(If you don't like the music, scroll down and you can control it on the right side. But I like it, so there! )

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Catch-All Post

You know that receptacle on the kitchen counter or desk or wherever? It could be a basket or bowl or something, but its sole purpose it to be a place for random crap that people drop. Ours is a large ceramic bowl on the kitchen table. The Catch-All. Ink pens, keys, restaurant coupons, junk mail, my badge and stethoscope from work....You can find anything in there, and I'm sure we aren't the only family with one of those.
Well, this is the catch-all post. Because I don't wanna post a bunch because, well, I'll get to that first.

First of all, I am working like a slave. And it has caught up with me. And I feel like garbage in more ways than one. For starters, my job is getting to me. Last night, I had to withdraw care on a 45-year-old father of 3 who suffered a spontaneous aneurysm that created a massive bleed in his brain. He was gone. Brain dead. And after listening to the wails of his wife and children echo off of the walls of the ICU unit for about 6 hours, the family decided it was time to let him go. I hate doing that. The suffering. The sadness. And aside from that, my face will be in their memories of his death. They won't associate it with pathology. They will see the woman who came in and extubated him on command, knowing he would not breathe once off of the ventilator. And that is seriously some depressing crap. And furthermore, I am sick. Physically sick. I've caught it either from my children, who have both been ill, or from my nasty patients. Because apparently my position in healthcare denies me my basic rights to health and wellness and common courtesy. By this, I mean that multiple times a day, I lean over to listen to breath sounds and a patient coughs directly into my face. With their staph/ enterobacter/ pseodomonas/ tuberculosis/ strep/ gram-negative/ gram-positive shit. Yep, right into the air I am breathing. Nice. Thank You. So now I have it. The dry, hacking cough. The hot cold hot cold hell of a temporarily dysfunctioning internal thermostat. The aches. The stuffy nose. I hate being sick and haven't been since I caught H1N1 from--you guessed it-- one of my patients during my first trimester of Zachy's pregnancy. Being sick makes me a crabby bitch. So enough about that.

Evan is a celebrity around my hospital and his school. Last week, the Cincinnati paper had community event photos and since all of the catholic schools were having special events for Catholic Schools Week, Evan's school was no exception. They had a sock hop and there was a 5x7 photo of Evan on the second page of the paper, cutting a rug like it was nobody's bidness. As a result, people have been saving the clipping for us and I swear we have about 50 copies right about now.

Zachy had his hearing test today with the audiologist. They put these little things in his ears that looked like ear buds, which emitted sounds and measured the vibrations produced by his ear to ensure all was working. They use this in babies because it requires no cooperation at all. It's just measurment. But little Zach kept whipping his head around, looking for the source of the sound, which of course he could not see since it was in his ear. It was entirely too cute. And all is well. No hearing impairment detected. No collection of fluid behind his ear drums. Now we just wait and see what the doctor is going to do. I've checked my insurance benefits, since I doubt we meet the financial guidelines for a state-sponsored early intervention program. I only have to pay 10% and he gets 30 therapy sessions per year. The bad part is that this is 30, total. So if they do OT and speech, for example, they cannot combine to more than 30. We haven't gotten there yet. I really don't think it's all that bad.

John's dad is apparently engaged. We found out tonight over Facebook. They've been dating for awhile and we like her, so it is great news.

I hate my nasty neighbors and their nasty dogs. Really, I know hate is a very strong word. And I mean every bit of it at this point. It was bad enough that when they open their front door to the common vestibule we share in our duplex, my living room smells like dirty dog for about 15 minutes. And then we had the issue this past spring where their dogs were shitting in little piles on the concrete driveway by the doors of my car. So I have to be hyper-vigilant about where I step when I get out. Pretty tricky if you come home after dark. Or before dawn. And let me remind you that I work nights.Well, now they are doing it again. And for extra fun, they are hiking their legs and peeing on John's Harley as well. John's Harley that is valued higher than my only-2-year-old car. And on the weather cover, which was also expensive and which John touches with bare hands ot get it on and off the motorcycle. Now before you think I am an evil dog-hater, let me tell you I like dogs. I would like to have a dog but seem to be allergic to anything that is green or has fur. But there is such a thing as courtesy. And the lack of it these people have appalls me. Seriously.

So that's all. I told ya. Completely random. But I feel like dirt. See ya on the flip side.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hurry and Eat Before We Starve

thumbnailCA404U66I’m wondering how it is that this happens? Seriously. How does one go to the grocery store and spend $300 and be out of so much in just 2.5 days?

I came home from work this morning to discover “we” have gone through an entire box of fruit snacks, a case of Diet Mt. Dew, a box of my granola bars, a box of microwavable soft pretzels I bought because I’ve been craving them, 3 frozen pizzas, an entire bag of pretzels…

Well, we didn’t do it. Evan did. Well, all of it except for the Diet Mt. Dew.

Lately I’ve been seriously trying to cut back on the amount of junk food this family consumes and instead have been buying healthier snacks, fruits, veggies. You get the idea. I do buy a few—a very select few—snacks that he especially likes. And we unload the groceries from the car and put them away. And then it starts:

“I’m hungry. Can I have a______”

Of course when I’m here, because I don’t want my kid to weigh 300 lbs., I try to limit him. And then I go to work. And I come back to this. And John insists Evan eats it all, and I believe him because I know Evan. And then I ask John, “Didn’t you tell him NO?” John’s answer is always that, yes, he did, but Evan does it anyway.

Evan is 9 years old. John is 36. C’mon, now. Really? I know it’s easier to give in than to deal with one of Evan’s tantrums, but really this is why Evan has tantrums. Because he’s smart enough to know that John will give in. And then the vicious cycle starts. And I am the one paying for it.

The one working my butt off for the money to buy the groceries that are virtually gone in 2.5 days. And also the one who has no quick snacks available when I have a day off. Nope, by the time I have one of those, the only way we can eat is for me to cook a 5-course meal, get takeout, or simply go to the grocery store again to buy more food that will be gone in 2.5 days. And if I did that, I’d be spending well over $3K a month for groceries. Seriously, y’all. I do okay, but I can’t spend that fricken much.

I’ve thought of doing several things. I could just buy stuff by the day. But I hate  going to the grocery store, so this isn’t a good option. I’ve actually tried this one: not buying any convenience foods or snacks. The result? Fast-effin’-food 3 meals a day. Blech. Which leaves the only other option: putting a padlock on the fridge and cabinets. Really, though? Who does this? And I have a feeling this will damage Evan even more. Making food and eating such an issue will result in him having issues with food. And as a result, issues with weight.

As a fatty, I don’t want that for my kid.

I just know the current plan isn’t working.

And I’m sending out an S.O.S. to my peeps in the Blog World. Have you ever dealt with this? How did you fix it? Any ideas?

Friday, February 25, 2011

It’s Been Over a Year

Yesterday, I was going through closets, organizing and purging. And I came across something that made me stop in my tracks for a full 5 minutes or so. I held it in my hand, turning it over and over. It looked horrible to me, like a device of torture. It was one of these:

th_101_0021An infusion kit for my Brethine infusion pump. They looked like huge thumbtacks, and I had to jab them into my thigh at least every 48 hours, but usually daily. I remember thinking I had it covered. I stick needles in people all of the time at work. It wasn’t the same. And after 3 months of it, it never got easier. The catheters were supposed to be subcutaneous, meaning under the skin. And I remember one time I felt this excrutiating pain after changing sites before my leg started throbbing and then went numb. I had hit a blood vessel and the subcutaneous drug was infusing into a vessel. And more times than I could count, someone (a doctor, a nurse, John, Evan…) would pat me on the thigh. In precisely the wrong spot.

Women wear the scars of pregnancy and childbirth like badges of honor. The c-section scar. The stretch mark. We all do it. And as we critique our flaws, we can find peace with these because they were behind our child’s presence in this world and our lives. I have more scars than that. My legs are peppered with them. As are my hips from the progesterone injections. I love these and I hate them, but I’ll get to that shortly.

My discovery today in the back corner of the closet showed me I am not completely healed from my pregnancy. I wanted to burn it. Yet I could not throw it away. Instead, I tucked it into the box of mementos I have kept for Zach. It mingles in there amidst his little cap and id band from the hospital, his footprints, his take-home outfit, and more ultrasound pictures than I can count. And there it is. The lone article that has anything to do with the struggle that occurred to bring the child here. One day I will have to explain it to him. What in the hell is it?

Well, it’s pain. It’s hope that we would get another hour/day/week/month. That he would have a better chance. It’s my love for him. It’s my darkest hour. It is every bit of my strength. It is 33 weeks and 4 days. It’s only 6 hours in the NICU. It’s terror. It’s heartbreak. It’s half a million dollars, yet priceless. It is everything I was for 14 weeks. It’s tangible proof of a miracle.

I loved and hated that stupid pump. The root of the hate is obvious. The pain, the nuisance, the side effects. But love? Really? Well, quite simply, we can hypothesize all we want about what kept Zach in there for as long as he was, but we will never know for sure. Only one thing is certain: if I would have delivered the first time I had over 30 contractions an hour, he wouldn’t have been  stillborn or a preemie. He would have been called a miscarriage. It wouldn’t have even been ethical to try to help him that early. And so if there is the slimmest of chances that that needle daily was the reason….

So no, I couldn’t throw it away. I had to save it for him. Because mothers try to tell their children how much they love them at least daily. Lucky me. Because when it comes to Zach, I have the proof.

Incidentally, March of Dimes is having their annual March for Babies as spring arrives. Click the link and help out.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Getting Even

With my husband. My better half. Because anytime you take a pic of him, he does this crazy stuff. So it looks like I married the Great Retardo in each and every pic of him. He really does look normal, I swear. So I was going to put this one on Facebook, but he threw a fit. And by looking at it, you’ll understand why it begs to be shared with the world, even if it is just the Blog World. Maybe this will teach him to just say “cheese” next time…


Police Women of Cincinnati

I’ve been pondering how I feel about this show A) as a somewhat-feminist, and B) as a woman, and C) as native of Cincinnati.

Oh Hell.

I have to admit that the show is entertaining. John and I have been known to watch it. And it is sort of amusing to see these locations on the small screen and know exactly where they are showing/ talking about. And then it sinks in. That there are others out there who have never been here to Cincy and have no idea that the areas they are showing are our inner city, and this is not the whole of my hometown. Can they not just show a few traffic stops in some of the nice areas just so the rest of the world can know that they exist. So there’s that- the sheer embarrassment.

And then I am full of girl pride for some killer women out there handling business. Go, girls.

But really? Really really? If these officers were men, they wouldn’t have their own show. Well, there’s Cops, but they include both male and female officers. Does TLC’s making a show about women officers mean that it is an extraordinary thing? That this is abnormal? I mean, I’m not trying to belittle the bravery of any law enforcement—male or female—who put their butts on the line to keep us safe. I could not imagine a job where I had to strap on kevlar to start my workday. But why the big distinction between man and woman if we are equal in the workplace?

So I don’t know how I feel about this show. I’ll just have to keep watching until I figure it out.

thumbnailImage: Officer Colleen,, of TLC’s Police Women of Cincinnati, getting ready to kick some ass and take some names.

I’m a Techno-Moron

So my computer died. And I went running and screaming like a little girl this very afternoon and now I am feeling all proud of myself and ultra-cool and high-tech because I bought a laptop instead of a desktop. Not my MacBook like I wanted, but a Dell. And I just had to blog about this because I am laying on my living room floor and blogging and am uber-excited about it. Incidentally, I am playing with this new toy and some of its gadgets that I must tell you about, but I feel like such a dork because I am so fricken excited that I can do this.

I should explain that I can recall the day when one had to use DOS prompts to start a computer. And I remember sitting in my english class for gifted and talented nerds like me when our teacher came into the room telling us of this article he had read where you would one day be able to play cd’s on the computer!!! Yep, the invention of the CD-ROM. I witnessed it. And the Challenger disaster. And the fall of the Berlin wall. I remember the first Mac, with that fancy little invention called a mouse. Yep, I’m that old. I also remember when cell phones required a shoulder bag/battery and the receiver was the size of a fricken cinder block. So I am sure, with all of this in mind, you can forgive my reluctance to switch from desktop to laptop. And you can forgive my dorky excitement that I have taken my huge cyber-leap.

Now, this new toy of mine has Windows 7 on it. Not sure if I like it or not. It seems better than my desktop, which had yucky Vista on it. But there is one new feature I am loving that prompted me to write a new blog post: Windows Live Writer. It’s like blog magic, I tell ya! It asked for the web address of my blog, as well as my user name and password, and basically I am typing this like I am a word document, but somehow, it is coming up with my blog. It looks like a Word window, with the task bar and everything, but it is like I am writing live on my blog. Even the font it publishes in and everything. I’m in love. I’m retarded. But there you have it!

Next up: I’ll take a pic of me typing while I do it with the integrated webcam. That’d really be fancy, y’all!

The Coupon Diva's Night Out

So the fam and I went out last night to dinner, to rent movies, and then to the grocery store. And I am going to use this opportunity to vent about kids' Valentines. You know those valentines everybody gives out because they're like 200 for $1? For the free meals? Well around these parts, that restaurant is Frisch's. Don't get me wrong--I love their onion rings and hot fudge cake, but it is decidedly crap. And those free meals really aren't free because you can't get it to go. Meaning Evan begs and begs to use it, and to do so, we all have to go. But we don't eat free. My guess is that risch's make a killin' on those things. And so last night, when John and I both wanted italian, Evan insisted. I can't complain though. Both children behaved impeccably. Zach, who has been rather fussy lately (either teeth, his cold, or the fact that he's been waking about 10 times per night these days) chilled in his Floppy Seat/ high chair combo at the table and actually interacted with us for the first time while eating out. Then, when our food came, he just munched on the straps of his floppy seat while we ate.

So then I get this wild idea. While the boys are behaving, I'm going to try to do something I have never done: use coupons! I have a coworker who can get stuff free by the way she uses coupons. I'm not talking that hardcore, but just want to save a few bucks. Usually my trips to the supermarket are kinda like the 80's show Supermarket Sweep where you hurry and throw random shit in the cart before Evan has a full-blown tantrum and Zachy completely melts down. But they're behaving, so I can do this, right?
Fricken-A Right, I can! First stop: BRU. We need formula and other general stuff. I am armed with a "$4 off of two cans of powdered formula" coupon, and gift cards I got for buying two big boxes of Pampers and a large box of wipes last time I was there
(hey, I was gonna buy them anyway...). Well the moral of the story is that I walked out of there with 4 huge cans of formula (manufacturer made cans with "25% more free"), teething biscuits, and 4-4 packs of the organic baby food I use when we go out. I spent---Ta-Daaaaaaaa!--$48!!!! When the little cans of formula I normally buy are $25 each!
So on I go to the supermarket from there, and I won't bore you with the details, but between the sales they were having with their frequent shoppers' card, and the coupons I had, I saved about $68 off of my order.
That's money I would have spent.
Holy crap!
I am a fricken COUPON DIVA now! I'm converted.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Evan is recovering nicely from his recent illness, which I'm thinking was viral. Zach ran a temp between 102 and 103.5 all weekend, and although it broke Sunday morning and has not returned, his inbility to tell me what hurts had me taking him to our family doc yesterday to be sure all is well. Yay for Zach! Everything checked out fine, so it was either viral or was caused by teething. (Nope, no teeth yet). While there, with a doctor I work with repeatedly in the ICU's, we went over Zach's milestones again. He's so hard to gauge because I compare him to Evan, who did everything at the speed of light, except for speaking. And I have tried to be laid-back about the whole thing: Zach will do whatever when he's ready to do it.
The moral of the story is that the doctor is worried not about Zach's fine or gross motor development--those have a way of catching themelves up and any mild slowness has mostly been the result of prematurity or simply from baby chunk and resolves itself. But he was worried about the sensory stuff: that Zach still, at 9 months, gags on anything thicker than nectar-thick (the consistency of pudding is too thick for Zachy!), that he isn't babbling mamama/ dadada/ bababa yet. And so the first step is an appointment with an audiologist at my hospital to ensure that there is no hearing impairment. I should mention here that we don't think there is at all, but since it is the number one source of this sort of delay, it has to be ruled out. I can tell you that his newborn hearing screen was perfect, as was the more indepth one they did because he was premature. He has never had problems tracking us by the location of our voices. When we speak to him, he looks and smiles. We are both sure that his hearing is fine. It is more of formality than anything. Something we have to rule out in order to go to the next step.
So what is the next step from there? Well it could be one of two things. Given that Zach has always had green nasal drainage from birth, it is entirely possible, according to our doctor, that there is a pocket of fluid in his ears. It also is unlikely because he has never had a single ear infection, and usually babies with drainage problems will have fequent ear infections. We are really hoping this isn't the case with Zach because it will mean he will need tubes in his ears. Surgery. I don't even want to think about it.
So after both of these are ruled out, Zach will be seeing a developmental specialist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. I have mixed feelings about this. I hate that he has to even go there. This is where the overzealous doctor made the false allegation with Ben, for starters. It is also where Ben was treated by the team of pediatric cardiologists, and thus holds some very painful memories for me. And that place is terribly depressing. Nothing will make you appreciate your healthy children like a stroll through that place,where you are liable to see anyone from newborns to teens with these horrifying medical conditions. And then on the other hand, there is relief. Because while you never want to need them, you feel absolutely grateful that there is a facility a stone's throw from home that breaks ground daily in just about any treatment for children imaginable. They even work in collaboration with Good Sam to do surgery in utero if need be (Yes, it's called The Fetal Surgery Center of Cincinnati or something like that). (Good Sam is the OB Mecca I griped about while on bedrest if you followed my pregnancy blog. Gah! I hated going to that place!) If there is something wrong with Zach or he needs any sort of treatment or therapy, I can trust them not only to find it, but to be completely competent at treating him. And that is about the only ray of sunshine in this whole Godforsaken mess.
Because I cannot get it out of my head that this is my fault. That I should've lied about my contractions while pregnant. Because if I would have done that, there would have been no home uterine monitor. And thus no trips to the hospital. And no drugs. And no early c-section. But my God, the drugs...3 months of the Brethine pump, plus the oral form I took before the pump and the subcutaneous injections I got each time they sent me to the damned hospital. The mag sulfate--evil, evil mag sulfate. The indomethacin. The steroids to speed him up in there. The damned pain meds it took to get me through that last month, which my OB assured me were safe. And the progesterone shots. I keep wondering which one it was, knowing full and well that it is likely none of them that did this. Which brings it back to me. Which takes me back to those last months of my pregnancy and makes me contemplate whether I could've held on longer. It's so easy to speak of this now when I have had nine months with my angel and am free from that pain. But then? If I put myself back in that place, I think I can honestly say that I did the best I could. Me and my uterus of which medical mysteries are made. I have to be nicer to myself about this. I was in an active labor pattern for months--literally--and I effing functioned like that. Yes, I did the best I could. And while I am not trying to stroke my own ego here, I think I would be hard-pressed to find many others who could've endured that for as long as I did. But still...
And John's reaction! Argh! Since he dropped Zach and I off for the appointment that was supposed to be a routine check and ran errands with Ev, I had to explain all of this to him. And his response to all of this still infuriates me: " ARE YOU TELLING MY SON IS GOING TO BE RIDING THE SHORT BUS TO SCHOOL??????" Seriously. And then: "We'll have to get a 'Slow Children Playing' sign for the yard just for Zach." I know he was just trying to make me laugh, but still. I could've killed him, I swear. Completely unhelpful and inappropriate, John.
So anyway...
I have to wait. I have to hope all is well, or that his delays are so mild that minimal therapy will fix it all. I still hate that we are in this place.
The ball starts rolling on February 28th, when Zach sees the audiologist...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Before I Forget

I spoke too soon, and Zach has some respiratory thing going on. He keeps spiking a 102 degree fever, has a bad cough, and a runny nose. Evan has the same, minus the fever. Zach, however, also has wheezing. (Yep, I whip out the stethoscope whenever my kids have a cough to hear what is going on in there...). Evan is getting kiddo cold medicine while Zach gets his inhaler and alternating Tylenol and Motrin. Zach's front gums are terribly swollen, so I hope we at least get some teeth out of this.

And Mama Ferris reminded me with her post today that I forgot to mention my V-Day surprise! John got me a virtual crap-ton of roses: a dozen red from him and a dozen of the most gorgeous hot pink from the boys. Before they die, I wanted to capture a pic of the pink ones because I have never seen this color in a rose before. The camera didn't do it justice. But I woke up to get ready for work on Valentine's Day and they were there beside me. Love him.

Now off to work. Again. And hoping my babies are feeling better when I get home tonight.

Friday, February 18, 2011

It's The Little Things

On today, of all days, which happens to be the most difficult day on the calendar for me, I am choosing to distract myself with the little things I am loving right now that make life grand. Here's my list:
1. It's downright spring-y out there! Which means the neighborhood stroller brigade is out in full force. And while I am working at least 4 hours a day for the next 5 days, I will be able to join them. I can also bust out the Ergo carrier and away we go. To the park. For long walks. Window-shopping downtown. Hell, I don't care. We can go. And for the first time in a year, nobody is having a million contractions an hour or recovering from a c-section while the weather is nice.

2. International Delights coffee creamer. Seriously, folks. John likes Skinny Caramel Macchiato while I am partial to Skinny Vanilla Latte flavors. Both are fat free and delicious and eliminate my need to visit Starbucks daily. Speaking of Starbucks, the last time the entire fam went in there, by the time I tipped the barista, we dropped $20 on 3 drinks. Fo' reals. So I am loving this crap. And my fridge is stocked with it.

3. Reebok RunTone shoes. Now don't get me wrong: I am most definitely not a part of this new idiotic shoe craze. I do not believe for one second that a shoe is going to melt the fat on my ass, despite the fact that just about every major athletic shoe manufacturer has come up with their own version. But these were cute. And on sale for less than $100. And I needed new gymnies for work. And I bit. And tried them on. Helll-oooooo, Fat-Feet Heaven! And so they are mine.

4. Motherlove's More Milk Plus. Whoooooot! Because after the pumping debaucle at work last week (or lack thereof) this crap brought the supply back up in about 3 days. Well, that and me pumping like a madwoman again. Actually my pumping output tripled in that amount of time. And it replaced the gazillion other supplements I take because it has them all in it. I was taking 2 Goat's Rue, 3 Fenugreek, and 3 Blessed thistle capsules 3 times daily. Now I take 2 of these babies 3 times daily. For a third of the price. Holla!

5. A while back, I fell in love with Pediped baby shoes. And bought Zach 4 pair in th 0-6 months size. And they fit so well for so long that I was sure he wouldn't need a bigger size until he started walking, and thus ordered the next size up in the "walking" versions instead of soft-soled. But they were huge on him, and I ended up ordering 4 more pair in the 6-12 months size of the soft-soled and put these on a closet shelf. Now that Zachy is getting bigger and starting to explore pulling himself up to standing, I tried these on him and they fit. I have several pair, but these are just 2 of the styles I bought for him. A-freakin'-dorable! And so I felt justified in ordering the next size up, this time in sandals and other spring/summer styles. Shopping for shoes, even if they are baby shoes, makes everything better.

6. I'm working tonight. A little 4-hour "princess shift". This time yesterday, I was off work for today. Then my boss called to tell me a coworker, who has never called in in the time I have been there, called in sick for today. And so I gave up my full day off to help out. Why would this be on this list? Well, because it is difficult to think of your woes and feel sorry for yourself when you are running to codes or trying to keep people alive. Talk about a distraction!

7. My house is full right now, even though Ben is absent. It will never make up for it, but it is good to know. I get to hear the sounds of John playing with our boys. Of Evan's laughter in the house while he is off of school today (no idea why--not a holiday or Holy Day--hmmmmmm). Of Zach's squeals of delight.

8. Zach has learned to give Eskimo kises and it is too cute for words.

9. Still-toothless baby smiles. Don't get me wrong-I want him to cut his teeth. But there is just something so innocent, so pure, so new about a flash of naked gums when a baby smiles. And I am choosing to enjoy it while I can. It won't be much longer. (Incidentally, Evan took this picture of his baby brother just minutes ago while I was typing this. I love that you can get a true glimpse of Zachy's reaction to his big brother in the pic.)

10. This. This right here. Big Brother reading to Baby Brother. Because even in Ben's absence, this house is full. Of love. Of togetherness. Because Ben is the only one who could mke this better for me. Other than that, this is as good as it gets. Life with my two miracles and the love of my life. And because I can look at the boys, with their love of books, and see myself in them. I am there. And if I am there, then Ben is too, even if none of them realize it. And that is a beautiful thing.

Are You Kidding Me, Obama?

This is why I voted for McCain. Sorry. I have to say it. Because I am pissed. Seriously pissed.

First look at this.

Now let me tell you. I was making jack. John was a deputy jailer for the county in which we lived and Evan was a very young infant. He had started the job, then brought home info on benefits for me to go through and decide on. And insurance coverage for our family of three would have cost him over $800 per month. When he only made $9 an hour. I made $8 an hour because I picked up a job--any job--that had health benefits because of this. And so we were part of the working poor. We both had jobs, we had benefits, but we didn't make enough to live on. What's a girl to do? We got a little bit of help from public assistance programs, but not much because we were an "intact family". Meaning I married my Baby Daddy. Our last names all matched.
So frustrated with both the lack of help and the lack of income, and hating that I wasn't self-sufficient, I did the only thing I knew to do: I went back to school. It wasn't easy. The last time had done the whole college thing was when my mother was dying. And I failed miserably at it, which was a wonder because I excelled in anything academic growing up. So I was scared and nervous and had to figure out how to be a student all over again, but this time with little Evan on my hip. But I did it. And now, as a result, I make enough that the idea of my family ever needing assstance again is laughable. What happens if there isn't enough money for what we want these days? Well, I just work more. And Uncle Sam takes more. There was one month where I worked so much that I paid $4500 in federal taxes in one month.

I'm not preaching about welfare. I've been a recipient, so how could I? But I think it should be limited. Not given so freely and for so long. We happen to live in one of the only upwardly mobile societies on the planet, and if you need welfare or food stamps for that long, you have had time to do something to improve your situation. And when Obama was running his game at election time and preaching about "change", there were only a few of us who stopped and thought, "Hmmmmm, that's great and all, but who the eff is going to foot the bill for all of that change
" It may seem cruel to say, but when my family needed benefts, I took that $8/hr job scrubbing toilets at a doctor's office to get them. And when I didn't like that we didn't have some of the things our neighbors did, I worked my ass off to get them for us. But I had to have help to do this. I used the programs for the purpose in which they were intended: to gain self-sufficiency.

Now I am a part of the middle class. And when we start doling out all of these promises, it is with my dollars that we do so. I was an investment for the government. I got the help, and within my first year of work in my field, I paid more in taxes than I ever recieved from all forms of assistance combined. And I continue to pay those taxes year after year. If I want to sell a house, I know that I can put a little money into it to make improvements and then I can expect to make a profit on my little investments. It's the same with people. It's just basic business math.

So let's make promises and give out free healthcare. Let's create even more ways for the government to offer aid. Let's keep spending. But let's take away the only way the low-income peeps have of earning more and becoming a more contributory party in our society. Let's fuck with the ability for these same people who are eligible for food stamps/ medical cards/ welfare to get an education so they won't need food stamps/ medical cards/ welfare. On what planet does that make any sense? Because while it's crass for me to say this on the fricken internet, I honestly don't care right now because it's not like I am going to see you to my grocery store or something: A mother-effin' Pell Grant helped me get my $80-90K/ year job. Of which the governmnt gets about $3oK a fricken year. Of course it would make more sense for the government to keep me working scrubbing toilets somewhere for chump change. Of course. And that's what eliminating Pells would have done to me back then.

And so I am pissed. And feeling more "Tea Party"ish than ever. Of course I thought I heard him say this about Pells during his address this past week, but I had been sleeping off a 12 and heard it in a fog on the cusp of awake and asleep, and so thought I was hearing things. And then I realize it's true, that I really did hear it. There's that old saying, and apparently Obama's never heard it, but it has been stuck in my head ever since I realized this fool really said that:

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, but teach a man to fish and he can eat (pay taxes/ generate revenue/ support his family) for a lifetime.

Let's not teach anybody to fish anymore. We'll just keep handing out fish, day after day after day. Gimme a break.

Fight Like a Girl

So I hear this news story about this high school kid who is a favorite for his state's wrestling championship. And I tried just now to find a link to it to show you, but Yahoo and Google hate me right now, I think. But the story goes that this kid turned down his shot at the championship because his opponent was to be a girl. His family said it went against his morals or how he was raised or some crap. Okay.
My first thought at this was to wonder if that girl would get the title by default now. And if so, poor girl. Because even if she won, her accomplishment would be dwarfed because it could always be said that the favorite backed down from the competition. Bastards. And then I thought about my boys and how I would like for them to handle the same situation. Would I want them to wrestle a girl? And fight to win? Hells yeah I would.
Because while I do believe there are biological differences between male and female that make us predisposed, as a gender, to excel in certain areas, I do not believe that those differences should bar us from working to excel in areas we desire to. With that being said, if this girl has worked and performed at a level that makes her eligible for a state title, and one of my sons were to be her opponent, that would tell me she wants a fair shot at it. And she is good enough to be there. And that her posession of a vajayjay should have no influence on the competition. And I would expect my kid to be in it to win it.
I guess since this is wrestling, it brings up the subject of men fighting women. As if the state high school champioship is the same as a knife fight in a back alley. It's not that type of fighting, y'all. It's a fricken sporting event. Like football or swimming or tennis. Giving this girl fair competition is not the same as beating the crap out of your wife later in life. It is not disrespectful to women. If anything, I see it as the ultimate in respect.
To win in an arena where there are separate standards for the sexes is not the same as equality. We can look to the idea of "separate but equal" philosophy of the civil rights movement. There is no such thing as separate but equal. There wasn't for race and there isn't for gender. And it has been a proven fact that boys' and girls' sports in schools operate on completely different budgets. The girls get slighted. I'm not saying this to sound like a whiny, bitchy feminist. I'm saying it because it's very true. On some levels, this is fair. Girls' softball, for example, just doesn't hold the same spectator appeal as boys' football on a Friday night, which generates revenue in ticket sales, concessions, blah blah blah. So be it. But if I am a serious female athlete, and I truly excel in my sport, I don't want to be hindered by confinement to the second-rate girls' teams. And if I want to venture into the realm of boys' athletics, I should expect for them to give everything they've got to beat me.
Of course I can competely extrapolate this into other areas. I hate and take offense when someone refers to my abilities in anything to be good in spite of my membership to certain groups. Just recently, I was renewing my ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support for those not in the know) certification for work. I got perfect scores on everything, and when we were finished, the instuctor found out I am a respiratory therapist. "Oh, well you did extremely well for an RT", he said. Wha???? Of course there is no way he had any understanding of what it is exactly that I do in my 12-hour shifts. Most think we just hand out inhalers and breathing treatments all day and don't stop to think that we have to respond to every resuscitation in the hospital, manage life support, and have had extensive education in all things cardiopulmonary. So if I wasn't an RT, my perfect scores would mean less? No, I did extremely well for the whole damned group, thank you very much. It's the same concept with being a woman: I don't want to do anything well for a woman. I want to beat out every-damned-body. And if a man doesn't want to go toe-to-toe with me because I am a woman, than that is just retarded.

So anyhow, whoever this girl is, and wherever she is, I hope she goes to that competition and she cleans house. On level playing ground. So noone will tell her she did well....for a girl.


I can't sleep. I really should since I am working more than any human ever should over the next month. It's hitting me even harder this year than it has in years past.

I have this hat of his that I had bought for him to go with an outfit for his 1-year pictures. And I loved the picture of him in it because he was laughing for it and it was just him. You know those shots that just completely capture the personality of the subject? It was like that. It was just a few months before he was taken from me. And for some reason, thinking he was coming home, I packed his posessions up to go to my sister's with him, assuming it would all come back with him. But for some reason, I kept that hat. I still have it. It still looks like new. A little Gymboree fisherman's cap.

Not knowing, John put that hat on Zachy today.

And my breath caught in my throat. My heart skipped a beat. And I was filled with this overwhelming panic. I started shaking. I started hyperventilating. I haven't had that reaction in a while. That dread. I know it sounds awful, but I can't let myself think of him today anymore after I write this post. I can't let myself unravel. I can't allow myself to feel this. It will kill me. I can't I can't I can't...

It's so hard knowing where he is and not going to him.

But I can't.

February 18th.

Happy 13th Birthday, Benjamin. Beautiful, beautiful Ben.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

9 Months

Today, my Zach is 9 months old. I cannot believe we are 3/4ths of the way through his first year. Gah!
He is still working on that first tooth. Just when I think I am going to have to pay professionals to surgically help him, he shows me, once again, that he will do it all in his own time. Yesterday, when I felt his gum with my finger, it felt like it might be breaking through finally. I went to check the progress this morning and he puckered his lips and shook his head as if to say, "No way, Lady." So I have no more progress to update than that.
Speaking of "when he woke up this morning",I went into his room and gasped in horror. He was laying face down. The plan was to peek in and check on him without waking, but the position he was in freaked me out so badly that I instantly reached down and poked him to make sure he was breathing. His entire upper body was out of the swaddler and he had rolled over to get into a comfy position for him. Too bad it is a position that completely scares the crap out of me. The risk of SIDS is supposed to be virtually nonexistent after 6 months, so just when I think we are in the clear, I remind myself that Zach is almost 2 months younger than his chronologic age. So up until now, he has still been swaddled in order to sleep. This morning changed that, I think. Of course whether or not he will sleep without the swaddler remains to be seen. There may be some rough, sleep-deprived waters in our near future.
He has started to do some major catching up in the past month. Pulling himself up about three quarters of the way. Graduating to the big boy carseat. Really, truly sitting up. Transitioning from a prone position to sitting. His cognitive skills are great. When he's sitting in front of you and you clap your hands, his little face lights up and he takes over for you, using his hands to clap yours. Yesterday, John was singing the Pat-a-Cake song to him and Zach was doing all of the motions for John using John's hands. He'll pick up his binky or bottle and try to put it in my mouth, his version of sharing. If he gets ahold of my glasses, he'll try to put them on his own face, because, hey, that's where they go, right? Right now, we're working on the finer points: his ring stack; blocks; nesting cups; the concepts of in/out, over/under, etc. I bought him a set of these large soft blocks and have been working with him on how to build stacks, and he knocks them down, squeals with delight, and throws them at me. Oh, well. We'll get there. Thankfully,I bought the soft blocks...
Zach has quite the little personality. When I was at BRU buying the carseat and lightweight stroller this past month, it became apparent that I would be needing a new Floppy Seat. Ours was actually fitted to a cart with no elastic and was too complex for words. As a result, it remains on Zach's closet shelf, unused. We bought the actual brand Floppy Seat instead and since he now is out of the infant carseat, it goes with us to stores so Zach can sit in the shopping cart. And he does. He perches like a little prince and stares at everything and everyone. Shopping takes twice as long because he is way more visibile now and with his chubby, rosy cheeks, he looks like the fricken Gerber baby. So random strangers stop us over and over, and of course social Zach smiles and coos and babbles at them, and so they talk to him even longer. And in case someone doesn't notice him, he will let out a yell until they do, and then laugh and smile when they look his way, and the above process starts. Evan was like this, too. For some reason, my children have no concept of stranger anxiety and would be easy as pie for a pedophile/kidnapper/axe murderer to snatch.
He eats well, too. That's no shock if you've seen pics of him. We've yet to have any food challenges. Well, unless you count the fact that anything thicker than pudding gags him. I think this is more of a developmental thing and will pass. He doesn't like veggies though. Feeding him has gotten just a tad more difficult in that he insists on trying to help. He's also very interested in our food, our drinks. And I doubt that, no matter how creative I get with rationalizations, I can fit my Diet Mt. Dew into the all natural diet I have created for him. This is probably the greatest source of frustration because no matter how much he wants to try our stuff, he has the GI system of a 7 month old and so I know he isn't ready to handle it yet.
All-in-all, he's still an absoute joy. I keep waiting to hit a rough patch or a challenge and we never do. Teething hasn't phased him. Solid foods hasn't. Sleep never did. Where did this easy, happy baby come from? We haven't encountered an ear infection, a cold, a runny nose. He's not been sick once. Even with baby-proofing the house! I can be more laid-back with Zach because if he starts to go after something we don't want him to, all we have to do is say, "No, Zachy", and redirect him, and he is fine with it. I couldn't do any of this with Evan, who was hell on wheels.
So there you have it. The plan for the next month is to have his pics taken and start to plan for his birthday. Both are going to be big operations because last time we visited the photographer, we did pics of just Zach. I was thinking we need new pics of Evan as well this time when John informed me he also wants family portraits. Meaning I have to be in the shots, too. And I am the least photogenic person in the world, so I dread it. And for his birthday, we are thinking of going down to John's mom's to have his birthday party, which requires planning and requests for days off. His first birthday. I cannot believe it will be here that soon.
In closing, here are some pics, starting with an atrocious one of me with Zach as we slept on the living room floor after I got home from work one morning. Of course, John had to get out the camera.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Scary Crappola

My hubster is the king of all things horror. He prides himself of the amount of B-rate horror movies he can watch in his lifetime, I think. There was one on pay per view once that, I kid you not, was called Thankskilling. About a rogue animatronic turkey out to kill people. And the tagline in the trailer was "Gobble, Gobble, Mother******!". Seriously, who watches that crap? But he wanted to rent it. And I had to whip out my trusty veto power and nix the request. And he wants me to watch the movies with him. And I am an absolute weinie when it comes to scary stuff. Case in point: when I was a kid, I would literally run and dive into my bed each and every night because I wa convinced Freddy was going to reach out from under my white canopy bed with the frilly pink bedding and grab my ankles with his knife/phalanges. We went to see The Village, and we embarrassed each other because I screamed out in the theater and he, in turn, to me to shut the eff up, pretty loudly at that. That was also the last time we saw a horror movie together in public.

This time last year, while I was on bedrest, we watched Paranormal Activity. And I did just fine during the movie. But after? My whole world was wrecked and I freaked at every squeak and creak in my house. And I made him escort me to and from the bathroom and everything. He had to go into a room before me and give me the all-clear. And he would always say, "Damnit, Andrea!", and be pissed that I made him do it. Yet he continues to make me watch these movies.

So the other night, he makes me watch Paranormal Activity 2. It seemed pretty creepy to me that I saw the first one while pregnant and now, the second one has a fricken baby in it. But I watch.

And the crib is the faux-antique Jenny Lind one like Zach's. Ugh. Creepy. And there is this scene where they are showing video footage of the baby's room and the camera is trained on the crib when the mobile starts to spin on its own, without music or anything. Creepier. But something about the mobile looks familiar and I make John pause the movie and rewind so I can get a better look. Ohholyshit. It's Zach's exact moblie. That matches this bedding:

Gah! Of course now you are going to think I am insane when I tell you that I think I may believe in ghosts. When I was pregnant with Evan, I kept seeing this weird old man dressed all in white with a white fedora on. I could remember from my dreams that there was something odd about his face. They weren't bad dreams, just eery. He even referenced my mom in a few of them. I really thought I was going crazy when I saw a picture of the man who had owned the house (and died in it) before we lived there. It was him. The man in the white fedora. He had a very prominent nose, which explains the nondescript weirdness about his face in my dreams. And while I was pregnant with Zach, I would see these dark shadows pass in my peripheral vision, about the height of an adult. Yet when I would look, nobody was there. John never saw them. And Zach. Zach will giggle and smile and stare at a point in space where there is nothing to stare at. That one time, I took the picture of him sitting up and he is bathed in light on that one side in the pic, even though the light in the room was out and the day was pretty overcast with very little natural light. I swore it was my mom. He looks like her, and was born the day after her birthday. I actually had my amnio to find out his lungs were mature and my misery would be ending on her birthday, which seemed odd since she died from lung disease and its associated complications. Of course I could be completely, certifiably insane, too. That's always a possibility.

So I see this movie. And I think of Zach. And now I have to protect Zach from the demons that may be coming for him. Damnit, John.

Mom Extraordinairre

It seems like my days off are few and far between, but I've noticed I spend 100% of my time off being Mom Extraordinaire. Bathing Zach and splashing with him in the tub. Down on the floor, helping him reach his milestones. Interacting with Evan and helping him do whatever Evan does.

I can offer this up as evidence: I am currently baking cupcakes. Fricken cupcakes. I don't even recognize myself anymore.

I'm so far from perfect the Perfect exists on an entirely different planet from the one on which I live. And I have been giving this a lot of thought lately. We don't do soccer games and PTA meetings bcause John has no interest and I just don't have the time. I'm a member of the school's HSO, but don't do a lot of participating because of scheduling conflicts. We don't go to church. It just seems that my precious time off shoud be spent here at home, not making myself insane with shuttling Evan everywhere under the sun. And it works out perfectly because Evan has no interest in anything. Until now.

Evan's school is starting up baseball for the elementary kids and Evan wants to sign up. On one hand I want to encourage him to not be a fat couch potato and get out there and go for it. He spends large amounts of time reading books, playing on the computer, and he watches more tv than I can tolerate. The activity will be good for him. But I also have several misgivings about it. Will I have time? Which makes me feel like the worst parent of all time because I should somehow find time. Will he be good at it? Which makes me feel even worse because the point is to have fun, not foster the talents of the next baseball great. And most of all, will Evan do it? Because Evan, when not interested, has no attention span. I can see him in the dugout waiting for his turn at bat. I can picture him picking grass or watching for planes in the outfield. And with this in mind, I wish football was an option for the young kids here. Baseball just requires too much attention.

And then there's the other aspect of it. I have to go and be social with other moms. Gasp! Because in my eyes, I am Mom Extaordinairre. I do the best I can for my offspring, and they are both happy and healthy. This has to have something to do with me, right? But then I go to a function with stay-at-home moms and I realize that while I am patting myself on the back that my kids are clean, fed, and smiling, I really am inferior because the other moms manage all of that while managing 4000 sporting events and recitals a month while simultaneously baking 100 dozen cupcakes without the box and managing to have perfect hair, nails, and makeup. All with a baby on their hip and a toddler tugging at their pants leg, no doubt. And so I start to think to myself, "Self, you really do suck."

I hate feeling like I suck.

Of course I am thinking all of these things when my little free issue of Baby Talk magazine comes in the mail today, complete with an article on how moms lie. Seriously? They lie about perfect marriages and genius children. The article says they mostly do it to avoid criticism and unsolicited advice. I think they do it to keep up appearances. I'd like to find the one who started it all. The perfect Suzie Homemaker with her perfect appearance who lied about how perfect her life is and how she rocks at being a mom, which made her circle of mom friends feel inferior and precipitated their lies, which led to their friends feeling like they had to lie, and so on. I want to find her and wring her neck. Parenthood is tough business, and instead of being a competition, it should be a sisterhood. Your kiddo doesn't sleep through the night yet? Well, even though mine does, I think he is an anomaly, and instead of me gloating to you, let me instead offer words of encouragement and offer up any service I have to offer that can make your sleep-deprived life a little easier. Your kid hasn't reached a certain milestone yet? Well, instead of bragging to you how my 6-month-old is on the verge of curing cancer, let me focus on the adorable and amazing things your baby is doing.

And while I'm on the topic, I think the socially acceptable thing to do when interacting with other busy moms is to wear the appropriate Mom uniform: sweatshirt (with or without the stains), jeans, and gym shoes. If you have time to be flawless, I don't want to know about it, after all. It's not that motherhood means you have to let yourself go. It just means you should not try to out-do the rest of us. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the rest of the motherhood world goes around in 4-inch Manolos and head-to-toe Prada, and I am infact the abnormal one who doesn't have the time for such crap. I doubt it, though. I think I'm on to something with this competition thing, because I know some pretty extraordinary moms out there who do extraordinary things. They shape young minds as teachers. They keep us safe as police officers. They serve our country in the military. And on their off time, they rock the Mom uniform along with me.

I guess I'll let Evan do the baseball thing. And in my own mind, I'll continue to be Mom Extraordinairre. And I'll try to not feel inferior. And if the competition gets too stiff for me, I can trump the perfect coifs and delicious from-scratch cupcakes and stories of childhood ingenuity with some stories of my own: last night, while they got their beauty sleep, I kept about 10 people breathing who wouldn't otherwise be doing so and was actively involved in the resuscitation of about a half a dozen more. So excuse my stained sweatshirt and faded jeans and lack of baked goods. I was just a little too tired to give a shit. Now let's watch my kid score a winning run.

We're Going To Hell

Okay, so we are horrible. We healthcare people. Because in order to do what it is we do everyday in an ICU, we have to make crude and completely inappropriate jokes. It's a defense mechanism, peeps.

And if Ol' Aunt Gertrude is dying, we call that "Catchin' the Jesus Bus". Seriously. So imagine my surprise to find this:

Ha! Hahahahaha. The devil is waiting for me in Hell.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Hell Hath No Fury...

...like Andrea pissed.
Seriously. (I think I may say "seriously" entirely too much. Kind of like the word "like" when I was a kid. Oh well. Roll with it because I am really pissed off.

Zach usually takes a bottle of evil formula at night before bed. One little 6-ounce bottle. Now, let me remind you that my boobs have been through sheer hell in the past (almost) nine months. I seriously cannot believe I have kept this shit up this long. (Oh, yeah, forgot to mention that you should expect profanity in this post because, once again, I am pissed.) Like the days where I found random black bruises on me. Or the plugged ducts. And how could I forget the days where I got as little as 2 ounces in 24 fricken HOURS. I didn't do this crap for fun. And it sure as hell has not gone as planned. I didn't want to take herbal supplements to keep the milk coming. I certainly didn't want to buy a hospital-grade pump. And I really, really had no intention of getting nice and intimate with a piece of equipment every two @#$%&* hours a day for at least a year. Okay, now with that being said...
You may or may not remember the early days when I returned from work a mere 5 weeks post c-section and all was sunshine and roses. We have the lactation rooms with the hospital grade pumps and leather recliners, etc. And if you have to pump, you have to pump. No questions asked. Period.
I have not pumped a single time at work in the past 4 days. And I am still doing the 12-hour shifts. In the wee hours of the morning when my boobs seem to be the most productive. So if I can't pump at work, it is a serious issue. And that issue has been my way of life for 4 days now. So while this time last week, Zach was taking one bottle of formula before bedtime, yesterday he only got one 5 ounce bottle of breastmilk all day. Because just one day of missed pumps is enough to do that to me. Now it is all but gone and I am back to killing myself practically in order to get my supply back up. One of my fave ER docs is working tonight and I am on the verge of asking him for another course of Reglan. It is that bad.
It went like this: I have had the ER, despite the fact that I told my boss that the ER, because of its lack of predictability, its distance from the lactation rooms, and the acuity of the patient population, is really difficult for me to cover while still breastfeeding. And she told me to have my coworkers help me and if anything came up, to let her know. I'm sure she doesn't really want me to do that. I would be in her office daily. Long ago, I stopped having someone cover my cell while I go to pump, which is really what I am supposed to do. It's just easier that way because I don't have to deal with the rolled eyes of my coworkers or have to explain why it is that I need this time to them. But the downside of that is that, when I get a call in the middle of a pumping session, I have to call my coworkers to get the patient seen. And the people I have worked with for the past 4 nights are not the type of people to help. For example, I was so busy in the ER last night that I didn't even get to attempt to pump until almost 7 hours into my shift (8 hrs. since the last pumping session). And when I finally got up there, as soon as I took my stuff out of my bag to get ready to do the deed, my phone rings. And it is a nurse who wants a PRN treatment for her patient because he is short of breath. I call the first coworker, who says she got called to a patient in the ICU. I have no reason to not believe her at this point, and so I call someone else. This someone else just happens to be the first girl's BFF. So the second one syas she is "up in the tower" ( a region of the hospital), not specifying which floor she is on, what she is doing, or anything else. I tell her what I need and her response was, "That doesn't sound urgent." And she hangs up. While it is entirely possible that she was correct in her assumption, we have no way of knowing this until someone lays eyes on the patient and does some sort of pulmonary assessment. And so I try to call a third coworker whose phone is saying he is "out of the zone", which means he is in an area of the hospital where his phone has lost signal. So I call the nurse back and let her know what is going on, and could she please give me specifics on the patient's status. She does and tells me he can probably wait until I am finished. So I start to pump. And literally 2 minutes into it, the phone rings again. 2 minutes. So of course the same therapists who were busy with the first call are still busy. And I have no choice. I stop pumping, throw my parts in my cooler without even washing/wiping them, and I go to the patient. Except on the way, I pass the first two girls, giggling and walking down the hallway. On the complete opposite side of the hospital from where I had assigned them at the beginning of their shifts. Together.It was all of 10 minutes after I had spoken with them and they were too busy to help me see one lousy patient. And so I was very pissed. And after that, I was just too busy to even leave the ER and never had another opportunity.
So tonight I report to work. For the first time all week, I am not in charge and so I do not make out the assignments. I told the one girl I can't do the ER tonight. Not after the issues that have gone on for the past 3 days. If I do, I will probably have no more milk for Zach. That's it. All of that work brought to an end like that. And she ignored me and put me there anyway. And in the morning I don't know what I'm going to do. Raise a stink? Go to HR? Post a printed copy of Kentucky breastfeeding laws on her locker? It's all enough to make me want to put in my notice, but my status as the breadwinner means that I need something else lined up first. Incidentally, my hospital was one of the first to recieve the Unicef designation as Baby-Friendly, meaning it makes extraordinary strides to foster breastfeeding. Pretty rich, isn't it?

Zach's New Ride, The Awesome Husband Award, and the Pot and Kettle

Zach got a new ride a few days ago. Well, Zach got a lot of new things this week. Evan too, for that matter. It all started with the car seat. We had purchased a big-boy carseat and had a "carseat tech" install it, but then when Evan tried to get in the car next to it, he didn't have room to even get a seat belt latched, and so the carseat immediately was taken out of the car and replaced with Zach's infant carseat once again. We returned it for a refund, but then had to revisit the whole issue once again. We have solved the problem because this time, Evan went with us, and we secured both boys in the car to be sure before we even left the BRU parking lot. And I was so happy because not using Zach's infant carseat meant there was no longer a reason I had to use the companion stroller.
I hated that stroller.
If you have a stroller in your car, you're a mom. And if you're a mom, you're going to need to get groceries. And that damned stroller was so big that I had to put it in the house if I planned on buying more than 2 or 3 bags of groceries. Seriously. With only 2 kids, I shoudn't need a cargo van to go to the supermarket. So Ta-Daaaaaaa! I now had an excuse to buy a new, more compact stroller. But I hate umbrella strollers. Geeez, I really am hard to please. So we found the solution: The Combi Cosmo EX stroller. Light. Folds easily. And not only does it fold flat like the other one, but once flat, it folds again in half, making it ultra compact. And it looks all cool with brushed chrome. The only con was the lack of cupholders to carry the requisite Venti Mocha that it takes to get me to do anything productive, but that was fixed with a $6 attachment. Love it. And if (or when) we have another, The Combi Shuttle infant caseat is compatible with it.
As for the Awesome Husband Award, John takes top honors. I keep thinking I'm going to find out that he shrunk a favorite sweater while doing laundry, or broke a figurine while dusting. Something must be off, and I'm sure it has nothing to do with the Super Bowl today because I will be at work when it's on and have no say in whether he watches it. But as I fell asleep after work his morning, he gave me a foot massage. When I woke up, he brewed me a fresh pot of coffee and brought me lunch here at my desk. And right now, as we speak, he is on the way to pick up a supplement for me. On the other side of Cincinnati, about 45 minutes away. And the supplement is More Milk Plus. And he is most definitely male and not lactating. Whatta guy. I must admit that it makes me chuckle to picture Sniper John of Marine Corps fame going up to someone and asking them where they keep the More Milk Plus.
And the shoes. OMG the shoes. While I was getting my eyes checked a couple of days ago, John went to a shoe store in the mall to buy Evan the new shoes. We decided it was easier to guestimate them fitting and potentially having to return them that it was to deal with Evan at the actual store. And the night before, as I was looking online at the shoes Ev wants, John walked into the room an threw an ever-loving fit. "Andrea, you are NOT going to spend that much on shoes for Evan!!!!" But they were cute. I actually was wondering if they had them in pink in my size. But even my inner Shopaholic had to admit that John had a point, so I planned on doing some sale surfing the next day at the mall. Lo and behold, John did it. That was good, since my eye exam rendered me pretty useless. But I just saw the shoes about 30 minutes ago. Purchased by the man who yelled at me over expensive shoes for Evan. Apparently I can't buy Evan expensive shoes, but John can. Because I pull the box out of the bag and immediately see the contradiction when I spy the little outline of the man in the jumpng position on the top of the box. Yep. John bought him Jordans. You know, because Jordans are so cheap and all. "But they were on sale like you wanted," says John. Yeah. Okay. Their sale price was the same as the full price of the ones I was going to buy. I can see how that makes sense, John. And besides, the last time we bought Ev Jordans, a classmate of his was jealous of them and intentionally stepped on them with mud-covered feet on the first day he wore them. I think I need to devise some sort of plan to get even with the man. Hmmmmmm. I think I need a new purse.....

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Am I Going Blind?

So I did what I hate doing yesterday: I went for my eye exam. I have been with my current employer for several years and have yet to use my vision benefits one single time. I was going to this time last year, and then bedrest took over and it never happened.

I hatehatehate going to the eye doctor.

First of all, have you ever seen that episode of Friends where Rachel goes to get her eyes checked and they do the little air puff thingy? Well if you have seen it and know what I'm talking about, let me just say that that is how I am. Plus up until a couple of years ago, I managed to escape the whole dilate-the-pupils thing. But my father had partial blindness from macular degeneration, and so they no longer allow me to escape that. And those drops seem to affect me more than they say they will. Horrible stuff. Plus, I always seem to get news that is enough to freak me out just a little.

Three Years Ago:

"Hmmmmmm. Interesting." says the Eye Doc Supreme. (Incidentally, my eye doctor is HOTT.)

"What's interesting??????" says Yours Truly.

"Well, your one eye is starting to drift inward just a tiny bit. It's barely noticeable."


"Well, yes and no. You can't tell unless you measure, but it may start worsening over the years."

Oh, holy crap. I made the mistake of telling John, who made fun of me for about 6 months after that. He has this odd talent of being able to make just one eye cross. Well, I guess you can't call it "cross" since it is only one eye, but still...So he would look at me and do that, all while asking, "Can you see me now?" And then cracking himself up. Seriously. Of course his ability to laugh at it, while also a form of torture for me, served to show me that he wasn't going to run for the hills from his potentially cross-eyed wife.

So yesterday, I go, and it was horrible. They give me whatever test it is that has all of those 3-d rectangles on it, where they ask you which one appears to stand out more. You know the one. So I do number one. And they all look to the same to me. After asking me about 100 times if I'm sure, the tech has me move on to number 2. And they also all look the same. "They all look the same," I wail at her. Seriously. Am I being Punk'd???? "Oh, Honey," she says, "do you get into a lot of car accidents???"

WTF. No. I don't, thank you very much. I am an excellent driver.

Apparently in my ripe ol' age of 34, I have lost the gift of depth perception. No joke.

I can't judge distance.

And I am slowly going cross-eyed.


Of course now it all makes sense: how I am constantly on John about getting too close to cars before he brakes. ("OMG Andrea, that's 500 feet away! Quit bitchin'!") How I may have accidentally almost knocked myself out on Zach's entertainer thingy the other day because I honestly didn't see it as being that close to my forehead while I was on the floor playing with him.

So they dilate my pupils and Dr. Hot Cheeks does my exam. No, he cannot correct the depth perception issue with any type of lens. He says I have probably learned to overcompensate for it, so I'll be fine and am not going to kill anyone. My nearsightedness got worse, as did my astigmatism. I take my little prescription for my new glasses to LensCrafters, which is awful, because this is when the dilated-pupils thing really starts to bother me. And LensCrafters is all brightly lit, and has white shelfs and displays, which just glares.

And they want me to pick out glasses that will be a permanent fixture on my face for at least the next year. Why in the hell do they do that?

Once again this year, John picked out my glasses. At least he has decent taste, I think. The pic above are the ones he picked for me: DKNY frames. Kind of a sort of bronze color. A few years ago, he picked the Versace ones I had for the same reason. He knows his Andrea.
So I am wearing the new specs. And for now, everything is nice and crisp until about this time next year when the edges will start to blur and my lenses will take even more cosmetic treatment and space-age material to keep me from looking like Poindexter. Who knows what the news will be next year. Can eyeballs spontaneously combust???
Next week: the dentist. Dun-dun-dunnnnnnnnnh.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Story That Needs Telling

In my life, there are a very select few who know this story. There are several reasons for this: nobody really understands except John, people are too judgemental and jump to conclusions, my own child dosn't know for a couple of reasons and I don't want it revealed to him inadvertantly. The biggest reason? Because I have 2 sons and a husband now who all depend on me to be a fully functional wife and mother, and if I had to relive this every day of my life, I think I would literally die. But this time of year is particularly hard on me, and even though it will be a horrendously long post, I have to get this out of me. I have to tell the story. Even with the anonymity of the internet, the thought of telling it is making me have palpitations, my hands shake, and my breathing become ragged with anxiety. Because every time I stop and allow myself to feel this, the pain gets too bad and I have to stop myself or I will lose all ability to function in my day-to-day life. Even with the loss of both of my parents and an older brother, I still had never felt pain so deep that it could literally paralyze me. Until this happened.

His name is Benjamin. This month, he will be 13 years old. He has blue eyes and blond hair. And in my heart and mind, as much as Evan and Zachary are my sons, he is also.

I was so young and dumb. 21 years old and facing an unplanned pregnancy. I was still reeling from my mother's death when I got involved with an older man and got pregnant, and of course the man disappeared. It all sounds so tawdry now, but you would have to understand the place I was in at the time: far from a state of mental and emotional health. But there I was. And I was going to have a baby.

I had the same sort of pregnancy with Ben as I did with Evan and Zach. Preterm labor and crazy contractions, only that was back when I had the ability to dilate and I spent the entire last trimester 4 centimeters dilated. And completely alone. At 35 weeks, they decided I had made it far enough and decided to put me in the hospital with Pitocin to get me the rest of the way, but it didn't work. After 4 days of pain-med -free Pitocin contractions, they did a c-section. My first one. And I gave birth to my first preemie. And he was perfect. Absolutely beautiful. And all of my immaturity dissolved as I held him. I didn't have my mom anymore. Nor did I have my father or my completely dysfunctional siblings. But I had Ben.

I breastfed him, too. And I would sit and rock him and nurse him in my tiny one-bedroom apartment. And I would cry and cry because, after all I had been through, I just knew he was too good to be true and something was going to happen to take him from me. I just knew it.

Somehow having Ben brought back all of the issues with having lost my mom. I think it was just that I needed her then more than ever. But as the 2-year anniversary of her death approached, I had no idea how I was going to make it through. And then it happened. I will never forget that day.

Ben just wasn't acting right. He didn't want to eat. He was mottled and listless. And I was so inexperienced. I called the pediatrician and told them what had me concerned. I was advised to make sure he had enough wet diapers to show he was hydrated and to just relax. And I tried. I watched him almost the entire day, but he just got more and more lethargic. That evening, I called the doctor's line back and spoke to the on-call nurse. I remember my exact words: "You cannot convince me that there is nothing wrong with my baby." And so they reluctantly referred me to the local ER. We had Medicaid and it required a referral for ER services. I began to believe, also, that I was just being a nervous mother. But I still wanted to be sure, so I went. I took a cab there, for Christ's sake! And what happened from there is as permanently tattooed on my brain as much as my own name is.

We waited in the waiting area for what seemed like forever before a triage nurse called us up to see us. I apologized for my over-reacting as I tried to explain why I was concerned enough to bring him to the ER. I didn't have to do this for very long. As soon as she put her stethoscope to Ben's chest, her face went white and she grabbed him out of my hands and rushed to the back of the ER, behind the double doors that remain locked to the public until someone buzzes you in.

And I heard a drone of voices asking me his date of birth, his history, my name. All as the white noise of terror filled my head and I stared at the doors though which my angel had just disappeared. I just kept asking what was wrong, where was my baby, let me go to him.....Finally, they buzzed me in. And they ushered me to his room. But all of these people were in there. And they were stripping him down. And attaching monitor leads all over his chest. And I just kept begging them to just please tell me what was going on. But all they woud say was, "Honey, you need to call someone to come and be with you". And my thoughts! This is how they treated us all of the times mom almost died. Is Ben going to die? Please God, Pleasepleaseplease. I'll do anything. I'll be a better person. Please. No.

I did what they told me to do. I called my friend, Cindy. I told her they said I needed someone there with me, but I didn't know why. She urged me to go back and demand to know what was going on, that Ben was my child and I had that right. And so, disoriented by the maze of curtains in the ER, I tentatively walked back to his room and peeked behind the curtain to ensure I had th right bed before barging in. Oh. Oh My God.

I could just make Ben out on the stretcher between the mass of people in that room. And someone was reciting numbers that meant nothing to me then. And I heard the word "CLEAR!". And I saw my son's tiny six-week-old body jerk with the shock. We think we know the things we would do and say in that situation, but we don't. I know my hand covered my mouth and I let out a low wail that alerted the staff that I had seen too much. Someone's strong hands grasped my shoulders from behind and pulled me out of the room while one of the doctors kicked the door closed with his foot. By this point, I was begging. Please. Let me have my baby. What's wrong with my baby as a random nurse held me while I sobbed. Some man waiting in the hall to have his son's ankle x-rayed pulled a chair over to me, urging me to sit down and I cursed at him. And the nurse whispered over her head to a lady at the nurses station to please call a chaplain for me. Which only made it worse. You call the chaplain when someone has died. And they called Cindy back for me. I heard them say something about a chopper coming. And then I was sitting in this "quiet room" in the ER with a nun from the Chaplain's office. She held my hand and we didn't speak. And then Cindy was there and holding my hand while I cried and rocked back and forth in my grief. A nurse entered the room and said, "Mom, you can see him now." I thought I was going to see him in order to say goodbye.

They had moved him to a larger room to accomodate the equipment. Had moved the stretcher out for his tiny isolette. He had 3 IV's. He was hooked to a monitor for his heart, an oximeter. The wires seemed to cover his tiny newborn body. But he was alive. I couldn't hold him. There was only one thing I could do. From my pregnancy, "You are My Sunshine" was our song. I would sing it to him in the womb. There used to be a Johnson and Johnson ad that had a mom singing it while she washed her baby, and everytime it would come on, newborn or not, Ben would turn and look at the tv. It was our song. And so all I knew to do was lean down and press my cheek to his and sing our song to him. And there and then, at six weeks of age, he looked at me and gave me his first real social smile. Through the wires and tubes.

Right afer that, he was air-lifted to Children's Hospital. Even though it was 10 minutes away, he was that fragile that they couldn't risk it. And it was there that I learned about the defect in his heart that had caused his heartrate to climb higher and higher. When we were at the first ER, it had reached over 360 beats per minute and his body couldn't keep up. He had gone into congestive heart failure and his body had been in the process of shutting down. And he had to be resuscitated. They estimated that if I had waited just 10 more minutes, he would have died. And although there were different causes involved, he went into congestive heart failure on the 2-year anniversary of mom's death from congestive heart failure. She had just had hers as a result of lung disease.

Ben ended up with a team of specialists. A pediatric cardiologist. And then another more specialized cardiologist who dealt exclusively with electrophysiology of the heart. I was taught to check his pulse. He was on a heart monitor all of the time. If his heartrate got over 120, I was told he needed to get to a hospital. But babies have fast heartrates and I was just a young girl. If he cried, he got up there. Later when he was diagnosed with asthma, and I would give him his medications, it would make his heartrate increase. It was a mess. And as a result of my inexperience and lack of knowledge, this meant I had him in th ER a lot. I was so terrified after the first experience with it. Well, one time, Ben saw a doctor who was part of their Child Abuse Task Force. And there was this new thing flooding the media called Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. And though he never asked why, he saw the number of times Ben had been to the ER and he made his false accusation. I was 6 months shy of my 23rd birthday and Ben was 17 months old the day my life ended. The state, acting on this over-zealous doctor's word, came in and took my baby. They wouldn't tell me where he was. I just know they kept putting him in foster homes. In desperation, I did the only thing I could think to do: I called my oldest sister, a cardiac nurse, thinking she would help me. She would understand and help me get my son back. Instead, she used a grudge she harbored against me for being mom's favorite and she got custody of Ben. She completely impeded the process. Social workers gave me all kinds of hoops to jump through without telling me how to jump through them. It took them over a year to find a forensic psychiatrist to evaluate me. Thinking this was the final task in getting my son back, I looked to my appointment with him to be my lifeline. And he did exactly what I wanted after a full day's worth of tests and psych evaluations. During the final step in the process, an interview with me, he finished up and told me I could leave. I asked what they were going to do, and he asked what I meant. "Well, they said I have Munchausen Syndrome. You're supposed to tell them if I do or not", I said. He asked who had mentioned those words to me, then started to describe why it was they would think that. That I had Ben to the ER 32 times in 17 months, which was very Munchausen-like. "But wouldn't that also be the actions of a mother who is scared to death for her baby?", I asked. He gave me a gentle smile and said yes, and that was why he was going to tell them I did not have Munchausen by Proxy. I thought it was over. Ben would come home. I would get my life and my breath back.

No. The state continued to drag their heels. And everytime I called my sister to arrange visits with Ben, she would scream at me about Mom. About stuff from my childhood. I still did all could to bring Ben home. I met John in the midst of all of it. He even went through parenting classes to show the state he was supportive of the goal of Ben coming home. We waited for the report from the psych eval. The psychiatrist had a heart attack in the midst of that. It took 6 more months to get his report. The report that told them that I did not have Munchausen Syndrome, but instead had emotional hang-ups about my mother's death coupled with the chronic illness and resuscitation of my newborn son that cause me to panic. He advised counseling for me, and I agreed. Always with the goal of bringing Ben home.

John and I were married and I was in the first trimester with my pregnancy with Evan when a social worker sat in my living room and told us that the state would be recommending that Ben remain with my sister because of the length of time that had passed. The length of time it took them to complete the investigation. I kept up visits with Ben, though. Anytime with him was better than none. And then the complications with Evan's pregnancy started and I was hospitalized indefinitely for my crazy contractions. I couldn't regularly make the one-hour drive to see him because I was pretty much held hostage in a hospital bed on a mag sulfate drip. My sister used this against me and stopped complying with the order for my visits. I was in the deepest, darkest, blackest of depressions without my baby boy. John and Evan are the only reasons I resisted suicide. Evan needed me. And though it felt as if my heart were being ripped from my chest, I knew that Ben needed a stable home. He learned to call my sister "Mommy". He had years with them. And even though the state was horrifically wrong, I could not allow myself to disrupt his life. It wasn't his fault, and I loved him too much to hurt him. I moved away because the temptation to take him and run with him was just too great.

Years later, I saw Ben. We moved back up north when I took my job at the hospital in Indiana. He was 9. Evan's age now. And he had since been diagnosed as autistic, which killed me. He came to my house, thinking I was his aunt Andi. And it killed me a little more inside everyday. And gave me the greatest joy. I got to see Evan play with his older brother, even though it was under the ruse of cousins playing. But Evan is a smart, smart kid. And one day, he referred to Ben as his brother. And we had to end it because Ben's emotional issues meant that he couldn't handle knowing I was really his mother. Even though I think he knew. He would always ask me to tell him about his birth. And each time I would see him, it would break my heart and I would be reduced to the suicidal trainwreck instead of the wife, mother, an healthcare professional I had since become. I couldn't allow that. Not for Ben. Not for John. And not for Evan. And I had to move on.

Or so I said.

I will never move on. Over the years, I have gotten very, very good at the act. Now, if you see me, you would never know I'm just a shell. You cannot even see the jagged scars running through every fiber of my being. And I cannot escape it. His birthday is the 18th. And it is so hard. But it isn't just that. He comes back to me about a million times a day. Zach looks a lot like him. The same rosy, chubby cheeks. The same blue eyes. And Ben is here. When I'm in the car, on the way to work. When I'm changing Zach's diaper. When I'm helping Evan with homework. And I bide my time until he's 18. When I can tell him the truth.

Benjamin, you are my son. My firstborn. Even in your absence, you have never been far from me. You are always here. Do you remember my voice? I need you to remember. Can you hear me singing to you as I nursed you to sleep? Do you remember Love You Always? The story I used to read to you when you were a baby, as you drifted off to sleep? By Robert Munsch. "I'll love you forever, I'll love you for always. As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be." It's so true,Ben. You really are my Sunshine. Still. Always.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Girls Can Be Easier...

Shoes. Holy shiznit, the kid needs shoes. Again. This is enough to send me into a complete and utter meltdown, running to my ER like some of the drug-seeking patients we get, begging for Xanex. (Incidentally, you know they are "seeking" when they call them "Zannies". Just sayin'.)

Lemme tell you about the last time I physically took Ev to a shoe store. He was in what I called a phase where he liked Hannah Montana. No joke. Even though Miley's voice made me want to scratch at my ears until they bled, I still know all of the words to "The Best of Both Worlds". And I was right: it was just a phase. But he wanted these pink, sparkly Hannah shoes. I guess this is what happens when you raise your kid in an environment where there really are no gender roles. He will not be bashful at all when it comes to telling you what he wants and likes, even if that is a glittery pink tutu. Or sparkly pink shoes. And I have even gone so far as to buy the kid pink slippers because they were branded with Miley's face.

But you wear slippers in the house.

Where you live with people who are legally obligated to love you and not make fun of you, lest they spend the rest of their lives paying for your therapy.

Where there are no mean children who will make fun of you for wearing sparkly pink shoes when you have a penis on your person.

So while the quasi-feminist side of me wanted to give in and buy the damned shoes, because, hey, there really is no such thing as "boy" or "girl" anything in my eyes, I do have to present this child to the rest of the world. And so I said no. And then tried to make up for it by telling Evan he could pick out any shoe from the boys' section. But this is Evan. And Evan gets what Evan wants. And so he drew even more attention to us by throwing a fit and wailing, forcing his father to literally drag him out of the store. And I got all upset that he turned down a section full of designer shoes and decided that was just fine, that the kid would get El Cheapos. Just to prove my point. And so I took him to Payless.

Holy Crap. Bad, bad idea, Andrea! Because there is not a piece of children's apparel I hate any more than a pleather pair of shoes with a big, fugly, plastic character applique on the side. Gah! And there they all were: Batman, Pokemon, Bakugan, Lightening McQueen...Horrible. (Incidentally,if you choose to buy these for your kids, I mean to say that they are fabulous, really. Just not my taste!) He couldn't get the white leather gym shoes. He wanted a big plastic face. Noooooooo! And so we left there and went to the mall. Where there are all sorts of sporting goods stores. No Hannah Montana. No plastic heads. Just gym shoes.

And Evan, because he is my kid, picks out the most expensive pair he can find. And I was not about to pay $200 for shoes he would have looking like garbage within one month. And so when I tell him "$100 or less", which I think is pretty fricken generous for shoes for a then-8-year-old, he has another meltdown, and we go to the car with the intention of leaving.

And then I remember why we came in the first place. That his shoes have a hole in the sole and he needs new ones or a social worker will take him away.

And so I bribe him with $10 if he will just get sensible shoes. Please. For me.

And so we head into Stride Rite, where he discovers these shoes that have "super balls" in the soles. Okay. By this point, they could have steel spikes in the soles and I would buy them. We had been at it for 4 hours. So I bought the shoes. I didn't even look at the price. I didn't care. I knew they were good quality because they were Stride Rite, but they looked like cheapies. He insisted, though.

They were $90. And the first day he wore them to school, he came home crying because one of his classmates incessantly teased him that his shoes looked like they came from the dollar store. And he begged me to go back to the first shoe store and please just buy a regular pair of Nikes like I had originally wanted. And because if I could stand him getting picked on, I would have just bought the friggin' sparkly pink ones in the first place. There should have been some major lesson in it for him. I know, I know. I ran in and saved his day once again. I reinforced that he can throw tantrums and I will still eventually give in.

But childhood can be rough. Especially for the highly intelligent kid with the mind of a wise adult, trapped in the body and classroom of a 9-year-old. The love I have for the kid means that I will make anything that I can just a bit easier for him. We'll learn the lessons later.

And so here we are. 5 months from that experience. And he has worn through another pair of shoes. I could put my foot down and insist he wear the super ball shoes, but they are a tad too small. He actually asked for a pair of Nikes. Air Max. In his current size, they're $65. Score! I can do that. But wait! They only go up to size 3???? Where are the 3 1/2's???? Oh! 3's are "preschool sized" and 3 1/2's are "grade school sized". And so Nike has doubled the price. For about 1 inch more of shoe. Fabulous.

And so this is a tale for all of you crazies out there who insist girls are easier to raise than boys. (Well, this and the time I paid a fortune for a "real" NFL jersey for him, only to have the little girl behind him in class peel off all of the letters---Josie, your mom still owes me 80 bucks!)

And why I am seriously needing anxiety meds to buy shoes that are about 6 inches long. And why I am jealous that in third-world countries, they don't have to wear shoes...