Sunday, November 27, 2011

Whole Lotta Mess

Today I had the honor of writing a guest post titled All I Want for Christmas on another blog. This is quite an honor for me because I admire her writing. I thought it best to elaborate on that post, particularly the pictures that are displayed. So here is the story for those who are curious.

Below is a photo of what I like to refer to as the "April Fool's Day Wholly Queso Rug Incident". Totally my fault too. The kids were 100% innocent on this one. And this by far and wide, was the worst my carpet has seen. Yes, worse than cat barf, kiddie pee, and leaky sippies.

I tried to "Rachel Ray" it and carry a boatload of stuff from the living room to the kitchen. Why, do you ask, was the food in the living room? (For shame! Food should never be in the living room!) We actually weren't having a meal and this was AN ENTIRE tub of queso. We had just received a care package in the mail, in a neat styrofoam cooler, from the Wholly Guacamole company, and I let Ryan open the box in the living room. Tons of yummy goodness: guacamole (his fave, mine too), salsa, queso... and t-shirt and misc promo items.

Totally cool until I dropped the container and it just shattered wide open instead of bouncing like plastic containers are supposed to. Turns out cheese sauce can fly pretty far too. A good 8 feet radius was splattered, all the way to the other side of the room onto toys, the chair, the walls. So gross to clean up. That cheese sauce soaked in fast as if it were a thin liquid instead of thick creamy goodness.

Instead of spouting off all the words that immediately came to mind, I just kept saying "Wholly Guacamole" over and over and the kids thought it was hilarious. My house smelled like a Mexican restaurant for a while, but not in a good way. Nothing like the smell of old spicy cheese to greet you when you come home from a weekend of yucky hospital smells. Turned me off queso, haven't ate it since.

Ryan with his booty of cheesy and guacamole goodness!

I can't even look at this without the memory of the smell invading my nostrils all over again!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Pocketful of Pennies

When we were young, my sisters and I were allowed to roam the neighborhood on our bikes. We'd be gone for hours, unsupervised. As long as we were home by dinner time, which we always were, all was well. When it was raining, we stayed inside and played Barbies, or My Little Ponies, or house with our dolls, always barring our baby brother from the play. But you can only play nice with conventional toys and be cooped up inside for so long, before you start getting rambunctious and creative. We'd run around the house like crazy, bouncing off of everything, and climbing the walls, literally. We lived in a single wide trailer which is pretty small for a family of six. The hallways were narrow and perfectly spaced to climb when you were bare foot, bracing yourself on the moulding. I liked to do this daily. Dad would always yell at me and say I was going to warp the walls.

Sometimes we'd take over the living room and play a made up game of "don't touch the floor" in which you'd pretend that the floor was a swamp filled with alligators, the pillows and removed couch cushions were rocks that jutted above the surface, and the couch was a boat that occasionally sank into the depths stranding us on the precarious rocks. A jump rope was a perfect rescue line that helped to get pulled to safety on the shore - the kitchen.

But one of our favorite games was baseball - inside. We'd use the couch, pillows, and bar stools as the bases. We usually used a pillow as the bat too. Various items played the part of the ball. It was only a few steps between bases, even for a child, in that cramped space. But we imagined it to be a vast ballpark. We each played the role of multiple ball players on each team since there were only three of us - we didn't include our brother most of the time. (He was just a baby so he was probably napping.) Being the oldest and bossiest, I also filled the role of the announcer. I would invent different names for each player. We even had pinch runners, a Cabbage Patch Kid, who would be stand ins when the bases were loaded. Now don't get me wrong here, we were not allowed to play ball inside. We were definitely not permitted to throw things, no matter how soft. But we did these things anyway reassuring our mother that we were careful (as we bounced off the walls from a combination of sugar and boredom).

There is one particular game that sticks out in my mind as I do believe it was the last game of our illustrious careers as amateur pre-adolescent indoor ball players. It was a rainy day, not a downpour, but wet enough that we were inside until it tapered off. The bases were loaded. Our mother had once again told us to "knock it off" because we were "going to break something". And wouldn't you know, a few moments later, we did just that.

One of us hit a fly ball to right field, a homer for sure. It flew just over the television and into one of our mother's prized knick-knacks, a small porcelain wishing well. We watched helplessly as it came crashing down and shattered into pieces on the living room floor. We froze for a moment, waiting to sprint to the bedroom as our mother rushed into the room to see what had just happened. Instead of turning angrily towards us, she began to pick up the pieces and then she began to cry. Overwhelmed with shame, we three began to cry as well. We slowly and silently went to our room, punishing ourselves.

While wallowing in our pity, we began to talk about how sad we had made our mom. She had never cried like that before and it was more punishment than if she had chased us to our room yelling threats of "wait til your father gets home." We devised a plan to make it right. We scrounged together what little change we had in our piggy banks and filled our pockets with the loot. We then did something we had never done before. We left the house without permission.

We snuck out the back door and onto our bikes. We rode as quickly and as silently as we could down the street and out of ear and eye shot of our home. We then roamed the neighborhood, stopping at every yard sale in search for the perfect replacement. We found a small crystal bud vase and a porcelain figurine of two doves. We pulled the change out of our pockets and offered it to the seller. We forked over handfuls of mostly pennies, not sure if we had enough to cover it. But the man, seeing our tear stained faces and overhearing our conversations, decided that we had paid him enough and it was a fair trade.

We swiftly and carefully returned to our home, giddy with pride. We snuck back inside and found our mother in the fragrant kitchen standing over a bubbling pot on the stove. We were sure she hadn't noticed we were gone. We cautiously approached her and gave her the gifts. We told her how sorry we were for breaking her wishing well. She silently took the gifts and once again began to cry. Confused and contrite, we returned to our room to cry some more and wait for the real punishment when our father got home from work. But at dinner that evening, Mom didn't even mention the incident.We had made our peace.

My mother barely recalls that day, but she did confess that although she never let on, she knew we had snuck out as our whispering and the squeaky back door gave us away. That day I learned all kinds of invaluable lessons. I learned to respect others - especially my mother's things, everything is replaceable, silence can speak volumes, never play ball inside, what your father doesn't know can't hurt you, and it is not good to make your mother cry (unless it is from happiness - but that's another story).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A few Words

Today was a long rough day.  We first woke at 5AM to Ryan screaming from pain while urinating. Then we headed to my mom’s to drop off Rowan and then off to the hospital. The clinic wanted a urine sample to test for UTI and to see if there was any blood to indicate a kidney stone. He had no problem peeing in the cup – pain free, it figures. Then we headed to radiology where after 2hrs of waiting he was sedated then scanned – all that for 15 minutes. He took his time waking up too but by noon we were headed to see the sites in the hospital and begin our 3hr wait until his next appt.

Ryan went into melt down mode after about a half hour and I was dehydrated, starving, and so ready to go. We attempted to leave, actually making it to the car, seat belts on. But we were both super grumpy and just needed to stop for a moment. I figured we should just stay, eat, and wait it out instead of going to mom’s, risking him falling asleep in the car, possibly eating, possibly napping, then heading back to do all over again in a few hours when we were both so cranky. I stepped out of the car to breathe as Ryan flailed inside. Tantrum done, then we hugged and made-up and headed back inside to eat.

Lunch was quite pleasant. Ryan had pepperoni pizza and I bought a pineapple fruit cup to add his favorite topping to the slice. He also devoured a mandarin orange jello cup and a grape slushie. After refueling our bodies, we decided to go for a ride to the stars and bottom of the sea courtesy of the glass elevators in the lobby. It was almost exactly a year ago that he did this for the first time. One of his favorite nurses, Ryan, showed him this for the first time. He took him for a wheel chair ride out of his room and into the hospital. He had a trach then and was so very ill. If you look back through pictures you can see for yourself. He has come so far.

After zooming to the sea one last time, we rode the escalator and then stopped to watch the ever-fascinating ball machine. He dragged me into the gift shop where we spent plenty of time playing with every toy. I was coerced into buying him a fire truck which he is currently sleeping with.  We then went upstairs to the clinic to wait some more until our appt, only 40 minutes too soon. And it figures she would be running behind too. Wait some more. Finally the doc came in and gave us a word.

“Stable”, she said. “The scans this morning were stable.” I heard her but I also saw her. Her body language expressed something more. She seemed uncomfortable, not as enthusiastic as her words begged to be. She then said she was “uncomfortable with the terminology the radiologist used” in the report. She lost me there. What does THAT mean? She explained that there are two small areas on his lung that in past scans were referred to and considered to be post-operative changes. But on this latest report the radiologist - who she gushed is very good and very trustworthy - called these two tiny air filled pockets something else. Another word: “cysts”.

It’s just a word. Just one tiny word. Could mean nothing. Could mean… something. To a parent of a kid with PPB, and to a PPB doctor, that word has a lot of weight. PPB starts out as a tiny, seemingly harmless, cyst on a child’s lung. The cyst then grows and becomes filled with liquid and then advances to become a solid tumor. I could now understand why she looked so concerned.

She tried to reassure me that there have been “no changes” in these, suggesting post-operative sites, and that the scans have remained stable and the overall verdict is that he is disease-free. But she said she is going to confer with the radiologist and his surgeon to make sure and to better understand why this term was now used. What does it mean?

Cyst or not, they are going to keep an eye on it to determine if there is any growth or change, which may indicate return of the cancer. When and if that happens, they will decide how to proceed at that time. But as it is right now, there is no change. He is stable. His next set of scans is in three months putting us at the end of February, right around Rowan’s second birthday. So we will just have to wait, and pray, and see.

As far as the pee-pain… his test came back fine, no blood and no infection. So they have no idea what was causing that. If it happens again, I am to call the doc right away so we can look further into it. However, the radiologist said his testicles are always bouncing around up inside of him. I guess on several scans they can be seen. This is not unusual but they should be able to drop back down. She described them as yo-yos that can bounce up and down inside and then drop into position outside of the body. They are concerned because they should’ve dropped by his age and there is an increased risk for testicular cancer if they can’t drop. After a thorough exam, the doc said she could not find his left one to pull it down into place. He will need to see a pediatric urologist who can “tack it down” as she put it. I’m obviously not a guy, but it makes me feel squeamish as my imagination stumbles over just how they may accomplish this.

I am hanging onto hope, as always. There are a few words and what they all mean that will be running through my mind over the next 3 months. “Stable” is good. “Cysts” is undecided and panic inducing. And “tacking down a yo-yo” while seemingly comical is the next medical hurdle. Right now I just want to enjoy the holidays with my family. And stand in awe and thankfulness of the abundance we DO HAVE in our lives.  
Finally by 5, I got to mom’s to pick up Ro and a lovely pork pot-roast she had cooked for us. This exhausted mommy and the sleepy kids headed home arriving just minutes before Daddy who was coming home from work. And after quickly eating, I went straight to bed. I awoke to help put the kids to bed then decided to stay up a bit and write this update to all of you who’ve been so patiently awaiting a few words.

Thank you for sticking with us this past year. My heart and my gratitude are continually overshadowed and overwhelmed by friends’, family’s, and even strangers’ warm hugs of support and generosity. My sincerest THANKS! Happy Holidays to you and your family!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Little White Lies

Sometimes it’s good to lie to your kids.

I remember being pregnant with Ryan, my first, and saying how I did not want to perpetuate the lie of Christmas, namely Santa Claus. While it’s true I did not want my kid to become one of those punk little whiny eight-year-olds who think that the only reason for the month of December is to celebrate a big fat man in red, or a greedy and selfish kid who thinks that the holiday is somehow a second birthday party just for him. I was more worried about having a broken hearted kid that reflected my eleven year old self after discovering that Santa was not real. Yes, I was eleven and in the fifth grade when I discovered the truth. After a week of kids laughing at me and subjecting me to tales of how they caught their parents on Christmas Eve wrapping presents and placing them under the tree, I bravely asked my mother to set me straight. I think she was shocked that I still believed. And try as she may to keep up the rouse, I could see the truth in her eyes and I was devastated. I probably said something like, “Well, I suppose the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy aren’t real either, huh?” I wept as the bricks and mortar of childhood imagination crumbled into a pile of dust. The dreams and fancies of fantasy and legend vanished into thin air. The twinkle in my eye dimmed to a dull shine. My very innocence died a cruel death that day. I decided I did not want to subject my children to such deception. So for a while I was quite pleased my son had no interest in such things.

But sometimes it’s good to lie to your kids. Sometimes the wonder in their eyes and the excitement they exude make it all worthwhile. My son is 4 this year and so far I have noticed that four year olds have a good memory, can aptly pay attention (when they want to), and take delight in the fantasy and whimsy of fairy tales, as if you can see the gears of imagination working in that tiny noggin. He was not always like this you see. For the past several years the holiday has come and gone with just a mention, just a passing gesture, and without a detailed explanation to the man in red. Not that any in length description would have made a lasting impression anyhow on a kid whose attention wavered at the slightest sound, a kid who changed his favorite color every day, and who could care less about nonsense traditional fairy tales. He has always been a very matter-of-fact kind of kid. He takes delight in numbers and letters and the way things work. His favorite things are alarms and sirens, smoke detectors, and medical devices that make noise. He seemed to prefer the truth and detailed explanations on how things work. Fairy tales and stories were met with looks of doubt and questions of feasibility. You can’t pull the wool over his eyes. He didn’t care much for TV or movies and in fact did not sit through an entire movie undistracted until he was nearly three years old. Then I was subjected to the same movie playing in a loop nonstop for a week straight, hearing him reciting it word for word, until I found myself humming along to the soundtrack in the middle of the day. 

But I digress; I never saw the sense in taking the time or energy to explain the whole story to him when he had no interest to begin with. For him Christmas encompassed the tangible: snow, decorations, a tree, lots of food, and family, and of course presents. That was fine with me. But this year, he is four and he asks a great many of questions on things that are difficult to explain. After a year of dealing with some of those hard-to-explain things in his life, he has discovered that there are some amazing things in the intangible: the giant tumor that could not be seen and that made him very ill, the skill of the doctors and mysterious multi-colored medicines that made him feel better, and the belief in God and prayer that worked miracles on his very life.

So last night, I took a step in the direction I said I would never venture. I decided in a split second that it was unfair of me to rob him of the enchantment and wonder of the belief in mythological beings that have become the cornerstone of any American childhood. I want him to be just a regular kid and experience all the things ordinary kids do. I guess that this is one thing that has changed for our family since he was diagnosed. I've learned to loosen up. So here we were in the middle of the night, way past his bed time, wide awake and having a conversation about winter. And it honestly didn’t occur to me until we were in the middle of a conversation, that he did not know much about the season. I first hesitantly asked him if he knew the story of Santa Claus. His answer was, of course, a confused no. Immediately his delight and anticipation grew as if I was about to present him with a grand gift. And so began my lie.  

He giggled with glee. His eyes twinkled with delight. He listened intently and with such eagerness as if every word of my story was an ever growing crescendo to a magnificent climax. I told him of the village hidden away at the North Pole, the magical elves who cobble away all year long making special toys, the fanciful flying reindeer, the giant red sled and the sack filled with gifts. I described in great detail the velvety red suit, the snowy white beard, the bowl full of jelly belly. I tried not to leave out any element of the fairy tale that I had once treasured so fondly as a child. And when the story was over he asked me to tell it again and again. Each time I told it was as good as the first. It was as if the story was a treasured secret, a pirate’s chest, and he had just discovered the key to unlock it’s riches. And I found myself feeling like a kid again as I recalled the feelings of enchantment. For a moment I had felt that overwhelming swell of mystery and exhilaration that I once felt so long ago. I had recaptured my lost innocence. 

Finally I broke the spell, insisting we had to go to sleep. It was getting very late and here we were giggling and whispering in bed together in the dark of the night. There was something charming about that; being there in that moment in time cuddled under the covers on a chilly night, with my precious son, enveloped in sheer happiness, knowing an intangible, mystical world may exist. As I tucked him in with visions of flying reindeer, magical elves, and whatever else his imagination dared to dream, I realized why the stories have been passed down for so long. I snuggled up next to him and as he drifted off to sleep I began to cry for my rediscovered spirit of youth.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Grains of Sand

I live in a small quiet neighborhood, where everyone knows each other, people are friendly, helping with yard work, sharing their garden's harvest, lending tools, and always ready to share a drink and some gossip. The appearance of emergency vehicles on our street gets everyone's attention, even when they just cut through to another street. And the time a tree fell on someone's car one street over and the power was out for a few hours, everyone came out of their houses to nose around, see what was happening, and chat with each other. So having an ambulance and police car stop at our house, the house where the kid with cancer lives, I am sure that caused quite a stir in the neighborhood and many to worry.
But it was not Ryan who was rushed away. It was me.
I had a rough day on Tuesday.
I woke up with a massive headache that just got worse as the day went on.
I decided to not take any of my pain pills or muscle relaxers since I had a Dr appointment with the nurse practitioner to follow up on my back issue.
For those that don't know, I went to the ER at 4AM Friday morning because I woke up with an awful pain in my lower back. I felt like I couldn't move. It took awhile to get out of bed and when I did I felt the pain shoot into my hip joints and down my legs. I have never had pain like that and certainly never had back pain that woke me up before. I decided to go to the ER. I drove myself. And in less than an hour I was out of the ER with prescriptions of pain meds, muscle relaxers and anti-nausea pills. They did no tests other than a urine test. I told them of my history of kidney stones and they ruled that out because of the location of the pain. I too, was convinced this was not kidney related because of how the pain shot down my legs.
So after a weekend of being a drugged up zombie, I decided to back off the pain pills on Monday so that I was halfway human to care for the kids. I was still really sleepy but managed to keep the kids alive until Robert got home from work and could take over for me. That day I noticed a dull ache in my back. The kind of ache that in the past typically precludes a kidney stone.
Back to Tuesday... at the doctor's office I told the nurse my story and she was appalled that the ER did not do any tests on me knowing that I had a history of kidney stones. So she wanted me to get a CT scan of my pelvis and abdomen to check for kidney stones. She also heard some rattling in my lungs and wanted me to get a chest xray as well since I was sick with strep two weeks ago. And she wanted to get a blood workup as well.
While discussing these things I mentioned about how I had experienced some chest pains about a week and a half ago. It was a Sunday evening, the kids were in bed, and I was sorting coupons on the floor. I felt a tightness and squeezing in the middle of my chest and a tingling numbness that radiated down my left arm. I was surprised and a little afraid. It came and went in waves and lasted about a half hour. I was fine afterwards so I figured it was nothing. She was concerned and did an EKG in the office which turned out fine. Maybe it was just a fluke, maybe heartburn, maybe a panic attack. But I wasn't panicked about anything. I didn't feel particularly stressed or anxious. She said the next time that happens to call her right away.
So I left the office after getting my blood drawn, with an ever increasing headache. I figured if I could just get home, I can take my pain pills and I'll be alright. I picked up the kids from a friend's house and headed home. I fed them lunch and put Ro down for a nap. Ry watched a video and played quietly. By this time the headache had gotten even worse and I felt very nauseous. I thought I should eat something because maybe that's the reason why my head hurts so bad. I ate a banana and some tortilla chips but the nausea stopped me from eating anything more. The pain was so bad and I was feeling extremely exhausted, like I could go to sleep at any second. I didn't take my pain pills because I was afraid of of them knocking me out when I had the kids to take care of and I was already so tired. I sat down and tried to close my eyes for just a moment and meditate away the pain. I called several people trying to find someone to come and sit with the kids while I just take a pain pill and nap for a bit.  But no one was home or available. Then I started to feel very strange. The pain had increased along with some new symptoms.
Difficulty breathing, dizziness, nauseous, tightness in chest, and tingling and numbness in both my arms and hands... it freaked me out. I thought I was having a heart attack.
I called Robert and told him that I wasn't feeling well and that I think I'd better go to the ER and can he please come home. He said he was on his way.
Then my phone rang and it was the scheduling department at the hospital wanting to schedule my CT scan and xray. I told the lady I wasn't feeling well. I told her I may be coming to the ER. I told her I didn't well at all and that I was having a hard time breathing and felt like I was about to go to sleep. She replied, "So you don't want to schedule this right now?" I told her again I didn't feel well at all and she said, "OK, then I'll let you go." It didn't occur to me until much later how absurd that conversation was.
I crumpled to the floor and tried to stay awake and stay calm. I then called my dad to ask if he could come be with the kids. He said I had better call the paramedics right away if I was experiencing numbness in my hands and chest pain and difficulty breathing. He demanded, "Get off the phone with me and call 911."
So I did.
The operator said she'd send someone right away. I then asked Ryan to run next door and tell them Mommy needs help. He said, "But Mom, I don't have any shoes on." I told him that it was ok just this once and to hurry next door and knock on the door really loud. He gleefully ran outside and returned moments later. I asked if he did as I asked and he replied, "But Mom, there were spider webs on their door." Turns out it didn't matter anyway because they were not home and the paramedics arrived shortly after. I explained to Ryan that some doctors were coming to look at mommy and make her feel better and to not be afraid. I told him they would probably take mommy to the hospital. He loves the hospital so this did not sound bad to him at all. In fact, he was so excited to see the ambulance he was practically jumping up and down.
My eyes were closed most of the time because I was just so tired, I was fighting sleep and pain and fear. I could hear many voices asking me questions and taking my blood pressure and checking my oxygen levels. Someone went upstairs and got Rowan out of bed. Someone else entertained Ryan.
Others helped me to my feet and helped me walk (more or less carried me) outside to the bed and then wheeled me into the back of the ambulance. Robert arrived and took care of getting someone to watch the kids and headed to the hospital right after I left in the ambulance. They checked my blood sugar and it was at 80. They said they only treat if it is below 80. They then tried, and failed, to put an IV in my hand while en route to the hospital. It felt more like they were digging around in my hand with a wire. Too dehydrated I guess. But they got one in at the hospital without any problems.
At the hospital they gave me something for the nausea and morphine for the pain. Morphine does not knock me out. This is something Ryan and I have in common. If anything it seems to perk us up. They did a chest xray and ct scan of my abdomen. The doc came back with good news. He said that my vitals and lab work and xray all looked great, like a young healthy woman. And on the CT scan they found nothing but two very tiny, almost microscopic, stones in my left kidney. These two little stones, like grains of sand, were wreaking havoc on my body. The doc explained that the increasing pain caused me to have a panic attack which explains the chest pains and dizziness and such. The numbness in my extremities was caused from my hyperventilation and blowing off too much carbon dioxide. He had a fancy word for it but I can't remember what it was now.
They sent me home with another prescription for pain medicine. And I didn't even get to vote.
And now it is a waiting game. I am drinking plenty of water and taking my pain pills and I'm just waiting for them to pass. There is nothing they can do for me. There's nothing anyone can do. I just have to keep taking the pain pills to be able to somewhat function and not scream.
So Wednesday I decided to go to my mom's house in order to have some help with the kids while I am drugged up. I experienced the chest pains once more. I was not stressed or panicked, just sitting still and talking to my mom at the time.
So I called the doctor's office right away. The receptionist asked to take a message because the nurse practitioner was seeing patients at the moment. I told her, "I saw the nurse yesterday and I was taken to the ER later the same day by paramedics because of chest pain. The nurse had told me if it happens again to call her. So that is why I am calling right now. I am having the chest pains... right now." The receptionist replied, "Ok. I'll give her the message."  Click.
The pains came and went once again. No big deal. I took another pain pill and decided to take a nap. When I awoke, I had a message and three missed calls from the doctor's office. The voicemail had a panicked sounding receptionist who said "I gave her the message and she wants you to go to the ER right away. Please call me and tell me you got this message."
She obviously got chewed out for not instructing someone to go to the ER when they call saying they have chest pain. I called back and told the receptionist that while I got her message I did not go to the ER, and was not planning to go as the pains have come and gone. And besides yesterday the doc told me it was just a panic attack, nothing more. She implored me to please go to the ER if they happen again as it is better safe than sorry.
So now as I wait for those grains of sand to pass as painlessly as possible (yeah right) and try and figure out what I am so stressed and anxious about.
I have no reason to be stressed and anxious now, right? Now that everything is ok. Now that the worst is over. Now that we can all sit back and relax and breathe. If anything, you would've expected me to be breaking down and having panic attacks a year ago. Maybe the past year has finally caught up with me. Maybe I can no longer be strong. Maybe I am tired of being brave. Maybe I just want to break down and cry and scream and shout out at how unfair all of this has been for us. Maybe all of my strength and courage has finally been spent. And now all that's left of me is being washed away like grains of sand upon a shore.

Monday, October 31, 2011


I remember the day Ryan was born.
I remember how he struggled to take his first breath.
I remember hearing his voice for the first time.
A little over three years later, I watched him struggle to breathe once more.
I saw machines breathe for him.
I grieved the loss of his voice.
I watched him hang on to life.

Last year
I could not imagine a single tomorrow.
I was trapped in a moment,
an instant of fear, worry, and grief
that lasted an infinity.
Any hopes, dreams, worries or fears I once had
meant nothing from that moment on.
There was only one thing that mattered,
only one thing that infiltrated my every thought.
It didn't exist in the past 
and did not allow me to imagine a future,
not a single minute past the one I was living in at that moment in time.
But each moment passed,
each minute expired,
each hour gone,
and every day moved on.

A year has passed.
In a year I have seen life drain before my eyes 
And I have seen it restored
In a year I have witnessed a body deteriorate 
And I have seen it grow
In a year I have been lost
And I have been found
In a year I have experienced profound sadness
And have embraced joy
In a year I have forgotten all that I know
And I have learned so much
In a year I have worried
And I have renewed confidence
In a year I have lost hopes and dreams
And I have gained new direction
In a year I have wanted nothing more
And I have gotten everything
In a year I have watched my baby grow into a little boy.

Today I celebrate the life of my child.
I am overwhelmed with emotion.
Joy, Elation, Hope, Worry, Fear
A loss for words
Swallowed up by the emotion 
a knot in my throat
Tears flow freely
followed by joyous waves of laughter
that wash over my heart
I grieve for what our lives were
and celebrate the life that is now.

Today he keeps talking about when he turns five, 
just weeks after his fourth birthday.
He circled toys in an ad for Santa to bring him.
He told me he wants to go back to the beach.
He has hopes and dreams for a future.
And now, so do I.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Chicken Noodle Stew

Mmm, Mmm, Yum!

It's a perfect leftover, scrape together kind of meal. Great for today when it is chilly outside. I love this recipe because I can make it when I have small or large amounts of ingredients. I can add or subtract veggies depending on what I have at the ready. If I had Pillsbury biscuits this would've been potpie, minus the noodles of course. Depending on how much liquid I add, it can be stew or soup. Tonight it was stew, and this is what I put in it. 

Olive Oil
Diced Celery
Diced Onion
Diced Garlic
Chopped Carrots
Diced Potatoes
Cooked Chicken (I picked the bones of a leftover roasted chicken, the kind you can get in the grocery store hot & ready for $5-$7)
Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Italian Herb Blend

Water or Chicken Stock or Broth
Egg Noodles
Cannellini Beans (I added these to kick up the protein and fiber - you could easily substitute green beans)
Corn (I cut kernels off of an already cooked, Szalay's corn on the cob we had leftover from our Labor Day cookout)
Peas (I used frozen ones)

In a large stock pot, add the oil to coat the bottom and put on med high heat.
Add the vegetables and chicken (except for the corn & peas & beans - they become mush if cooked too long)
Add seasoning & stir occasionally until hot and veggies softened
Add water (broth or stock) & bring to a boil
Add egg noodles, corn, peas, & beans and reduce heat to low
Once noodles are soft, remove from heat & serve

My kids LOVE this!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Confessions of Un-Confidence

I have been having a rough time lately with my role as "mom".

I sort-of broke down the other evening to Big Daddy R and came somewhat clean that I felt like a failure as a mother.  I say "sort-of" and "somewhat" because I only cried a little and only touched on the tip of the iceberg.  I was not ready to completely divulge my true feelings.

I confided to him that this should be easy.   I am smart but this boggles me.  Why is it I can't do it?  Why can't I handle two small children?  I should be doing better.

I feel so awkward every time someone tells me what a good mom I am to my two little Rs.  My neighbors continually gush about it and I have found myself avoiding them (which is difficult because they are like grandparents to my kids) just because I don't want to hear about how wonderful of a mom I am to them.

I feel like I have a dark dirty secret that no one but me and my poor children know about.  My poor kids that have to suffer with the truth everyday.  And my poor husband who can see that something is bothering me but doesn't understand because I refuse to burden him with the depth of my troubles.

But to the keen eye, an outside observer may see the unclean house, the half-naked kids, the piles of laundry, the overworked husband, the too-clean stove, and the empty bottles of wine and deduce that either these kids need to have protective custody from neglectful and addictive parents, or that this is a case of a mom who has no confidence in her skills.

When I'm low, I'm under the barrel.  No, I'm the muck that grows under the stuff that lives under the barrel.

But then there are days when I can breathe and just "let it be".  Instead of fighting against the current, I just float downstream and have faith that I won't hit a waterfall.  Or if I do happen upon one, that it won't be too scary, it may actually be thrilling, and that I will not drown.

It is all about faith I guess.  I have to blindly believe that it will all be ok.  And if I put my whole heart into that belief then my confidence grows.

I can see that my children are beautiful and healthy.  I can see that my kids kiss and hug and laugh and play together.  I can see that there is a creative ingenuity in their messes.  I can see that the fridge & cabinets are filled with healthy foods that they actually love to eat.   I can see that my three year old started to read, can do simple math, and can recite books word for word with such enthusiasm and drama it's no wonder he's my child!  I can see that even though my 18 month old utters few words, her mind is working and she understands completely.  I can see that there is more laughter than screaming.  And I can see that Ryan proclaims everyday, sometime several times a day, that "We are the best & happiest family in the world!"
And I would have to agree with him wholeheartedly!

Tomorrow I may be losing my mind once again, continually following their path of destruction, but today I will savor every moment of the results of my "mom" abilities.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

disappearing me

I spent so much time working on "who I am", defining my existence, making a niche for myself in this world.  It was important to me.  It was a driving force behind all of my decisions.  I wanted to stand out, be unique, an individual, a rare example.  It turns out that none of it mattered.  I was selfish and didn't know it.  I know it now.

Not everything changed once I got pregnant.  That's when it started, but I was still over confident.  I thought I had it all figured out.  I could continue working full time.  We could live comfortably in this cute little house I bought.  We would be healthy and happy and want for nothing.

When I first held him in my arms I became a mama bear.  Nothing mattered except him.  For the first time ever, I was focused on someone other than myself.  The intensity of this feeling overwhelmed me.  The sight of him had me grinning uncontrollably.  I cried tears of joy at the very thought of him.  I forgot all about my needs, desires, and comfort and spent up every ounce of energy into giving myself completely to this tiny ball of life that I created.

Suddenly who I was, and who I used to be no longer mattered.  The only thing that matters is who I am now.  My children do not know or even care about who I was.  They only know me for who I am now.  I try to be the best mom I can be for them.  I try really hard and some days I feel like I failed them.  Other days I don't try at all and I feel successful.  I do it all for them.  I am focused on them instead of myself.  I let the old me waste away.  She's no longer important.  Her dreams have faded and instead have been replaced by the new hopes and dreams of what I want for my children.  I want them to be happy, healthy, and good.

When you have a critically ill child, this feeling intensifies a hundred-fold.  Nothing else matters but him.  It is hard to even think about simple things like eating, sleeping, & hygiene.  There are a zillion other things to worry about and stay focused on.  And time is precious.  Why waste time doing stupid, non essential things when you don't know how much time you really have.  It is frustrating.   

I define myself now by my children.  Who they are, is what I am.  I am nothing without them.  The thought of losing him... it would be like losing myself.  Who am I without him?  I would be nothing.  I am scared.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Word From The Wise

I lost my temper today.  It was bound to happen after only getting 4 hours of sleep.  The early birds woke complaining of hunger so I brought them downstairs before the sun even rose.  So after several hours of eating, playing, dancing, cluttering & repeat they are still going strong, not a nap in sight.  I am exhausted, cranky, and need more caffeine.  I was about to walk into the kitchen to refuel with a cherry coke, which is something I should not be drinking with a history of kidney stones mind you, when something caught my eye.  Lil R had a book, a book where it is not supposed to be.  She was not reading this book.  No.  She was eating. yet. another...  If you've read my previous posts you know this is an ongoing problem.

"NOT FOOD!" I boomed.  I swiped the book from her hands and out of her mouth in such a way that she began to cry.  "Good," I thought, "that'll teach her!"

Big brother R immediately stopped playing and went over to comfort his whimpering sister.  Meanwhile I stormed from the room like a pouty teenager to go cool off.  He then came directly to me to have a little talk.  I was still fuming, futilely wondering, "Why? Why does she eat stuff that's not food?"

"Mom," he began, patiently waiting for me to make eye contact.

At first I wanted to yell at him too.  Snap a "Get out of here! Leave me alone!" while I wallowed in my mean-mom guilt for losing my temper.  But when I looked at his sincere little face, I just couldn't.  My heart was tongue-tied.  The smoke was now clearing.

Making sure I was really listening, he calmly continued, "Mom, you can't yell at Baby Ro."

I sat there stunned and listened intently to this child of mine.  "You must use your inside voice", he wisely instructed.  "Yelling is for outside."

I started to stammer like a child who's hand was caught in the cookie jar.

Then he proceeded to hit me with the exact thing I tell him during one of our time-out talks after he has a screaming tantrum.  "If you get mad just scream in a pillow and then you won't yell anymore, and you won't be mad anymore, and it'll be all better!"  He said it so cheerfully, so judiciously, so sensibly.  He is very animated when he speaks, his head tilting and nodding, his shoulders, hands, and arms were poised in one of those "I don't know" poses.  He smiled at me, eyebrows raised, waiting for my response.

I sheepishly pouted.  Now what am I supposed to say to that?

Here I was, a grown woman, a mother of two, the disciplinarian, or so I thought, and this small, physically frail but strong in heart & spirit, three-year old boy, just taught me a lesson.

"Now promise me you'll never do it again," he recited again from memory with a gentle sternness.

I felt myself blush with embarrassment.  This was the most awkward situation I have ever found myself in as a parent.  I didn't know what to say.  Perhaps I should've gone with the old standard "I make the rules and what I say goes!" followed by a rude "Just mind your own business" for smarts.  Or maybe instructed him with one of the classic place-putting lines "I'm the parent and you don't speak to me that way!"

But he was right.  How could I argue with my very own rules?  How could I possibly deny something I've said to him?  Then, foolishly perhaps, I dove straight into the sea of awkward.  I opened my mouth and out came a "But..."  ...insert my big stinky mom foot here...

I stammered, "B...b... but... how am I supposed to stop her from putting things in her mouth and eating things she shouldn't?  She doesn't listen to me."  I shamefully admit that I actually whined.

Is this really happening?  Am I desperately seeking parenting advice from my own three year old?  Nice.  In that moment I imagined a slew of future Mother's Day cards with a big 'ol X over the word BEST or GREATEST.  "To the X mom"  Yep, that's me.  The stuttering, push-over X parent.

"Well," he started with a long sigh, sounding wiser than his years (heck, even wiser than my years) shaking his head, "I just don't know.  He then finished with a final matter-of-fact, "But don't yell at Baby Ro."

I immediately felt ashamed as hot tears stung my eyes.  I became the child and he was now the parent. 

I was a slobbering contrite mess scooping him up in my arms and apologizing in a whisper.

When I finally put him down and let go, he stood there with that bashful, smiling, head-cocked, tilted shoulders, hands-behind-his-back, stance that he does when he is so pleased with himself.

"Bubba, I am so very proud of you." I gushed, holding his pale little face in my hands, looking in his deep dark eyes, and planting a kiss on his fuzzy head.  "I love you! Thank you for teaching me."

He made that clicking sound, a sort of  tongue-click/lip-smack, as his chest swelled with pride.

"Your welcome!  I love you too!" he cheerfully chimed and sprung from the room to continue playing where he had abruptly left off.

I dried my eyes and felt humbly solemn as I walked into the next room.  I saw the two little angels playing and giggling.  I scooped up lilRo.  Big brother joined in the love fest and we all hugged and kissed each other.

I returned her to the floor and went across the room to the computer desk.  I was basking in the happy Hallmark-moment watching my beautiful, intelligent children playing merrily.  Lil R smiled at me, her cherub cheeks glowing, her evenly spaced baby teeth showing in a cheesy grin.  She then picked up the book and began to once again feast on it's spine.  Well, that lasted about as long as a commercial.
I let out a defeated sigh as I searched for the nearest pillow.

Monday, August 8, 2011

No More Small Potatoes

I feel like a teenager again; invincible and filled with nervous excitement, not knowing what the future holds.  My potential seems limitless.  I have the confidence that I can now accomplish anything.  My future is filled with unknowns but there is a sweet excitement of what lies ahead.  It is an overwhelming swell of positive energy that I can physically feel shining inside me, bursting at the seams.

I feel worlds apart from anyone who doesn't have this light, but I don't mind at all.  I see their strange looks of curiosity, or their blatant stares of confusion, or their flat-out annoyance and avoidance.  I see this but I am not swayed, not concerned, nothing can stop me.  All that matters is how I feel right now, in this very moment, and it is magnificent!

I had set goals before.  I once had dreams.  I have experienced success as well failure.   All small potatoes.  The bar was never set high enough for a real challenge.  The hurdles I had overcome in life were all placed there by me, detours I ultimately created, pressures I put on myself.  Sometime I won, and sometimes I lost.  In retrospect, I never really had anything to lose.  Not like this.

This is was something no one would ever wish for, something no one would ever want; the hardest thing I have ever been faced with in my life.  Something unplanned, unforeseen, unexpected.  This was an obstacle that was not chosen, but a goal that was necessary, unavoidable, and the epitome of importance.  Nothing had ever been this important.  The gravity of the situation paralyzed me at first.  It seemed there was nothing I could do.  Helpless, hopeless, afraid.  I was being hurdled at this insurmountable hurdle, kicking and screaming and terrified out of my mind.

I had no choice but to face this.  There was a voice inside me.  The one who always doubts, always criticizes, always seems reasonable.  The one who stops me from moving ahead, from trying new things, from believing in positive possibilities.   In that moment I chose to not listen to the voice.  I chose to only look toward the positive, the goal that once seemed unattainable.  I narrowed my focus.  The odds that were stacked against a positive outcome were now in my blind spot.  This goal became the center of my life.  My new motto was "whatever it takes."  My determination fed off of positive energy and the energy grew with my determination.  The cycle was endless. 

Astonishment came from people outside of the situation who only saw the negative.  They did not know or understand how I could feel this good, be this happy, seem so calm and relaxed.  The positive energy gave me strength.  And that voice, it has been stunned into silenced.  It is still present, but I imagine it's choking on this potato.  I believed, truly believed, in nothing but the positive.  Some people call this faith.  I had faith that the goal could be achieved.

This achievement was not even mine really, yet I feel so proud of the accomplishment.  This was a matter of life, a life I cherish, a life that has been renewed.  The life of my child.  And although it was not my life that has been saved, I feel the fire of life has been reignited within me.  My life has been irreversibly altered, for the good, by this challenge.  My life has been rejuvenated with hope.  My life is now filled with amazing potential. 

Aspirations and dreams seem attainable.  Setting my sights higher seems only natural.  No more small potatoes. There is endless opportunity, and the hurdles and challenges to get there are now dwarfed in comparison.  I'm taking chances.  Risk seems like such a silly little word.  I am no longer afraid to try new things for fear of failure.  It isn't really true failure.  There is no real risk.  There really is nothing to lose, nothing of importance anyway. 

There is no such thing as failure, only different outcomes, different paths.  The path I am on now is golden, lined with endless rows of giant potatoes of possibilities.  And oh, how I love potatoes!      


Wednesday, August 3, 2011


I love to cook.  Not just cook, but create.  Combining ingredients in such a way that perhaps no one else has thought of or could duplicate, at least not exactly.  It's art.  Tasty art.  Just being in the kitchen.  My mind focuses only on the task at hand.  I become fixated on the food.  I am transported into a calm place in my mind.  My sense are heightened... smelling the vegetables and herbs as they release their scent when being chopped and diced... hearing the sizzle and pop from the pans... feeling the heat rise up engulfing my arms, then face and whole being, filling me with the energy of creating something beautiful, a feast for the eyes as much as for the mouth... nourishment for the soul as much as for the body...  It is a transcendental food-utopia. 

Escaping to this paradise is not something I have the luxury of doing most nights.  For about the past year I have been on high alert.  Not knowing whether we needed to run to the hospital for an emergency, the constant stress & depression of the whole disease, and the "terrorist toddlers" who spring into action right around the time I need to make dinner, is not conducive to cooking to say the least.  It has boiled down our dinners to either fast food, take-out, pizza, throw-it-in-the-oven or microwave, instant, prepackaged, I shouldn't be eating this, thrown on a plate, or something slapped together, meal in minutes. 

It wasn't until very recently I began to use my stove again, much to the delight of Big Daddy R's tummy.  Back in the day (i.e. before kids), I used to spend hours in the kitchen whipping up gourmet meals from cook books and studying DVR'd episodes of Food Network shows so I could duplicate the techniques.  I never really duplicated a meal.  I always changed something, made it my own, a little bit different, made it better.  I experimented, never measured, and tried all sorts of new foods.  Foods I once hated, never tried, or that once harbored fear (mushrooms, onions, greens, beans), I found to be delectable and have now become staples in my fridge and cupboards.  I discovered a love of guacamole, fresh avocados, making my own salsa and huge pots of chili.  I would dream about food and cooking.  I would not by any means call myself a chef, or foodie (I cringe at the word), but I have a passion for it, for sure. 

Tonight I made a delicious meal, if I do say so myself.  But it's not just me that enjoyed it, the little Rs ate it and Big Daddy R too.  I know I have a separate tab for "recipes of the week" and such, but I thought tonight's meal was special.  Not that any of the ingredients are particularly special or gourmet.  It's just that I was able to spend the entire time in the kitchen, uninterrupted, cooking a complete meal, and then serving it to my family who happily ate it, together as a family.  This is rare.  Maybe not the eating part, but the cooking part indeed.  And if you have toddlers who love to graze, you know how difficult it can be to eat together.  I was even able to photo-documented the whole thing.  So here goes!

Pan Seared Kielbasa
Sauteed Pierogi & Onions
Swiss Chard, Tomatoes, Garlic, & Onions in a Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

It sounds fancy, but it's not.  It's really quite simple too.  As a side note, I usually add a can of cannellini beans to the chard & tomato mixture (just before the tomatoes), but my can opener broke last week and I have yet to replace it.  Still tasty, just less protein.

The pictures are pretty self explanatory...
Wash & Dry the Swiss Chard, Rough Chop
Dice Garlic & Slice Onion
Add Olive Oil to Pan and Heat
Saute Onions & Garlic & Season w/ s&p.  

Move Some of the Onions & Garlic with Some Oil to Another Pan

Wash & De-stem Tomatoes, Leave Whole
Add Tomatoes & Continue Cooking
Add Swiss Chard to Pan When Tomatoes Start to Burst
Add Pre-Boiled Pierogi to the Other Pan w/ Onions, Garlic, & Oil
Cook until Golden Brown on Each Side, Remove Pierogi, Return Pan to Heat

Add Balsamic Vinegar & Reduce to a Thick Glaze
Add Kielbasa to Pan & Sear on All Sides
Large Portion for the Super Hungry
Plate & Enjoy


Friday, July 29, 2011

Out of the Mouth of Babes

I gave birth to a goat.

There's just no other explanation.  Everything goes straight to her mouth.  No hesitation.  No observation.  And with such nonchalance on whether or not it is edible.

This kid can eat!  She eats as much as her brother, if not more.  She loves all the normal, healthy, natural fare like fruits, vegetables, meats, breads, pastas, legumes, etc.  There's not a food we've found that she turns down.  But it seems she has developed a rather bad habit of snacking on the inedible as well.

The top of the crib looks like it's been attacked by a pack of rabid beavers.  Teething, you ask?  Well yes... maybe... but it's not just that... 

Puzzle pieces, crayons, books, toys, blankets, crumbs... that "normal"stuff is inherently doomed to be chewed in any toddler's household, and our house is filled with these casualties.  But what I'm talking about here is the a-typical chew-toys... like paper, plastic, cardboard, wood, fuzz, rocks, grass, flowers, straws, money, batteries, cell-phones, cat food, cat toys, and garbage.  Basically anything that she can get her hands on and fit into her mouth or between her teeth, she will attempt to eat. 

This is not just a little biting or a nibble.  No, this is full on, chomping down, taking a bite, chewing and swallowing.  The swallowing happens if I am too late in catching her.  And "catch" is the operative word here because she takes off the second she hears, "Get that out of your mouth!" or "What on earth are you eating?" or my most often chanted phrase of "That's not food!".

Rarely, while fleeing, she will attempt to rid the evidence by pulling it out and throwing it aside, like a criminal.  Most times I dare to stick my fingers in her mouth, which is akin to sticking your head in the mouth of a lion, and I pull out the "Oh Good God what is that?" chunk of something she found somewhere.  And then there are the times that I am too late.  Who knows how many items she's managed to get down.

And as comical as this all seems, I really do fear for her safety.  Sometimes I fear that all of the gastric disturbances and diaper explosions are not really due to a milk allergy after all but from a bowel reaction from inedible objects.

I swear, I baby-proofed my house.  And I will swear upon my First Edition Harry Potters that I do pay attention to and watch my kids, sometimes like a hawk.  But she somehow finds these things.  Like my house is a treasure trove of unknown hiding places for forbidden objects.  I thought I knew every nook and cranny in this house until I found her gnashing a piece of plaster that she found behind a loose piece of moulding, which she also chewed.     

When not filling her mouth with sustenance or swill, she is gnawing on her fingers.  Biting her nails, chewing a knuckle, or molar-munching a fist full of fingers; she is forever orally fixated.  And if one were to psychoanalyze according to Freud, they'd say she either suffered a period of neglect or was weaned too soon.  Alas, I'm afraid I am guilty as charged.  I may have weaned her before she was ready but at least I made it to 13 months and that's long enough for me.  And there was a time when I could not be the attentive mother she deserved due to her brother's hospitalization.  Hopefully she won't grow to be a chain smoker or an obnoxious gum chewer because of my failures.  But I try to look past the guilt and just find a solution.  Sorry Siggy. 

I suppose the bigger picture here is effectively disciplining a headstrong and rebellious 17 month old.  My wild child.  I was once so proud of the near perfect, gently used collection of books and puzzles we had acquired with our first born.  I only had to tell him once, maybe twice, to not put something in his mouth and he listened, understood, and obeyed.  But this enigma of mastication is clever, coy, and very much a rebel.  Sadly, I now find myself sighing while taping, patching, and most times tossing away those half-eaten books.  I try to teach my children to respect their belongings, treat them with kindness, don't throw, destroy or heaven forbid eat them!  She looks at me intently for a moment, I know she understands what I am trying to communicate, then she goes right back to eating the spine of yet another book. 

I've tried all the usual techniques, that worked charmingly well on her older brother, but alas... yelling = deaf ears, the look = runs away giggling, time outs = no comprehension, hand slap = ignored, asking nicely = works for a moment then she smiles sweetly and returns to her preoccupation.  

What are my other options here?  Have I exhausted all sensible possibilities?  Am I now left to resort to drastic measures?  Do I coat everything in hot sauce?  Do I move EVERYTHING in my house onto four-foot high platforms?  Do I rid the house of any item smaller than a breadbox and not made out of tempered glass?  Do I just ignore the behavior completely and be on endless poop-patrol when it all comes out in the end? 

It seems that if she weren't so fixated on filling her mouth with miscellaneous materials, she might actually use it for speaking.  She mutters a mere handful of words.  Her brother does most of the communicating for her, translating a simple grunt or hand movement into an elaborate and eloquent pronouncement of her desires.  She is quite satisfied with his interpreting skills.  When prompted to repeat a word, she either grunts an "Nuh-uh", ignores us completely, or looks to her brother for rescue. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Make Room For Mommy

Sleep is one of my favorite things in the world.

Some people like money, I like sleep.  Some people want money, I want sleep.  Some people desperately yearn for money, I... think you get my point. 

I have memories from childhood of favorite places I liked to sleep.  The top bunk where I'd stare at the ceiling until I dozed, camping in a canvas tent on a cot snuggled inside a sleeping bag, and in the backyard in the grass, listening to the chirping of birds and buzzing of insects.

As a teen and young adult, sleeping became an art I perfected.  I was good at it.  Long stretches, 12-18 hrs at a time, and at any & all hours of the day & night you could find me practicing.  I could sleep in any position, anywhere, anytime, any place and through any noise.  I would joke that there could be a jackhammer outside my open window and I could sleep right through it.  I did some modeling for an art class in college once where I used to fall asleep standing up while holding a pose for the students to paint.  The professor would have to wake me when class was over.

Ahhh, those were the days.  Sleep rained down on me like pennies from heaven.  No, more like bars of gold.  Now, I would settle for pennies.

It wasn't until I became pregnant with Ryan that I started having sleep trouble.  It was not as bad as what most women experience during pregnancy, or so I've read and been told.  I did my research and was prepared to lose a few Zs.  For the most part, my pregnancy with Ryan was spectacular.  I was full of energy, eating super healthy, looked and felt beautiful, and I only gained 18lbs.  (I was overweight to begin with so I'm sure it was more like I gained 48 but lost 30 due to the lifestyle change.)  I even worked 40+ hours a week right up until I was admitted to be induced because I was two weeks late.  Being pregnant with Ryan was the best I had ever felt in my life.  But there were a few, maybe a dozen, nights that I just could not get comfortable.  I slept, just not as deeply or as happily as I did before.

I never had a label as far as "side sleeper" or "back sleeper", etc.  Until then I believe I slept differently every night, whichever position suited me at the time.  But now that I was pregnant all I really wanted to do was lie on my belly, but obviously that plan was thwarted.  I researched sleep positioners and read articles on the proper pregnancy sleep positions.  I even bought some expensive piece of foam that guaranteed me a restful night.  I had propped myself up with so many pillows that poor future Big Daddy R had only a tiny edge of our queen size mattress to lay on.  For that and other reasons, he eventually moved to the couch (temporarily) to get a good night's sleep.

The term "bun in the oven" is not far from the truth because I truly felt like an oven baking a constantly rolling ball of dough.  My stomach felt 100 degrees hotter than the rest of my body.  I slept with my belly uncovered, with sheets and blankets and comforters covering the rest of my body, even early on in my pregnancy which was in the winter.  In the summer, a fan positioned about a foot from my bulge was set to high, in addition to a window air conditioner which was not far from the bed either.  Many nights I ran into that fan or tripped over it while running to the potty.  I later ended up climbing over Big Daddy R to avoid the hassle, much to his displeasure, which is another reason why he moved to the couch. 

One night when I did sleep deeply, we awoke in a puddle and panicked.  "Is it time?"  Nope.  Calm down.  It's just pee.  Apparently I was so deep in la-la land that my bladder let loose with the kick of the baby's foot before I could even open my eyes.  Yet another reason for the couch.
Everyone was telling me about how I would never sleep well again once I had kids and I really, truly, thought they were exaggerating.  "Come on now", I thought, "It can't be all that bad!"

Enter baby: crying, screaming, teething, gassy, playful-at-all-hours-of-the-night baby.  And fate laughs.

While my pregnancy with Ryan was wonderful, my labor was agonizingly long much in part to being induced.  I can still remember the how the nurses kept trying to push sleeping pills on me in the beginning telling me that I needed to rest up and that I needed to save my energy for when things started going.  I refused again and again until Robert finally yelled at them to leave me alone and stop trying to  push their drugs on me.  I hated being induced.  I was one of those naive moms-to-be that wrote a birthing plan and proudly handed out copies to every doctor and nurse that entered the room.  It detailed how I wanted no intervention what-so-ever, unless in emergency, or if I changed my mind which is the right of every woman.  I didn't want to be induced but the doctors insisted since I was two weeks late.  Oh how fate likes to mock me!

Nothing went according to MY plan.  I ended up with an epidural, and suction to pull him out, just stopping short of a C-section.  And through 36 hours of hard labor, I somehow managed to stay awake through it all.  According to Big Daddy though, I did pass out in between strong contractions, and woke right back up a minute later to push again and again.  And after it was all over, I was too excited to sleep.  Oh I dosed here and there, an hour or two at a time, but I was filled with amazing hormones that gave me energy and the delusion that I was indeed Wonder Woman. 

The first few months I was a zombie.  But a carefree super-hero zombie.  Any tiny peep and I was right there, wide awake and ready to solve the problem.  I know they say you shouldn't play with them in the middle of the night, but I just couldn't resist.  I was so in love and amazed at this tiny creation that I didn't really mind the lack of sleep.  I saw it as a badge of honor.

We eventually experimented with all kinds of baby-sleep aids: sleep positioners, swaddling, vibration, rocking, music and sound machines.  As it turned out, he loved the sound of chirping birds and preferred to be uncovered, able to stretch out.  He also had an insatiable appetite and wanted to eat about every hour or two.  So into our bed he came much to the dismay of our doctor and contrary to the words of all the baby experts I had read. 

Big Daddy R suggested a new bed to accommodate our growing family, and so he could get off the couch and join us.  A ginormous king size bed was agreed upon, or more likely, the salesman saw an easy commission.  We have a tiny house with even smaller rooms.  This bed takes up almost the entire room.  We have a hip-wide path on either side and between the dressers at the foot of the bed.  It's a tight squeeze.  I remember thinking it was unnecessary and ridiculous to have such a huge bed.  But the salesman assured us we would need it.  He must have had kids.  And the fates chuckle once again.

Although the new bed was heavenly comfort, its purpose was wasted on me.  I returned to work full time when he was 3 months old.  After an entire night of feeding, I woke early to go work out at the gym.  I lost another 45 lbs.  These hormones were amazing I tell ya!

He was a snuggler and being a mommy in love, so was I.  His favorite position was to wedge his big melon under my chin and smash his face on my neck, which turns out to be rather uncomfortable for me.  He also loves to stretch out his body in every direction, pushing me to the edge of the bed.  I would wake up with a sore back because I would tense all my muscles to prevent myself from falling off the edge of the bed during the night.

Meanwhile, Big Daddy slept like a hibernating bear, growling away, enjoying a generous half of the luxurious cushion of slumber.  And the sweet little snoozing baby was stretched out like a Chinese star.  And here I was, sleeping on less than 12".

The worst part though was the heat.  I lovingly referred to him as "my little hot-box" and more accurately, "my little sweat-head".  It seemed he had been the source of all of the volcanic activity in my belly during pregnancy.  And like then, I discovered a fan, blowing right on him, to be a soothing solution. 

He was finally sleeping all night through by six months.  We did the whole cry it out thing with him in his own crib and in his own room.  And yes, it was agonizing for us.  We sat up in our big bed listening to him scream, taking turns checking on him every five, then ten, then fifteen minutes, being sure not to say a word or crack a smile or make eye contact... for two whole hours straight... for less than a week.  At the time, I had no idea how lucky we were.  It seemed he enjoyed sleep as much as I did.  The birds, the fan, and being able to stretch out in his own space was all he needed.  Now there were a few rough nights later on when he was two and started having night terrors, just after we changed the crib into the toddler bed.  But by then I could handle a few nights of briefly interrupted sleep.   So for a while I had a nice big bed all to myself, and the snoring grizzly bear, and finally got some rest.  That is, until I got pregnant again.

It wasn't until I was pregnant with Rowan that I understood what other moms were going through.  She is the complete opposite of Ryan in every way.  Hindsight has shown me that I had it made with my first.  He was my easy baby, and Rowan is my challenge.  I had trouble right from the start with my pregnancy, from simple aches & pains, swelling, & morning-noon-&-night sickness, to the more serious hospitalizations for dehydration, kidney stones, & C-diff, not to mention all of the sleep deprivation.  And unlike Ryan, she shot out of the cannon after a brief six hours of easy, all natural (lest the requested epidural) labor.

At first, she was a wonderful baby.  As long as her belly was full and her mouth was plugged with boob, she slept through most nights.  Now I nursed my first until he was 14 months and he liked to eat about every hour or two for the first six months, so I figured I was a pro at nursing.  But no, this baby showed me I knew nothing.  My nipples cracked and bled and I cried out in pain all the time.  I needed a break, but she insisted, and I gave in, trading my comfort and sanity for a little sleep.  But with each new tooth came weeks worth of sleepless nights.  In addition, it seemed she caught every virus (respiratory, stomach, or otherwise) that came along and then gave it to all of us just as she was recovering: so more months worth of interrupted night time peace.  Sick and tired doesn't even begin to cover what I was feeling.  I thought it couldn't get any worse.

Then Ryan was diagnosed with cancer.  That's when I really learned about sleepless nights.  I spent two months at his bedside in the PICU, too worried to sleep.  When I did nod off, out of sheer exhaustion, I either had terrifying nightmares or dreamless voids of blackness, which never seemed to rejuvenate me.  When I had the time and opportunity to sleep (thanks to Ronald McDonald House right next door to the hospital), I found I simply could not sleep  for more than a few hours because the worry ate me up inside.  I would leave the hospital, begrudgingly, around 11pm.  I would shower, read, and nurse the baby for hours straight, and eventually I would fall asleep.  But I ended up leaving the room at 5AM to head back to him.  I hated being away from him for even a second.

Once we were home, there was a period of adjustment for all of us.  Separation anxiety caused Rowan to nurse all day and night long.  Every three weeks we returned to the hospital for treatment, which meant a couple of sleepless nights on an uncomfortable couch for me.  I eventually learned to sleep again, once I learned to not worry so much.  It's a work in progress.  And then there were more problems looming just around the bend.

More teething, weaning, and milk allergies led to more months of lost Zs.  Granted, poor little Rowan suffered the most from all of this, including all the confusion and separation anxiety from everything that was happening around her.  So after weeks of trying to get her to sleep in her own bed unsuccessfully, we allowed her to continue to sleep with us.  Once we solved the milk-allergy problem, we found that she sleeps quite well in her own crib.  But each new tooth sends her back to our bed.  But now that she was no longer nursing at 13 months (my choice - not hers), she devised a way to be as close as possible to me.  It involved practically climbing on top of me, particularly my head, and hitting me with her hard-as-a-boulder-noggin.  She is restless, constantly moving during the night, and babbles in her sleep.  For someone so petite, she sure knows how to throw around her weight.  I start her in the center of the bed and she mysteriously works her way to the center of my pillow. Again, I am left with a few inches of bed.   

After everything Ryan's been through we allow him to sleep in our bed on occasion.  At first it was so we could cuddle and hold him and cry ourselves to sleep: happy tears that he is still with us.  But there are times when he is in pain, or feeling ill from the chemo and just needs the comfort of his mommy & daddy to get some sleep.  We oblige.  He still is a sweat head.  And still manages to push me over to the edge.

Usually it's either one or the other, but there are too many nights when they are both in our bed.  So there is just no room for mommy.  There are times I wake up catching myself rolling off the edge.  The times I have resorted the chair or couch have resulted in increased back pain and even more grumpiness.  So I just reposition the sleeping babies and make the most of my few inches of bed. 

Now a-days, bedtime isn't so bad.  We have a night time ritual of toy clean up, teeth brushing, pjs, stories, sippies of water, and tuck in, along with their favorite "sleepy music" CD playing in the background.  Most nights the crying lasts a few minutes, or not at all.  Some nights I actually get cuddle time with Big Daddy R.  And on occasion, I actually do get some sleep, even when they are hogging the bed.  One of my favorite Beatles songs describes it best...

Once there was a way to get back homeward
Once there was a way to get back home
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Golden slumbers fill your eyes
Smiles awake you when you rise
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Being greeted by smiles and smothered in kisses in the morning makes it all worth it.  And whether or not I manage to get some shut-eye, life is golden.  Eventually, maybe in a few years, I will finally be able to sleep like I used to.  And those golden bricks of sleep will rain down from heaven and knock me out!  (Is that fate laughing?)  The kids had better be out of our bed by then, but I still expect the smiles and kisses!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Open Sesame

Some days are magical.

It starts with rousing from sleep while being covered in little angel kisses, my ears being greeted with the sound of little voices giggling and chanting my favorite name, "mama", my eyes fluttering open to see chubby smiles.  And then I glance at the alarm clock to see it's nearly 10AM.

Is it possible for such a rarity to occur?

Definitely magic.
I wash and dress and inspect my appearance in the mirror.  There's a smile there.  Every hair is in place and all the fabric fits perfectly.  Big brother R dresses himself and little R sits quietly allowing me to fix her hair.

They eat all their food, nothing left to throw away: fresh fruits & veggies, cheese & yogurt, and whole wheat bread and crackers.

Some days the magic dissipates with the first tantrum.  And other days, like today, it lingers, filling the voids with incredible happenings.

Big brother R reads his first word.  Little sister R says a new word.  And I find time to bake some cookies and organize all of my coupons.

The kids hug and kiss each other, share their toys, help each other, read to each other.  Their kindness flows over to me as well: hugs and kisses, "may I"s, "please"s and "thank you"s, cuddles galore, and lots of "I love you"s.

All of nature calls to me: the weather beautiful, a strong sweet breeze, the flowers bright and full, the cheerful chirping and busy buzzing.  I breathe it all in.

The positive energy is palpable, even the once lazy cats perk up playful as kittens.  We are all energized in play.  We dance, chase, and discover new acrobatic feats.  We blow bubbles, decorate the drive with chalk masterpieces, and make wishes on dandelions that have gone to seed. 

Nap time and bed time rituals come and go without fights or tears.  A restful sleep brings pleasant dreams.

The next day I decide to keep the magic alive.  I closed my eyes to the messes, pushed the clouds of frustration aside, and ignored the laundry and dishes.  And I was rewarded once again.   

Perhaps the magic is always there and I just opened my heart long enough to see it. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

No Rest For The Winey

The kids are in bed by 9.   

NINE!  Both kids!  And not just in bed, sleeping too! 

I decide to celebrate with a glass of wine.  Luckily, I have a bottle.  This too, is also amazing.  Bottles are not something I have the luxury of adding to my shopping cart on a regular basis.  The stars align when there is a sale, I have a coupon and/or there is a nice rebate, or I am a half crazed midnight shopping lunatic after a stressful little-monster-rearing day.  I believe this particular purchase was the result of all 3.

And this isn't just a bottle.  This is a put-you-into-a-coma-if-you-attempt-to-drink-it-all-by-yourself vessel.  I bought it in the hopes of having someone to share it with, a friend perhaps.  Big Daddy R doesn't drink so I am usually solo on the stumbling.  And there is not much time for socializing when you have a germ-avoiding paranoia, for good reason, as well as an incessant need to be on my toes for any emergencies that may arise.  The very thought of being intoxicated or away from the house if/when something awful were to happen causes a panic in me you probably can't imagine.

But tonight all is well, I am safe at home with a perfectly capable Big Daddy R, and they are fast asleep.  What could possibly go wrong?

Most times when I feel the need to have a glass of wine I grab my favorite Food Network Food Show wine glass head across the street to the neighbors.  The Porch Dwellers, as most in my neighborhood affectionately call them, have a seemingly endless supply of bottles and are always eager to pour.  They love the company and the stories of mayhem I share.  I must be like a live-action version of bad reality TV series for them.  No wonder they keep pouring.

It usually takes place shortly after dinner, when the little Rs are still up causing trouble and messes still litter the floor.  I get that glossy look in my eye, slip on my shoes, and with glass in hand, and halfway out the door, I holler to Big Daddy R that I'm gonna go chat with the neighbors a bit, tipping my glass in his direction.  He nods and reluctantly concedes.  He knows what that means.  He is on his own for the bed-time routine.  I practically run across the street and pretend not to hear the crash of the next disaster that is taking place inside while Big Daddy R desperately tries to round up the wild stallions.

It is my one escape and thankfully he lets me have it.  He who occasionally goes in to work at 6AM when the regular start time is 9AM, who also occasionally comes home well after 6PM no matter when he starts, who is the sole supporter of our family unit, who still somehow has energy enough to play with the kids after all that hard work and agrees to watch them for me, all alone, while I indulge in a forbidden luxury... time to myself... a lil R & R.

But tonight is different. Tonight I have air conditioning, my laptop, comfy Pj's, a cork screw, and a large glistening glass.  I'm all set.

I eagerly twist the screw into the imitation cork and begin to pull.  It's not budging.  I twist a little more, push down the wings of the cork screw and try again.  Maybe a centimeter.  Ugh!  I repeat the process until I am sure the screw is undoubtedly adequately wedged in the cork and attempt to pull once more.  I am careful not to knock over any dirty dishes that still sit on the counter, that I pretend not to see. I am tempted to grab the screw between my molars and tug but quickly decide that would be a BAD idea.

Big Daddy R hears me grunting from the next room.  "What on Earth are you doing in there?" he asks.  At first I am frozen like a guilty teen who has just been caught eyeing a beer in the fridge.  But I am an adult.  At least most times I am.  And I am allowed to have a glass of wine if I want to.  "Hello? Is everything alright in there?" he asks again.

"Fine." I grunt, "Just trying to open this bottle of wine."  He offers to help but I have the determination of a child who doesn't understand or believe in impossibilities.  I give one last tug and slowly wriggle the plug free.

Success!  I pour my glass more than half full and proceed to my throne in the living room.  Once settled in, I take one sip, then one long gulp.  Ahhh!

I set the glass down and start to work on my laptop.  As I drift off into digital space I am hurled into reality by a soft subtle whimper coming from above.

Oh No!  Immediately my shoulders slump.  I look to Big Daddy who looks at me with raised eyebrows as if to say, "it's you they want."  I quickly grab my glass and take several large gulps as the volume increases into a duet of their favorite nighttime serenade, To Mommy with Love.  I squeeze my eyes shut trying to ignore it.  It's no use.  I hammer out a few words on my blog, hit save and close it up.  Taking one more gulp I scramble out of my chair and up the stairs.

After consoling and diaper changes, they drift back off to sleep and I quietly tiptoe back down stairs to greet my glass.  I return to my typing and for about an hour I get some uninterrupted peaceful R & R.

More cries. I scoot upstairs and manage to get them back to sleep then return to my wine and writing. After finishing my glass and my post, I head upstairs to get some sleep. It's about midnight.

I am awoken by more cries at 1.  More consoling, then back to bed.  The dreamless sleep that followed was a well-needed but short-lived escape.

I am groggily awakened by a repeated thud.  The sound is coming from inside my head.  And for some reason the outside of my head hurts too.  This could not possibly be a hangover.  No, I only had one glass!  I push away the thought and try to go back to sleep but the banging is persistent.

Slowly, I start to realize that I am being hit on the head by a hard object.  I reach up to touch a fleshy and hair covered globe.  Confused, I force my eyes open and see little R.  I stop her from hitting me one last time with her head and reposition her on the pillow next to me.  She is still asleep.  She likes to be right on top of me when she sleeps in our bed.  I am too tired to even question the strange behavior. 

I start to drift back to sleep but am awakened again by the sobering realization of  "Why is she in our bed? How did she get here?"  She recently learned how to scale her sleep-prison (crib) but I dropped it down to the last notch and thought she couldn't possibly climb out of that let alone mount our king size bed by herself, without a peep, and without waking the entire household.

I look over and see Big Daddy R is in bed too and conclude that he must have brought her into our bed after another rousing chorus that I obviously slept through.  It is too late to spend another second thinking about, so I sigh and return to my pillow.  I glance at the clock, 4:30.  I got three and half hours straight, now that's amazing!

I close my eyes only to find them flying open again minutes later, just as I was drifting off.  I had  that creepy feeling that someone was watching me.  I roll over quickly and come face to face with the older R standing beside my bed with an arm load of stuffed animals.

"Can you help me Mom" he asks. What?" I can't even comprehend.  He asks again and I suddenly realize what he wants.  I oblige, taking the fluffy creatures from his overloaded arms one by one and tossing them behind me to the center of the bed, just careful enough not to hit the sleeping giant and mini me.  A caterpillar, a puppy, a giraffe, a bear, a  glo worm, a kitty, another puppy, and a bunch of not-so-fluffy toys including a mini computer, a glow board, a few die cast cars and the dreaded leaky sippy join us on the bed.  He climbs up and I bury my face in the pillow determined to doze.

Whining and nudging ensue.

"What are you trying to do?" I beg.  I roll over to see him on his hands and knees next to my legs trying to wedge himself between me and little R.

"But I wanna sleep by you." he whines.  "Move baby Ro over! Put her in her own bed!" he demands.

"No," I firmly press, "She's asleep. I can't move her. If you want to sleep in here then climb next to Daddy. There's room over there.  There's plenty of room in this bed for all of us."  Obviously not room enough for me as I later discover in a forthcoming post.

He reluctantly crawls over and snuggles next to Daddy and at last I dose off to sleep just around 5:30.

A cold wet puddle creeping quickly down my side wakes me with a start.  I jump out of bed so fast that I fell into the wall.  I want to curse but grit my teeth.  I look at the bed to see the leaky sippy turned upside down draining into the valley where my body once lay sleeping soundly... but briefly, as it is now only 7:30.

I grab the sippy and put it on the night stand while noticing that everyone else is asleep, even the cat at the foot of the bed.  I definitely do NOT want to wake them now with a sheet change.  Tiptoeing to the bathroom, I peel off my Pj's, clean my sticky side with a baby wipe, and grab a towel.  I pull the first t-shirt my hand finds out of the dresser and pull it on, pretty sure it's backwards and inside out.  Placing the towel over the puddle, I crawl back into bed.

Morning comes at 8:30 with little R's kisses planted all over my face.  Just as I was starting to sleepily smile and try to open my eyes, she slaps me in the face and then promptly kisses it again.  I don't even have time to react.  I hear more kisses but they are not for me.  This time they are for brother R who giggles with delight at the affection.  He crawls over to me and covers me with kisses as well.  What a way to wake!

Big Daddy R is still snoring.

The morning birds start bouncing all over me in the bed until I agree to get up and get them some breakfast and sippies of milk.  I manage to stand and realize the puddle soaked through the towel and onto my t-shirt which is indeed inside out and backwards.  I don't mind.

The positive energy in the room is contagious.  Although I barely got any R & R, I am in a good mood.  How could you not be when covered with kisses?