Monday, February 26, 2007

Weird Things My Husband and I Have in Common

Sometimes the strangest things pop into my head. I don't know where this came from or why today, but I was thinking about how my husband and I both have shattered sliding glass doors with our bodies.

When I was about 12, I was at a friend's bar mitzvah party. The family had recently moved into a new house and everything was pristine for the celebrations. I remember walking across their back patio to go find the bathroom off the kitchen. The next thing I remember is lying on the ground with my friend's mother standing over me and seeing that the glass door was in shards.

I was very lucky that I didn't get hurt more than that. I was just stunned. Hitting the glass, falling and realizing what was happening took just seconds.

My husband, however, has several scars from his encounter. He was around 11 or 12, I think. It was a glass door at his family's house in Florida, and his mother was cleaning, cleaning, cleaning because they were about to fly off to Denmark for his father's sabbatical year. He had a number of stitches in his knee, among other scratches, and of course the door had to be replaced. My husband's family switched around tickets so my husband, who was supposed to fly sooner with one parent, actually flew later with the other parent.

He's also very lucky he wasn't hurt more than that.

And we are both proponents of leaving large glass doors less than perfectly clear.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Vacation Ends With a Thud

Another February vacation done.

Vacationing with smaller children isn’t so much vacationing as a relaxing endeavor as it is moving your base of operations to a place with less familiarity, less of the “stuff” you rely on to keep things moving smoothly, and more potential for stress.

We had a good time, truly. But I think I am putting a stop to vacations for a while – until S is a little older and M matures a bit.

Forty minutes AFTER we arrived home (six plus hours after leaving Montreal), I walked into the darkened dining room to retrieve a wine glass from the hutch. I opened one of the lower cabinet doors…and the pizza stone (that I could not see) that was leaning against the cabinet fell on my foot. Ow.

My foot is not broken, but I have a pretty good contusion and will be on crutches for several days until I can put weight on it and flex it again.

Still no word on that meeting.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Signs? And...Vacation!!

Someone did not want me to go to that meeting on Friday afternoon.

In addition to the punch in the self-esteem from my look in the mirror:

  • I could not find my brand new mascara. I buy mascara so infrequently to begin with! I had to attempt to use cakey old mascara - an attempt that was mostly unsuccessful.

  • On my way out the out of the house carrying S, I slipped on the ice and we both fell hard. Ow, ow, ow. S was fine, but I felt some serious pain in my butt. Two days later, I still can't sit in one position and I have a rather psychedelic mark on my backside.

  • In spite of the awesomeness of a rockin' parking spot outside the building (having dropped S with Daddy), I exited my car and realized my skirt was, well, falling off. Apparently the button on the skirt popped off in my fall, and my zipper wasn't behaving. I spent most of my meeting in silent prayer that my skirt would stay in place and the rest actually holding it in place.

I have no idea how the meeting went. Sigh. And won't know for another week, minimum.

In less than eight hours we are leaving on vacation. I think, though, that I have finally learned some vacation planning lessons and so I have time to sit here and write.

In not leaving the second school let out, we kept the work/school week from being too stressed and gave ourselves time pack somewhat leisurely. All the laundry is done, there are clean sheets on all the beds, the kitchen is clean (and the fridge cleaned out!), and we're not panicking. There is a lot to be said for that. We will arrive at our destination ready to get on with the vacationing, not needing to decompress for a day from the preparation!

Also, we will be returning home with a day to unpack and reorganize before we are all back at school and work.

I feel that although this means that our actual time away is a little shorter, we'll be better able to enjoy it. And maybe it will be that much better and restorative...?

One hopes.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Yeah, But Do I Have to Look Like One?

I had my haircut last night. It's an okay cut, but not as precise as D used to do it.

I have an important meeting this afternoon. I am about to go drop S off with her daddy. I dressed in my best imporant meeting clothes, blew dry my hair, just a touch of mascara, and looked in the mirror.

And became totally deflated.

I know that I am, in fact, an almost 40 suburban mother of three.

But do I have to look like one?


Thursday, February 15, 2007

An Open Letter to Pre-Adolescence (and Adolescence, for that matter)

Dear Pre-Adolescence,

Please return my sweet, even-keeled little boy to me right away. I am not amused.

Thank you.



Yes, My Husband Does Watch "Project Runway" With Me. Why Do You Ask?

Over the course of our relationship, my husband and I often have made light of our vastly different body thermostats. I get cold very easily and he is just the opposite. I would happily crawl into bed at night almost fully clothed - down to fuzzy socks - if he did not protest; the only time I have seen him in more than boxers at bedtime was a Christmas spent at my father’s house in the early 90s.

Early last month a box arrived addressed to him from the Malden Mills store. Malden Mills is the manufacturer of the original Polartec fleece. I questioned him, but didn’t get much of an answer. Then promptly forgot about it.

Last week he asked me to show him how to use my sewing machine. Though curious, I have learned over twenty plus years not to ask too many questions during certain times of the year. I showed him a few basics, then gave him some space.

On Valentine’s Day this year I had my answer, and I have just two words for you:

Polarfleece lingerie.


I am now the proud owner of a spaghetti-strapped chemise in champagne-colored Polartec 300 series curly, high-loft fleece.

And it fits.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Of or Pertaining to Bees

On Monday night, C participated in the town spelling bee.

Our town spelling bee is a fundraiser for the local education foundation and its format is different from the format used by the Scripps-Howard bee and qualifying events.

In this bee, participants compete as part a of a three-person team. Teams are grouped into “hives” for preliminary rounds, and the winning team from each hive goes on to the final round. The youngest participants are 5th graders. The oldest refused to give their ages (they formed a team at the local senior center). When a word is given, teams agree on the spelling and write it on a dry erase board which is then reviewed by the judges. Teams can purchase a “mulligan” and thus get a second chance if they misspell a word in the initial rounds.

This year there were three youth hives and three adult hives. One of the youth hives was all 5th grade teams. Eight of them. They were the first to go up on the stage to complete.

C was nervous, as were his teammates, M and K. But C and the other boys had studied hard and I was confident in their abilities (and proud regardless). C had spent the afternoon practicing words like “juggernaut,” “chimichanga,” “bequeath,” and “salmonella.”

The first word was “reckless.” C and his team were right on, but four of the eight teams misspelled it (“wreckless”) and mulligans were used. Several words later, with six teams left, the word “paprika” came up, and three of the teams misspelled it, including C’s. They used their mulligan and there were three teams left. Soon it was down to two teams, all mulligans used. The word was “croquet.”

C’s team spelled “crochet”, the other team spelled it correctly, and the round was over. I guess they should have spent a little more time studying the “easy” words.

(Later several other people pointed out to the boys that the winning team had managed to sneak in the use of two mulligans, and they tried to challenge the results when told it was the time to challenge – but were rebuffed by the judges. I missed this error because I was distracted by a certain little sister.)

Oh well. The boys still had a chance for a little recognition as there was an award for most creative team name.

The boys chose the name “The Apian Way.” They made up tshirts with a drawing on it that made a play of "Apian Way" versus "Appian Way."

So, do you get it? If you don’t, go look it up. Then come back. I’ll be right here waiting. Here, I’ll help you:


Appian Way

Okay, so do you get it now? Pretty clever, huh?

Nobody got it. Nobody.

I should have been clued in when the master of ceremonies kept calling them “Appian Way,” (short “a” sound) not “Apian Way” (long “a” sound).

The winning team name? “Let’s Bee Friends.”

That retching you hear is me.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

On a Lighter Note

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training on Saturday.


Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are no fun. I’ve had to deal with them several times in my life, and I don’t wish them on anybody. Anybody.

The first time I experienced panic attacks was June of 1998. We were about to move from New England to the South – a move I did not really want to make – and were organizing every aspect of the move ourselves. I was trying to say pulled together for C, who was just 2 at the time, and for my husband who was trying to study for impending board exams in addition to packing and moving. I remember several times my vision became fuzzy, I had a hard time breathing and my blood pressure rose. I thought I could collapse at any second. It’s a sickening feeling. It was made even worse when I would start to have the attacks while driving. I would pull over and work hard at breathing deeply.

Over several weeks, as we made it to our new place and settled in, the attacks started to subside. I tried to practice more relaxation techniques to try to prevent them. I have no idea if that really worked, or the stress of moving just eased naturally.

The worst panic attack I had was on April 8, 2004.

I was seven days shy of my due date with S, sitting in a meeting. I remember my colleague’s voices suddenly sounding distant and my notebook, keys and bottle of water on the table looked distorted as if seen through a tunnel. My blood pressure shot up. I could feel this and fought back. I tried focusing on breathing but felt totally disoriented. All I could do was plan an escape.

After a couple of deep breaths, I rose out of my seat and stumbled out of the room. I have no idea if anyone spoke to me or what. I vaguely remember making my way back to my office, sitting down, then thinking I needed to get help.

I paged my husband. I paged my doctor. They wanted me into the hospital as soon as possible.

Was there someone who could drive me to the hospital? No, no one. People had places to go – it was already rush hour. A coworker retrieved my keys, water and notebook from the conference room.

My husband started the drive out to get me. Our places of work were about 17 miles apart. Fairly urban indirect miles.

What about my boys? I called my friend A and asked her to pick them up from their after school programs. Her boys and my boys are good friends. I told her that I was not having the baby, just needed to check something out. Please don’t scare C and M. She was wonderful.

We made it back to the hospital about 5:30 or so, two full hours after the panic attack began. I was starting to get it under control on my own, but my blood pressure reading was still high. My doctor, Dr. Z, was there. She was reassuring and she knew exactly why this was happening.

It was exactly one year, to the day, since C started to really deteriorate. Probably close to the hour and minute, too.

In my efforts to just breathe, I hadn’t put it all together. Of course. C’s “bad day,” as he called it. The one day he did not want me to have the baby.

After verifying that I was not contracting and was not dialated, we called our friend A and reassured the boys that no baby was going to be born that night. That we would be home that evening. They were relieved, especially C.

Dr. Z and the labor nurses monitored me for several hours to make sure my blood pressure went back to normal ranges. Dr. Z ordered me not to try to work any more. “Your leave starts right now,” she said.

C was so pleased to see us – and to see me still looking like I was hiding a beach ball – that evening. He and I talked fairly late into the night. I did my best to reassure him. He tried his hardest to be brave.

We had a long way to go to be okay.

Monday, February 12, 2007

It's True

The Police are going to play Fenway this summer.

Tickets will go on sale February 20th.

While I am on vacation.

In another country.

I fear I have no chance of scoring tickets, unless I decide to pay the exorbitant price of ticket scalpers, er, "resellers."


(Did anyone else suspect Sting forgot where he was in the song at one point during the Grammy broadcast? Or am I imagining that to make myself feel better?)

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Bog Skating

One of the things I love about living here – and about which I knew nothing until the winter after we moved here – is skating on the cranberry bogs.

When it gets really cold, the bog owners flood the active bogs in an effort to help protect the plants from the extremes of the weather. And when it’s been in the 20s for a week or so, the ice on the bog is solid enough for skating.

In spite of my love of this activity, I hadn’t been bog skating in about four years, since before, yup, C was sick. It’s not that I didn’t want to. Three years ago, I was pregnant and not about to get on skates. Two years ago, I had a baby to care for, and never could figure out the logistics so I could get out there. Last year was too warm, and the one cold snap that enabled any skating at all occurred while we were away on vacation. Even then, there were exactly four skating days last year.

So finally it happened. The weather has been appropriately cold, we managed to acquire appropriately fitting gear for our growing boys, and general weekend logistics allowed me to take the boys out for a skate while S had some serious Daddy time.

It was lovely to be out. Our skills are quite rusty, but the boys were sports, laughing off most of their falls and always getting right back up. It was cold and crisp, but the cold wasn’t cold enough to be uncomfortable in our many layers and thus dissuade us. A couple of the boys’ friends met us on the bog and had extra sticks, so they tried to play hockey a bit. M had a great strategy for when he couldn’t get to the sliding puck: just toss the stick at it!

The ice on the bog nearest to us isn’t he best, and we did have to watch out for random vegetation and vines sticking through the ice, but I loved looking at the remnant cranberries encased just below the surface.

The sky couldn’t decide whether it was going to cloud over or clear up, so we had some lovely late afternoon light.

Being out and active helped address my need for more fresh air. And the boys’ need as well. And I am sure it helped with the button-pushing issues, if only for a little while.
We hope to get out on the ice several more times this week. Maybe, if I can find some tiny skates at the used sporting good shop, I'll get S out there, too.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


I have been on the edge of a panic attack for a couple of days now. Intead of letting myself go and having the full-on attack, I have been gripping the ledge tightly, just holding on.

Newphew worry.

The visceral memories that worry brings up.

Job stress.

Kids pushing (and holding) buttons.

House disarray.

Lack of fresh air.

Never being good enough at anything.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


There is a rumor that The Police will be playing Fenway Park this summer. Oh, how that makes me grin.

I saw The Police in 1983 in a baseball stadium (more like a park, really) on a hot summer night. Synchronicity tour.

Oh boy.

The Moment I Knew

For about two weeks when C was in the PICU, we had no idea of any long-term neurological effects from the code. While the doctors didn’t expect any neurological issues, they couldn’t say for sure. The code was fairly drawn out, and although he hadn’t lost a heartbeat, they did perform chest compressions, and with all those meds - well, we just didn’t know for certain.

Immediately after the code, his heart was functioning at far less than expected capacity and it was a day or so later that the cardiologist was able to determine that it was probably from the shock of the code and not from viral or other damage. Cardiac function returned to normal. Other organs were checked and rechecked, and all slowly returned to normal function as well. For all they could check with labs and ultrasounds and other means of examination, there were still some unknowns.

After the initial crisis, when C started to recover, he was still sedated a fair bit (indeed, to this day, he does not actively remember the hospital) and in pain from the surgery. Once he was off the ventilator and the sedation was lightened, he would mostly sleep, but fitfully, and when he was awake he was spacey or cranky or both. Although indications were good, we hadn't had a chance to check cognitive function yet.

Late one night, at the beginning of the third week, I was sitting in C’s room while he dozed. My husband was sleeping and it was my turn in the room to just be with C. We were all settling in for the quiet overnight hours and I was trying to write, trying to get out some fragments of what had and was happening to us. I noticed a young woman on the other side of the curtain, outside the glass door to the PICU room.

When I acknowledged her, she came in and said who she was. She was carrying a gift bag. She worked with my husband on one of the adult floors on the other side of the hospital. The bag was a gift from some of the nurses over there.

We spoke quietly, chatting a little while I opened the bag. There was a snowy owl puppet, as the nurses had heard C was into Harry Potter. I smiled, and then realized that I couldn’t remember the name of Harry Potter’s owl. I laughed as I said as much to the gift bearer.

I looked back at C. His eyes were half open. “Hey, C,” I said, “What’s the name of Harry Potter’s owl?”

A groggy, low voice came back, “Hedwig.”

It was at that moment I knew that – eventually - he’d be okay.

Monday, February 05, 2007

He Gets It

On Sunday, I intended to put my nephew’s name on the prayer board at church. We were running late, and M and I were having a little conflict that further delayed us. The service had already started when the kids were settled in their classes and I quietly slipped into the back row near the door, picking up a prayer card on my way.

I took some deep breaths, found my bearings within the service, and wrote my nephew’s name on the card at the pause between lessons. I figured I’ll slip out for a moment later in the service and put it up the board.

But while I was sitting there, listening to the sermon, I saw C out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head and saw him in the back of the church, in his choir robes, putting a card on the prayer board.

Which Team Are You On?

The nursing staff at the hospital when C was sick was fabulous. Truly.

During the initial crisis, our C was assigned the best and the most experienced of the nursing staff. There were several days early on when two nurses were assigned to C and they were busy constantly: adjusting meds, taking readings, drawing blood, tracking progress. Immediately after the code, when we first went back into C’s room, they reassured us, even while doing all this work, that we were always welcome there, that he is our son and we should be there, and that they would do all they could to help us, too, while taking care of him.

Over the course of the first week, we came to know these nurses well. As C stabilized, only one nurse was assigned, but the others who had been with us in previous days would stop in and check on us, bring us coffee, talk to C (though he was still heavily sedated). Really great people.

After the first week and a half, when C was even more stable, we started to meet new nurses. Again, they were very competent and kind nurses. But they were…different. I was asked to step out of the room more frequently (which I often refused to do as it was clear it was for the nurses comfort, not the C’s), told more and more things I couldn’t do (like lean on the bed and hold my boy, which I had been doing regularly – and even though I was making sure, of course, that I wasn’t leaning on or crimping any tubes or wires or anything), and they often didn’t bother to learn my son’s name, much less mine.

I started to differentiate the nursing staff between the “How Can We” team and the “You Can’t” team.

The “How Can We” team made suggestions for ways we could help our son that came from years and/or intensity of experience. They wanted to know about him, who he was. They wanted a personality to go with the body they were treating. They knew how to work the system – to tweak just enough to make the experience slightly more bearable for us, the terrified parents.

The “You Can’t” team was just less experienced, I think. Not lesser nurses, not at all. Just at a different phase in their careers. And not necessarily younger nurses either. Perhaps they were new to the hospital or whatever. The experience with them wasn’t totally negative, but it wasn’t totally positive either. It just was.

The differences between the two teams often were subtle, but they were differences nonetheless.

The members of the “You Can’t” team may well have switched sides by now. I hope so. I hope they each have reached a point of stability and confidence in their careers where they can. The “How Can We” team will welcome you warmly when you are ready, I am sure.

I’m forever grateful to the nursing staff that took care of my C, and especially grateful to the “How Can We” team. J, D, H, L, K – you guys are the best.

Thank you. (Again!)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Damn, That Kid is Lucky

Yesterday afternoon my nephew had surgery to remove a blood clot between his brain and his skull. The surgeon felt strongly about doing it because he wanted to be sure there was no active bleed. There was more swelling than expected, however, so they placed a drain and replace the bone flap.

My sister was with him as he came out of anesthesia and was able to talk to him a bit.

This morning they were able to removed the drain and transferred him from the ICU to the regular floor. I am not clear on whether he is on a pediatric floor or an adult floor.

Today, CL, as I'll call him, is more with it. Has a little more memory each time he wakes up from a nap as to where he is and why. He's in a lot of pain as he also has a bruising and straining/spraining of his back and a broken ankle. Not to mention a headache.

My sister is happy with his doctors. They have yet to discuss long term impact of this injury.

The reality of it all is just starting to hit my sister, and I am worried for her. My health took a beating (weight loss, minimal sleep, etc.) when my C was sick, and she and I respond similarly to things.

I called my dear friend who happens to be a pediatric neuro-oncologist (there should be a photo of her next to "saint" in the dictionary) and asked her about things we should expect. It's scary. Of course, he's very lucky already to be where he is compared to what could have happened. That luck may continue - but I am somewhat prepared to help my sister talk through the other possibilities should they arise.

CL will be in the hospital at least a week. The fall out will last much longer, of course. Been there, done that.

Kiss your babies.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A Hollow Feeling in the Pit of My Stomach

My 17-year-old nephew is in an ICU in Phoenix.

I know very little, really.

He was goofing off with some friends. Was riding on the hood of a car. The driver braked suddenly and hard and he was thrown to the ground.

There is a crack in his skull. There may be some bleeding. Unclear whether he is conscious or not. He is breathing on his own last I heard.

And there is nothing I can do.