Monday, August 31, 2009

Back to School

Well, today was the big day. The morning went off without much of a hitch (just a couple of minor skirmishes over the dresses the girls had decided to wear and Kevin lollygagging at the last minute . . . some things never change). Everyone got out the door on time, and Mom even had a few minutes to put a little makeup on to make a good impression (on who??) on the first day of school. (I'll show up looking like something the cat dragged in for the rest of the school year, but at least I let the teachers and other parents know that I'm capable of putting myself together.)


Annabelle, Joey, and Daisy

Walking to school

Me and my girls

Joey was a tad nervous, Daisy was super excited, and Annabelle was a little reluctant to actually enter the classroom. It was all so hectic, I didn't even have a chance to get all teary - and I always cry on the first day of school.

Lilah was a little ticked off to not be going to school with the girls, but once she, Finn and I got home, all was well.

The kids all had a good first day. Kevin likes all of his teachers so far and exchanged phone numbers with a kid he knows from last year. Joey came bounding out of his classroom at the end of the day with a big grin on his face and announced that his teacher is funny. The twins had much to report from their first day, and all went well. Neither one of them used the restroom at school, but hopefully they'll get over that in time.


As for Michael, no chemo again today. He went in, but his white blood cell count is still down, so it's put off for another week. Don't really know what else to say about that, except it's a long row to hoe.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


The eve of the first day of the new school year, and here's where we stand:

Kevin, entering seventh grade, is nervous. Nervous about a full schedule of classes to memorize. Nervous about new teachers to get to know. Nervous about making new friends. Although he's returning to the same school he attended last year, the one, main friend he had last year (wth whom he's gone to school since third grade) isn't returning this year. I'm a little nervous for Kevin. I remember those feelings at that age. I'm also a little concerned about him making new friends. It's kind of strange - Kevin is extremely sociable, and he's actually in high demand among his established friends - none of whom attend school with him. So I'd like to see him reach out and make a couple friends at school this year.

Joey, entering second grade, is excited about school starting, but worrying himself silly about fire drills. I've assured him that there's no way there will be a fire drill on the first day of school. Michael and I have both tried to reassure him about fire drills, explaining that they have to be loud so that everyone will pay attention to them, but the noise can't hurt him. I remind him that there are lots of ways we can make our own noises that are louder than a fire drill and that aren't scary: Dad's guitar through his amp; a car horn, the whistle Dad got me. I told him that I can yell louder than a fire drill, and he's not afraid of me. I don't think any of these explanations and assurances are really helping. I won't be surprised if he's up a couple times tonight.

Daisy and Annabelle are SO excited about starting kindergarten. Daisy was practically wriggling with anticipation today - I swear, if she were a puppy, she'd have been wagging her tail like mad. Annabelle is a little more sedate about it all, but excited nonetheless. We picked out first-day-of-school clothes before bed tonight so we don't have to spend time fighting about it deciding in the morning.

Lilah really believes that she's one of the twins. She thinks they are truly a threesome (which they are in many ways), to the point that she talks about the girls' preschool experiences from last year as if they were her own ("Miss Lorena had butterflies in our class, Mommy."). So, she has this idea in her head that she is also starting kindergarten tomorrow. Ahh, my poor little girl. I hate to think of her broken little heart when we say goodbye to the girls in the morning and she comes home with me.

Finn, of course, has no inkling of any of this stuff. It's all business as usual to him.

Michael goes in for his second attempt at round three of chemo, after we do the big first-day-of-school send-offs in the morning.

And me? I am feeling strangely calm. Which, I assure you, has nothing to do with this drink sitting here in front of me.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Welcome to our freak show

This morning we had kindergarten orientation for the twins. It was nice - the teacher read a story and talked to the kids a little, and the kids had a chance to explore the classroom a little. The whole thing was organized to make the first day of school coming up on Monday a little less traumatic.

After the orientation, I met with the girls' teacher privately. I wanted to give her a heads-up about the girls' issues.

Their teacher, Mrs. M, is a lovely young woman. Very warm and open and friendly and she clearly cares about the kids. We sat down and I took a deep breath and went into my little rehearsed speech about Daisy. I started with the positive, how she's bright and an eager learner and sweet-natured and affectionate and cooperative and a pleaser. All true. And then I told Mrs. M about her anxieties . . . er, phobias. How she's terrified of animals - any kind of animal. How she's terrified of public restrooms and likely won't use the restroom at school. How I have no idea how field trips are going to play out because I can absolutely anticipate her being terrified of school buses, although I don't know for sure since she's never been in a situation that required her to board one. I told Mrs. M that I am kind of at a loss as to how to deal with Daisy's fears and I'm afraid of her disrupting the class - the entire school?? - if/when she's ever faced with something she's terrified of. I told her that it's not a phase, that we've been dealing with these issues with her since she was a toddler. I explained to her that it's like she thinks she's going to die and she goes absolutely out of her mind with fear, and she doesn't seem to have any coping mechanisms in place.

So, Mrs. M was very compassionate, and she assured me that we'll take it a step at a time and figure out strategies to help Daisy cope.

I should feel good, right?

Then she mentions Annabelle, and she asked about the tape on Annabelle's fingers. She noticed it today during orientation, and a few days ago during the kindergarten assessment. She asked Annabelle then about the tape on her fingers, and Annabelle said, "I don't want to talk about that." When Mrs. M told me that, I swear, I just felt like my heart was breaking. Annabelle is totally developing a complex about her fingers and her hair (she recently told someone who came to our house, "I know I have short hair, but I'm still a girl." Just take a knife and ram it into my heart, okay?) I told Mrs. M about Annabelle's penchant for pulling her hair out, and the tape is the only solution we've found for the time being. And again, Mrs. M was very compassionate and offered to do some research, talk to the school psychologist, etc., whatever she can do to help.

I should feel good, right?

Then she asked about Joey. Although she wasn't Joey's kindergarten teacher, she did get to know him when he was in kinder two years ago, and she remembers him. She mentioned how she remembers him as being so bright . . . and, how he's afraid of the fire drills. Sigh. Yes, Joey is very frightened of the fire drills at school. He apparently covers his ears and cries. Even now - he hasn't outgrown it. Not a huge thing, but . . . an issue. Something he's known for.

I just feel like crap. I feel like a failure. Like I've failed to make my children whole, that I've somehow failed to make them feel safe in the world. And now I'm sending them out there, hoping they'll cope and not get gobbled up by all the things they're afraid of.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


It's 6:45 a.m. and I've been up for a couple of hours. Well, lying awake in bed anyway. And I spent most of the night tossing and turning. I can't turn my brain off. There's so much to think about.

How is it possible that it's Thursday of the last week of summer break already? Suddenly I am having that familiar guilt that seems to creep in at the end of summer break every year. Did I make the most of my time with the kids this summer? Probably not. Definitely not.

Class placements for Joey and the twins (who will be attending the same school) were posted yesterday, and we learned that Joey was not placed in the second grade class we had been counting on him being placed in. So I'm stressed out about that.

And the twins. Sigh. They start kindergarten on Monday. Kindergarten!! How did that happen?? They're both so excited, and I am too because I know they're ready, I know it will be good for them, but on the other hand . . . this is it. They're not babies anymore. No more home with Mommy. From here on out, they're school kids, students. And it's always hard for me to close a chapter. And the stress! Daisy's phobias - do we warn the teacher ahead of time? Or will that attach some stigma to her? Or do we let her get to know Daisy first? But really, for practical reasons, I feel like we should let the teacher know, because it's probably not going to take long before Daisy encounters a dog on school grounds (don't even get me started about the fact that there's an ordinance prohibiting dogs from being on school grounds but the principal of the school doesn't enforce it) and freaks the hell out. And all the work her preschool teachers did to help her overcome her fear of the school restroom? I realize now that she only got over the fear of that particular restroom. Starting at this school will be like starting all over again as far as her fear of the restroom. Thank goodness kindergarten is only 4 hours - she can hold it for that long. And Annabelle! Poor girl is going to go to school with tape on her fingers every day. But if I don't put the tape on, she's chewing her fingers up and pulling her hair out. Is she going to behave in school? She's such a terror at home. But she was never a problem in preschool, so why am I worried?

Ack! Will I sleep at all between now and the first day of school?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


People have been asking me how Michael is.

He was supposed to have round 3 of chemo today. However, they couldn't administer chemo today based on the results of today's blood work. His white count is down. Which is not uncommon for anyone undergoing chemo, but it's a setback we kind of weren't expecting because up to now, his numbers have remained good. But today, his white count is down. Enough that his oncologist said no chemo this week, let's allow another week to rebound from the last cycle (from 2 weeks ago). It's nothing serious, and apparently not surprising, but . . . well.

So this screws with all of our expectations. You have to understand, you start to schedule your life around this stuff. "Oh, we've been invited to this or that . . . hmmmm, does that fall during an on-chemo or an off-chemo week?" Life is a constant roller coaster.

But wait, it gets better.

All this time we've been operating under the understanding that the protocol for Michael's type of cancer is 10 rounds of chemo, including the two he had before his surgery. In fact, I specifically clarified this with the doctor while M was in the hospital. So it was supposed to be 8 more rounds of chemo after surgery, over a period of 16 weeks.

Well, today M was told that no, he's supposed to do 10 rounds of chemo after the surgery, over 20 weeks.

He's had 2 rounds so far, and we thought he was a quarter of the way done. And we find out today that he's still got 8 rounds to go. This was such a blow.

It's so, so hard when you first get the news, and they tell you "This is what you have to look forward to." It takes so much . . . I dunno . . . something . . . to wrap your head around it all and get to the point where you're like, "Okay, this is going to be really, really hard, but we're going to put one foot in front of the other and we're going to get through this."

And then something like this comes along and it just kind of knocks you down all over again. Now we have to completely readjust our expectations.

With the delaying this week's round of chemo for a week, and then adding the two rounds we weren't aware of, that extends this whole nightmare by FIVE weeks. And that's only if there are no more setbacks!

All this time, we've been thinking, okay, it'll all be over sometime in December - by Christmas, it'll all be behind us, and we can start the new year with a fresh start. But no. Now we are looking at being well into the new year before this is all behind us.

Someone told me a while back, when I was telling her about Michael's cancer, she said, "My brother-in-law just finished a two-year battle with that type of cancer." And I remember thinking to myself, "Two years?? Michael's whole thing should be under a year. I wonder why that guy battled for two years?" Now I get it. I totally get it. It's about a year from diagnosis to completion of treatment if it's a textbook case with no complications and no setbacks. But of course, everyone probably has some complications and some setbacks, but they don't tell you that at the starting gate.

Michael was texting all this to me this morning while I was doing all my running around with the kids. Finally I dropped the kids off at home and went to get my truck washed and I sat at the car wash and just cried my eyes out. I haven't had that falling-apart feeling for a while, but I have it now. I feel like, FUCK!!! How much more can we take??

This. Just. Sucks.

But, you know what? As usual, Michael has a good outlook and a good attitude. Better than I do. So I need to get out of pity-party mode and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Monday, August 24, 2009

It's my job.

Annabelle asked me tonight, "Mommy, what's your job?" I said, "Well, I'm a mommy." She said, "Oh, I know what your job is. You clean and give food out."

Yup, that about sums it up.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pencils and Paper and Glue, Oh My!

These are the school supplies I bought today. Looks like a lot of stuff, huh? It is. Well, granted, it's divied among four kids. I remember the days when I sent my kids to school to start off the new school year with a new backpack, a pocket folder, and some pencils. Now we are asked to provide not only personal items for our kids (scissors, notebooks, etc.), but supplies for the classroom, like antibacterial wipes, glue, reams of paper, and tissue. That's how bad the state of the economy is, at least here in California, and schools are being hit the hardest. "Free" public education is no longer free. Parents (who are also hit hard by the economy) are asked to donate supplies to the school. Programs are eliminated. School fundraisers are frequent. Field trips cost money now.

We do what we can.

But I can't help but wonder: where is all the money that we pay in property taxes going? As housing prices rose dramatically - almost comically - during the first half of the first decade of the twenty-first century, you can bet that property taxes rose accordingly. And even in this now-depressed housing market and economy, we personally are still paying through the you-know-what in property taxes every year, and yet public education is hurting worse than ever. Where the hell is that money going? And where's the lottery money going? If I recall correctly, a significant portion of lottery ticket proceeds are supposed to be fed into public education.

What gives, Arnie?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Isn't she beautiful??

Check this out.

This made me all teary - apparently, like a lot of other women. It just makes me feel good. My belly looks something like that, and I spend a lot of time despising it. Why do I do that to myself? It looks that way because I've grown six amazing kids in there. Why can't I love myself and just feel good about what my body has accomplished?

If only we could all feel so good in our own skin.

Sticks and Stones . . .

. . . may break my bones, but words hurt even more.

Isn't that the truth, despite what we tell our kids?

I've been grappling with some things Anonymous said in her last comment to me. I vowed to myself that I would just let it go, not let myself get all bogged down by the comments of a stranger. But I take things to heart. Very much. Good or bad, that's my nature.

I could say "bitter against the world" is overly harsh.

I could say, "What business do you have coming to MY blog and passing judgment on me?"

I could say, "If you have strong opinions about something, go post about them on your own blog, or go find a debate forum to participate in."

I could say, "Yes, I have strong convictions, and of course I think I'm right about the things I think I'm right about. Doesn't everyone?"

I could say, "You don't know me. You haven't walked in my shoes. Maybe if you had experienced some of the shit I've experienced, you'd have a similar outlook."

I could say, "You're wrong about me."

And I have thought all of those things.

But the final conclusion I've come to is that probably the words that hurt the most are the ones that have at least a little truth to them.

I'm reminded quite often by my very rational husband that I invite this kind of thing by virtue of having a public blog. Which is true. As much as I'd like to just receive supportive comments, it's not realistic to think that everyone who comes across the things I write are going to agree with me or appreciate my perspective. Okay.

So I guess a little self-examination is in order, eh?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Have you ever thought about being a doula?

A friend asked me this, via text message, this morning. I was going to write her a big, long email back about my experience in doula-dom, but realized what good blog fodder it is! So here I am.

Yep, I thought about about being a doula. In fact, a little over six years ago, I set out to be a doula. Seeking a better birth experience with Joey than I had with Kevin, I hired a doula, and it was a very positive experience, and it kind of became the impetus for me to try to satisfy my fixation on pregnancy and birth by endeavoring to become a doula myself. What could be more fulfilling, I wondered, than being in a line of work that allowed me to support women during pregnancy and birth, and to witness the miracle of birth over and over?

I completed all of the study requirements set forth by DONA at the time, and underwent their weekend-long training workshop. The only other requirement to gain certification was to attend three births as a primary support person (and obtain written evaluations from the mothers, attending physicians, and nurses at those births).

In a nutshell, I was never able to follow through on the whole thing because I didn't have round-the-clock childcare available (which is necessary when you're going to be summoned by women in labor at all hours needing support) . . . plus, I kept having more babies myself ;)

I did attend two of the three required births, however. Well, actually, one and a half. And both of those experiences, along with my own hospital birth experiences, left me with the definite conclusion that I'm just not cut out to be a doula. I get too fired up about this stuff, too emotionally involved.

The first "client" I had (I use that term loosely since I offered my services for free, as most aspiring doulas do for those required certification births) was a young woman having her second baby. She was a single mom; her boyfriend had dumped her shortly after she got pregnant the second time. Her name was Melissa. I still remember the day she went into labor. I had met with her a few times during her pregnancy in order to establish a rapport with her. On the day she went into labor, we went to the park and walked around the lake together. Her contractions were sporadic but increasingly uncomfortable. She thought she might be leaking amniotic fluid but she wasn't sure. Towards evening we decided that she should call her doctor. She was told to go straight to the hospital. She called me from the hospital and told me she had been admitted. I can't remember how far she was dilated, but they determined that she was definitely in labor and that she was in fact leaking amniotic fluid, and since they didn't know how long she had been leaking, they were treating it as PROM (prolonged rupture of membranes) and so they hooked her up to an IV of antibiotics for the duration of her labor (don't even get me started on that). By the time I got to the hospital, her mom was there with her and she was confined to the hospital bed and writhing in pain. She wasn't progressing as quickly as they wanted, so they kept threatening Pitocin to augment her labor. She kept declining, and we tried some natural measures to get her contractions into a more active pattern. She labored for hours, mostly confined to the bed (because of the IV and fetal monitor they insisted on), which probably slowed her labor down. Anyway, finally she requested an epidural, which was given to her when she was 8 cm dilated. After laboring pretty much all day, the girl was exhausted and she finally fell asleep. It was the middle of the night by now, and her mom and I both dozed off too. At one point, a nurse came into the darkened room and checked Melissa's cervix. She whispered, "You're complete now. We can get things set up now and you can push, or you can sleep for a while longer, it's up to you." Melissa opted to rest a while longer. A little while later, the doctor came storming into the room. This wasn't even Melissa's regular OB, it was just the OB who happened to be on call, and he had come in briefly to meet Melissa once shortly after she was admitted, and that was the extent of his involvement with her to this point. He roughly checked her and told her point blank, "You need a c-section. The nurse tells me that you've been complete for a while, and yet the baby hasn't been born yet. It's too big for you to deliver vaginally." I was stunned, absolutely stunned. So was Melissa. WTF?! I knew this doctor was full of shit, I just knew it with every cell of my body. He was telling her that her baby was too big before she had even tried to push him out. We reminded him that she had given birth to her first baby vaginally with no problem. He said, "Second babies are always bigger than first babies. This baby is too big." I was terrified that Melissa was just going to go along with it, but it wasn't my place to make her decisions for her. I was only there to support her and help her reach informed decisions. Fortunately, she asked the doctor for a few minutes of privacy to think it over. He was a complete asshole. He actually said to her, "If you choose not to do what I am recommending, I will not be responsible for whatever happens to your baby." I swear to god, he said that.

As soon as he left the room, I went into a tirade. I told her that CPD (cephalopelvic disproportion - or in lay terms, a baby whose head and body are too large to fit through a mother's pelvis and/or a mother whose pelvis is too small to accommodate her baby) is impossible to accurately diagnose when a mother hasn't even attempted to push her baby out, that it's horribly over-diagnosed, that the doctor is full of shit insisting that second babies are "always" bigger (my second baby was exactly the same weight and an inch shorter than my first), and that she had every right to insist on an opportunity to try to push her baby out.

Melissa told the nurse that she wanted to try to push. So the nurse went and got the doctor and they broke down the bed and got everything ready. The doctor wouldn't even look Melissa in the eye. He had her lie back and put her feet in the stirrups and . . . sliced a nice big episiotomy with a pair of surgical scissors. I will never forget that as long as I live. I swear to god it was an assault. It was like he was punishing her for having a mind of her own and deciding to reject his recommendation of a c-section. I'm pretty sure I started crying then.

Melissa pushed her baby boy out in less than ten minutes (I'm getting the chills just typing this . . . all the images are coming back to me). And he weighed several ounces less than his big brother had weighed at birth.

I have no doubt that Melissa having a doula present saved her from a completely unnecessary c-section, and it was a great feeling to know that I was able to play a part in making such a life-altering difference to someone. It was also absolutely indescribable to witness the birth of a baby from that perspective - from the perspective of a witness and not the person giving birth (although it goes without saying that there is nothing more miraculous than being the one giving birth). It was an honor and utterly humbling.

But. The whole experience sent me into a sort of tail spin. I cried for days over that, over how that doctor treated her, how he lied to her and assaulted her. I went into a sort of depression over the whole thing. See, I couldn't distance myself. And it hurt. A lot.

The second opportunity I had went like this: it was a mom having her first baby and she was about a week past her due date and both she and her doctor were ready to have this baby out. There were no problems - the baby was doing fine in utero still, the mother was doing fine, but she was sick of being pregnant and the arbitrary 40-week mark had come and gone and her doctor was more than ready to put an end to the pregnancy. I actually inherited this client at the last minute from the doula I had used with Joey - she had a family emergency come up and knew I was trying to get my certification births done, so she called me and asked if I could take this client for her. So I didn't have an established rapport with this mom and her husband. I met them at the hospital and sat there twiddling my thumbs for about 12 hours while they induced her with cervadil and then Pitocin. Despite those measures, she still wasn't progressing, and they finally decided to stop the induction and let her sleep for the night and then try again in the morning. I went home at that point, telling them to call me the next morning and I would come back. They didn't call me back until after the baby was born, though, and she had ended up with a c-section. Totally not surprised. But very disappointed and disillusioned.

And again I went into that whole crying jag thing over it.

I hate the maternity system here in the US. I hate how women and babies are treated, and I hate that women just accept it for the most part. I hate that women fear birth. I hate that doctors lie to women. My own birth experience with the twins was horrible, and just completely confirmed my distaste for the hospital birthing industry. And that's what it is - an industry. I would love to see the US adopt a midwifery model of maternity care (as supported by WHO), but it's never going to happen. Obstetrics is big business. Huge. And women are all too willing to hand over responsibility for their birthing experiences to doctors who supposedly know what's best for them. Doctors who have discovered better ways to bring their babies into the world than Mother Nature has provided. Because women are defective, you know. Didn't you know that?

See how I get all revved up about this stuff? This is why I can't be a doula. It all just hurts too much.

On writing

Okay, okay!

I'm writing. I submitted something to that website a few days ago. I'm not expecting anything to come of it, I'm really not. And it's not like it's a for-pay thing either. It's just an opportunity to spread my wings a little and get my name out there . . . ?? I guess. And I've started the process of converting Finnian's Journey into a manuscript that can (hopefully) eventually be submitted to a publisher. We'll see.

Thank you, thank you, everyone, for all your confidence and support!

Monday, August 17, 2009

I feel a purge coming on . . .

Know what one of the biggest things I'm looking forward to when the kids go back to school in a couple weeks? Restoring order to my house. I am up to my ears in clutter and I am nearing the end of my tolerance level with it all. I have found myself fantasizing lately about dragging a large garbage can from room to room and purging. Dressers, closets, toy chests, you name it. And what makes the fantasy all the more enjoyable is knowing that I'll be doing it behind my kids' backs. Is that bad?

Why is it that life never looks like the Pottery Barn Kids catalogs? I set up this wonderful playroom for the girls, with a retro pink stove and refrigerator, oodles of play food and dishes, a book case full of books and a cozy chair to sit in with those books, and I pictured beribboned girls serenely playing house, serving each other fake tea and cookies on their pretty plastic dishes. Although they do play house, it usually involves climbing inside the play refrigerator, turning all the little chairs from the little table upside down and draping the covers they tear from their beds over the chairs to make a fort, and strewing the 2,964 pieces of play food from one end of the house to the other. My kids, for some reason, do not play with toys. They disassemble them. They do not play board games. They scatter them. They do not play serenely. They run through the house screaming like lunatics, leaving in their wake flotsam and jetsam that makes me all clenchy.

I need to restore order for my own mental health. My chi is off, I tell you. Purge, reorganize, scrub. They've had their fun, and time is running out. It's almost my turn.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

When I grow up, I want to be a writer.

The thing I'm lacking? Confidence (and perhaps talent? I wouldn't know, since I lack confidence).

I've enjoyed writing since I was a kid, starting with a diary. I enjoyed writing the occasional story, but my niche has always been in writing about my own thoughts and experiences. Blogging is just the natural evolution of my adolescent diary-keeping, only now I do it with an audience. Which can be good and bad. Good when the feedback is positive, supportive, and friendly. Bad when the feedback is negative and critical.

I have this fantasy, though, of actually becoming a published writer. My real dream is to get a memoir published based on Finnian's Journey. I have several friends who have exhibited much more confidence in me than I have in myself, and who continually encourage me to work towards getting published. I was approached by an already-published author not too long ago about possibly co-authoring a non-fiction book with her about an experience we have in common (I'll leave it at that for now). I was recently contacted by a mothering website asking me if I would be interested in submitting articles to their site.

I want to do these things, but fear holds me back. Who the hell do I think I am? I'm a housewife, changer of diapers, washer of dishes, kisser of owchies. A high school dropout who never went to college. What if ultimately I'm rejected? What if I fall flat on my face? No matter how tough I come across (or try to), the truth is, I'm pretty thin-skinned. I take things very personally. It can be a problem.

A real writer has to take the good with the bad, right?

Somehow, I'm going to have to figure out how to not let this hold me back.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

It's all about the money.

I know that's a very cynical perception, but in some cases, it's just the plain truth.

A little while ago, the phone rang. I saw on the caller ID that it was our health insurance company, so I answered. It was an automated voice telling me, the parent of Finnian M. (this was specified), that it has come to the attention of our insurance carrier that Finnian may be late on receiving some childhood vaccines, and that they advise me to remedy this immediately by calling our pediatrician to schedule an appointment to make sure that all of his vaccines are up to date.

To say that Finn is "late" on receiving some vaccines is an understatement. We have chosen not to have him vaccinated at all. So he hasn't received a singe vaccine.

All of our other kids are vaccinated according to the recommended schedule. For a long time, I never questioned it. Sure, I had a few stray friends who didn't vaccinate their kids, or engaged in "selective" and/or "delayed" vaccinations. I buried my head in the sand, choosing to blindly go forth as I had been doing, because sometimes examining what you're doing and realizing that you haven't really put a lot of thought into it, is just too difficult. But by the time Lilah was born, I was seriously questioning vaccines, and I had already gotten to the point of saying "No thanks" to newer vaccines that haven't been around long enough to have any kind of track record.

When I was pregnant with Finn, I really struggled about the vaccination issue. I had dug my head out of the sand far enough by that time to do some research and to realize that vaccines aren't always what they're cracked up to be. And there's the whole possible link between vaccines and neurological issues (and I would say that the fact that there is a government fund set up specifically to pay out to people who have been injured by vaccines goes a long way in showing that it's at least possible that the link is real). When Finn was born, and we learned that he has Down syndrome, it added a whole new layer of stress to the decision of whether or not to vaccinate: on the one hand, there is the argument that because he has Ds, his immune system is compromised, which would make vaccinating him against disease all the more imperative. On the other hand, the fact that he may have a compromised immune system could be reason enough to avoid vaccinations, as it is possible that he could be at more risk than average of suffering a neurological injury from a vaccine. It might be interesting to note that most pediatricians will not give vaccines to a child who is sick, say with a cold or the flu, for the very reason that their immune system is weakened and they therefore may not handle the vaccination well.

So Michael and I struggled with this and ultimately decided that the risk of Finn suffering a neurological injury from a vaccine was greater than the risk of his actually contracting a disease from which he could be vaccinated against. His brothers and sisters are all vaccinated, so he's not going to catch anything from them. He's not in daycare, so he's not exposed to lots of other children and their cooties. At some point, when Finn is older and bigger and stronger, we may selectively vaccinate him. But for now, we are completely comfortable with our decision to not have him vaccinated.

But this isn't a post arguing the merits of vaccinating vs. not vaccinating. It's a personal decision, and one that every parent needs to make for their own children, hopefully armed with accurate facts so that the decision is a truly informed one.

What this post is about is the last thing that automated voice told me on the phone today: "Funding for this call has been provided by Wyatt Pharmeceuticals." Uh huh, I thought so.

I imagine that the pharmeceutical companies get lists of babies born and somehow keep a database of who has received which of the vaccinations they produce, and when. And I have no doubt that they get paid for every vaccination given to a child.

Is Wyatt Pharmeceuticals really concerned about Finnian's well-being? Is Anthem-Blue Cross? I kinda don't think so.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A post about Lilah

Jen has me feeling totally guilty about not having much to say about Lilah. Thanks, Jen ;)

No, really, you hit the nail on the head: she's our easy kid. And yes, she's very good-natured. Michael and I were both convinced that she was trying to smile almost from birth . . . she had this certain twinkle in her eyes.

The first thing people generally notice about Lilah is THE HAIR. That's what people say: "Oh my God, the hair!" And it's true. She was blessed with this luscious cascade of golden curls that makes me want to cry. Or go out and get golden ringlet hair extensions.

Oh, and her butt. I LOVE her butt. Is that weird? She's my chubbiest kid (and really, she's not actually chubby, only when compared to my other elfin children), and she has the cutest, plump little behind.

Okay, enough of that.

The twins include her 100%. They are really quite a threesome. And lots of people ask if they're triplets. Which is kind of funny because Lilah is two years younger than the twins. But she seems to have no idea of that - she truly thinks she's one of them, and they let her.

She's a character. Full of personality. She has such a sense of humor - always laughing at everything - but not in an obnoxious-trying-to-be-a-comedian way, more like she just really gets a kick out of being alive.

Here's a neat trick she did a few weeks ago: she somehow managed to get the curtain tangled up in her hair. Have you ever seen such a thing? Anyway, she has her moments - she IS two-going-on-three after all. But her tempers are usually pretty short-lived and it's easy to humor her back into a good mood.

Oh, and she has Daddy wrapped around her little finger. Even if he won't admit it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Adventures in the Kitchen

Kevin made dinner tonight! And dessert!

We've just recently started allowing him to use the stove, and he seems to enjoy making himself eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches, etc. (hopefully the novelty won't wear off and he will continue to enjoy cooking, unlike moi). Anyway, I got him this kids' cookbook and let him pick out a recipe for dinner and one for dessert. His choices: chili for dinner, and brownies (from scratch, not from a box!) for dessert.

He started with the brownies -

Joey got in on some mixing action.

Once the brownies were baking in the oven, Kev made the chili. Michael helped by chopping onions and green peppers.

It was pretty tasty!

And now for dessert . . .



Not much to say lately. Last week was terribly stressful and emotional, and although I'm glad to have it behind me, this week is an "on-chemo" week for M, so there's that. He's sitting at the doctor's office as I type this, no doubt with the IV dripping into his vein.

What else?

~ Only 3 weeks of summer break left. Holy crap. As always, as summer break draws to a close, I have mixed feelings. Relief about the upcoming structure and routine, which my kids really thrive on, and also a little bit of dread of the upcoming structure and routine, as it does tend to be tiring.

~ Joey has become fairly obsessed with the piano and is teaching himself how to play. I kid you not. This kid is a prodigy, I tell you. He has this incredible musical ear, which I've long suspected is in some way tied into his mathematical brain, which we discovered when he was still a toddler. Anyway, he can now play part of the theme song from Harry Potter, Mary Had a Little Lamb, part of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, part of the theme song from Gremlins . . . and I don't even know what else. And he taught himself, merely by listening to these songs and figuring out the notes himself on the piano. This kid scares me.

~ I have discovered the joys of audiobooks. Not that what I'm currently listening to is so great (Twilight), but wow, what a great way to pass the time when doing housework, out walking, driving, whatever! I should be able to get in twice as much "reading" now!

~ Discovered this weekend that Lilah, not quite 3 years old, and Annabelle, not quite 5 years old, weigh exactly the same: 29.5 pounds. Lilah is shorter, so built quite bit more . . . err, sturdy. Daisy, Annabelle's twin, is thin but a couple inches taller than Annabelle and weighs a few pounds more. I have this sneaking suspicion that Lilah is going to pass both of them up and then beat the crap out of them ;)

~ This Friday evening I have a date with some galpals to go see The Time Traveler's Wife. Can't wait. Loved the book. Stay tuned for a review :)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

About that banjo . . .

Yep, he was surprised. He plays guitar (and owns many) and even has a ukulele. Although I don't recall him ever saying he wanted a banjo, I figured (hoped) it was something he would like. He likes!

I owe thanks to my friend Tricia and her husband Alex for helping me with this - Alex plays banjo and directed me on the whats and wheres of buying a banjo. And also to my friend Carrie who let me have it delivered to her house and kept it in hiding for me for a while!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Monday, August 3, 2009


Here's the cocktail:

Chemotherapy is usually - always? - a combination of powerful, toxic drugs - and the cocktail is different for different types of cancer. These drugs are basically poison. It's ironic that in order to treat somebody for cancer, they have to nearly kill that person.

There are lots and lots of possible side effects associated with each of these drugs. Most people do not experience all of the possible side effects, but everyone experiences at least some. Nobody gets through it unscathed.

If most people are like me, the side effect they commonly associate with chemo is the severe nausea. Before Michael had cancer, that's what I thought about when I thought about chemo: nausea and hair loss. But there are lots of other side effects, and they can all be debilitating.

Michael hasn't had a lot of nausea - some, but not too bad. What he mostly experiences with his chemo is debilitating fatigue which hangs on to varying degrees but seems to hit the hardest about three days after he sits with the IV drip; and neuropathy, which is peripheral nerve pain and other freakiness (loss of sensation; hypersensitivity to cold; shortness of breath; the sensation that the throat is closing and/or the chest is tightening; mouth sensitivity and/or sores).

Just to give people a better understanding, you know?

Last Thursday, Michael could barely get out of bed. He was down for the count all day. Since then, he has steadily improved as the chemo slowly leaves his system. Until next time. Some side effects, however, are just now taking hold.

But he's feeling well enough that he went into the office for a few hours today. And he and I are going out to dinner tonight to celebrate his birthday, which is tomorrow.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

I did it.

Wanna see?



Whaddya think?