Monday, September 28, 2009

Fluff

I got picked! I submitted a piece - something I posted here a while back actually - to Mamapedia, and I was chosen as a featured blogger! Okay, it's a fluff piece, but still. I submitted some other things to the site as well, so maybe in time they'll choose something more meaningful that I wrote.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sing a little song, do a little dance . . .

The lengths I have to go to to get Finn to eat! Lately I find myself putting on a full show for him - I sing every song in my repertoir from Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to The Itsy Bitsy Spider, right on down the line to the Slinky song ("It walks down stairs, alone and in pairs . . ." come on, sing it with me!) and the Oscar Mayer song (yes, I'm a child of the '70s). I tell jokes. I make funny faces. Anything to distract him from the fact that I'm actually attempting to put nourishment into his body, god forbid.

What is it with kids? Mine have all gone through this anti-food stage. When Kevin was little, we went through a very looooong period when there were exactly two things he would eat: chicken and cheese. So we did the only moral thing we could think of: we lied to him about everything we fed him. Everything was chicken: chicken steak, chicken pork chops, chicken fish, and of course, the ever popular chicken chicken.

And it's really no better now. They only get more sophisticated in their dislike of food as they get older. It's no wonder I hate cooking. There's no appreciation, no oohhing and aahhing over the fruits of my labors. Only the same statements every night: "I don't like that." "I'm not eating that." "Ewww!"

I have a thing about family dinner time. Most nights we sit down as a family and eat dinner together. It's important, a time of coming together, connecting, of listening and being heard. In theory, anyway. But every night, I get the interrogation as I'm cooking: "What's for dinner?" "What kind of chicken?" "What's with the chicken?" "I don't like that." "I want something else." "I'm not eating that." And then we sit down, and there's coaxing from me and Michael. Sometimes bribery is involved. Often threats. Always tears.

Maybe what we need to do is stop calling meals in our house breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and refer to all foods as "Snacks." They love snacks. They want snacks all the time. Think I could pass off meatloaf and mashed potatoes as a snack? Ha!

Well, at least all Finn requires right now is a little singing and dancing.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Dismantling of a Starbucks

My Starbucks store is closing. In fact, today is the last day it's open for business. Yep, the depressed economy is impacting even the infallible Starbucks.

I've been a Starbucks addict for over 13 years now, and I've been a loyal patron of this particular Starbucks store ever since we moved into our present house 4 1/2 years ago. Every morning I've gone in and ordered my Grande No Whip Mocha (well, except for that week that Tiffany, one of the baristas, refused to serve me mochas and instead made me broaden my horizons and try a new drink every day - I'm a creature of habit). It's so predictable that even Lilah knows what I order, and the girls actually like to play "Starbucks" at home, serving each other grande mochas and green tea frappuccinos (my occasional afternoon treat). Most of the baristas know me by name and they start my drink as soon as they see me walk in the door - some of them even know my truck and will make my drink when they see my pull up in the parking lot! They've watched me go through two pregnancies. They know all about Finn and the ordeal we went through with him after his birth - Michael and I would wander in, bleary-eyed, on our way to the NICU, and a couple of the baristas noticed the hospital ID bracelets we wore and asked, so I told. They adore Lilah and Finn, who often go with me to get my morning coffee, and ply them with stickers. They know about Michael's cancer; a few of them noticed his PICC line and asked me about it.

I wouldn't say that these people are friends, exactly, but they've become fixtures in my mornings. The familiarity gives me a sense of belonging in the neighborhood. The employees of this store will scatter now. A couple of them will be at another neighborhood Starbucks, but the rest are going to other parts, and I probably won't see them again.

It's been a sad thing to watch the store gradually dismantle over the last couple of weeks. A notice has been pasted to the front door alerting customers that the store will be permanently closing as of September 24. They've steadily moved out merchandise and store fixtures until this morning, the store was virtually bare except for the equipment behind the counter. When I got to the front of the line to pay for my drink this morning, Skye, the store manager, handed me a little Starbucks bag which was stapled closed. I didn't open it until I left the store, but inside I found a Starbucks gift card and some candy treats for Lilah. I was so touched, I actually got a little teary.

I'm no good with endings.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Day in the Life

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqgRHVmF8N0

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Birthday Girls

Of course, the birth story is only the beginning of the story . . .

What I remember most about the early days and weeks is how tired we were all the time.



Two babies! Sometimes it still blows my mind.

I remember, in an abstract way, that Annabelle and Daisy were crabby babies. Annabelle came out yelling - she didn't cry, she yelled. And she still has that same yell today. They clearly had a special bond from the very beginning and didn't like being separated. Although we had two cribs in anticipation of their arrival, they wouldn't be separated and slept together in the same crib until they were almost two years old. They even both contracted viral meningitis at ten weeks old and were hospitalized together for five days.

When they were toddlers, Annabelle was clearly the leader and Daisy the more passive follower. But these days they're on pretty equal footing.

It's impossible to imagine, when they're little babies, them being anything more than cuddly, cooing lumps. It's impossible to imagine five years down the road, to guess at what they'll look like, what they'll be like as little girls. Just like now, it's impossible for me to imagine them as teenagers or grown women.

But here we are, five years later, and Annabelle and Daisy have grown into two beautiful, bright little girls. The whole twin thing still fascinates me - it's like watching a lifelong science experiment. They're absolutely the best of friends and take comfort in the other's presence, but there is also definitely rivalry between them and they will gladly beat the crap out of each other over a toy or a slight. They're both girly-girls - very much into dolls and ruffles and everything sparkly, but Annabelle is also very much a tomboy. Daisy is very motherly and bossy - to everyone.

***

I was up until 11:00 last night making cupcakes to take to their kindergarten class this morning (I was only up so late because I ruined the first batch and therefore had to start over - Martha Stewart, I'm not). Pink cupcakes (Annabelle's favorite color) with purple frosting (Daisy's favorite color).


They were thrilled when I showed up in their classroom this morning bearing treats for their birthday.



While the kids all ate cupcakes and then played, the girls' teacher told me how happy Annabelle and Daisy both are, and how eager they are to be there each morning. That made my heart swell. I mean, what more could I hope for but for my kids to be happy?

At home, we had a store-bought cake:


Check it out: four layers of cake and three layers of filling . . . mmmmm!

Five years old . . . happy birthday, girls.

***

Oh! I almost forgot. Among other things, the girls got a Karaoke machine for their birthday (courtesy of Daddy):


a birthday's just not a birthday without someone melting down, huh?

Five Years Ago Today . . .

Birth Story

of

Our Twins

Born September 22, 2004

Annabelle Jeanette, 2:21 p.m. 5 lbs. 12 oz. 18 inches

Daisy Estrella, 2:39 p.m. 6 lbs. 1 oz., 19 inches

Finding out I was expecting twins was one of the biggest shocks of my life. There was just no reason to have suspected twins - no family history, no fertility treatment. Michael and I wanted another baby and were thrilled when I got pregnant the first cycle we tried, but nothing could have prepared us for the news of twins. We had hired a midwife already with the plan of having a home birth after having had two pretty unsatisfying hospital birth experiences. However, I did plan on seeing an OB for the first part of my pregnancy - n that was just my comfort zone I guess. At my first prenatal appt. with the OB, during a routine dating ultrasound, I got the shocking news that I was carrying twins. Michael wasn't even with me, as I didn't know beforehand that I would be having a u/s that day. When we found out we were having twins, our plans for a home birth went down the toilet and I was crushed.


Although my OB continually warned me of a complicated pregnancy because I was carrying twins, I really had a pretty healthy pregnancy, with the exception of developing both PIH and PUPPS during the last few weeks. I fought hard to be treated as an individual rather than being subjected to routine protocols and procedures just because I was having twins.

I went into labor at 37 weeks + 5 days. I realized I was in labor a little after midnight. My contractions were coming about every 8 minutes and growing more and more intense. I dozed on and off through the night, and when Michael's alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. for him to get up for work, I told him I was in labor. We were both very excited.

We left the house at about 7:30 a.m., and by then my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and really hurting. We called our doula and asked her to meet us at the hospital. Kevin, who was 7 at the time, was very excited to know that his sisters were going to be born that day. Joey, then age 2, didn't really understand any of it. We got the boys dropped off at a babysitter's and made our way to the hospital.

I knew that because I was having twins, I would have to deliver in the OR, but we were able to talk the nurses into letting me labor in one of the nice birthing suites. It seemed like we had to make a case for everything we wanted because of all the hospital policies. Every time I had a request or preference, I had to argue for what I wanted.

When I was admitted, I was dilated to 5 cm. I had already had to agree to an epidural because Baby B was breech, and Dr. Zepeda said he would not try to turn her unless I had an epidural. I was bugged because I know a lot of times the second baby will turn around on its own after the first baby is born, but he wasn’t going to budge on that - he said either an epidural or a c-section. It made me so angry that I was given ultimatums like that - it seemed like so many decisions had been made that way. Because I was having twins, I had to give up a lot of control over how my birth would go and it was very upsetting to me.

Anyhow, when we arrived at the hospital, Dr. Linzey was on call - my former OB/GYN whom I had left after Joey was born because he and I had butted heads on some things that were very important to me at the end of my pregnancy with Joey. Dr. Zepeda was on call the night Joey was born I liked him so much that I chose him to be my OB when I found out I was pregnant again. Dr. Z had promised me that he would be at my birth even if he was not on call when I was ready to deliver - he left instructions in my chart that he was to be reached when I was admitted. I had left a message with his answering service earlier that morning, and when we got there I was surprised and a little alarmed to hear that they were still trying to reach him. I did not want to deal with Dr. Linzey.

By 11:30 a.m. I was dilated to 7 cm and was given an epidural. Dr. Z still had not responded to attempts to reach him. I was really feeling disappointed about the epidural because for the first time I really think I could have made it without one. With Kevin, I was induced and begging for an epidural by the time I got to 2 cm. With Joey, I tried to go natural but after 19 hours of labor, I "hit the wall" and got an epidural. This time, though, I stayed on top of the contractions and never felt like I was close to not being able to handle it. My doula took a picture of me laughing between contractions.

Dr. Linzey came into our room and was very friendly at first. He talked about turning Baby B once Baby A was born, and he also talked about the possibility of a breech delivery of Baby B if she wouldn’t turn. I was completely open to that, as a c-section was my worst fear. I knew I would be going home with 2 newborns to care for in addition to my other 2 kids, and I had no family or help. I couldn’t fathom how I would manage to try and recover from a c-section on top of being on my own to take care of my kids and house (Michael would only be able to take a week or so off work). Then Dr. Linzey asked about the babies' sizes and I told him that my last ultrasound almost 3 weeks prior had estimated Baby A (the presenting baby) to be approx. 5 lbs, and Baby B to be approx. 6 lbs. His whole tune suddenly changed then. He said Baby B could not be delivered breech if she was a pound bigger than the first baby. I reminded him that: (a) the ultrasound had been done almost 3 weeks ago and a lot could have changed between then and now, (b) the u/s weight estimates were just that - estimates - and the report even said "+ or - 12 oz.", and (c) what happened to turning Baby B to a head down position? He got a copy of the u/s report from my file and pretty much became closed to the whole idea of even trying to turn the second baby. He had his mind made up that I should just have a c-section, period. And he was really quite a bully about it, insinuating that I was not making decisions in the best interests of my babies, and saying "We want these kids to be able to count to ten someday." (He later used this same exact line on a friend of mine and I was appalled to realize that that’s all it was: a line, a scare tactic.) So we had gone from a very high chance of delivering both babies vaginally to pretty much no possibility of anything but a c-section. I was so upset I couldnt even talk any more, I was just crying and crying. Michael argued with him and Dr. L was just a total jerk. I still wanted to know where the hell MY dr. was. I felt like if I could just get Dr. Z there, we could clear the whole thing up and go back to the possibility of delivering both babies vaginally. Dr. Z and I had talked about it at length, even taking into consideration that Baby B might be a little bigger than Baby A, and he was definitely more open to work with me and help me achieve what I wanted, at least as far as avoiding a c-section. So Im laying there bawling, Michaels pissed, and finally Dr. L left the room to "give us some time."

Because of the PIH, my blood pressure was being constantly monitored, and by this time it was sky high - something like 190/110. Obviously our conversation with Dr. L didn’t help matters, but even after he left my bp wasnt going down and they were afraid I was going to go into seizures, so they had to put me on Magnesium Sulphate then.

Finally, a little while later Dr. Z showed up. I felt such a huge relief. But suddenly he seemed to have changed from caring, supportive OB to "I'm in charge here, I know what's best," and scolded,

"Lisa, we talked about this . . ." I panicked a little - what, was he suddenly on Dr. Ls side? I told him yes we had talked about it and I reminded him that he had said he was willing to work with me and help me have the birth I wanted. He finally agreed to let me attempt a vaginal birth and hope that Baby B could be turned.

Around 2:00 I suddenly felt like I needed to push even though I was completely numb. The nurse checked me and said "Were ready to have a baby here!" So they wheeled me on the L & D bed down the hall, around a few corners, and into the operating room. What a trip that was, to be in this cold, sterile, brightly lit operating room to have my babies. At the last second, right before we were about the enter the OR, they said my doula could not go in. That came out of left field and completely caught me off guard. I was so angry - it seemed like they had intentionally waited until the last possible second to spring that one on us so we wouldnt have time to argue about it. What the fuck??? Dr. Z and everyone else knew all along that I had a doula and no one ever said anything about her not being allowed in the OR where I would give birth - and where I would especially need her!

They sent Michael to another room to put scrubs on and I was wheeled into the OR. As it turned out, an OR birth requires 2 doctors to be in attendance, so guess who else was there besides Dr. Z. Yep, Dr. L, my arch enemy. They weren't going to let me actually deliver on the regular birth bed, I had to be moved onto the operating table. It was really narrow and hard and I was flat on my back. I kept saying "I cant push like this, I need to sit up," but the nurses were too busy hooking things up and getting things ready to pay me much attention, plus after my skirmish with the highly respected Dr. Linzey, the nurses really became pretty bitchy and cold to me. Finally they did kind of elevate my upper body with pillows to make it easier to push. For some reason that Im still not sure of, I started crying as soon as they got me into the OR, and I think I cried the entire time we were in there. It was so overwhelming.

I asked if they could bring a mirror in so I could see my babies being born. As soon as they put the mirror at the foot of the table I could see Baby As head with lots of dark hair. Dr. Z told me I could start pushing. I pushed so hard I literally saw stars, but I couldnt really feel myself pushing because I was so numb. Even so, it was only 2 contractions before Baby A was out. Annabelle Jeanette was born at 2:21 p.m., weighing 5 lbs. 12 oz. and was 18 inches long. They laid her on my chest and Michael cut her cord. I held her for a minute before a nurse took her away to clean her up and weigh and measure her, and then she was brought back to me and I got to hold her for a few more minutes before the next baby was ready to be born.

Now Dr. Linzey started manually trying to turn Baby B from the outside. From what I could see, it looked really painful, although I was numb, and at that point I was glad I had an epidural. How ironic it was that he was the one turning her since he was so set on doing a c-section. It only took a few minutes for him to get her head down and then Dr. Z broke her water and pretty soon I could see her head - another head with dark hair! He told me to go ahead and push, and again I pushed her out in just a few minutes. Daisy Estrella was born 18 minutes after her sister, at 2:39 p.m. She weighed 6 lbs. 1 oz. and was 19 inches long. So there was a 5 ounce difference between the two of them - not even close to a pound. No episiotomy, and no tearing. I didnt get to see or hold Daisy right away. For some reason, they took her away right away and I didnt get to see her until I was ready to be moved into the recovery room. After Daisy was born, they brought Annabelle back to me and I tried to nurse her for the first time. During all this, Michael was pulled in 3 different directions, between me and 2 babies. It kind of sucked. A lot of the time I was just left there on the table with no one holding my hand or paying me any attention or anything. I was (and am) still so angry that they wouldnt let my doula be there with me.

When I was still in labor, we had been told that I would have to go to the recovery room for an hour or 2 after the birth and that the babies would have to go to the nursery for observation. I made a total stink about that until they gave in and said they could make an exception and let the babies stay with me in the recovery room. I held and nursed both babies in the recovery room. We were there for an hour or so and then I was taken to a private postpartum room. Michael stayed for a few hours and then went home to be with the boys.

My blood pressure was still pretty high so they wanted to keep me on the mag-sulph for 24 hours. During that time, someone came every hour to draw blood from me, and every hour the nurse made me get up and pee into a measuring bowl in the toilet. My blood pressure was also taken every hour, and my reflexes checked. Mag-sulph is some wicked stuff, and I spent the next 24 hours in a zombie state, just feeling incredibly weak and sick and out of it.

On that second day, Annabelle and Daisy started nursing really well, and for the rest of my stay in the hospital it seemed like if I wasnt nursing one, I was nursing the other. On the second night I somehow managed to get them both in bed with me propped up on pillows so could nurse them at the same time. The three of us fell asleep that way and it was nice. Of course I got a talking-to from the nurse about how dangerous it is to sleep with a baby in bed with me. The nursed kept trying to convince me to let the babies go to the nursery so I could get some rest, and it just upset me. I had worked so hard to grow these 2 babies and to give birth to them - why did they think I wanted to be separated from them? I was also cautioned by more than one of the nurses that I would have to supplement with formula, that it would be too hard to breastfeed twins. Well, they didn’t know a thing about me or how determined I am. I never supplemented my first two babies, and I wasn’t about to go down that road with my twins. I ended up nursing them for 18 months - until I was about 3 months into my next pregnancy - and never did a drop of formula pass their lips.

All the nurses were just amazed that I had the twins vaginally. One of them told me that there had been 5 or 6 twin deliveries that week and they had all been c-sections except me. How sad is that?

After 2 days in the hospital we were finally able to go home. What a relief that was! The whole experience made me never want to step foot in another hospital.




Monday, September 21, 2009

Life: It Doesn't Get any Easier Than This

Finn is sick (cold? swine flu? who knows), teething, and currently on a nursing strike. I've been really stressed out about it all. The illness because, well, who likes their kid to be sick, and I worry about Michael getting sick. The nursing strike because nursing is pretty much Finn's sole source of fluid intake since he has not yet mastered cup or straw, and I worry about him becoming dehydrated. Early this morning, he nursed for the first time in over 24 hours, and it was by force. I literally had to wrestle the boob into his mouth, which might be funny, except it's not. I tried again before his nap, and it was quite a scene that ended with both of us sweaty and crying. (For the record, through this little ordeal I have also attempted syringe-feeding which hasn't gone over much better, and I've discovered that Finn isn't a fan of Jell-O, which I thought was a brilliant suggestion.)

So, I'm sitting here feeling sorry for myself, thinking, yeah, just what I need: one more problem to deal with. As if I don't have enough crap heaped on my plate at the moment.

And then it hit me: it doesn't get any easier than this, life. It's full of challenges and pitfalls - that's just the way it is. And it doesn't have to be a bad thing. It all depends on how you look at it, how you deal with it.

It's like, when the kids are babies and keeping you up all night and teething . . . and then there's the nightmare of potty-training. I don't know about you, but I've spent a lot of time during those years thinking "It'll get easier when they're older and we're out of this stage." But it doesn't get easier, it just changes. Every age my kids have been has come with its own set of challenges. And really, it's okay.

I've spent so much time wishing this year away, The Year of Cancer. I've convinced myself that when Michael is all done with treatment, life will be easier. I don't know why I think that. It'll still be life, with some of the same challenges we've always had with or without cancer, and perhaps some new ones as well.

And also the same beauty and joy . . . and perhaps some new beauty and joy and appreciation as well.

It's like all the marriage counseling that Michael and I did. I realize now that the goal was never to prevent us from having problems ever again, but rather to learn how to deal with the challenges that will inevitably keep coming up. Because that's life.

Despite how hard and frustrating things are with Finn at the moment, I know it will pass. And then there will be another challenge. And that's okay. That's life.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Breakthrough

I took the girls to the mall today to buy their Disney Princess costumes (blech!) for Halloween, and we ventured back into that pet shop we visited last weekend. And, well . . . I'll just let the pictures tell the story:







It was a little Cockapoo named Sadie. It took a little bit of coaxing, but I (and the guy who worked there) convinced Daisy to pet the dog!! This is a first. And she felt sooooo good about herself afterwards.

We're not completely there yet, but we're certainly making strides. There was an incident a week or so ago where someone brought a large dog onto the school grounds (we were waiting for Joey after school) without a leash (seriously!). And Daisy freaked. Also a couple days ago I rescued a little Yorkie running around in front of our house who I was afraid was going to get hit by a car. The dog had a collar with an ID tag, so I brought it up to our front door, intending to call the number on the tag, and when Daisy saw me carrying the dog towards our front door, she started screaming and crying. But. There's today, her petting an actual, live dog. And feeling very pleased with herself. And she's begging for a dog to keep now. She's got a name picked out and was browsing the pet shop for suitable collars, a leash, and a doggy bed.

We'll see!

Comment Moderation

After some more thought, I've decided that it would be a good idea after all to use Comment Moderation here. While I'm not in favor of censorship, I also don't think that just anyone should be free to say whatever they want here and turn it into a circus. If people have strong opinions about something, they should find their own forum to express those thoughts. So from now on, all comments will have to be approved before being published, and I won't be accepting comments from Anonymous anymore. I know that several friends of mine use "Anonymous," so please just create a username instead.

Have a nice day :)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Make Your Own Flu Vaccine

Love this!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIjm9w_-tNY

Monday, September 14, 2009

Going to the dogs

Yesterday we took the whole family to the mall. I know! It was something to do, someplace to go to get out of the heat, and there's a kid-friendly restaurant there where we could have lunch.

There's also a pet shop. A pet shop with dogs.

I wasn't sure how Daisy would react. It could go either way with her. Cute little puppies behind glass could seem menacing or non-threatening to her. Either way, I figured she would keep her distance, even if she didn't go into hysterics.

But check this out:



She went right on in with the rest of us. She was a little tentative and nervous at first, but she quickly warmed up to the cute puppies-safely-behind-glass. Then she started telling us that we should buy one, that she wants a dog.

I've wondered for a while if it might be therapeutic for Daisy if we got a family dog. Actually, when she was born, we had three dogs - large dogs - and the last of them died a year ago. But they were strictly outside dogs and Daisy never had much to do with them. (It's still a complete mystery where her dog-phobia comes from; it surfaced around the time she turned 2, and we've never been able to figure out what happened and have come to the conclusion that she's just wired that way for some reason.) But what I've wondered is what if we got a smallish dog, as a puppy, who could live in the house with us? One that Daisy could get to know as a non-threatening puppy, one she could help name and take care of. Might that help her overcome her fear?

So yesterday when she was suddenly begging for a dog, these thoughts were again going through my mind. Of course, I know full well that Daisy is fickle-minded and just because she was saying yesterday that she wants a dog doesn't mean that today she'll feel the same way. And yeah, by bedtime last night she had decided definitely NO on the dog idea. But then today she's back to saying that we should get a dog.

So, I don't know. She is actually specifically asking for a Dachsund (because Kevin has a stuffed Dachsund that she likes, and also one of her favorite cartoons features a Dachsund). Now, until the last year, I've had dogs all my life, and they were always big dogs. I always kind of had the opinion that if it wasn't a big dog, it wasn't really a dog. I'm rethinking that now. Maybe a Dachsund would be perfect.








Electronic Bravado

We are at 66 comments (and counting??) to that entry I posted . . . you know, the one where I put myself out on a limb and talked about my depression? Yeah, that one.

On some level, it's become almost entertaining to watch these clowns go down in flames. They're digging themselves into these holes and they apparently can't see it. Sad? Funny? Both? But they've claimed that thread as their own personal little place to play out some bizarre drama, that stems from incidents, circumstances, and situations that have NOTHING whatsoever to do with them personally. It sorta smacks of "unstable" and "stalker," doesn't it? It also smacks of Cyber Harassment, something the law has actually come to recognize as an actual crime.

And the person behind all this? The person whom said incidents, circumstances, and situations actually do personally pertain to (at least to some degree)? That person oughta be ashamed of herself. If sicking your friends in such a vicious manner is in any way fostering peace or offering support, well, I must be living in the freaking Twilight Zone. It's not at all difficult to figure out what's going on here: Cyber Harasser No. 1 and Cyber Harasser No. 2 were directed to my blog by Person of Interest A; Person of Interest A is clearly following this whole thing word for word. If Person of Interest A were truly interested in fostering peace, she would never allow her friends, Cyber Harasser No. 1 and Cyber Harasser No. 2, to behave in the vicious, harassing manner in which they have. If in fact Person of Interest A has demanded that her friends cease and desist from making a bad situation far, far worse, well, they're still goin' at it, so I guess they're not very good friends, are they? And if Cyber Harasser No. 1 and Cyber Harasser No. 2 had any sense, any decorum, any integrity, they never would have seen fit to make themselves involved in somebody else's family issues to begin with - or to pelt a family in the midst of a crisis with attacks.

Ahhh, let 'em go at it, though. It's become an entertaining little diversion. Almost.

What I really wanted to talk about here, is the fact that electronic communication - in all its forms - has made our lives both better and worse.

I got my first home computer in 1995 - fourteen years ago. At first I mostly used it for work stuff and journal-keeping, and desktop publishing. It was a while before I got an internet connection, and when I did, I didn't know what to do with it exactly. I created an email account, but not everyone was using email yet back then, so I didn't rely on that as a form of communication. Eventually I got involved in an "email loop" (this was before such things as (Yahoo Groups or Google Groups) consisting of several women who were all pregnant with their first babies and due in January, 1997. Over the years, I became involved in a number of online message/discussion boards (usually pregnancy-related boards), and then blogging. And email? It's really become my preferred mode of communication. It's nearly impossible for me to talk on the phone these days. Anyone with a phone and small children knows that a phone is a small child magnet. Mom picks up the phone? Cue the instant demands for attention from the kidlings. I have to lock myself in the basement just to make a doctor appointment.

I got my first cell phone when I was pregnant with Kevin thirteen years ago. I still remember what a huge deal it seemed like - I suddenly had this device that would allow me to make a phone call anytime, anywhere! I really initially got it for peace of mind - I was pregnant with my first baby and I wanted to know that if I became stranded somewhere, I would have the means to summon help. But the truth is, I didn't even carry the phone around with me in my purse. It stayed in my truck, and I didn't even turn it on unless I was making a call. In fact, it wasn't until Michael and I started dating that I began carrying my cell phone around with me and leaving it turned on all the time (I also bought M his first cell phone around that time) - ahhhh, new love . . . .

So now I have my cell phone with me at all times. The funny thing, though, is that I rarely actually use the phone part of it (remember that whole anti-phone thing I have going on?). I use it for texting and emailing a lot, though. And it's an iPhone, so it does all kinds of other cool things too.

So in these ways, my life has been made better by electronic communication.

But there's an ugly side to it all as well. First of all, as Michael likes to point out, it's intrusive. It's hard to get away from, all these modes of instant communication. But worse than that is the fact that it gives people a sense of bravado that I don't believe they'd exhibit in real-life, face-to-face situations. The trashing. The bashing. The insults and attacks and accusations. It's so easy to do that from behind the cover of a computer screen. I wonder if the person who left the comment, "Go boil your head, BITCH!" (and then deleted it, presumably because she realized how bad it made her look) would say that to my face. I kind of doubt it. She doesn't even know me. She's never even met me. If she did say it to my face, she'd certainly look like a psycho. But from behind a computer screen? She feels brave and powerful and can pretend that she's righteous. Yeah, whatever. But I've seen this same sort of thing happen over and over - not just on my blog, but on message boards. People get riled about something and they go on verbal rampages that they wouldn't dream of taking part in in "real life."

Have I ever been guilty of this? Probably. I'm sure in the past I've taken a dose of courage from behind my computer screen and said things I wouldn't otherwise have the guts to say. But after being the target of that kind of behavior on a message board once a couple years back, I've made a genuine effort to not say things electronically that I wouldn't say face-to-face. I've seen how out of hand it can get, how ugly, how utterly damaging. And now I'm seeing it again.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

On blogging and commenting

A new record has been set here: 45 comments (and counting!) have been left on a single post. Wow. Of course, two of those comments were left by me, and a handful were left by my husband, Michael, so I don't know if those actually count. Roughly half of the comments actually pertained to the subject matter of the original blog entry.

I went to bed last night having made up my mind that I was going to get up this morning and institute the Comment Moderation option that Blogger offers. The Comment Moderation feature results in all comments requiring the approval of the blog owner (me) before being posted publicly on the blog. 'Cause the truth is, I'm sick of the kind of shit that went on here yesterday. Not that it's ever gotten that out of hand before, and not that it's an every day, or even every week occurrence. But it's not the first time that someone has decided to use my blog as a forum to try to bash me, call me out, or otherwise put me in my place. And frankly, that's just not what my blog is for. And it pisses me off when people can't - or choose not to - exercise common courtesy and decency just because they're hiding behind a computer screen in some other corner of the world.

But after some further thought, and bouncing it off of Michael, I'm choosing not to institute Comment Moderation at this point. I've always known that the option was there, and I've chosen thus far not to utilize it because I want to keep my blog real, and I'm really not in favor of censorship. (Despite what Beth asserted in one of her comments that she has seen me delete every comment by my father-in-law, or some such BS - well, that's just complete BS. In the entire history of my blogging, which at this point spans over three years, I have deleted exactly ONE comment from anyone, and yes, it was a comment left by my husband's father, and I deleted it because it was a very personal message directed to Michael which I felt should have been sent directly to Michael and not left publicly on my blog). If you go through my blog and see various deleted comments, those have been deleted by the commenters themselves, and I have no power or control over that.

I realize that I am putting myself out here publicly. But the more I think about it, the more I dispute that I should therefore welcome any and all comments, whatever their tone. That's like saying that just because I walk out my front door and put myself out in the world, that I should expect and even welcome people coming up to me and arguing with me, insulting me, or whatever. There is still something called common decency. There is still the choice to be a polite human being. And while I fully accept that people may disagree with some of the things I write about, I don't agree that anyone should feel free to use this as a springboard to assert their own contrary opinions or to take me down a peg or two. This is not a debate forum. It's not even a discussion board. There actually are forums and message boards that serve the sole purpose of providing a place for debate and discussion.

And despite the fact that I choose to put my life out there publicly for the world to see, the truth is that I actually do pick and choose what to make public and what to keep private (like current issues concerning my in-laws; I have enough respect for them that I have kept that off the blog and private; I wish I were afforded the same respect). I actually am very protective of my family's privacy. You may think you know everything there is to know about me and us, but this blog is just the tip of the iceberg.

What this, my blog, is, is an outlet for me. An emotional outlet, a writing outlet. A place for me to express myself. To record events in my life. To process things that are bothering me. To share news about myself and my family. To connect on some level to other human beings who might have some personal experience with some of the same things I write about. It's nice to feel less alone, and whether I get that benefit for myself by blogging, or provide that for someone who reads my blog, it's a good feeling.

Of course I enjoy the positive feedback I receive. The supportive comments mean a great deal to me. Do I hate it, or am just unable to deal with it, when people disagree with me? I don't think that's altogether true. Yes, I'm thin-skinned and hot-tempered. That said, of course I realize that the world is full of varying opinions and feelings about all kinds of topics. It's the spice of life, right? Right. What gets me all fired up is when someone decides that my blog is the perfect place for them to call me out or start a heated debate or discussion.

If you don't like me, or what I write about, move on. Nobody is forcing you to read my blog. If you have a personal beef with me, email me! There's a link in my sidebar to email me, and there always has been. If you have strong feelings you feel compelled to write about, go blog it on your own blog! Seriously, you can start a blog for FREE, and I assure you, it's very therapeutic.

I realize that I sometimes write about sensitive and/or controversial topics, like home birth and my views about modern maternity care, infant vaccinations, God (or absence thereof), even dogs in public places. I will continue to write about things that are meaningful to me. If you have a differing opinion or perspective that you believe might be constructive or beneficial to me, please, feel free to share it, so long as you can do it in a kind and respectful manner. Because honest to god, I'm just going to start weeding out the assholes.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Coping

I've made no secret of the fact that Michael and I saw a marriage counselor for a number of years. It all started with a motorcycle . . . a long story for another post. The motorcycle got us into counseling, though, and through counseling, we overcame some big hurdles, grew together, and ultimately "graduated" with a good, strong marriage. No kidding. Our therapist actually said to us, "You guys are good. You're ready to fly solo. Call me if you ever need anything." It was a great feeling, knowing we had come so far. We still laugh and say that the motorcycle saved our marriage.

When Finn was born a little over a year ago, and subsequently hospitalized and diagnosed with Down syndrome, it was the worst trauma Michael and I had faced together. But the ordeal united us even more.

After that, it felt like we could survive anything. Of course, it's easy to feel that when you can't possibly imagine that life has yet one more very fucked up curveball coming your way.

When Michael was diagnosed with cancer last February, it felt like the world was crashing down around us. How could this be happening? We've had our "bad" already, for crying out loud! We clung to each other and made sure the other kept breathing in and out and putting one foot in front of the other. For a while, it all seemed relatively easy. Michael's pre-surgery chemo and radiation went fairly smoothly and certainly wasn't the nightmare I had always envisioned cancer treatment to be.

And through that all, there was this little part of me that felt really proud of the fact that we, as a couple, and each of us individually, were holding up so well. I was already fantasizing about sending our old marriage counselor a Christmas card at the end of the year and mentioning in a brief note that Michael - that we - had fought and survived cancer. I wanted her to be proud of us for dealing with something that huge on our own.

Silly, I know. Probably all goes back to my deep-seated desire for approval or something.

Anyway, although I refused to foresee it, the cracks started appearing in the armor when Michael had surgery in June. That's when I started slowly but surely falling apart.

I have finally admitted to myself just in the last week or two that I believe I am depressed. I have lots of experience with depression, as I've struggled with it for the better part of my life.

This morning I came unhinged a little. Yelling at Michael for being sick, as he laid in bed for the second day in a row post-chemo. I'm ashamed. This is the man I love, and he's sick from chemo, and I'm yelling at him. Telling him that I can't take his pain and suffering anymore.

I feel very helpless. He's been suffering from chronic pain since his surgery. The weeks he has chemo, he's laid out from it. This cycle has hit him harder than any of the previous cycles. And when he's laid out, I'm a single parent to a large degree. It's a lot to deal with. I feel alone. I have zero family support. I'm angry and resentful and tired, and having a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. We still have months of more of this ahead of us. And sometimes it all just feels like too much to bear. I feel inept and completely not cut out for this roll. I'm depressed.

And for the first time in my life, I'm giving serious consideration to asking my doctor to prescribe an antidepressant. I have really mixed feelings about it. I've always shied away from the idea of taking meds for depression in the past. I hate the idea of relying on something synthetic to make me feel okay, to help me cope. I've always thought that it's largely a mind-over-matter thing . . . like I can will myself out of a depression if I try hard enough. And I have issues with it, too, because to my knowledge, my mother was on various antidepressants pretty much the whole time I was growing up and I never saw her ability to cope improved by it. But maybe I shouldn't use her as a guage.

The fact is, I have to do something. It was one thing when my depression only hurt me, but now it's hurting my whole family. I'm taking it out on my kids and my husband. I'm pretty sure I'm making everyone miserable.

I actually called that therapist, and I'm going to see her next week. Maybe talking to her will be all I need to get back on track. I don't know.

Why am I sharing something so personal and potentially shameful in such a public forum? I'm questioning that myself. I guess I need people to know where I'm at. And hey, maybe there's someone else out there struggling in a similar way, and maybe that person will feel a little less alone by reading this.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

42

That's how many candles should be on my cake today. If there were a cake.

I had planned to do a "gratefulness" post on my birthday, reflecting on all the things I'm grateful for about my life. But it's a little hard to feel grateful right now, with a husband presently bedridden by chemo.

So this will be a stream of consciousness post . . .

Here I am at about 6 weeks old. I actually have a newborn photo of myself, but it's packed away somewhere and not easily accessible at the moment. So this is the youngest photo I have at my fingertips. That's my great-grandmother holding me. She died when I was very young, probably 3 or 4 years old. I still have vague memories of her, though. And I remember her funeral.


So, I've lived through a lot in these 42 years. A tough childhood. An adolescence I wouldn't wish on anyone. Dabbling in drugs. Running away. An abusive 12-year-long first marriage that ended in death and tragedy. My dad's very sudden death. The estrangement from the rest of my original family. A second marriage that started out tenuous and grew to be the very anchor of my life. Six kids, including a spontaneous pair of twins and a baby diagnosed with Down syndrome. And now, a husband fighting cancer.

I was a cute little kid. Shy and smart. You know that "awkward" stage a lot of kids hit? I hit mine by the time I was about 8 years old. By then I had turned into a pretty ugly duckling. The blonde hair of my early childhood turned dirty dishwater, and my mother alternated between butchering it with home-haircuts and perming the shit out of it. I wore thick glasses and had horribly crooked teeth. I was painfully skinny. People often mistook me for a boy, even as old as 12 years old. Then I grew boobs, which was nice - at least people knew I was a girl. I finally got braces on my teeth and contact lenses when I was 15, and I suppose I started to bloom then. Not that I blossomed into the proverbial swan, but I started coming out of my shell (albeit with a chip on my shoulder).

I still feel like that awkward, ugly duckling so much of the time. Those feelings are difficult to shed.

So, 42 years old. It blows my mind. In my heart and my head, I still feel like I'm 17. Or maybe 20. You know, with some wisdom added in. I'm at the point where I feel a little stab when I have to admit how old I am. I've never been one to lie about my age, but if I were, I'd say I'm 34. That was a mighty fine age to be! Forty-two is okay . . . I mean, I don't feel any different today than I did yesterday. I don't have any crow's feet yet, but I do have these two lines between my eyebrows. Worry? Stress? Who knows.

So now? I just want Michael to get better. I want my kids to be happy and healthy. I want to love my friends and for them to love me. I want to write. I want to lose 5 pounds - or learn to be happy where I'm at on the scale. I want to read good books. I want to take a trip with my husband when this whole cancer thing is behind us.

This next year should be interesting.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Three down, seven to go.

Michael's white blood cell count was back up to a healthy level this morning (with no medical intervention, I might add), so they went ahead with his third cycle of chemo.

Don't really know what else to say about it.

Shrew

Well, it didn't take long - only a week - before getting the kids ready for school in the morning dissolved into HELL.

Lilah is asserting her independence and refusing, most mornings, to go potty when she gets out of bed. So, after calmly telling her three or four times to go potty and having her refuse, I finally lose it and shout at her "GO POTTY NOW!!"

I forgot to have Daisy and Annabelle choose their school clothes for today last night before bed, so that was a fight this morning. I tell you, they are SO picky about what they wear. Well, actually, they really just want to wear the same damn thing every day, and when I say "No, you just wore that," they disintegrate into tears and tantrums. And of course, all the time spent on tears and tantrums is time not spent getting dressed, and I end up yelling.

Kevin dawdles, as usual, and then cops a big, fat attitude, complete with smart mouth, when his case is gotten on to hurry up. Now!

We get out the door and suddenly Lilah is having a screaming tantrum because I didn't give her the correct water bottle to carry in the stroller. How dare I? She screams the entire walk to school.

When we get to school, we wait, with all the other kindergarten kids and their parents, outside the classroom. When the teacher opens the door and starts welcoming the kids in, Annabelle drops her backpack and lunchbox on the ground and refuses to pick them up. So I'm standing there arguing with a not-quite-five-year-old to "Pick your things up now and go into your classroom!"

I'm in a horrible mood by the time I nudge the girls into their classroom and turn the stroller around to head back home. And of course, a neighbor catches up with me, and all I can think is "Oh, god, how much of my yelling and bitching did she hear?"

And by the time I get home, I mostly just feel guilty. I mean, the kids are just being kids.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Third time's a charm?

Michael goes in tomorrow morning for the third attempt at his third cycle of chemo . . . sigh. It all depends, I assume, on where his white blood cell count is, as that's caused the delay for the last couple of weeks. His oncologist is prepared to give him an injection of Neupogen, which is a synthetic protein that stimulates the marrow to produce more white blood cells, but we're not clear if they will go ahead and administer the chemo with the Neupogen tomorrow, or just the Neupogen and delay the chemo yet again if his white count is still down.

It's completely maddening. On the one hand, every week that chemo has been delayed has brought some sense of relief that he didn't have to go through it. On the other hand, it just leaves it out there, still something that's got to be done.

All I know is, I'm bracing myself for a shitty week.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Thousand Dollars


Michael asked me today, "If you had a thousand dollars to spend on yourself any way you wanted, what would you do with it?" Because, we have lame conversations like this sometimes.

I can't even think of anything I want that would cost near that amount.

I have (or had) a purse fetish, and there was a time when I would have loved to go into a Coach store with $1,000 to spend. But now? Nah.

Clothes? Hmmm. I have such a love-hate (mostly hate) relationship with my body, the thought of going shopping for decent clothes doesn't really appeal. So probably not.

Jewelry? Michael has bought me some really beautiful things over the years, things I really treasure, but honestly, I'm not a big jewelry person. Certainly not enough so that I would have an itch to go buy myself something.

Perhaps a shopping spree at Barnes & Noble. But really, I don't think I could come close to spending that much money there.

Would a day at the spa getting the full treatment (whatever that is) blow anywhere near $1,000? Well, even if it would, I'm still nursing a baby, so it's not like anything like that is even a possibility in my near future.

It would be really easy for me to spend a grand on the kids . . .

So, I don't know. I'd like to think that this proves that I am a simple, easy-to-please, unmaterialistic girl. But I don't know if that's the truth.

I mean, if we won the lottery and I had, like, millions to spend? I could come up with lots of stuff. Stuff for the family: a big, beautiful, renovated farm house (I don't want a farm, just a farm house . . . don't ask, 'cause I don't know), new cars (nothing fancy, I just want a new Expedition), a nice vacation.

But for me, just me? Just can't think of anything I have a hankering for. Maybe I'm just boring.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Abducted by Aliens

It's finally happened. My sweet, happy, easy-going, fun-loving girl . . .


. . . has been abducted by aliens and replaced with a wailing, obstinate, uncooperative maniac.


The terrible two's is a myth. It's THREE that kills you. And it's happened with every one of my kids - right around their third birthday, they turn into whining, demanding, tantrumy messes. It's most notable with the ones who were otherwise calm, cool, and collected - namely Kevin, and now Lilah.

Ugh.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Daisy: You just never know with her

So yesterday when I went to pick the girls up from school, there was a parent holding a chihuahua right outside the kindergarten classroom. Great, I thought. Well, we'll just see how this plays out when Daisy comes out. I fully expected, and braced myself for, utter hysteria from Daisy and the usual accompanying stares from surrounding people. But Daisy came out of her classroom, eyed the woman with the dog, and came over to me, and everything was fine. Clearly, she was nervous, but she held it together. I told her how proud I was of her.

And later, I asked her, "How come you weren't afraid of that dog, Daisy?" Know what she said? "That wasn't a dog, Mommy, that was just a chihuahua!"

Okay!