Friday, December 30, 2011

Fully Loaded

How tired God must be of guilt and loneliness, for that is all we ever bring to Him. ~Mignon McLaughlin

Its my own fault, and I will forever self-flagellate myself for breaking my own rules and bringing it into the house. I bought a package of Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark for myself to enjoy after Christmas. I don't enjoy candy canes, but the way they mix the peppermint with the sweet chocolate is a major weakness of mine. The bag is clearly marked "May contain traces of peanuts and tree nuts" but I was hoping if I hid it well enough, Scootch would never be the wiser. What I didn't count on was my ingenious Monkey finding the last square and insisting on eating it after lunch. And then being spontaneously into the spirit of giving that comes with the season and offering her brother a piece. I can now tell you what happens when Scootch puts something into his mouth that he's allergic to. He tells me his mouth feels funny, and then he throws up. This was days after I shared a picture from Allergic Living's message board about how sharing food with a "May contain" label is like pointing a gun at someone with an allergy and not knowing whether its loaded or not. Mother's guilt is a big ugly thing to have to share your space with, but that's just what I'm doing. Thank goodness his body knew better than I did, and kept him from fully ingesting the stuff.

Thankfully vomiting is as far as it went today, but I never even want that to happen again. Not on my watch. At least giving up the peppermint bark might help keep off all that after-Christmas weight every year.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Pains of Christmas

Christmas is my favorite holiday, and was my mother's favorite as well. When I was little, we would go in cahoots together and bombard people with Christmas cheer better than a modern day Flash Mob. So needless to say, Christmas music is another favorite of mine. The wonder and magic and general goodwill of the season is often so wonderfully expressed through music, and can bring me into the right frame of mind even when I'm listening to it in July. (Yes I really do listen to it in the off season. Don't judge.) Anyone who knows me at all, knows that getting me a Christmas CD isn't just a filler present, its actually a great present.

Unless its not.

I must confess, I love that there are radio stations that change format and bombard the general public with nothing but holiday tunes from Thanksgiving till December the 25th. My only pet peeve is that they all seem to only play the same 45 songs. With all the music out there to choose from (and believe me, I know how much there is. I own almost half of it) it annoys me that the most frequently abused tunes are the ones that have almost nothing to do with the meaning of Christmas. So, in the rapidly fading glow of the holiday, I present to you my personally chosen Top 5 Worst Christmas Songs.

1. It Doesn't Have to Be That Way - by Jim Croce.
We're starting out the list with one of the more frequent holiday offenses - the Christmas Booty Call. I know that the holidays are some of the most depressing times of the year - especially for single people. But really. Doing a surprise drop-in on your ex for the holidays hoping to "easily get it together tonight"???? I just don't see that ending well for all involved.

2. Baby It's Cold Outside - originally by Frank Loesser and Lynn Garland
Following up on the Christmas Booty Call is a worse offense - the opportunistic significant other. This poor song is first abused by the fact that it was a pop hit made over into a Christmas standard. And even considering that the roles in the original score were dubbed to be sung by a "mouse" and a "wolf," I still fail to see any holiday spirit in slipping a line in there about trying to seduce your guest by spiking their drink. I guess 1944 was too early for roofies, but it sounds pretty darn close to me.

3. Last Christmas - by Wham!
Rounding out the relationship drama, we have the passive agressive dumped boyfriend. And it wouldn't be half as painful if it wasn't so obvious to all of us that he still isn't over it. Firstly - if he really had "found a real love" he would be oblivious to the cold heartless user that dumped him last year, and not obsessing over meeting their eyes across the room. Lastly, I think his current squeeze should be wary of leaving him under the misteltoe unchaperoned since he still thinks that just a kiss will be all it takes to fool him back into thinking he's in love.

I'm not sure what bad relationship choices have to do with Christmas, but people sure seem to like to sing about them.

4. Santa Baby - written by Joan Javits
Ahhh, greed. Because if you're not sick of listening to kids appending their Christmas lists with every commercial break while watching Nickelodeon, you must want to listen to someone in their late twenties suggest something small like a yacht for Christmas. I wonder what the people against Occupy Wall Street would have to say about that gift list. Maybe that she's confusing Santa Claus with an Arab sheikh. And of course that she should get a job.

5. Do They Know Its Christmas Time - by Band Aid
I think Band Aid is a noble cause. I really do. And the poor people affected by famine and caught in the crossfire of civil insugence really do need all the help they can get (Remember "We Are the World?") But when you're saying things like "Where the only water flowing is a bitter sting of tears. And the christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom," it doesn't really promote a sense of hope or faith for the season of giving. And although Ethiopia, for which the song was originally written, has a population that is about 60% Christian, Africa as a whole really only has a total Christian population of about 40%. So no, the majority of Africans probably don't care much about Christmastime at all. Especially if like the song says, they're just happy to be breathing in a "world where nothing ever grows," and "no rain or rivers flow."

So what would I like to hear on the radio? More holiday mash ups that can make a terrible song actually quite good when you cut all the date rape references out. Like Josh and the Empty Pocket's rendition of Baby Its Cold Outside. Christmas songs more centered on general goodwill, like Maybe This Christmas by Ron Sexsmith. And something my kids can rock out to that isn't sung by indentured pubescent rodents, like I Want an Alien For Christmas by Fountains of Wayne.

Hope yours was a very merry one!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

If its not Scottish, it's crap!

If you want to be happy, be. ~Leo Tolstoy

I've come to the point where its the simple things that make my heart happy. Making my child smile is one of them. Especially at the time of year where the spirit of giving brings forbidden things at every turn. Nothing is ever so difficult to me as to see Scootch's eyes round as saucers as he's gifted a chocolate pop or sees the pile of cookies at the church coffee reception, only to have his hopes dashed when the treat is inedible because of ingredients or cross contamination. Every time his tiny shoulders slump in defeat it feels like a little piece of my heart is chipped off too. I think most parents want to give their child everything in the world, and for me, that simple young pleasure of enjoying treats on special occasions is one that I seem to value the most with Scootch.

So when he accompanied me in the morning to finish up the Christmas shopping at Marshalls, and saw a little girl enjoying a snack, I immediately felt guilty when he asked me if he could have what she was having. I had to tell him the truth; "Probably not, sweetie." Imagine my surprise and his delight when a little while later he discovered the Scottish shortbread cookies on another shelf. The egg-free-not-made-in-a-contaminated-compromised-nut-handling-facility, Scottish shortbread cookies. So, I did what almost everyone does in Marshalls and tossed them in the cart as an impulse buy. Its amazing the smiles a little cookie can put on the face of a three year old.

And of course his smile gives me one, too. :-)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Time Flies

The flower that you hold in your hands was born today and already it is as old as you are. ~Antonio Porchia

Can it be? This littlest of little bears is a year old. Just one year ago he was fresh wrinkled newborn skin and satin cheeks. Now its teeth and chatter and sticky hands and face. Not quite a first step yet, but he's getting there. Bright eyed laughing boy. My precious snuggly Little Bear. Happy Birthday to you.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Book of Job

"If I be wicked, woe unto me; and if I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head." ~Job 10:15

From the time Monkey gets off the bus, pretty much straight up till bedtime, all bets are off in our house. As the day winds down, my kids tend to wind up. And the small hour right before Daddy is due home is the worst, doubly so if I'm trying to do something constructive - like cook dinner. Tonight was no exception.

I had Little Bear in the kitchen with me while I was prepping some chicken to go into the oven, and knew there was mayhem going on by the noises emanating from the playroom. I had every intention of stepping in as soon as I washed the salmonella off my hands, but the minute Scootch's shrieks of glee turned into tears I figured I had missed the opportunity. Somehow Monkey's teeth sliced through Scootch's skin on his back. I walked in on her screaming "I SAID I'm SORRY!" at him (as if those words alone would stop the pain or the blood) and sent her to her room for a timeout.

After doctoring Scootch with an ice pack, finally managing to get dinner into the oven, and trying to get Little Bear occupied with some activity in the living room, I heard a tale of woe being lamented out of the bedroom upstairs. I'm hoping the video below will amuse you as much as it does me (now that I've calmed down). Do you think I could send this in as Monkey's audition tape for drama school?

(Please disregard the mess of the upstairs!)

Anyone have the phone number for Mr. DeMille? I think she's ready for her close up!

Friday, November 4, 2011

If You're Happy and You Know It, Share Your Meds!

Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow. ~Mary Anne Radmacher

Almost every morning, I find myself downstairs in the kitchen with three separate kids having three separate meltdowns and think to myself "Only 14 more hours till bedtime!" The truth - I'm not at my best right now. Physically or emotionally. Everything is building on that and in the end, it shows. The kids are out of control, the laundry is out of control, and I have almost completely given up on keeping the kitchen in any semblance of order. As long as we have enough spoons to keep mixing the chocolate milk, I feel we're in business. And at nightfall, I argue, nudge, and cajole through what is supposed to be an enjoyable, relaxing, wind-down ritual of putting my kids to bed, and end up curled up on the couch too drained to even fold the basket of laundry at my feet. I don't like it. But I just have no motivation or urge to try and change it. Because changing it just leads to fighting.

I am completely at a loss as to what can be done at this point. That whole united front of parenting has turned into a baton race, because I am constantly three paces away from throwing the stick into the stands. I feel like I'm in a parallel universe with my kids. Monkey is an argumentative, mean spirited, nagging dictator of an older sister. But at school she just won a golden award for being an exemplary pupil, and got a prize from the class treasure box for earning Bee stickers (bee polite, bee kind, bee respectful, etc.) I felt gypped. I wanted to email her teacher and ask if this is the same kid who comes home everyday, berates Scootch, and then body checks him over a toy rake and holds him down in a headlock. The elaborate fanciful storytelling method of evasion is in full effect as well. Instead of a straight answer or confession, we get a long and winding tale of what so-and-so did or said at school/the other day/on the bus, etc., that usually ends with some nonsense about lions and elephants or there being 100 kids in her classroom today. Frustrating doesn't even begin to cover it.

And then there is Scootch. Taking after his big sister in all the worst ways. He likes to goof around with his food at every opportunity. Mealtimes are a minimum of an hour at the table, and then hand washing afterwards takes at least another 15-45 minutes. He also is already sporting the selective male deafness. When I talk right at him, or make a request, I get "What, Mommy?" Yet if I'm in the kitchen talking to Daddy and he's two rooms over, he will hear certain words clear as day and comment or come running. He is also becoming more exuberant in his physical affection, much to Little Bear's detriment. Kissing and hugging his little brother almost always also comes with the added caveat of a wrist bend or chin pinch or plain knock over resulting in the baby's head hitting the floor, tears being shed, and mommy losing her temper. There are only so many ways I can tell him to be more gentle and careful with his brother, to which Scootch usually responds, "But he likes it!" Regardless of the fact that Little Bear is in tears and absolutely not enjoying himself.

And I just kicked Little Bear out of our bedroom because his screaming periods between three hour sleep stretches all night long were driving me to the brink of insanity. So now the three kids are shoe horned into one bedroom. Did I mention bedtime was the highlight of the day? Me having to zombie walk to retrieve the shrieking baby at 4 am, however, is not a benefit of this arrangement. Although, to be honest, that really seems to be the only time he still consistently wakes up, so his sleeping stretches are longer (or my sleep is just getting deeper).

The worst part about all of this is the hopelessness. I literally feel like there is nothing I can do to improve anything. I've read parenting articles, three books on discipline methods, trailed through blogs and news features, all to no avail. Against my better judgement, we even instituted a rewards chart for good behavior a 'la the Kazdin Method. The novelty of earning stickers to buy prizes fizzled within two months, though (exactly like I thought it would.) Lately, anywhere I've looked for help has just felt like a validation that I'm terrible at this job of being a mother. The most recent little un-helpful article in the Family magazine had 5 tips that I already employ, but without the benefit of getting the same results. The killer was the small author bio at the end of the read that stated "Sarah and her children are often out and about, and she never counts to three to extract good behavior." Well good for Sarah! For the record, I don't count to three. I change it up between three and five to keep the kids on their toes! But seriously, its enough to make me feel like a failure. Other kids enjoy outings and are taken to the mall or the store. I dread leaving the house with mine in tow, wondering when I'll be defeated once again by a tantrum or sullen attitude that ruins the fun activity I was trying to do with them in the first place. My oldest comes home chattering about how they had a puppet show about respect in school, then interrupts me at church three days later to tell the friend I was chatting with that she has a fat face and fat belly. The middle child tells me he wants me to take Little Bear out of the playroom so he can play in peace, but as soon as I get out something to keep the baby occupied, here comes Scootch to rip it away from his brother and decide he needs to play with the baby toy instead.
People tell me I have lovely children. Most of the time I just don't see it. My MIL had something optimistic to say about it though. She told me I have to be doing a good job, because my kids are well behaved and show the effects of my teachings around others. I told her I need someone to tape it for me next time, because I would love to have some proof.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Delusions of Grandeur

"Denial ain't just a river in Eqypt" ~ Mark Twain

Scootch enjoying his lollipop after having his blood drawn

It has been one heck of a month. September felt like I was just riding things out, but October...October feels more like a perfect storm. Besides Monkey's birthday, her fractured ankle, and Little Bear being sick, plus the regular stress of everything that has been going on at home, today was the day we got the results to Scootch's large scale allergy bloodwork.

Let's go back and refresh if anyone doesn't remember. At Scootch's one year appointment he still was suffering from horrible eczema. So bad that he would scratch himself until he was bleeding. The pediatrician had given us prescription cream after prescription for it since he was about four months old, but it never seemed to go away completely. And I had already noticed he suffered mood changes after nursing when I had ingested certain foods from about 6 months of age. So I basically told them I think it was something inside that was bothering him, and wanted some allergy testing done. The did an infant scale RAST test that tests for the 5 common allergies in babies, and Scootch came back positive for egg white, egg yolk, and peanut. The RAST test measures the concentration of antibodies the body has created against a particular food allergen. The concentration results are scaled in severity from Class 0 - which indicates negative reaction (i.e. not allergic) to Class 6 - which indicates a 100% chance of reacting if exposed to the allergen. On his initial test scores, Scootch scored as a Class 2 and Class 3 for egg yolk and egg white, and a Class 4 for peanuts.

When we were referred to this allergist, he tried explaining how allergies like egg and milk are actually very common in small children, but that kids tend to grow out of them between ages 3 and 5. He indicated that since Scootch's reactions were so low on the scale, it was highly likely he could outgrow it. I might have latched onto that statement a bit harder than I realized. Of Scootch's two allergies, the egg allergy is the one that I have a severe loathing against. If you haven't already noticed from all my dejected whiny posts about my baking issues from being egg free, I also have indulgent fantasies about going out to breakfast almost daily. Fluffy pancakes, Belgian waffles, hot corn cakes, eggs over easy with bacon on the side. The list is endless. When someone asked me where I would go out to dinner if I had the option, IHOP was actually my first answer. I'm a cheap date, what can I say? The bigger underlying issue is that I've been in denial. My whole mentality through the last two years was that this was just a short endurance race. If we just wait it out for two years, Scootch will outgrow his egg allergy and we can go back to having a real breakfast, and baking marathons with repeated successes instead of repetitive failure. Imagine how crushed I was when we got Scootch's in depth RAST results back at today's appointment.

This time around, we opted to test for 13 different allergens; egg white, egg yolk, whole egg, peanut, walnut, pecan, cashew, pistachio, almond, lobster, crab, shrimp, and clam. We knew he was allergic to the eggs and peanuts, but we had been avoiding tree nuts and shellfish as a general precaution, so we figured we should check to see if he did in fact have these other allergies while we were at it. The test indicated he was allergic to everything except the almonds and all the shellfish (the former of which I was hopeful about after we experienced this). The fact that he tested positive for the tree nuts didn't surprise me after the reaction he suffered over New Years (his walnut and cashew results are both in the Class 4 category). His peanut allergy tested even higher than the last test, and takes first place as the sole Class 5 reaction. But the biggest bummer was that his Class 3 egg white allergy had merely dropped to a Class 2 to join the egg yolk, which had stayed the same. And just like that, my hopes of jumping over to sample IHOP's Trick or Treat All You Can Eat Pancake Special after his appointment were whipped out the window. Le sigh.

Scootch's allergist recommends him being re-tested in another two years, when he turns 5. He was very optimistic that since the levels were already falling it was a good indication that this is an allergy he could outgrow with time. At this point though, I think I need to adjust my way of thinking. We are an egg free family. For the comfort, health, and happiness of our Scootch, I need to whole-heartedly embrace this assignment. And maybe enroll Scootch in preschool and have a late brunch by myself at IHOP every couple of months. Just to take the edge off.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hell's Kitchen

"Recipe: A series of step-by-step instructions for preparing ingredients you forgot to buy, with utensils you don't own, to make a dish the dog wouldn't eat." ~Author Unknown

You think I'd learn something after 5 years. Every year I think I've found something easier to do for the kids birthday parties, and every year it usually becomes this ridiculous fiasco that ends in incessant cursing or tears of disappointment. I guess it would be such a shame to stop the tradition this year!

Enter the world of cake pops by Bakerella. I thought this looked way easier than cupcakes. Yes, it involved cake, but the recipe calls for you to mix the cake with icing and shape into balls. Which means even if I have rising issues with the cake nobody has to know. So I showed the Monkey my discovery. She enthusiastically agreed to ladybug cake pops, but added that she wanted pink cake inside. "Strawberry cake!" (Sounds gross to me, but hey, its her birthday!) The week before I made sure I had everything I needed so I could do this over a couple days and not a last minute mad rush like usual. Unfortunately, what I wasn't aware of, is that there is next to nobody who makes white chocolate that isn't contaminated with nuts. I did find a small bag from a local chocolate supply shop, so I thought I was in business. Just add a little red candy dye and we were on our way to ladybugs!

Of course it all started going downhill the day before. Especially when this is how far I got trying to melt the white chocolate before it started burning.

I realized at 12:15am on the morning of Monkey's party that this wasn't going to go as planned. From my previous trips to the store I knew that I didn't have the option of any backup chocolate from the baking aisle of any supermarket, and the opening hours of the candy supply coincided with the very moment Monkey's party was scheduled to start. So I did what I always do. I improvised. Thank goodness for Magic Shell. I busted through the doors of my local supermarket 11 minutes after they opened at 6am and bought some White Chocolate Cupcake flavored Magic Shell ice cream topping. Stirred in a little red candy dye, and presto - red ladybug candy coating.

Little did I realize that it was the beginning of the end of my good luck streak. In my sleep-deprived haze, I forgot the temperamental properties of Magic Shell. Basically, it starts out as a liquid when warm, and hardens when it comes in contact with the cold ice cream. This wasn't a problem in the beginning, because I had frozen the cake balls so they would firm up and hold their shape. However, when you have the cake pops sitting out on the counter so you can decorate and bag them, all sorts of shenanigans start going on. Long story short, we went from cute little blue eyed ladybugs,

To carnage of canniballistic proportions.

So in the end, Kira's friends went home with ladybugs nested in cupcake wrappers.

At least I didn't hear anyone complain that the eyes that had slid off tasted any less delicious.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Dear Monkey

To my beautiful little princess Monkey-bean,
Today you turn 5 years old. I can't even begin to describe how this happened so fast, but here you are, grown up before my eyes. Last night I was snuggling Little Bear and crying remembering when it was you who used to fit on my chest all snuggled up. But now you're a tall little lady, worming into my clothes and shoes and somehow even managing to walk straight in the heels I kill myself in. You're smart, and funny, and love to make everyone around you laugh at your antics. Your brothers adore you, even if Scootch only shows it by jumping on top of you on the couch and smooshing you. I love watching you learn and grow. You amaze me everyday with the knowledge and worksheets you've completed at school all day. How you're pointing out the words you know in the books we read at night, and when we're driving in the car and you're looking at the signs. And the questions you ask me. How they keep me on my toes! I feel so proud when I see you do something well that we've taught you.
But most of all, Monkey, I feel proud of what you've taught your Daddy and I. Before you came along, we were just a couple. We didn't have the special second names of Mommy and Daddy until you arrived. We never heard those names until you spoke them to us (even though you felt the need to name balloons before you named us). You, my little darling, were the extra 7 pounds and 2 ounces that made us a family for the first time. All the first things we learned about parenting, we learned from raising you. In many ways you are our teacher, and we are your students. And I hope with all my heart that we can stay in your class for the rest of our lives.
Happy birthday, sweet girl!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Invisible Life

"I like hugs and I like kisses,
But what I really love is help with the dishes!" ~Anonymous

Last night I got into one of those fights with my husband. You know, the one they wrote that joke about where the husband comes home to find the house trashed, the kids gone wild and when he asks his stay-at-home wife (who is in the bed reading) 'What happened today?' his wife replies 'You know every day when you come home from work and you ask me what in the world I do all day? Well, today I didn't do it!'

Yeah. That type of fight.

I love my husband. I really do. And I know he has an actual legitimate issue that makes him forgetful and absent-minded. But it doesn't mean I have to like it. And it certainly doesn't mean he gets a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card for being expected to act like an adult. Especially when I'm feeling petulant and undervalued. Which I am was. Still undergoing this adjustment period to being a SAHM on little to no sleep will do that to a person. Not that it gives me any passes for being bitchy, but it is what it is. So last night, he made the mistake of needing guidance for something I thought he should be able to figure out himself, and instead of said help he got an earful.

What I laid in bed thinking about this morning while Little Bear had me up 2 hours before the alarm went off (no sleep, remember?) is how much he probably doesn't know or doesn't see about my life at home. My invisible life. The one I share with countless other moms and dads and caretakers who are at home meting by the hours in invisible increments of diapers and tickle wars and wiping jam off the countertops, instead of having projects or deadlines or production to show for their labor all day. A good day at my house is when everyone is alive and intact by the time Daddy comes home for dinner. I'm not even striving for alive and happy - that is a whole post in itself for a different day. But it makes me wonder what he sees when he comes in through the door. Maybe it looks like the house is the same level of messy, but what he fails to realize is that is still a little messy because I cleaned up all day so the mess didn't get worse. The dog is alive because I watched the kids to make sure they didn't abuse her, or unlock the front door and let her run out into the street (Thanks, Scootch!). When he gets interrupted at work by text messages from me with the kids height and weight stats, that's because I made them appointments and dragged them to the doctors. When he gets exasperated over me stressing out about bringing food to parties we have planned on the weekends, its because I made those plans to make sure we still see other people, and want to make sure that all the kids (Scootch) have something they can eat. And when he grumbles about me asking for money to buy the kids clothes, its because I sorted through all the kids things (which are organized in meticulously labeled bins in the attic) to make sure they have stuff that fits and still came up lacking. I don't even want to get started on how the clean underwear and socks magically replenishes in everyone's drawers.

I have this feeling that if our brains were projected on the wall for viewing, my screen would resemble CNN - with news stories going on between the opinions of newscasters and correspondents and the status of my kids and my schedule speeding along the bottom like a NASDAQ ticker - and his playing out like cartoon network - a mildly amusing main show always on with limited commercial interruptions. Sometimes I wonder if he finds himself at parties or the occasional doctors visit and wonders where he is or how he got there. Many times I feel as if I'm living a role out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Like the last time we went to Scootch's allergist appointment, he was standing right there as I scheduled the next visit where we would get the blood test results. I asked him if the date and time were alright with him and he said yes. And then this afternoon he's asking me what day Scootch's next appointment was because he scheduled an appointment for himself the same day (and near the same time.) Does he even remember being at the previous visit? Or was I there with his pod person?

Its these types of things that make me feel like we are the commercial interruptions in his life, instead of the scheduled programming. And the resentment grows when he comes home from a day of work and gets to relax in front of the television with a drink after the kids are put to bed, while I have to transition to the next leg of housework; i.e. laundry or dishes, that was impossible to do while running after the kids all day. Ignoring my invisible life is indirectly ignoring me. And that hurts.

(I'm still sorry I yelled at you last night, babe.)

What does your invisible life look like?

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Decade of Differences

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another. ~Anatole France

With the passing of the tenth anniversary of 9-11, there is a lot of thought processing evoked. So many people saying that they couldn't tell you what they did two days ago, but they can still remember with clarity what they were doing 10 years ago when they heard about the towers being hit. I remember my mother saying the same thing about her hearing that President Kennedy was shot. I remember my grandmother and grandfather being able to tell me exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard about Pearl Harbor. Hearing them say those things as a child, I couldn't grasp how things like that could cause such an indelible memory. But now I do.

Its a decade later, and now I'm in a different position. Now I have the delicate position of educating my children about an event that happened before their time. I'm still struggling what to tell them, because in some ways, I'm still discovering the lessons I've taken away from that day ten years ago. And then there is the whole question of how to explain everything to my kids without shattering their innocence. Monkey's eyes were opened to death at the beginning of the year. Not that she is ignorant of death - we live across the street from a cemetery, she's heard death referenced in movies, she knows her Nana passed away before she was born; but early in the year we experienced the unexpected death of our neighbor. Someone she knew, who had a face, and a voice, and a name. I could tell it really hit her, and how she grappled to wrap her four year old mind around it. The questions and fears she had for weeks afterwards were hard, and a little frightening for me to answer. I couldn't bring myself to use the platitude that she didn't need to worry, that it wouldn't happen to her. It happened to me, it happened to the family next door. Ten years ago, it happened to almost 3,000 other families.

That still leaves me with what message I want her to learn about 9-11. How can you condense the lessons of what happened between now and that terrible day 10 years ago into something that doesn't overwhelm a kindergartener? For a child whose concepts of justice and equality are so delineated in black or white, how can you possibly introduce all those gray areas that senseless death seems to occupy? Is there any way to really convince her that the good that came out of that day, the shows of compassion, samaritanism, the renewed sense of community and nationality, outweigh the loss that was suffered? Is there any way we will ever be able to convince ourselves?

I think of all the moments I've experienced since that day. Life changing moments that have overjoyed and saddened, empowered and overwhelmed. Moments to be celebrated, and moments to be greived. Sunday was a day greived by a nation. I think everyone has lost something since that terrible day, whether it was a loved one, or just the burdenless life of innocence. It is hard to celebrate what you have retained, and what you have gained, when remembering what so many have lost forever. I believe that is the object, though. Ultimately, we must retain, and be open to receiving the gifts we are still given. We must not let the lives of those lost be lost in vain. Speak for them, laugh for them, cry for them, live for them. As a nation we must recover for them, fight for them, and try to change the climate in this world so our fate does not befall another. Perhaps the time freedom comes to all be the indelible memory our children's generation collectively share.

My prayer for you is that 10 years later, when you think of them ... that it brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. ~Joseph Biden

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Hairy Situation

If one way be better than another, that you may be sure is Nature's way. ~Aristotle

Ever notice how the littlest things seem to send you down the most altering paths? I got fed up with my hair around my birthday. I've always fought with it, so the feeling was nothing new. It's curly, and temperamental, and likes to give me greif. I had a pretty good system for taming my hair that worked for awhile, but ever since having kids I've felt like it could look better. I dyed it on a whim, and that became a disaster. I ended up re-dying it, then using Color Oops to get the leftover green tint out of it. Soon after that I just decided to lop it all off, so I had hubby cut it for me as a long chin bob. This look really required straigtening for it to look its best, but lets be real. Its summertime in the Northern East Coast, where the humidity level frequently exceeds the temperature. My hair grows like a ChiaPet in concurrence with the rise in moisture in the air. So I decided I should try to go back to curly. Except everything I normally did to style it wasn't working out with the same results. And to top it off, it felt like all the products I were using were leaving a greasy coating on my hair. So I decided to check in with the Google gods for some advice or direction. Enter the world of Curly Girl by Lorraine Massey.

Basically the philosophy is this; curly hair is more prone to over-drying than normal straight hair, and therefore, most of the harsh chemicals used in many commercial brands of hair products strip the hair and make it misbehave. So Lorraine suggests a different approach of using more natural products to cleanse, condition, and style the hair. I figured what the heck. It's worth a shot. And I'm not going to go into the specifics since the majority of you don't have my hair problems, but I find myself laughing at, well, myself on an almost daily basis now. People always arch their eyebrows when they learn we cloth diaper(ed) our kids. The forays into organic, vegan, and natural substitutions for Scootch's allergies have led me to become acquainted with many health food stores, co-ops, and on mailing lists for many forward thinking newsletters. I love to craft and sew which ultimately translates into making the occasional clothes, or quilt, or draperies. My husband and I were recently discussing how great it would be to install solar panels to offset the cost of the electricity we're using to cool the house. And now I'm in the kitchen making my own hair gel from flax seeds and boiling water using a recipe adopted from a hair care handbook.

I feel like my house is thisclose to becoming a hippie commune.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Improv Night

improvise: im-pro-vise (v) - to make or fabricate out of what is conveniently on hand. Merriam-Webster

i.e. having the staff at Red Robin make your 3 year old, tantrum throwing, nut allergic son, the pizza dinner which is not on the approved allergy menu, but which he absolutely HAS TO HAVE, with ketchup instead of their potentially cross-contaminated red sauce.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Simple. Effective. Advertising.

Is it bad that I want to distribute this to every person I know?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

That Old Familiar Feeling

"We all lose loved ones; we all face our own death. And loss, strangely, can attune you to what is beautiful about existence even as it wounds you with what is awful." ~Meghan O'Rourke
Distance lends perspective. It surprises me to come back to where I once was, and have the ability to discern changes or gain understanding. It surprises me more when I can turn that around and recognize an element of myself in someone else. I suppose if that didn't happen, I'd be useless. Never learning anything or being able to improve my outcomes. I find this happening alot lately, emotionally. I had anxiety. I slugged through depression. I got treatment. Got better. And now that I'm off the medication I can recognize I'm getting worse. Since I've tasted life without that shroud clouding my thoughts, its so much harder to resign myself to it again. But what is also eye opening to me is how well I'm doing, considering the circumstances.

Back when I was in therapy, I remember the doctor telling me that she thought most of the issues I was experiencing were due to the unresolved emotional trauma I endured from the loss of my mother. Funny thing about losing someone is that its never truly "resolved." Its more of an ever evolving trauma, constantly reshaping itself and able to wound you repeatedly through life. Like an emotional Prometheus, my heart gets ripped out every time I approach another milestone. As today marks a tipping point in my life, I'm a little surprised at my current perspective. I lost my mother fifteen years ago, just 2 weeks shy of my fifteenth birthday. From now on I will be living without her longer than I knew her.

Two years ago, even last year, I was dreading this day. I was terrified of what I would be feeling, of how it might distort my views of my mother, or myself. But consciously, or unconsciously, I've been taking small steps to already start walking that distance. I decided I needed to start living with her memory, and not just the memory of her loss. Last Christmas - it helped that I was busy with the arrival of Little Bear - I only let myself dwell on her absence once on Christmas Eve. And in doing so it was by singing a song for her. This Mother's Day, I celebrated her by doing a painting project which I know she would have approved of, instead of trekking to the shore to commiserate for an hour or two on the fact that she wasn't here so I could give her a card. I want my kids to know what the essence of their Nana was like, not just know that she's gone. I still want to love her, but I want to do it by having my kids learn to love hearing about her in stories, or seeing her in pictures. And I'm amazed that I'm seeing this all from an even level, and not from the bottom of the emotional hole I usually find myself in when unmedicated. I feel like I'm meeting the pain halfway. Almost like I'm familiar with it, can somewhat predict its movements and mannerisms, and maybe even be a bit welcoming to it, because I know it will move on. I feel the need to reassure others when I recognize the pain they're enduring in their own lives. Not that I'm the poster child for recovery, but hopefully my sympathy might make their own load a little more bearable. Shared pain is half the pain, right?

Standing here, looking back and looking forward, I can still see the future is stretching so much further than my past. But from this perspective it doesn't seem to look as looming as it once did.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Add It To The List

So, a month after the news that Scott's Miracle Grow Potting Soil could potentially kill your gardening loving nut allergic child by omitting the fact that it contains tree nuts or peanuts in its composted ingredients, I stopped in the hair product aisle of the supermarket because I needed more hair serum to tame my mane. And apparently, Scootch needs to be aware of what his future girlfriend uses on her hair, too. The label of Organix's Coconut Milk Anti-Breakage Serum reads as follows; "Indulge your senses with this exclusive blend of organic coconut milk to nourish your hair, while ultra whipped egg white proteins add strength and elasticity, along with weightless coconut oils to add hydration and balance."

Well, thank goodness I use John Freida. Could you imagine the poor boy running his fingers through his crush's hair and then breaking out in a red itchy rash all over his hands? Maybe it will be like a litmus test for true love. If you're allergic to her, she's not right for you.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Age of Awareness

Humor is perhaps a sense of intellectual perspective: an awareness that some things are really important, others not; and that the two kinds are most oddly jumbled in everyday affairs. ~Christopher Morley

Since Scootch's diagnosis, I can't even begin to tell you how much reading I have done. Knowledge is power, right? I should be able to supply energy to the entire neighborhood with how much power I've accumulated. And yet, I still feel like I'm learning something new everyday.

I recently joined another website community for help regarding Scootch. They lured me in with a feature on managing anxiety associated with food allergies. (I think they just should have named it, "We're Doing This Feature For You!") The entire presentation was helpful, validating, and enlightening, but there was one point in particular that has been worrying me incessantly. They talked a little bit about empowering your own child by letting him/her become their own advocate, and most of the mothers listed how well their children do asking for permission to eat things, and knowing to tell strangers that they have allergies. One mother even said her son has known his food limitations by 2 1/2.

Huh. Scootch is almost 3. And I have never taught him to say he's allergic to eggs and nuts. Why this never occurred to me I can't say. Somehow in reading to him, teaching him his colors, numbers, alphabet, and how to go potty, I never have actually sat down with him and explained TO HIM that he has food allergies. He's always been present when they were discussed, I've told him he can't have certain things because they will make him itchy, but I've never actually filled him in on it. I found myself unsure of how much he actually knew and comprehended about his condition. Until last Saturday.

Last Saturday was Easter Eve. And Easter Eve in our house involves dying Easter Eggs. I actually remembered to buy the contraband eggs the night before while I was out at the grocery store (and then promptly forgot to buy the egg dye), and hard boiled them in the morning to prepare them. So by afternoon, after lunch, I had everything set up and announced we were going to dye eggs for Easter, and Scootch told me he couldn't. "I no do eggs, Mom. I don't wanna be itchy." Dumbfounded. That was my reaction. It became blatantly obvious that Scootch had grasped a great deal of his condition by himself, even though I didn't have a whole sit down talk with him. He obviously remembered how horrible he felt back on New Years Day when he was exposed to nuts and broke out in hives. He obviously has been listening when his sister has been integrating mini lectures about his food allergies into their play kitchen sessions. And he obviously is old enough to comprehend and internalize the stuff I have been talking over his head to others for the past 2 years. A big "DUH" to Mommy for not thinking he would simply absorb this information just like he's picked up everything else in his short life.

To tell you the truth, I think the whole reason I haven't had the food allergy talk with him is that I didn't think he was that self-aware yet. My first clue should have been that he has grasped the awareness concept of potty training, but I think in some respects, I've been short changing him a bit by thinking he is still pretty much a helpless baby. In actuality, he'll be 3 in less than two months, and is as opinionated and bright as the Monkey was at that age. He confounds me again and again, day to day, with the observations and queries that come out of his mouth with no provocation. As much as I can sit here and rationalize that I didn't do it because I wanted him to still be a carefree little boy, I'm now kicking myself in the head and feeling guilty for insulting his intelligence by not thinking he could handle the information sooner. He obviously has some knowledge about his food limitations, and it hasn't dampened his carefree attitude one bit. So instead of sitting here worrying how much information is too much information, I'm going to start giving him the basics to go on for now. Hopefully by the time we get to his 3rd birthday, he'll know his full name, his address, and his food allergies.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Luck of the Draw

"Fortune brings in some boats that are not steered." ~William Shakespeare

Sometimes I wonder why my husband agreed to have kids with me. Its obvious I have defective genes. Although my wonderfully recessive traits allow for beautiful strawberry blond children, they also allow for all kinds of havoc in the immunity department. Monkey and Little Bear resemble each other the most in looks and coloring. Both have that pale roses complexion with the ruddiness lying just below the surface of their cheeks, and that beautiful reddish blond hair like their Daddy. Scootch resembles my coloring more, with the obvious cool complexion palette and invisible platinum blond locks I sported as a baby. But all three have inherited my allergy problems. Lucky them.

Monkey scared the crap out of us at 3 months old. New parents, new baby, and we were taking all those cold winter precautions about not taking your baby out in public since the mall and grocery store is such a blatant place for epidemics to spread. But she still got the sniffles. So when what we thought was just our little Monkey battling a cold landed us in the ER at the hospital with breathing problems, I immediately fell down a hole of guilt and self blame. Her Daddy didn't have any problems with his lungs, but Mommy and half of her family sure did. I was diagnosed with asthma at 8 years old when I passed out cold on the marble floor of a church from lack of oxygen. And as they hooked up my little Monkey to a face mask and started the nebulizer treatment, I sat through the flashbacks reeling in the back of my mind of breathing exercises, steriod pills, oxygen tents, and that bitter, bitter, taste of the asthma medication that bites the tip of your tongue with every use.

With Scootch, we never went down that road. He's had coughs from time to time, and a leaky nose since forever, but nothing the good old Vicks Humidifier couldn't cure. Of course, we got slammed with food allergies instead. Which, if you think about it in a morbid way is still a breathing issue, since anaphalaxsis causes your throat to swell shut. But his infancy was a whole 'nother ball of wax between his skin condition that would never heal, his swallowing issues that made him constantly gag on food and sent me through the trials of Early Intervention, Swallowing Specialists, and an ENT. Oh, and that whole Immobilizing Anxiety Disorder I was battling because I thought that if I left the house alone with my kids we were all going to die in some terrible accident. Goodtimes.

So now we're onto poor Little Bear. I have been watching him like a hawk for any indications of food allergies, like the eczema Scootch endured, or the discomfort after I binge on certain types of food. He did have a bit of a rash on his elbows I was freaking out about, and a problem with spitting up that I was afraid was turning into a reflux issue, but thankfully the skin was cured by a simple change in lotion, and the spitting up lessened with time. Then last Friday he started off with a little cough and some sniffles. And over the weekend, it was increasing to him having small coughing fits and lots of sneezing. Monday he was just irritable and altogether miserable, and his cough was sounding worse. The common cold. At least that's what I kept hoping. And praying. But then when he woke up at 4:30 in the afternoon screaming and inconsolable and his breathing sounded like there was something fluttering in his airways, I was slapping myself for not taking him into the doctor's in the morning. Thankfully the doctor's office has evening hours on Mondays. I scored a 6:30 appointment after waffling back and forth and finally calling the hubby at work to see what he thought of me taking Little Bear in. Of course, it meant picking up Monkey from school with her brothers in tow and shuffling all three of them with me to the doctor's office until Daddy could meet me there after work and take them home for dinner and bedtime. And then waiting the usual hour after my scheduled appointment time to be seen. But score two points for Mommy when the doctor took one listen to his chest and clucked her tongue in pity. Bronchiolitis. The kind that would definitly have landed us in the ER at 3am if I hadn't brought him in for an appointment. So we had our first nebulizer treatment right there in the office. Little Bear was true to form and did not like the breathing mask, but I got to show off my non-squirm headlock skills to the nurse (who was very impressed.) The bad news is him having lung issues this early clearly points to him developing asthma later in life, just like his sister.

And am I a bad Mother for thinking he'd be lucky to have this and not allergy issues with food?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hold On Tight

To fear is one thing. To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another. ~Katherine Paterson

Panic. I think panic lives in my throat, because that is where I feel it first. My neck gets tight and my throat starts to feel like there is an invisible vice around it, prepared to tighten if I don't get it under control. Then come the spine tingles. They prick in the back of my neck, and the bottom of my spine, and then slowly fill in the space between. Fight, flight, or freeze. Sympathetic nervous system overload. Clammy hands, cold sweat, the rushing noise in my ears, they all pile on the panic train and start pushing it over the hill until my stomach feels like its dropping to my toes. Have you ever tried to move quickly when your stomach is in your feet? And I haven't felt panic in so long until it sprang upon me again last night. It was almost funny how the feelings were coming over me and a separate section of my brain was going, "What is this? It's kind've familiar. I've gone through this before. Oh, yeah. I remember now. PANIC!"

I've been doing exceptionally well since Little Bear was born. Considering its been a whole year and change since I stopped taking my anxiety medication, I have been pretty optimistic with how even and level my feelings have been. I've even managed short trips with my entire brood alone, and have yet to feel anything close to that crippling day in June 3 years ago when I couldn't make myself get out of the car for fear we would all be killed in the parking lot. Maybe it helps that I'm more cautious now, more prone to asking for assistance or for someone to come with me that has been helping. Or even that I seem to have slowly developed the ability to force back and tune out the anxious thoughts of death, separation, and disaster to a dull hum in the back of my mind, instead of letting them break through and dominate my thoughts. Or maybe Little Bear just found the reset button while he was in there and I got a free system restore for all the trouble he's put us through.

Either way, last night started out well. I went out shopping with Monkey for an Easter dress for her, since the store had them for 50% off. I even left Scootch and Little Bear at home with Daddy so she could have some undivided attention. I figured this would be a piece of cake, going out with the oldest. She's not allergic to anything, doesn't need to have her diaper changed. And we did have fun. She ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the prom dresses that were in the adult section, got giddy and giggly around the plethora of lace and flowers that adorned the dresses in her size, had a ball spinning the skirts out in the dressing room in front of the mirror, and even managed to put back the matching purse, hat, gloves, and headband she wanted without too much of an arguement. And I'm sure it was only 5 minutes of the entire excursion that went awry. 5 minutes that made me realize how matter how much I think I'm doing good, this will always be with me. As long as I'm living and breathing, I have the potential to freak out over my kids.

After checking out, we were walking towards the doors when something in my size got my attention and we went over to investigate. I let go of Monkey's hand to see the price and she walked away from me, around to the other side of the rack. I didn't think anything of it. I was done, turned around, and she wasn't there. I bent down to look underneath the clothes, since she likes to hide inside the clothing racks like I did when I was little (you know that curse from your mother about having a kid JUST LIKE YOU?), but I didn't see any legs under there. Checked the surrounding racks, and nothing. At this point I was still at annoyance level. So I called her. Twice. And nothing. Tried again, lifting my voice up so she could hear me over the larger part of the section we were in. Nothing. No "What, Mom?", no giggle because she's hiding, no feet running in my direction, and no helpful stranger telling me "She ran past this way." So I walked the length of the 5 aisles in the section scanning each one, hoping to spot strawberry curls, or a red jacket. Still calling her name, and still nothing. There is doubt at first. Am I sure I didn't see her? Maybe she's just hiding in another rack? I go back to the beginning to check again. No Monkey. And that's when it starts, the panic feeling in my throat. The irritation eroding and being replaced by that imaginary vice. I'm scanning the store as my throat is tightening. No Monkey. I'm feeling spine tingles as I take to inspecting other people in the area, looking for someone trying to hide a little girl under their arm as they bolt from the store. Still No Monkey. I'm jogging as the cold sweat breaks out, moving through clothing racks, weaving through people. I can't even tell you what I'm seeing, except that it's not the one thing my eyes are looking for. One final time before my throat closes up I yell her name again. Heartbeat. Silence. Heartbeat. What do I do? Heartbeat. But then there she is, popping out of an aisle and running straight at me. I'm grabbing her as she's chattering about some pretty shirt with sparkly flowers on it that she wants me to see. I don't care about the shirt, I care about her not coming to me when I called her, or at least saying something in response when I was yelling her name. I'm trying to cool down, and I'm trying to not scare her by squeezing her so tight I disrupt her air flow. My hands are still shaking a little, but the sound of my heartbeat is finally draining away from in my ears. I take her hand again. "I want to show you the shirt, Mom," and she's leading me away.

We go see the shirt. We get in the car. The whole way home I try to explain that if she wanders too far and doesn't answer my call I get scared because I can't find her. I try to practice with her what she should say if she ever hears me yelling her name. That I can yell for her for another reason besides the fact that she's in trouble. "Okay, Mom" is all she says. Okay. We're okay. I'm okay. It will probably happen again, but it should be okay.

But in the meantime, she damn well better learn to come when I call.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Chubba Love

Everyone tells me I look like my kids. And its true, so I usually take it as a compliment since I think they're all darned cute. But one issue I'm sore about is how much I look like Little Bear, specifically in the leg portion. How cute do all those dimples and rolls look on his legs? For me, as it nears shorts and bathing suit weather, I don't think anyone would manage to find my version of chubby legs as attractive. (And if anyone tried nibbling on them like I do to Little Bear, I might research restraining orders.) But I have to confess, as addicted as I am to the cheesecake and ice cream that brought on those rolls while I was pregnant, I'm also sort of addicted to the Zumba classes I'm taking to hopefully work it all off.

I've been trying to lose weight for a few years now. I tried Yoga, then an Interval class, then weights, then Jillian Michaels DVDs. It helped shed a few pounds, but not as much as I liked. I took the Zumba class on a whim because it was new, and involved dancing (which I love) and was supposed to have great results. And color me surprised when I lost 10 pounds after two sessions. So I was well on my way to my weight goal when I got pregnant with Little Bear, only to gain back almost all my progress and more within the next 9 months. And my body parts with pregnancy weight like static cling on a pair of fleece pants. Won't.Let.Go.

So I just started back up with the Zumba classes last week after spending almost a year on workout hiatus, and I have to say, it was so much fun. I had almost forgotten how much I enjoyed bouncing around to Spanish music I don't understand, and feeling that endorphin rush from working up a sweat. My knees have been complaining a little ever since, but I'm hoping I can take care of that with a new pair of shoes since mine are ancient. When I'm in class, and going with the music along with the 30 other ladies present, I feel like I can do anything. I have little fantasies that I could take up biking or running, or do a 5K. Or maybe get back to my pre-pregnancy weight from before having the Monkey. It's important to have dreams. ;-)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy Birthday

Another year goes by.
Those old raw feelings break back through.
Overwhelm me.
No matter how good I’m doing. How ‘healed’ I am.
And so I should celebrate the day that breathed your life into the world, even after that sweet air has been snatched away from me.
My exhale only lends a hint of what your presence lent to this place.
And fate, in her calm exacting way, piles many more blessings on such a significant date.
Is it wrong that they still don’t add up to fill the hole?
The gaping raw chasm that echoes with my loss.
The emptiness that was previously filled with you.

I need you.
Crave your voice. Your touch. Your guidance.
I miss the sweet whispers that floated into my ears in my dreams.
I look into the faces of my babies, and I’m at a loss as to how I can keep you alive for them.
I search their looks, their smiles, not for my resemblance, but yours.
How can I be complete as their mother, while I have none to complete myself?
How do I rise from the dark mists that pull me under?
Unable to rise like a phoenix, because the dampness smothers the sparks that would kindle me.
Reluctant to look towards a future devoid of your face.
Still trying, in vain, to brace myself for a life untold to you.
Hoping my endurance will help me survive.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Man Bag

"A father carries pictures where his money used to be." ~Author Unknown

I don't profess to be a girly-girl. Feminine, yes. I definitely have skirts and heels and can doll up with the best of them for special occasions. But as for the glitter and ruffles on an everyday basis, I'll let Monkey keep those bases covered. I'd much rather possess something functional and durable, even if it only comes in pea green. So I've never been too worried when it came to baby accessories that my husband would ever be embarrased to be seen with a sling or a diaper bag, because I've never owned one in pink or flower print, or any other potentially emasculating color. We've come to this crossroads for a different matter entirely. My husband requires a small bag of essentials while he's out with Scootch, not because he'd be embarrassed to carry the ones we currently own, but because big boy Scootch is now potty trained, and we no longer have the need to schlep an entire bag everywhere we go for his diaper changes. So what essentials, exactly, does he need? Scootch's emergency supplies, of course.

Now that we are a family of 5, we tend to divvy up the kids when one of us goes out. Usually the errand-running parent takes one kid, and the one staying home will have the other two. Its not a problem for me, since I carry an Epi-pen and Benadryl in my purse. But the temperature requirements for Scootch's medicine prevent it from being something that could be housed in a glove compartment of a car, and my husband doesn't carry any type of pouch with him. So on the occasions Scootch goes with his father solo, Daddy has nowhere to stash an Epi-Pen and some Benadryl unless he wants to have it stick awkwardly out of his back pocket. My husband brought this up with me the other day, and we discussed it, and I came up with a solution any good wife would - I bought him a makeup bag. ;-)

As you can see from the picture, its a perfectly masculine looking makeup bag. But still, just the right size for an Epi-Pen and some Benadryl Perfect Measures. And it fits right on the windowsill next to the front door, so Daddy can grab it in the way out. So now Daddy has some portable peace of mind for himself, and for me, so I don't have to stress that they're out there unprepared.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Through the Looking Glass

A daughter is the happy memories of the past, the joyful moments of the present, and the hope and promise of the future. ~Author Unknown

When the doctor said those three little words "Its a girl" I'll admit I was filled with more trepidation than anticipation. As much as I knew there was an excellent chance we'd have a girl, I don't know if I ever could prepare myself fully for having a daughter. I never had a good relationship with my own mother, I don't even think I began to understand her at all until after she passed, and in some ways I think I'll always feel ill-equipped and inadequate in relating with Monkey. I'm not saying I wasn't loved, I definitely know my mother loved me and was proud of me, but we didn't relate to each other as well as she got on with my brother. I think her bright personality responded better to her charming Sagittarius baby than to her moody little Gemini. The other factor that influences me is how long I've lived in only the company of men. After my mother passed I was living with three generations of males; my father, grandfather, and brother. There were a constant stream of my brother's male friends in the house, or I was spending time with my dad and his older male friends. I've always had a small group of close girlfriends, but I've never fully related to them. Being a 15 year old adult sometimes puts a damper on finding things as amusing as other girls my age did.

So mix that all together and you can possibly see why I'm always over-analyzing my relationship with Monkey. Out of all 3 kids, she is the one whose antics get under my skin the fastest, or whose comments hit me the deepest. For some reason it always feels like she knows just what to say to cut me to the quick. She is so much like me in her tastes and interests, with the one exception that she owns more pink dress up costumes than I owned regular clothing as a child. I see so much of myself in her at her age, and I really don't want her to have the same mother/daughter experience I had. It saddens me to no end that I feel more frustration with her than anything else. Maybe its just the age or the stage, but she doesn't seem inclined to enjoy my presence or company. It wouldn't hurt so much if she was a Daddy's girl, but she doesn't care for him either. She'd much rather spend her time with Me-Ma, and that stings a little. Its not that I'm female, but apparently I'm not the right female for her to identify with. The taste of that disappointment is bitter in my mouth. Although I admit to being intimidated by having a daughter, that doesn't mean I didn't have dreams of what having a daughter would be like, or the kinds of things we could do together. And the fact that she doesn't want to do them with me hits on a whole well of insecurities I didn't know existed until she arrived.

Feeling like a weirdo through your teenage years is considered a normal course of life, but I distinctly remember feeling even more ostracized for being a weirdo with no guidance system. Teenage rebellion is a whole lot less exciting when there is no parental ideal to rebel against. Trying to find footing as a young adult without commiting a serious faux paus is a daunting task when you're trying to do it yourself without another's example. I still sometimes feel way out of league with other adults, and all these things come back to the surface when I think about my daughter not preferring my company or rejecting me as her role model. It makes me wonder if I really am deficient in some way that she can easily identify with her all seeing child-vision. And when people say having girls is harder, I believe that can be absolutely true for moms. As flawed and imperfect as we see ourselves, how terrifying must it be for all of that to be reflected back through the mirrors of our daughters? How much is exaggerated and distorted, and how much is a proper likeness? So for now, I not only strive for who I think I should be, but who I would like my daughter to be when she's older. Calm, helpful, compassionate, trustworthy, (okay - I'm still working on the calm part...). And even if she doesn't pick me as her first choice to hang out with, I'm still going to paint her toenails, knit hats for her dolls, have her be my baking assistant, and let her help me wash the dishes (by playing in the sink with the soap bubbles). Above all, I'm going to impose in her life constantly until we can improve how we communicate. Because I want to relate to this little girl. I want to understand her and help her understand me. So when the day comes that she needs help understanding herself, I can be there for her to rebel against. And I can only hope that our relationship is strong enough that I can encourage her to shatter the glass.
photo credit to C.M.C.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Go With the Flow

"There are three reasons for breast-feeding: the milk is always at the right temperature; it comes in attractive containers; and the cat can't get it." ~Irena Chalmers

Say the word "breastfeeding" and its like a game of stream of consciousness. People love it, people hate it. People think its beautiful and natural, people think its vulgar and inappropriate. Phrases like "Granola Mom" and "Nursing Nazi" get thrown around. I've heard it was the worst experience for people, and I've heard its a bunch of tree loving hippie crap. Sometimes I think our country's Puritan foundations make for all kinds of panties being put in a twist over baring a boob in public, regardless of whether its because of a wardrobe malfunction or to feed a hungry baby.

But I do breastfeed. I've breastfed Monkey and Scootch, and I'm breastfeeding Little Bear. And yes its beautiful and natural, but its also because I'm kind of lazy and poor. To me its infinitely easier to pull my kid out of the co-sleeper and yank up my shirt when he's hungry in the middle of the night, than to have to stumble downstairs in the pitch dark and cold to fumble in the kitchen with making a bottle. And its also easier for me to always be able to whip out the pump and make a bag of liquid gold for free instead of running out to the store for formula. It might not be the answer for everybody, but it works for me. Even if it doesn't work as smoothly as it should.

No matter what anyone else thinks about breastfeeding, I always liken it to the endurance course I had to do at Scout Camp when I was 16. We were split up into groups and each group had to work through different pieces of an obstacle course, only getting assigned the next challenge when you completed the piece of equipment you were currently on. So there really was no time to plan ahead, or plan in which order your team members should go according to their strengths and weaknesses. It was just hard and surprising. For everyone. To me breastfeeding is the same way. There are so many problems, and so many issues, and there is no way to know ahead of time or plan for them all. Some kids don't latch. Some kids are allergic to the milk. Some moms can't make enough milk, and some moms make too much.

I've struggled with oversupply with all 3 kids. Basically my body makes enough milk for triplets instead of a single baby and so the quality of the milk isn't balanced enough, making for all kinds of gas and discomfort in the infant. With Monkey it was really bad. I mean, I was a first time mom, following the guidelines of 10 minutes each side that they told you at the hospital. She wasn't a great nurser to begin with, so there was alot of sipping going on just to tease my body into thinking it had to make more, more, MORE milk. I was also pumping a lot to stockpile a frozen supply, which didn't help either. Poor kid was almost 5 months old before I finally figured out why we had such a love hate relationship with nursing. She'd sit there and scream and fight the entire time she was gulping and clawing at me. But after that experience, I was on the alert with Scootch. I made sure not to repeat any of the mistakes I made with Monkey. He also turned out to be a champ in the nursing department. I think he was born, stuck on my chest, and was eating within 6 minutes or something. Total boob man from the beginning.

Little Bear's experience is back to being frustrating again. I knew I'd have the oversupply issue again as soon as my milk came in, and nursing time became the bit in UHF where the little boy got to drink from the firehose. I had to make sure Little Bear wasn't drowning at each feeding. I started block feeding to try and even out the milk supply which leaves me walking around with a lopsided chest. And all those "beautiful" and "natural" people really need to experience the beautiful natural pain that goes hand in hand with this. Letdown likened to the force of a pressure washer isn't a comfortable thing. But its 6 weeks later, and I think we're "over the hump" as my Dad likes to say. I actually get nursing sessions followed by soft smiles and coos instead of just being done with the screaming and ending the feeding. I'm still block feeding, but its taking less time per block to get to the point where we can switch to the other side and even out my appearance. So I'm hoping the dedication comes through. Because I'm still too cheap to want to have to shell out money for formula.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


My husband has a theory about Deja Vu, and the easiest way to sum it up is to use a line a character said in one of the shows my husband follows. "Deja Vu is just fate letting you know you're on the right path."

Well, my premonition about Scootch having a food allergy issue around Christmas came true today. Not the same as Deja Vu, since I would have actually known what to expect, but I'm starting to think it works along the same lines.

I don't know if you can tell from the above picture, but that is Scootch with his eyes swollen from an allergy attack. He looked much worse before the picture, and the case of hives that he had on his hands looked even more worse than that. His Grandmother ate some walnuts while we were visiting today and then put her hands on Scootch. I'm not sure whether she helped him with his coat, or if they came in contact when she was saying goodbye to him, but while I was walking him out to the car he was scratching his wrists like crazy. So I pulled up his coat sleeves to take a look and his wrists and hands were covered in hives. I quickly had hubby give him one of the Benadryl Perfect Measures I carry on me, and then I wiped his hands with a baby wipe. Apparently the baby wipe didn't do enough, though, because he rubbed his eyes and by the time we got home he was crying that his eyes hurt and the left one was halfway swollen shut.

More hand scrubbing followed by nail trimming (in case any residue was still under his nails) followed by cold compresses and we had ourselves one unhappy (but somewhat healing) little boy. But now that its hours later and I'm having time to reflect, I can feel the panic rattling under the lid I have clamped down on my anxiety. I mean, I don't even want to imagine what his reaction would be to ingesting a walnut if this is what happens if he merely touches one. After him having no reaction when exposed to almonds, I was actually feeling a little optimistic about his food allergy. Now I'm back to being completely terrified and feeling entirely helpless and vulnerable.

And the hardest part is that Scootch really isn't old enough to understand. He didn't understand why he kept itching, had no clue why he had to take medicine, or why his eyes were "hurting" after he had rubbed them. And meanwhile, Monkey is asking me if I have to use the needles on Scootch, or if he has to go to the hospital. Not exactly the right thoughts to be putting in my head at the moment, but it floored me a little that she was so astute of the situation. Even while she was telling Scootch that she knows he's sick from food he shouldn't have because he has the "polka dots" on his hands.

Walnuts: 1, Kel: 0