Sunday, December 14, 2008

That's Not Logical, Captain ~ Mr. Spock

I have mentioned that we are following the suggestion of one of Corey's doctors to help moderate his behavior. It's working very well compared to not doing it. We also have some other tricks and tools at our disposal that we use with some success. One of them is to have my mom let Corey stay with her for part of the weekends. This is great because it gives us a break, and because Corey's not being sent away for "being bad." He gets a break, too, and spends time with some of his friends.

The tools and methods we use, however, only take us so far. Some of the biggest problems we are having truly seem to stem from a breakdown in logic. Occasionally this causes smallish problems.

A couple of months ago, Corey had left home in the middle of the night and either got caught up with some gang members, imagined it, made it up... or some combination of those three (no, that's not the smallish part). When he went, panicked, to someone's house to ask for help, they (naturally) called the police and wouldn't let him in. Eventually he left their property, but the police did find him.

In the stress of the moment, Corey couldn't think of our house phone number or his address. He could remember my cell phone number, but didn't give it to the police because he's not supposed to give it out. So Corey told them the name of our apartment complex and they contacted the property manager, who had the pleasure of getting up and knocking on our door to let us know we needed to call to find out where to pick him up.

Yes, in our world, that is a smallish problem.

Last night Corey went to my mom's house. They had a great time, so she wanted to keep him a little longer than just after church today. We agreed that she'd bring him home this afternoon before the sun went down because I have been trying to get a particular shot of all of us for our Christmas card, and once it's dark, Mad's done for.

We put Mad down for her nap just after 1:00 this afternoon, and I went in to get some sleep, too. At some point, Tom joined us (the crib is in our room). A couple of hours later, Madelyn woke up and I brought her to bed to nurse a little bit. We must have fallen back asleep, because it was an hour later when she started playing around.

It was around the time Corey should have been home. I woke Tom up and he went to see. Sure enough, Corey was home. He hadn't been there for long, maybe a few minutes, but I could tell that he was agitated. Tom was too. He went into the kitchen and started doing dishes.

The next thing I know, Tom's asking Corey if he has any knives in his room. This is a recurring problem, but seemed like it was coming out of nowhere to me. Alas, no. When Tom had opened our bedroom door into the living room, there was Corey, pacing; he'd been carrying a knife. Tom wasn't randomly doing dishes, he was trying to account for all of the knives. We were napping with all of the doors in the home open.

We keep our knives locked in our office. Steak knives, butcher knife, paring knife. It's a little odd when we have people over for dinner if meat's being served.

Sometimes Corey will go into the office and get a knife while we're home, if the office is left unattended. He used to frequently "break in" to get them... or various other things we keep in there. I put not one, but two locks on the window, but it only meant he had to work harder to get in. I have placed a dowel in the window, which makes it impossible (so far). He's always one step ahead of us, though, so I have to be vigilant about checking that the dowel is still in place. For example, tonight while getting a knife, he also removed the dowel for later.

You're probably wondering why. Well, so are we. The best we can come up with ("we" being us, Corey and his team of doctors), is that he is arming himself out of a need for protection. The boy is hyper-vigilant about intruders and threats to his or our personal safety. Corey's explanation for tonight is that he was freaked out that our house was open, the cars were there, but there was no sign of us. Our bedroom door was shut, but he feared we might have been killed. Maybe the intruder was still there.

Have we ever had an intruder? No. Break-in? Nope. Well, one time our window was shattered... but that was an accident by a work crew at the apartment Corey and I shared back in the day. We were there when it happened, so there was no mystery. And our next door neighbor here had been burglarized, but it was from some creep who frequented his car stereo shop, not a random crime. That was solved in about six minutes (perhaps I exaggerate, but it was quick).

What caused this? I don't know. It seems to be clearly a mental health issue, but how did it start? As the mom, I figure I have to be to blame somehow. When it comes to this hyper-vigilance, the place my mind keeps going back to is that old apartment from back in the day. We moved there when Corey was about three and a half. When he was a little older (four? four and a half?), we played hide and seek. We only did it twice because he would get frustrated when I found him and so freaked out whenever he couldn't find me. Could that be the root of his problems? Or when he was in the fear-of-monsters-or-bad-guys-hiding age and I would take him from room to room and go through all of the closets and cupboards with him. Did that somehow start this ball rolling? It was something I would have liked for my parents to do for me when I was afraid (not that I'd thought of it then... oh, no... those doors had better stay shut!).

On the other hand, it's exceedingly difficult not to view this weapon obsession (knives aren't the only thing, just the focus of this evening) as some sort of a threat. With his occasionally explosive temper, the fact that he is taller than I and some of the comments he's made, it's hard not to worry. Nobody wants to be "that family" on the news, mainly because of what they have to go through to get there.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Eight Months Ago This Night

I was in labor with Madelyn. It doesn't quite feel like yesterday. I know that right about now I was trying to get my family and Nance to play Boxers or Briefs with me. They were all sort of hesitant, being that the contractions were getting harder and closer and sometimes had no break at all. I saw their reactions and said that I still wanted to play, but maybe I should go take another walk first. When I got back, I was ready to sleep. Not that I could, but it was my pregnant person bedtime. So no game for us. It would have been fun to laugh that much through labor though, don't you think? Maybe make the waiting go faster?

Speaking of waiting, we got some information today about our... you know... thing, and it was good. We have an appointment Monday night to see what's next. Chances are low that I'll have any sort of firm answer then. Said answer might not come until the middle of our vacation (we leave in a week). I won't have Internet access until we get back sometime after New Year's. Well, I will, but I don't know how it works on my phone. Honestly, if it's anything like my email on the phone, I'm sure it sucks.

And last, but certainly not least, please keep Ken and Nance in your hearts. The leukemia, which was eradicated only a couple of weeks ago, is back and at higher levels than before. The new "chances" are zero (do nothing) or 10-15% (transplant). Like Nance has been saying all along, somebody has to be the 15 percent. Why not Ken? Right?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

Today I did something that will either lead to another something that is completely, overwhelmingly great... or not. We will either have so much to talk about during the visits with family over the holidays... or we'll say, "Meh... it didn't work out like we'd hoped." The thing is, there will not be any not talking about it. We've already brought it up in our excitement and anticipation.

If I'm honest, I'll tell you I think it won't happen. I, personally, would like to blame that on our jinxing it... specifically my jinxing it... by talking about it.

If it doesn't happen, I do know it just means we're not ready. And maybe we'll be able to find out what needs to be done so we are ready. And in the meantime, we've had a lot of fun exploring new possibilities. But I do hope that it happens, even though it would mean going through a period of extra stress, and who needs that, but I don't care, because this is HUGE.

What the heck am I talking about?!?

Did I mention that a friend gave me a cup of tea this morning? She wanted to soothe my cough, and had some tea that another friend had brought from London. It was lovely. Nearly the best tea ever (Indian tea is really my favorite). I forgot to ask if it was decaffeinated. It was not. I hadn't had a caffeinated beverage since July of 2007.

Any 12 things I can do for you?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Highs (okay, really... part way ups) and Lows

First off, let me say that things have been mellowing out around here. One of Corey's doctors made a suggestion, which we are taking, and it's working quite well. He's still making some bad decisions, a few of them supremely bad for people who haven't been down our road, but in comparison, it's not a terrible place to be. Kind of like living with a 15 year old boy.

Everybody in my house is some degree of sick. I took the kids to the doc today; Mad just needs lots of nose sucking, Corey's on antibiotics. There's no way that I'll get Tom to the doctor, really, unless he thinks he's dying. I would love to go to the doctor, however, he's not available. I didn't go to urgent care tonight because I have a feeling that I won't need antibiotics either (and I can't take cough syrup since I'm nursing), and I don't want to spend $10 to find that out.

I'm against antibiotics and chemical treatments whenever possible, and in fact, I got through my entire pregnancy without them despite a nasty bout with the flu (which I had to get because my OB was so insistent about my getting the shot despite my arguments that I hadn't gotten the flu since before Corey was born). It's not that I do nothing; fluids, humidifier, vitamins and more fluids works just as quickly as the rest of the methods, except for maybe the contagious factor. I don't know how long one is contagious with various illnesses without medical treatment.

As I've mentioned, Nance's husband is fighting leukemia and may be eligible again for a bone marrow transplant. We find out tomorrow or the next day. It was supposed to happen already but he went from a "pre-leukemia" something-or-other to "full blown" leukemia days before everything was scheduled to go down. Five days of twice-a-day chemo knocked it out (along with his hair), so that's good. Having blood and platelet counts that are roughly 16% of normal a few days after getting multiple units of each, not so good.

Yesterday the doctors seemed much less optimistic. I'm not sure why projection numbers are bandied about the way they are, unless maybe patients or their families are begging for them. Since February, Ken's "chances" have gone like this:

"Ken has a 30-40% chance of living five years IF he makes it through the transplant."
"He has three months."
***Four months later***
"Why did that doctor tell you that? I keep telling him he's got to quit saying things like that... he has a 75% chance of living five years as long as he makes it through the transplant."
"We can't offer a prognosis until we know what is happening."
"The leukemia is gone. If you do nothing, he has a 20% chance of survival. If you have the bone marrow transplant, he has a 40% chance of survival. Stop to think if you want him to spend the rest of his time in a hospital. Think about the donor, too. If he chooses to have this procedure, that may be taking away someone else's chance."


Nance isn't just one of my best friends. She and I also work together, side by side. She works fewer hours than I do, but of the hours she works, 90% of them we are together (potty breaks and petty annoyances... you understand). And of that time, most of it is spent in a car, driving between schools and employers and our office. So you can see that I can't just go sit at another desk until I'm well and then come back and resume our partnership.

There are a few things we can do away from one another, and it looks like that'll be the routine for the next couple of days. But the timing of it all just sucks.

"Hey, Nance, you just found out that the optimistic doctor isn't so optimistic right now, what do you *hackcoughhacksneezeUGH*... hey, can I call you back in a minute? My brains are on the table again and I need to clean 'em up and put 'em back in my head."

"Why don't we talk about this over lunch. Where are you going? I'll be at Casa Sanchez. I'll call you when I'm seated and we'll talk (over the phone) then."


As much as she needs a hug, I need to hug her and hand her tissue and hold her hand and say that whatever happens, she and Ken are surrounded with loving family and friends. They won't go through this alone.

A much smaller concern is that we leave for vacation a week from Friday. Driving halfway cross-country with an infant who has been struggling mightily to get those two top front teeth in for about two months will be interesting enough. (I really figured she'd have them in by now... didn't you?) But to go from here, where it's down to 56 degrees (brr!) to there, where it's currently 13 degrees while we're all sick? No thanks!

Not to mention that I disagreed with my MIL's suggestion that we should get Mad the flu shot.

***While I don't necessarily buy into the idea that getting the shot with a dead virus causes the flu, I do understand that the CDC is, at best, making an educated guess as to which virus will make it over here each year. Plus, a lot of nasty things are put into vaccines... and not just mercury... formaldehyde and aluminum and all sort of other things that are linked to various cancers. And then you've got the mutating viruses (viri?) becoming resistant to what used to work. Yikes!

So it's pretty much vital that we are well and healthy for this trip.

Speaking of well... I'm no longer quite sure what the point was I had been aiming for. Either I've made it or I've missed it. Or I need sleep.

G'night all!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Mother Letter Project

I just learned of this project through one of the commenters on Lady with a View (yeah, it makes me feel kind of like a lurker, but now that it's out in the open, I feel a little less dirty). I'm submitting my own letter to the site, but I'm also putting it here. Take a moment and check it out. If you're a mom and you contribute a letter, I'd love to read it, too.

Dear Mother,

I don’t know anything about you, but in my mind, you are just starting out on your journey into motherhood. This fits well for me because I am just starting out again on my journey into motherhood. So I will sit here and reflect on what I've learned and what I wish I’d known more than 15 years ago when I became a mom.

The first thing I wish I’d known was that you have to choose an amazing person to be the father of your baby, or babies, as the case may be. My first husband was not amazing and we did not share a great love. He and I got along well enough… until we didn’t. Halfway through my pregnancy, I realized what a poor choice I had made. Understanding I made the decision, nobody forced me into marriage or pregnancy, I never really blamed him for the hard times I later had, raising a son alone. Not being burdened with those feelings was just about the only gift I had to offer myself at the time.

I have since remarried, to a man I recognized early on as the person I should have been waiting for all those years. He and I have an infant daughter. She is, at nearly eight months old, already older than my son was when I started making plans for going home to my mom’s. Unlike my son at this age, she has never ridden in the backseat of a police car to a women’s shelter. She is surrounded by love.

The second thing I wish I’d been able to grasp the importance of and to do is finding other moms who have children around the same age. Oh, I had friends, but not very many and none who were close, geographically. Having friends to share the journey, the laughter and the tears, could have helped me to be a better mother to my son. Once I was back home, I had friends whose children were all older and not so interested in a “baby” to play with. The neighborhood kids (also older) really just wanted to play with his abundance of toys, so I eventually shooed them all away. I see the effect of these choices in his difficulty making and keeping friends.

During my pregnancy with my daughter, I tried feebly to connect with other moms in my Lamaze class. It didn’t pan out because we were all too shy, and I was older than everybody there except my husband and one other dad. But when a new mommy group came around, I joined. Two of my Lamaze class “pals” were there. We still see each other at least monthly, and sometimes we’re joined by other moms from that group, as well as some of our personal "new mommy" friends. Having a mommy community means having someone to turn to for advice or reassurance (my husband is fabulous, but if he just spent the same long night trying to soothe our daughter, he probably doesn't have any more answers than I do). It means sometimes being able to share what has worked and to tell someone else that everything will be okay. And, while it’s too soon to tell if any of the babies will be lifelong friends, they have that chance. For now they are friends from life.
The third thing I wish I’d been able to do better for my son is to become really informed. Sure, I read a few books and took a prepared childbirth class, but the class was so large it was hard to get any answers. Plus, my life was so hectic it was hard to focus. The class was seven or eight weeks long; my husband attended three of them. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be there, but he wanted to get into an argument with the Executive Officer of his ship more, apparently, so I spent a couple of very pregnant months home alone while he was basically grounded to the ship. (Feel free to refer back to the first thing I wish I’d known if you’d like.) With my latest pregnancy, I signed up for a couple of different email services that showed the baby’s progress and development. Many similar services are available for the first year, too. I offered to retake Lamaze “for my husband’s sake.” Being in a room with only seven or eight couples and an experienced and knowledgeable instructor – who taught to the dads as much as she taught to the moms – made a huge difference in how my labor and delivery went the second time. Reading those weekly emails, along with the development and parenting books I prefer, has given me a sense of how wide the range of normal is, and where we fit in relation to it.

Item number four on this list of choices and opportunities is all about routines. Maybe it’s because I had my son when I was practically a wee babe myself (age 22), but I didn’t understand the parents and grandparents I’d met who seemed to know all too quickly what the likes, dislikes, needs, wants and personalities of their little babies were. It struck me as the worst kind of know-it-all behavior, pigeon-holing a baby like that, and I avoided it completely. The upside? I wasn’t a know-it-all. The downside? Well, I didn’t know what I needed to know. When does he need to sleep? When does he need to eat? What time should he go to bed? How is he going to learn to get himself to sleep? Which stuffed animal or toy is his favorite? What does he like to do? After floating through his first year or two, I eventually came up with answers for most of those questions, but at 15 years old, he still has a very difficult time getting to sleep and then staying asleep.

On the flip side, every night, my husband, son and I devote about three hours to our little girl’s bedtime routine. Even when someone in our family is upset with someone else, we put it aside until we finish her night with family story time. My husband and I agonized over how and when we’d teach her to fall asleep on her own. Once we found a method that closely resembled our parenting style, it was pretty easy to do. And when we did help her learn to fall asleep on her own, we also found that she napped better – twice a day for up to two hours at a time, instead of 5-10 minutes if I dared to put her down at all. On the weekends, errands and visits are scheduled around her naps. It turns out that knowing things about your child is a doorway to honoring their needs and who they are as a person. I wish I had known that for my son.

Here’s a little thing I learned just before my daughter was born: Babies reflect their parents’ faces. Infants react to smiles and frowns and deadpan expressions. I always made sure I wasn’t scowling at my son during the falling apart days of my marriage. I also always said about him, “He wasn’t a happy baby, but he wasn’t unhappy, either. He was okay.” I spent the first two weeks of my daughter's life remembering to smile, even though I was distraught that she had to start out in the NICU; even though I was exhausted; even though I was struggling to manage my son; even though, even though, even though. My daughter is the happiest baby. Oh, she’s like me in her need to get things dealt with immediately, but once the problem is resolved, it’s behind her. Sometimes she will try to smile while she’s crying. Last night she laughed through her little bitty, tired tears just because I came closer.

And the last thing that I wish I’d known? The importance of making a parenting plan. Oh, it’s not that I was just winging it, willy-nilly style for my son. But the extent of my plan, had I written it down then, probably would have been “don’t do what Mom did… and when he acts up, deal with it immediately, unlike those annoying parents I see at McDonald’s.” I’d say that, in general, I did accomplish that. Great.

Remember that new mommy group that I joined? One of the jobs we were given was to identify and write down our mission statement for raising our children. Most of the moms wrote beautiful, well thought out letters to their sons or daughters. My husband and I collaborated on ours after ruminating about it during the five weeks between the assignment being given and the date it was due. (Read: I told him about it after the first class. We talked about it once or twice over the next five weeks. On a humid early summer morning, on my way to the last class, while driving from flower shop to flower shop to find just the right plant for the instructor, I frantically called my husband’s cell phone until he picked up and we talked about what to put down on paper. At red lights, I wrote my own shorthand version of whatever he said. In the parking lot, 10 minutes before class started, I cleaned it up and rewrote it.)


It’s not as beautiful sounding as some of the other mom’s. One of my friends just took that same class and her letter made me cry. Last weekend we ran into the instructor and her husband, and she told him about my friend, "This is the mom who will always be the familiar face that reminds her son of home." All the same, in reading and re-reading our plan, it’s a good one. It says what we mean to do. I carry it with me wherever I go. I should have it memorized by now, but more importantly, I have it. We have it.

As I see the differences between what my son experienced and what my daughter’s life is like, I feel sorrow for my son. He is just as good and important and lovable a person as she is. She is going to know her place and her worth in this world. I am still working to help my son find his place.

So it's pretty simple really (ha!). All you have to do is choose the right father, find your place in a mommy community, educate yourself, accept and honor his or her routines and other needs, smile and know what you want the outcome to be for your child. I hope that these (to me) monumental lessons are valuable to you. It’s hard to say how much a person can learn from being told versus experiencing something. All the same, I wish someone had told me these things back when I was starting out.

Warmest regards,

Shan :+)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Banana Peel of Doom

For quite some time now, I've been giving death a lot of room in my brain. As a child of the Baby Boomers, the first exceptionally healthy generation of the world, I have not had to deal with it directly very often.

It's not that people around me never died, but they were rarely loved ones. Uncle Keith died after a bar fight when I was seven or eight years old... the same summer that our guinea pig, Trouble, died. My dad's great-aunt died before that, but I'd only met her once, so the memory probably lasts due to Dad's sadness over the loss. Aside from that, one of Dad's coworkers died a few years after Keith. Every other death I knew about was either an animal or I learned about it through friends or the news. I was insulated from it for most of my life.

Maybe if I’d had faith or more experiences dealing with death, I wouldn't have been so obsessed about it. Who knows? But I recall as a young child, worrying every night that my mom was out doing a Tupperware party. Was she alright? Would she make it home? Later, when I was a teen, it was just Mom and me living together. She got a job traveling the western half of the US. I would drop her off at the airport with nearly as much barely contained emotion as if I'd never see her again. Waiting at the gate to pick her up (which in those days meant waiting outside for her to deplane by taking stairs down to the tarmac), would find me fighting back tears.

I suppose in both instances, the Tupperware parties and the traveling, I was terribly afraid of being left alone. Sure, I had Dad, but he was really my stepfather with his own kids. I wasn't as comfortable around him as I would have been if he'd always been there. And when the traveling job came around, he and Mom were divorced; I wasn't sure where I fit in with him and his new family then.

Maybe some of my fears come from the fairly random religious education I received. In San Diego, the children (four of us) would go to a Baptist church on Sundays with my grandparents. Images of hell haunted my dreams for years. When we moved close to LA, my parents sent us to a Gospel church with the neighbors ("the neighbors" from whichever place we lived were often my parents' source of a free Sunday morning). The father of that family was also the pastor of the church, and he was the leader of Sunday school for kids my age. He had a very strange view of people, especially considering that he had such a large family. I recall his lectures about how all of us were born liars... even babies just born, crying when they didn’t need food or a clean diaper, were lying. Naturally, it all led back to hell.

As a teen, I dated a guy who all too easily changed my whole wobbly belief system by pointing out different proofs of evolution. I should have been relieved that his explanation would have eliminated my concerns about hell, but that thought never occurred to me. Instead the focus shifted from an almost certain trip to eternal hell to nothing (cue crickets... wait, don't... there's nothing).

In any case, you put all this stuff into the blender of my mind and add my own thoughts on the subject, and death is a scary thing.

Five years ago I started a new job. Within the next six or seven months, nine people I knew (directly or not) passed away. One of them was my ex-husband's grandfather's funeral in Oklahoma. It might have been then that I started to realize that I'd spent so many years fearing death, but I hadn't truly dealt with it for a couple of decades.

A few years later, Corey and I went to Utah to visit my grandparents. My dad and his buddy were heading up to Salt Lake City for a race, so they dropped us off on the way. I'd had a few sessions in the tattoo chair by then, but nothing very recent. I'm not sure how long it had been since we'd been to Utah, but it didn't occur to me to cover the tattoo on my chest... until my grandfather stopped short of giving me a hug to tsk-tsk at what I'd done to myself. Between that and the fact that my grandparents hadn't seen my dad since the divorce – for some reason I believed they'd be happy to see him again – I guess no one should be too surprised that my grandfather had a heart attack that night. It was fairly mild, as heart attacks go, but tests revealed that a quintuple bypass was needed to clear out the major blockages. (Yes, I see that our visit and my tattoo weren't the only things at work here.)

The surgery had to be done in Salt Lake. Grandpa spent two months up there, and they only let him go back to St. George when they did because depression from missing his wife was creeping in and inhibiting recovery. He made it back to St. George, but he never made it home. Two years were spent declining in a care center due to depression, possible strokes and then the onset of dementia. A few months before he passed away, Corey and I again went to St. George. We helped Grandma run errands and visited with Grandpa quite a bit. Despite his troubled memory, he knew who we were each time we dropped in for a visit.

It was clear we were likely seeing him for the last time, and I tried to gear up for it as best I could. One thing that helped was knowing that my brilliant, funny, steady old Grandpa would never have wanted his life to end that way. When he died, it was tough, but he wasn't suffering anymore. My old Baptist upbringing told me he was in a better place.

As I said goodbye to him, I mentally looked around at all the people I loved. With the exception of Corey, everybody was older than I. That type of extended youth... of always being "the kid," I believe, was pretty common for people of my generation. It was time to get ready for a new reality to set in. I pictured my life as some sort of modern day battle scene from Gone with the Wind, with dead bodies and smoke and dust everywhere.

It hasn't been like that, thankfully, but Grandpa's was the first in a series of springtime deaths. He was followed the next year by Grandma and last year by my good friend Carol. It was getting so that I was semi-jokingly warning my friends and family members to be extra careful this spring.

Fortunately, this spring brought Madelyn's birth and no deaths for me to handle. There is something that happens to a lot of new (again) parents, though, which is probably nature's way of protecting families. My risk tolerance has dropped way down. Not that I was a huge risk taker before, but now I find myself stepping more carefully and taking the time to really look where I'm going.

As an imaginative person, I see myself falling down the stairs that I always insist on taking at work, tripping over the wooden curb outside my home or doing any number of incredibly silly things that result in my immediate death. As a clumsy person by nature, my concerns aren't entirely unfounded. But how much time should one give to worries about dying stupidly? And how much of my life's energy have I wasted worrying about something that hasn't happened? It's not as if I'm psychic (well, Tom says I am, but with another syllable in the middle), so there's no reason to believe that my imagined body at the foot of the stairs means anything other than I'm worried about leaving. (Well, that or it could just be me recalling the times I have fallen down the stairs, both as a child and as an adult...grr!)

I recognize the need to prepare for most of my loved ones to pass before me over the coming years. But how much time have I already spent worrying? How do I find the balance between the very real concerns that Mom won’t be around as long as I’d like with the very real fact that I should be making the most of whatever time I do have with her?

I guess the question I’ve been struggling with is this: Why do we act like we’ll live forever, when those who know they are dying seem to get so much more out of life? How can I maintain that sort of end-of-life appreciation now, when the people I love are here and I’m here and we can make a good life together? And is it possible to do that without obsessing about death all the time? Because I can totally see myself slipping and falling to my demise because I was too distracted thinking about how I might slip and fall to my death.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Name Is Shannon... I'm a Leaver (Hi, Shannon)

Between the happenings within my life and a recent post by Lady with a View, I've been pondering when to leave. I have been a leaver for most of my life. I took a mental trip through my childhood and pretty easily determined where that stems from.

***Side note: Yes, I know I end sentences with prepositions. It bugs me every time, too. One of us is going to get over it.

***Side side note: Yes, I detour a lot, even in real live conversations. Yes, it annoys me, too. At least when I do it here I have a record of where I was originally going. Be glad we're not on the phone!

Ahem... back to the childhood. The briefest (ha!) history is this: My parents (mom, dad and bio-dad) were part of a group of pseudo-hippie/bikers. No one in that group has been married fewer than two times. Mom and Dad lived together briefly before marrying when I was five. They separated for a few months when I was 13 and again, permanently, two years later. In between those 10 years I could not begin to calculate how many arguments they had that ended up with my mom "packing us up," because she was taking my brother and I and leaving. I put that in quotes, because we never went anywhere. We didn't even get in the car. Once we walked down to the end of the street on a very cold night around Halloween.

That's another thing... leaving almost always took place around some big event that was supposed to be joyous, like holidays. This probably explains why I broke up with boyfriends right before Christmas and birthdays for several years.

When I was married to my first husband, I re-enacted some of those same types of walking out, only without all the yelling and door slamming. If we had any problems to deal with, I would feel like I just ought to go. Eventually our problems truly were beyond my ability to accept, explain away or ignore, and we quite amicably decided not to keep torturing one another by staying together. I'm happy to know that when I did leave, it was for the right reasons, rather than... you know... Christmas.

After my divorce... or maybe before it was over, but once it was well under way (it took a couple of years because I did most of it myself and he kept moving), I dated one man for a few months and then another for probably the same amount of time. Can you say rebound? I knew it and they knew it. In one case, it just ran the natural course and then ended. In the other, things came to a screeching halt when he said he loved me. I didn't want his love, didn't believe I had it, and I didn't want him to pretend like that.

After that there was no more dating until I figured out some things about myself, like why I chose to marry Stephen in the first place. Ours was not a great love affair, he didn't have any money (not the sort of thing that drew me in anyway, frankly) and I wasn't pregnant. I did it when I didn't "have to" and I needed to figure out why. Plus, those two rebound guys were similar in their limitations, so I needed to learn what I wanted for myself and my son. If I didn't, how would I recognize it when I saw it?

It took me five years to be ready. In those years I put on and then took off about 50 pounds. Nothing like making sure that I wasn't going to be seeing anybody. I re-entered the dating world with new eyes. Not 20/20, but clearer than before. As soon as a guy didn't fit within the checklist (no, it wasn't a real list), he was gone. Or I was, really.

Around the same time that I met Tom, I met a guy at a tattoo convention. Does it sound like I have a huge ego if I say he was drawn to me immediately? It probably does, but I only say that based on how he acted. (Oh yeah, I understand that he could have been the kind of guy who is always drawn to someone.) He had my phone number within half an hour or so, maybe less, and had called me twice by the end of that weekend. We ended up going on a date. Dinner overlooking the ocean in South Laguna (pre-stupid MTV shows) and a couple of movies... and it could have ended with hot sex in the theater bathroom, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I kept picturing my mug shot and then imagining what I'd do if I lost my job after being arrested for public indecency or lewdness or whatever. Kind of a mood killer.

Ultimately what clinched the deal for me were a couple of things other people might not have as hard a time getting around: Tarter buildup and his mother. That man had a couple of teeth that were encased in yellow plaster. They were bottom teeth, so I'm not sure how I noticed them. And the thing with his mother was her age: 80 years old. I had no idea how old this guy (what was his name, anyway?) was, but if Mom was 80, then I figured he had to at least be 40. I didn't know. I wasn't even 30 and wasn't up for the much older guy. Plus, hello! Tarter! And if that weren't enough, when I declined a second date, he offered to just come over to my house and watch TV. I was running 10-15 miles a week and couldn't imagine anything I wanted to do less than sit around watching TV. This guy was out.

Plus, I must have already been getting interested in Tom. I remember feeling like I could choose wild, crazy, but seemingly devoted (obviously a guess at that point) or I could choose the nice guy who lived forever away.
When Tom and I started becoming serious, I must have mentioned my propensity for leaving for small reasons or before gifts had to be exchanged. It apparently made him cautious for quite a while. After a couple of years of the long-distance thing, he moved out here.

We had one or two months of bliss, but honeymoons don't last forever. A huge part of the problem was that Tom, at three years older than I, still hadn't grown up. He overstayed his welcome at a relative's home and then took a job working with a bunch of college kids who went out for "ice cream socials" at least once a week (yes, that was me checking out my brains because my eyes rolled so far back in my head)... and for pay that, when broken down to an hourly rate, was well below minimum wage. I get the whole have-a-meaningful-job-that-you-love thing. I have one of those... two if you count sign classes, and I was able support my son and myself.
The next year was incredibly difficult, with me taking my rightness and shoving it in his face, him arguing that he wouldn't be changed, and me threatening to leave. How'd we make it through? Well I admitted... and apologized for... my nastiness and readiness to quit as many times as it took. And while Tom isn't one for stating that he is wrong unless it is pulled forcibly from his lips, he would somehow start doing things in a way that looked strangely like what I was asking for. We agreed that we were trainable. Oh, and Tom wouldn't accept my threats to leave. After nearly breaking up a few times, our act started to get pulled together.

We should have been moving forward, but shell-shocked Tom had changed his mind about that. Even a couple of years after our last big argument, he no longer considered marriage an option and neither of us was willing to just live together. I was mentally threatening to hit the road, even if I wasn't saying it out loud. It didn't matter, though, what I was saying or doing, Tom wasn't changing his mind. Then he took a job that involved traveling to various cities for weeks at a time. When he accepted a contract that would take him away for two or three months at a time, everything started to crystallize.

We didn't want the same things. Didn't make me bad for not wanting to just be a lifelong girlfriend. Didn't make him bad for not wanting to marry me. In fact, it didn't make me love him any less. But loving one another and going down the same road together, it suddenly occurred to me, were not the same things. So I broke up with him (and then became violently ill). I had a good reason for leaving for the second time in my life.

Tom spent some time working things out for himself. He talked with his friends and family. He talked with one of our good friends. We talked. He finished the assignment and quit the job, came home, bought a ring and asked me to marry him. I said yes, but only after I was assured that he wasn't doing it just to save himself being alone or because he was feeling coerced into it by my leaving. (That's the Reader's Digest version.)

Our engagement was romantic. The garden wedding was everything we could have asked for. The honeymoon... *screeeech*... didn't last. In fact, on the way home from our honeymoon we had our first married argument. It wasn't long before we were back to our old tricks and I was reacting by threatening to leave.

Yet again, Tom pretty much told me that I wasn't leaving and that I should quit saying that I was because it only made things harder, not better (the grown up version of "knock it off"). After a few months we were again in a fabulous place with one another. Despite a surprise pregnancy and a teen boy with emotional and behavioral problems, we have maintained our position on Cloud 9... well, maybe it's 7, but it feels like 9 to us.
I'd like to say that I've learned my lesson, and that I won't leave or threaten to leave again. But the fact is that sometimes when I've left, it's been the right thing to do. There is a limit to what a person can and should be asked to deal with, regardless of the relationship. That is a lesson I know I've learned. And sometimes it's not just with one's "significant other" that the lesson needs to be used.

I'm struggling... have been struggling... with what to do about my son. I'm not ready to lay bare all of the problems we've faced. I will say that Corey and I have put in a lot of hours of hard work (and Tom's been working with us for quite a while now), but we don't seem to be getting anywhere. In fact, in some ways we seem farther back than where we started. What are the boundaries between parent and child? When is it better for them not to be together? At what point is it wise to let someone else take over?

I don't know the answers to these questions or any of their cousins. What I do know is that I recently sat in our therapist's office, holding my hands up in front of my face, 2-3 inches apart. I shook my left hand gently and said, "This is me." I shook my right hand gently and said, "This is done."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Check, Check, Check

The good: I got to visit with Nance's husband, Ken, at City of Hope today. Although his hair is starting fall out, he looks good and seemed to be his usual self.

The bad: I was unable to donate platelets because of my "stringy" veins. The veins are so small that the staff were only willing to attempt a whole blood donation because it was for a friend. Didn't matter, because despite taking about 300 times the recommended amount of iron, I was .2 too low (has to be 12.5, I was 12.3). If someone can be my stand-in and donate whole blood or platelets, I would be ever grateful.

The ugly (but also the good... life is a circle, after all): Tonight Corey and I noticed that a police car was right out front with it's lights flashing. Neither of us had called the police and it wasn't coming to our house. We high-fived.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Chocolate, Naps

Since thinking that I might be pregnant, I gave up all sources of caffeine, including chocolate and coffee. That was July of last year. I'm avoiding the math, because it's just too freaking long no matter how ya look at it. Well, I exaggerate a bit; I did resume drinking decaf when Mad was about four or five months old. Here's how pure my system has been: I can feel the caffeine in decaf coffee, even if it's not from Starbucks.

I know that a lot of women have all sorts of coffees and chocolates throughout their pregnancies and even while nursing. I don't judge. It works for them, and in every single case I know, the moms and babies are none the worse for wear. I've always been sensitive to caffeine, so even at the height of my Starbucks addiction, I couldn't have more than a grande half-caf misto (half steamed milk and half steamed coffee... and half of the coffee was decaf) per day... and frequently I didn't finish them.

I went to a breastfeeding support group the other day. Did I ask for any new suggestions to help increase my milk supply? Did I mention that I'm now down to pumping less than four ounces a day... and not all at one time? How about mentioning that I'd love some tips for dealing what has become a standard two weeks of PMS? Nope.

"When can I have chocolate?" Hmm... maybe I did cover the PMS thing after all.

The other moms looked at me like I was from another planet. I guess the whole, I didn't judge your choices thing wasn't reciprocal, but that's okay. The group leader, Jeri, said... *drum roll, please*

"Well... now. Just don't have a whole bunch. The thing with chocolate is the caffeine, so don't have chocolate and coffee."

The first person I told was my son. Why? Simply because right after group, I picked him up to go to my mom's. If I'd been at the top of Mt. Baldy, I'd have been yodeling it down into the valley, believe me. The thing is, I don't just want chocolate. I want damn good chocolate. I want XOXO Truffles chocolate. Yes, that means driving up to San Francisco (unless somebody can show me a link to their website... all I can find are mouth-watering reviews), and no, Tom's brother doesn't live there anymore, so we'd also have to get a hotel room. I know that's a lot to do for a truffle. Have you tried them?


Tonight Corey and Tom had guy night. Somewhere along the way, Tom stopped and bought me a bag of Ghiradelli's dark chocolate squares. I tried not to scoff and sneer at this pathetic little imitation. I tried not to rip it open and eat them all in some horrifying impersonation of Cookie Monster, too.

Ugh! I took a nap this evening when Mad did. I figured she was about to wake up in half an hour, max. I'm already up later than I should be. I know that if I have one of those squares tonight, I'll never get to sleep. So I'm signing off now to go enjoy some chocolate dreams, but tomorrow... it's on!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tough Choices

When Tom and I first confirmed that I was pregnant, nursing came up pretty much right away. Tom mentioned looking forward to giving the baby bottles each evening or overnight so I could catch a break. Like a true zealot who was just begging to have her words fed back to her at some later time, I insisted that this baby was not having formula. I had nursed Corey for two and a half years, and while I didn't plan to let it go that long this time, there was no good reason to bring formula into the... well, formula.

Then I started thinking about why I nursed Corey for so long. My first husband turned out to be a bit of a nut job, something I realized halfway through the pregnancy. It was later confirmed when he lived on the corner at the end of my street. In a parking lot. With two other people who owned a car... they rotated who got to sleep in the car each night. "But he's breastfeeding" was my prepared response should Stephen ever demand custody or independent visitation. Thankfully it only came up once before the court ruled, and he didn't have the wherewithal to follow through on the threat. After that, I just let it go on because it was the easiest thing in the world, and because it was the most direct means of bonding with my beloved child.

Corey was so old when I stopped that we had a conversation about it.

Me: "There's no more nurch. Nurch all gone."

"No more nurch?" (short wail of despair)

"Mommy talked to the doctor and now nurch is all gone."

"Nurch all gone."

And then we snuggled and went to sleep (yeah, took me quite a few more years to get him out of my bed... baby steps, people, baby steps). He slept fine that night and never asked to nurse again.

When I took all of that in and combined it with the fact that Tom is not a nut job (or, as we say in my family, "You're weird, but you're my kind of weird and I like you"), I was relieved of the hyper-vigilance I carried around for Corey. I didn't have to nurse so that this baby wouldn't be stuck in the care of a man who put himself first (although not well) to the exclusion of the baby's safety and well-being. I could be like those mothers who declared how long they were willing to breastfeed, meet that quota and be done with it.


Most of the time I had figured that nursing for six months would be perfect. About a month before I returned to work, we spent $300 on a breast pump and I realized that I might as well pump for the whole first year. And if I'm pumping and giving Madelyn breastmilk in a bottle, why not just nurse when we're together, too?

I stayed home with Corey (and married to his father) until he was 11 months old. There was no pumping, there were no bottles, there was just me and him from his first day.

Madelyn started off with four days in the NICU due to a collapsed lung. There was no oral nutrition for the first day and then formula for the next 36 hours until the neonatologist agreed to let me nurse. With that kind of beginning, physically and emotionally, breastfeeding was tricky. Although she got the hang of it after about 10 days, it was hard to put it all behind me. My milk supply has been difficult to maintain. I have used herbal supplements, post-natal vitamins, extra pumping, extra nursing, massage... pretty much anything someone suggested, I did. Madelyn was almost six months old when we had to supplement with formula.

Over the past two months, my body has continued to wean her. The original plan was for Mad to get a formula bottle only when needed during the week if I didn't pump enough the day before for two full bottles. Within a matter of days that became 1-2 formula bottles a day during the week, and now we have to give her bottles on the weekend as well. My new goal is to get her through the majority of the cold and flu season.

You might be thinking that the tough choices to which I referred in the title are about choosing to add formula. Not exactly. Here's something you don't know about my life: the husband of one of my best friends, Nancy, is fighting leukemia. In February he was diagnosed with a "pre-leukemia" illness. In March we had a blood and bone marrow drive. A bone marrow donor was found, but not from our group. The extremely generous donor is in Europe (let's all say a little thank you for worldwide registries, shall we?).

Ken was supposed to have the bone marrow transplant last week, but the latest biopsy indicated that he now has "full blown leukemia," so it was postponed for two months while they put him into remission. I am on the list to be a blood and/or platelets donor and they finally called me this afternoon to schedule my donation. (I say finally because Tom and another of our friends have already been called twice!) I was so excited to be called, but it was a bit dramatic.

"Any surgeries?"

"I had episiotomy stitches in April."

"Let me check. (short pause) No problem. Are you breastfeeding?"

"Yes!" (with pride)

"Ooh. Oh no. I don't think you can donate. You can't donate."

"What?!? We're barely nursing. She gets about six ounces a day!"

"Hold on and I'll check." I heard her talking to someone else... "But she's weaning."

Turns out that weaning mothers are okay to donate, but I have to pump beforehand and not for two hours afterward. I guess I'd be really drained (ah ha... okay, I know it wasn't that funny). But in that moment when I didn't know the answer, I realized that I might have the biggest decision of my life to make. Do I keep breastfeeding Mad through the cold and flu season, thereby offering her antibodies to help keep her little body well or do I stop completely so that I can help Ken through this incredible fight?

I know what I'd do. I'm really glad I don't have to make that choice. I would if I had to.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Home Is the New Away

Wednesday will be our third wedding anniversary. Being married just three years seems odd somehow. Maybe it's that we've been together well over eight years. So this year I will again say we've been married X years + five and a half.
For our previous wedding anniversaries (I point out wedding because there is also the first time we acknowledged we liked one another even though it was so impossible, because he lived in Chicago and I lived in LA; the first time we said I Love You, something we'd been feeling for a couple of months, but were waiting to admit to because... *ahem*... we hadn't met in person just yet; and the first time we met in person. Okay, we don't really celebrate the others so much anymore, but we used to, and I still keep things separate in my mind.), we have spent the weekend in Big Bear or in Julian. This year there is a budget crisis in our home.
Not only is Mad the proverbial "like a weed" daughter (hello! I'm hoping the size 12 months clothes we bought for winter are going to fit long enough for the weather to stay below 90 for more than two days in a row), but this is the year of our biennial Christmas trip to Chicago. Oh, and the company Tom works for (which shall remain nameless because I sense a rant coming sooner or later) is doing what it can to stay afloat. That means that he generally works four or five eight-hour days instead of five 10-11 hour days each week.
We have a "free" trip to San Francisco (airfare and hotel included) that we had planned to use this coming week, but the $80 processing fee and the fact that he'd be using up days off that we'll need for Christmas means that we had to come up with an alternate celebration.
In all honesty, I spent most of Saturday morning mentally moping. I didn't even bother to call my parents to see if they'd watch Mad until just before noon. Lots of internal scolding, cajoling and name-calling helped me get my act back together well enough to get going. We didn't have much of a plan before the kids were dropped off at their preferred grandparents' houses. I wasn't sure how late we could leave Mad with Margaret and my dad. We went for an early start time so we could get back early, too. Based on recent history (recent being since I got pregnant with my perpetually tardy husband's child), I am stunned to announce that everybody, including me, was ready to go, kids were dropped off and we were free to do what we wanted at 4:03 PM.
Neither of us had eaten much and Tom was starving, so he suggested an early dinner. I laughed and pointed out that we should go to Lenny's for the early bird special. Seriously. And to underscore how early we were seeking dinner, the Indian restaurant we'd chosen wouldn't be open for another hour.

**On a side note, I would have chosen something more than two blocks from my mom's place, but we are pretty well surrounded by fires and freeways are not all open right now, so it made more sense to stick close.
We talked about a few more options and decided to go to our old standby, Casa Sanchez. Sure, it's a little unfancy place in a strip mall. Not everyone would think to go there to celebrate getting married, but it was the first bona fide happy choice of the night for me. Why? Aside from the fact that the owners and staff are friends, this is the restaurant that catered our wedding. Between us, we had all the wedding night food. It was delicious. I can't remember the flavor of anything at the wedding because I couldn't get more than a couple of bites down, I was so excited. So we relived it that afternoon.
Yes, afternoon. It was still well within the four o'clock hour when we arrived. No, most of the people there weren't blue-hairs, but the couple coming out when we went in were rather old. And she was on oxygen. That's how close we were to being old fuddy-duddies (maybe the fact that I'm using that term means it's too late).
Dinner was great. We hadn't set any "let's not talk about the kids" rules. In fact, we talked about the kids we have and the fact that Tom would like to have one more. I'm telling you, he could probably talk me into anything. Oh alright, he already has, but not for now. Mad was our summer vacation surprise last year. The timing worked out perfectly in terms of time off after she was born, so that's our plan for next year. I'm a little excited about it. Like, I've already picked out a name excited, haha. But I'm only telling you, dear readers, because I don't want to have to answer questions from everybody I know for the next eight months. Plus, if it doesn't work out for some reason, I won't have to explain it over and over again.
Anyway, we decided to go see a movie after that. The plan was to find a light romantic comedy (Tom's suggestion because he knows his girl and because he was probably trying to set the mood, bow-chicka-bow-bow). We drove to a theater to see our options: nothing! So we headed over to a small independent theater. It's outside of "the village," a charming little place that is growing a bit too much. Tom's friend has called it too Disney-fied. The village is not, but the theater and surrounding shops do look a bit like a set. Most of the movies were either not for us this night (Bond, Madagascar 2) or we'd never heard of them. The one I recognized and knew I'd been interested in seeing was Rachel Getting Married.
Did I stop to recall what it was about? Did I pause to think about the review I'd read recently in which the word "disturbing" was used? No, I did not. So we bought tickets for a showing that started in an hour and went for a walk. We had ice cream and Tom answered sports questions from roughly a dozen kids who were apparently on a scavenger hunt type activity. They came to us while we sat outside Coldstone after going inside and singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame with the server inside.

The movie was good, but it was not light, romantic nor comedic. It was intense. I was tense. So tense, in fact, that I wanted to yell at any number of the characters or get up and leave, maybe slamming a door on the way out. Whew! And the music was mostly great, but there were huge stretches where it seemed like the makers of this movie just wanted to showcase their varied tastes.
After it was over, we needed to get Mad and go home. When we'd dropped her off, Margaret had offered to keep her overnight, but it seemed inappropriate to take her up on that at the last minute, like I was hoping she'd offer because I didn't have the nerve to ask.
I nursed Mad as soon as we were home and then Tom put her to bed. In the penultimate alternative anniversary celebration finale, I fell asleep on the couch while he took care of her. I'm pretty sure he tried to get me to come to bed, but I did not. It wasn't meant to be a withholding sex type of thing, just an exhausted woman thing. Thankfully, Tom doesn't tend to hold grudges and we were eventually able to enjoy the best part of our weekend during Mad's afternoon nap today. Corey didn't come home from Grammy's until after 9:00 tonight and that, too, felt a little like time away.
So even though I taught two classes Friday night and one Saturday morning, for the first time in a couple of months, I felt like the weekend was all that it should have been. I almost don't mind getting up and going to work tomorrow. I love my job, but Tom will be off, so I'd like to be here, too.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I have taught sign language classes on Friday nights for 13 years. Tomorrow night is the end of those classes. I have mostly loved teaching. Other people's unruly children are not my favorite kind of beings. Since I have one of my own, I really don't have the energy for yours, but thanks anyway. Most of my students are adults. Most of them take one class and then move on. The occasional person will come back sporadically. Some stay with me for years and become my friends. A few have become like family.

I have always stressed that the most important thing to remember when signing is to breathe. Then I would joke about how nobody should be nervous because I hadn't "lost one yet." Of course, when my friend Carol died last year, it was from Cystic Fibrosis, not sign language. Still, I couldn't make that joke anymore. 

On the other side of the life spectrum, I lost count a few years ago of how many babies had been born to my students and former students. It's been a lot of fun to see "my people" become parents for the first time.

I've been teaching at a community center. People come to me for several reasons:
They are curious;
A family member is deaf;
A classmate is Deaf or
They have a strong desire to work with Deaf people.

Sometimes I'm not quite sure why they're there... like the foreign exchange student from New Zealand several years ago or the Korean children who were only in America for a few months last spring... but we had good times together and learned from one another.

When it comes to the business of sign language, about a dozen former students have gone on to complete courses in college. A couple of speech pathologists, several interpreters, and a handful (no pun intended) of teachers started out with me.

Through this position, I was able to spend a few years volunteering with a family, helping them find even a glimmer of communication with an autistic son and brother. He had quite a program going; I have no idea how many people worked with him, but I taught his parents, sister, occupational therapist and grandparents. Sometimes other family members and friends came, too. One day this little boy who had never formed a complete sentence in any language used two to make his first request. He spontaneously and appropriately signed WANT and then very slowly said, "Mom." I thought that it was the most wonderful thing I'd ever heard and was so proud to be part of it.

Sometimes I have been less than successful. (An aside to all the students I taught that first year: I'm sorry. Classes are much more organized, less all-encompassing and frenetic now. You should check them out; you'd be impressed and even have a chance to learn something. I give people the opportunity to ask questions these days.)

Someone has agreed to take over the classes. Sylvia was a student of mine eight years ago. She substitute teaches at a local school for the Deaf and teaches a sign class at a local elementary school. She's going to be great. I know that there is a natural tendency for people to have strong preferences for one teacher or another. Some of "my" students will always love me best. Some will wonder why Sylvia didn't come along sooner to save them.

We'll still be sharing some of the students, because I also have a private signing-only class that gets together on Saturday mornings. Everybody in that class has been part of my Friday night group, too.

Here's where my emotions get a little sticky: For all that I understand human nature... and for all that I am hoping Sylvia does a great job and excites and motivates people to learn and do more... what if?

What if she's better than me?

What if she is one of those "there's only one right way" sort of people?

What if I want to come back?

Speaking of which, why am I leaving in the first place? Well, it was a combination of meeting Madelyn (when she was en utero it was pretty simple to declare that this baby would have to adjust to our lifestyle), having years of bad printer karma (both of my printers have taken long, slow craps and made it hard to put my book together for one class and to print weekly materials for another... then I bought a new printer, but had about six different problems with it in the first night before taking it back... and lastly, I was going to buy a new new printer, but the first new one had maxed out my card and the refund took too long), and the fact that I think I'm done coming up with new ideas for vocabulary for the second class. And no offense meant to Christians, but I have spent at least one-third of my last five or six sessions teaching hymns and prayers. And the last, least important reason is the money. In 13 years of teaching, I have not yet made the equivalent of what I earn in my day job for one year after taxes and tax deductions. Without a working printer, my costs ate up nearly half of the earnings.

It's time for something new... for my students and for me. I was quite misty-eyed about the whole thing three weeks ago. But I had miscalculated and thought that class ended last week. It's amazing what having an additional week did to those almost formed tears, haha. I do wonder how it'll go tomorrow night. Hopefully Sylvia will be there so I can introduce her to everybody and drum up interest in her class. Because if she doesn't end up doing it, or if she decides it's not worth her time, I could totally be persuaded to take it all back.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Steady As She Goes

Monday night Tom adjusted Mad's crib down to the lowest level. Even though she hasn't fully mastered crawling (oh, she'll get there, just give her a minute, would ya?), she's pulling herself up... to her knees or her feet... on any stationary object.

The good news is that I don't have to worry about her tumbling out of her crib while I'm going to the bathroom first thing in the morning. Not that she's that tall (although at 27.5 inches, she's no shorty), but a mom worries.

The bad news is that she's now too low for me to lean in and give a little noggin smooch while she's sleeping. Not that it stopped me from trying... tonight Corey and I went to peek at her a few hours after she went to bed. So cute.

I couldn't resist leaning in. One foot had to come off the floor. If I leaned just... a... little... bit... more I could reach her, right? Next thing I knew, both feet are off the ground and I'm flailing, trying to smooch her without falling in with her.

With my fat ass, it must have looked pretty funny. Corey did the silent laugh and went back to bed.

I would just like to send a little thank you to my husband, who "kicked the tires" of every crib we liked before approving this one for its sturdiness.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

What Is She Trying to Say?

Mom lives roughly four miles from here. For the couple of years prior to Tom and getting married, Corey and I lived with her. A few years before that, she and I were neighbors in the same apartment complex. One of my childhood friends, Mary, lived with her then. Mary's whole world revolves around children, unlike my mom's, so Corey ended up spending quite a bit of time over there. Mom benefited from Mary's desire to hang out with my boy. As Corey got older, Mom has enjoyed having him around, too. She frequently requests his presence at her place on the weekends. This is for him, too, since he has friends in her neighborhood, but she truly likes to have him around.

When Tom and I first got married, we had Mom over for dinner all the time. It was a nice way to adjust to the separation, but money was tight, so after a while, the invitations dropped off.

When I was pregnant with Mad, I think it threw Mom for a loop somehow. She loves, admires and respects Tom in a way that she never did feel for my first husband, so I know it wasn't about him. In fact, it got to be that she raved about how great he was every time I talked to her... to the point of saying that I was lucky to have him. While this is true, I am lucky to have Tom in my life, I would hope that it goes both ways.

In any case, I'm not sure if Mom felt like she didn't belong in my life or if I had said or done something that made her feel uncomfortable calling or what. We typically speak four to five times a week, but calls dwindled to mostly me calling while I was pregnant. Occasionally Mom would say things like, "I don't want to be a bother"and "I know you're busy so I'll keep this short" when we did speak.

I invited her to one of my prenatal visits so she could hear the baby's heartbeat and she declined. Well, not exactly declined, but said she'd have to check her calendar (not even paraphrasing here) and get back to me. She did not get back to me. My dad went, even though he has no blood ties to me... he was married to Mom when I was 5-15. My best friend Nance went every chance she got, and of course, Tom was there every time. (Corey went because he had to... it creeped him out to hear the heart beating... he said it sounded like an alien.) I know that my mother-in-law would have gone if she'd been out here during one of my appointments, but my mother acted as though it was something to get out of doing.

Mom was there during my labor and delivery... out in the hall during the delivery per my request, but she heard Mad's first cries just as she'd heard Corey's 15 years earlier. A few days after we (finally) brought Mad home, Tom's parents came to town from outside of Chicago. Normally they stay at our place, but for this occasion stayed in a nearby hotel for five days. We saw them every day, of course, but they also did some sightseeing around the region, so they weren't here all day every day. Two months later, my in-laws had still spent more time with Mad than my own mother.

In July, Judy (MIL) came out to visit for a week. This time she did stay at our place. We were quite a pair, she and I. The day she arrived, I pulled a bunch of muscles in my neck and shoulder, so I could barely move. Nance had to pick her up from the airport. Judy would probably have rented a car if her leg wasn't in an ankle-to-hip brace because she'd shattered her knee in May.

Mad will be seven months old on Wednesday. I should really stop keeping track of how far behind my mom is, but it hurts that she doesn't make the effort to come over.

Over the past couple of months that I've been back to work, Nance occasionally asks if my mom has seen Madelyn. Ninety percent of the time the answer has been no. It's especially hard for Nance to understand where Mom's coming from, since Nance feels she is on the other side of the same dilemma. She would love to have a better relationship with her adult daughter, but Kristen holds her back. Nance and my mom chat via email every once in a while, and I do wonder if Nance puts thoughts out there for Mom to consider.

About two weeks before I started teaching again (not my day job... classes started up about three weeks after I went back to "work"), Mom, Mad and I started hanging out on "guy night." This had to stop during my classes, because guy night typically happens while I'm out teaching. When I was struggling with the decision to stop teaching two-thirds of my classes, Mom actually suggested that I quit so that she and Mad and I could hang out more often on guy nights. Lately she has taken to suggesting we get together on her day off while waiting for my classes to end. But we never make specific plans and nothing ever happens.

The most recent development has been that Mom is now stressing how important it is that she gets to spend some time with Madelyn, even while not making any real plans. She seems to understand that Mad doesn't know who she is, and won't if she doesn't high-tail it over here. I agree completely. Mom's only 60, but most of those 60 years have not been spent taking good care of herself. It worries me that she won't be around... well... forever, I guess. For all of my independence (and there's a lot, to be sure), I do need my mom. And she has always been there for me when I have really, truly needed her, just not always when I would like for her to be.

So tonight I emailed Mom and laid out my availability for this Thursday (her day off). Hopefully she'll be available. Hopefully I won't forget with my sleep-deprived brain if she is up for it.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

She's a Girl... I'm Not Sure If She's a Friend... Is She My Girlfriend?!?

Friends are hard to come by for Corey. Our neighborhood doesn't have many kids, and none are his age. He attends an independent study program twice a week for up to an hour each time, mainly to take tests and turn in assignments. The interactions with other students are limited. Corey's shy, too. He's always been shy, even when his behaviors were calling everybody's attention his way.

He has a friend, Rachel, with whom he attends school and band. School is in our town, but band used to be in the town "next door." Rachel's mom and I worked out a deal where I would pick the kids up at school and take them to band. Rachel's mom picked them up. It was my one and only bona fide carpooling experience and I loved it, but the band class is now within walking distance from school, so it's over.

One of the reasons I loved carpooling is that Rachel's a pretty great girl. She's a smart ass, to be sure, but she teases Corey and he actually laughs about it. Corey and Rachel talk on the phone quite a bit. I don't know how much, but I'm guessing that most days I could push redial when I walk in from work and end up chatting with her, too.

The other night he got a call from her and I happened to hear a few words, but nothing I could string together in a sentence, my hearing's not that great. What I wouldn't have given to be able to just stand there and listen in. That's what I'd have to do, too, since we have the world's smallest kitchen. There'd be no pretending that I had to be six inches from him for long. The thing that struck me about what I did hear wasn't the words, it was his tone. He sounded so sincere and soothing. If I was a girl, a boy with his way of talking would have been just the thing. It's not that he's smooth, either. I know, because I've always had access to his MySpace pages and the conversations he's had on there are juvenile at best.

I think Corey likes Rachel. I haven't always thought it, but it does make me glad that I turned down a request he made a couple of weeks ago...

Corey (on Rachel's cell phone, calling me after school one day): "Hi, Mom! Hey, I have an idea. I'm done with school... I passed my test. Could I go to the library with Rachel? Otherwise I just have to go home and be all... by... my... self. So I could just hang out with her there for a while or, HEY, I know, she could come to my place (did he just say "my place" like it's his pad or something?!) and we could hang out until her mom gets off work."

Me: "Uh... yeah, that'd be a heck no! You can walk with Rachel to the library, but then you need to get yourself home straightaway. Call me when you get there. Better yet, I'll see you when you get there. Love you, bye!"

Whew! I might have averted the creation of my first grandchild! Probably not, though, really. I can't tell how Rachel sees Corey. Maybe she doesn't know either. Corey's certainly confused.

Rachel invited Corey to attend a play with her and her dad this afternoon. Even though Rachel was wearing jeans and a nicer T-shirt than she wears to school, Corey wore black dress pants, a black shirt, burgundy tie and a black vest (worn inside out because he likes the lining better than the vest itself... never mind the label, would ya). However, before selecting his attire, he tried to get into an argument with Tom. Tom told him that he needed to pull himself together or he wasn't going. Corey said he didn't want to go anyway.

He did end up pulling himself together, but he still didn't want to go. Rachel teases him and he figured she didn't like him. He couldn't see why she'd ask him to attend the play when she has other friends and she likes to hang out with them. Then Corey started melting down completely, complaining about all the things he doesn't want to do anymore, like go to band or hang out with Rachel or... anything! Looked like a classic case of nerves to me.

I reminded him that we do get to choose our friends. If Rachel isn't offering good friendship, he should respect himself enough to put an end to it. On the other hand, she and her dad would be coming to pick him up within the hour. He had accepted the invitation and he would have to see it through; it was too late for her to find a replacement.

"But the play's about a dog and it says that anybody who has ever owned a dog, which I haven't, or anybody who's ever competed for a dog's love, whatever that means, will love this play. That's not me."

"Remember when we went and saw Late Night Catechism? We're not Catholic, but we had a blast. And you don't listen to opera, but you went to see Phantom of the Opera and you loved it. You'll probably love this play, too."

Somehow it all worked out. He got dressed... a couple of different ways before choosing the ensemble. He came home smiling and happy that he went. The play had a sad ending and Rachel cried in front of him. She's kind of a tough bird and he's very sensitive, so I think that it got to him. I haven't asked if he's still quitting band and... well, everything.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Yep, I've got it, but not in that giddy, all-out way that recalls one's youth. Nope, cautiously optimistic at best, really. I have said over and again that whichever man became President, he would have the world's hardest job in front of him. So hard, in fact that he might not succeed.

Now that it seems Obama is our leader, I will send up a little prayer of gratitude to the powers that be. I will also send up one for his continued safety. It's an incredible shame that hate can exist solely based on race and skin tone.

Thus, I am not only hopeful for our country's ability to rise out of the quagmire created by eight years of the shrub and untold years of our own bad decisions. I also hope that Mr. Obama is able to live out his own eight years of leadership, peace-making and unification, without a return to the civil rights era's violence by those who fear what makes us different.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Fun and Games, Madelyn Style

Six months old is a fabulous age. I vaguely remember when Corey was that age, but do recall thinking the same thing then. About three weeks ago, Madelyn got her first tooth. The next day she started growling. It cracks me up when she does it; sometimes she cracks herself up.

Two nights ago during dinner she started playing her first follow-the-leader game... and she was the leader. In between bites of turnip, Mad would lean her head way over to one side, resting it on her arm or on the highchair. As she leaned, I leaned. Then she would slowly sit up and lean the other direction. Again, I leaned with her. We didn't break eye contact. Several times she leaned over to the right, started to sit up and then went quickly back to the right. Pretty sly for a baby... and the look in her eyes when she's doing it, man oh man!

Getting Daddy to do it in the midst of dinner is a breeze!

Naturally the power has gone to her head and she tries to get me to lean whenever we see one another.

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