Monday, December 31, 2007

Things Have Not Gone as Planned

I am not sure what is worse -- having to call 911 while speeding along on the highway because it looks like your baby is about to stop breathing, or having called 911, discovering all circuits are busy. Then calling back again and getting a busy signal. Then calling back AGAIN and finally getting someone on the line after maybe six minutes of waiting.

Short story: Went to Tahoe Saturday, by Sunday came back home due to Little A's worsening illness. It's a four-hour drive. Halfway home we decided we needed to go to our local children's hospital rather than home. One hour from home we realized Little A was rapidly deteriorating and we couldn't wait to go to the hospital we wanted. So we called 911, and were directed to the nearest ER. Since then she's been transported to the local children's hospital, since it's one of the best pediatric care units around. Little A has a bad case of pneumonia. That means Big A is spending New Year's Eve with her cousins in Sonoma while her father and I spend it with her little sister at the hospital.

Little A is tired and bewildered at all the poking and prodding. Especially the poking: that child has had TEN IV sticks so far because her veins are so teeny that the IVs keep blowing out. And while supplemental oxygen is her best friend right now, she keeps trying to rip off the masks and cannulas. After last night, shows of fiestiness make us feel great. I never thought I'd squeal with delight when my kid lobbed a bottle over my shoulder at frustration with being forced to wear a mask. Life is surprising that way.

At any rate, she is holding her own now, and after last night that's saying something. We are hopeful she'll be home again in just a couple more days.

More soon. I'm off to quickly shower and defoul myself before heading back to the hospital.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Have Yourself a Wheezy Little Christmas

At this moment I should be in a mountain cabin, drinking wine and resting after a day of playing in the snow with the kids. Alas, Little A came down with a cold that got progressively worse all week long. By Wednesday it was bad enough for DH to call the pediatrician's office and get blown off by the on-call physician, who felt we should just give her some Tylenol and wait it out. By Thursday morning Little A refused to play or eat and whimpered every time DH or I put her down. I called the pediatrician's office again and apparently sounded agitated/paranoid enough to score an appointment this time.

Little A was lethargic when I got her in the car to go to the pediatrician's office, but she sounded raspy and terrible by the time we arrived. As I undressed her for the exam, I noticed her arms and feet were the color of raw steak. We couldn't get a pulse ox reading due to equipment issues at first and abandoned that task in favor of giving her an albuterol treatment with the nebulizer right away.

My kids have both had occasional wheezing episodes with certain illnesses that required albuterol. Little children hate having a nebulizer mask over their face, but to me albuterol is an old friend. After just ten minutes a child who sounds like an rattly old air conditioner suddenly sounds clear. Magic nebulizer machine, magic drug!

Except not this time. After a full treatment, Little A still wheezed badly. The nurse set up another albuterol vial. Little A was so sick she wasn't even fighting the mask. The machine hissed, and my heart palpitated. Everyone was very professional in the office, but I caught the look between the nurse and the doctor, and I knew that if she didn't improve from this second treatment, Little A was probably going to the hospital right after this.

Thankfully as the second vial finished, Little A sounded better and had more normal skin color. Her pulse ox reading after two treatments alternated between 92 and 93. Not great (normal range is 96-100) but not in the holy-shit-dangerous range, either. Lord knows how low it was before the two treatments, but I suspect that had we got that first reading, she might be in the hospital right now based solely on that.

As it was, they monitored Little A at the pediatrician's office for another forty minutes and then sent us home with orders to give albuterol every two hours for the rest of the day. Little A is now also on oral prednisone and another inhaled steroid. If she wheezed again on all the new drugs, we were told to take her directly to the hospital. DH and I are exhausted from getting up in the middle of night to administer drugs on the proper schedule. But by this morning at the pediatrician's office, her oxygen saturation level was up to 96, which is a good sign that she is on the mend.

Unfortunately, a 96 percent oxygen saturation level isn't quite high enough for her doctor (or us) to feel comfortable going up to the very thin mountain air of our rental cabin several hundred miles from home. So today we stayed home instead of traveling. Poor Big A doesn't grasp how sick her sister was, and so was incredibly upset that she didn't get to see the snow as previously promised. We're hoping that we might get up to the cabin sometime tomorrow, if Little A improves further overnight. That would still give us a couple days in the snow. But either way, I'm just really thankful that if she had to get so sick, it could happen at the doctor's office, and not in a cabin (or car) in the middle of nowhere.

So if all goes well, I'll be in the snow tomorrow, not to return to the Bay Area until the holiday is over.

Happy New Year, everyone. Here's hoping that good things lie in store for all in 2008.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Back to the Sea

Two years ago tomorrow DH drove us wordlessly in the winter morning gloom, rain ricocheting off the car with an unrelenting ping, ping, ping. We parked on a street adjacent to the surgery center and waited until the last possible moment to go in. Sad as the world is round at not being able to fix our broken baby, we came down from our house on the hill to the hospital, came down from the lofty aspirations of parents to be, came down to an unthinkable, brutal place where all the outcomes were the same, and we could only say when or how. We came to the hospital in deep despair, but also in hope. We would curtail our baby's suffering by doing what we did that day. And we would reach out and grab hard at a shard of the dream that we might be able to go on, to try again, to have a healthy child someday. When it was time we got out of the car and trudged into the surgery center. The rain fell and fell, pooling in the streets where it drained down the storm sewers back to the sea.

Many women who end pregnancies when they discover something is profoundly wrong carry a picture of a healed, whole version of their children in their minds. They think of themselves as having delivered their babies from affliction, and see them as perfected now. This strikes me as lovely. But for better or worse, I have never been able to separate out the Trisomy 18 from the rest of my child. It was in every single cell, indivisible from the rest of the baby. It's just who she was. Yet while the trisomy changed so many things, the one thing it never muddied was my love for the baby. I loved her the same before we knew there was a problem as I did when I got the amnio results. I loved her the same when I scheduled the termination, and after. I loved her no differently than I loved my living children when they swam in my belly. At first this was a source of pain, the sameness of the love. But over the years the knowledge of it changed into a source of solace. I can live with what happened because I feel my motives in what I chose were good ones. And maybe that's the most grace and healing one can hope for in the end, when it comes to the death of a child.

Love you, baby girl. Miss you, too. Always.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Better Living Through Random Products

Has anyone else seen those ads on TV for the Dyson Air Blade?

Older Dyson ads always struck me as funny because of the way the earnest inventor tells you he spent years creating his high-tech masterpiece of a ... vacuum. Hundreds of prototypes, untold vacations and episodes of What Not to Wear missed, all in the name of reinventing an appliance that, as far as I can see, works reasonably fine in its cheaper, more technologically outdated, non-Dyson version. It takes a special combination of brains and passion for cleaning to make something like this. To then explain the details of invention in such excruciating detail in TV ads makes it obvious that Dyson truly believes you too have been suffering over inefficient vacuum suckage all of your life.

And now James Dyson is back with another product I didn't realize needed improvement: rest room hand dryers. Or as Dyson dubs it, the Air Blade. He says the problem with other hand dryers is that people would rather wipe their hands on their pants than use them. So inefficient! So unhygienic! Dyson, random appliance messiah, to the rescue!

At first I couldn't figure out why the Air Blade was being advertised on prime time cable TV. It is a product made for public restrooms, which the average television viewer has no part in outfitting with new equipment. But then I realized that selling the Air Blade is likely only half the point for Dyson. Those ads are a public service announcement for fellow OCD sufferers like himself.

I can only assume he'll be bringing us a nose vacuum (aka Kleenex 2.0) next year.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Oh My Darling Clementine

Today is one of those days where I'm trying to edit a chapter, talk to an author about some delicate matters related to his book, order two birthday cakes, complete a pile of preschool re-enrollment paperwork for Big A, buy enough booze and soft drinks for brunch with 20 people, pick up the girls from daycare/school, drop off a coffee urn my friend is borrowing for a holiday party, address and mail two-dozen holiday cards, clean the house from top to bottom, and finish decorating for Christmas -- all while doing the usual usual dinner/play/bath/bedtime ritual with the girls.

So, it's a little crazy. Yet I've had an extra bounce in my step as I've hustled around today because of the news that Beruriah's big boy Samuel is safely in her arms today. Yay, baby Samuel!

As might be guessed by my to-do list, we're having a party this weekend. A combined bash for DH and Little A, whose birthdays are only 4 days apart. Last year on DH's birthday he got the present of bringing Little A home for the hospital for the first time. She was so teeny, cute, and jaundiced that I called her my little clementine, after the petite orange citrus that comes into season each December.

Here we were, just home from the hospital, looking worn out and sleepy:



And here is my Baby A now, full of vim and (sweet, maybe balsamic?) vinegar, fighting with her sister over who gets to break the tree ornaments first:



Ah. Life is good here. Really, really good.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

An Amusing Month So Far

Big A: "Mommy, is Santa going to bring me presents?"

Wabi: "Sure, as long as you're a good girl. Santa gives toys as a reward to good children. But really, really naughty kids get coal."

Big A, incredulous: "He's gonna give me a COLD?"

Wabi: "No, not a cold, coal. It's a kind of rock."

Big A: "He's gonna give me COLD ROCKS?"

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Tagged

Thanks, Complicated Mama, (aka Whatthef*uck) at Letters to the Babies that Lived, for tagging me for the Blogher Me and Mine Meme 100. Soooo let's see if I can follow the meme directions on 4.5 hours sleep without screwing up ....

1) My blog is called Wabi-Sabi Life, I'm Wabi, and my ridiculously bare about-me page can be found here. Really, the blurb on my sidebar sums it up best: Lost one baby, almost lost another, and nearly died myself -- all in less than a year. Just trying to walk the line between dwelling on it too much and ignoring it altogether. I vascillate between parent-oriented posts, prochoice-type rants about the undercover-nature of pregnancy termination for medical reasons, and discussions about my grief over what happened to me and the baby I lost.

2) Sure, I'd like to be profiled as a family blogger on Blogher, here's the linkback to the orignal post on this ...

3) I've been blogging for nine months.

4) Bloggers I'd like to tag are Labor Nurse at Rebirthnurse, Patty at Monday Changed Everything, and Meg at The-Para-graph.


.............................................................................................................................................................

Me and Mine Meme 100 Directions:

    1.) State the name of your blog, your real name or your online name, and link to your "about me" page.
    2.) Say you want to be profiled on BlogHer as a family blogger and link back to this Me and Mine 100 original post, http://www.blogher.org/mommy-and-family-bloggers-promote-yourselves-me-and-mine-meme-100.
    3.) Tell how long you've been blogging.
    4.) Pass this meme on to three other bloggers that you think should be profiled/interviewed, and ask them to do the meme. (Kindly link to the bloggers you select.)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Drafting a Letter for the Holiday Cards ...

Dear Family and Friends,

Happy Holidays! I know, I know, long time no holiday letter from us. But life has been rather crazy in the past few Decembers. As some of you know,
because I told you, although only 1 out of 5 of you bothered to respond to the news in any way, so I am making a point of saying it again in December 2005 we were reeling from a pregnancy loss and just couldn't get the cards out. Oh, and family? It was a termination for medical reasons. My baby had a fatal genetic disorder, and I felt this was the best choice. But I couldn’t tell all you Catholic relatives this, because you’d have responded so poorly. Then last December, happier circumstances a terrifying pregnancy filled with illness and preterm labor culminating in uterine rupture left the cards unmailed again, because we were scrambling to care for Little A, who arrived earlier than planned.

Little A has thrived this year. She left the hospital weighing 4 pounds, 13 ounces because she shoved her feet through a scar on my uterus at 35 weeks and had to come out via stat C section before I bled to death and now weighs over 21 pounds. She looks just like DH, and is sweet natured like him, too. And Big A? She maintains her dramatic personality but now beyond the toddler years, she has mellowed into quite the funny and charming preschooler the neighbors no longer ask if we are torturing her because the tantrums are so loud. She is usually a very kind big sister, even when the baby eats her artwork or yanks her ponytail.

I took off the first six months after Little A’s arrival and am now back to work part time. I started writing a blog that none of you will likely ever know about, too. DH continues animating the _____ game franchise at _____. We still live in our little 1950s house in Oakland and have been renovating bit by bit. This year we got new kitchen countertops and replaced all the windows and exterior doors. Next year, if we get our do-it-yourself mojo back, we will tackle building a window bench for the corner breakfast nook.

And that’s about it. Hey, did I mention that after the uterine rupture I can’t have kids anymore? I guess it was an ordinary year in many respects, but after the past few Decembers, ordinary feels extraordinarily good! We are grateful to have a quiet holiday this year, and dearly hope that 2007 was a gentle, happy year for you all. And if it wasn’t a great year and you don’t have it in you to send out the delusionally perky holiday cards, don’t worry. We get that, too.

Best Wishes to All. – W.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Possibly Bad News

Going through old email today looking for an address for a holiday card, I happened across a reply someone sent me to a message titled "possibly bad news." And I realized by the date stamp that two years ago today, I received my crappy NT scan and maternal serum screening combined results. Two years ago today, I was sitting at this same desk working (with my gestating baby's last ultrasound pic up as my computer wallpaper, no less) when the perinatologist called to say my baby had a one in five shot at having either T18 or T13.

Hanging up the phone that day, I had absolutely no idea how badly everything would go after that. I had not yet done any research on trisomies 18 and 13, hadn't had to make any difficult choices yet. I didn't know that if it turned out to be a worst-case scenario diagnosis, that it didn't guarantee me an ok ride the rest of the way after that either, that there would be horrible and serious complications in the termination itself that would permanently alter the course of future pregnancies. Finally, it would have been completely outlandish, the idea that just a year later my uterus would give out and rupture. If that had been my fortune, I'd have squinted at the soothsayer and laughed. Who has so many worst-case scenarios happen in a row like that? How many times does probability just have to let you know you are its bitch?

And then just as suddenly, I was no longer probability's bitch. Little A was ok despite her early birth and the uterine rupture. Aside from being unable to have more kids, I'm ok too.

But I realized upon seeing that "Possibly Bad News" email that I still have absolutely no idea where to file that year of hell that started with the crappy NT results in 2005 and ended with a crash C section for Little A in 2006. I don't understand why everything went so wrong. Perhaps even more strange, I can't really grasp how it finally went right, either. Is God benevolent? Or is God a mean girl/queen bee, whipping me around at whim.

I'm grateful, but utterly confused. No answer I can fashion does the questions formed in 2005-2006 justice.

So I cried at seeing the old email, but it wasn't very cathartic, just a few strangled sobs. I feel like I've got rock salt and dirty snow slushing around in my chest and now I have to run off and pick up the girls from preschool/daycare. Hopefully I won't look like too much of a basket case when I do it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Puking, Fevers, and Thanksgiving, Oh My.

We had a sweet and quiet Thanksgiving this year, but everyone in the family came down with the flu over the weekend. Not just a little cold, but the full on fever, chills, and throwing up sort of flu that eventually just turns into a kickass cold. Bleah. So much for those flu shots we got in October.

The up side of being sick is that DH and I have now caught up on our bad-TV watching. We viewed both the semi-finals and finale of Dancing with the Stars, for instance. Wow. Can I just say that Marie Osmond is a fascinating creature? She works the America's sweetheart thing to the bone, batting eyelashes and giggling nonstop so long as people are complimenting and adoring. But as soon as someone, say a competition judge, does what they are supposed to do -- judge -- she turns bitchy and snarky. Marie's semifinal routine, where she dressed as a doll and her partner dragged her around the floor while she twitched spasmodically, was awesomely bad. Yet she acted personally affronted by what the judges said. I actually winced watching her smile grow fangs and her laugh grow brittle as she explained that she didn't care what the judges thought, because she was doing the routine just for her legions of doll-collecting fans, who would completely adore it. Uh huh, Marie. Sure. And the rest of us out there just think you're a little bit spoiled, and a little bit out of touch.

Meanwhile there's a Spice Girl on the same show whom a lot of people might automatically expect poor behavior from, and she took all comments and criticism with grace and good humor. It just goes to show image and substance are not the same thing. And that live TV can be a whole lot of fun to watch.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Animal

My friend said it best: "At some point, babies make excellent dogs." Little A is at that stage now. Interested and enthusiastic all the time, panting, crawling up your legs, ready to roll in some poop that's lying on the floor in a diaper that didn't quite make it into the garbage can (ahem).

In many ways, this is similar to how I feel about being a mother of a baby. The first year is all about hormones and instincts, the limbic reaction, the things we have not learned to do, yet ... do. For all the talk of motherhood as an elevated state of existence, for me the first few years of having children have been the opposite of that. I have never felt more like an animal than I did after having my babies.

I really wonder if this is the true root of all the hoopla that routinely erupts in the U.S. over breastfeeding in public. Prudery alone doesn't explain the level of ick that some people profess over this issue. Could the "public decency" protests mostly be about hating the evidence breastfeeding provides that people are animals, as opposed to most-favored higher beings of a different class?

Hmmm. Next time someone gives me the stink eye at the park when I nurse Little A, I should ask them.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

China-Free Christmas = Lots of Wood



Toys, that is ...

After resolving not to buy children toys made in China this year, I have discovered that if it's plastic or cloth, it's almost always made in China. So the girls can have anything they want so long as it's plywood, ash, or bamboo. Mark my words, "Log in a blanket" is likely going to be a very hot seller this year among parents who care. Or at least among parents who are paranoid about all the toy recalls like I am.

Actually, log jokes aside, there are some very cute European-made toys out there (such as the ones shown above, by Haba). Unfortunately, they are insanely expensive compared to the 70-80 percent of toys manufactured in China. So we'll be buying a lot fewer toys than usual this year because the costs are so much higher.

Case in point: I bought these adorable blocks for Little A's upcoming birthday, and they cost $35 for only 28 blocks. This German-made mermaid doll -- the sole nonwood Christmas item I bought for one of my kids -- is also completely charming. But if you want something soft and cuddly with your China-free, it costs even more dearly than the tree-derived toys do. That doll was 40 bucks on sale, and she is only seven inches tall.

Christmas has me feeling schitzoid this year: On one hand, I'm happy that I have enough money to decide to buy fewer but higher quality toys this year. On the other hand, I never thought I'd be paying so much for something I couldn't inject into my arm or wear on a gold-filled chain around my neck.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Smokestacks Aflame

It has been a pleasant November so far, yet I keep finding my jaw clenched when I wake up each morning. I can't shake the feeling I'm forgetting something ominous and hugely important.

My mind seems to work like the oil refineries that dot the northeast corner of the Bay. On a sparkling, clear day, smokestacks blaze to burn off pollution collected from production on smoggier days. I'm told refineries pick the cleanest air days to outgas because it prevents them from running afoul of the environmental laws. Bad ass particles that would have resulted in penalties if they were released on smoggy days are just fine when released on the clean-air days.

This always struck me as sneaky of refineries -- sort of an end-run around the clean air mandates. Still, it is practical. And now my psyche is doing the same thing.

Little A was due in mid-January 2007. She was born five weeks early, so last year at this time I was nearing the end of my pregnancy but didn't know it. Crisis mode is not the time for constructing big pictures and waxing philosophical. So last November I ricocheted between the hospital L&D triage room and my home with preterm labor and tried not to go completely loony from the terbutaline. I also tried not to go crazy over the fact my kitchen renovation ran late. Nothing like the grit, noise, and power and water interruptions from construction to make working in your home office peaceful and productive!

And that was about it, in terms of conscious thought from me. I was more tired and uncomfortable than I will be until I (hopefully) reach my nineties and have worn out entirely. My body felt like someone turned it inside out, whipped me all over, and then yanked me rightside out again. Even though nobody could see it, my uterus was about to go boom.

I know people say that when you look back on pregnancy later, you forget all the annoying parts and focus on the sweet parts. Well, maybe if you're talking about a case of hemorrhoids or stretch marks that's true. But would you say "Someday you'll look back on this and laugh!" to someone right after a hostage crisis? Because that's what Little A's pregnancy was like. I'm thrilled to be where I am now, but I'm not particularly fond of the scene of the crime, and don't think I ever will be.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Paging through the Past

I got out L.'s journals and went through them when Big was at preschool and Little A was napping. I finally made a decision: I'm sending L.'s son the notebooks his mother wrote between ages 10-16. These provide a sweet, touching, funny window into his mother's personality and will give L.'s son a better idea of how she spent her time when she was around the same age he is. But they do not contain anything that a 15 year old motherless boy might misinterpret as hurtful or disturbing like some of the later journals do. Those notebooks I will send when he is over eighteen.

There was an entry in the journal from the last year of L.'s life that really struck me. The obvious path for L. after high school was to earn a doctorate and eventually teach at a university. But she got pregnant as an undergrad and decided to keep the baby. This alone did not have to end those plans, because she did return to school and graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, etc. despite having an infant. But L. had pretty thoroughly rejected the old life plan at the time of her death. From the outside she seemed to be foundering.

I know that L.'s parents were disappointed and fearful that L. was wasting potential, living hand-to-mouth in an apartment as a single mother and working what they probably felt was a job well beneath her abilities. And usually that would have driven L. crazy, would have eventually drawn her back toward the "approved" life. That was her mode: To be attracted to the dark and risky and dramatic things in life, but to retreat back to the conventional and safe when it got scary, all the while feeling disgusted with herself for not being brave enough to follow through more.

Now I think maybe that was changing when she died. I think that if only she had lived longer, everyone would have looked back at that "slacker time" and realized she was not foundering at all, just lying fallow. And we all would have agreed that was when L. became a true adult who faced her life with clearer eyes, and who built a foundation for something new with her very own hands.

But as always, L. said it best herself:

I'm reading this book Possession, about two academics researching the lives of poets. I realized tonight how glad I am that I am not in that life. It would have been easy to slip into the life of the cerebral brain and the reference and footnote and paper and book -- I'm good at that, and for so long I thought it was all I was good at or good for.

And instead I am in the life of the body and the emotions and hopefully the spirit, too -- The life of other people and flesh and pain and ecstasy and complication and uncertainty and blood and ambiguity and danger and risk and smells and tastes and fear and joy and acting and coming and merging with people, events, and places.

And this is so much better for me -- I am seeing my other possibilities and what else is in the world besides life in a book, and a brain in a jar.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

China Gets a Time Out

All the toy recalls earlier in the year because of unsafe lead levels already left me feeling watchful and wary as Christmas approached. Especially those Mattel recalls. My children's bedroom is filled with Fisher Price items I had to comb through multiple times while looking through the ever-expanding unsafe toy lists.

Still, I thought the almighty dollar -- or the quest for it -- would prevail in fixing this. I thought that with Christmas looming, that even if the spectre of damaged kids didn't prompt Bush Administration and toy company officials to stop the insanity that occurs unchecked in Chinese factories, then at least greed would make everyone clamp down hard on quality control. That's the way hard boiled laissez-faire economists claim markets are supposed to work, right?

Then the news about the lead Halloween costume teeth recall sort of made my eyes bug out of my head a couple weeks ago. This was NOT a good sign at all. And now we've got the Aqua Dots recall, this time not because of lead --but because an epoxy can turn into the date-rape drug if ingested.

This is craziness, people. Children are in comas from Aqua Dots. If China were a person in your neighborhood who hovered around the playground and kept trying to choke or poison children, what do you think would happen? Police would be called and the guy would get hauled off to jail -- that is, if the lynch mob didn't string him up first. And yet in the case of these toys, we get mad, but nothing else happens. In fact, we just keep inviting the creepy, dangerous guy into our own houses and backyards and then seem surprised when he goes and tries to hurt the kids again.

So that's it for me. If the government and the toy companies aren't acting, then I'm forced to do the only thing I can. If it is a toy (or food, cosmetic, or other consumer product) made in China, until further notice, it is not coming into my home.

China gets a time out this Christmas at my house. Here's hoping others kick China to the curb in theirs, too.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Promise

On a New Years Eve back in the late 1980s, my best friend L. and I played Sinead O'Connor and XTC cassettes on the stereo and alternated between bitching about people we hated in school and gushing about people we liked. Since driver permits, fake IDs, and boyfriends were all in our future, that New Year's Eve was more contemplative than the ones to follow. The change of a digit at the end of the calendar year incited meth-like spasms of excitement -- The things we were going to do in that new digit! Passage of time was all up side.

At some point before the ball dropped on Time Square that night, L. and I got our journals out. She wrote an entry in mine, and I wrote one in hers. We declared that when one of us died, the other would inherit our journals.

Maybe that sounds morbid, but we were simply doing what teenage girls do -- making a dramatic show of affection. Besides, I believe we actually wrote "If one of us dies ...," like the death part was a theoretical point up for debate. And it became a running joke. When one of us landed on the wrong side of an after-school special situation in years to come, remember to confiscate the diary! was the our rallying cry. We laughed about it right up through college and later.

When L.'s heart stopped beating at age 25 from a heart defect previously diagnosed as benign, her journals made their way to my doorstep. I looked through them once and then put them away. It was inexplicable to me that L. was dead, and nearly as inexplicable that a silly promise made by girls was being honored by L.'s family. I almost felt ashamed to have something so precious in my possession. I put them in the deepest corner of my closet and never went through them again.

Ten years have passed since L. died. I have been thinking of her a lot recently. It's not just the round-number anniversary of her death, but the fact that I now have a four year old child. L.'s only son was four when she died. And now her boy is just about the same age L. and I were when we swapped journals that New Year's Eve.

L.'s son is the rightful owner of her diaries, and I always knew that someday, when he was old enough, I'd give them to him. But now that he is a teenager, the concept of "someday" and "old enough" are things I need to actually nail down. I'm struggling hard with that.

I have several concerns. First, L. partook of some wild escapades in her day. If her son read about the crazy shit she did (or thought) at too young an age, he might judge her harshly and feel alienated from what few personal memories he has of her. Or worse, maybe he'd feel her antics were a great excuse to behave in similarly risky ways during his own youth. So for the longest time, I leaned toward not giving him the diaries until after his eighteenth birthday.

However, in the past few years stories about the home situation of L's son (relayed via L.'s parents) make me wonder if the boy should have the journals now regardless of the repercussions. Because L.'s son's father married a woman a few years back who sounds awful. L's son tells his grandparents stories of rejections and of being held apart from his new stepsiblings in arbitrary, petty ways. L.'s parents were so upset by these stories that they confronted their daughter's ex. The kicker: L.'s ex didn't dispute their understanding of their grandson's home life at all. He agreed that his current wife was not fair to L.'s and his son. But in the end, L.'s ex was not willing to force his wife to change her ways. He said, "Kids are resilient, he'll be ok."

So if L.'s son lives in a home barren of affection and kindness for him, perhaps the journals would be something he could cling to, something that reminded him that his stepmother was not the final judge on his worth. For better and for worse, his mother was never anything but passionate about life. Maybe that would help him in the next few years.

So many ifs. I honestly don't know what to do next.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Happy Fourth Birthday, Big A!

We had a little party for Big A on Sunday and a good time was had by all. Well, except maybe for Party Burro. (Rest in peace, mi amigo!)












Friday, November 2, 2007

Party Burro!



I was at Target shopping for party supplies for Big A's fourth birthday party this weekend. I decided to buy a pinata, because frankly, I am going to give myself diabetes if I keep eating the kids' Halloween candy. Repurposing all those tootsie rolls is an act of desperation. Still, finding the right pinata was tricky. This time of year there are a ton of leftover Halloween-themed pieces, but not much else. I refused to buy a Shrek or Disney Princess-themed pinata and so opted for the classic llama variety.

Since it's very hilly in the Bay Area (thanks to the earthquake faults pushing up land willy nilly) I didn't want the llama to get prematurely dented when he slid around the trunk of my car with the rest of the supplies as I drove home. So, I seat-belted him into the front passenger seat. I got some funny looks on the way back to the house.

Then when we arrived home I discovered that in order to stuff the pinata you have to lift his tail up to expose a slot. No, I am not making this up -- they put the hole in an anatomically correct place on the stupid thing, which made me giggle all the way through loading it up with booty. DH looked at me like I was the four year old when I tried to explain what was so amusing.

Oh, the kicker was that when I read his label, I discovered he's not a llama pinata after all. He's a party burro.

Now that I've bonded with Party Burro, I may actually feel a bit sad when we bash him to bits on Sunday. Maybe I should go back to Target for a Shrek pinata after all ...

Haunted Halloween (2)

While it wasn't the sweeping or terrifying sort of change that came with Halloweens past, there was a memorable event this Halloween I neglected to mention in the last post. This year Halloween was the last day we employed Sharon as our family babysitter.

Four years is a long time to stay with one childcare provider. Early childhood is a state of constant flux for both parents and kids. People move, schedules change, kids get older and move on to preschool. Through all this time Sharon has been a fixture in our days. She was kind and patient to our kids. Three out of four years DH and I were incredibly happy with Sharon's services.

No more. In the last ten months things deteriorated to the point where I am sad and bewildered at how things ended up the way they did. It was never about the kids and their treatment, but about the adult aspects of the daycare relationship: money and time. And at the end, respect, too.

Yes, I cut back on my work schedule, and that impacted Sharon's income. But she is not a nanny who worked for us exclusively. She has as many as five client families at a time, depending on whether the kids in question go to her home part time or full time. So I don't understand the animosity of the past few months after I started a part-time schedule. Sharon now seems to have a sense of entitlement that I find obnoxious. She is angry that I didn't want to pay a 20 percent rate hike for services when she simultaneously cut back her available hours by 20 percent. But what rational person thinks they can get paid so much more for working so much less? (Especially when they devolve into petty nastiness during the discussion about all of it.)

When I gave Sharon two weeks notice a few days after our blowup, she accepted the news without any questions. I guess there really wasn't anything else to say. We fell into an ignore-the-angry-elephant-in-the-room type scenario for the last few weeks. But that last time I picked up Little A from Sharon's house, I sort of wished we could part with a few kind words. I admit I could have made the effort, but chose not to. She did the same. And so I walked away from her house with baby and diaper bag in hand, feeling a peculiar mixture of feelings. I hate having big arguments, but somehow that one day has seemed like the most truthful exchange between the two of us in some time.

It's a new month now, and the beginning of a new daycare situation for Little A. The new babysitter, Susanne, is a retired teacher with a house full of toys and and a rambling, gorgeous yard. I like the idea of Little A being outside playing in the fresh air. And it's nice that the relationship with Susanne is a clean slate. No muddy boundaries or simmering resentments. When I dropped Little A off this morning, I left with a sense of relief that hasn't been part of my daycare routine for a long time.

I know the change we made was the right one. I am sad I stuck it out with Sharon for so long. It would have been better for everyone involved if we had left sooner.

But that in itself makes me sad, too.

(Note that I can't get bleeping Blogger to link back to my older posts on Sharon for some reason. Anyone got any pointers on that? But I wrote about our blowup last month in several "daycare debacle" posts, in case anyone is curious ...)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Haunted Halloween (I)

Yesterday when I raised the shades and looked out at the view, a few lines sprang to mind: Summer is past and day is past. Somber Clouds in the West are massed ... When I start thinking about Robert Frost, winter must be here. I have always agreed with the Celts' view that Halloween marks the border line between the end of one year and the beginning of the next. Even here in the balmy Bay Area, the days are short and the trees that go bare in the cold season have shed most of their leaves. For the past week fog paints out the mountain that normally sits beyond in my living room window and leaves a sinus-headache-white curtain in its place. No rains yet, but (hopefully) soon.

This time of year my life also seems caught up in the rhythm of the world around us. Especially in the past five years, life teeters on the cusp of change every November.

2003 I spent my first Halloween in Oakland. My main memory is being pissed off at being four days past due in Big A's pregnancy. She was an extremely tall baby (over 22 inches long at birth) and I am not an extremely tall person, so by the time we were 40+ weeks along, her feet were tickling my tonsils. And besides being uncomfortable, I was also nervous about the birth and what would come next, of course.

Halloween 2004 was much more fun, with DH and I going out trick or treating with our own kid for the first time. That October Big A was still my baby, but less than a week later she quit crawling in favor of walking and celebrated her first birthday. So Halloween is the last "baby" type memories I have of Big A, before she laid down on the floor and enthusiastically kicked and screamed her way through the toddler years.

Halloween 2005 I was too tired from my doomed T18 pregnancy to go out trick or treating with Big A. Despite my fatigue, it was also one of the last dwindling days of normalcy, when we still thought the baby was fine and hadn't be forced to make a series of gut-wrenching decisions yet. And last year was a bad sequel to 2005: pregnant again, only more tired this time, with more worries already about what my pesky uterine scar from the previous year was up to, and what would happen to the baby and me in the coming months.

I'm grateful to say that Halloween 2007 kicked ass compared to the last few years. I had a baby in my arms dressed like a daisy, and she squealed with delight every time a front door opened and -- SURPRISE -- yet another adult bearing a bowl of candy stepped out. Which is to say that Little A totally hooked us all up with extra buckets of candy. And Big A loved her bag full of candy so much that she named the individual pieces and played with them like dolls after we got home last night.

Here's hoping Big A won't notice that while she was sleeping, I ate "Mommy Snickers"!

The Family Gourds


Are pumpkins even gourds? (Wiki says not, but whatever.)

Note that Big A's pumpkin has three eyes. On purpose, she wants all to know.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Ah. That's My Girl

When DH's and my sex cells played a million rounds of rock-paper-scissors to determine whose genes would be dominant in our children, my eggs were obviously unclear on the game rules. Or maybe my ova were just senile, being of the aged variety. "So ... you're saying I just keep saying paper, right?" I imagine my eggs asked foggily. "Oh yeah, that's how it works," replied DH's wily, wily sperm.

And as a result, out came the As. Big A looks and acts like a clone of my MIL. Little A has DH's temperament and looks. They do not resemble or act like me in the slightest. Not ever.

Which is why when I saw Big A doing this, I let out a big sigh of recognition. See, she IS like me after all!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Growing Pains

After taking her sweet time crawling, Little A is now hell-bent on trying to skip this pesky on-the-ground stuff and go straight to walking. She constantly pulls up and tries to cruise and climb, where just a week or so ago she barely traveled more than a few feet in any direction from where you set her down. I know it shouldn't be shocking that she moves of her own accord and is developing opinions on where she wants to be. Especially since this is not my first child. Yet, I am a slow adapter in all things in life (even had a rotary phone until I was 21) so what can I say? I'm still getting used to the fact both kids move independently now. It makes the parental-mental math of who is doing what/where so much more complex.

In fact, the other day I was on the phone with DH when it suddenly hit me that Little A was no longer lustily BAH BAH BAHing in the living room. I rounded the office, kitchen and bathroom, but still no sign of her. When she wasn't playing with Big A in the kids' bedroom, I suddenly got worried and found myself demanding that Big A tell me what she'd done with her sister.

Now, it's not like Big A is leaving half-moon marks all over her sister and then trying to burn the murder weapon in the incinerator. Most of the time she's very sweet to her baby sister. It's just that every once in awhile Big A seems to forget Little A is not a crash test dummy to be dragged around by the heels or rolled off the bed. So I always have to keep a close eye on the two of them, just in case.

Nonetheless, it was really not very nice of me to insinuate that Little A's absence was Big A's fault. But rather than be hurt by my statement, Big A simply channeled her future-inner teenager. She put her hands on her hips and said, "Mommy. I don't know what you think I did, But I did NOTHING to NOBODY."

Before I could answer there was a faint bah, which we both followed into the master bedroom. Little A had let herself into DH's closet and then shut the door behind her. There she sat amongst the dust bunnies, happily sucking on a sandal.



Wednesday, October 24, 2007

California Is Burning

As I write this the sun sets over the San Francisco Bay. Tangerine rays glint off the windows of houses with better views up the ridge, thereby sharing some of their wealth with my street further downhill. But as lovely as the scene is, something is wrong. When the breeze blows from the south it smells like a neighbor must be having a cozy night by the fireplace. But it's too warm for a log in the hearth tonight. What I'm smelling are the wildfires down in Los Angeles and San Diego.

My being able to smell anything that originates in Los Angeles, let alone San Diego, is just twelve kinds of wrong. Distance-wise, it is equivalent to someone in Toronto inhaling and saying, "Ah, they're burning the autumn leaves in the NYC burbs." Or someone in Lisbon, Portugal catching a whiff of tagine smoldering in Casablanca.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Big A, Future Book Critic

I went out to the living room to tell Big A dinner was ready. She laid on the couch, pretending to read one of her father's paperbacks.

"Mommy, this story is about a monkey that likes to break things," she said in the gravest of tones.

When I looked at the book, I had to laugh:


What Do I Like about Mornings?

That was the question Big A asked me at seven o'clock this morning, right after she'd snuggled into bed beside me and announced, "Let's have a little talk."

"Well, I like drinking coffee," I answered.

"What else?"

"I like it when you come into my bedroom and say 'Good morning!' and are happy to see Daddy and me," I continued. "And I like talking to you like this."

"Do you like eating toast with butter?" she asked.

"Yes, that too," I said.
.........................................................

Big A's question got me thinking about a book that came out last year that claimed people are terrible at cultivating happiness in their lives. Dan Gilbert, the Harvard psychology professor and author, seems like a pretty amusing guy. Take this excerpt from a Mother Jones interview about his book:

Mother Jones: The title of your book is "Stumbling on Happiness." Do people stumble on happiness the way a wanderer stumbles on an oasis in the desert ("stumble upon"), or the way a father stumbles on a child's toy in the dark ("stumble over")? Thematic aspects of the question aside.

Dan Gilbert: Most people think it is the first, but it is actually the second. The book is about the mistakes people make in their attempts to locate happiness. In this sense, people stumble on happiness the way Dick Van Dyke stumbles on an ottoman. Or the way Chevy Chase stumbles on everything. Or if you are too young to conjure either of the images, then how about the way Paris Hilton stumbles on high heels when she's totally ripped?

Gilbert was talking mostly about how people are poor at predicting what will make them happy in the future. But it struck me that I am pretty bad at doing it in the present, too. All the things I had just told Big A that I enjoyed about mornings were things that could make me happier right now, yet somehow are the very items I always rush through or skip. My coffee is usually stone cold before I take a sip, the newspaper remains folded on the table until late at night, and breakfast? I make sure the kids eat a good one, but somehow hardly ever sit down with them myself. What, I wondered, would the morning feel like if I gave the things I like preference over the rest of the to-do list?

So when DH poured me a cup of coffee, rather than leave it on the counter and go on to 15 other tasks, I actually drank it while eating some toast. Then I read my favorite sections of the newspapers we get delivered to the house before resuming the mad rush to get everyone out of the house on time. It took maybe 15 minutes in total, so I skimped on cleaning up the kitchen like I usually do, since I have to clean it up after dinner anyhow.

I know this must be duh-obvious to most, but my morning felt markedly less stressful than usual. That's striking to me, given that this week has been quite unpleasant and I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed with childcare and work issues. But I am a little happier today than I was yesterday, and it didn't require some new event to happen that solved the unpleasant things I am currently dealing with. All it took was warm coffee and toast.

I wonder what other areas of my life I could improve, just by realizing what I already like about them?

Daycare Debacle Update

The plot thickens. Apparently it wasn't enough to mess things up with me. A good friend of mine (J.) also uses Sharon's services on a an occasional (drop-in) basis, and when she called to see if Sharon was available to sit her boys one day this week, she got an earful of spew. Sharon lied and said I had specifically brought up J.'s arrangement as favorable to mine in lobbying for a cheaper rate for Little A. Sharon then jacked up J.'s rate in retaliation for my friend supposedly "talking out of turn" to me!

First, it's ridiculous that she assert that it would be wrong for clients to discuss their rates with one another, friends or not. This isn't anything top secret. While it's true that I knew J. had a better deal than me, Sharon HERSELF had told me this in passing a few months ago. Plus, J.'s current day rate is one I used to have until six months ago. I know all the old and new rates because in the past 12 months, my kids have been there full-time, then as drop-ins for awhile, and then as a regular part-time arrangement. So I could compare and contrast what was the best bargain without input from others.

It's also a complete lie that I brought up any other client's name in my negotiation. This was all about me and mine, nobody else. In fact, I didn't even ask for a rate reduction as Sharon claims. (She offered it.) All I originally requested was more flexibility in what days Little A could be watched at the same rate of pay I currently give Sharon. That was it.

Since at first J. thought I betrayed her trust to get a better daycare rate, of course she was upset and angry with me. But thankfully she seems to believe me when I say Sharon was not truthful. Now she's super pissed at Sharon. But still, there has been stress and tension injected into what is usually an easy, fun relationship. And what should have been inconvenient and unfortunate for just my family now has greater ripples.

I keep wondering if I should have realized Sharon would lash out at J. if I brought up the differences between the various prices for different tiers of care. Maybe I was just too focused on my own grievances to see that this would likely be part of the fallout if my renegotiation went badly?

If someone gets hurt because of something you did (even if the hurt was indirect and unintentional) how much guilt and fault should you shoulder? And how do you make it up to the wounded party?

Sigh. Not a good week. And it's only WEDNESDAY.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Daycare Debacle

Last year I read about a major nanny crisis over at The Underwear Drawer and thought, "Phew, I'm so glad that's not me!" Except now it sort of is.

We have had the same baby sitter, Sharon, since 2004. For 2 of those 3 years, we loved our childcare situation. But ever since we had Little A things have soured. It started when I cut back on childcare hours because I wanted to spend more time at home with the kids. While I know that babysitters are naturally not going to like cut hours/pay, I was shocked by the level of personal offense she seemed to take at something whose root cause was completely unrelated to her. I did my best to reassure her that we were satisfied with the care our kids got and this wasn't personal. And I tried make the change as easy as possible for her. For instance, I gave Sharon several months notice before my schedule change. I wrote up a glowing reference for her on a popular online parents network resource, and the reference seemed to get her multiple interviews with new prospective clients. Hell, I even agreed to declare less than what I actually paid Sharon last year on my income taxes, thereby netting her some under-the-table cash. Finally, since I would only need Sharon's services 2 days per week starting in June, I even allowed her to select the days she felt were most convenient to watch the baby, and then worked my schedule around hers.

In response to my attempts to make nice, I got a greatly increased per-day rate, far less flexibility in scheduled hours than I've ever had, and a ton more grousing from her about issues that seem ludicrous to me. Is it really my fault that she didn't get a new client because that parent has a son and wants him to be around other boys, and Sharon happens to only be sitting girls right now? Is it fair to complain about losing my full-time business when her son casually mentions that Sharon has turned down a full-time client of late, because she wants to work 4 days a week now instead of five? These things left me simmering, but still I did nothing.

This past week was the last straw. Sharon took a full week off without giving me proper advance notice. Rather than apologize for the inconvenience that caused, she actually asked for more money when I requested she make up a day of childcare. On top of that, I discovered that some of her drop-in clients (who only use her sporadically) pay 20 percent less per day than I do! I understand that full-time clients get a cheaper hourly rate than part timers. But it's ridiculous that I pay more than drop ins do when I still give Sharon steady income week in and week out.

So, we had the talk. At first it went fine. Sharon actually offered to lower my rate a smidgen, since I have been picking up Little A earlier than I used to now that Big A's preschool ends at four. And she gave me a little more flexibility regarding the days Little A attends in the case of certain short weeks where holidays fall. All that was good. If it had been left at that, I would have been pretty mollified.

But Sharon had to get nasty in the end. She said that if I am getting the lower rate now, then on those occasional days when I pick up the baby and other parents I am friendly with happen to also be there picking up kids, it is not acceptable to chat for a few minutes. "You gab in my living room when I'm busy and have things to do," she said. "You all need to leave promptly!"

This really pissed me off. Because it is very rare that I pick up Little A when other parents are there these days, and on those occasions when it does happen, even when talking ensues, it is over and everyone is out the door before Sharon's work day officially ends. How dare she get mad at people for being in her house a few "extra" minutes when in fact, she is still on our dime during that time.

I wish I could have resisted the urge to sink to her level, but instead I frostily said I would certainly make sure that my I never spent a moment of extra time in her home from now on. And I glared and said, "Now, if we're done, I'm already late for work."

The hardest thing was trying to decide if I should leave Little A in her care for today or not. I should say that if I felt she would ever take out the argument on Little A, of course I would never have left her there today or for one other minute in the future. But I actually think she would be fine to Little A despite what happened between the two of us. It's just that given the nastiness of the discussion, it felt so wrong to leave her there. But I'm so desperately short on child-care hours that I also felt like NOT leaving Little A as planned would give Sharon one more freakin' day of free pay that she clearly doesn't deserve.

So I left, and then I got in my car and cried. Then I called DH and asked if he thought I should go back to the baby sitter's immediately. He said he thought Little A would be ok, and that we'd go into crisis mode as of that moment and spend all our time searching for a new sitter. The sooner we can get Little A out of there, the better.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bargainer's Remorse

Maybe I was due. I've been surfing a tsunami of a birth high ever since Little A came into the world ten months ago. There were some turbulent, sad eddies here and there, but for the most part I have just felt so happy and thrilled to be alive and have a healthy baby. Life came at me in super-saturated colors. Fresh! Shiny! Smelled like skittles! At least until September, when the wave finally broke.

And what are the things that are making me glum? I am sheepish to admit them, they are so pedestrian. My kids have both been sick for most of the last four weeks. Nothing life threatening, but when the baby wheezes you end up going to the doctor a whole lot -- 3 times last week just for Little A, whom, it turns out, doesn't really sleep much when she's jacked up on albuterol. Then I caught the cold from the girls and also got my eyes contaminated with the germs (oh so gross to contemplate how that occurred) and came down with a raging case of viral conjunctivitis. Imagine picking up your child from preschool carrying a baby that has green stalactites hanging from her nose while you look like a hell demon yourself, what with those crimson, weepy peepers. Oh, won't you play date us, fellow preschool mommies? Care for a home-baked treat? Well no, I guess not.

Living in the house of plague has put a kink in my regular work schedule, which has already been dented because a relationship with a longtime babysitter has become a vexing, disappointing thing that I need to get out of. The problem is that I am far too behind on everything to properly research a replacement yet. So I'm stressed about work. I am upset about the babysitter. And I miss my DH. He's been on deadline for a new playable level on a video game ,which means that I've not seen him very much for the past few weeks.

The thing that bothers me nearly as much as the things that are bothering me is that I had promised myself I wouldn't get so caught up in this circle of stress and frustration over daily life again. If only I could get through such a difficult pregnancy with Little A alive and healthy, I just knew it would all be different.

What does it mean, to go back on a promise like that? I have major bargainer's remorse these days. It's so strange to discover that life suddenly feels ... normal. Recognizeable. And that despite my wishes and vows, my bar for stressing has readjusted from where it was last year to something a trifle closer to that of the "regular" human population.

I honestly don't know if this is a failing on my part, or a sign that I'm healing.

Maybe both?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Baby on the Move!

Little A has been doing downward-facing dog poses over and over again for the past month, jack knifing her sweet butt high in the air and then hanging frozen, not knowing what to do with her arms and legs next. As a result, my normally mellow baby has been pretty cranky.

"Momma, do something, Little A is upset!" Big A would say as her sister keened pathetically on the rug between us, having assumed the push-up position yet again.

"Let's wait and see if she figures it out this time," I would answer. And then Little A would hang there rigidly until either her arms or her patience gave out. The whining would switch to angry shrieks, which always prompted me to pick the baby up for a snuggle and put off the lesson until later.

It is fascinating to see that moment when a baby's attempts to move go from trial and error to something systematic. On Sunday, Little A finally realized she could back herself up into a sitting position when lying on her belly. She'd done it by accident many times, but now she delightedly sat up and laid down dozens of times, lunging and squirming around the floor in big sloppy arcs in the process.

She still tends to move backwards more often than forward, and she expends as much energy traveling twelve inches as I do going five yards. But every day Little A gets stronger and more efficient and more into everything.

God help us, but toddlerhood is right around the corner!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Little Mysteries

This is the third time in the past few weeks that I have reached into my underwear drawer and pulled out a pair of cotton briefs that belong to Big A. I know we're both female and potty trained and live with DH (the person responsible for putting the underwear away). But I'm also 100 pounds heavier and twenty-six inches taller than Big A, so our butts are not NEARLY the same size. Yet DH has been getting confused about whom wears which undergarments when he sorts the clean laundry.

Worth bringing up in marital discussion? Probably not. But I still find myself a little alarmed that he might think I own Dora underpants.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Up Side of Having Crappy Parents

I've been noticing a parental paradox for awhile now: People who hail from what I consider to be functional, loving families are often the very folks who seem the most haunted by guilt and regret in the interactions with their own kids.Why is it that the more praise, piano lessons, and general support a kid gets growing up, the more worried that adult seems to be about his or her own parenting skills?

Take my DH and SIL. Their parents were awesome, judging by how generally great both of them turned out to be as adults. And yet they sometimes fret about things that utterly perplex me. For example, SIL's family has been referring to her second child as "scamp" ever since the girl began defeating baby gates as an infant and crawling up and down the stairs at will. She's a toddler now, and remains a bag o' tricks around the house. But SIL recently told me that she feels bad about the nickname. Her family is trying hard not to use it anymore because she and her husband are concerned they may be imprinting erroneous negative expectations onto their daughter.

In other words, the child might not be a handful if they didn't comment on it. It's people calling her trouble that guarantees she will be trouble.

Now, maybe I've just been desensitized to this sort of thing. I did have the kind of mother who basically told me at age five that I was going to hell because I just wasn't nice enough to get into heaven. (What? This wasn't how your mom introduced the concept of death and the afterlife to you the first time someone close to you perished? Hmmm.) While I do understand that calling your daughter "s.l.u.t." or "good for nothing" all the time is going to cause problems, the idea that "scamp" is in that same category of those other things just makes giggle. At most, I figure it might annoy Scamp some day to be called this childhood name. As a mother, slightly annoying a child whom I spent many years taking care of each and every day and who, not incidentally, totally stretched out my abs when I was pregnant, would not really phase me. Not in the least.

If it's true that everyone measures success via the yardstick of their parents' lives, then having extremely good parents must be sort of annoying. They are the grade-curve breakers of the bunch. To compete with high excellence, you must be damn near perfect. In that scenario, I guess raising your voice testily at the kids when you have a headache or inventing embarrassing nicknames for a baby might actually rate as something to worry about. Because those are the details that separate the parenting aces from ... people like me!

The thing is, it's actually a pretty ok, being the parental version of me. Comfortable for me most of the time, and I suspect a lot nicer for my kids growing up than it was for me. Since my parents were crappy, I can aim for a solid B average and be an astounding improvement on what they achieved and quite satisfied with myself.

Here's a quick list of advantages that the crappily-reared adult has over their well-reared counterpart:

1) If You Had Bad Parents, You Already Know You Are Going to Screw Up. So You Can Get On With That Without Fear of When It's Going to Happen. Of all the innumerable things I worry about as a mom, fear of failure isn't on the list. (Am there, doing that.) Yet somehow the girls seem mostly normal -- I don't suspect either of them is a budding serial killer just yet. This cavalier attitude might seem poor to those with good parents but to me, I see my attitude as real generational progress over my own parents. It's pretty freeing to just accept that you are likely going to warp little Johnny and then just get on with it.

2) When You've Seen How Bad Family Life Can Be, Your Parenting Goals Are More Realistic. A friend once told me her ex-boyfriend wanted to raise "the kind of kids who are not afraid to change jobs when they grow up." And all I could think was exactly how do you teach your kids that? Seems like mostly luck and chance to me -- either they have an inborn drive and temperament for something or they don't. You can provide experiences, but what your kid takes away from them isn't a choice you make. And if you are constantly needing your kid to be a certain way in order to feel like a success, then you will also drive each other crazy as you try to pound your little square peg into a very round hole.

Me, I try to keep parenting goals centered on my behaviors rather than what the kids are doing. In fact, my only conscious goal with parenting is very simple: Don't be mean.

I do a fairly good job most days on my goal. But when illness or a bad mood drives me out of regular-cranky territory and into the land of possibly mean, I always apologize for it. And then I tend to give myself a break, because ...

3) I Know My Kids Will Love Me Despite the Fuck Ups. Kids are loyal like puppies. I know from personal experience that long after it is logical to do so, they will continue to love their parents in a deep and profoundly puzzling way. So while those with excellent parents may fear that setting up rules will result in permanent estrangement, people with crappy parents can feel free to lay down the law. Yeah, the kids will get mad. Whatever.

Crappy Parents: Don't you wish you had some, too?

Friday, September 28, 2007

The "A" Word

There is a Daily Kos diary on the "politics of miscarriage" that several of my favorite blogs are referenced in and/or linking to. It's always great to see pregnancy loss and infertility discussed in the general media and on sites like Daily Kos, which draw a huge number of readers from all sorts of areas and backgrounds. But while I agree with the gist of the piece -- people should know women are blameless for their miscarriages -- this particular diary didn't sit so well with me beyond that. One sentence in particular hit me like a slap:
In the medical community, I'm what is known as a "habitual aborter." Now, I am very pro-choice, so I'm not as horrifically offended by that term that many would be, yet I resent that it suggests I chose this.
Ah. So the author is merely resentful of being grouped with people like me, who have actually made the choice she professes to support but doesn't want to be personally associated with. And that's with her being "very" prochoice! How charitable of her.

Still, the writer referenced termination for medical reasons in a sympathetic way, and I agreed with her points she made about people unfairly assuming that everything in pregnancy is controllable when it isn't. I thought maybe she had just used a poor turn of phrase that struck me wrong. But then I got to the end:

In the event that Roe is overturned (something I think is more and more likely every day), every single miscarriage will become a matter of inquiry by the state, and the belief that miscarriage can be caused and can be blamed on someone will not only be more prevalent, but may result in criminal penalties for grieving women. For fear of legal reprisal, the movement and activity of pregnant women will become more and more curtailed, and there goes women's rights.
I understand her fears. A great fight is brewing in America over a woman's right to choose. But should our main goal be to protect our God-given right to have miscarriages that are not mistaken for abortions? How about protecting something we actually have some say in? Or am I just not getting the point?!

It's been a hell of a week. I think I need a really big drink now.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sad News



Deep in the night the cry of a swallow
Under the stars she flew
Keen as a wail was her call to follow
Over the world to you.

Love in my heart is a cry forever
Lost as the swallow's flight.
Seeking for you and never, never
Stilled by the stars at night.

-- Sara Teasdale

Grieving for Meg and her lost baby girl.

ER Musings

The woman darted across the parking lot in front of me as I carried Little A toward the emergency department entrance. The baby was flushed and whimpering softly from her as-yet undiagnosed double ear infection. I was walking fairly fast, worried about what might be wrong, wishing we were at home so we could have gone to the pediatrician's office instead of the ER. But the lady still managed to beat us through the sliding doors. She rushed up to the sign-in window. I thought she must be in a tizzy of anxious fear about someone who lay in a bed beyond the check-in area.

But no, not quite.

Woman: "I need someone to look at my shoulder. I was putting on a sweatshirt this morning and hurt it. It hurts when I move."

ER Gatekeeper: "What is your level of pain, 1 being not too bad and 10 being the worst?"

Woman: "Hmmm. I guess ... eight?"

Now, I realize that I'm not an unbiased observer. Since tweaked-shoulder lady obviously rushed to get in front of us so she could be at the front of the line, I admit to being automatically ticked off at her. When you have a sick baby, you might begrudgingly let someone cut in front if they are missing an arm and several quarts of blood, but that's where your magnanimous spirit ends. Your mother instincts make your lips curl over your eye teeth, and you have to fight the urge to hiss "My baby FIRST!" at everyone else in the room.

Still. Am I wrong for wondering how someone experiencing level-8 pain could win a speed-walking race to the front door with me a moment before?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Fleeing the Lake

Well, that whole Tahoe vacation thing with the in-laws? Fun in theory. Not so much in practice.

Actually, the first couple days were great. Both A's did fabulously well on the four-hour car trip. I usually do all the vacation planning, but DH tackled it this time, and maybe he should take the task over permanently, because he really came through with the house. It had a spectacular view of the lake, was reasonably priced, yet didn't have that certain eau de skank that many bargain-basement rentals (and also meth labs and frat houses) tend to exude.

At first we enjoyed the cool, clear days. DH and his father went to the Air Races in Reno. Me, I would have hated staring up at airplanes buzzing over my head at low altitude all day long, but the guys raved about how fun it was, so I was as glad that they went as I was that I didn't have to tag along. Most pleasing for me was the fact that Big A is finally at an age where she loves interacting with her grandparents. It was so much fun to see her seek them out for playing and reading books. Despite her gregarious nature, as a toddler Big A did not like it when the grandparents swooped into town for one week every six months and then insisted on spending every waking moment of it with her. The first day of every vacation would go fine, but after that she'd grow ever more snarly and and start whining, "No, want MOMMY!" every time Grandma approached. This was upsetting and awkward for all. So this time it warmed me like a good shot of scotch to have Big A bound inside after a trip to the local playground with MIL and say, "I just had the most wonderful time ever!" Plus, both FIL and MIL cooed over Little A and kept remarking on what a sweetheart she is, which is always a heart warmer for a parent.

But unfortunately, Little A got very ill within a few days of arriving in Tahoe. At home she'd had a mild cold and seemed to be on the mend, but she deteriorated quickly once we hit the Sierras. DH and I spent Sunday and Monday in a state of exhaustion because Little A slept so fitfully. Normally I'd take a sick kid to the pediatrician for a quick check up if a bad illness cropped up, but being hundreds of miles from home, that wasn't an option. By Tuesday I was concerned enough to bring Little A to the nearest ER. Turns out she had a double ear infection, and with Tahoe being over 6,000 feet above sea level, the elevation was making an uncomfortable situation even worse for her. Poor baby!

We got antibiotics for Little A and hoped things would improve soon. Unfortunately, work problems cropped up too. I brought my old laptop with me so I could line edit a chapter whose deadline is fast approaching, but the infernal machine was simply not cooperating. DH tried his best to play tech support and make it function, but by the end of Wednesday I'd not accomplished one minute of real work. And my schedule being what it is, blowing off the editing now and making up the time later was just not an option. This left me stressed out about the deadline as well as mad about life in general. In the past few months my days have become so rigidly reigned in by preschool pickups and drop offs, babysitting swaps, and DH's desired work hours/routine that it feels like there isn't one spare moment in the day left for my work, let alone for just plain me. Every time I stop to catch my breath, there isn't any relaxing, because I know that I'm already late moving on to the next thing I ought to be doing. And there I was on vacation, still living that way. I was so pissed off I could hardly breathe.

DH's parents were planning on leaving us alone up at the vacation house starting Thursday, when they would drive down to Sonoma to visit SIL and her kids. But by then I had thoroughly and completely had it with trying to pretend I was having fun. After the in laws left DH and I quickly packed our own bags and came back home three days early.

We hardly ever take a real vacation these days. I have certainly never left a vacation early before. On one hand, obviously it sucks.

But on the other hand, it was also sort of thrilling and satisfying to just say "Fuck it." When you are a parent and a spouse and a worker bee most of the time you struggle to make things in various states of disrepair function. But for once, DH and I didn't try to make the best of it. We didn't try to put a good spin on it either, or spit shine around all the proverbial dings and dents of the week. We just left.

Back on my regular computer today, I finished the editing assignment that had been hanging over my head all week. DH took the girls out for a nice day of mini golf and fast food treats while I worked. Later we talked a little about looking for a new childcare arrangement, since it is obvious the current one is driving me bat crazy. I know it won't happen overnight, but at least change is part of the general plan for our future now. DH might even rearrange his work schedule so that he can drop off the girls a few mornings a week at daycare, thereby freeing me up just a smidgen more time for work.

Plus, now that I completed the task that was hanging over my head, I really do feel much more relaxed, and we still have the weekend left before our vacation is officially over. Little A's ears seem a lot better now that we are back at sea level again. And Big A seems content to be back in what she calls our "regular house," with her regular toys and books, too.

All in all, I'm pretty sure I'm having a much better time right now than we would have if we'd actually stayed on vacation. Strange how that works.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Lakeward Bound ...

In celebration of DH and I being married for 11 years (Jesus, we look 1990s-fresh in those wedding pics) our family is off to some rented hut on Lake Tahoe for the week. I'm bringing my laptop, but since the house didn't advertise WiFi, I'm assuming we're roughing it without decent Internet connectivity. Unless I can jack off some body's free service, I probably won't be posting again until after 9/24.

Here's hoping the kids, the in-laws, and DH and I can all get along in a 2 BR + loft for the week!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sleepless, Sick, and Psycho

Well, maybe not psycho quite yet. But getting close. Last week the first illness of the school season struck our house. I tried to keep Big A from infecting anyone else, and the poor kid really does have good intentions about not being sloppy with her stuffiness. But, she's three and still very distractable, like a labrador retriever puppy. She forgets. So most of my interactions about not sharing germs went like this:

Big A, mouth wide open as post-nasal drip tickles her throat: Cough, cough, cough.

Wabi: "Baby, remember to cover your mouth."

Big A furrows her brow and wants a do-over. She fake coughs into her shoulder, exactly the way she's been taught, and looks up at me.

I bend down to be at her level to give her a compliment: "Good ..."

"AHHH CHOOO," explodes Big A.

"... Job," I finish while wiping mucous off my glasses.

Needless to say, everyone here got sick quickly. This is the first time we've had both girls ill simultaneously. All I can say is God bless the moms of multiples out there, because WOW, getting up five times per night sucks. Even when I had a newborn, I only got up two or three times per night. (Amazing how as a twin myself, this sort of never occurred to me until now. Feeling a wee bit guilty about that ...)

Anyway, the getting up every hour and a half wore DH and I down, which meant that we got sick too. Now the girls and I are mostly recovered but DH's head cold moved into his chest and decided it wants to stay awhile. I am still in forced insomnia mode due to DH's coughing fits. I know we should probably try to sleep in separate rooms when sick, but I find I have trouble sleeping without DH next to me regardless, so usually we try to stick it out in the same bed despite whatever plague one of us hatches. But after a night like the last one, I may have to reconsider trying the couch out this evening. I feel like I have crossed into the territory of mommy-of-a-newborn tired, which is oh-so not fun.

So now I'm struggling through the usual work/kids/errands triad of life while exhausted. I'm also cleaning my house like a meth freak, because oh yeah, my parents in law are arriving tonight for a week-long vacation in California with us.

I'm hoping my MIL arrives late enough so I can keep the lights dim, slosh some double-strength cocktails in her direction, and just generally distract her from noticing how sticky around the corners the house is!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Little A Keeps on Getting Bigger!

Just back from the pediatrician's office from a well-baby visit. Little A now weighs 19 and a half pounds! That puts her in the 70th percentile for her age, unadjusted for her prematurity. Her doctor says that adjusting her age is silly at this point, given the rate of her growth.

Here is a picture from yesterday, showing that she really will eat just about anything. (Including Mommy's yummy Economist.)


Friday, September 7, 2007

A Suburban Thing

When DH and I moved across the Bay to a ranch house built in 1950, there were some mental adjustments to be made. We'd spent the previous nine years living in San Francisco, light years away in lifestyle from our little suburban slice of Oakland. For a long time we couldn't help remark on things here that most people probably take for granted. For instance, we have a yard big enough to require a mower, and that seemed bizarre and exotic after living surrounded by concrete for so long in SF. And our Oakland house is totally plain, yet it still has a second bathroom, something rare as unicorns in most SF flats. But the thing that floored me the most about moving here was the parking situation. Because not only does our house have a two-car garage, but a wide driveway leading up to it.

That meant no more hunting for street spots or honing parallel parking skills on hills with a 14 percent grade. For months after we bought the house, every time DH and I were out late or came back home during a rainstorm (always bad times to hunt for street spots in a big city) we would revel in our good fortune at having the garage and driveway.

But time passed and now I have lost my gee-shucks newbie instincts about our street. I realized I had officially morphed into a real suburbanite the other day when I got annoyed at my neighbor because he parked his car in front of my house.

When we first moved, being mad over this never would have occurred to me. The rule in SF is that any open curb space is up for grabs by anyone at any hour of the day. And of course, that's still technically the law over in Oakland, too. But over time I came to notice that the custom here is different. It doesn't matter if you've got a huge garage and driveway with your house. A homeowner gets dibs on the curb space directly in front of their own home, too. It's for their cars or their guest's cars. All around the neighborhood, people park their cars directly in front of their houses. It is acceptable to park in front of your neighbor's house, but only if the space in front of your own home is taken by another car for some reason.

Everyone I see does this. Everyone, that is, except for my next-door neighbors. They have two cars. One gets parked in their single-stall garage, the other in front of my house. Always. There are two parking spots in front of their own house that remain empty while the space in front of my house is taken by their car. Once I started noticing what they did, it began to bug me. And now I can't stopped being bugged about it.

I know it's ridiculous. These are nice folks who keep their house and yard in much prettier condition than certain other people in the neighborhood do (cough, cough, ahem). They are quiet and friendly. Hell, they even brought me home-made cookies after Little A came home from the hospital. But I find myself wanting to yell "GO PARK IN FRONT OF YOUR OWN HOUSE!" every time they pull in front of mine.

Either I'm totally crazy, or it's just a suburban thing. Maybe both?