Thursday, December 8, 2011

Are you there, blog?

It's me, Margaret Amber.

So, some things! This was an exciting week. Zoey turned one. Here are some pictures.

Showing off her outfit. She's stylin'. Also, it was very warm in my house. I know it's December.

She really loved her balloons.

This is an awful picture, but I love it because it shows how enthusiastically she was swinging the balloon.

Zoey's favorite present was a sing-a-ma-jig. She can't get enough of that thing.
I made strawberry cupcakes ('cause they's pink) with vanilla frosting and sprinkles.
She tasted and...
She approved! Note this one was taken after she unceremoniously tossed the cupcake on the floor.
So yeah. That. I may have cried several times throughout the day. My womb hurts and it's terrorizing my brain.

In other news, I started school yesterday. Since it's online and geared towards people that don't have a crapton of time, it's only two courses per semester. Each week is called a "Unit" and includes a seminar, a required assignment, and discussion board interaction. I am happy to say that I am the biggest teacher's pet ever. I am already 90% done with Unit 1 in both courses (I have a seminar scheduled for Monday, and the last question of one assignment requires me to 'look back at the week', so I'm holding out a little longer, but other than that? Done) and have wrenched compliments out of both of my teachers for being thorough (ie, submitting a 560ish word response to a request for 250 words) and interacting wonderfully with my peers. One teacher commented that I definitely seem "eager". Ha! I told Russell yesterday that if this wasn't the internet, I would probably be beaten up after class and have my lunch money stolen.

Why couldn't I have been like this in high school? Obviously I've done a lot of maturing since then (have I?).  I am anxious to get out of this rut. If that means I have to tear this online college shit apart with my teeth, so be it.

Also, if you find it in you to send a special holiday wish out to the cosmos for me, could you do so? Just wish that I don't die before we find the funds to get work done to my car. I need brakes and tires and have for some time, but you know how the months tend to just speed by, and suddenly SURPRISE! It's December and snow's in the forecast and you're driving with a couple bald tires and brake pads that should've been replaced last spring. Maybe I should worry about my car before I worry about my kids' Christmas presents, but that's not going to happen. I am almost 100% sure that Riley would rather have the tool bench he keeps asking for than a mom with all of her limbs. I mean, really. Who needs all those limbs?

Finally- NEXT MONTH I TURN 30. Don't tell anyone I told you. I was thinking I was going to be really upset about it, but guess what? I started driving this year, and I'm back in school working towards a degree, and employed, and my son is being considered for the "gifted" program at school, and in a few weeks I will have been a "non-smoker" for two years. Life is good. Maybe I'm not a millionaire in the monetary sense, but I'll be damned if I'm going to spend another birthday feeling all "woe-is-me" about not being where I thought I was at this point in my life. Pat on the back, me. You're not as stupid as you thought you were.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Baby Zee

Today, my baby girl turns 1. This post is about her.

My pregnancy with Zoey was a roller coaster. We were so happy to have conceived and I was so sure it was the girl we wanted, but morning sickness, sciatica, and gestational diabetes made it a rather uncomfortable and long pregnancy. She was also an incredibly strong and active baby. My mom commented at one point that she'd initially just thought I was a "wimp", but eventually saw that I was right- she never. stopped. moving. To say I was ready for her birth is an understatement.

Things didn't stop being hard after she joined us, however. Diagnosed with reflux, Zoey had trouble with keeping her liquid meals down and couldn't sleep flat on her back. In fact, she didn't seem to be able to sleep more than 20-30 minutes anywhere but in contact with one of us. Endless nights were spent downstairs on the couch. The intro to 'Dexter' still vividly brings back memories of being awake at 2, 3, 4 am with a fussing baby, watching episode after episode while the rest of the family slept. The couch became my home base through day and night, and I ended up with a pinched nerve in my back as a result. Zoey was determined to make whatever impression she could. My maternity leave was a blur, and I cried often, and constantly asked her "Why? Why, Zoey?" Returning to work, however, was even harder. I missed her with an absolute ferocity. She was no longer attached to me. It was like losing a limb.

Since then, she's grown exponentially in every manner. She never does anything half way. She attacks life with all of the passion and enthusiasm she's shown since she was able to bruise my insides. If she is not touching, tasting, smelling and speaking to every single thing she comes across, she is not happy.

She is a force of nature. She never stops moving, but she's always had the time to stop in the midst of her whirlwind attacks on life to give hugs. She doesn't do "gradual". One day, she took a few steps. The next day, she bolted across the room like a squirrel. One day, she pulled herself up on the bottom stair, the next day she climbed to the top.

I've often wanted to implore her to sloooooow down. She is quite probably my last baby. I know it would be pointless, though. She has a complete grasp of how quickly she's aging, and she cannot rest until she's accomplished every single thing she aspires to- which appears to be everything.

I can't help but be saddened by her first birthday. She's growing up, and she proves every day that she's going to be a fiercely independent child. I am also proud, though. There were times during her first year where she's intimidated me, and where I've honestly doubted my ability to mother this child.

But I think I'm going to be okay. If anything, I just need to learn from Zoey, who would be more than happy to teach me to just roll with the punches and charge full steam ahead towards whatever the future may hold.
I can't wait to see what the future holds for her. I love you, Zoey Jane. Happy first birthday. Keep on being you, the rest of the world be damned. Just like you've always been.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hello, again, friend of a friend.

Let's not waste time on reintroductions. Suffice it to say if I'd forced myself to write, it would have been even worse than when I actually WANT to, so you should consider yourself fortunate that I instead decided to neglect you.
I'll get straight to the point. I know you're busy. I see the way you're looking at me expectantly, wondering if I will be offering you a gem or a pile of dung. It's probably a little of both.

I am shamed, this holiday season. Shamed because I committed a great parenting foul. I made a list of all the things I wanted to buy people for Christmas. I labeled it, in my anal retentive manner, with their names, and labeled the entire paper with the words "Christmas List" (hopefully not "Christmas Shopping List"? I dunno, I don't have it with me). I tucked it away safely. Then I untucked it to look at it again and proceeded to lay it carelessly on the table at my house. Fortunately, I did use a complex code of highlighter colors to indicate things that had been ordered already, and did not provide a key with which to break the code, because I apparently forgot that my son is capable of reading.

I was informed this morning over the phone by my mother that Riley had apparently thought it was hilarious that I was considering buying him pajamas, and showed her where I'd written it on the list. The Christmas Shopping List. The clearly labeled list, detailing in my obsessive manner, every single friggin' gift I intended to spend money on this holiday season.

In one foul swoop, he has taken my control of this situation away from me. He holds this valuable knowledge over my head. In my mind, he is the Godfather. He sits pompously behind a heavy table with his fat fingertips pressed against each other and his head cocked just slightly downward enough to shadow his eyes. I approach him, meek and prostrate; his careless mother. He knows he holds the power of Christmas in his hands. It is in his power to destroy my careful planning, and I have unintentionally granted him this power. Now I must appeal to him to keep this secret (perhaps by hiding a severed horse head in his sheets), or try to outwit him.

My success in the coming battle will hinge upon whether or not I labeled it a "shopping" list. If I didn't, perhaps the claim that the list was for Santa (followed by a casual suggestion that he add anything he sees missing before I send it off) will work.

If I did? If I did label it a shopping list?

Then perhaps my son will stop believing in Santa Claus at five. At which point, my only solace will be in teaching him to use his new found knowledge as a weapon against other children.
I found this by googling "Parent fail". It makes me feel a little better.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I was a crappy cheerleader and a crappier girl scout.

You guys want any cookie dough?

You don't have to actually make cookies out of it if you don't want to.

Commmeeee onnnn.

My kid's going to be the lame one that has to watch all the over-achievers claim their prizes. I've sold so little cookie dough. I've actually had to manipulate purchases out of people. For example:

Me: Cookie dough. How many tubs can I put you down for?
Innocent Coworker: I still have a couple in my freezer that I've never made from-
Me: What, like three? Round it out at a nice five?
Coworker: I don't actually bake them.
Me: Did you know my very smart son attends a school that consistently scores too low on standardized testing? Probably because they don't make enough money on cookie dough to afford school supplies.
Coworker: I really don't want it, though. Can I just donate money?
Me: Just buy a tub and give it to me afterwards. I eat food.
Coworker: Oh.... okay, then. What flavor do you want?

I am going to have so many tubs of cookie dough.

And that's my success story. But the kids at school aren't going to care about that when they point and laugh at Riley as he steps up to accept his.... let me consult the prize book.... "Scent"sable Pencil and Eraser.... and stands next to Joe Cookieseller with his flat screen tv. Stupid Joe, I hate that guy.

In other news, I enrolled in online classes and am working towards a degree in SOUL-LESSNESS. Seriously, that's what my degree will be for. It's spelled the same way as "Accounting" though. This doesn't mean I've given up on my awesome plans to somehow get paid just for breathing and sometimes passing gas. I will eventually still do that. Maybe when I'm 70 or something, if I haven't drained my IRA and if Social Security exists and is worth anything by then. I'll probably even pass a LOT of gas, then. But for now, I'm going to shoot for being an auditor or a CPA and try to make enough money to buy a Camaro and lots of MUTHA-EFFIN' TUBS OF COOKIE DOUGH.

Because although it may be cheaper to just buy a TV, in the end, I really like cookies.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The scariest thing is how much Trick or Treating SUCKS now.

Happy DAY-AFTER-HALLOWEEN! Did you get lots of candy? Did you? If you did, I'm beating you up and stealing it, cause my kid got CRAP. People just don't celebrate this greatest-holiday-of-all-holidays anymore. It's sad. When I was little and had to walk to school uphill both ways in the snow without shoes, we used to be set loose for HOURS with a pillowcase and would come home with enough booty to last until the following Halloween. Last night? Riley got maybe 8 ounces... Sad. It did, however, make me appreciate the FEW houses that were decorated, almost so much that I wanted to risk a restraining order and run up on their porches to hug them.

Anyway, people on facebook know this already, but it's worth repeating for non-facebook folks or anyone that missed it. I brought the kids home some little surprises yesterday. Zoey got this little guy:

I named him "Mr Boo" and she loves him. Who wouldn't? Cute as all-hell.
And I got Riley one of these:

The Spider version, that is. Couldn't find a picture. That's the valentines version.
I stuck a marshmallow pumpkin and a pumpkin pez dispenser in the spider's back. Riley, while attempting to eat his weight in pez, asked for suggestions on names for the spider. I thought I was being clever and cute when I suggested Mr. Leggington, Sir Manylegs and Spidey McManyfoots. He turned all of these down. Later, he named it "Tyler". Sometimes I think he quietly judges me and determines that I am weird and that he should fight against being like me at all.

Yesterday was also a Halloween Party at work, which meant that I finally had to succumb to the terrible peer pressure as a result of my boss announcing that I looked like the Sun Drop Girl. (You tube "Sundrop Drop it like it's hot" if you don't know what I'm talking about.) All of us in the office agree that I was robbed when I didn't win the costume contest.

Riley was King Julian from the Penguins of Madagaskar (and the movie of similar title):

And Zoey was a very unhappy bunny. Understandably so, since her fluffy white tail was the size and toughness of a tennis ball, and we meanly forced her to sit on it:

Going to be trying some new ideas next year to keep Halloween fun! Riley almost didn't want to go trick or treating this year and I need to stage an intervention to keep this awesomest of holidays from becoming his least favorite!

Go get me some candy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Shambling Horrors BEHIND MY FACE!

I haven't felt like blogging lately. Actually, I guess it'd be more accurate to say that I haven't felt like doing much of anything. It seems my household is doomed to be sick for the rest of our lives. This morning, there is fresh pain in my throat and fresh congestion everywhere else in my upper body. I was late leaving the house because I kept pausing in the midst of getting ready for work and staring, glassy-eyed, at my gray pallor wondering whether or not I should just get back in bed. I think I may get out of here early. Got to drop some crap off at Riley's school for Halloween goings-on on Thursday.

So, this weekend, these things happened:

Riley watched 'The Labyrinth' while holding a pool noodle.

Big brother read to Little Sister as a lovely respite from all of the sibling rivalry.

Zoey was cute.

Sometimes they were both cute.

Last night we discovered that we probably have a shambling horror somewhere in our house. Let me add that Russell and I aren't the type to be influenced by scary movies, Halloween, etc. into thinking that things are bumping in the night. That being said, we were fast forwarding through some commercials last night, and in the relative silence, heard this popping, dragging, slurping type sound coming from the dark basement. I immediately went all mentally Lovecraft and envisioned something horrible, and Russell and I exchanged grave looks before he informed me that he'd heard the same thing the prior evening. (I keep accidentally typing 'hurt' instead of 'heard'. Lots of Freudian slips this morning). The cat was of course sitting creepily at the top of the stairs staring down into the basement, but his tail wasn't like a puff of black cotton candy affixed to his ass so I took that as a good sign.

Meaning we have a FRIENDLY shambling horror in our house.

Or maybe mice? Do they make sucking type noises?

Monday, October 17, 2011

You can read? So can I!!! And I type about it!

So I started a book review blog, and in order to avoid simply repeating here what I already said as greeting over there, I'll just refer you to it:

Black, White and Read All Over

It's also linked in my righthand margin, you'll notice. There's I think 9 entries already to catch up on the crap I've been listening to on audiobook lately. Read it if you wanna. If you don't wanna, don't tell me that cause it'll hurt my wee feelings.

Like a mental hospital and a REAL hospital combined!!!

Our recovery from sickness has been interrupted by additional sickness. I am going to lose my mind. I am not sure if it's worse to have everyone in the house sick at once, or to be the only WELL one that inevitably has to deal with all of the sickies. The "I am disgusted by your inability to cover your mouth while coughing" facial expression has become such a specialty of mine that I am worried my face might freeze that way. Of course, there's no end in sight to this persistent germ exchange, so it may as well be permanent anyway.

Despite what can only be defined as an everlasting plague (maybe it's our house? I just listened to HP Lovecraft's "The Shunned House" in the car on the way to work this morning. Could we simply have some malicious, supernatural force buried in the basement that's sucking the lifeforce out of us? Sorry for the spoiler, since you were probably planning on rushing out to read/listen to it now that you know I listened to it, right? How do I continue a sentence successfully after such a long and off-topic interjection? Let's try.) we did manage to do STUFF this weekend.

Saturday, I took Zoey with me to do a little fall/winter clothes shopping and spent waaaaaaaaay more money than I should have (You should've seen Russell's face! I liken his expression to one coming home to a surprise party, except all the guests are weilding axes! What fun!).

Zoey models her newly acquired bunny hat.

Then after lunch, I took Riley out to a craft store to look for a water-proof way to decorate our pumpkins. I don't like carving pumpkins, partially because of sheer impatience and need for instant gratification and partially because the pumpkins decay so quickly afterwards. Before you assume I am being a rotten mommy and stealing this joyous opportunity from Riley, you should know that he adamantly refuses to touch the innards of a pumpkin. In the past, we've tried painting them with the many old paints I have laying around, but the paint has washed off in the rain and left sad looking pumpkins sitting in a swirled brown pool on our porch.

There were a LOT of people in the store, which left me feeling somewhat rushed and anxious, so it was pretty much a craft fail. I ended up buying a large collection of different colored sharpies, some halloween confetti, and at Riley's insistence, some silly putty and letter stencils. It didn't turn out so badly, though! We hot-glued some confetti pieces strategically and went to town with the sharpies.

From left to right- Riley's, Zoey's, Mine, Russell's

On Sunday, we went to the park for a while after lunch. Russell and Zoey and I chilled on the blanket while Riley frantically made friends with everyone he came in contact with. The mood was dampened only by Zoey's inability to not leak viscous fluids from her nostrils. She simply hates having her nose wiped, so trying to clear her chubby facial flesh of snot traces is nearly impossible. There were several times where people turned and stared at us with these accusatory expressions as though we were torturing her when in truth we were just trying to make her less disgusting and sticky and more appealing to the baby-admiring masses. Finally, she was at the end of her rope with our diligence and her soured mood ultimately caused us to pack up and head home, but Riley still had fun.

Tomorrow is picture day at school, and this morning I have been having fun imagining what our well earned money is going to be buying. I know the photographer isn't going to do several sittings, and Riley's forced smile is nothing short of hilarious. Of course they make you order the pictures FIRST, so I keep envisioning a framed 8x10 of Riley scowling or quirking an eyebrow or with his eyes heavy-lidded as though he's under the influence. Surely, it will be a welcome addition to our madhouse.

Happy Monday!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mr Magoo

Riley asked me tonight to write a story and he would do the illustrations, so I did, and he did, and here it is:

I don't know who that is on the cover, but it's not Magoo.
Once there was a fox named Mr Magoo. He had two socks and one red shoe.
See that big outline spanning both of his legs? That's his one red shoe. Apparently Riley thought my idea of only one foot being protected from the elements was laughable. He also laughs at traditional walking methods.

Mr Magoo was a fancy little fox. He liked having tea, in his shoe and his socks.
In direct opposition to my writing, you will notice that the illustrator demonstrates that Mr. Magoo does in fact prefer to remove his socks and shoes prior to enjoying his steaming mug of tea.

But one day when it was time for his tea, his doorbell rang- he thought "Who could that be?"
Thought it so hard, in fact, that his skull began to smoke from the effort. His shoe and socks took advantage of his distraction to get the hell outta dodge. As did the bulk of his tail.

It was Mrs. Bear and Mr. Bear at the door! Mr Magoo was so happy, but he had to make more. Tea, that is.
Shut up, Riley was rushing me.

In any case, it must have been a decent effort, because afterward there was this big award ceremony and Riley gave it an award.
Basically a Pulitzer.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fevers and Towers and Pumpkins, oh my.

I am supposed to be helping Riley clean the playroom right now. There are two things wrong with this picture, and these are the two biggest reasons that I am blogging instead: 1) I had NOTHING to do with that mess- I never do- yet I always clean it. I don't care if that's part of being a parent, I don't feel like doing that right now. It's my weekend too- and 2) Riley's version of helping is a little skewed. For example, right now he is kicking off the cleaning by wandering around the room playing with everything he comes across and singing a song that he made up that consists of the word "Sorting" repeated over and over at different octaves.

This was a three day weekend, but I'll tell you right off the bat that I'VE BEEN CHEATED! Because the sickness that's been plaguing my household and dodging me finally lost the fight on Friday and I WON! I won a fever, a sore throat, muscle aches, a massive headache, the whole she-bang! It was like a lottery on opposite day. So I spent my bi-weekly off-Friday writhing on the couch, covered with goosebumps despite the thermostat being set to 75 and being wrapped in fleece, while my kids got away with murder because I lacked the energy it required to stop them from doing things they shouldn't. Luckily, my fever was gone by that evening, because I had promised Riley that I'd take he and Zoey on a picnic on Saturday.

And so I did! It was absolutely beautiful outside, so we packed up some stuff and went to Jim Barnett Park to eat lunch, which was immediately the furthest thing from Riley's mind.

What is so great now that he's started school is that his social walls are down. He's always been fairly outgoing, don't get me wrong, but he's never really been too confident in his ability to make friends. Now, he is. Okay, never mind. He's the same, I'm different because I'm not as worried about his ability to make friends. I admit it. Anyway, he takes off and collects names and digits and is never heard from again until he needs some apple juice or gets stuck in a tower.

He did get stuck in a tower. Zoey and I were chilling in the shade on a blanket and I hear Riley yelling. It's amazing how even when surrounded by 10,000 children, you can hone in on your kids voice- pick it right out from the other 40+ kids screaming "Mom!" simultaneously. I was able to trace his cries to the tower:

Seriously, what is up with the bar at the bottom of my pictures? Annoying.
I yelled back to Riley that if he needed to talk to me, he needed to come down to me and talk. Time passed. Zoey and I read a book, ate some grass that probably a dog had peed on, shared some goldfish crackers, and talked to admirers.

Then some little girl runs up and asks me if I'm "Rowley's Mom"? To which I reply "Uhmm, I guess." since I'm actually Riley's mom, not Rowley's, and I am not sure I want to take accountability for anyone else's child on accident. She then explains that she's been sent to deliver the message that my son is stuck in the tower and cannot get down. So Zoey and I leave our home base and head over to the tower, where I spend a good ten minutes convincing Riley it's okay to go down the huge slide and that I can't climb up there because I have the baby in my arms. I kept looking around to see which kids I'd need to kick in the shins for laughing at my son, but the other children were surprisingly empathetic and patient about it. Several tried to demonstrate how safe the slide was, or tried to suggest alternative methods of getting down. Finally, he came down the slide, and I made him come sit with Zee and I until he could calm down. Afterwards, he slid down at least five more times, and made that tower his bitch.

And then on the way out, he made out with the water fountain. I didn't realize it until I looked at the picture later.

A dog probably peed on that, too.
Today we went to get pumpkins. It wasn't a fun time. It was too hot, the food was expensive and awful, we had committed a huge parenting foul by forgetting the stroller and were doomed to pass Zoey back and forth, and the selection of pumpkins was fair at best. But Riley enjoyed going down the huge slide over and over:

Oh, and I almost forgot! On the way home, while I was taking a sip of my ridiculously expensive can of coke, something tried to enter my mouth from the coke can that was not soda. It was quite obviously a bug of significant mass, so I spit all my coke back into the can (and on my pants) and then acted like I was dying for a while, allowing Russell to poke fun at me. I assumed it was a stink bug, because we saw a trillion of them. When we got home I dumped the coke out on the driveway- IT WAS A BEE. I pointed at it and yelled "You wanna make fun of me now?" to Russell, 'cause he's scared to death of bees, but he mumbled something about how it probably was dead already and couldn't have stung me. Whatevs. He would've shat his pants if it'd been him.

So as another weekend comes to a close (Noooooooooooooooooo. So cheated! I want my Friday back!) I am happy to have spent some mostly quality time with my kids. I would do the trip to the park a million times over- maybe sans the tower incident- but now all I can do is go help my son "clean" the playroom.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

O hai.

Sorry that I've forgotten about you. You see, I am doing constructive things, like trying to not be fat and lazy and sloppy and broke and unhappy. I'll elaborate.

A couple months ago, I started keeping a journal in which I make weekly resolutions. My first (unwritten) resolution was to not fill this journal with tripe and depression the way I have every journal before it. My recent expedition into the towers of boxes to find my art supplies revealed a graveyard of half-filled journals, all lamenting one thing or another and showing obvious evidence of having had pages torn from them again and again. These books, where they should provide a nostalgic timeline of my youth, absolutely offend me with their stupidity and uselessness. You couldn't pay me enough to revisit the crap that I've written there. I'll probably feel the same way about this blog in a year or so. It's the way I roll, baby. In any case, since I'm rambling, I vowed to myself to only be positive and encouraging and stay on topic with this most recent effort, and I've done so rather well thus far.

The premise is that each week I make three small resolutions- nothing huge like "Give up food", though that would be helpful. They're small things like "start flossing twice a day", "unpack the boxes in the office", "find a new pediatrician". That way they're attainable and still leave me feeling accomplished. Yet somehow, I've managed to not accomplish them lately, and that is the opposite of motivating. So I've been trying to get back to working on those, and it's left me distracted when paired with the other thing that still shall-not-be-named. You know, that potentially life-changing idea I had? I made a smart decision about it and recruited one of my brothers. This is smart because he's pursuing his end of the bargain ravenously, which means I am less likely to give up on mine. This brain works sometimes.

Anyway, to get to what you care about, I'll talk about my kids now.

It's been a battle of wills at our house lately. Riley is a force to be reckoned with, but the struggle to find a middle ground continues. I am not sure if he is still adjusting to having a little sister with whom he must share attention, but he's been particularly hard to get along with. I can readily admit that Russell and I aren't hugely patient, and I'm sure that has a lot to do with it, but we're making an effort to fix that. I also believe with all my heart that- while studies have shown there are some benefits to a child having two working parents- Riley does not get enough time with us. I think it would help if I had more time at home with him. I am at a loss of how to remedy this, but I'll explore all options nonetheless.

There are still peaceful times to be had, though few and far between. This past weekend, I was able to enjoy a long stretch of time with both kids in the playroom while Russell was at work. Here are some pictures I took on my phone:

Looks like fun, right? But Riley only likes letters.

So he starts a game of "Letter Swap"
While Zoey attempts to stealthily and quickly sneak pieces of Riley's toys up the stairs.
I am not sure why there's a grey bar along the bottoms of my pictures. This isn't really an explanatory caption at all, is it?

Other than that, Zoey's halloween costume came yesterday, and Riley's is coming today. I've also got a business meeting with my brother tonight, and tomorrow is my Friday, so some things to look forward to : ) Have a good rest of the week.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Donna's Story

I know I am late sharing this, and I can't put my finger on why I haven't shared it earlier. There is a wonderful woman and mother that writes for the website,  Mary Tyler Mom, whose daughter, Donna, underwent 31 months of treatment after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. As September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, she's written a new blog entry every day this month. Each entry represents a month of Donna's treatment. I was fortunate to have started following this early on. Though my heart is breaking now as it draws to a close and the inevitable is coming ever nearer, I've found so much strength and inspiration through reading about Donna and her family. October 1st will be the final entry about Donna's struggle with cancer, followed by a post on October 2nd containing resources about how we can help the fight against cancer.

If you are interested in following the story, you can do so beginning here: I won't lie and say that is hasn't been a heartbreaker, but it's also been a tremendous eye-opener and example of the strength we're capable of as human beings. I can't fathom being able to survive having made half of the difficult decisions this family has had to make.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Russian Roulette

My dear friends on facebook, you've already sampled a tiny bit of the rant that is to follow if you read what I posted about Listeria this morning. If you're Kate, you've seen more than that, even, but you started it so it's your fault. It got me all fired up, and I've come to vent and possibly set some stuff on fire. I am going to focus specifically on the choices women are faced with during pregnancy.

I don't want to assume all pregnant women feel the same way I did, so I'll refer to myself only.

When I was pregnant, I was a sponge. My pregnancy occupied my thoughts constantly. If I wasn't talking about the human being growing inside of me, I wanted to read about it and absorb all of the information. I joined a forum community (to be fair, I'd already been a member since pregnant with Riley, but never really participated) just so I could interact with other women who, like me, were too preoccupied by being pregnant to carry on with their normal lives without frustrating everyone around them.

Pregnancy, for me at least, is this massive thing to come to grips with. Creating life is intimidating, exhausting and demanding. Lifestyle changes have to be made, more for some than for others. Your decisions are no longer only affecting you, they're now being forced upon your future child. When I was pregnant, the idea of my "child" was more abstract, especially before I started showing. I was able to hear a heart beat, and it meant a lot to me, but at that point it was all potential and possibility. I had images in my head. I was envisioning what life would be like someday when I got to meet this little one. As the pregnancy progressed and I felt the movements and eventually saw them, things start to become more real- like a fuzzy picture gradually coming in to focus. Then we knew what gender it was, and assigned a name. This was no longer a "pregnancy", this was our baby. This was Riley, or Zoey. This was our future, this was the rest of our lives growing in there, if we were lucky. This was tiny socks, fists clamped around our fingers, first words, days at the park, first days of school. This was graduation, college, the future president, a cure for cancer.

Having children means your life isn't really your own anymore. I had no true concept of this before I had Riley, and I was more reckless during my pregnancy with him. After he was born, I learned the true meaning of selflessness, and subsequently was more consciencious during my pregnancy with Zoey. The fact is that, like any other life, you have to cultivate and care for a pregnancy to the best of your ability because a healthy infant is NOT A GUARANTEE. Even if you do your very, very best, it's not a guarantee, but the silent agreement you make by deciding to have a baby is that you WILL do your very, very best to ensure its health.

There were things that I didn't take seriously enough during either of my pregnancies, and one of those things was listeria. There were always "by the book" moms or pre-moms I'd encounter that would preach about avoiding lunch meat or heating it to 'steaming' before eating it and I'd blow them off. The fact was that I was arrogant and of the mindset that bad things only happened to other people, people I didn't know, people that I didn't share any kind of connection with. I ate whatever the hell I wanted to- thank you very much- and I had done so with Riley, too. He was fine, so there you go. It didn't help the situation that many doctors were advising women that listeria was nothing they needed to worry about. I remember reading things from other pregnant women on the forums like "My doctor never heard of anyone actually contracting listeria from lunch meat, so he said not to worry about it."

I am sad to say that like so many others have, I had to learn the hard way by watching my best friend's first child succomb to listeriosis. The kicker, in her case, was that she was following all the rules and it happened to her anyway. The doctors said it was likely cross-contamination, maybe from a restaurant. Shortly afterwards, I found out about two more people in my extended family that had lost their pregnancies to listeriosis- one of them from lunch meat. Suddenly this was a REAL concern, and the group of naysayers I'd once been a part of seemed abruptly very reckless. If this could happen to someone that was taking care to follow the rules, think about how much more a risk those who weren't following the rules were running?

It is easy for many people to make selfish decisions when the life growing inside of them is still an abstract concept, or a distant potential. It's not unheard of for women to not relate to their child until it is outside of their bodies, and even sometimes then it takes a while. What's important is that we acknowledge the potential and possibility there. It has become a matter of grave importance to me over the past year to caution women that disregard the warnings they're given during pregnancy. They aren't just myths. They are warnings for a reason. Far too often, I've seen the excuse "But I did _______ during pregnancy and _______ is just fine!". I liken it to a game of Russian Roulette, where a revolver is loaded with a single round, the cylinder is spun and the gun is fired against the side of the head. Chances are better that you will get lucky than they are that you will put a bullet in your brain.

But do you really want to risk not getting lucky?

I have seen and felt the pain that accompanies the loss of a child. It is awful regardless of the situation, but I can only imagine how much more awful it would feel to endure it wondering if there was something you could have done to prevent it from happening.

Your responsibilities as a parent start at conception. Take warnings seriously, and if your doctor doesn't? Get a new doctor.