Saturday, October 31, 2009

It's official: I hate Halloween.

Add this to the list of things that prove I'm a bad parent: I hate Halloween, the holiday that the kids adore, that's supposed to be tons of fun for all, blah blah blah. I. Don't. Like. It. There's nothing redeeming about it. Like Kevin so aptly described it "It's a bunch of kids wearing disguises and begging for candy." (This, of course, does not stop him from still taking part in the disguises and the begging.)

This year, it all started a month or so ago when I temporarily lost my mind and spent a small fortune on Disney Princess (blech!) costumes for all three girls at the Freaking Disney Store. I don't know what the hell came over me - I could have gotten costumes very nearly identical for about 1/3 of the price at Target. Whatever.

I spent close to $40 on Halloween candy. I have to buy LOTS, because we have a very, very busy crowd in our neighborhood for Halloween, and no matter how much I buy, we always run out long before the trick-or-treaters are done for the night.

So we ate an early dinner tonight and got the kids all dressed in their costumes, put Finn in the stroller, put the big plastic cauldron filled with candy on the front porch (because Michael and I both want to take the kids trick-or-treating), and we didn't even make it all the way down our front path before our house was hit by the first wave of trick-or-treaters. I'm talking 50 or so people, including adults dressed in costumes. I saw several mini-vans dropping loads of people off across the street.

See, this is why our neighborhood is so busy on Halloween - because people come in from other neighborhoods. And you know what? That kinda pisses me off. It doesn't seem fair to me. I'm sorry if your neighborhood doesn't give out the good candy - it's not fair to overburden my neighborhood and take candy that I really intended for the kids who live in my neighborhood.

So we push and shove our way out onto the sidewalk in front of our house, watching the swarm of people helping themselves to our candy. Michael said, "It feels like we're being robbed." I'll say. Then this family comes along, with a very large dog which is not on a leash. Daisy proceeds to lose her shit. Screaming and crying in terror ensue. The man and woman walk past Daisy and make some comment like, "What's her problem?" I'm pissed now. I say to them, "You're kidding, right? You don't even have your dog on a leash? And there are crowds of kids walking around?" The woman curls her lip at me and says, "Whatever, lady," as their very large, unleashed dog makes its way into my freaking yard. I say, "That's my yard. Get your freaking dog out of my yard."

It was a wonderful start to the evening.

We make it to the house next door, and Annabelle is now screaming and crying because of all the scary costumes. She's begging to go home. Sigh.

So Michael continues on with Joey, Lilah, and Daisy (who, wonder of wonders, was not scared of the scary costumes, was scared of the dogs out and about, but was still willing to go trick-or-treating), and I take Annabelle and Finn home next door, making our way back through the throng of people, and see that we've been gone for about 10 minutes and the 15 pounds of candy I left out is already gone. Nice.

Happy Freaking Halloween.

(Kevin went trick-or-treating and spent the night with a friend, so I didn't get any pics of him in his werewolf costume.)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween

From our family . . .

To yours!

Thursday, October 29, 2009


. . . back to our regularly scheduled programming . . .

Here are the short answers to Joey's "List of Things to Look Up" from the other day:

A List of Things to Look Up

1. All about Beethoven. Okay, I printed a whole bunch of stuff from Wikipedia for this one; here's the link if you're interested:
2. How many strings does a koto have? Thirteen. And a koto is a Japanese musical instrument, in case you didn't know.
3. The first person to play baseball. No record of a specific person, but according to Wikipedia, "The history of baseball in the United States can be traced to the 18th century, when amateurs played a baseball-like game by their own informal rules using improvised equipment. The popularity of the sport inspired the semi and full professional baseball clubs in the 1860s." Apparently, that Abner Doubleday invented baseball is a myth.
4. All about mambas. In short, one of the most dangerous and most feared snakes of the African continent. Kills prey by way of venom that paralyzes the nervous system; the prey, in the end, dies of suffocation due to the brain becoming unable to send the message to the lungs to breathe. Nice, huh?
5. When was Chris Columbus born? Sometime between August and October, 1451.
6. What was Martin Luther King Jr.'s grandfather's job? Chrystal, I thought the same thing - that he was probably a slave. But actually, according to, "His grandfather began the family's lon tenure as pastors of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, serving from 1914 to 1931."
7. What is the oldest a turtle can be? According to WikiAnswers, "The lifespan varies greatly depending on the species of turtle. A typical pet turtle can live 10 - 80 years or so while larger species can easily live over 100 years. The oldest recorded age of a turtle was 250 years in India."
8. When was the color version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe released in theaters? There were two versions released - one in 1988 and the other in 2005; they were both color.
9. Who was somebody whose birthday was New Year's Day? Some notables with New Year's birthdays include Betsy Ross, J. Edgar Hoover, Barry Goldwater, J.D. Salinger, and Rocky Graziano.
10. Who invented board games? No record of any one person inventing board games, but they apparently date back to the ancient Egyptians.

Don't you feel all knowledgeable now?? I know I do. And Chrystal, no this was not a school assignment, this is just Joey being Joey. If he doesn't have enough homework assigned by his teacher, he makes up his own. Weirdo.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cancer sucks.

Have I mentioned lately how much cancer sucks? Yeah, I thought not.

In the early months after Michael was diagnosed, I used to blog a lot more about the emotional aspects of his having cancer, the fallout on the entire family. But as I've said, Michael doesn't like starring in my blog. He's a rather private person, apparently in possession of a lot more dignity than I have. Every once in a while, he'll say to me, "Sooooo . . . I read your blog today . . ." and I go, "Uh oh . . ." because I know he's probably going to tell me how he didn't appreciate my putting this or that on my blog. So I've backed off, out of respect for my husband.

And I do respect him a great deal, but you know what? Cancer sucks. And I'm going to unload a little here tonight. Call it my Master Cleanse if you will. I'll try to just stick to my shit and leave him out of it.

Did I mention that cancer sucks?

It's taking a real toll on us. On our happy marriage. We'll pull through this, I believe that with all my heart, but the truth is, we're in a sort of rough patch right now. How could we not be? Tempers flare a lot more often lately than they used to. Speaking for myself, I just seem to reach my breaking point more and more often. It's been months and months and months that my husband has been sick now, and I often feel alone. Like I've lost him on some level, because so much of his energy necessarily goes into withstanding treatment. I miss having a full-time compadre.

And when he's sick, pretty much everything falls on my shoulders. I'm not looking for pity. Just sayin', it's not easy. In fact, it's pretty fucking hard.

And I think what it comes down to is lack of support (and I have no intention of starting up that shitstorm again - if you don't like what I'm saying, stuff it). And I'm not talking about the conditional support that's only available if you're willing to unconditionally put up with someone's shit. That's not support in my book. Enough said about that. I'm just saying, you know, nobody really to fall back on. Michael's laid up in bed? It's not like I have a mother to call and say "Hey, Mom, can you come over and make dinner for us tonight?" or "Can you take the kids for a day?" (Okay, yes, I do have a mother, technically, but she and I are strangers to one another and she's not someone I would even trust with my kids.)

I have some wonderful friends who have given endless moral support and occasionally other kinds of help as well, and for that I'm eternally grateful. I'm not discounting that. I know I'd be in a much, much worse place without that.

I'm just saying . . . I don't know what I'm saying. That this is really, really hard. It's hard to watch your partner in life diminish with illness. To not be able to do anything at all to make it easier or better, and all the while, still have to hold down the fort, often alone. It's a huge, huge task, and one that I often feel I'm not suited for.

Sometimes I think about Nancy Reagan and how she cared for Ronnie all those years when he became a complete invalid - when he no longer even recognized her! And I think, "God, I suck, because I just don't think I could do it."

I guess what I've learned about myself through all this is that I'm really not a very strong person. Certainly not stoic. I mean, sometimes I think, "I've survived so much in my life, I can survive anything." But in the midst of it, I fold and lose my temper and crumple up in tears. And then feel like shit.

But we're finally approaching the final leg of this whole ugly mess. It can only go up from here, right?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

That kid, I swear.

Joey presented me this evening with a handwritten list, to wit:

A List of Things to Look Up

1. All about Beethoven.
2. How many strings does a koto have? [and I ask, what the hell's a koto??]
3. The first person to play baseball.
4. All about mambas.
5. When was Chris Columbus born?
6. What was Martin Luther King Jr.'s grandfather's job?
7. What is the oldest a turtle can be?
8. When was the color version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe released in theaters?
9. Who was somebody whose birthday was New Year's Day?
10. Who invented board games?

Joey's first grade teacher used to ask him if he would donate his brain to science. He's something else, huh?

And now, I'm off to do a little Googling for my boy.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Status update

Michael underwent cycle no. 8 (no. 6 post-surgery) of chemo today. That leaves four more to go. It's finally starting to feel like there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Based on side effects, his oncologist has had to adjust dosages, and this cycle he decided to completely forego one of the chemo drugs (so maybe it'll be a not-quite-so-terrible week??). If all goes according to plan and there are no further setbacks or delays, he should be doing his final cycle of chemo the week of Christmas. Which would mean having his PICC line removed just a couple days before Christmas. What a gift that would be! But I'm getting ahead of things. One day at a time. We're getting there.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

First Field Trip - a Recap

All in all, the girls' field trip to the pumpkin patch went well according to reports. There were a few hiccups (like both of the girls leaving their lunches back in the classroom!), but the event was deemed a success.

Lining up for the bus -

Uh, yeah. Daisy wasn't too happy to be on the bus. Surprise, surprise.

But I guess she settled down pretty quickly.

Ahh, finally there!

They saw farm animals -

Which Daisy didn't like. Imagine that!

They rode on a tractor -
Picked vegetables (and brought home the sorriest looking carrots, onions and "rashes" you ever saw) -

And of course picked pumpkins!

They both came home with big smiles and big stories! Daddy was worn out.

First Field Trip

Annabelle and Daisy have their first school field trip today. The kindergarten classes are going to visit a pumpkin patch, about an hour's bus ride away. I am full of worry. The big questions:

~ Will they freak out when it's time to get on the bus? They've never been on a bus before.
~ Will they freak out when the bus starts up its deisel engine and starts going?
~ Will Daisy lose her mind when they get to the petting zoo at the pumpkin patch?
~ Will Daisy use the public bathroom at the petting zoo or hold it all day long? (They are having a longer than usual school day today because of the field trip.)
~ Will they come home in one piece?
~ Will they still be welcome to attend kindergarten at this school after today?
~ Will they have a good time today?

Fortunately, Michael is going along as a parent helper. I sent him with the camera and a request for regular text message updates throughout the day.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mama Said There'll Be Days Like This . . .

. . . you know, days when you don't feel good and the kids do nothing but screech, complain, and refuse to cooperate. Oh, and demand, demand, demand. Not a "please" or "thank you" anywhere to be found, just "I want! I want! I WANT!" Days when you have to tell them the same thing over and over and OVER until you're SCREAMING because obviously they can't hear you otherwise. Days when you become so frustrated that you say things you quickly regret. Days when you wonder if you're cut out for this whole parenting gig after all. Days that end in tears for everyone. Days you wish you could just do over.

Drinking is underrated, I think. It makes days like this seem all soft and fuzzy.

Ahhh, don't worry, I'm not in any danger of developing a drinking problem. It's just been one of those days.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Seven weeks into kindergarten, and just like that, Daisy and Annabelle are reading. I mean, they're not reading chapter books yet or anything, but they are sounding out words and recognizing certain words by sight. And it feels like magic.

This week they started homework. This was their homework yesterday:

So they had to fill in the appropriate colors, and both of them were able to sound out each color by herself. It's amazing. I remember this with Kevin and Joey, too, when suddenly it clicked, and they were starting to read.

I expect that this is going to be a year of a lot of growth for the girls - not just reading, but in so many other ways, too.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

TP and rites of passage

Today was a first: we got toilet papered for the first time ever. They did a respectable job, although I've seen - heck, I've done - better. It was clearly Kevin's good friend from down the street. Kevin had been playing over at his house, and we collected him to go out to dinner, and when we got back from dinner, voila:

Yes, they - Kevin's friend and the friend's friend - tp'd our house in broad daylight. And asked their mom for permission first! (She gave the green light; I totally respect this.) Times, they have changed.

I partook in my first toilet papering escapade when I was eleven. I was sleeping over at my best friend Sherry Beckner's house. We decided that we were going to tp this boy's house down the block from her. Only there was no question about asking for permission! I think half the fun was the risk involved in doing it without getting caught. We made elaborate plans on how we would sneak out of her house in the middle of the night after we were sure her parents were asleep. She lived in a two-story house, and we decided that the best way to sneak out of the house would be via the laundry chute in the upstairs bathroom that led to the garage where their washer and dryer were. Why we didn't just sneak down the stairs and out the door, I have no idea. I suppose, at eleven, sneaking out through the laundry chute must have seemed way more clever and stealthy. We did a few practice runs when her parents were otherwise occupied, and then we waited for them to go to sleep.

We made it out of the house safely, and high on adrenaline at a successful escape in the middle of the night (!!), we pranced down the street and covered the boy's yard in rolls and rolls of toilet paper. I recall being very proud of our work. Then we headed back to Sherry's house.

We managed to let ourselves back into the garage, and not quietly. (I doubt we planned to reenter the house through the laundry chute - that would have been impossible. What were we thinking?) And there, on the cold cement floor stood Sherry's father, in his underwear, with a gun pointed at us. I shit you not. He heard the ruckus we had apparently made getting back into the garage and thought it was an intruder. I can still see the image of him standing there in his tighty-whities - my god! My best friend's father! In his underwear! I think that might have horrified me more than the gun.

Needless to say, he was not happy with us. And we were made to go clean up the boy's yard very early the next morning, before he or his family ever got to experience the glory of Sherry's and my work. Which definitely took all the fun out of it.

I wonder if Sherry's dad ever told my parents what we had done. I kind of doubt it; if my parents had gotten wind of my doing something like that, there would have been hell to pay, and I don't recall ever hearing a word about it.

Ahhh, good times.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Dog Days

Twinkle has been a Morguess for a week now, and things are going pretty well. We're trying to figure out this crate-training thing. Our understanding is that she should be spending the majority of her time in her crate until she's about 4 months old. She is supposed to take her meals in her crate, which is part of the potty-training process, as dogs generally won't eliminate in the same area where they eat. We take her out of her crate several times a day to go outside and do her business, and reward her with effusive praise and treats for a job well done. We've also been allowing her more time to play in the house outside of her crate, which, naturally, has resulted in a few accidents - but not many. Seriously, in a week, she's peed in the house once and pooped twice - not bad. She sleeps in her crate all night long and seems to be pretty content there. The first night she woke me up with her whimpering, which I took to mean that she needed to go outside, but since then, she hasn't made a peep at night and has never had a potty accident at night.

She's a really sweet, playful little thing! I am loving having a little dog as opposed to a big dog, which I never thought I'd say. Everything about her is smaller - the amount of food she eats, the messes she makes, her bark, everything. And she's completely portable.

As for the kids . . . Kevin adores her and really is the only one who is not skittish around her. She's small and moves quickly, and jumps as if she has little springs in her legs, and the other kids, unfortunately, have been influenced by Daisy's long-time terror of dogs, so they're nervous around Twinkle. All but Daisy and Finn will pet her and play with her, however, but they don't like it when she gives chase, which puppies like to do.

Daisy hasn't made much progress over the week. She still likes Twinkle more in theory than in reality. She screams and cries if Twinkle is allowed out of her crate to play. It's tiring and frustrating, and I certainly don't want Twinkle to become skittish and afraid of Daisy. I keep hoping that this will all change in time, that Daisy will get used to having a dog in the house and will grow attached to her and outgrow her fear. I hope, I hope.

Twinkle seems to have a particularly strong liking for Finn. (I don't want to hear it's because he's special and she senses that!!) I'm thinking it's because he's small like her, usually on the ground and at eye level with her. She's pretty aggressive with her affections towards him, and in truth, he's not crazy about the attention.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Product Review: Exergen Temporal Scanner

I don't usually do product reviews, but I am so in love with this product that I have to rave about it. What is it? It's a thermometer that works by measuring the temperature emitted by the temporal artery in the forehead. It's quick, easy, painless, and completely non-invasive. Just press the button and sweep it across the forehead, and it works on newborns on up to adults. The first time I saw it was at our pediatrician's office. The nurse used it on one of my kids, and I said, "You're kidding, right? That can't be accurate." She tested it against a conventional oral thermometer and came up with the same exact reading. So I bought one for home and it's gotten lots of use, especially over the last week as my kids are all currently taking turns with fevers.

Check it out here: Exergen Temporal Scanner

Monday, October 12, 2009

Parent-Teacher Conferences

For the grade-school kids, we have two parent-teacher conferences each school year. The first takes place near the beginning of the school year and is generally about goals. The teacher will talk about his or her impressions of our child thus far, academically, socially, and emotionally. The second conference takes place towards the end of the school year and focuses on how the goals set in the beginning of the school year were met, and what we can expect for the following school year.

So today we had parent-teacher conferences for Joey, Annabelle, and Daisy. Since Joey is in second grade now, conferences have almost become old hat for him. Not that we weren't utterly pleased to hear all the great things Joey's teacher had to say about him.

What made the bigger impression on me was our conference with the twins' teacher. Being that they're kindergartners, this was our first ever parent-teacher conference with Annabelle and Daisy.

I've lived with this fear that my kids' quirks and idiosyncracies would hinder them in school and expose me as the substandard mother I often feel like. Daisy with her phobias, and Annabelle . . . well, let's just say that it's been a genuine concern of mine that once Annabelle entered kindergarten, her teacher would eventually pull me aside and inform me that Annabelle is a classic case of ADHD. Because at home? At home, she's a handful, to say the least. Seemingly no impulse control. Bouncing off the walls. Into everything, especially everything she's not supposed to be into. I feel like I spend at least half of my waking hours saying, "Annabelle, stop that." and "Annabelle, don't do that." and "Annabelle, leave that alone."

What did Mrs. M have to say about Daisy and Annabelle this morning? She adores them both. "They're both such bright, loving girls." She went on and on about how observant Daisy is, how she makes these connections that are far beyond a typical kindergartner. How eager she is to learn and how thrilled she is to be at school every day. She called Annabelle a "love bug." She told us how Annabelle is full of questions about everything - so inquisitive. She commented on how well Annabelle stays on task and follows directions! I said meekly, "Really? You mean you don't think she has ADHD?" "Gosh, no!" the teacher said.

Now, I know that kids usually save their worst behavior for home, where they feel the most safe and comfortable. But wow, it is truly eye-opening to have the opportunity to see my kids through someone else's eyes.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

Well, Twinkle certainly is proving herself to be a little star in my book! We've had her for over 24 hours and she has yet to pee or poop in the house. She's crated a good deal of the time at this point, as was the advice given to us for a dog this young. She does come out of her crate to socialize with the family and play, though, and she's been very good about peeing and pooping only when we take her outside. She's very playful and sweet and seems to be warming up to the family.

As for Daisy, well, let me just say that there have been no overnight miracles here. Having a dog has not suddenly turned Daisy into Little Miss Lover of Dogs. The fact that Daisy is allowing a dog in the same house with her is huge. She likes Twinkle best when Twinkle is either in her crate or being held by someone. If Twinkle is put down on the floor and is not restrained in any way, Daisy goes a little nuts and starts in with the screaming and crying. Even if someone is holding Twinkle, Daisy is a little neurotic about it. It makes me sad that Daisy is afraid of this little 3 and half pound puppy, and it's also a little wearing. I'm trying to be patient with her, but hells bells! Sigh. Anyway, we're in this for the long haul, so I just have to believe that Daisy will warm up. She has made huge strides. It wasn't that long ago that she would come completely unglued if a dog crossed her line of vision, even if the dog was 50 feet away. Now she's got a pet dog living under the same roof, one she'll pet if someone else is holding her, one she'll chatter to through the crate door, and one she stood on a stool at the kitchen sink to watch get her first bath today.

Know what I'm loving about having a little dog? Little dogs make little poop! And they eat little food! Everything about them is little. I've had big dogs all my life, and big dogs equal big everything. I'm liking this little dog thing!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Expanding Our Family

We've been talking about it, and we've been working to get Daisy warmed up to the idea. We decided on a maltipoo, and for the last few weeks I've been searching out rescue organizations without any luck (there are lots of maltipoos available, just couldn't get a response from anyone!). So we kind of put the idea on hold and figured it would happen when the time was right.

So today Michael just happened to be at the mall and meandered into the pet store there (the very same pet store where I got Daisy to pet a dog a few weeks ago). And they happened to have a maltipoo! And she just happened to have been born on Michael's birthday. Cosmic, huh? I got this gushy text from him telling me how she was "so so cute," which is funny because (a) Michael is not a gushy guy, and (b) he's not a dog person (according to him). They let him hold her and check her out in their little get-to-know-each-other room and I think Michael became quite smitten with her very quickly. So it was pretty much a done deal.

And here she is:

Twinkle, so named by Daisy.

Daisy freaked a little when I told her that Daddy was bringing a dog home, but she warmed up to her pretty quickly, although in all honesty, she likes her best when she's in her crate at this point. But I think this is going to be good for Daisy. I took her with me this afternoon to buy a collar and leash for Twinkle, and a brush and some toys.

Uh huh, Mr. Softie.

The kids love her. She's really sweet and mellow. We had hoped to get a dog that was a year + old to avoid a lot of the puppy training, but Twinkle is only about 2 months old. It's been so long since I had a puppy! More than 15 years. This will be interesting. We're going to crate-train her, which I've never done before, but I will say that she's been most of a day now and has yet to piddle in the house.

So there you have it!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Everybody Wants Some

The kids came home from school today with no fewer than three requests each for money. The kindergartners are going on their first field trip soon, and each child must pay $10 to go. Then there's the envelopes that came home to put monetary donations in for the upcoming Harvest Festival fundraiser for the school. And a flyer reminding us of the dining for dollars fundraiser at a local restaurant to support our school. Plus there's still the in-progress Fall Fundraiser where we're supposed to be selling things from a catalogue on behalf of each of our kids for the school.

That's a lotta moola.

It's not the teachers' fault, it's not even the school's fault. They've been hit hard by budget cuts, and they've got to make it up somewhere. I get that. But where do we, the parents, draw the line? We (Michael and I) pay . . . an embarrassing amount of property taxes every year (I'll just say that we bought our house at the height of the housing market a few years back, and leave it at that), and every time I write that check, I think, "We're supporting our school with this money." But there's still the guilt when I don't participate in every single school fundraiser (and I don't).

And it's not just the school. I can't go to the grocery store anymore without being hit up every single time by someone sitting strategically at the entrance/exit to the store asking for money for the homeless, to keep kids out of gangs, to support the local Boy Scouts, etc. Then there are the people who come to our front door trying to sell things or asking for donations for this and that. And I never give them money, because honestly, how do I know they are who they say they are? How do I know the money is really going to that cause? (I wrote a check to a guy one time who came selling children's books to raise money for a school-sponsored trip to Japan or something; it was a scam - I never got the books and later found out that a few people in my neighborhood had been similarly duped.) I'd much rather donate money to well-known, reputable organizations via mail or internet. But these days I don't donate much to anyone. On the one hand I feel bad, because I know that we have it better than a lot do. Sometimes, when I say no, I get a little bit of hostility in return. "What, you don't want to help kids?" I've been asked. Maybe I look like someone who should be giving a little more? I don't know. In those instances, I want to say, "Hey, you don't know my situation! You don't know that I have six kids and a sick husband! How do you know I don't need help?" But I never say anything, I just keep walking.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The silence is deafening.

All day, the house is full of noise. Kids playing, singing, bickering, running around. Doors opening and closing. The phone ringing. Dishes clanking. The television or radio playing. The sounds of a family.

Sometimes it's too much, and all I want is a little peace and quiet, for god's sake.

Usually when the kids are all finally in bed, Michael and I heave a sigh of relief and enjoy the quiet. We enjoy some hard-earned adult time, whether it's him in front of the TV and me in front of the computer (or lost in a book), or some stimulating conversation over drinks shared on the patio swing.

And sometimes, like tonight, the kids are all in bed, and Michael has crashed early, and instead of savoring the quiet and solitude, I mostly feel lonely. There isn't a sound in the house except the sound of my own thoughts. The quiet feels mournful and oppressive, and I suddenly feel sad.


I don't want to leave people hanging with the cryptic ending of my post last night. I've gotten a few emails asking about Michael, and at the risk of suffering his wrath (kidding!) because he does not enjoy starring in my blog, I'll just say that his trip to the ER last night was pain-related. No definitive diagnosis but likely a cumulative result of chemo. Hopefully will get some better answers from his oncologist this week. So they pumped him full of some good meds in the ER, sent him home with a couple prescriptions, and he's been feeling much better today, thank you very much.

Ahhh, good times.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Oh, to be three

Lilah then . . .

. . . and now. Beautiful girl, isn't she?

I know a lot of people get a little freaked by her birth story. It certainly was a dysfunctional and fairly horrendous labor, but I'm here to say that I am sooooooo glad and thankful that she was born at home with such a loving midwife in attendance. Had I been under the care of an OB and presented at the hospital with a labor like that, I shudder to think about the likely outcome. Interventions galore, at the very least a Pitocin induction, and at the worst (and most likely, I believe), a c-section. And the outcome would have been absolutely no better.


We had a fairly quiet day at home. We had cake after lunch and then Lilah opened her presents.

And then she and Finn went down for their naps. When they woke up mid-afternoon, we decided to make an impromptu trip to the beach. We picked up dinner on the way and had a picnic on the sand. The kids had a blast, and it was a lot of fun.

And then the sun went down . . .

. . . and it was time to go home. And on the way home, Michael landed in the ER. Third time since his surgery in June. Gah!

More on that tomorrow.

The Story of Lilah's Birth: An Epic Tale

Lilah Peggy
October 3, 2006
2:24 p.m.
7 lbs. 10 oz. 19 ½ inches

Sunday, September 24
Baby’s due date

Monday, September 25
Appt. with midwife . . . cervix 80% effaced and dilated to maybe 1 cm. First membrane sweep.

Tuesday, September 26
Began losing mucus plug. By that night, the beginning of prodromal labor. Was up a good part of the night with painful contractions that went from about 10 min. apart eventually to about 6 min. apart. After being up for a couple of hours, felt exhausted and went back to bed. Fell asleep, and by the time I woke up a couple hours later, contractions had stopped. Feeling very discouraged at this point.

Wednesday, September 27
Michael stayed home from work because I was so exhausted and feeling low. I continued to have erratic contractions all day. MW came by in the evening to check on me (with a surprise to lift my spirits - a beautiful henna tattoo on her leg with Baby’s name!). Cervix now dilated to 2 - 3 cm. Second membrane sweep. Decided to stop answering the phone today unless it’s Sue(mw). Sick of people calling and asking "Where’s the baby?" and "When are you going to the hospital to get induced?"

Thursday, September 28
Not much going on. Continued to lose mucus and have cramping and contrax.

Friday, September 29
In very poor spirits. Feeling completely dumbfounded that this baby has not come yet since all my others came before their due dates. Feeling a complete loss of faith in my body’s ability to do what it’s supposed to do. Decided that staying sequestered at home just waiting for real labor to start is taking a toll on me emotionally, so made plans to get together with a girlfriend on Saturday for lunch and a pedicure.

Saturday, September 30
Woke up around 3:30 a.m. with pretty intense contrax, about 8 - 10 min. apart. They felt different somehow. Managed to get back to sleep for a while and woke up around 6 a.m. to contrax about 5 min. apart and lots of bloody show. Called Sue, and she came over and checked me: almost 100% effaced and dilated to 3 cm. Contrax continued to be about 5 min. apart for several hours. Michael got the pool blown up and we made up the bed, went for a long walk while Sue hung out with the kids. She left for a couple hours and I napped while the girls napped and Michael took the boys to the park. We couldn't get a hold of Alycia (babysitter) this morning!! Finally able to reach her early in the afternoon. Sue came back around 3:00, checked me again, dilated to 4. Michael and I decided to go for another walk, and the contrax really picked up then.

I hadn't eaten much so Alycia came over around 5:00 to stay with the kids, and Michael, Sue and I went to grab something to eat. It really turned out to be a fun day. Everything was so laid back and we laughed a lot. At the restaurant, my contrax were really intense and close together, but at one point outside the restaurant, Sue and I were laughing so hard we were crying (over what? Nothing much, just Michael trying to get the camera to work - I think we were all feeling a little punchy by then).

By the time we left the restaurant, my contrax were so intense and close together that we rushed home to get the birth pool filled. The birth seemed imminent and everyone was very excited. We called Mireille, our doula, on the way back to the house and she headed over.
Then we got home and . . . my contrax stopped!!! Seriously, the whole thing completely stalled out. Sue checked me and I was completely effaced and dilated to 4 - 5 cm!!! But the whole thing just crapped out. After 3 labors that were long, I fully expected this one to be long, but I never expected it to just STOP midway through. I was devastated. All that work my body had done all day long, and the emotional buildup, and NOTHING to show for it.

Sue, Mireille, and Alycia all went home after it became clear that labor had stalled. I think Sue expected that I would be calling her back in the middle of the night when things picked up again, but they never did. Michael and I were completely drained and we went to bed around 9:30 and slept fitfully until about 5:30 Sunday morning. I only had a few contrax during the night, some pretty painful but mostly pretty mild.

Sunday, October 1
Contrax coming probably every 15 - 20 min. Still lots of bloody show and fluidy stuff, but things did not appear to be progressing. Feeling very discouraged and frustrated and wondering how much more of this I can handle. I felt bad that we had wasted Sue’s entire day yesterday (she even cancelled appt.’s with other clients), but she kept telling me how much fun she had with our family. She said that this was just a lesson in letting go for me, and that Lilah had her own agenda, and we were just invited to her birthday party.

She talked to a senior midwife about me and they came up with a theory that a couple of things may be holding things up - the fact that I have major separation in my abdominal muscles from carrying the twins, so there's nothing holding the baby in a true vertical position, and also the fact that I appear to have a lot of fluid which may be causing the baby to float instead of settling down onto my cervix to help it dilate. So at Sue’s suggestion, we bound up my belly with ace bandages to push the baby in and down - this was very uncomfortable - and we took the kids and headed for the nature trails for a long walk.

The walk is about an hour from our front door and back. Once we were headed back up our street, I suddenly felt a warm gush and my pants were all wet in a few seconds. My water broke! I was suddenly overcome with emotion and just started crying - weird, I know. It was a couple blocks to get home still, so there we are walking up the street with me in wet pants and crying. This was about 2:00 p.m.

I had expected the contrax to pick up pretty quickly after I felt that gush, but like everything else with this labor, nothing was going according to my expectations. Sue came over that evening to listen to the baby’s heartbeat, etc. Everything seemed fine. She didn’t want to do another VE since it appeared that my water had broken. She did a litmus test on the pad I was wearing and the pants I had been wearing when I felt the gush earlier, just to confirm that it was amniotic fluid - and they both tested negative! I was flabbergasted. I refused to believe I had just peed my pants - honestly, it just didn’t feel like that at all. Anyhow, Sue said there were several factors that could lead to a negative result and she really felt that it was inconclusive - maybe it was amnio fluid, and maybe it wasn’t. Because I had declined GBS screening and my GBS status was therefore unknown, she said there was some concern about having prolonged rupture of membranes with no labor, so if things hadn’t picked up by the following morning, she wanted to talk about getting labor going with black and blue cohosh and/or castor oil. I was not thrilled with either option, but kind of felt like I was running out of options.

Monday, October 2
Woke up again to contrax about 10 min apart. Talked to Sue on the phone and she suggested we bind my belly up again and go walking. She said to call her if the contrax got to be 5 min. apart. I was so sick of walking by this time! I was just tired of the whole thing. But we did it anyway, and while we were walking the contrax picked up. They became very painful and closer together. By the time we got home they were about 5 min. apart and hurting pretty badly. We called Sue and she said she would head over.

A little while later, Sue called. She wanted to know how my contrax were - how close together and how long in duration. I told her they were still about 5 min. apart and I guessed they were lasting about 45 seconds. Then she told me that she had another client in active labor!! Circumstances were such that she had to head over to her house, but she promised she would head to my house the minute I needed her. When I got off the phone, I lost it. I just started crying and ranting. I have to admit I felt abandoned. And guess what - my contractions STOPPED again. I really felt like I was at the end of my rope. Nothing was going the way it was supposed to. I was completely drained and devastated. I felt like if she had only come over, my labor would have continued. I know it’s probably not true, but I wasn’t feeling very rational at the time. I went into the bedroom and threw myself on the bed and just bawled.

A little while later, Mireille, my doula, showed up. Apparently Sue had been worried about my emotional state and called Mireille herself and asked her to come to my house to sit with me and make sure I was okay. Honestly, I just wanted to be left alone. I didn’t want to talk to anyone or have someone watch over me. I think Mireille was kind of at a loss as to what to do for me. She sat with me in the bedroom for a while and then said maybe a change of scenery would do me some good and suggested we go shopping. Was she kidding?! I was busy having a pity party - shopping was the last thing I was interested in. I was supposed to be having a baby today for God’s sake, not shopping!! I didn’t have the heart to tell her I just wanted to be left alone, so I finally figured I might as well go along with her or be stuck in my bedroom with her babysitting me. I suggested we go get pedicures instead, so we headed out. It ended up being okay - we got pedicures and went to lunch. At least it was a way to pass the afternoon. She left shortly after we got back home.

I was still in pretty low spirits - really just feeling kind of angry and frustrated at how things were unfolding over the last several days. I had talked to Sue earlier and she said her other client had had her baby and she was going to stop by our house that evening just to check on me. By this time, however, I figured what was the point? I decided to call her and tell her to skip it, and I was going to tell Michael to go ahead and go to work in the morning. I felt like a pot of water being watched to see when it would boil, and the pressure was really taking a toll on me

When I called Sue, she said she was already on her way over to our house. When she got here, she listened to the baby, took my bp, tested my urine - everything looked fine. She asked if it was okay with me if she did a sterile VE, and I said okay. So she checked me and determined that I was dilated to 5 cm, but during a contraction I would dilate to 7 cm. It was just so completely bizarre how far I managed to progress without ever really going into and staying in active labor. She did the litmus test on the fluid in my vagina for amnio fluid and it came up positive! Very strange. I think she tried to sweep my membranes again, but there wasn’t much left to sweep. She hung around for a while, and my contrax started up again, about every 10 min. After a while, she went home and said to call her if they got to be less than 5 min. apart. This was about 9:30 p.m.

Michael and I went to bed, I think around 10:00. My contrax continued, and by 11:00 they were again about 5 minutes apart and painful. We called Susan and she headed back over, this time with her assistant, Katie, and our doula Mireille.

So by 11:30 we had 5 adults in our bedroom, including me and Michael. It was a little crowded, and honestly I felt stressed by all the people watching me and waiting for something to happen. I got into the birth pool, and of course my contrax slowed down. The whole thing was so utterly frustrating. I felt like I was letting everyone down, as if I just wasn’t doing it right. Finally after a couple hours, I said I wanted to just lay down. I figured I would take a little nap and would wake up in a short while to "better" contractions. Sue talked to us about starting black and blue cohosh in the morning, and then she, Katie, and Mireille went and crashed in the living room. Michael and I went to bed. I slept fitfully, as my contrax continued through the night, too painful to sleep through, but still 10 - 15 min. apart. I honestly was feeling like this baby was never going to come out on her own, and I was again feeling bad for dragging all these people away from their families to come to my house for nothing.

Tuesday, October 3
Everyone was up by around 6:00 a.m. It was a school day for the boys, but we decided to keep Joey home since school was only half day for him and it would be too much hassle to deal with the drop off and pick up. Michael took Kevin to school, and our neighbor would bring him home as usual. I really didn’t know what was going to unfold on this day, but I remember Sue saying something to the effect that we would be having a baby today. Mireille had class in the morning, and she and Katie both left our house a little after 8:00. In truth, I was relieved to have fewer people around.

I can’t remember what time I started taking the cohosh, but I alternated blue and black every half hour. I was still having contrax, but they were still only about 10 min. apart. Sue had me promise to take castor oil if the cohosh hadn’t made labor progress after 5 hours. At about 9:00 a.m. I asked her about breaking my water. She agreed to check me again and then we’d decide. When she checked me she felt a bulging bag of water and I was dilated to 7 cm even without a contraction. So she went ahead and broke my water.

Now, this part she didn’t tell me until later. Apparently, when she broke my water, my cervix closed back up to 4 cm!! It was the bulging bag of water pressing down causing the dilation, and after she broke my water, the baby’s head didn’t descend as far as it should have, so my cervix closed back up partially. Something was hanging the baby up in there and preventing her from coming down like she should, and Sue started worrying at this point, because now my water was clearly broken and my GBS status was unknown. She didn’t tell me any of this until later, and I’m glad because I’m sure it would have just upset and scared me.

The contrax continued all morning and they were very painful. I spent a lot of time walking around the house, and even up and down the stairs, trying to keep things going and hopefully to move it to the next phase. I was squatting and moaning through contrax by this time. The closest together they got was 9 min. apart. It was very discouraging and exhausting. We had already decided that I was not going to be able to labor in the pool because being in the water slowed the contrax down. I wouldn’t be able to get in the water until I was ready to push.
Michael called Alycia around 11:00 and she came over to take care of the girls and Joey, as I really needed him to give me his attention.

I guess around noon Sue made me sit down and eat some lunch and sent Michael to the store for some castor oil. I was not looking forward to that, but it was the next logical step and Sue assured me that she had had a lot of success with the combination of cohosh and castor oil. Michael got home with the castor oil and Susan made a smoothie with it - castor oil, orange juice concentrate, vanilla ice cream and vodka - yes, vodka. It was pretty nasty. My contrax were still about 9 min. apart and she checked me again. I was dilated to 9 cm!! She kept saying that there was no way the baby was going to be born without the contrax getting closer together - but there I was dilated to 9 cm and still only having contractions every 9 min. This labor seemed to be breaking every rule of nature.

After I ate some lunch and had the castor oil smoothie, I just wanted to lay down. I guess it was a little after 1:00 by this time. Sue and I went into the bedroom. I don’t know where Michael was at this point - maybe trying to put the girls down for a nap while Alycia looked after Joey? I laid down on the bed and actually managed to doze between contractions, but every time a contraction hit, I had to breathe and moan through it. Sue was a big comfort during this time, stroking my hair and arm when a contraction came and telling me I was doing good. Her presence was very soothing.

Suddenly, around 1:45 the contrax started coming closer together and I got the shakes. I was finally in transition! Michael was in the bedroom with us by this time. I had exactly THREE contractions that were 5 minutes apart, followed by another doozy two minutes later. Sue had left the room for something and suddenly I shot up on the bed with my hand between my legs and yelling for Sue that I had to push! Oh my God, it was such a shock, to go from contrax basically 10 min. apart all day long to this sudden feeling that something huge was pushing its way out of my body. I was suddenly very frightened. Sue and Michael got me into the birth pool at about 2:00 and the contrax slowed a bit but were still coming at decent intervals and were very powerful. I fought the urge to push because it frightened me so much. With each contraction, I breathed deep in and out breaths and moaned. Sue told me to push whenever I felt like it and I kept telling her that I was scared and that it hurt, it hurt. Michael was behind me outside the pool supporting me in a semi squat position, and Sue kept asking me if I wanted him in the pool with me. No, no. I couldn’t deal with any sort of change at that point. Finally the urge to push became so powerful that I could no longer fight it and I began pushing . . . and oh my God, it felt like a train barreling its way out of my body. It felt like I was being ripped in half - seriously, I felt myself tearing down there, above and below my vagina. I began screaming at this point and Sue tried to calm me and told me to lower the scream to a grunt because it would help get the baby out. So I tried, I really tried, to grunt and pant, but I know I was still screaming too. I felt her head come out, and I thought the hardest part was over, that her shoulders and the rest of her body would just slide out with little effort on my part, but her shoulders seemed to be stuck. I was crying and saying "Help me! Please, help!" over and over. Sue reached down into the water and felt around the baby’s head to make sure there was no cord holding her up. Finally, I pushed with everything I had and out came her shoulders and the rest of her body. The pain immediately dissipated. Sue got the baby out of the water and up onto my chest. I was still crying uncontrollably - I was just overwhelmed by the whole thing. But looking at my perfect little baby girl for the first time made the whole thing worth every minute and I was struck, once again, as I had been with the birth of each of my other children, by how incredible it was that I grew this perfect little human being inside my body and brought her into the world. Michael and I both felt the umbilical cord pulsing, and that was new. I had never felt a cord before, or even seen one close up.

I was still in the pool, and Sue said I was bleeding. I remember thinking "Okay, so what? Doesn’t everyone bleed after they push a baby out?" It was only when I saw the look on her face that I felt a little scared. She told me I needed to get out of the pool. She gave me a shot of Pitocin in my thigh and I yelled "Oww!" and then almost had to laugh - I had just pushed a baby out of my body and I was going to complain about a little shot now? She clamped the cord and had Michael cut it and then they helped me out of the pool and up onto the bed. Sue was examining me, trying to determine where I was bleeding from, but by this time the bleeding had stopped. I had no tears - this absolutely boggled my mind. When I was pushing, I had the distinct sensation that I was tearing from here to kingdom come - but in reality, I had not a single tear anywhere. Holy cow. I shifted on the bed and felt something huge come out of me and thought it was the placenta, but it was two blood clots the size of my fist. The placenta actually took quite a while to come out. We gave the baby to Michael and Sue took me into the bathroom and put me on the toilet, as being upright would help the placenta deliver. I again was fighting pushing it out - after the ordeal of pushing the baby out, I could hardly bear the thought of pushing anything else out. I sat on the toilet and managed to pee, and then finally, out came the placenta.

Here’s some stuff Sue told me later: she never did figure out where the bleeding was coming from after the baby was born. It didn’t really matter since it stopped almost immediately when she gave me the pitocin. But what she told me later was that while I was still in the pool after the baby was born, the blood was pouring out of me - she said it reminded her of an underwater volcano.

Another thing she told me later was that she thinks Lilah had her hand or arm up by her head, which was preventing her from descending properly. She said that when her head came out, she was face down, which is typical. Then she rotated, so that her shoulders would come out vertically - which is also typical. But then she apparently rotated back to face down, which meant that her shoulders were now horizontal in the birth canal! So when Sue reached down in the water to check for cord after the baby’s head came out, what she was really doing was trying to turn the baby without freaking me out. If her arm really was up by her head even while I labored, that would go far in explaining the completely dysfunctional labor I had. She didn’t descend down onto my cervix enough to dilate it and make the contractions progress, so I ended up with this wacky, erratic labor that progressed very slowly. The end result was a beautiful, healthy baby girl, but boy, that was some work bringing her into the world. So far, Lilah is relatively peaceful (knock on wood!). My last three babies were pretty high maintenance, so I’ve been telling God for a while that I think I’m due for an easier baby this time. She’s a good sleeper and nursing beautifully. So far she really doesn’t fuss or cry a whole lot. We still haven’t figured out who she looks like. With the other kids, it was so clear even at birth whom in the family they resembled, but Lilah is a bit of a mystery. I think she has the same nose as Kevin, but other than that, I don’t know. The other kids have taken to her really well already, although poor Joey was a little scared of her after she was born and for the rest of that day. He apparently heard me crying and screaming (although Alycia took him outside - so I’m sure the neighbors heard me as well), and decided that the baby must have hurt me so he was afraid of her at first, which made me sad. But by the next day, he was kissing her and rubbing her head. The girls, who I was so worried about how they would react to a new baby, are completely enthralled with her. And Kevin, of course, ever the loving big brother.

Sue did one, two, and three-day postpartum visits to check on me and the baby, and everything looked good. On day three Lilah weighed 7 lbs. 6 oz. She was 7-10 at birth, so that’s pretty good. She was a little jaundiced for the first couple of days, but my milk came in by day two, so the jaundice started clearing up pretty quickly. When Susan left on day three, I found myself crying. I’ve become quite attached to her and will truly miss her and the care I got from her.

I’ve spent a lot of time reliving the labor and birth in my head, analyzing it and trying to process it. Michael asked me a few hours after she was born if I would do it again if I had the opportunity. I actually hesitated, and that has bothered me. I think he asked me too soon, but the truth at that moment was that I didn’t know if I could do it again. Of course, within a few days I felt like, yes, of course I would and could do it again, but I don’t think I’ll ever have that choice to make again, as Lilah is our last baby (I think . . .).

I’m trying to come to terms with parts of it still. I have no regrets, but of course I wish my labor hadn’t been so long and erratic, although it was certainly a test of strength and endurance and I learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of. I wish I had better prepared myself for the reality of an unmedicated birth. I feel like I was either very arrogant about the whole thing, or ill-informed, or maybe both. I feel disappointed in myself that I freaked out during pushing - even a little ashamed I guess, however silly that might sound. The realization that I’ve come to is that for whatever reason, I had the belief that the worst pain I would feel would be the most intense contractions, and I had faith in myself that I could handle that. I had heard over and over that pushing is a relief, so I really believed that while pushing would certainly be work, pain-wise, it would be easy compared to the contractions. So I was completely shocked and unprepared for how pushing really felt, and it was terrifying for me. I had envisioned this fairly quiet water birth, where I would breathe and grunt my baby out, catch her myself, and pull her up onto my chest, and feel like Mother Earth herself. In reality, I screamed my baby out, and was too freaked out to reach down and catch her. I am utterly humbled by the whole experience.

All in all, it was an amazing experience, and the fulfillment of a dream I’ve had for a very long time. I am so thankful that I had a wonderful, caring midwife through my pregnancy and birth, that I have a loving and supportive husband, and that I was able to have my baby in the comfort of my own home without unnecessary interference or interventions, or needless policies to adhere to. I feel even more strongly that pregnancy and birth are normal, natural processes. I can’t imagine ever being pregnant and under the care of an OB again. OB’s are doctors, and doctors are for sick people. Pregnancy is not an illness or a condition that needs to be treated or cured - it is a beautiful process that should be observed and honored, and my midwife and Michael respected that.

In spite of what my perception was, Lilah seems to have experienced a peaceful birth. When Susan put her on my chest, she looked up at me and coughed a couple times and then just lay there peacefully looking at me. I kept asking if there was something wrong with her because she wasn’t crying, she was just so serene.

So here I am, now the mother of five! Who ever woulda thought? It was such a short time ago that I was a miserable pregnant woman, and had anyone asked me then, I would have said I am gladly done with all this pregnancy and birth business. But of course now I am already missing it, and trying to rationalize just one more.