanda. “Let’s just say that we are replacing the carpet and the wallpaper in the entire second story of our house. And then we had to pour gasoline on an armchair and ignite it on the lawn.” 

“I can top that,” says Lauren. “Brighton had a bloody nose, diarrhea, vomit, snot, and pee, and then he took off his diaper and finger-painted with all of it on the dining room floor. During dinner. While my husband’s boss was visiting.”

In light of that disgusting revelation, with gawks and stares and solemn looks, the moms concede defeat and pass Lauren the blue ribbon. A moment of silence follows while the ‘losers’ silently thank God they haven’t had the privilege of the same experience. Yet.

That’s the way it works. Motherhood is the quiet proclamation of everything that has ever been disgusting. And here is where I will make my own quiet proclamation. I deserve the blue ribbon for awhile, folks.

One moment, I was sleeping peacefully in my warm bed, the next moment I was schlepping sheets, bedding and pajamas down to the wash after my toddler’s entire load of guts exploded in his crib. All day long he continued to vomit, much to my dismay and silent cries of protest.

The next day I was praying that maybe, just maybe, this illness wouldn’t spread. It was not meant to be. Not long afterward, while I was knee deep in the baby’s diarrhea, my oldest son sprinted into the room and excitedly informed me that the 7 year old was actively spewing her stomach contents all over her bed. “It’s all over her hair mom!” He said with excited amusement, “And she just keeps going!”  I’m sad to say he wasn’t lying. There she was, sprawled out on her top bunk, covered in sickness, less than a foot away from the garbage bag she was instructed to use.

This is probably the perfect place to mention that there were no sheets on her bed. No mattress pad. Just a craptastic puddle of vomit in the middle of a bare naked mattress, which soaked up every bit of fluid like a sponge. The lone pillow that had been on her bed, was gathered into the (dry) garbage bag and hauled out to the dumpster.

By the next night, I was flat out exhausted. The laundry had been piled high, the dirty dishes were having secret rendezvous and breeding on the counter-tops and the house was a general wreck. I drank  two cups of chamomile tea, moved the baby to her very own room for the night and remarked that I was so happy to go to bed and get a full night’s sleep.

As I was blissfully dreaming about dark chocolate cupcakes, bubble baths and library books, Oldest entered my room at 1:47 am, hovered over my relaxed body and said, “Mom. MOM, [Tough Guy] just threw up all over his bed.” 

Of course he did.

Inebriated from the effects of strong chamomile and sleep deprivation, I staggered in the darkness down the hall and managed to clean-up the pathetic, puking dude and move him onto a pile of towels on my floor next to my bed. It wasn’t long before he was at it again.

I held his small shaking body as he horked up two vacuum cleaners, a cotton gin, lavender sweat socks, three broken kazoos, a smoke alarm and a rubber boot. Then, coughing, he finally laid back down on his towel and fell asleep.

For exactly an hour.

And then we repeated the entire process all over again, all night long.

Despite the torment of the week, there are still several pieces of good news:
This particular tummy virus only lasted around 24 hours per person, which is still nine long days of perdition, but better than a virus that lasts several days.
My husband slept soundly in a warm bed through all the bouts of nighttime illness, and I didn’t hurt him for that.
And lastly, he and I succumbed to the virus, but on different days, so our kids still had one parent who was able to yell the word “NO” repeatedly.

The bad news is that one of us didn’t make it. My daughter’s mattress died. She’s been camping on her bedroom floor until we buy a new mattress next week. We hauled the mattress out back and put it down, like Old Yeller.

And the fact that I had to kill a ‘Beauty Rest’ mattress might just make me the temporary holder of the blue ribbon.

 

*This post has been featured on BonBon Break