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

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Proof of Life

Sorry. Not much to post about. Working like crazy, recovering well from the tendonitis in my left foot and ankle. Starting classes in a couple of days and spending my non-working hours doing such thinks as making sure I know how to navigate the online college experience and obtaining textbooks and needed software. Plus we are in the market for a new car and I have been dealing with that as well. So far, I have looked at the VW Toureg (too expensive), the VW Routan (grrr, a minivan), the CR-V (not much more room than we have now). Next up is the Chevy Traverse (love it, but we'll see what the dealer can do for me on price). Plus I'm trying to finish the book I've been reading that is completely unrelated to work or school before I find myself in the throes of juggling like a madwoman again. Sorry. Boring boring boring. Hope everyone is doing well out there in the Blog World. P.S. Zach has 2 teeth now. So cute.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I work amongst some of the most ridiculous, petty drama you could imagine, considering these are all college-educated adults. This one de-friended this one on Facebook, this one screwed someone's husband and as a married woman, another one completely removed from the situation took complete offense. And because another one is BFF's with the defriended one, the de-friendee is now on her shitlist. And on and on, so it goes. I mean, really. And I try to stay out of it. I really do. There are going to be disagreements because we work long hours under stressful conditions, and we are all human. I've had my disagreements. But adults move on. And we are not going to like every person in our department. There are about 50 therapists in my department. Someone is going to dislike me, and that is okay. But be an adult. Be professional. And so this post is all about work.

Let's start with the Good, shall we? One of my coworkers asked if Zach needs any summer clothes, and since I have only bought about 5 or so summer outfits so far, I mentioned that we could use some, that I haven't really shopped. Well, she had us meet her and gave me bags of her son's cothes to go through. Oh holy crap. There were 4 pair of swim trunks, 6 pairs of sandals, 30 complete outfits and a ton more separates, 7 pairs of light pajamas, and even an unopened pack of swim diapers. All looking brand new, all designer labels. So while I had this huge list of stuff the boys needed for summer, all that is left for me to buy Zach is bigger-sized onesies. Seriously. Love it!

The Bad: Well apparently, I have upset some people and I do not know why. I shouldn't care but I do. I have always worried too much about what others think of me and have been insecure about it. But I keep noticing people from work gone from my friends list on Facebook. Unlike some of my coworkers, I will not start WW3 over it. Hell, I won't even mention it to anyone. But it kind of makes me wonder what it may be the result of. Am I just a bad person? Am I completely pathetic for even worrying about it?

The Ugly: Apparently a coworker had her annual evaluation at work and my name came up. My supervisor mentioned the "problems" we have like I would instantly know what she is talking about, and I honestly have no clue. This person is always nice to me and this was the first I had heard of it. I just played dumb when I should have spoken up. I mean, there are some people who just will not like each other, but to go so far as to bring it up to my boss? Really? And the only thing I can think of was when I first found out I was pregnant with Zach and, keeping in mind the experience I had with Evan, I was sort of upset about it. This girl had been trying to have another baby for sometime, and got very upset, to the point of screaming at me, for being upset. She now, after my pregnancy, understands, I think. But at the time she was downright mean about it. I don't know if it stems from this or not. But this worries me. What did I do?

So anyhow, that is what is on my mind. Just a little concerned.

Off of Cream Cheese!

Okay, so tonight I made a dinner that was semi-homemade and delish, and so I thought I would share. I actually got the recipe from the back of a container of Philadelphia cooking cream cheese, and it was for "Easy Chicken Enchiladas". Of course I keep laughing because I keep thinking of one of my favorite movies of all time, which is 200 Cigarettes. If you had anything to do with the 80's and have not seen this flick, I say check it out! But anyhow, in it, Martha Plimpton's character is throwing a party and made some dip, on which everyone keeps complimenting her. And she keeps exclaiming, "I got it off of the back of cream cheese!!!" Ha!

So anyway, I'll tell you what the recipe calls for, then tell you what I did.

1 can diced tomatoes, 1 white onion-diced, I container of Philadelphia cooking cream cheese-Santa Fe Blend, 3 cups shredded chicken, cooking oil, Kraft Mexican Blend shredded cheese, 8 flour tortillas.
You're supposed to cook and shred the chicken breast, heat the oil and saute the diced onion, then mix 3/4 of the cream cheese, some of the shredded cheese, the chicken, and the cooked onion together, then roll the mixture in the tortillas. Place the them in a greased 12x9 pan, seam down. Spoon the remaining cream cheese over the top and sprinkle with more of the shredded cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350.
But I can't follow directions, and I was too lazy to cook the chicken and then shred it. So I mixed the onion with some lean ground beef, and cooked until the beef was browned. And I mixed that in in place of the chicken. And then it didn't seem like enough, so I cooked one of those Uncle Ben's microwaveable rice pouches (Spanich Style) and mixed about 2/3rds of that in the mix.

OMG, they were awesome. The pan was gone in like 3 seconds flat, I swear.
And I got the recipe off of the back of cream cheese!

Friday, March 25, 2011


"Reunited and it feeeeeels so goooooood......" Ummmm, not really. Yesterday, dear bloggy friends, I reunited with an old friend. It wasn't my recess buddy in grade school or my BFF from high school. It wasn't my college confidante or one of my sorority sisters (yeah, I was one of those). It was....dun, dun, dunh....The Mart Kart.

Yeah, I know. These things are great, making it possible for the infirm and extremely elderly and handi-capable all to go buy important things like food. And medicine. And their Depends. Well, they're great and wonderful and convenient...until you have to be the one on it.

Let's start with how I became an expert driver of the Mart Kart (yes, that really is the brand name of the cart Wally World uses. (Thanks to Evan, whose young and agile brain is able to store vast amounts of such useless info.) I became an expert while preggers, when I was on either bedrest or modified bedrest, and John would shout out, "Honey, I'm going to the store!" And I would yell, "Oh hells no, I'm COMIN'!" And most times I would just waddle to the car and ride along for some scenery, windows down for some fresh air and sunshine. And sometimes, depending what was needed, I would actually go in. But aside from my team of doctors' orders, I was physically incapable of walking through any store, especially the huge box stores like Wally World, Target, BRU. He would drop me off in front before parking the car, and I would be moving so slow that people passing me on all sides would literally create a breeze effect. Because I had been in bed for months and also because as soon as I tried to stand upright, the contractions would pull my belly so tight that it automatically had me walking stooped over. I would hunch and hobble and waddle my way to the electric scooters and hop on. I had so many misadventures on those damned things and became an expert.

Target's sucked. They had the big bumper thing on the bottom to keep you from getting too close to anything in the store. But this bumper thing is what caused me to crash into everything. It is what put the feat of God in the people working the electronics and how I got the best service as they brought different cameras to me so I could look and decide on one. There was no way they were going to let me get that close to a glass case. This was, of course, the same day I took out an entire rack of newborn clothing, and I am not even going there. Click the link if you want to read about Mach 5 embarrassment like no other. It was also the week before Zach's birth.

And then there was the time I thought for sure that I had been busted by the very one from my practice who finally told me, "No more, Andrea. You are to be on bedrest until you deliver. You're done." (I later 'fessed up and discovered that while he didn't see me that day, that according to him, he has busted many a bedrester that way.)

Or the day someone accused me of being on one out of laziness. Yep, I hate the things.

So here's what went down: I woke up just a couple of hours after falling asleep on Wednesday morning with my left foot filled with this intense ache in very localized places, yet still radiating up my leg, if that makes any sense at all. I honestly thought it was the weather because it was sunny and 70 here one day and literally 34 degrees and cloudy the very next day. And trying to storm on top of that. I have a bit of arthritis in that leg after having ACL surgery in 2003, so I thought maybe it was the beginning of that type of pain. I took some ibuprofen and went back to sleep. It got worse, but I went to work that evening as planned. Within 2 hours of starting work, I had no idea how I was going to make it through the full 12 hours. It was that bad. I did make it until all of my patients had been seen, though, and I handed off my pager to one of the other therapists. I had to make J0hn come and get me, and went home to ice and elevate my foot. Which helped. Until I tried to stand on it again. I ended up in the ER, getting it x-rayed. I felt silly and stupid and was seriously worried that they would think I was drug-seeking because there is nothing visibly wrong with my foot. Nada. Except I have the ugliest feet. Bunions, ingrown toenails, calluses. Because what I do for a living doesn't go hand-in-hand with sandal season. But I got people who knew me. And I turned down the pain shot I was offered and requested an anti-inflammatory injection instead. And they said it is bad tendonitis, that they could see hazy areas of inflammation on the x-ray, and that I may have some underlying stress fractures as well, but I won't know that until it fails to get better. But I am on crutches now. And spent last night drugged up enough that I slept through the entire season finale of Jersey Shore....Erm, I mean another show--a more high-brow show that isn't so embarrassing. ItalicSucky sucky sucky. Because I apparently work too much. (In fact, it was Wednesday and I had already worked 48 hours this week....They may have been on to something!)

And so I am grounded for a couple of days. But Zach needed diapers because I never did manage to make the switch to cloth. And he needed formula. (Completely random tidbit and silver lining in all of this? That last night, I bought either the last or second-to-last bit of infant formula I have to buy for Zach! That crap is so expensive! And I have yet to decide if I am going to use the toddler formulas they make now.) And the fridge was bare here. And so I had to use the damned scooter. Again. And John laughed at me through the entire store, though Zach watched me from his perch in the cart and seemed to be fascinated that Mommy was motorized.

Such is life.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Thanks for Ruining the Lesson....


Today, we were making the trip home from the park when we encoutered a homeless guy. I am reasonably soft-hearted about this and will do what I can. And this guy said he just needed food. So we take a detour through a nearby McDonald's drive-thru because I'm sure he didn't care about counting calories and fat content at that point. We not only bought him a combo meal, but we also got him a $30 gift card with the idea that it would feed him for a couple of days. Evan was in the backseat making his sad Evan face. The kid has a bleeding heart like me and promptly wanted us to take the man home with us to live forever. I was setting a good example by doing this in front of Evan. My way of saying, "Evan Robert, you appreciate the things you have and you always do what you can for your fellow man who may have a lot less than you." I am feeling all uber-Mom-ish and proud that I am setting such a great example. And Evan is feeling proud that we are doing something nice for the man.

So we maneuver down one-way streets to get turned around in traffic so we can drive by the man in a way that allows John to quickly hand the man the food and gift card while in traffic. And we do, and he thanks us. And so now we have to turn around again to get to the direction we were originally going. Which means we have to drive back by him.

The Bastard! He was still there. With his sign that says "feed me" or whatever it said. After I spent $40 on him because he was starving. If he were truly hungry, wouldn't he have been eating the damned food?

So lesson plan averted. Instead, Evan learned that there are people out there who will take advantage of those willing to help, that this is probably why there are so few people willing to do so anymore. And this is what is wrong with humanity in general.

Not exactly the lesson I wanted my baby to learn at such a young age. It would have been more appropriate if Evan were, say, 20 or 30. Not 9.

Bastard will probably go et in his nice car and hit the drive-thru to feed his family that is waiting at home for him. Home that is probably nicer than mine. I got swindled.

Free Shopping is Lovely

So I had this big in-store credit for the breastfeeding boutique. Which would have come in handy any time in the past 10 months, because this woman literally has every-stinkin'-product for breastfeeding moms that I have purchased. My herbal supplements, my end-of-the-alphabet-sized nursing bras. Even all of my nursing tanks I have layered under my clothes for all of this time (doesn't seem like a biggie until you consider that everybody else carries the ones designed for stick-thin women, and aside from a few people I know, what mom is a stick immediately postpartum???). But now? Now that Zach is almost a year old and I have decided I am done? I didn't think I would find a thing.

I was wrong. I was so wrong, And it all seemed free because I didn't have to pay for any of it with plastic or paper! Which made me feel like I was on Cloud 9.

First of all, Big Baby Woombies. (B, you asked me about these a long time ago, and I wish I would've tried them then!) Here's the skinny on the swaddlers: Zach still sleeps swaddled. He shoulldn't because he is 10 months old, but he sleeps so well that way that I can't fight it. But he gets his arms loose now, waking himself up. The Woombies are made like a sleeper, zipping all the way up to the neck, and are confining, but still stretchy enough for him to wiggle and squirm. And I got 2 of them. And we heart the Woombies. Seriously. They also have one that lets you gradually train them to sleep without it by gradually giving them more freedom with their arms. We will be using that, I can tell you right now.

Bebe au Lait Double Reversible Bibs: I bought only one of these because they were really pricey in my book. $25.00 for one bib, when I honestly usually buy the 10-pack of bibs at BRU for $10, simply because they get stained. But this bib seemed posh and cute and the design and concept was really neat, so I decided to try one. Plus, since they are made to match the patterns of Hooter Hiders nursing covers, the majority of the patterns were rather feminine, and I only found one pattern in the store that would not make Sniper John the Marine freak the eff out. But I love it enough that I will be ordering more. After I see how it holds up in the laundry, of course.
Baby Legs. I bought a pair of Baby Legs and they are the best thing since sliced bread! Because Zach is at that age where he wants to go go go, diaper changes have become a pain in the butt, especially when he does the dirty. He spends the entire time trying to get away, and some times he is successful. Anything that complicates that is bad--i.e. pants. But with these, you can keep his legs covered, all warm and protected as he crawls all over, yet he can be in a onesie, so diaper changes are quicker and closer to painless. He still protests, and now that he babbles more, the newest thing is to cry, "OhMAMAMAMAAAAA!", which successfully breaks my heart and melts me in one step. But it really is quicker, so I have to endure the heartbreak less. Of course John couldn't help but point out their resemblance to leg warmers of 80's fashion, which had to be the most useless fashion fad ever (I still had them, though--don't laugh at me!). The entire first night Zach had them, John was singing Pat Benetar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot". We need more of these, too.
I got a Maya Wrap. I know, I know. The Ergo was supposed to be the carrier to replace all of them. But I was talking about it being harder to use now that Zach is bigger and that the hip carry in it seems way complicated. And the woman's daughter, there working with her 18-month-old daughter in tow, did a demonstration for me on carrying a big baby in it, and I was sold. We used it today at the park and it worked like a charm.
And finally, the subject of the picture above: I bought Zach a Sophie the Giraffe. So many people I know swear by this teething toy. And here's the thing: Zach really doesn't gum anything. We have tried anything and everything: those soft flexible hands and feet that Evan loved when he was a baby (boy, did I have to hunt for them in order to try them for Zach!), textured rings, rattles with teething ends on them, the water-filled ones that go in the fridge, wooden ones....Anything that would catch his interest and would relieve his sore gums. The kid still has no teeth, so I want him to find something that works in order to help him help himself to break them through. They're still right there! The only thing we hadn't tried was Sophie. ("Sophie le Girafffffeeeee" according to a coworker of mine with a 7-month-old girl). And so I got Zach a Sophie. And it went like this: I bring it home, and John sees the price tag and flips out that I spent $25 on a rubber teething toy, first of all. I am trying to explain to him that it is the teething toy, and apparently Mason of Kardashian fame even has one (again, the girl at work). And it is going to cure the endless teething. I mean, we are going to wake in the morning and all 4 of the teeth that are straining against Zach's gums are going to be out. All because of $25 Sophie. And then I get the box opened. And the first thing that comes to mind is a 99-cent doggy chew toy. It really does have that texture. And smell. And sound. Honestly I am kind of appalled because I immediately think that I could have gone to Petsmart and achieved the same effect. I mean, am I giving my baby a dog toy? But I get over it and give it to Zach.
Zach effing hates Sophie. He puts it up to his face, and I think this is it, he is going to chew on it! But then he must've smelled her aroma, which smells like a box of latex gloves or a freshly unwrapped Trojan (you pick), and he wrinkles his nose and throws her. And I retrieve her and give her back to him. Same reaction. I had the camera all ready to take a picture for you, but he kept throwing her. Finally, while he was all smiley and interacting with me, I slyly sat Sophie on his lap and snapped the above pic. What you don't see in it is that 2 seconds after the pic was taken, he discovered that the offending giraffe was back, and Sophie abruptly flew across the room again. We are a stubborn bunch, though, and Evan and I are dead-set on teaching Zach to love Sophie like he is supposed to. John just laughs at us, but between Evan and I, Sophie is always there with Zach. He'll get used to her and we'll have the miraculous teeth popping through little swollen gums, I swear. That has to be the case because I am out of options for the teething, y'all.
And so that concludes my free shopping experience, It was real. It was fun. I got some stuff I love for the baby. And then I was abruptly thrust back into the real world by a phone call that Zach's new Pediped shoes had come in and I had to go and pay for the $200 shoe order. Such is life.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Letting Go of Things

It started with the shoes.

This past week, I have been streamlining our very existence. And it started in Zach's closet as I packed up the outgrown clothes that had been loaned to us so they can be returned. And I saw the shoes. 16 pair of Pediped shoes, in various infant sizes, all of which Zach had outgrown. I lingered on them a bit. They were so cute and I remembered when he was that small for just a minute. And then I put them into a bin and moved on to the next thing. Newborn swaddlers. The source of the sleep-filled nights when he was a newborn and none of the other new parents out there were getting any. And the Boppy with which I used to nurse him. And so on, throughout Zach's room. I tried to do this before and couldn't. The obscene amount of tiny newborn clothes still filled Rubbermaid totes all over this house because I couldn't stand the thought of getting rid of them. And so I started going through those as well. I kept a few things like the outfit he wore on the trip home from the hospital and the little Ralph Lauren one-piece he wore in his newborn portraits. He'll have those when he is an adult. But the rest? It went into the bins, also. And I took all of it to a consignment shop and got rid of it. I made room for new things. The walking toys Zach is really starting to use now as he finally pulls himself up to stand and is starting to find his legs, the bigger sizes of clothes he will be wearing when he starts to take his first real steps. New, new, new.

How fitting can you get?

Out with the old and in with the new.

Now, before I say what it is I am about to say, I want to first say that I have no intention of offending anyone who might read this, and if you start to feel offended, please read it all before you come to any conclusions. But I was never this person. I honestly thought the whole organic, extra-crunchy, all-natural stuff was silly. My mom never got into any of that with any of her 7 kids, and we were all healthy. Natural childbirth? What? Why, when there are such good drugs out there? I have said similar things as recently as when I was pregnant with Zach. I think it was my way of coping with the fact that I have never had a normal pregnancy. I would tell you I didn't give a damn as long as the baby was healthy.

I lied. I cared. Oh, I cared a lot. And I wouldn't even admit it to myself. So imagine my surprise when I feel this deep sadness after Zach's birth, all over the experiences I will never have. I never dreamed I would be that person. But I was. I literally had some symptoms of PTSD. Seriously. I would wake up in a cold sweat after having nightmares. It took until Zach was about 6 months old for me to stop having flashbacks. I would feel needle sticks in my hips all of the time. And I felt like I was the biggest wuss on the planet each and every time. And I was too embarrassed to admit this to anyone. I alluded to it and that is all. I endured a lot of pain for my children. For both Evan and Zach. And don't get me wrong: I would do it all again for either one of them. But even though I would love to have a little girl someday, I will never do it again. I will not put myself, my husband, my children through that. This is a big change from what I said when Zach was smaller. I said almost immediately that I wanted another one. Not anymore.

So what has happened? Well, I realized that the reason I couldn't bring myself to get rid of Zach's newborn things is that I was trying to hold on. To the experience of pregnancy and new baby, the hope of a normal childbirth experience. I just couldn't let it go. (I also think the emotional trauma of losing Ben so early in his life has something to do with this, but I cannot even scratch the surface of that because is and always will be a part of who I am.) But as I sat in Zach's bedroom floor, going through the tiny sleepers and onesies that I had previously latched onto, I realized how silly I was being. I don't need tiny outgrown shoes or sleepers. I have Evan. I have Zach. And just like I needed to rid myself of some of the outgrown things that had accumulated in order to make room for the new, I also had to let go of those feelings. Because there are so many new things coming our way: Zach's first steps, first tooth, first real word, first birthday. And Evan will be 10 years old this year. One whole decade! My baby! Such wonderful memories are coming my way as my life with these two miracles continues to unfold before my very eyes. And I need the room. I need to let that weight go so I can move on.

I will always remember. My pregnancies took so much out of me. So much more than the average woman has to give of herself to become a mother. I never could understand why that was. I always had such bitterness about that. And now I finally get it. I had to give more of myself, but in my eyes, my kids are so much more than the average. And it was so worth it.

And so here I am, 9 and 1/2 years after Evan's birth and 10 months after Zach's. And I have finally let go. I'm healed and whole. And just like it took every ounce of my being for those boys to make it into the world, I love them with every ounce of my being now.

Ending for the Third Time

I am finished with breastfeeding/ exclusively pumping. It was great. It was real. We did it. I'm glad we did and despite all of the trouble, there is no doubt in my mind that I would do it all over again. I love him that much. But it's really over. I finally got myself down to where I can quit pumping. Yesterday, I pumped twice and only produced 1 ounce total, on both sides, for the day. Yes, I'm really done this time. And to tell you how really done I am.....(Erm, I should say "finished", because the mix-up of finished/ done, as well as the exchange of good/well are just two of my pet peeves.)

So anyway, I was about to explain how finished I am.

I am so finished that I made a phone call to a local breastfeeding boutique tonight to see how I could go about selling my pump. The big MamaJamma. The Symphony. The one that retails for $2K. And at first the woman didn't really believe that I bought one. She said that most people who have brought them in have stolen them, that they only own one themselves and the rest of theirs that they rent out are actually leases from Medela, etc. I gave her the serial number and she called Medela and discovered that it was indeed sold to a buyer by the name of Andrea XXXXX, that it is available for resale. And she offered me $1K (and another $200 in merchandise was thrown in), which I thought was pretty damned good considering I have used it for the better part of a year. And with my employee discount at the hospital, I only ended up paying $1600. So if you do the math, it cost me $400 to use my own Rolls Royce of breastpumps for 8 months. And so I met her this afternoon and sold my pump.

I sold it.

John couldn't understand why I teared up as I was packing it up. Because he is a man and just doesn't get it. I did everything. I really did. And we had a good run, Zach and I. I remember when he stopped nursing altogether and I thought it was over. And then the pride I felt when he drank a full bottle of my milk and seemed to prefer it to formula. When Zach was about 4 months old, I dropped down to where I was getting 1/2 an ounce total output for both sides and I thought it was over. And I kept on. We have toured every nook and cranny of Cincinnati in order to find obscure herbs recommended online by sites advising on increasing milk supply: teas and tinctures and capsules. I remember the day John went to run errands and came back to find me completely topless with Zach in just a diaper in his Moby Wrap while I was doing the dishes. Desperate for time to do Kangaroo Care in between my crazy pumping schedule, this was the only way I could manage to do it. He really did think I had lost my mind at that point. But if it was supposed to increase supply, I was going to do it. I didn't care what it was.

I sold my pump.

I hated the damned thing. Waking me up every 2 hours. Sucking the life out of me in more ways than one. Making it so my life was consumed with pumping schedules and ounces produced and ways to get more, more, more. But I loved the thing. Because you cannot convince me that it would not have been over when Zach was just 2 months old if I hadn't bought it. And I am so connected to this baby, and I believe this is why. Because while my body wasn't tough enough to maintain him during the pregnancy, damnit I was strong enough to feed us both.

I sold it because I knew that I would always try to do better, try to do more. That so long as my body kept making mere drops of milk, I would try to make ounces. I had to close this chapter.

I sold my pump. This chapter is closed. I love you, Zachary.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Worry and Frustration

Evan has ADHD. You can spend 10 minutes with him and tell. We tried everything before we go the diagnosis because I believed, and still do, that the diagnosis is completely misused. Is your kid creative and bright and maybe a little bored? Medicate him. Does he not fit into the cookie-cutter image of other kids? Medicate him. It is so frustrating as a parent.

We tried everything. We met with a private psychologist, had meetings with the teacher and the guidance counselor of his school. We were told he was just really gifted and bored. And so we relayed the info to the proper people, and still received the same treatment. Pressure to put him on medication.

And then it got worse. And we took him to our family doctor, who could tell within a few minutes that he did have ADHD. We left that day with a script for ritalin. And it did nothing. Change it to Adderall and it worked. But it worked too well. You can look at the pictures of Evan over the years and tell the exact point where he started the medicine because it is like someone dimmed the light in his face, the spark in his eyes. It breaks my heart. He wouldn't eat, either. And at 8 years old, he lost so much that he dropped 25% of his weight in 3 months. And the Adderall was stopped immediately. We tried not medicating him and that lasted for about 2 weeks before we were back in the doctor's office, begging them to find something, anything to help him. The answer was Straterra, which lasted all of 2 days. Enter Concerta, and the kiddo was doin g better in class, but started to have more problems: manipulative, conniving, angry. After a couple of months of this, we said "enough" and didn't refill the prescription. That lasted about a month.

2 weeks ago, the principal of his school called us in the middle of the day and told us to not bother bringing Evan back to school unless he was medicated. I understood that he was having issues, but some of it was a stretch. For example, he got a behavior notice sent home because he accidentally farted in class. I swear. I know it's gross and we teach him manners, but he is a young boy. And when I asked him about it, he said he had a belly ache that day and he accidentally farted when he bent over to pick up a dropped pencil. And he said "excuse me". And he got a behavior notice.

I was angry at being forced to medicate him. Which, if we get down to brass tacks, was really what was happening. But what do I do? So I made an appointment for him and John took him. We asked them to put him back on Adderall because that is the only thing that got him to behave in school. I figured we could avoid the nasty side effects by just adjusting his dose. That was this past Friday. He started the medicine and--Wham!--the side effects started. The last time it at least took a few days for this to start happening. He acts like a Zombie. He won't eat. He behaves alright. Because he is too depressed and tired to misbehave. Well for the past 3 nights, he has not been sleeping at all. And complaining of a headache. And either vomiting or dry-heaving. I just had to page our family doctor and they called in a prescription for Phenergan so the poor kid can at least try to sleep without vomiting. It's horrible.
Tomorrow we take him to the doctor. And they are going to do something about this or he is stopping the medicine. I will home-school the child if I have to, though I believe doing so deprives kids of the normal social experiences of childhood. But a mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do.


Tonight was spaghetti night. And this time, Zach joined us. And what parent doesn't take photos of a messy spaghtti-eatin' baby? So here you go. It's practically a requirement of parenthood.

Who Pulled All of Those DVDs Out: The Anatomy of a Crime

Hint: It wasn't Evan this time....

Hmmmm, what's this????
Daddy's right there. Is he gonna stop me?

Nope, I'm gonna go for it!

I don't want that one!

Argh! Busted by Mama!

I'll try a new approach: STANDING!

How NOT to Get a Job

Let me set the scene for you: It is 3 AM. I have been busy as all hell because A) people keep trying to die in the hospital and we have had more codes than I thought possible in one shift. And I have the main ICU. And B) I already have 10 ventilators going. 10 patients on life support, and they keep coming because you go to the ICU when you unsuccessfully try to die. Plus I am in charge, and I have one guy who is in a code and I am getting called for all of his patients he can't get to because of that. And C) they are complete bullshit calls. (Example: I got called all the way to the psych unit for a patient "not breathing well at all" and I get there only to discover he has a stuffy nose. That's it. Clear breath sounds, 99% on room air. But he has nasal congestion. Seriously? I have people who aren't breathing without my help and I get called for that???) And so I have come back to the department for a brief second to wolf down a sandwich and a Diet Coke. And the phone rings.

Ringgggg, Ringggggg.

Me:"Respiratory, this is Andrea."

Caller:"Andrea, are you an actual therapist there at that hospital?"

Me:"Yes, I am. How can I help you?"

Caller, to be known from this point on as MORON:"How many therapist do you have there with you?"

Me:"Ummmm, who is this?" I'm kind of creeped out by the question.

Moron:"My name doesn't matter. But I saw you have a full-time night shift position opened. Will you hire a CRT? Because it says the position is for an RRT. "

Me:"Well, we hire therapists with their entry-level credential contingent upon them completeing their advanced practice credential within a year of their hire date....."

Moron:"DOES THAT MEAN I HAVE TO TAKE THAT TEST?!?! I hate taking tests. Tests are boring. And that one is expensive!" (She's sounded very agitated now.)

Me:"Well, there is quite a difference in pay between a CRT and RRT, so it pays for itself pretty quickly." (I'm thinking that this girl is an idiot if she thinks this is the way to get a job. And obviously lazy if she doesn't have the gumption to take the steps to get a credential that will further her career so much.)

Moron:"Okay, whatevs, how many patients do you have right now?"

Me:"Well, in the hospital we have about....."

Moron:"No, not in the hospital. How many patients do you have? Right. now. How many units of the hospital are you covering? And how many therapists do you have there tonight?"

Me:"Well, we have 4, which is standard at night. I have the MICU, and I am covering all of the patients in that unit. There are 10 ventilators running up there right now and....."

Moron:"OH MY GOD! Do they always work you like that??? I heard they did. I work at XXXXX now and I only have 2 treatments to give before 8 in the morning. That's what I'm used to. I don't like to work a lot. Or very hard. Ewwww. And a ventilator? I hate running vents. I haven't run a vent in 10 years."

Me:"Ummmm, we are usually pretty busy here. And since there are only 4 therapists in house at night, all of us may be asked to handle a vent or an intubation, even if we aren't assigned to an ICU..." (Okay, now I think I may be being punk'd. Where's Ashton?)

Moron:"Whatever, I guess I can try it. Where do I fill out an application?"

I had to give her the website where she can apply online. And I had to tell my boss this morning that if anyone calls who works at that hospital, to please not hire them. Who? Who really tries to get a job like that? Especially in our current day where even healthcare professionals are having difficulties finding jobs. I mean, when I applied for my current position, I called. But when I called, I spoke with the director of my department and simply asked, in a polite tone, if they had any available positions for a registered therapist. He asked me a few questions about my experience, and before I had even completed an application, HR had called me to schedule an interview. I actually completed the application and submitted my resume at my interview. But I was polite. And professional. And was eager to work. And motivated. Really.

So we really do have an open night position. And I swear I will die if this girl comes to work with me. Absolutely die. The last thing we need on night shift, where the staffing is bare bones, is someone who doesn't want to do the job.

God help me. What is wrong with people????

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Ten. 10 months. This week, I had to fill out my schedule request for the next 6-week schedule to come out, and I had to remember to mark myself off for the big day: Zachary's first birthday is that soon. And then, as if I wasn't already feeling that, today I got an email from the photography studio we use to recieve some discounts for his first birthday photos. And yesterday in Target, I saw all of the Birthday Boy stuff they have. And I started bawling in the middle of the store when I saw the little tee with a big blue 1 on the chest.

It was just yesterday.

It seems as if Zach's first year is flying by even quicker than Evan's did. As a matter of fact, next month, because of the way everyone's work schedule is falling, we are going to be making the trip down to John's parents' to celebrate Zach's birthday with them. There'll be cake and ice cream, and of course presents. And we'll sing "Happy Birthday" to him. And I will cry. Just like I cry every year with Evan. But Zach? This is hitting me even harder. Maybe it is because I'm getting older. Maybe it is because we always assumed Evan was to be the only child and Zach seems even more of a gift because of it. And more than anything, I don't ever want that gift to leave me. Having an older child has shown me just how quickly it all goes by. And so while this is the first birthday of many, I know that 2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9.....that they will all whirr by me in rapid succession. The tee with the blue one on it for that day and then the next day he is wearing a cap and gown, or a tux for his wedding. And even then, it will still have been just yesterday.

Just yesterday that I felt the last of those horrendous contractions and I begged the NICU staff to bring him to me. Just yesterday that the days of new babyhood flashed in a blur of home and togetherness and cuddles. Just yesterday that I held him on my chest and cried from his beauty.

So today, Zach is 10 months old. For 10 months, my very soul has existed outside of my body. For ten months, I have witnessed a miracle daily. And I won't bore you with milestones reached or new things he is doing, other than to tell you that we swear he said "Bubby" the other day, which is what we call Evan. This was the first time he made a consonant sound, and so now we know he is okay. Everything has fallen into place. He has escaped the debaucle of his pregnancy and premature birth literally unscathed, making him even more of a miracle.

2 months left of his first year...

I have loved being this little boy's mother. I cannot believe that he was not always a part of the plan. John is my heart. Evan has been my life and my breath. But Zach? Zach is my soul.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Another First

Because we are terribly healthy individuals and insist on passing our habits down to our kids, I present to you:

Zach's first McDonald's french fry.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Faded Old Jeans

thumbnailCAGWL73XI am a huge fan of old clothes. Comfortable clothes. And the best example is the old pair of jeans. You know the ones. The pair that seems to remember each centimeter of the curve of your hip. Soft against the skin and faded to perfection. You can shop and shop for new jeans. I have. Designer jeans on which I have spent an arm and a leg. But they always have the stiffness, the newness, the unfamiliar quality to them. They’re perfectly fine jeans. They fit well and look nice, but when it comes to comfort, to being home, they will never hold a candle to the faded old pair.

Of course I am not talking about jeans here.

The young girls at work are on a mission from some higher power to “spice up” my marriage. Meaning that they think John and I are boring. It all started with an invitation to a Pure Romance party that another coworker is holding. Of course being the older voice in the room, I made a statement to the effect that no matter how freaky-deaky I could possibly choose to be in my private life, there  is no way in hell that I would order a sex toy at a party with my coworkers. Yes, I realize the reps at these parties take each customer someplace private to complete the ordering process. But you still have to sit through the presentation. Yeah, right. Like I’m going to sit through a dildo show with my colleagues. So they think John and I have lost something.  They’ve volunteered to watch the kids. One even joked that she was going to take me lingerie shopping and make us a Marvin Gaye-esque mix tape. Because we are so boring. I made the comment that we have been married 10 years, that we have two kids, for crying out loud. To which both of them exclaimed that this doesn’t mean we have to let the spark leave our marriage. I think these young whipper-snappers are confusing familiar, comfortable, stable with boring. And this is where the difference in what one values comes into play.

We have all lived for that spark. The fireworks of a first kiss at the end of a good date. The thrill of the dating game. The fun of courtship. Just like shopping for those great new designer jeans. But I think we all eventually reach that point where comfort is most important. It is in that comfort zone where we find security, peace, and in the right circumstances, empowerment. And we slip on the faded jeans.

My marriage didn’t start out this way, of course. It took years of practice, years of breaking in much like the metaphorical jeans. But because we have had those years together, he has become perfect for me. Where I am weak, he is strong, and vice versa. He always gets the perfect gift because he knows me as well as I know myself and can know in an instant what it is that I will like. He knows when it is that I need to be left alone and doesn’t follow then. But he also knows when I need him to be there with me, by my side. How I like my eggs cooked in the morning, and exactly how much creamer to put in my coffee. When we watch a sappy movie together, he will look at me and away from the screen at precisely the moment in the film where I am going to start to cry. He is the only other one to know from where we have have come and to believe in where we are going. To have been there for me in all of the moments where I thought I was losing myself, to be the one to remind me just who I am when I needed it most.

John and I don’t need lingerie or sex toys or expensive dates. We don’t need to hand our kids over to someone else. We are happy enough to just be. With Evan. With Zach. As a family. Evan’s and Zach’s presence doesn’t take away that before they came into the world, there was an us. We know that. And this doesn’t mean that we forget how to be a couple when they aren’t here with us, either.

Quite simply, we have evolved over the past decade to where we don’t need any of that any more. It isn’t that the spark is gone because in order to have what we have together, there have to be some embers glowing constantly. Sparks are just the fleeting part of it all, and that isn’t enough on which to build a life together. We have so much more than that.

So comfortable and secure does not equal boring. Taking simple pleasure in each others’ company doesn’t mean for a single second that our marriage is suffering or lacking in some manner. The opposite is true. John is my home.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Welcome To Nerdom

Welcome to Nerdom where I am your Queen.
I have to explain and I cannot believe that I am going to admit this in black and white on the damned internet.
Tonight I went to Staples for supplies for school.
Like I am fricken starting kindergarten and my Mommy is going emblazon my name in permanent black block letters on everything from my requisite 2 boxes of tissues, all the way down to my shiny new crayons.
Except I'm not in kindergarten. And I am a grown-ass woman. Seriously.

So I get my binders and dividers, color-coded by subject. My new planner that has enough space to write assignments and exams and other details. Pens and white-out and post-its. And I feel so silly and stupid because, while nobody else knows what is going on in my head, I know.
And what is going on in my head? That I love new school supplies. And textbooks. And school in general. And I am almost giddy about it. Maybe it is because I was pretty much forced to abandon my education, not only when my mother died when I was a freshman in college, but also during pregnancy. And I want to get back to it.
Or maybe I'm just a nerd and there is no other reason than that. Because honestly, I could think of nothing more enjoyable than taking classes that interest me for the rest of my natural life. To always be learning. And so I am ready. Ready ready ready.
My first class, incidentally, is Marketing. Ha!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Flipping the Script

This is how I found Evan outside after I woke up yesterday. After the homework was completed and he did the required changing of the clothes to get out of his school uniform. John, of course, was oblivious. The kid was clothed, so he didn't care. But now I feel I need to point out that the child has jeans that fit him well. He also has every variety of shoe one can imagine for a 9-year-old little boy. But the rule is, after replacing expensive gym shoes every 2 months, that he is not permitted to go outside and play in mud and muck in his new-ish Jordans. His solution? A pair of brown leather oxfords, sans laces, and apparently socks are optional as well. The 6-inch flash of ankle really sets them off, don't you think?

But this? This is how he was playing. Outside. Where my neighbors and passers-by could see. Everybody look at the poor child whose parents don't provide appropriately-fitting clothing. I was so embarrassed. And then I started to thinking again. I hate when I do that.

Isn't it supposed to be the other way around as Ev gets older? Isn't he supposed to reach a point where he is embarrassed by us, too cool for us? But here lately, the kid will throw on anything. Too short, too long, holes, stains, worn-out? These are of no consequence to Evan. Of course I couldn't care less in the house. But we will be getting ready to go out-- to the mall, to dinner, wherever--and I will look and see Evan in this weird combo of clothing choices and if we haven't already left the house, I have to make him change. If we happen to have left already when the discovery is made, the plans are instantly changed to drive-thru meals and a return home. Of course there have to be solutions to this. But it goes a little deeper than just what he is wearing.

Since having Zach, I've been hyper-sensitive to how things appear. I take more pics of Zach because, well, Zach's a baby and is constantly changing and doing new things. Evan? Not so much these days. Example: Zach stood the other day--really stood. And I took a pic. No pic of Evan standing because he's been doing it for about 9 years now and it isn't so new. I can assure you that I did the same with Ev when he was Zach's age. And Zach is constantly outgrowing clothes or reaching new stages where he needs different gear or the next size up in clothing, so it seems we are always going shopping for something Zach needs. And it makes me question whether I am neglecting Evan.

Of course I'm not neglecting Evan. But I'm still crazy/neurotic/worried about it. And it's little stuff like this on which my neurosis feeds. Because people see us out and Zach is adorably dressed in brand names and Evan is soiled and stained and in disrepair. So then I am thinking that other people are judging me, when in truth, Evan would be dressed just as well and look just as clean-cut if we could revert to the days when I bathed him, I dressed him, I did his hair. I miss those days. Really I do. Because aside from the horrible clothing choices, we are also in what I am choosing to call "The Pig Stage".

The Pig Stage, seriously. Where he takes these God-awful long showers and emerges with hair that smells like dirty hair instead of shampoo. Ewwwwww. And I have to fight him to go back and wash himself. When did his personal hygeine go out the window? And the bedroom. We've already gone there. It's enough to make me insane.

So, since I have never had a daughter, I am left wondering if little girls do this stuff, too. Is this phase going to pass? Or maybe it is just that I am whirling from the over-abundance of weiners in my house. I think we should add another pair of ovaries to the mix. Someone else who smells like flowers and stuff. Who bathes and actually enjoys being clean. Someone who will be able to tell the boys, while I am at work, that they really shouldn't go out in public like that.

Or maybe I just need a kid who will wear clothes that fit.

First Do No Harm


Primum non nocere.

Of course we all recognize this as the cardinal rule of any medical practice. Nonmaleficence, meaning that it is entirely possible that the best course of action for me to take in an emergency is to actually do nothing. That doing nothing, and thus not causing further harm, may be better than being wrong in a manner that leaves my patient in worse shape. Now take all of that and combine it and roll it into a big ball and realize that I grapple with this in a split second when my patient has stopped breathing. That instant that truly seems like an eternity. The great void between the realization that your  patient is indeed pulseless and apneic, and the pushing of the big blue button that will trigger the calling of a Code Blue. In my career, I have had situations where I go back and think about  a patient and wonder if me reaching any conclusions sooner would have changed an outcome. And thus far, I have had the luxury of being able to say that I don’t feel as if I have harmed anyone.

Last night, I had to face that possibility when, after some aggressive airway management for a patient who wasn’t ventilating well, I witnessed the spiral. First the oxygen saturation starts to drop. And then the blood pressure is low, followed by the slowing of the heart rate. Finally you reach that chasm where the heart ceases to beat, whether it be a pulseless ventricular rhythm or completely asystolic. The patient is dead. Expired. And you can do all you can and whip out everything you have learned in years of education and professional experience in the hopes that it will help. That the heart will resume beating. (Not so much the breathing because, honey, I can make anyone breathe with the right equipment.) But this happened last night. While I was there with my hands on that patient, taking the opportunity to teach a new ICU nurse about ventilator basics. I have never had that happen to me. And after we got her back not once, but twice, and they finally got the stat chest film for which I kept begging, it was determined my patient had a pneumothorax. And so when the family arrived at the bedside and told us to stop all efforts at resuscitation due to patient wishes, in the blink of an eye, my role switched from caring for the patient to caring for the family. To help them find some peace in her death. I did all I knew to do. I extubated her, washed her face, smoothed her hair, tucked her in, and left the room so they could have those final moments with her on her death bed.

And then I went into my back office in the ICU and I cried. Actually I started crying before I got there, prompting fellow ICU staff to follow me to make sure I was okay. I was. I was still breathing. My patient wasn’t. It was the first time in my career where I was physically working with a patient when they went down, and my instantaneous thought was, “Did I do that? Did I hurt her?” Of course after logically recounting the steps to her demise, it is obvious to me that she suffered the pneumothorax before I did anything that could have caused it, and thus I cannot blame myself. But it just did something to me, and I cannot really explain why.

I love my job. Love it. But I have always had confidence in my professional skills and training. I haven’t really doubted myself before this. Well, I have, but not in the manner that I had to stop and think on whether or not I did damage. I have always said that the most dangerous person in healthcare is the one who will not admit that they don’t know everything. So with that in mind, there has always been a healthy dose of fear. There has to be when you are literally running someone’s life support. But that fear cannot be so great that in inhibits one’s performance, one’s ability to be on their toes when a true life-and-death emergency strikes.

Lately, as a senior therapist, I have been mainly working the critical care units. Once in a blue moon, my boss will give me something else so I don’t go insane, but it isn’t very often. And the thing about this is that I am in a teaching hospital. Meaning when there is an emergency and the code team assembles, it really is a team effort. In other areas of the hospital, this may not necessarily be the case because there are more seasoned physicians running the show. But in the ICU’s, you get residents. And the presence of “MD” behind their names has yet to give them the idea that they know all because of their education level. They know that an experienced ICU nurse or therapist has seen a lot and can help them. I work with them on intubations, on managing pulmonary issues. I give crash courses in blood gas interpretation or ventilator management. And in a code, when we get to the point where we have exhausted all possible causes, or in one where the cause is obviously pulmonary in nature, they look to the therapist. Me.

I don’t know what I’m getting at here. I think it is just that I had to think last night that it was possible that I hurt a patient. And even after coming to the conclusion that I did not, the fact that I could have just seemed to linger. And of course this has made me think of my role in the hospital even more than I have before. The pressure. The weight. The responsibility.

I upheld my ethical commitment last night. I did no harm. But I had to come face to face with the idea that I hold lives in my hands when I go to work and clock in at night. That I very well could hurt someone. I think it just caught up with me.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Griswold's Bouquet

Okay, so I was thinking of this today for no particular reason. It isn't the day of the week, the season, or anything else for that matter. I just randomly thought of it and laughed. I laughed because Clark Griswold loves me. If you don't know who that is, then you have an assignment for this week: go to any video store or Netflix and rent National Lampoon's Vacation. It may be that you're too young to know. Either that or you have had your head crammed up your own arse for about 25 years or so.

But anyway...

Clark Griswold loves me. Lemme explain.

It was a hot summer day and I was at the midpoint in respiratory school. I was actually trying to cram as many of my premedicine requirements in as possible that summer while on break from my respiratory classes, and was enrolled in more chemistry classes than one should ever take simultaneoulsy. General, organic, blah, blah, blah. John was coming to pick me up that day, as he had my car. It wasn't a special day or anything. Just a run-of-the-mill, this-sucks-that-I-have-class-today kind of day. I would've rather been by the pool. Or on the lake. Or inside my air-conditioned house, in comfy sweats, with the thermostat set on 50 degrees and blissfully pretending it's winter. But nope. Chemistry.

So I get out of class and John isn't there yet. I hate that. If you are going to keep my car, don't make me wait on you to pick me up. I don't care if I get finished an hour early. If you have my car, it is your job to telepathically know that and be there. So I'm pissy. And hot. And carrying about 500 lbs. of texts. I don't know how long I waited on him that day, but in my mind it seems like 2 hours, though it was probably more like 10 minutes. And up rolls John in our car.

I'm gearing myself up, getting ready to let him have it because I'm a dragon-lady. I fling open the car door and suddenly I am speechless because in the passenger seat, there is the most gorgeous arrangement of peach roses I have ever seen. I should stop here and tell you that peach roses are my absolute fave. They have to be the true peach. Not pale pink or orange-ish white. Peach. And so on that note, they can be kind of hard to find. And I love them.

So John finds peach roses and buys me a bouquet arranged in a vase, trimmed with this gorgeous sage-colored ribbon. And completely surprises me. And so I can't yell at him for making me wait anymore. I go to get into the car after flinging the backpack in the backseat. It is kind of difficult to maneuver around the huge bouquet, but I lift it up and slide in underneath it, gingerly sitting the vase on my lap. I didn't bump it on the roof of the car. Didn't whack it with the door or maim it with my seatbelt. But...

The instant I sit it on my lap, all of the blooms fall off of the stems. Seriously I have never seen anything like it. Complete and utter flower decapitation. It wasn't just that the petals fell off. The entire bloom. And they were still mostly closed, too. So I am left with a dozen of what look like weeds. John and I both stared in complete amazement for about 5 seconds, unable to say anything. Of course that was before he peeled out of the parking lot, raving mad and headed straight to the florist. He was mumbling these incoherent sentences, something about "$100" and a few F-bombs. Mind you, this was when I was in school. And we were seriously broke, y'all. I don't know how much he dropped on my V-day roses this year, but we still to this day don't spend that much on flowers unless someone is getting married or has died and that someone is a close relative. (I'm sure the 2 dozen I got for V-day this year was even more, and I don't even want to go there.) But then? As broke as we were at the time? Wow.

So John goes back to the florist and takes them in. He had just left, so the lady obviously remembered him. And he walks in and hands her the weeds in the vase and the flowers separate from them and demands to have a full refund. And she tells him--get this!--"I'm glad you brought them back so I can maybe sell them to another customer." Because I'm sure the demand for decapitated roses is sky-high. And she tries to give John another color of rose. He's having none of that. He takes his cash and gets back in the car where I am waiting for him.

Of course by this point, I am touched that he did this for me on a random day. Really I am. The gesture was enough for me. But he is bound and determined that I am going to get peach roses. That is what he set out to do and that is what I am going to get, damnit. And so he drives all over town, despite my protests, to every florist he can think of. And he finds the peach roses. And they are even more beautiful than the first.

We laugh and joke about that day often. The day something so simple as bringing me a surprise bouquet of flowers went completely wrong. About the random and bizarre happening to us. It's been sort of representative of our relationship. If something could possibly go wrong, it will. And no, our last name isn't Murphy. We are indeed like the Griswolds.

Sometimes I wish our life together wasn't so difficult at times. And at other times I know that those experiences are the glue that binds us so steadfastly. If it is something so serious, we learn and we grow. If it is something silly, we laugh together. There's an entirely twangy and cheesy country song out there, and one of the lines says something about "we're lost but holding hands". That's us. That is 100% John and Andi. If I could have one wish granted for the rest of our years together, it would be that we never lose that ability to laugh together.

From the You-Have-Got-To-Be-Joking Files...

How long have I been battling with breastfeeding and low milk supply? How fricken long? And now that I have been preparing myself to stop for weeks now, have completely resigned, Mother Nature has other plans.
I cannot quit making milk.
It's driving me crazy.
And so I am deciding that I am going to continue to pump. Not a lot. I will no longer wake myself up to do so. I am not going to torture myself for it anymore. But so long as I am making it, I might as well give it to Zach. Until he's a year. Gah!

Tough Love

We've been telling him. We've told him time and time again. We meant business, and apparently he thought we were just playin'.

"Evan, if you do not clean that room, we are going to throw away anything that isn't put away."

Of course I realize that as Evan gets older, his room becomes less and less our territory and more and more his personal space. And if you talk to some parents, they will tell you to pick your battles, meaning to pick another one and just shut the damned bedroom door.

Yeah, okay.

The child of the person who said that doesn't have a room like Ev's. I call Evan's Tornado Chic. But really, it was worse than that. I imagine it may have looked comparable if a tornado, earthquake, and meteor strike all occurred simultaneously with Armageddon. It was seriously that bad.

Broken crayons, naked of their paper wrappings, which were also all over the floor. Teensy tiny Legos. Hot Wheels sans wheels. All. Over. The Floor. Books with pages ripped out mingling with empty fruit snack wrappers in cahoots with the Diet Dew cans he apparently sneaks to his room once we go to bed at night ( I'm having flashbacks of the "NO SOFT DRINKS, EVAN!" rule).... About half of my plastic drinking tumblers and cereal bowls. And his dresser drawers and closet were completely empty because the clean clothes were...All. Over. The floor. Sheets stripped off of bed.

But the clincher? The nasty dysfunction had incubated and managed to creep and crawl out of his room and all over the basement floor. And boxes of stuff from the basement--old papers, old books, old clothes that have been packed in boxes with the word "DONATE" on the side--torn open and scattered all over the basement floor. Because the kid couldn't possibly have enough stuff. Heaven forbid I donate some of his outgrown clothes to charity so they can go to a kid who has nothing.

And so he thought I was playin'.

I wasn't.

I put on my Mean Mom face and armed with a fat roll of black heavy-duty garbage bags, I headed down the stairs to his room. I put Zach in his Pack'n'Play down there and spent the entire day sitting on my butt, using a broom to pull piles of crap to me, sorting through piles of crap, and throwing crap away. Of course John was with me in all of this. And Evan casually wandered from the living room and the Disney Channel to the basement where we were doing all of this, and back again. He never protested. He never said a word about what we were doing, as a matter of fact.

All in all, we filled 20 garbage bags with junk. Enough that we have to call the trash people in the morning and arrange for a special pick up. And some of the stuff was our stuff. CD's that had been dug up and left on the concrete floor, grating against it until they were useless. Books torn up. You get the picture.

We worked until our bodies ached. Then until it was too dark out to see into every nook and cranny of the basement, and then we stopped. We headed upstairs. We all bathed and ate dinner. Watched a little tv. And then? Then it was quiet time-the time when you don't necessarily have to be in bed, but you do have to be in your room and doing something quiet because we are trying to get Zach to sleep and unwind from our day. It's the time Evan usually plays with his Legos or train tracks or Hot Wheels.

And that is when it sank in. He came upstairs with his beautiful face streaked with tears and thrust his hands at me. His hands that held 5 Hot Wheels.

"This is all I have left!" he cried.

And we had to say, "We told you so, Evan." And I stayed firm, though this is normally when I would crumple and admit that I didn't really throw his toys away and that he can get them all back if he just keeps his room reasonably clean for a week or so. I couldn't say that this time. This time was no bluff. (Mind you, that is not all he has left in total, but all of the Hot Wheels where there used to be a huge storage bin full of them. He has other toys still, though. If it was put away, it stayed.)

And he went downstairs to play quietly with the remaining five.

And then I cried.

Because it gets to me, too.

It gets to me that he is hurt. I wish he would have taken us seriously. I hate to see him cry. I wish it wouldn't have come to this.

The waste gets to me. If I would have had ample amounts of time to do this, I could have at least given those toys to charity. If you don't have boys Evan's age, then you probably have no idea, but those Lego sets alone that he plays with are about $100 a piece. We probably threw out about $2-3K in toys today. Somewhere there is a little boy who doesn't even have 5 Hot Wheels and would have given anything to have what Evan treated as garbage. But alas, I didn't have the time. And so they are in the trash.

The sentimentality gets to me. Among the things he destroyed? A children's Bible my mother had given me and I subsequently passed down to Evan. Books. Oh, the books. For each gift-giving occasion--birthdays, Easter, Christmas...--I have given Evan a hardback keepsake version of a story that has special meaning, and have written pertinent inscriptions in the covers under the dust jackets. Guess How Much I Love You for his first birthday. The Polar Express when he really started to believe in Santa. On and on for 9 years of his life.The plan was that he would have them for years. That he would have them if there ever came a day when he no longer had me.Nope. But the one that rips my guts out? I tried to start the same tradition with Ben. And for Ben's first birthday, and incidentally the only birthday of his where he was with me, there was The Giving Tree. And some simple words inside: "Happy First Birthday, Benjamin. May you always find shade under my branches. Love Mommy." I trusted Evan with it, and now it is garbage. And then the bear. The stuffed bear we made when Evan was 2 at Build-A-Bear Workshop. I had jut graduated and made my first paychck with a number in the "net pay" column that required a comma. For the first time in my life. And we went out to celebrate. And we made that bear together. It's 7 years old. And he tore it to smithereens.

So there is that, and then there is the horrid, ugly hurt. I've told the stories on here, so I don't need to go into a lot of detail, but I didn't always make the money I make now. And even now, the money I make, though decent, isn't so much when you count it is the only income for a family of 4. But the thing is that even when we were dirt poor, when we didn't have money for medicines one of us needed or new glasses when mine broke, Evan never knew it because I have always made sure he gets not only what he needs, but the majority of what he wants as well. I don't keep a running tab of all of the times I have really, truly needed something and have done without in order to get Evan the latest toy he wanted. Even in the leanest of times where an extra trip in the car would mean not enough gas to get to class, or a trip through the drive-thru would mean not enough grocery money for the week. Evan never ever ever knew it. He never felt it. Because I thought it was my job as his mother to ensure that he never did. And then, as he got older and his toys more expensive and our way of life more expensive, I would work so many hours of overtime that I would run myslef into the ground. Just so Evan got what he wanted. Those toys I threw away were not just toys. They were my sacrifices. My good intentions. My overtime hours and lack of sleep. And he didn't appreciate any of it enough.

I hope, now that we've stuck to our guns, that he will know from now on that we are serious. I hope we never have to do this again.

Of course, before you think I am completely cruel, I should explain that this is all coming on the heels of a pretty rough patch for Evan: misbehavior at home and at school, rude to John and I, throwing tantrums. I have devised a plan for Evan to get more toys. For each day he brings home no behavior notices from school, does his homework without a fuss, and keeps the remaining toys he has picked up and his room clean, I have agreed to give him $10 toward his "new toy fund". We plan on doing this for one month, giving him the opportumity to earn up to $300 to use on nothing but toys. It isn't a lot, but he needs to be appreciative and earn the replacements for what I have just handed him before. I am not including in this gifts I would normally buy him or things I deem a requirement. Example: a bike is not a luxury in this house. It is a means to get him outside and more active and is thus good for him. Books are not luxuries, but rather the more time he spends reading, the sharper his reading skills. Art supplies spark creativity. Those things don't come from the $300, but rather from me.

Let's all hope this works...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Our Carpet Picnic (Among Other Things)

Tonight we gnoshed on homemade chicken alfredo and garlic bread. Zach participated in the family dinner today as we settled on the living room floor with bowls brimming with pasta. And I got brave. Despite Zach's trouble with tectures in his food, I gave him few noodles and a the crusty end of the loaf of bread. He was more interested in the bread than the noodles, but he did fine with both: no gagging, no sputtering, no choking.

He also pulled himself to a standing position today for the first time, though I didn 't capture that on film. Before I could, he landed on his little butt.
Go, Zachy, Go!
More from today, courtesy of Evan and John, all taken while I tried to sleep away my illness (in one, you can even see my blog pulled up in the background as I fell asleep with it open):

Disclaimer: Why does my kid appear to weigh a gazillion pounds in the pic of him on the ride-on toy??? He only weighs 20 lbs, 4 oz., which is significantly slowed down from an earlier gaining pace. But the kid is only 23.75 inches long, making him as wide as he is tall almost. Welcome to your genes, Zachy!

Bronchitis, Sinusitis, Otitis, Oh My!

So after staying up virtually all night, I couldn't stand it anymore.

I even tried taking my ultra-vast tome of Austen into the bathroom and sitting in a hot bath for what seemed like forever. It would have been relaxing except that heat made me cough even more. As in coughing so hard you puke. And I have gone through 90 puffs of my inhaler since Monday. So I stayed up as long as I could because, by the time I was finished in the bathroom, it was almost 5 AM, and I figured what's a few more hours? The plan was to call the doctor's office at 8AM sharp and get an appointment. They do this uber-frustrating thing where they book up all appointments except what they call "same day appointments" for the suddenly ill. But they will only fill same day appointments on that day. So unless you call as soon as they open, you ain't gettin' one, sister!

I fell asleep. And woke at 8:45. From coughing. And wheezing. And gagging.

And so I thought to myself about all of the people who clog our ERs for the stupidest of reasons ("My pee has bubbles in it!") without either insurance or the ability to pay the bill. Not making a statement about healthcare--we treat the indigent. But really? If tax payers are gonna pay for your visit, shouldn't it be a true emergency? Anyhow, I figure I am insured and can pay my bill, so double score! And in scrub bottoms and a ratty sweatshirt I have worn since yesterday, and with my hair so crazy I look like a lunatic, I go to the ER. Not sure whether it is my claim as one of them or what, but I got back pretty quickly and was seen even quicker than that. Turns out I have bronchitis, which is exacerbating my asthma, a sinus infection, and for a triple dose of fun, a middle ear infection. By the way, who gets an ear infection over the age of 5? Me, that's who!

So I'm on antibiotics and steroids and have to step up my game on my asthma meds. After calling in sick last night because I was miserable, I was ordered to not work tonight, either. I hate that. The only times I have missed work is for my bedrest during my pregnancy and when I was hospitalized for pneumonia a couple of years ago. I hate it I hate it I hate it.
So here I am, nursing myself back to health, trying to get better without innocculating the rest of the clan with my cooties. Of course this involves dowsing myself with Purell evert 5 minutes.

Being sick sucks.

Going Back

My name is Andrea, and I'm a student.


Barring any complications, I head back to class on April 3rd to begin the completion of my business degree. Since everything else is good to go, all I have to do to get a Bachelors o Science in Business Admin. with an emphasis on healthcare administration is to take the actual business courses. My stuff from my other degree exempts me from the rest.

It sounds so strange. Me. A business major.

Life does funny things to us sometimes. I never saw myself doing anything other than medicine. Never wanting to do anything else. Strange how having Zachy changed me that much. But not one for stagnation, I want to ensure that I have the needed degrees to take my current career as far as I want. Years from now, I don't want to be limited because I didn't take the time to get the degrees while I had the chance.

I'm doing a program that will have it all finished within 18 months so I can hurry up and move onto my MBA in healthcare management. I'm nervous and excited. I usually perform very well academically, and you cannot convince me that these courses will be any more of a challenge, or even as much of a challenge, as graduate-level human genetics, where I actually extracted and mapped DNA, or senior-level o.chem, which just about killed me, I swear. And I did all of thesre while working 70 hours per week, while being Mom Extraordinare, John's keeper, and keeping straight A's. Can you tell I'm trying to give myself a pep talk?

Because I have officially been out of school for a year. And now I have 2 kids, one of which is a baby who wants to wreak havoc on my laptop each and everytime I open it up.

I can do this, right?

I'm both excited and nervous. The less I am doing, the more bored and stressed I get. I'm the weird one for which happiness means a bursting schedule and a to-do list as long as I am tall. So on that note, I'm ready to go back. It's just that doing so means the end of this chapter: the chapter of my pregnancy, Zach's birth, and Zach's first year of life. I gave him as much of myself as I could for this past year. We both needed it. Now it time for me to do something for myself once again.

Let the juggling begin.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Irony of Free Speech

I have to do this because I married a veteran of the almighty United States Marine Corps.
My hubby is a Jarhead. And as a result, I've learned some things:
Once A Marine, Always a Marine. There is a pride there of which I will not begrudge him. He earned that. He didn't serve in Iraq, but he did hold a newborn Evan as he watched in sheer rage the footage from 9/11. He was still in the reserves then, as my selfish fear at his number being called up motivated me to learn exactly what IRR meant: Inactive Ready Reserves. Ready. Ready. My husband as a trained instrument of war.
From the day John and I first shared a residence, I have had his Corps uniforms hanging in our closet. He protects them as he does our children. They are a part of who he is. The ribbons. The blood stripe of the NCO rank he obtained. The almighty Eagle, Globe, and Anchor he earned the day he earned the right to the title.
In our ten years of marriage, my son and I both have learned the lyrics to The Marine Corps Hymn. "Oorah!" rolls off of our tongues now as easily as it does John's. His status as a veteran gives us membership to military family in a way. I've always thought military service was to be revered. I was raised that way as the daughter of an Army vet, the sister of an Army vet. Zach was named after his great grandfather, who passed shortly before his birth and was a WWII veteran.

The Veteran.
While I can go on record to say I don't believe the war in Iraq has anything more to do with our freedoms we enjoy than anything else, I know I am doing so because a long time ago, someone fought for the freedom to say so. Someone like John's grandfather Clifton, like my dad or my brother. Someone like John. These men and women who served in Iraq may not be fighting for our rights to life, liberty, and the almighty pursuit, but that is immaterial to me. Our country deemed it necessary to go to war, and therefore our American brothers and sisters had to go. And because they did, John didn't have to go. God bless the volunteers.
And so nothing sickens me more than the trampling on the grave done by the Westboro Baptist Church idiots. The morons who have nothing better to do than torment the familes of these fine men and women on the day they are to be honored and lain to rest. How horrifying for the young widow, robbed of her future with her young husband, to be handed the folded flag of our nation and look up to see a sign that says "Thank God for Dead Marines." Or Dead Soldiers. Or whatever hate these idiots are spewing.
I can say I was not shocked to hear of the Supreme Court's ruling that their right to protest military funerals is protected as free speech. It is indeed free speech. Just like the mosque near Ground Zero, it may be in completely poor taste to do so, but it is indeed one of the liberties we are granted in this country. And it sucks. It sucks because bastards like these should not enjoy these freedoms like the rest of us. Their protests go against exactly what being a decent human being is all about.
It angers me. It disgusts me. But this is nothing to the rage I see in John each and every time they mention it on the news. It is like someone just took a shit on his Honorable Discharge. And on the graves of his fallen comrades.

But the irony is what gets me.
Oh, the IRONY.

Don't you see? Marines, Soldiers, Airmen, and Sailors have died for these freedoms we enjoy in this country. Among them free speech. And these clowns hold up their signage saying, "Thank God for Dead ____". They go to Supreme Court over a lawsuit for such behavior, and free speech gets them off the $5M hook. They should be saying "Thank God for Dead Marines". Those dead Marines just saved them $5M.
(Excuse the blur, but at one point I shrank this scanned image down and it has never been the same. But this is John in 1998. Oorah, Devil Dog.

Another Chapter Ends

Where to start?

I remember when I started to get into the throes of my pregnancy with Zachary, and John and I started to make lists of the things we needed. And we got to feeding supplies, and we started to discuss whether we were going to go with breastfeeding. I wanted to with Evan, but his prematurity got in the way and neither of us ended up interested at all. Did I want to try it again? Not really, because I was kind of afraid to get myself invested in the idea. I had breastfed Ben for a couple of months, and when it didn’t work out, I remember crying the first time I gave him a bottle of formula. And with Evan, I just felt guilty that we didn’t give it more of an effort. But knowing how breastmilk is the best for the baby, and seriously thinking Zach was to be my last chance to do so successfully, I decided to give it a go. One more try.


You start off with the idea of breastfeeding as being this remarkably bonding experience. With a mind full of rosy images of a tiny baby nuzzling at a mother’s chest. Of cuddling and warmth and a bond that can only be shared between mother and child. A bond that cannot be broken. And I think after the pregnancy horrors I faced, I really needed that. And then Zach was born.

It was never supposed to go like it has. I was not supposed to be separated from my baby immediately after his birth after only having a small glimpse of him over a surgical drape. And I remember John bringing pictures of him from the NICU for me to see while we were still separated, and it was so bizarre and surreal. I had endured so much for him and this is what I got? Some blurry images on a digital camera that John barely knew how to use? Was this little  person really my son? How could I be sure when I couldn’t hold him and touch him and smell his newborn scent? They said he was mine. And I could see a family resemblance, so it had to be true. He was beautiful, that was for sure. But really? I begged and begged for them to bring him to me. Everyone said he was doing great and had just needed a little longer to adjust to the outside world. So if he was fine, then he belonged with me. If he is mine, he belongs with me.

And just like that, he was with me. I kicked everyone but John out of the room as I stripped away layers of flannel blanket to look him over. So perfect. So so perfect. And then and there, we nursed. And all was right with the world. Suddenly it all was okay- the pregnancy, the time in the NICU. Suddenly, it was just Zach and I. I loved it. And I hated when the lactation consultant came in and told me he had to have formula and asked me what type I wanted them to give him. I hadn’t planned on that. And so my love/hate relationship with the pump began.

I hated that I had to pump at all. I hated that he got formula. I wanted to cry each time he took a tiny sip of it. 20 mL at a time at first. I gave him every bit of breastmilk I could. I wished they would have told me it was okay to stop the formula when my milk came in, but they didn’t until it was too late. And the supply issues started. I did everything I could and got most of it back. And then the latch issues happened, most likely a result of the bottle feeding he had received. Phrases like “nipple confusion” and “flow preference” entered my vocabulary. Still, I did everything. Always trying trying trying to get him off of the tiny amount of formula he was getting a day. And then when he wouldn’t nurse at all anymore and I learned what it meant to exclusively pump. And my reality became the breastpump, 15 minutes at a time, 8-10 times per day. I’ve kept that up since Zach was 4 months old. I hated it, but Zach was getting breastmilk. That was all that mattered. I still felt a deeper connection to him because of the months we spent together, nursing. That is how I spent the weeks of my maternity leave. And when I first returned to work, I would come home and Zach would nurse with me in the bed as I drifted off to sleep. Zach and Mommy. That’s all there was.

It has been such a difficult road. Difficult but rewarding. Worth it. I honestly can look at the differences in personalities between Evan and Zachary and I think the breastfeeding has something, if not everything, to do with it. Zach seems more content. More secure. I cannot help but think that this is because he had more of a connection to me.

So why am I writing this now? Because this afternoon, John helped me to gather up all of the supplies I have needed to exclusively pump. All of that equipment. And I cried as I made sure all of it was organized and packed away. This week and next, Zach will get what is left of my milk from the refrigerator and freezer, and that will be the end. When I initially started out, I said one year was my goal. In a perfect world, free from latch issues and prematurity, from supply issues and tongue-tie, I would have done one full year. I am pretty proud of myself that I made it this far in the face of all of the difficulties. By the time it is over, Zach will be 10 months old. He is to the point where he is getting more and more food from sources other than a bottle, and I feel like it is time to focus on enjoying the rest of his first year free from the stress of measuring every little ounce, from setting alarms to remind me to pump every 2 hours around the clock. I can spend time enjoying my baby boy and getting some well-deserved rest knowing that I gave him the best for 10 whole months.

So here is a picture for you. This is what thousands of dollars’ worth of breastpumps and equipment looks like. All of my work fits into this tote. Amazing. And the picture wouldn’t be complete without including in it the reason for it all.