Category Archives: parenting

Merry Whatever

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Merry Whatever

Here is my holiday rant in no particular order of importance. I started this list around Thanksgiving and it’s building momentum:

1. Turkey Log, Day 5 – For the love of Gawd make it stop. The delicious novelty of mashed potatoes in turkey soup wore off two days ago, even gravy can’t save us now.

2. Keep thinking of the people I didn’t see on Thanksgiving because they died (no punchline just the sad truth).

3. My teenage kids fought over how to decorate the Christmas tree. One kid wanted Trump-esque borders, the other kid wanted free-range decorations…I wanted to scream into a pillow in a dark room by myself. The husband busied himself in a different room (that man is a damn genius).

4. Took a day trip to NYC and one kid didn’t want to go so we let her stay home alone for 6 hours. She binge watched tv, face-timed her friends, ate Nutella on the couch and did zero chores. Slacker level: Master – Jealousy level: Master

5. Saturday I stayed in PJs all day long, as in the entire day. This isn’t a rant, it’s a confession. Apple-Tree (see above).

6. I am sick of the political pontificating in America. The mindset of – if you don’t agree with me, you are an ignorant racist person drowning in your own white privilege. The flip side is pro-life all the way but let’s use tear gas to keep brown moms and their kids out of ‘Murica. Any attempt at a rational conversation with extremists is exhausting and I am so f*cking tired.

7. Avoided political talk at Thanksgiving until the subject of the environment came up. No minds were changed, shocking.

8. Have to see all the same people again on Christmas Eve. Perhaps I’ll play “Baby It’s Cold Outside” on a continuous loop until everyone’s brain explodes onto the dinning room table. That’ll liven up the 7 fishes.

9. Went to three parties this weekend. There are 52 weekends each year – we get invited to about 7 parties in the entire year, half of them occur on the same weekend….why???!

10. I feel guilty for shopping on Amazon so much. The alternative is to go out to physical stores where people are…actual people (cue the horror music). I still go to independent bookstores to buy books. There aren’t many lines there because most people don’t read anymore.

11. My kid sucks the candy cane down into a sharp point and I visualize it being used as some kind of Christmas shank. (See item 3)

12. I want to do a reboot of Home Alone where I get to play the part of Kevin McCallister. I don’t mean making an actual movie…I just want to be home alone for a few hours, maybe a day…..two weeks, tops.

13. Went to a party last weekend with my husband’s childhood friends. Three hours in they started to drunk order stuff from Amazon on the host’s Alexa. I can’t wait to see how Charlie accessorizes his new sequin dress.

14. I attempted to make Christmas cookies to bring to a friend’s house. I made the rookie mistake of putting the cookies in plastic containers before they cooled properly. My daughter (AKA: Peppermint Shank) made a valiant effort at trying to pry the clumps apart alas, it was not to be. So I tossed the chunks of cookie into a bowl of melted chocolate and then sprinkled the crushed candy cane bits on top of the mess because this chick doesn’t throw out butter and cocoa just for being ugly.

Merry Whatever.

 

 

 

 

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Volunteering

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Volunteering

Geezus it’s getting hard to give your time away for free these days. I’ve been a frequent volunteer in my kids school: class mom, chaperone, field trips, book drives, food drives, Secret Santa, Daisies, Brownies, Cub Scouts, soccer coach (psst, totally not qualified) and various fundraising efforts. Some of the activities were for a day or during a brief trial of a new activity.

A few years ago the State of Pennsylvania made it a total pain in the ass to volunteer. Here’s a checklist for people that volunteer in PA schools:

  • Criminal History Request
  • Child Abuse Clearance
  • FBI Fingerprints
  • School Personnel Health Record – TB test & physical for those volunteering 10 or more hours a week
  • Arrest/Conviction Report & Certification
  • Blood of a Unicorn

Only one of those is false. Not only do you have to pay some fees to fulfill these requirements, it’s also a time suck. Our closest FBI fingerprint office is a 30 minute drive away. Between scheduling, transportation and processing – I’m looking at 2 ½ hours just to get my fingerprints. Good luck finding people to do that.

One of my more substantial efforts has been volunteering for an education fund. It’s an organization that pays for teacher-led grants in our school district. It is one of those rare efforts which is all positive, no controversy – money for teachers, YAY!!! Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows for everyone!

I hate to break it to you but the idea of an all positive, no BS, everyone stands in a circle singing “Kumbaya” organization that deals with the public is a myth (OK, LIE, it’s a freakin’ lie). There are a handful of us that volunteer for this non-profit. A few of us came onboard several years ago to try and revive the ed fund which had been neglected for some time.

We determined that we would revive “Ed” by hosting community wide fundraising events that would promote awareness and earn some cash. In the past three years we put on variety shows, held food truck events, a paint nite, a 5K and couple of barn bashes which featured a silent auction. We try to keep the “fun” in FUNdraising (I just smacked myself so you don’t have to). For the most part our efforts have been well received by the community and some fun has been had by all. There have been some exceptions.

It’s like planning a wedding. You have to be considerate of the majority of the attendees, smile politely when people want ridiculous accommodations and contribute more time and money then you ever anticipated. And in the end someone will always complain that the chicken was dry or the music was too loud.

 

 

 

 

 

Gridlocked

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Gridlocked

Once your kid hits Kindergarten you are officially on the grid. No more spontaneous trips to the children’s museum or the beach, the freedom of doing your own thing is officially off the rails. Your vacation schedule is at the mercy of the school calendar and you become a cog in the wheel.

Those first few years it’s so hard just getting the littles out the door. Shoes and socks tend to disappear and someone usually has to poop the minute the coats go on. I’d like to tell you that this improves, it doesn’t. The dynamics change, they dress themselves and you have no idea if they poop but challenges remain. The days of racing out of the house like your hair is on fire will likely last longer than you think.

Once when my kids were in middle school we were doing our usual mad dash out the door. Actually, only two of us were racing. My son is always calm and ready with his backpack on, checking the time, reminding us we’re late. I grab my keys, shout a “hurry up” and run to the car. We are halfway to middle school when my daughter mentions that she needs to go back.

DD: Um mom I don’t have any shoes.

SC: Really? How does that even happen?

DD: We need to go back.

SC: No time, you’ll wear my sneakers.

Note: My shoes are about 4 sizes too big for my daughter. I had visions of my daughter tripping over her newly minted clown feet all day. At least I had a valid excuse for skipping my cardio class that day.

When my oldest started Kindergarten I entered the “Zealot Phase” of parenting. I took everything way too seriously and thought that the school would improve greatly if they just followed some of my suggestions. The fact that I have no experience as a public educator did not deter me from speaking my mind.

My first issue was class size. There were 25 kids assigned to my son’s Kindergarten class. I lost my ever lovin’ mind. I spoke out about it at school board meetings and wrote letters, so many letters. Then I found out my son’s teacher was pregnant and would go on maternity leave mid year (gasp). At one point there were rumors of the beloved elementary school shutting down and I went full on crazy and started a petition on Change.org (Oh yes I did).

We are fortunate that we live in a great school district. Somehow they managed to figure out how to keep things moving without adhering to every suggestion uttered from my lips, miraculous. After a couple of years I began to trust the process a little bit and got out of my own way.

One thing that has remained a constant source of entertainment is car line. Car line is where parents drop their kids off for school in the morning and fetch them in the afternoon. Sometimes my kids take the bus but I’m a sucker for letting them get some extra shut eye so I usually drive them in the morning.

I’ll just state for the record that I can be a bit “assertive” when I drive. My license plate has PA on it but I’m all Jersey behind the wheel. I’ve been known to take the turn into car line on two wheels, tires screeching with Slim Shady blasting on the radio. Most days though, I just have one-sided conversations with the drivers around me. I try to send out telepathic messages in the hopes the other drivers will heed my advice. Here’s a sample of my brain on car line:

SC: (To the slow moving vehicle with a Namaste bumper sticker) “Hey Namaste – why don’t you Nama-stay outta my way.”

SC: (To the minivan which has a Star Wars stick figure family decal on the back window with 6 car lengths in front of them…)”Is Darth Vader preventing you from pulling all the way up?”

SC: (To the Volvo in elementary school car line, outside of their car, having  coffee talk with another driver) “Could you perhaps move to a different locale? There are now 37 cars behind you and all of the kids are about to be late.”

SC: (To the Tesla Model X) “Move it along McFly, we know you love Tesla, SpaceX and Solar City, let’s go. You’ve opened and closed those doors so many times I expect you to fly off.”

My kids like to point out how ineffective this technique has been. Then I chastise myself when I realize the person in front of me is a good friend. The worst drivers are the people with COEXIST bumper stickers. It’s great when the COEXIST mom cuts you off than gives you the finger for getting her chakras misaligned that day. Namaste mofo, namaste.

If the Olympics ever add stupid driving as a sport, we’ve got some contenders for gold. Once you get through the drop off/pick up, you need to exit the parking lot. I lose my mind a little with the submissive people who have to make a left into a busy intersection. I’ve been an involuntary participant in the parade of cars waiting to turn because docile dad is having an existential crisis and can’t inch his way forward. Just make the turn dude.

Each building of our district has some variation of car line, they all share a common theme of inefficiency and mayhem:

Lower Elementary – Things move at a remarkably slow pace here. I used to wonder if people did craft projects in the back of their cars. Are you making slime back there? Put the Borax down and move forward. It takes a lifetime to get to the front of the line. Lots of hugs and kisses outside of the car as the littles are sent on their way for the day. I was home with these kids for 5 years straight with 4 hour breaks for preschool I don’t need an extra 15 minutes hugging it out at drop off. Lead, follow or get out of the way mom, your kid is fine.

Upper Elementary – Things move a little faster but it is still crowded and slow. Some of the kids have taken up instruments or have large class projects they need to maneuver. The jaws of life have been used more expediently for extractions then the volcano projects that take an eon to get removed from the trunk. Don’t you have to be somewhere today, move it along. Less hugs and kisses seen outside the car but there’s still some affection within the confines of the family vehicle.

Middle School – Most of the time the kids pretend they no longer know their parents. Like some random stranger or Uber got their asses to school. The time for drop off goes down but the stupid driving escalates. For some reason a high percentage of drivers can not grasp the first rule of car line – move forward (all the way). Our drop off/pick up area is in the shape of a semicircle. Drivers tend to only go to the halfway point…why? To get the kid closer to the door? Is there some invisible electronic force field keeping you from pulling all the way up? Are there voices in your head (perhaps Darth Vader) warning you against pulling forward all the way? I got so annoyed with this that I created a meme (featured image).

This chaotic pattern is repeated at pick up. Some people are simply incapable of pulling all the way forward to maximize the amount of cars that can be in the semicircle. I used to wait patiently, observing the tremendous car gap, wondering WTF to myself. Now when I see that I just drive past everyone else and pull into the front of car line. Total suburban anarchist. I haven’t gotten flipped off for it yet probably because most people have their heads down staring at their phones. I don’t know what happens at High School car line but our family is sticking with the slow down to disembark with instructions to tuck and roll as they exit.

Namaste bitches.

 

Moms Club

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Moms Club

We were living in a shore town in central New Jersey when I had my son. I purchased the house five years prior when I was single and wasn’t worried about the school district or extra storage space. It was two blocks from the beach with easy access to New York City. That was the selling point; location, location, location. Now that our family was growing our priorities shifted.

We found a house in Pennsylvania which was just over border from New Jersey. Still a reasonable drive for relatives, better property taxes, an excellent school district and closets galore. We kept the beach house because we thought we could rent it out and we weren’t ready to sell it.

At this time our son was seven months old and I was still struggling to find my groove as a mom. I made a few mom friends at the beach house but I knew we were moving so I kept it casual. I missed the camaraderie of working friends, adult conversation…some shred of personal identity. When we moved to Pennsylvania, I was determined to join a Moms Club and get involved.

Within a week of moving I was scheduled to go to my first meeting. I hoped the desperation didn’t ooze out of me like sweat, I was in dire straights. I’m sure I spent more time figuring out what to wear than some people spend getting ready for the prom. This was important. So for the first time in months I wore makeup, did my hair and dressed like someone who could pass for an adult.

There were only a few moms in attendance. In my mind, they were all smarter, prettier, better educated and had gobs more confidence than me. Two of them became close friends, Amy and Trish. Amy had a daughter and Trish had a son – all three of our babies were born within a week of each other. We spent the better part of the next two years together. We got ourselves through that crunch time before preschool when, unless you have “help” your kid is glued to you all day, every day. (I didn’t have a lot of help)

When our babies were turning one, Amy announced that she was pregnant. I congratulated her and promptly said something cringey – “Better you than me sistah!” Amy laughed, her angel baby slept through the night. I was still dreaming of Tylenol PM and four straight hours of sleep.

About a week later and several discussions about how stressful Amy’s life would get once Baby #2 arrived, I found out I was pregnant. This was not in the PLAN! My husband and I weren’t against having another baby, it was just risky business given how scary the first delivery was… and I still wasn’t sleeping on the regular.

I gained almost 50 pounds in my first pregnancy and on my son’s first birthday, I was within 3 pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty excited about that, it took A LOT of work. Prior to becoming pregnant I was the skinny chick. I always exercised regularly and ate well, so it wasn’t some genetic gift and I was afraid of getting huge again.

The trio of moms with babies took turns hosting play-dates. I would always bust my ass to keep the house in some kind of presentable order when they were coming over. My natural tendencies lean toward hoarder meets a tornado, so it took effort. We would all put out snacks for ourselves and the kids. I had an old greyhound at the time named Scooby. I remember one time in particular, I was hosting when Trish busted Scooby eating from the cheese tray.

I also took my son to weekly activities including, a variation of mommy & me music. It consisted of sitting in a large circle with other moms and their babies. We would sing awful songs, play toy instruments (Jimmy Fallon style except we sucked)  and humiliate ourselves through some form of interpretive dance.

Dear Gawd I don’t know how many hours I lost to this activity. I was desperate for company and my son seemed to like it. One time I was running late and got a speeding ticket. Here I am visibly pregnant with a toddler in the back seat getting pulled over for speeding. What kind of a weirdo is so desperate to get to mommy & me music that they get a speeding ticket. Um, me. To add insult to injury I needed to haul my pregnant ass into traffic court to get the fine reduced (speeding points are the devil).

At some point I switched from music class to an activity at the YMCA. I was in the beginning of my second trimester and I waddled around the gym floor trying to keep pace with my son.This is where I made a new friend named Kristy. Her son was a couple of months older than mine. Her family had recently moved from New York. She was soon folded into our little mom club and our trio of moms became a quartet.

What a gift it was to have these women in my life. Such a comfort to have friends I could depend on, peers for my son to play with and memories to be made. We had many adventures together in that early phase of parenthood. Sometimes it was a walk in town or along the canal. Other days we would meet at a destination like the zoo, the beach or a children’s museum. These people saved me from a postpartum depressive spiral and I don’t think I could ever properly thank them for that.

An Accidental Stay at Home Mom

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An Accidental Stay at Home Mom

My plan, our plan, THE plan was that I would go back to work after our son was born. I took three months maternity leave and after two weeks of being back on the job, I got laid off. I worked for a software company at the time and all of the Project Managers were “let go.” Wow that was a lot to wrap my head around, now what??? I never intended to be a stay-at-home mom (SAHM).

Honestly, I was scared. Financially we could swing it (thank you husband) but mentally the idea of not working was completely foreign to me. I hadn’t considered it before, it wasn’t in the plan. This wasn’t a choice, it was an unexpected circumstance. I worked most of my life up to that point, from the time I was 16 until I got laid off at 35 and there were several years that I worked multiple jobs. Before I was legally old enough to work, I worked.  I raked leaves, shoveled snow, cleaned, weeded, babysat…I hustled.

 

 

I was raised by a single mom and we were broke. I worked because I needed to if I wanted anything beyond the absolute necessities. Through observation, I took in many lessons from my single mother. She always said things like “don’t become a secretary” and the not always verbal but always present and paramount life lesson – don’t depend on a man. Well damn, now I have a 3 month old baby and no J-O-B and a husband OK with me staying home.

The medical complications of my pregnancy and necessary follow up also had a profound effect on me. Part of me was just happy to be alive. I had to talk myself through the not working thing. I questioned myself, if this was my last day on earth, how would I want to spend it? Working some random job or taking care of my baby.Truth be told I did send out some resumes but it was a half-hearted attempt. I could not justify making a choice to work and leaving child care up to someone else a big chunk of the time, simply because I HAD a choice. It’s a different game entirely if it isn’t a choice, I get that.

It didn’t take long to see some hostility between SAHM and working moms…my theory is guilt. Only my theory based on my own experience not a universal truth so calm down…your theory may kick my theory’s ass at recess…I don’t really care.  I had guilt as a SAHM because I was used to being financially independent and I had to constantly tell myself it’s OK, it’s best for the family (and it was best for us).

It was still hard to shake the guilt because of the lessons my mom taught me growing up. I was falling short by depending on a man. I think working moms feel guilt because they don’t see their kids as much. It’s just a hard frickan’ job whether or not you work outside the home.

I had to step away from my practical, always working self and do something completely different from what I had carefully planned. Sorry atheists…but for me being a SAHM was an act of faith. You see at that time between the health issues, unexpected unemployment, moving and other changes…I really felt like the universe was telling me to stay home, so I did. Honestly it is not something I did gracefully. It was out of necessity and circumstances that were bigger than me.

A week or so after my son’s first birthday, I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. This was unexpected. After the complications of my first delivery, my husband and I were a little scared. We “planned” on having one child. We were wrong. So one and done became two and through with lots of monitoring of my high-risk pregnancy.

Knowing what to look out for in the second pregnancy was helpful but it didn’t alleviate all of my fears. There were weeks when my husband traveled internationally and it was just me and our son. My fear was that I would throw a blood clot which would incapacitate me and my son would be the only one around. It was not an irrational fear.

Late in my second pregnancy, we were having a New Year’s Day dinner at my mother and father in-laws house. My sister in-law and her family were there as well. My husband was joking about some minor health issue he had. I laughingly said something like – “Sure you get a man cold, meanwhile, I’m throwing blood clots like a pitcher in the Major Leagues” – something stupid and yet (cue the the creepy music) prophetic.

The next day I felt that familiar dull ache behind my knee and I called my OBGYN. This time she had me go directly to the Maternity Ward at the hospital and did the ultrasound there. Sure enough I had another blood clot behind my knee. This granted me a 5 day stay in the hospital with an IV of blood thinners and mandatory bed rest.

When I was released from the hospital, I had instructions to inject myself in the abdomen twice a day with a blood thinner. Say whaaaaat? Every twelve hours I had to psych myself up to jab a needle into my very pregnant belly. Dare I say, super cringey stuff.

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We decided to temporarily move back to New Jersey to be near the hospital and closer to family. I injected myself twice a day for a month before the Hematologist and the OBGYN got together and decided it was time to schedule a C-section. They were both afraid of a bad outcome (fatalities really mess with their malpractice insurance and I think they liked me). I had another retractable filter inserted. This time I demanded a mild sedative for the procedure, much better.

At 35 weeks/6 days of my second pregnancy our daughter was born via C-section. Me, my husband and our trusted doctors, all decided it was best to perform a tubal ligation after the C-section. Apparently I suck at being pregnant. I was 36 and survived two high-risk pregnancies. We had one healthy boy and one healthy girl, no need to get greedy.

Our second baby was so much easier. Perhaps because we knew the drill and our expectations were not as regimented so we could relax more. We knew we couldn’t “plan” every aspect of things so we just rolled with it. Bonus this baby wasn’t colicky and slept a reasonable amount from a very early age. (You mean they don’t all scream for several hours continuously and wake up 4 times a night…for years?)

Fast forward many years and I can see how being a SAHM served me. If I am honest, I got the perks and the liabilities in good measure. The perks are obvious, I haven’t missed a thing with my kids. First steps, first tooth, first haircut, first day of anything – I was there for all of it. We had so many special day trips that wouldn’t have been possible if I worked outside the home. They don’t remember most of them. I do, and I suspect they are the days I will reflect on in old age.

When I walk into my kids school, I know half the faculty, the school board and at least 60% of the kids by name.  I have created a network of go-to moms that can get me through to the finish line or at least high school graduation. I have volunteered for just about everything in the district (exception: I refused to get on the school board, that is just bat sh*t crazy).

The liabilities are pretty stacked too thankfully some of them have passed.  My first born was a colicky baby who had night terrors and did not sleep through the night for FOUR years (4 mofo years). My kids are about 20 months apart and (aside from my hospital stays) I got up with both of them every single time. Every. Single. Time. During those years I fantasized about being alone with a fist full of Tylenol PM in a dark quiet hotel room. Sleep was like trying to catch vapor in those early years of motherhood.

Being a SAHM was great but I had no time to myself. I thought it would be good to get away from the littles few hours a day, I couldn’t. I looked forward to medical appointments to get some “me time.” Some days it was easier to have the blood drawn than to be home. And sometimes I had to take two kids with me to those appointments. When they were toddlers I would play hide and seek just to get a few minutes to myself in the kitchen pantry (there may have been Oreos in there).

 

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Sketch by Lisa McMillen http://www.cicalisadesigns.com/

Being out of the workforce for a decade didn’t do me any favors career-wise. This may be the biggest hit that a SAHM takes. That and the guilt about doing anything for yourself because you get to stay home. What saved my ass was a small group of women in a Moms Club. Unlike me, they “planned” to be SAHM and their friendships have had a huge impact on me.

 

 

 

Stayed tuned for future installments of #SuperCringe

Blur

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Blur

Halloween as always been one of my favorite days of the year. I love to dress up, marvel at the decorations and of course, CaNdY!!! My kids love it too. The past few years we have split up. Me with one kid and their group of friends and the other with a different group in another neighborhood. Everyone dressed up and candy was abundant. This year things changed. My oldest didn’t really get to “trick or treat”, his friends weren’t into it. My youngest, didn’t want me around. This is as it should be at their ages. Just another reminder that this sweet time of parenting when we share a home and talk every day, it’s going to end in a handful of years.

It’s seems like yesterday or maybe a week, a few years ago at most, that I dressed up as Cat in the Hat with Thing 1 and Thing 2 by my side. A more accurate description would be Thing 1 holding on tight with his right hand secure in my left. Thing 2 was riding my hip, arms loose around my neck. I was sweaty from exertion and they were just plain hot in fuzzy costumes.

I’ll never forget that Halloween, my kids were 3 and 5 years old. We met a friend and her family for pizza in a town that celebrates Halloween on an epic level. Our littles were in preschool then. We were on the precipice of big changes, elementary school was around the corner and we were trying to soak in the last bits of a schedule that wasn’t encumbered by school district rules. It was a glorious time and I was too exhausted most days to fully appreciate it.

That Halloween was unusually warm and the “Thing” costumes were not designed for that level of heat. We didn’t make it far that night, a few blocks at most. The uneven sidewalk, perpetual lack of sleep and the physical strains of being weighted unevenly on one side for hours was catching up to me. I was relieved to get them in the car and back home before long. It was a short drive but Thing 2 was also weary. I had to carry her sweaty, sleeping body into the house from the car. Then I tried to slip her out of her costume and into bed without waking her, mission not accomplished (sigh).

I ran a tight ship in those days, kept a schedule. It took so long for my oldest to sleep through the night, that I made a bedtime ritual mandatory. I tried everything – baths, books, warm milk, sprayed the room with monster deterrent (water) and finally resorted to meditation CDs. At 5, he was finally getting the hang of it. I tried to stick to that schedule because I had years of sleep to catch up on. My husband traveled almost constantly during this phase so I was on my own most nights.

Fast forward to my “Things”, 13 & 15 and oh, what I wouldn’t give to relive that night. That friend from the pizza place, she passed away nearly five years ago. She died on Thing 2’s 9th birthday. We knew it was inevitable, she fought cancer and the horrific effects of chemo since the birth of her son who is the same age as mine (Thing 1). And our boys, they’re still friends. I’ve kept a vigil on that as I promised I would. It was an unspoken promise, the one you make in your heart when the words can’t come out because you want to be brave but you’re jello inside. So I guess I should stop lamenting over the passage of time and all that is getting to be in the rear view mirror, because I got to be here for it.

 

Becoming a Mom

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Becoming a Mom

I was one of those doe-eyed first time moms who took the birthing classes, read libraries full of books and even (and I still chuckle at this) created a birth plan. My birth plan included a leisurely stroll on a New Jersey boardwalk while admiring the view of the Atlantic Ocean. This would be followed by a trip to the International House of Pancake (IHOP) where I would consume my soon-to-be-born baby’s weight in pancakes.

 

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Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_bhofack2′>bhofack2 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

 

Full disclosure, I was a vegetarian when I became a human incubator and instead of embracing the holistic lifestyle, I decided to reintroduce meat. In fact, I fell off the vegetarian wagon during my first trimester when I ordered a hot dog at the San Francisco Airport. I was of the mindset that if my body wants it, I must need it. I was an idiot. My birth plan included stacks of pancakes and bacon, glorious bacon.

At 39 weeks pregnant, I had an ache behind my left knee. Whenever I tried to sleep on that side (I know who sleeps at 39 weeks pregnant) it hurt more. I told my doctor about it and she sent me for an ultrasound. Shortly after, I discovered I had a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and needed to go straight to the hospital. This was NOT in the birth plan. Sh*t got real very fast but I still wasn’t entirely aware of the danger.

The panicked looks on the medical staff in the Maternity Ward alerted me to the seriousness of the situation. A blood clot could have easily broken away from the DVT and instantly killed me or my baby. I was told to make one last trip to the bathroom, put on a hospital gown and then, DON’T MOVE!

A few hours later I was taken to the trauma unit. The plan was to insert a retractable filter in preparation of childbirth (apparently giving birth is fertile ground for throwing blood clots). The filter would, fingers crossed, break up any clots before they got to my lungs, heart or brain.  I was petrified. I sent my husband on an errand to distract him. I told him to get me a tuna sub because, hello…pregnancy cravings.

I silently begged God not to take me or my son away. Thoughts of my husband raising our boy alone were excruciating. I was placed on an operating room table and told to turn my head and not move. First they inserted a needle in to my jugular vein to numb the area (thank you and how about a little something to take the f*cking edge off) then the retractable filter was gently guided in to place.

 

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Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_megaflopp’>megaflopp / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

I don’t remember how long it took, it was an overwhelming blur. I do remember a sweet nurse holding my hand and telling me it would be OK while a stream a defiant tears made their silent escape. I wanted to ugly cry with sobs, snot and a heaving chest but the procedure did not allow for that. First lesson of motherhood, put your issues on the back burner honey, you have a small human depending on you now.

The retractable filter became my “get out of jail free” card (or try not to die card). The doctors and nurses were pretty sure that I wouldn’t clot out so they transitioned from let’s-keep-this-woman-alive to let’s get-this-baby-out. Shortly after the filter was inserted (tuna sub, consumed) I was told that labor would be induced.

Well, YAY! What first time mom doesn’t look forward to that. This was also NOT in the birth plan. I got the prostaglandin insert which is basically a tampon that is supposed to prepare the cervix for labor. I had mine “in” overnight. The next day was removal time and lucky for me they sent in Nurse Krueger for the process. She could not get it out despite her claw-like hands. Finally my OBGYN came to my rescue and removed it, humanely. Then we just waited for the magic to happen.

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The nurse must have been related to this guy.

The hours ticked by and I happily took the epidural.The idea of biting on a stick or focusing on some object to get me through this seemed a bit ridiculous. At this point I was happy to be alive. My whole beach walk, pancake eating birth plan was out the window. Eventually it was time to push. I pushed and pushed and pushed some more.

Two hours passed, then three, my OBGYN told me she had to go to NYC that night.  I pushed harder, she told me about the doc who would fill in for her (gasp, a man). Four hours of pushing, then five. My baby wasn’t coming out and my sweet doctor stayed with me. I have no idea what she sacrificed to stay with me that night but she did and I will always be grateful for that.

At one point during this process a group of eager looking med students came by to ask if they could observe.That was a big “HELL NO!” from me. I wouldn’t even let my mother in the room. It was just me, my stubborn refusing-to-be-born baby, my husband, my doctor and two nurses.That was enough of an audience.

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Scrubs: “Can we observe your tremendously complicated child birth?”                                                     Me: “Hell No!”

Back to my non-compliant baby…at some point it was obvious that my baby wasn’t coming out the traditional way and a C-section was in order. Great let’s do it.  Whaaaaaat? I have to wait for an operating room? Oh come on and there is a backup for C-sections. What are we at Newark airport, waiting to take off?

Since my baby wasn’t in distress, I needed to wait. I was grateful my baby was not in distress, I on the other hand was exhausted. About an hour later we got in and my son was born via C-section. I will never forget the relief I felt when I heard his cry. I was able to hold and nurse my son soon after delivery. It was miraculous especially after such a stressful delivery. It didn’t matter, nothing mattered except that my boy was healthy. Of course there were medical issues that I needed to confront and those would once again alter my plans.

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Actual photo of my birth plan...(not really).Photo by Movidagrafica Barcelona from Pexels

I had planned to breastfeed for six months. I figured once the teeth started to come in, I would transition out of it. I never considered not nursing in my “plan”. Apparently, that wasn’t in the cards. I was to be given a blood thinner for a minimum of six months as follow up treatment for my DVT. The retractable filter that was inserted could only stay in for two weeks.

The first time I felt like a sh*tty mom was the night of my son’s birth. I was talking to a friend (a staunch breast milk advocate) on the phone and her disappointment in my inability to breastfeed was palpable through the phone. I may have muttered something like “you know I almost died” while she extolled the benefits of breastfeeding. This is how it is for moms…you can come within a millimeter of death and someone will say something ridiculous to try and make you feel bad. I just wasn’t “Mom Enough” (screw you TIME Magazine).

I remember being somewhat shell-shocked the day we left the hospital. They let us leave with our son, I didn’t think we were qualified. My husband is an engineer and proper car seat installation was a bit daunting for him (unusual). The early arrival threw him off balance as well. Our son arrived a week before his due date.

My husband had a plan too, a project plan. We renovated our kitchen during my pregnancy. Kitchen renovations during pregnancy are a bad idea. You have to eat out all the time and wash the few dishes you do use in odd places like tubs or the laundry room sink. Our laundry room sink was in the basement with uneven stairs and my stomach was the size of 5 basketballs tethered together. The hubs had a renovation plan detailed out by date and the finish date for the renovation coincided with our son’s due date (feel free to laugh at the naivety of that one). I have no idea how he pulled it off but he managed to finish the kitchen before we came home from the hospital.

I don’t think we ever discussed it but when we got home our residential census grew by three – our newborn son and my in-laws. My mother and father in-law just moved in with us for the first week. Thank God they did, it was overwhelming. I remember sitting in the living room chair feeling like my breasts were two flaming bowling balls. I looked down a few times to make sure they were not actually on fire. My mother in-law brought me ice packs and happily held the baby.

Having your first baby is life changing. Having a newborn with your own medical complications ups the ante. Suddenly I had doctor appointments with a hematologist, and a pulmonologist, I had to get the “gist” of my condition. I also had to have my blood tested weekly to determine if the medication was effective.

Two weeks into the parenting thing, we felt like we were getting a handle on things. That was short-lived, out of nowhere our son started screaming, continuously…for hours at a time. We took him to the pediatrician and were basically told that we won the lottery and got a colicky baby.

He would literally scream for hours. We would hold him, rock him, swaddle him, sing to him, feed him, change him, drive him in the car, attempt bribes, nothing worked. It got to the point where I looked forward to blood draws and the doctor appointments just to get away from the screaming.

On top of this, I had to have my retractable filter removed. Keep in mind this was my safety net. I insisted on having an ultrasound on my leg to see if the DVT was gone before they removed the filter. You may think that would be a given but I had to advocate for myself to get that done. The prevailing thought was the filter needed to come out whether there was a clot or not. I needed to know.Thankfully the DVT had resolved.

A few weeks later, the blood thinners I was taking were giving me unusual symptoms, tingling in odd parts of my body like the bridge of my nose or my forearms. This prompted more visits to the “ists” – a neurologist and a radiologist to see if I had Lupus or MS. It was such a daunting time, it was a lot to juggle.

Things started to settle into a new normal and three months in, my maternity leave was coming to an end. I had it all worked out, my mother and mother in-law would each take one day a week and I found a great sitter for the other 3 days. I could work from home most days so I would be able to check in on my baby throughout the day. My new plan was on track (cue the foreboding music).

 

 

Mother’s Note: I want you to know that the once colicky baby is a great teenager today. In fact, once he got past the screaming non-stop for hours every night and not sleeping phase, he became the best behaved kid on the planet.

Broken

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Broken

Sometimes you stumble your way through the dark on an unfamiliar path trying to  discern the next right step. In my experience, these paths are riddled with emotional land mines. You anticipate the boogeyman when he jumps out in front of you. When you hear the creepy music, you don’t have to turn your head to know someone is behind you. Then there’s the stuff that blindsides you and takes you to your knees, the unexpected hits you never saw coming. I’ve had a week of those.

The days are blurring together and feel oddly suspended as they do when things get awful. Some slow motion version of life settles in as you try to adjust to the new normal, which is anything but typical. On Wednesday, I went to visit my father in the hospital and they were talking about discharging him. Then on Thursday morning, he went into cardiac arrest and he’s been in a coma-like state ever since. The prognosis is grim and now we wait for things to change in some new direction. Waiting for milestone hours to pass; 24, 48, 72 and we continue to wait, and wait and the days feel like weeks and every so often the physical/mental/emotional exhaustion comes over you like a tidal wave. It feels a lot like drowning, minus the water. I’ve been dry drowning.

This situation is awful enough on it’s own and yet, there’s more. Five decades of an on again/off again father-daughter relationship, half siblings, a beloved twin who is far away, a history of family tragedies and what can I say, it’s complicated. I’m the oldest of seven, one of the two from the first disastrous marriage. The other siblings are from my father’s second marriage. His second wife died in a car accident in 2000. His youngest child died by suicide a handful of years ago. The pain this family has experienced is enormous and I feel like a ghoulish outsider with unfettered access.

As I’m getting older, friends and loved ones have lost parents. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like for me when the time came. I no longer resent my father for what he did or didn’t do when I was a child and yet, we aren’t especially close. Not a conscious effort to stay separate, it just became easier to chose other priorities. I’ve also tried to insulate my children from the dysfunction of my childhood. There is a lot of my personal history that they don’t know yet. As they are getting older more is coming to the surface but not everything.

I’m a strong person, been through plenty of my own shit and always came out the other side on top. I’ve beaten odds that no one could’ve predicted. If younger me was a horse in a race, no one in their right mind would have bet on me and yet I placed. I found my way into the winner’s circle, against all odds. I thought I would be somewhat disconnected when dealing with my father’s mortality, I was wrong.

Yesterday I felt hallowed, a husk of a human who had their innards scraped out. An emptiness that was dark and consuming, a black hole from within. It took me by surprise and I had to yield to it. I could not leap through this particular ring of fire, I had to stand in front of the flames and watch it burn. Eventually I had to accept help and let my husband and kids join me at the hospital.

In the middle of my pain, I imagined myself as a plate made of fine china with an intricate pattern. Seemingly intact, functional and somewhat pleasing to behold. Upon further inspection a hairline crack is discovered, the kind that can cause the plate to break if it is not handled in a delicate manner. If you feel the edges on the backside the chips reveal themselves and you know this plate has been compromised. It makes me wonder if the damage is visible to an outsider. From a distance, it looks good but up close, you can see it’s damaged and on the verge of being broken.

 

Writing Prompts

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Writing Prompts

When you feel vulnerable everything is a writing prompt. Sometimes the thoughts just swirl in my head, marinating until they become a somewhat tasty morsel that spills onto the screen. Not enough for a meal but, with any luck it leaves you hungry for more. Most times though, those prompts just wither on the mental vine. Here are some seeds that are lying on the bare ground, waiting for neglect or nurture to determine their fate.

Backstage Pass

My father is in the hospital again. He’s been in several times this year for various illnesses. We aren’t close and that’s not likely to change. He was out of my life from when I was 9 until sometime in my 30s. Too late for strangers with nothing in common to cling to – I say that with sadness, not hostility. We’ve both made attempts to bridge the enormous obvious gap, we just haven’t found the right the platform.

I find out about his health via group texts from his longtime partner. She’s devoted to him and very kind, which is comforting. It’s just awkward. The man had 7 kids from two marriages. I’m the first born but last in the pecking order. When I do get informed, it’s like having a backstage pass for an act you don’t know.

What’s Normal?

My kids recently went back to school and I feel myself being consumed by my own anxiety for them. I’m outing myself in the hopes that it will get me to ease up a bit. I have two teenagers and I can’t help myself, I think of what I was doing at their ages. Then I wonder, is it normal for parents to do this? If you’re a parent do you reflect on what you were doing when you were the same age as your child? Seriously, this is not a rhetorical question, I don’t know what’s normal.

For the Ladies

You ever get your period and think “Oh that makes sense” as you flashback to the night before when you ate half a chocolate cake and contemplated life with a new identity.

Hospice

A friend asked me how I deal with the mental mind f*ck of caring for people on hospice. This is what I wrote to him:

Hospice is a weird thing. I think what draws me in is the lack of bullsh*t. The small stuff and pettiness that most humans get tangled in tends to fade away when someone has a newfound awareness of how finite our time is here. I appreciate that level awareness and honesty and I get into a – do the next right thing modus operandi. It’s more difficult with people you know versus volunteering for strangers. I’m pretty good at compartmentalizing though, one of the benefits of a dysfunctional upbringing.

There is also a curiosity that pulls me in. I kind of want to know what it’s like at the end of life – I mean, we’re all going to die one day, yet people rarely discuss it. Or maybe my twisted brain thinks…if I am a witness and a helper for so many at the end of their lives, perhaps I’ll be granted a swift departure when my time comes. I don’t want to be subjected to weeks or months of Depends and really dry, chapped lips. So basically what I’m saying is….there is no way to delay the existential head f*ck, you just have to lean into that motherf*cker.

 

 

 

*Featured image used via agreement with 123rf.com image is Copyright of Sila Tiptanatoranin

 

It’s Wine O’Clock Somewhere!

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It’s Wine O’Clock Somewhere!

It’s Wine O’Clock somewhere…or maybe it’s Weed O’Clock, Sex O’Clock, Sugar O’Clock, or some other O’Clock I have not yet imagined. Our collective casualness with dependency is adorable isn’t it? I mean we all need a little somethin’ somethin’ to get through the day, right? I may ruffle some feathers and bunch some panties with this post.

Perhaps I’m sensitive to the topic…after all I was raised by an alcoholic mother (you may now insert all of your preconceived notions about me into your brain) and found myself in rehab at age 15 (insert more of those notions) and I’ve been sober ever since (perhaps that one was unexpected). I have a good grip on the subject of alcoholism, mostly through sober observation. I’m way past the zealot phase of recovery and I have many friends that are social drinkers. I have not been hiding in a sober closet for the last 35 years. That said the “Mommy Juice” culture is getting out of hand.

I recently got invited to a breakfast with other parents who plan to celebrate the first day of school by day drinking the minute their precious kids get on the bus. Mimosas at the country deli, won’t that be fun! Look spiked orange juice, so clever. The festivities start at 7:30am, I’ll pass. I hope they have a designated driver, Uber is scarce in these parts. I wonder if these parents will still be lit later that day, driving through car line which is a cluster f*ck without inebriated drivers.

Do your teens and tweens see these pro drinking posts? Are you buying them beer so you can be the cool parent? When is enough enough or perhaps too much…what example are you setting for formative minds? I know I sound like a cranky Puritan. Truth is I’ve joked about alcohol myself especially when asked why I don’t drink. “My gene pool is polluted” is one of my usual snarky responses. It sounds cooler than the real explanation – I made bad decisions and put myself and others in harm’s way when I drank. And I do have a sense of humor (pinky promise). A few weeks ago I got a good friend a “Shut Up Liver, You’re Fine!” t-shirt to celebrate her birthday. Hmm, I may be part of the problem.

I think my breaking point was the purse that markets itself as a wine pouch. Let’s all hold hands and recite the Serenity Prayer for this gem –

Wine Purses

If you need a purse to carry your medicine water,  perhaps things have gotten a tad out of hand. Look at it this way – substitute green beans for wine, does the behavior still make sense? Are you stashing green beans in different areas of your house for a quick bite when no one is looking? Are you stuffing your face with them in the parking lot before walking into the board meeting, the presentation, the PTA gathering? Are you disappointed when your friends decline green beans because they just can’t take another bite and they need to drive home? Have you recently eaten too many green beans at a public event and struggled the next day with a hangover and the shame of not knowing what happened? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have a problem with green beans. Just some food for thought.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: Through agreement with 123RF Limited

Image ID : 44357768
Media Type : Photography
Copyright : belchonock  (Follow)