With opening day just two days away, my boys (adult and child alike) are in the front yard now playing catch, practicing some pitching, swinging the bat. S will be out there in a few minutes, I'm sure, with her little pink glove C gave her for Christmas.
Our home town team opens the season in Kansas City this year.
Last summer we lucked into some great tickets at the very last minute. I'd arrived home from work and relieved the sitter when my husband called. He said, "We don't want tickets to tonight's game, do we?"
It was 5:15. C was out on the bay with his sailing class until 6:15. The game started at 7:00. We can do this, I thought. It will be tight, we might miss an inning, but we can do it.
I replied, "Yes! Yes, we do!"
Quickly a plan was made. I organized a backpack of snacks for the drive into the city, a change of clothes for C, and various other things. I called a friend to see if we could stash our car at her house near the park. My husband ran off to the ATM and a rendezvous point with the boyfriend of the house staff doctor who offered the tickets.
When I picked up C, with M and S already in team gear, and we told him where we were going, he didn't believe us at first. When he realized I wasn't joking, he was so excited.
We met up with my husband at the park and made our way inside. We were in season ticket central - about 20 rows behind home plate. Awesome seats.
A great game followed. We were playing Kansas City, and it was a real pitchers duel. Our young hot shot pitcher, recently added to the roster, pitched a one-hitter. (And that young pitcher later left the team because of a serious illness - an illness in which my husband specializes, and about which my husband was quoted in a local paper, but my husband did not treat this young man.) I was pleased to see the KC 2nd baseman play - he was one of my favorite players when he played for our side during the second half of the 2005 season.
I took the kids to the team store. I let each of the boys choose a $5 item, and a grab bag of playing cards for $1 each (one included a vintage card for our team manager). S took home her own pink team baseball.
It was a late night, but a great night.
Two days....two days....
Saturday, March 31, 2007
Friday, March 30, 2007
Had I Been So Inclined…
If I had been at all interested in baseball while still in high school, and specifically interested in high school baseball, I could have seen hot prospect pitch. Same city, same year in high school, same league, etc.
But I wasn’t, and I didn’t.
It wasn’t until C was small that I was at all interested in baseball, and it was his interest that brought me along. He asked to be a “baseball man” for Halloween the first October we lived in the south. I made sure he was the correct kind of baseball man (based on birthplace). We went to many games at the local minor league park down there, and even had his 5th birthday party there just a couple of months before we bolted back north.
When C was sick, the season had just started, and we put baseball on the television in the PICU room as much as we could. We’d talk the game to him while trying to ignore the beeps on the ventilator. We could zone out a little and interact with him all at once. And once C was home, watching games together during his recovery was an enjoyable couple of hours amid the stress of drug withdrawal and various therapists.
I think it was that spring that I became a true fan.
Opening day is just three days away. I’ve cleaned our hats for the occasion, made sure the boys have their favorite team shirts ready.
Let it begin.
Oh, and that hot prospect is pitching.
at 6:19 PM
Spring Baking Season
Every year I know it’s coming, and every year it sneaks up on me. Spring baking season is upon me, and my mixers, bowls, measuring spoons and various baking dishes and sheets are about to go through a workout.
Just this weekend, C’s birthday, I’ll be making his family birthday cake (layers of cake, meringue, whipped cream and fresh berries), cupcakes for he and his group of friends who are going on an adventure together on Sunday, and masses of brownies for his class on Monday. Only the cupcakes will be from a mix.
Following C’s birthday, I will make several batches of what we call “bunny breads” in preparation for Easter. Bunny breads are orange flavored sweet yeast rolls formed into something of a bunny shape by first rolling a bit of dough into a long “snake,” coiling about two-thirds one direction (the body), then coiling the remaining third in the opposite direction on top (the head). A couple little rolls of dough sticking out the top make the ears, and a little ball makes the tail. They get a light orange flavored glaze after baking. Yum.
(Bunny breads are a long-standing family tradition. I’ve been making them for 18 or so years now, but the recipe goes back to my husband’s mother. Somewhere we have a photo of my husband as a towheaded seven month old gnawing on a bunny bread.)
The week following Easter is S’s birthday. She’ll also be getting the family birthday cake, and we’ll need to figure out a treat she can share with her friends at school.
The day after S’s birthday, a friend will be visiting from DC with her brood, and we’ll be celebrating the birthday of one of her sons. Well, maybe I can justify a purchase from the local French patisserie for that.
Oh, and somewhere in there is some Easter egg dying and Easter dinner.
Now, I love baking, and cooking in general, but these marathons of daily baking wear on me. Every year I say that next year I’ll cut back a little – the school treats, for example, don’t have to be homemade, but when it’s all done, I do enjoy the results. And the looks on the kids faces really is something to behold. This seems to be the kind of thing they (especially C and M) always appreciate and look forward to.
When it comes down to it, I'll do just about anything for their hugs.
I realize that what I am doing is not just baking, it’s giving the kids some traditions to hold onto. Just as I make stollen and certain cookies at Christmas and that is becoming part of their base Christmas memories, this baking is becoming a part of their base Easter and birthday memories.
Off to preheat the oven.
at 12:42 PM
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
The School Fundraiser This Week Is….
School funding is in a sad, sad state. Budgets are tight everywhere and PTAs are pulling out all the stops to raise money to make up the gaps. We must have at least two fundraising opportunities a month for our school – and when I count in the emails I get on fundraising for the schools my niece and nephews and children of close friends go to, and we’re definitely at the fundraiser-a-week point.
There are book sales, gift wrap sales, frozen cookie dough sales, school insignia sales, walk-a-thons, box tops, auctions, and on and on.
I don’t participate in all of them; it’s not possible to do so, really. But I do what I can whenever I can, cursing the political budget backlash that is hurting our schools all the while. I recognize that I am very fortunate that I am able to support the fundraisers as I do.
I have noticed a smart, though totally guilt-inducing trend in fundraising: the sale of items created in part by my kids.
Yesterday the boys brought home booklets from www.ArtworkForEducation.com. It seems that in their art classes a month or so ago, the kids created artwork that was then scanned into this company’s system. Now it’s the parent’s turn to go buy notecards showcasing their kids’ artwork. At $20 a box. Twelve cards in a box.
I’m lucky in terms of this fundraiser. I’ll actually use the cards (I still like to send hand-written notes to friends), and my kids are pretty decent artists. Of course I’m going to buy a box each. I may even suck it up and get two each, and have the boys each give their grandmother a box for her birthday.
Even though I know exactly why we get all these fundraising requests – and I support them – I am so, so tired of them. On the other hand, I can offer no alternatives. Schools need to make up the gaps somehow if our local and state governments aren’t going to fund and staff them properly (all the while demanding better and better testing results, etc.).
Until I get that brilliant idea that solves all the issues, I’ll continue to squeeze out what I can for these well-intentioned, much-needed, guilt-inducing fundraising requests. And if I have your snail mail address, you might want to look carefully at the next note you receive from me.
at 8:39 AM
Monday, March 26, 2007
My Boy, He Doesn’t Like Change So Much
For the last six years, I have worked the following schedule: I work from home on Monday, go into the office Tuesday and Thursday, Wednesday and Friday are off days.
The schedule originally came about around availability of after school care. It works well for us. I’m very lucky that I have been able to maintain this schedule and have the kids covered. But it’s a delicate balance, too. Every spring I have to worry if each of the kids programs will accept them for the next school year with the same schedule, and this school year was the first time I didn’t start the year on at least one wait list for the schedule.
When I was offered this new job, before I even accepted, I was able to arrange with a friend to have the boys covered on the first two Mondays after school. I knew this was necessary to ramp up to my new position, and again, I am lucky that I have been able to sort out this schedule. Next week I’ll be back to the standard, but today was the second covered-by-a-friend-after-school Monday.
This morning, and last Monday morning, C has been so, so grumpy with me. More than just the usual Monday-morning-I-wish-it-were-still-the-weekend grumpies. He’s been almost nasty.
Each morning I pulled him aside and asked him straight out what was going on. He, of course, said, “Nothing.”
Bull, of course.
Then I gave him a chance to pull himself together. I warned him of the consequences of continued poor behavior. It made no difference.
I pulled him aside again, tried again to get to the bottom of what is bothering him.
I asked him this morning if he was mad about going to D’s house after school. He waited a beat and said, “Maybe.”
Ah, well then. I strongly suspected this last week, but figured that after he had a good time with D the first time, the second time would be fine. Apparently, I was wrong.
Perhaps the impending anniversary of his illness plays into it a little, too, but as I think about this big boy of mine, I can think of other times he’s had a tough time with things out of routine.
I seems that my boy is rather change-averse.
I wonder why I haven’t really thought about this before. About why it is or how to help him manage variations in routine better.
Something to ponder.
at 6:31 PM
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Appropriate in a Cosmic Sense
My dad loved military and marching music. Loved, loved, loved it.
To the annoyance of us kids, of course.
So imagine my amusement when today, on his birthday, I sit down to do the crossword from the local Sunday paper and the theme is...
…John Philip Sousa.
at 3:51 PM
Following closely on the heels of my paternal grandmother’s birthday is my father’s birthday. Today my dad would be 82 years old.
Yesterday my acquaintance won reelection to the school committee. Phew! I made some phone calls for her in the morning and held a sign for her for a while in the afternoon. I thought several times that my father probably would be pleased that I am finally getting a little more involved politically, not “just” voting.
My father ran his fair share of campaigns in his life. He lost some, but mostly won. I don’t remember more than one or maybe two. As the youngest child (by almost 10 years), he was a more established and settled by the time I became aware of my surroundings. My brother and sister probably have some pretty good campaign trail stories.
I feel sad that my dad won’t see my kids grow up. He never met S, and only saw M a couple or three times. But he wasn’t doing so well in his final years, and I wouldn’t want him to suffer in any way, either.
Dad died just a month after C was released from the hospital. I had just resumed sending him weekly newsy letters – something I had started in the previous year because communicating with him verbally was difficult due to his failing health. He never saw the last one.
I had a dream about Dad about six months after he died. It was like a visitation from beyond. The cast of family members in the dream was surprising, actually, but most meaningful for me was that in the dream Dad was happy.
Happy Birthday, Dad.
at 7:30 AM
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Bursting, or Excuse Me While I Engage in a Little Bragging Here
I’m already rather emotional this time of year.
Add to it C’s impending birthday. And S’s.
Then C and M bring home great report cards.
And C gets a “superior” evaluation from his French Horn teacher.
And C gets 1st place in his division in the Science Fair, and M gets a very respectable honorable mention.
And C’s photo wins 3rd in the state for the Reflections program.
And I catch C and M being wonderful big brothers to S. And even sometimes being wonderful brothers to each other.
And C goes off to his first dance-like event (as part of a year-long manners and social skills program) and refuses to tell me who he danced with.
And S grabs me tight and sighs, “I love you, Mommy.”
I’m the blubbering idiot with permanently swollen eyes.
at 3:03 PM
Friday, March 23, 2007
The Social Order of Suburban Housewives
I am wearing one of my favorite shirts today. It has PTA Reject embroidered across the chest.
Our town is full of cliques, especially at the mom level. It’s a lot like high school. There’s the PTA clique (which further sub-divides by school), the clique associated with the local Catholic church, the newcomer’s club clique, the hockey mom clique, the lacrosse mom clique, the private school clique, and the gym-that- wants-to-be-a-country-club clique, and a few others. There are cross-members as well as single clique members. While I am friendly with people in the various cliques and count a good number of acquaintances, I would not say that I am truly friends with more than a handful of women in town.
I readily admit that it takes a long time for me to really make a friend. But once made, I am extremely loyal. My closest girlfriend has been my closest girlfriend for, oh, eighteen or nineteen years now, and I have known her for longer than twenty years.
But that’s not why. It’s because I don’t do things their way, and have no interest in changing my life to conform.
I don’t play tennis, for example. I tried once, years ago, and totally sucked at it. For another, I have a job outside the home – and I (gasp) like it that way. Third, I’m not pushing my sons into multiple sports per season, or the other expected suburban activities. Fourth, when I have volunteered around town I have tried to inject some new ideas and not just done whatever project “our” way just because it’s been done that way for “years.” Fifth, though this blog might not reveal it, I can be very shy when I first meet someone. I understand that this can come off as being aloof and work hard to be more outgoing when I meet people, but it’s a challenge for me. I could go on.
This means I am on the outside more often than not. I am mostly okay with that.
But does that mean we can’t be friends, or at least friendly/friendlier? I mean, really. How and why do my choices threaten what you have chosen for yourself? A little respect and openness could expand all our worlds.
I know I am not the only woman in town who experiences being on the outside of the major cliques, but I don't exactly want to be like the cliques and start a women-who-don't-fit-into-the-other-cliques clique. Anyway, I'm too busy living.
I go through angst every six months or so about this. Usually something will happen that will just floor me with its ridiculousness.
So what happened to bring this up?
A woman I know – the mother of one of C’s good friends – has been keeping her individual email address from me. It’s been quite obvious. For whatever reason, she does not want me to have it. The email address I use when I need to send and email (usually around the boys) is her husband’s. This means it takes extra time to get a response, but I accept it for what it is. I don’t really care about the email address. It’s the extremes she’s gone to that amuse/annoy me.
(Hey, I have seven email addresses, and I direct some people to one rather than another. The thing is – I admit that to people. I will say, “I have several email addresses. The best one for you to use is…”)
Yesterday, I sent out an email about C’s upcoming birthday. A reply came back from the husband that obviously was a mistake (it was map pasted in noting restaurants in the area – nothing to do with the coming birthday), and it included the woman’s individual email address.
I should also say that the husband and I have an easier relationship. He and my husband and I all have a similar warped sense of humor – but I also have been careful not to get too friendly. This is a small town, afterall.
I replied back with a joke and said something that indicated that 1) I recognized that his wife had been keeping that email from me, and 2) I won’t use it.
So now she knows that I know she was keeping the email address from me.
What will happen now?
My guess is that no one will say anything and after a period of extra awkwardness all around, it will settle back to the status quo. This woman keeping me at arm’s length because I don’t fit into her accepted social order, we’ll keep a friendlier relationship with her husband, our boys will be good buddies.
But it got me thinking about this whole thing and I am annoyed and sad about it all over again. It’s all so insanely stupid.
As I was exercising this afternoon, it occurred to me that the reason these women cling so tightly to their cliques and their social order is that they are looking for – and looking to protect – that same thing I am: acceptance.
But the trick is, if only they would give a little more acceptance, they would get a little more, too.
at 2:48 PM
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Gifts I Didn’t Want
After C was sick, people gave us gifts. Wonderful, generous gifts.
They really didn’t need to – I had the gift that mattered most, C’s life – but I also understood that people had a need to do something.
Don’t get me wrong: I am not ungrateful. Some of the gifts came rather in handy to occupy (read: bribe) M or C at various times. There were gifts for my husband and myself, too, including a gift certificate for a restaurant when we were ready to go out on our own (it took a long while, but we enjoyed it when it was time). People, from all parts of our life, were very kind.
Among the gifts were two sets of baseball tickets. The first set meant the most to me, because it was from my mom friends, near and far. They put a lot of effort into getting those for us, for C. I felt hugged the whole time we were at the park. A beautiful, normal, anonymous afternoon at the park.
The second set was from a hospital connection of my husbands. They were better tickets, though easier for the giver to acquire, and were the opening for a day of events at the ballpark that I won’t soon forget.
After being offered tickets, we were told to pick a date, any date. We offered up three possibilities, and soon had four tickets to our first choice. It seems the giver is a close friend of the general manager’s family.
Two days before the game, the giver called and asked if we’d like a tour of the park beforehand. We said sure, and were told to be at the park at a certain time (early) and ask for a specific young woman.
After meeting this nice young woman, we were taken down to the dugout, where we watched batting practice among the players. We chewed Bazooka bubblegum from the players’ supply, talked to a few players (a very nice designated hitter and an equally nice captain catcher), and generally were in awe. We had a family picture taken on the field while the team practiced. We walked all over the park, and finally were taken to our seat, six rows behind home plate, and given some treats to eat and drink.
The seats, it turns out, belonged to the mother of the young general manager, and the general manager himself came by to talk to us. He gave C a bag of goodies, then later sent over one of his staff with a bag for M (he hadn’t realized there were two young fans in the group).
The other season ticket holders sitting near us were very kind. The game was a good one. Among other plays, our (then) star shortstop hit a three-run homer to center – and I caught the swing with my camera.
It was, in so many ways, an amazing day. We had fun. We saw a great game. We were lucky enough to meet some baseball heroes.
But there was an overriding thought in my head that day. As lucky as were to be able to do that, as grateful for the opportunity as we were, and as much fun as we had, I could have gone through my whole life and not experienced that, and it would have been okay.
To have that experience, we had to go through C being sick. C had to go through all that trauma to his little body and his psyche, and our family and friends had to go through so much fear.
And I would give anything have him not to have gone through that.
at 9:40 PM
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
The last week has been extremely busy, and full of change.
Last Thursday was my last day at a company I had been with almost 2 ½ years.
They made it really easy to say good-bye. From the moment I actually gave notice, every action on the part of the corporate entity confirmed that my decision was spot-on. On my last day, I had to get in touch with other former employees to ask what I needed to do to get out of that place cleanly – because no one in the company said a word to me about any exit procedure.
I would love to tell stories, and oh, I have stories! But not yet. First I need to shake out the experience, get on the other side of it, give it a little perspective.
And settle into my new gig.
Remember that “meeting” I talked about last month? It was a job interview. In spite of the bruised and painful hip and the lost button on the skirt, everything worked out.
(Insert large grin here)
I’ve had two days at the new place, and so far, so good. I’m still intimidated and overwhelmed with everything I need to learn, and the impostor police are running around my head, but I think it’s a good change.
People are happy to be there. They are excited about the product. They are smart and friendly. They work hard.
I am sure that over the next few weeks, I will have to check my reactions to things at the new place. At the old place, things were becoming very strange and dysfunctional, and everyone was playing CYA. Ick. I am looking forward to not having to deal with that kind of atmosphere!
I'm also looking forward to learning new things and challenges and new people.
(Insert another large grin)
at 9:48 AM
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
I pulled one of the stitches in my lip about half-way through while (ahem) raising my voice a bit with the children.
Guilt and pain all rolled up into one simple package.
at 9:04 PM
If my paternal grandmother were still alive, she would turn 103 today.
To call my grandmother feisty would be an understatement. When I think about her I smile and shake my head. Grandma R died in 1990 while I was on a business trip in Germany. I did not go back for the funeral, but shortly thereafter and since have regretted that decision.
Grandma R never met my husband, even though we had been dating for about four years when she died. With my grandmother, you had to be very careful about revealing romantic attachments as she was likely, once she heard of them, to get on the phone to various friends and relations and exaggerate. Had I told her of my boyfriend (now husband) other family members likely would have been told I was married and pregnant (and not necessarily in that order) within minutes. But also because I never brought boyfriends to visit, she did ask me point blank (and without a quiver of fear or judgement in her voice), about a year before she died, whether I was “one of those lesbians.” I’m smiling and shaking my head as I write this.
My grandmother was born in Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma and raised in small town in Texas. I have a tale of visiting that town with my dad many years ago, but I’ll save it for another time. After leaving home and marrying, she lived all over the west. Her first husband abandoned her and her two children, one of whom died from dysentery (my C is named after this uncle), she worked as maid at a (still) fancy resort, married again, gave birth to a child with severe Down’s Syndrome and later watched her die from complications, lost her second husband, gave birth to still another child (my late aunt), worked in the carnival concession business, made fortunes, lost fortunes, bought a town, sold a town, survived breast cancer, was often a guest at that same (still) fancy resort, played favorites, had questionable business dealings, traveled all over the world, meddled in her children’s lives, married and divorced several more times, made and lost more money, meddled in her grandchildren’s lives, and on and on and on.
Life with her around was never boring.
Happy Birthday, Grandma.
at 8:10 AM
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Yesterday afternoon I went into the city to have a little cyst cut out of my lip. No big deal, I had one removed two years ago. The three stitches itch a bit, but oh well.
As I dropped S with her daddy I picked up a copy of the weekly hospital newsletter figuring the wait in dermatology might be long and something to read would be good. On the cover of the newsletter was an article about the pediatric trauma unit being re-certified and an interview with the head of pediatric surgery, Dr. G.
Our beloved Dr. G.
Dr. G is an extremely confident and demanding, some would say cocky, pediatric surgeon. For residents and fellows and others beneath him, he can be very tough to work with. However, for patients and patient’s parents, he is the one you want working on your kid. He is kind and caring and more than competent.
Dr. G is probably the biggest reason C is here today. Dr. G saved C’s life. Twice.
During the code, my husband and I were sitting an empty PICU room just a few doors down from C, crying and praying, and listening to the desperate all-hospital pages requesting any and all available help to come to the PICU. For C.
While C was bleeding uncontrollably from chest tubes, and Dr. F was performing chest compressions, it was Dr. G that took over calling the code when he arrived, ordering just the right sequence of actions and procedures and medications and getting the situation under control without further invasive measures (there were rib spreaders ready). That was the first time.
We saw Dr. G everyday. He came in to check on C every day, often multiple times a day, and declared that he was the only doctor to touch this boy. No residents, no fellows, no junior faculty, just him. He even came back to the hospital on a Friday night at 11:30 to adjust C’s tubes. He ended every visit to C’s room with these words, in a strong, confident voice: "Keep the faith. God is good."
Five days after the code, C starting spiking big fevers that we were having trouble managing with ibuprofen and acetaminophen. On the sixth day, Dr. G ordered a CT scan to see what was going on. Within minutes of seeing the CT scan, he came to us and said C needed surgery, and he needed it now. He’d already had the OR schedule rearranged to get him in there within the hour.
That afternoon, Dr. G removed part of the lower lobe of C’s left lung (which he described as “hamburger”), and sucked out a hematoma that had been constricting C’s upper left lobe. This likely was the remains of whatever germ had attacked C’s lungs (to this day, we do not know what it was) and the source of the fever. He said that C likely would have had hours left if the surgery had not been performed as the rotting lung tissue was spreading. And that was the second time Dr. G saved C’s life.
C turned the corner with that surgery and started to really improve. More than a week later, Dr. G came to us to say good-bye. C was almost ready to go home. As Dr. G left C’s PICU room for the last time, he turned, not quite looking at us, and said, very quietly, “God was really looking out for this one.” And he walked out.
Dr. G had been using his game voice all along.
We've seen Dr. G a couple of times since - just walking through the hospital and at the fundraising walk. He always remembers C.
It’s an odd feeling, knowing there is person walking around who saved your son’s life. A good one, but odd. I have a bit of a crush on this man. Not a romantic crush, but a serious adoration. If he were to call and ask a favor, I probably would drop everything to do it.
He saved my son’s life after all.
at 9:54 AM
Friday, March 16, 2007
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Hopes for my Children
When I started this blog, I had no idea where it would go. I didn’t tell anyone about it at first. Then Ruthie found me, and was my first commenter. Then (very) slowly others.
I read Ruthie’s blog regularly. She and I are very different. We agree little on social and political issues, but her writing is thought-provoking. It has helped me to clarify where I stand.
Ruthie blogged recently on homosexuality. Again, our views don’t agree. But, again, the post got me thinking.
I could go on and on about the homosexuality issue in particular, shove in a little religion, etc., but that is not what this post is about.
After C was sick, I examined my hopes for my children, for their futures. His illness made me realize a few things, and her post had me thinking about those things late last night.
- I want my children to be happy. I don’t care if they become lawyers or plumbers or computer programmers or firefighters or writers or hair stylists or whatever. I want them to be happy people and find joy and satisfaction in their chosen paths.
- I want my children to love and to be able to accept love. I want them to develop healthy relationships and care and talk and find and give comfort. Gender is not an issue here. Love is.
- I want my children to be able to function successfully day-to-day. I want them to understand the importance of looking someone in the eye and interacting and picking up their own socks off the bedroom floor.
- I want my children to be able to see how they fit into the greater world and how they can affect change in that greater world. I want them to be kind to the world.
- I want my children to have and to give, in all their glory and all their faults, that thing that eludes so many of us: acceptance.
What a monumental job I have before me.
at 11:23 AM
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Our recently elected governor announced a few days ago that he will be curtailing his work schedule somewhat and delegating more tasks so that he can spend more time with his wife, who is suffering from exhaustion and depression.
He said that while he still has a job to do, his wife is the center of his world, and this flexible schedule would be in place “as long as it takes.”
I don’t envy the why of this in the least. But I am thrilled to have a chief executive of our state who really gets the whole family comes first thing.
at 10:28 PM
Why Do I Blog?
Ruthie in Minnesota tagged me on this topic. Go over and check her out. (She paid me a very nice compliment, too. Thanks again, Ruthie. I’m very flattered.)
I blog to:
- To try to process some emotions around a major health crisis my oldest son endured in the spring of 2003.
- To practice, practice, practice writing and hopefully regain some self-confidence around writing. I write technical material professionally but have been in a difficult professional situation for a while that has been eroding that confidence.
- To record some of the ups and downs of my life and my family’s life – before I forget them completely.
- As an outlet for emotions over some of the crazy and weird things that happen outside my immediate family over which I have no control.
- For fun.
I don’t have a lot of people to tag on this, but to start, I’ll tag Beba, Pantheist Mom, and Enjay.
Beba, Pantheist Mom, Enjay and I all have children who were due in March, 1996. Beba and Enjay’s girls have the same birthday, and Pantheist Mom and I have sons born the same day. And we’ve all met in real life in years past. They are wonderful people.
at 10:58 AM
Sunday, March 11, 2007
And So It Begins…
I said a while back that I think the reason I started this blog was to process some issues around C’s illness four years ago. Already it has helped. The anniversary is about a month away and I’m mostly okay. I’m not deeply angry like I was last year at this time. But I am not my usual self, either. For example, I’m somewhat paralyzed in my ability to complete simple tasks (such as laundry). I’m very forgetful, too.
I’d been ignoring this, telling myself that I was okay, and even a little smug in that denial. Blaming the forgetfulness and non-completion of tasks and other things on the general chaos of life, and so on. Until today, that is. Clearly there are still emotions to be processed.
I was sitting in church, and it was packed (Father B’s last service). A bit of a send-off was planned, and the junior choir - of which C is a member - was set to sing earlier in the service than usual. As the first notes of the piano began, I looked up to the choir loft, saw C open his mouth to sing – and the tears started rolling.
He is alive.
He’s breathing, walking, talking.
I just don’t know where to begin to express how thankful I feel for that. For C and for all my family to be healthy and thriving. It’s so much.
My friend M, sitting two pews ahead of me with her brood, looked back and saw me dab my eyes. I met M after C was sick and she’s been a good friend. Last spring we were helping each other through anger and tears, though from very different sources.
M mouthed, “Are you okay?”
I nodded and mouthed back, “It’s just that time of year.”
at 10:07 PM
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
We were lying awake in bed last night, talking about office politics (his and mine) when we heard it. Our conversation stopped quickly and we lay in silence, hoping to hear it again.
Then we did.
The owl was back.
A couple of months ago we heard owls for the first time – well, one at least. My husband was working late in the study and I had dozed off while waiting for him to come upstairs. The call of the owl woke me up and it was clear it was close by. Perhaps in the nearest tree. My husband came upstairs to listen more closely, and look out our bedroom windows. We spoke quietly, listening, listening.
My husband put on a sweatshirt and retrieved a flashlight. He tried to creep quietly out the front door to look for it. It was close to the full moon, and the yard was full of shadows. He spied the owl in the tree and shined his flashlight at it, reflecting its eyes. Then it spread its great wings and flew to a tree in the far corner of our neighbor’s yard.
We were afraid we had scared away the owl. We hadn’t heard it since. Perhaps we had not been awake late enough (unlikely), or perhaps we just weren’t paying attention.
Last night when we heard the owl calls again, we raised the shades on the windows and peered out. Like before, it was close to the full moon and the yard was full of shadows. We looked hard in the trees but couldn’t see anything.
I looked on the local Audubon site this morning about the types of owls that might be in the area. There was a long-eared owl spotted at the wildlife sanctuary in the next town just two days ago, and a short-eared owl in the same place two weeks ago. Perhaps it was one of those birds.
I was also intrigued by the Snowy Owl Project mentioned on the site (including a photo of a color marked snowy owl on our local beach). Their migratory range is amazing. The site includes a map showing the range of a particular snowy owl male. I never thought of my local beach as a balmy place to winter, but apparently it’s nice and warm to birds that summer close to the Arctic Circle, near the northern reaches of Hudson Bay.
We lay there listening to the owl calls – about every twenty seconds or so – for about thirty minutes. We tried to listen how it moved through the trees. Was there more than one? It was hard to tell.
Then I had one final thought.
Could it please shut up already so I can get some sleep?
Update: After perusing the information and listening to calls at Owl Pages, we think it was a great horned owl - possibly a male making his territorial call. C has made us promise to wake him up if we hear it again.
at 9:10 AM
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
The Other Son
There is an interesting piece in the Health section of the New York Times today titled, “A Diagnosis for One, But an Impact Shared.” It’s about the fallout on siblings when a child has a life-changing diagnosis or accident.
I was glad to see an article about this. We certainly had a bit of this to deal with during and after C was sick. And we still are dealing with it, I think.
M was not quite 3 ½ when C became ill. During the thick of it all, he was quite the trouper. It really was amazing. He handled being passed off between his aunt and uncle and a couple of dear friends with (mostly) aplomb. We kept his preschool schedule and other activities as regular and normal as possible during the time, and I think that helped him. He slept in the room he and C share about half the time C was hospitalized – but in his brother’s bed.
While his visits to us at the hospital were welcome and we looked forward to his smile to brighten our difficult days, we could see after the first week that this was increasingly hard on him. Always an independent and boisterous child, his hugs and holds on us lingered longer and longer.
At some point, we realized that M had not actually seen his brother in over a week. Visits by children are not allowed in the PICU, so we had to speak with a couple of the attending physicians to get permission and guidance. We talked to Child/Life services about how to prepare him for what he would see. M still was not breathing on his own, and all persons entering his PICU room (save his parents) had to wear gowns and masks as the origin of the infection had not been identified (and still hasn’t been).
We dressed M in a gown and mask, and I took him into the PICU on my hip. We stayed only a few minutes, but M clearly was glad to verify the continued life of his adored big brother, and C, still barely conscious, recognized and was pleased to see his annoying little brother. I showed M the cards and photos on the wall. Told him that this was where we were all spending our days, reassuring him that we would all be home again, together, and hopefully soon.
Taking M in to see C that day clearly was the right thing, and provided a boost to his behavior with his caretakers over the next week or so.
As we came to the end of C’s hospital stay, we had a couple of nights for which one of us had to go home and stay with him. When we told him this was going to happen, M was so excited. For my night at home with him, I told him he could sleep in my bed and I would hold him all night long, if that’s what he wanted. He definitely wanted that – and made sure to tell his preschool teachers of this plan repeatedly on the day leading up to this evening.
Yes, my other son needed me home, and badly.
After C came home, M was excited to have is brother home and desperately needed things to get back to normal, but they didn’t and couldn’t. C still had an IV line in for the last doses of strong antibiotics, was being weaned off some fairly addictive pain medicine, and couldn’t walk. A visiting nurse and physical and occupational therapy were coming to the house regularly. My husband and I were pretty spent emotionally.
M started to act out. (Surprise!) Heck, C, as he got better, started to act out. We all desperately needed to get back to normal.
We never did.
Just when I felt like I was getting my bearings again, my father died and we all had to get out west for that (and it was a mess between my aunt and dad’s wife). Then soon enough I was pregnant with S, and C was having more fallout emotionally from his illness.
We had to start redefining normal.
Amid all that redefining, I still wonder if I did right by him and what he needed and needs after everything that happened to C (and him) and a new sibling, and so on. Did I take his resiliency for granted?
I hope not.
C’s illness happened to all of us. Every day I am thankful for the life and health of C and all of us, and I am thankful that my 3 ½ year old little man stepped up to the challenge that was presented to all of us.
at 1:52 PM
Monday, March 05, 2007
Dipping My Toes Into Hot Water
In about a week I am giving a coffee for a woman I know who is running for reelection to the school committee.
School committee is a totally thankless job. Totally. Thankless. Especially with the people in town who consider every cent spent toward education a personal conspiracy to rob them of their money. While enthusiastically supporting other less than necessary town programs.
(For example, there’s a move afoot (well-supported) to replace several town playing fields with artificial turf to the tune of a LOT of money. Our schools can’t get enough funding to maintain level services and there’s support for building artificial turf fields? This makes no friggin’ sense.)
One of my acquaintance’s opponents for this election is a woman who simply cannot let go of issues. One of her big issues as she goes into this campaign is to implement abstinence-only health education in the schools. That’s abstinence-ONLY. And this approach, in this day and age, just floors me.
Currently our schools offer a health program that teaches abstinence-first, and parents are given enough advance warning that they can have their children removed from the classes if they so choose. Years of post-class surveys show that the kids in our schools leave knowing that abstinence is the ONLY sure way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. But they also know how to better protect themselves if they choose to take a different path – and that it is “better” protection, not “100%” protection. We have a very low rate of sexually transmitted disease and I believe the last (reported) case of teen pregnancy is now a 1st grader (a friend of M’s).
I try my hardest as a parent, and I like to believe that my children will make certain choices and always come to me for advice. But, I am under no delusions that I am a perfect parent – and I remember being a teenager. No way was I going to ask my mom about, um, stuff. By this time, I already knew where my mother and father stood on certain issues; their values were well-taught. But I was becoming my own person, wanting and needing to make my own choices. I needed and sought-out other sources of information. I am fortunate that I had the wherewithal to do that.
My kids – and others – need another source for information. They do. As I mentioned, parents can opt their kids out of the classes, so why does this woman feel the need to try to deny this education to ALL the kids in town? I simply don’t know.
There’s a documentary out that I saw a while back, The Education of Shelby Knox, about just this issue. It’s fascinating. A young woman in Lubbock, Texas, herself a Christian who has pledged abstinence until marriage, learns that her town – with abstinence ONLY education in the schools – has the highest incidence of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in the state and begins a campaign to bring more comprehensive health education to the schools. I recommend the film. It’s thought-provoking.
The issue theoretically was settled in school committee a couple of years ago, with the majority of the school committee (after MONTHS of research and meetings) voting to maintain the current health curriculum. But this woman wants to bring it up again. Which begs the question – is she running to represent the community or only her own agenda?
(She also wants to remove all world language instruction at the lower elementary levels – it’s a small portion of the lower elementary curriculum, but loved by the kids, and the kids are coming into their formal language curriculum in middle school better prepared.)
My acquaintance who is running has been really conscientious about her role on the school committee in the last three years. She ran – successfully – without much family support beyond her husband and kids (she has in-laws in town who specifically did not support her first run, but that is a whole ‘nother can of worms – and she’s proven them wrong), and has dedicated herself to being available to residents of the town. I’ve seen her in the library numerous times, checking out stacks of materials on specific topics so that she can be better prepared for meetings and discussions. It’s really been quite impressive.
So if I can do just a little something for her, I want to. The invitations go out tomorrow (37 of them!). I hope for a good turnout so we can mobilize to get my acquaintance back in office. She’s doing a good job.
at 10:35 AM
Friday, March 02, 2007
The rooms in the PICU are fairly utilitarian, as you might imagine. Although there was a single painted acoustic ceiling tile that a child could see when laying flat on his or her back, there really wasn’t much interest in the room.
While C was in the hospital, we tried our best to perk things up. I had my brother-in-law print out some pictures, C’s first grade class sent cards and we hung those on the wall, and M’s room at daycare made a banner.
About half-way through his stay, a friend brought a mobile to put up in his room. This one in fact:
It was great. As C started to emerge from sedation, it was something with movement for him to focus on – and it calmed the adults in the room in the same way.
One of the doctors noted just how great this particular mobile was because it was plastic and could thus be cleaned and sanitized given the meds and bodily fluids that sometime fly around such a hospital room (don’t think to hard on that, ‘k?). She said it would be nice to have more of those.
When C finally was released, I tracked down the manufacturer of the mobile and acquired their product list. I identified all the mobiles that were made of plastic and then asked for (first) a donation of the mobiles to the hospital, and then (what they said yes to) a major discount. Several weeks after C’s release, the hospital received twenty unique mobiles from Flensted Mobiles of Denmark. They are in the rooms and halls of the PICU and we’ve been told they are a welcome addition to the space.
Since then, we give one more mobile each April to the PICU along with an update on C (and a new photo) and renewed thanks for all they did for us. It’s important for us to let them know how we continue to appreciate all they did for C and for us, and it’s more personal and directed than the other fundraising we do for the hospital (more on that in a few days).
Now that it’s March, it’s time to start thinking about this year’s mobile. Last year we gave them this one:
This years contenders are:
at 12:22 PM
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Change is in the Air
Spring is coming. I can feel it. There was something about the clouds yesterday, extra warmth in the sun today. It's coming.
Other change is happening, too. C is nearing 11, S is nearing 3.
And still more change. But I can't talk about it quite yet.
And even then, I will heed the hard-learned lessons of Dooce. I swear I will, regardless of temptation.
Yessiree, spring is coming.
at 9:56 PM