Sunday, July 31, 2011

July 31, 2011 ~ Day 233
Jealousy and a Barrel of Monkeys

I surprised myself by bursting into tears this evening in the kitchen after our kids had gone to bed. After a brief and snotty bawling session I wiped off my face with a paper towel and felt like a whole new woman. Calm, renewed, and ready to keep on going.

The tears may have been a release of all the pent-up emotion I had from this past week full of worry and stress. Perhaps while we were actually going through all of the chaos and intensity I just couldn't allow myself to let down and sob. Now that we've rounded the corner and everything seems to be getting better, my guard went down and I had a good cleansing cry.

What can I say. Maybe it's a chick thing.

It's actually been a pretty wonderful weekend - certainly no cause for tears.

First - one of my best friends in the world who I've been so close to for almost 30 years, she's just like a sister, came into town with her darling family and I've been lucky enough to see her twice in two days.

Second - a band that I absolutely love (and its members who are such truly good people) came into town for a reunion show and my mother graciously hosted our family for the night so that "grandma" could watch our kids while my husband and I went to the show. It was his first time seeing this band live, a band that had been truly important to me not just as musical inspiration but also as a tribe of inspiring, brilliant and warm-hearted people who made a major impact on my life 10 years ago. I was so happy to share the experience of their music one more time, now with my husband.

It was a great show!

On top of which, I finally got a nap this afternoon and re-joined the land of sane and rested people who do not have toddlers that scream bloody murder in the middle of the night.

So in actuality, I don't have anything to complain about.

I do have a little jealousy problem though, or perhaps its an admiration issue. I admire my best friend and her children so much - and I'm jealous of how darling they are and how seamless her parenting is. I wish I could be more like that!

My friend is the mother of two of the most precious little sweetheart daughters you could possibly imagine. I mean, they are some of the sweetest children I have ever met. Genuinely. Her eldest is sunny, cheerful, smart, thoughtful, beautiful and pretty much everything you could ever hope for a child to be. The little one has only just turned one but seems to be shaping up just like her big sister.

We got our five children together for a playdate yesterday and I was a little mortified by the way mine stood out. Even though I adore my kids!

My daughter, who has been really cranky on the antibiotics she is taking for her pneumonia, was in rare form. Throwing milk on the floor, demanding bananas, sneaking into rooms of my friend's house that she had been told to stay out of... grabbing for toys, throwing tantrums.

Actually, she may be a pretty typical two-year-old... but when compared with two perfectly angelic little girls playing near her, my daughter came across in a pretty fussy way. I'm not blind, I saw it - everyone saw it. My friend had to explain to her mother that my daughter has just turned two... as a way of apologizing for all of my little girl's antics.


My boys, who were on their absolute best behavior for our playdate, still also came off as a bit wild in the face of total sweetness in their gentle companions.

I know that comparisons are ridiculous and you just can't compare your children to other people's kids - because they're all going to have their unique attributes and strengths, and then other areas where they struggle.

I have to wonder though whether the issue is nature or nurture. Is it something in the way we are parenting these three children that they are so full of fire and life?

Is there something I could be doing differently that would have my daughter be less adorably cheeky, and more adorably adorable?

Yet, even if there were something I could do to take away her cheekiness and strength... I'm not sure that I would really want to.

I really love my children. I love them just the way they are. I know they are not the easiest children in the world, and I can see for myself that a lot of my friends have easier children... sweet kids that are more mild-mannered and peaceful.

My kids are a handful and that's a fact. We all know it, they are a rough-and-tumble rowdy kind of bunch that giggle and yell and dance and jump and fight with each other and mouth off to me frequently. Trying to tame them is like trying to sedate a barrel of monkeys. The only way to do it would be to medicate them away from their own vibrant, vital personalities. I would never do that.

From what our mothers tell us, my husband and I realize that there is a REASON why our children are so full of beans... apparently, they get it directly from us.

I was never a violent child but I had strong, passionate emotions - tempestuous emotions. I think this can be seen in my children. My husband was so loud as a child that his father (a doctor) joked about removing his vocal chords. He also loved a good debate (still does!) and thrived on exercise and athletics. So the fact that our children are loud, emotional and full of energy seems to have roots in the obvious.

The saving grace in this is that maybe they will get some of our best characteristics too - our love of music, learning, life and friends. Our joy in nature, and our optimism. I would love it if they could experience some of the blessings we've derived from our personalities... maybe our open minds, warm and loving hearts, or the capacity for loyalty and integrity that he and I both possess.

So... in the end, despite my twinge of jealousy (and admiration) for the wonderful job my friend and her husband are doing with their beautiful and precious daughters; I look at our own unique, inventive, creative and enthusiastic children and know that I would not trade them for anything.

They are my rough diamonds, my cherubs with a twinkle in their eyes. They make me laugh, they make me cry, they fill my heart with true love. They make me the mother and woman I am today.

Friday, July 29, 2011

July 29, 2011 ~ Day 231
Trains Gone Wild

Note to Self:

The next time it sounds like 'fun' to take three small children and a stroller on public transit - ANYWHERE - all by yourself, THINK AGAIN. You might as well go hit your head into the wall ten or twenty times... it will yield about the same headache and level of exhaustion.


Here though, is the story of the first ever "real" train travel my children have experienced... in a heavily abridged version detailing only a few choice moments. The truth is, I'm very tired.

For the third or fourth night in a row, my two year old daughter woke me yesterday evening around 3am and it took me such a long time to fall back asleep. She also awakened her brothers, which explains why this morning we all slept in about an hour past usual... getting up around 8am (which any parent with small kids can tell you is VERY late... almost a miracle).

Eight a.m. is a beautiful number during summer vacation; except when summer camp (at the other end of the city) starts at nine. Looking at my three kids lounging in their pajamas and demanding homemade waffles, it was pretty obvious to me that it would take a massive Divine intervention to get the three of them bathed, fed, dressed and in the car while still giving myself enough time to get my eldest son to the camp before the campers "departed" for their daily adventure around town.

"How important is it to you to go to camp today?"
I asked my son.

"I'd rather stay home and play here,"
he replied.

I nodded, relieved. "I will go start working on the waffles and think of something fun for us to do today."

Usually there are tons of options for fun activities to do with the kids but due to my younger son's recent injury I realized that we would be a lot more limited in our scope. The art museum is not as much fun when you don't have a hand to create art with... similarly, "hands-on" activities such as riding bicycles to the park or flying a kite are totally impossible when one of your hands is mittened in a thick cast.

Then I had a brainstorm - trains!

My children have always wanted to ride on a "real" train. We've taken little trains at the zoo before (actually, at several zoos) and so they get the basic idea. They also watched plenty of Thomas the Tank Engine when they were smaller, and every time we see a train whiz by us on the hill above a certain traffic stoplight they shout and point at it. "I want to ride on a train!" has become a common mantra.

It had been over a decade since I looked into local train travel but the idea sounded like fun, so I checked it out and sure enough there was a train running where we could take a relatively short round-trip journey for about $20... since my two younger children would be free of charge.

"Do you guys want to ride on a train today? A real one?"
I asked.


"Sure, why not?"


It looked as though we were in for a great day.

* * * * * * *

Someday in the not-too-distant future, I have confidence that this kind of spontaneous travel WILL actually be fun. My kids and I will be able to take off for adventures ~ to see movies, go to theme parks, go hiking, see shows in other cities. It will happen!

Today however, my initial burst of enthusiasm for riding the rails was instantly tempered by the actual process of getting all three children ready to go. Just getting into the car (fed, bathed, dressed, WITH the diaper bag and some toys) is a major procedure around here - and the more children are involved, the harder it becomes.

We agreed on our train trip around 8:00am and I had high hopes of us making the 11:03am train leaving from the north part of our city, arriving at the southerly end exactly one hour later and then making a return trip.

In actuality, thanks to innumerable meltdowns, we left our home around 10:55am with absolutely no hope of catching the 11:03... and then had to plan an entirely different route. Where would we catch the train? Where would we park for the day?

This latter question turned out to be quite significant. To catch the train downtown, it turned out that we would need to pay $10 for the privilege of parking our car. Then we discovered that there were no parking lots close enough to the downtown station for my two year old daughter to walk comfortably, and I was leery of having to bring the stroller.

We circled the station about twenty times, looking for a space. There was plenty of two hour parking - but since the round trip journey promised to take around 3 to 4 hours, that timing wasn't going to work for us.

My sons grew restless and began to bicker.

My daughter grew hungry and began to cry.

I started to wonder how we were going to make it through to our destination with only granola bars and water to subsist on.

I checked the train schedule.

Happily, I discovered that the same train would stop just five minutes away in a different part of the city where there was ample free parking. "Let's go!" I cheered. My children, happy to have stopped circling, cheered too.

It ended up taking us about 45 minutes just to find a free spot though at the other station.

"Mommy, I have to go potty."

"Sure honey, just as soon as we've parked."

"No Mommy. I have to pee NOW."

"Oh dear. Honey, we're in the middle of a parking lot. There is nowhere for me to take you right now."

"But Mommy, I have to GO."

"Unless you want to sit in wet smelly shorts for the rest of the day, I really hope you can manage to hold on, buddy. We can't just get out of the car right here."

The tough little man managed to hold on, but suddenly our parking dilemma had an entirely new element of stress.

By the time we'd parked, pulled out the stroller (because there was no way my daughter could walk all the way to the train as quickly as we needed to go), crossed through the parking lot and entered the station, my son was basically hopping on one foot. Poor guy.

Time had run short though and if we didn't go to wait on the platform right away, we would miss the train.

"I'm so sorry buddy,"
I consoled. "You can go potty the very second we get on the train."

We purchased our tickets from a silver machine in the middle of the track. All sorts of people milled around us. A heavy-set man with a special dog came by and showed us how his dog could count to ten by tapping his feet, in exchange for treats. He thought my kids would be excited - actually, they were terrified of him and hid behind me. My children are not big fans of male strangers.

"What a great dog!" I thanked him, while shepherding them along. My younger son whimpered. "That doggy is scary Mommy!"

Then came the larger question of how we were going to board the train.

It didn't occur to me until about 8 minutes before arrival that the train itself had steps which we would need to climb up. Difficult to do with a 30 lb girl strapped into a stroller. I am not remotely strong enough to lift her, the stroller, the diaper bag, the camera bag and our book bag by myself.

Yet since there was not enough time to return the stroller to the car, somehow we would have to make it work.

My six year old is tall and muscular, also a good helper. "I can lift it, Mommy!" he encouraged.

"Why don't we try doing it together?"

The only way to make that work though was to release the two year old from her straps so we could fold up the stroller to lift it.

Anyone with a two year old knows, letting them "free" on a train platform is not exactly an easy decision. Suddenly there are too many pinballs rolling through the maze - three little children, unbound; a stroller; three bags, and one very stressed out mommy... about four feet away from fast moving trains and a train track on either side.

"Um, I think maybe we should have waited to ride a train until Daddy could be with us,"
I murmured.

cried my daughter as she ran around me in circles.

"I wish your daddy was here too!!!"
I thought.

"Mommy, I HAVE TO PEE!!!"

I began to sweat. Suddenly our day had gone from Thomas and the Magic Railroad to Man Vs. Wild. Grabbing my cell phone from my purse, I decided to let my husband know that we'd changed stations... only to discover watch it die right in front of me.

flashed Samsung before it cut me off from all contact with family and friends.

"Argh! Why didn't I charge my PHONE?"
I wondered in dismay.

My daughter shoved my younger son who began to cry about his cast.

The train whistle blew in the distance. Knowing our big moment (climbing onto the train with a toddler in one hand and a stroller in the other, assisted by a six year old AND a four year old in an arm cast) was about to arrive, I began to pray.


I tried to visualize us successfully on the train.

And then, AT LAST, it arrived.

* * * * * * *

Somehow, some very awkward and ungraceful way, we managed to muddle our way up the steps and onto the train. It involved a lot of fast twisting lifting and forceful speaking on my part. But we made it.

We got all three children, a large stroller, three bags and a very stressed out mother onto the train (where my boy raced into the fairly clean bathroom by the sliding doors) and at last, I thought we could relax.

And I DID relax.

I relaxed for all of two minutes until my daughter began to scream.

she screeched as the train began to move.


Gosh, the folks in the surrounding seats really started to love us then.

We were technically two minutes into our journey, and already I couldn't WAIT for it to end. "What the H#$( was I thinking!!!"

* * * * * * *

It wasn't ALL bad though.

My sons really did light up like Roman candles when they began to watch the countryside fly by. They were mainly happy for at least 30 minutes before they began to complain about hunger, thirst, fatigue and boredom.

So that part was good.

My daughter DID chill out for a little while when I handed her an etch-a-sketch and a granola bar.

"Maybe this won't be so bad after all," I dared to hope. I tried to take their photo only to discover that the camera I was lugging around was also, like the cell phone, out of charge. Sigh.

In actuality, that was actually the only calm and happy stretch of the day - but at least we did get that one peaceful interlude.

A beautiful landscape rising up before us, full of trees and valleys, blue sky and even some beautiful water scenes. For a brief moment I was reminded of how much I have always loved train travel; it is my favorite form of transportation.

Ahem -

Without small children in tow, it is my favorite form of transportation.

I found myself missing my husband even more, thinking how romantic the train ride would be if shared with him alone.

One more thing to add to my "when they're older" list.

* * * * * * *

Highlights? (Lowlights?) from the rest of our day:
  • Sons get into a huge fight over what kind of food to eat for lunch. (My solution - go to a grocery store where everyone can get what they want.)
  • One son steals food in the grocery store and rolls his eyes at me when I try to explain to him that we can't just TAKE anything we want in a store.
  • My daughter, angry that it is taking too long, throws the salad I have just put into a box, all over the floor. There are black beans, lettuce and tomatoes all over the floor. I spend five minutes wiping off the floor with paper napkins and apologizing to the staff member that has to come help me clean up the mess.
  • My son begins to cry and scream at the top of his lungs when I tell him that, because he stole food from the store when I asked him not to, he will lose his lunchtime dessert
  • I ignore the crying, but cringe when I see the faces of the other shoppers around us
  • We accidentally board the wrong train on the way home, and end up about an hour out of our way
  • My younger son gets jostled while waiting for the train and manages to pour water from the bottle he was drinking onto his cast, necessitating that we head back to the hospital when we FINALLY return to our parked car
  • My daughter falls and scrapes her leg while waiting for the train
  • My elder son manages to drop his favorite treasury of bedtime stories in the crack between the train and the tracks as we are boarding to go home. He freaks out, drops the stroller, and tries to stick his little hand into the space between the train and the track. In an instant I grab him - all fifty pounds of him - back onto the train and recapture my daughter's hand.
  • My very tired, very emotional daughter (a) Decides to show the rest of the train her underpants and (b) Lays down on the floor of the train in front of the bathroom and won't get up until we finally yank her up. This also happens on the floor of the grocery store AND (later) the hospital. Good thing we believe in building her immunity...
  • As the final train approaches it blows a hot wind full of dust and fine rock particles directly into my eyes. Ouch! It takes about two hours and several rinses to get my eyes "clear" again.

    As I try to rinse them while sitting with my three kids, I remember to be grateful for all of the important things that I take for granted - like having eyes at all. I also give thanks that my three of my children are capable of running (around me in circles), screaming (because they have lungs) and telling me off (because they have functioning brains).

    Lastly, I am so grateful that my son and daughter are both healing and could be with us on the train.

* * * * * * *

Around 4:34pm we finally rolled back into the original station - three exhausted, fussy children and their totally worked mama who was more than ready to curl into a ball and sleep for a year.

As we raced to the hospital before it closed at 5pm, to get my younger son's damp cast checked by the tech, I gave thanks that the adventure was over and that I had a husband at home who I knew would be kind enough to help me make dinner and put the kids to bed.

Just as I drifted mid-reverie back into reality, I had one last surprise.

"That was really fun, Mom," announced my son - same one that had been crying his head off at the grocery store and by the side of the train track just hours earlier. "I want to go again tomorrow."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

July 28, 2011 ~ Day 230
(Slowly) Getting Better At It

One of the interesting parts of keeping this 365 blog for 230 days now has been watching myself slowly evolve as a parent.

Subtle changes that I would not normally have been aware of become more obvious because I've actually thought and written about my views previously; gradual shifts in perspective become more blatant.

This afternoon, our two year old daughter was diagnosed with pneumonia for the second time in a calendar year.

The first time she had pneumonia last December - right after I started to keep this blog - I was absolutely beside myself with worry.

In fact, I wrote an entire post chronicling the depth of my concern for her health and well-being. I even called it Worry ~ and in that same piece I dredged through the deeper issues of my lack of faith and tendency to equate anxiety with love.

Seven months later, I find that I'm in a totally different mental and emotional space about this new pneumonia.

First of all, so much has happened this year. We've been through a lot as a family and had many tangible successes... so I've started to grow in my capacity to feel faith. There have been a lot of moments when I needed to trust that everything was going to be okay; for example, when we moved to a brand new community in our quest for better schools and a better life for our kids. We took such a risk and left so much behind... but in the end, it all turned out better than I could have hoped for. Sometimes, a leap of faith is the only way to go.

Next, I've started working again as a tutor. A little here, a little there... but all in all, having my own work gives me a sense of personal power that I didn't have seven months ago and I no longer feel as though everything in my world is outside of my control. Even when truly bad things happen, like our son getting injured this week. Because our financial picture is brighter, I have confidence that we will be able to pay for any treatment that our children may need to heal. It's such a good feeling.

Then there is the case of my own health. In sum, it is so much better. Huge leaps forward. So that gives me a sense of permanency and greater belief in a bright future.

It's also true that within the last 6 weeks my son and then my husband both came down with a walking pneumonia. So, this "pneumonia" thing that I used to think was so rare? Not so rare at all. At least, not rare in our family. We've had four cases of it in seven months! From this I have learned not to get so worked up about illness. Kids get ill, but they also get well - in fact, getting well is the typical outcome.

Lastly, I've done a lot of studying this summer about the Law of Attraction and I realize more than ever that when I project fear and sorrow into the world, I usually manage to draw more situations in that create fear and sorrow.

It won't help either of my children for me to dissolve into a pool of anxiety over their respective health situations; so I'm choosing to keep my thoughts on how wonderful they are when they are healthy and 100%, and how grateful I am that they've come into this world to be my kids. At the very least, this keeps me calm and able to deal with them a lot more rationally and positively... which I believe helps them to heal!

I've seen firsthand the powerful effects of prayer too, thanks to the amazing women in the Mom's church group I started attending a few months ago. I have a different sense about faith, community and the web that connects us all together. I'm better now at asking for help, and requesting prayer or positive thinking when I truly believe that we need the support. There is no question in my mind that prayer can play an important role in regaining vitality.

All of this put together gives me a totally different attitude about our little girl's newly diagnosed illness.

I felt completely calm while making her doctor's appointment, and assumed based on our recent family history that she probably did have a pneumonia... but didn't go rushing right into their office. I waited for four days to see if her fever would break first. (It didn't.)

When her doctor suggested a chest x-ray today (just like she did seven months ago) I didn't worry at all. Didn't even blink an eyelash, not even about her radiation exposure. I now know that a chest xray contains about 1/400th the amount of radiation of a single CT scan; in essence, nothing worth writing home about. No biggie.

"Ok, sure - where?" was my only response... and then off we went to get it done.

When my daughter screamed so loud in the lobby that the office manager of the x-ray facility actually asked us to go outside, I took it in stride and managed not to get frustrated with my daughter... even though she next decided to lay down flat in a parking lot in front of an oncoming car and WOULD NOT get up until I had to physically pick her up to stop her from getting run over.

"Poor thing just isn't feeling well," I understood, and I hugged and kissed her.

When the doctor called two hours later to affirm (based on the chest x-ray) that yes, she DOES have pneumonia, my only question was which antibiotic she was going to receive.

I didn't feel anxious about going to pick up the prescription and was even able to give her the first dose myself ~ whereas a year ago, that was a tough thing for me to do.

Now my girl is sleeping peacefully and I'm feeling pretty relaxed knowing that two out of my three children are actively healing right now (and the third one is presumably healthy).

Within a week, both of them should be infinitely better. I actually feel pretty happy right now... much better than last night. I am filled with gratitude for modern medicine, and relief that I may actually get a full night of sleep tonight for the first time in days!

So either I've grown a little in the last 7 months... or maybe I've just reached a saturation point where my body physically cannot absorb any more stress, given the week we've had; so my brain just isn't going to let me get too worked up about a little mycoplasma pneumoniae.

I love my sweet girl like crazy and I am totally convinced that she will be 100% well in no time at all.

* * * * * * *

Before signing off, a little bit of good news did come out of our appointment with the pediatrician. I asked our family doctor about the likelihood of the tissue necrosis that the ortho physician had described to me yesterday for my son's hand... and she said she thought that was very rare and quite unlikely. "The greater risk in a situation like your son's," she added, "is really just the risk of an infection getting into the bone. Tissue necrosis is pretty unlikely."

This news brings such a relief! Obviously none of us can see what is going on inside that bright green cast of his, but our boy says he can wiggle all five of his fingers and they are hurting less - so that has got to be a GREAT thing! No infection so far after 4 days, which has also got to be a good sign that the antibiotics are doing their job.

Onward and upward. Knock on wood but I've got a good feeling right now -
I think we're rounding another corner as a family.

More than anything tonight, I realize that I'm not exactly the same mother I was seven months ago. This is a good thing! Very grateful for the wider perspective that continues to come with time and experience.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

July 27, 2011 ~ Day 229
Bird on the Freeway

July has been a bad month for keeping on top of this blog.

Just when I feel like I'm getting caught up on life, intense things seem to happen that throw off my game again.

Despite this, I'm trying very hard to hold onto hope and optimism. There are so many reason to be grateful ~ even at the worst of times.

This week since my son got injured on Monday I have forced myself to look for the good things.

I've noticed that we still have a blue sky and sunny weather. We Californians are very lucky to be escaping the terrible heat wave gripping much of the rest of the country.

Other things I have noticed, for which I am grateful, include:

- Our family has health insurance, SO significant at a time when thousands of dollars of doctor bills are being rapidly accrued
- We live in a first world nation with world class emergency medicine
- Our family has a roof over our head, healthy food to eat, money for antibiotics
- My other two children do not have any injuries... although one may have a walking pneumonia, again
- My husband has kindly taken much time off of work this week to help out covering child duty as I ferry our son to doctors appointments
- My incredible mother and siblings have been checking on us consistently, and praying for my boy, for which I am SO appreciative
- So many of our friends have been loving, concerned, supportive and THERE for us during this tough time
- The rest of the world seems to be continuing forward peacefully enough - at least we're not dealing with a family emergency in the middle of a local or national emergency

Clearly, there are a lot of good things happening.

It's just been harder than usual to think of them; but I have hope that as more days pass, my inner joy and optimism are going to make a fantastic rebound.

* * * * * * *

Today I drove our little son to his "wound check" appointment at the children's hospital orthopedic clinic.

The ER doctors had made it sound like this appointment was going to be a walk in the park.

"They'll just check for infection and maybe remove the splint at that time," explained the ER physician. "After that point you'll want to keep his fingers clean and dry, wash the wound only with soap and water and use a topical antibiotic cream if you feel you must."

This is what we came in expecting today. In retrospect, perhaps I was a little bit *too* relaxed or nonchalant about the whole appointment.

"This will be a piece of cake," I'd assured my son.

Unfortunately it didn't quite pan out that way.

We weren't able to make an appointment in the hospital's private clinic at such short notice so the ortho center we were directed to was quite a bit run down. Which is fine, I don't need to dwell on shabby furniture. Heck, our house isn't much better!

No, the conditions of the clinic weren't what surprised me.

My first surprise today, the one that set my heart racing, was the fact that my son's thumb had actually doubled in size. His thumb is one of the "good" fingers - not broken or cut. It hasn't been splinted or bandaged at all.

So when I sat next to him waiting and looked at his hand and realized how swollen his thumb had become, I started to feel a little nauseated.

"How does it feel?" I asked him.

"A little bit tight, Mommy."

I took a deep breath. "I'm sure it will be fine, and at least we're here at the right place to take care of anything that we could need."

We started to play tic-tac-toe in my daily planner; having forgotten to bring any toys or books for the appointment.

Then I noticed that his arm, above the tightly bandaged splint, was also swollen.

Another deep breath. "I'm glad you don't have a fever, honey," I smiled. "That is a great thing."

I began to pray silently that the doctor would come a little faster to our room, to unwrap his arm so that we could see if he actually had an infection.

Then, realizing that my thoughts were totally out of balance and fearful, I tried a redirect.

"Have I told you about the day when you were born?" I asked my son.

Even though he has heard the story many times, he smiled and shook his head. "Tell me!"

So for the next ten minutes I told him the story of his birth... how happy we were when he came into the world, what a beautiful day it was, how he smiled when he was born.

At last, after what seemed like HOURS the attending physician at the clinic came in to check my son. This was a nice surprise - we'd been told to expect a nurse practitioner but for whatever lucky reason, we got a full doctor instead.

The doctor, who I'll call Jamison* for the purposes of this blog, was a kind looking man not much older than I am... possibly around 40? with a very calming manner. He was very good with my son, and disclosed in our conversation that he is the father of a two year old... so he really understood the mentality of where we were at - a newish mother with her young child. Nervy. Trying to stay calm.

Dr. Jamison carefully unwrapped my son's bandage and splint, and commented that it had been bandaged much too tightly. "That accounts for most of the extra swelling you are seeing," he said.

He then examined the fingers in front of us. My little boy stared with great concern at his hand, which turned out to have a good bit of dried blood on the bandage and also some very intense looking stitches. The fingers themselves looked pretty banged up, bruised and puffy.

"Infection?" I asked.

"No obvious infection as of now," he said. "I think the antibiotics are doing their job."

I exhaled, deeply.

A little too soon though, because there was more coming.

"So, despite the best intentions of the ER, it's really way too soon for us to assess the scope of your son's injury. Making an appointment two days after the accident isn't going to give us any kind of sense of how his healing process is going to go. What I suggest to all patients in this situation is a cast. We don't even want to look at this hand again for two weeks."


"Take your son's temperature frequently, and beware of chills, if he complains of great pain, or fever above 102 degrees. If those things happen, bring him back to the ER immediately. I don't expect those things to happen though, in which case we'd like to see you in two weeks. We'll take off the cast then, and get a sense of what is going to happen with his skin. We'll know then if he needs more surgery."

"What? More surgery?"

"Yes." He then went into detail about the type of injury my son has, and how sometimes the skin does not heal up or grow back correctly.

"You need to know that due to the type of fracture he has on his index finger, the skin may not heal. It may turn black and need to be cut off. Usually then there is a fresh new skin underneath. The human body in children this age is much like a starfish - your son can regenerate the tissue of his own finger."

"Wow. Okay."
Just the idea of my son having to (a) tough out another surgery, and (b) losing the skin on the top of his finger(s) to tissue necrosis, made me feel physically ill. (In fact, just typing these words has made me feel nauseated again.)

In the clinic I kissed my son, who was seated on my lap, on the head.

"No swimming lessons then, I take it?"

"Not for two to three weeks, at a minimum."

I squeezed my boy around the tummy, knowing how disappointed he must feel. Swimming lessons have been his joy this summer. Sad.

"So," continued Dr. Jamison, "It's time to go get a cast picked out. You can pick out any color you like," he told my son... who chose green.

In a few minutes we were joined by a male technician in scrubs who took us back to a long dark room filled with hospital beds. Beckoning us to the second bed, he invited us to sit on it as he prepared to cast my son's arm.

In the bed in front of us, another girl in her teens was having a cast on her leg removed. This must have frightened my son, because suddenly I noticed that he was trembling.

"Are you okay, buddy?"

He tucked his head into the crook of my arm.

"Are you scared?"

He nodded.

"Everything is fine, honey. This part isn't going to hurt at all."

At the time I felt surprised by the fact that my son was more frightened by the casting experience than he was of the surgery. In retrospect, I can see that the environment made a big difference to him. His ER experience was full of comforting women in a brightly lit room with cartoons.

The orthopedic clinic was dark and dingy, with a male doctor and male technician... no cartoons, and some scary looking machines. Not to mention, the tech explained to us that they would have to use a saw to cut off the cast in two weeks. My son began to shake again. Bless his heart though, he never even whimpered.

Casting went pretty well, and the tech commented that my son's fingers looked like they were going to be okay. "I get worried if I see that they are white or blue," he said. "This hand looks good."

He was very gentle with my little boy, and in pretty short order he'd created a very professional looking green cast which fit my son's hand much more comfortably. He is thrilled that he can now wiggle his fingers a tiny bit. The tech also kindly let us know that if it gets itchy we can blow air down it with a hair dryer.

As we left the clinic, they offered my son his choice of small stuffed animals. To his delight, even though he isn't a huge stuffed animal type of guy, they had a really cool stuffed snake. "LOOK MOMMY!" he beamed.

I smiled as genuinely as I could, and carefully led my green armed child into the waiting room. It was time to set up our followup appointment. This involved some diplomatic wrangling, as I politely (and later, firmly) requested for my son to see a doctor and not a nurse-practitioner when he returned. I also requested the private clinic, given that we pay plenty for the privilege of good health insurance.

Honestly, I'm not the most popular person around hospitals these days. (I know what I feel comfortable with, and don't back down.)

Finally we left the building - me, my four year old superhero and a brightly colored velveteen snake.

* * * * * * *

As we drove away from the hospital, I felt suddenly overwhelmed. A leaden, sinking stomach.

Tissue necrosis. Tissue necrosis? Really?

Surgery. More surgery? Really?

Just when I thought things were on their way back to normal. "He was just telling me about possibilities... those things don't have to happen," I consoled myself - and then tried once more to reboot my thoughts to the positive.

"Look at that airplane!" I said to my son, and tried to imagine him flying a plane someday (as he dreams of doing) with all of his fingers fully intact.

"Mommy, I love you."

"Oh little man, I love you too. So much."

We were both exhausted though - he physically, and me mentally. We drove the rest of the way home in silence. At some point I glanced back and realized that he had fallen sound asleep sitting up in the booster seat, his head nodding on the seat belt.

Lost in thought and worry, I pushed onward.

Suddenly, without warning, I heard a loud and angry horn behind the car. This surprised me as we were on a freeway at the time. Then, a large car with a peace sign, yellow ribbon and breast cancer awareness sticker went whizzing by us. The driver stuck his hand out the window and flipped me off, before racing away.

"What was that!?"

After the afternoon we'd had, I felt oddly more shaken by this random occurrence than anything else. It seemed like one more painful reminder that just when you're heading down a path minding your own business, Life can throw you a big middle finger. At least, that's how it felt.

Honestly, that is how this entire week has felt to me.

Briefly I wondered what I had done to incur the wrath of that driver. My best guess is that I was going 60mph in a 65mph zone where most other drivers were probably going 70mph. I was so lost in thought that I drove under the speed limit instead of going with traffic.

So there you have it: Insult was added to injury.

My takeaway from this little incident is to try to be even more patient with strangers and people I encounter throughout my day, remembering that you can never know what someone else is going through.

Even though that guy was pretty crude, I'm willing to bet that if he had known that he was telling an exhausted, broken down mother with an injured small child to "F$&% off!" he might have reconsidered his actions.

So it makes me want to be especially good to others, even if they are bitter or rude... or perchance driving too slowly. Because you just never know what another person may be struggling through.

I wish I could sign this post off with something really inspiring, something wonderful.

All I can say is, I'm praying for that moment of clarity tonight. I'm so hopeful that tomorrow will bring something beautiful and inspiring with it, something that will give me strength and faith to keep going as the force holding everything together. After all, that's part of my job description. I'm their Mommy. I'm supposed to be able to fix everything.

I pray that tomorrow I will come closer to living up to the woman and mother I most wish to be.

*Name changed to protect the privacy of the party in question

Monday, July 25, 2011

July 25, 2011 ~ Day 227
Gratitude for Five Fingers

It's funny how life works when you're an overly protective mother.

You spend all of your time worrying about how you're going to protect your children from natural disasters (earthquakes, tsunamis) or getting bullied or shot at school by some random misanthrope...

...and then when you're least expecting it Life smacks you with something out of left field that never even registered on the long list of worries.

I woke this morning, much like any other day, a little bit bleary-eyed but relieved because I knew that my eldest son would be at Summer camp all week in the mornings. This is his little brother's last week at summer school, so I've been ardently planning how much work I would get done with both of them out of the house and only one little girl who is easily distracted with crayons and a ream of paper.

In fact, I felt so optimistic about the writing I would do today that I bustled happily around the house giving breakfasts, getting lunches made, helping the boys pick out their clothes and keeping the family on schedule.

Things were going so well that our elder son was already buckled into the back seat of the Pathfinder with his lunch box when I sat down on the couch to log into my work email account. The younger boy just needed to find his socks and get his shoes on, and then Presto! we'd have a quiet and productive house with two little men happily on the way with their Daddy to camp and school.

"I can't find my socks!" called out the little guy, and he went back to his room to search for a matching pair.

Just then, his Daddy came back in to help him get his show on the road.

"Come on, little Man,"
he said - "You can put your socks and shoes on in the car today."

screamed our little boy. "I WANT TO PUT THEM ON HERE!!!"

"We're really running late,"
my husband replied. "Look, I'll help you."


my husband sighed. "Let's go." He picked up my son's lunch box and stepped out the front door, holding our four year old by the hand.

What he didn't realize - until it was too late -

and it makes me feel nauseated just to type this

- was that our son had jammed his other hand into the other side of the open door, the hinged side.

"Bye hon!" my husband called and slammed the door firmly shut.

Suddenly and without warning I heard the most blood curdling scream of my entire life. The door swung back open.

My world swung upside down.

There was my son - treasure of my heart, love of my life, good little man - holding his hand up in the air screaming at the top of his lungs. There was blood spraying all over our living room floor. And there, as I could clearly see from the couch, were the top of his fingers - severed, just holding on with skin but clearly deeply lacerated.

Just typing it makes me feel so, so ill.

I'd better hurry ahead to get to a happier part of the story, because reliving this morning really doesn't help my adrenals (stress glands).

I don't know how I assessed the situation so rapidly but somehow within two minutes I had thrown off my pajamas, thrown on a totally non-matching sweater, pants and shoes, grabbed my purse, keys and cell phone, and googled to find the number of our local urgent care to find out if I should head there or to the local children's hospital emergency room.

Thankfully urgent care answered on the first ring.

"Is it bleeding?" the nurse asked when I described the injury.


"Take him to the emergency room,"
she responded.

"Got it."

My husband, quite shaken, volunteered to take the other children for the day and told him over and over, "I'm so sorry little man. I'm so sorry." Shock and disbelief were written all over his face.

Within 4 minutes of the accident my boy and I were in the truck headed toward the freeway, my buddy strapped in with a towel around his hand and his arm elevated above his heart.

It was just him and me, just the two of us against the world. Just the two of us racing to get him the care he needed to save those precious fingers.

I'm so glad I didn't know the extent of the damage yet because I might not have been able to drive as smoothly to the ER if I'd realized how badly he was cut. Most of it was hidden under the towel. Thank goodness, I knew enough to have him keep it elevated.

I would say it took us 35 minutes from time of injury for him to reach the ER. I realize that would never be enough time to save him from a life-threatening injury so at this point I now know the situations in which we really just need to call an ambulance. Thankfully today wasn't one of those times.

All along our drive I soothed my boy and helped him to try to breathe through his tears. He cried very hard in the car at first and began to turn cold and clammy. I drove faster.

We talked and I told him again and again just how MUCH we love him. I told him I was taking him to the right place, the place where people knew exactly how to care for an owie like his. I told him that we were nearly there.

I told him that God was watching over him. And it was true! There was zero traffic on the road between our home and the hospital. Only one stoplight the entire way.

"God is Love, Mommy."

"That is right, honey. God is Love and Love is here in this car with you right now."

At last we reached the emergency room: a bleeding boy wearing only one sock, his mismatched, unbrushed, unwashed mother struggling to hold his hand AND carry his lunchbox, a purse, a cell phone, his shoes and the car keys. We left our truck with the valet in front of the ER and completely forgot to give the poor guy the keys... he had to come running after us.

Again though, we were so blessed.

There was no other child or family in the waiting room at the ER. We were the only people there. Within moments they ushered us back into a room to take his weight and assess the injury.

Only now did I learn the extent of the damage.

Both nails torn off. A deep laceration on the middle finger. Possible fractures to bones in both fingers.

"Okay." I repeated calmly. "Okay."

Then the doctor began to describe what they would need to do to treat him. An x-ray. A 30 minute surgery. Anesthesia.

My record screeched to a halt.

"Um," I said... and then I firmly denied the general anesthesia.

"Is that actually necessary to sew him back together?"

"No, but we believe in keeping our patients pain free."

"I understand that, but as his mother, I am not going to accept general anesthesia for this. This situation is bad enough without adding additional risk. Is there a way for you to do it without? My kid is very tough, and I'm not comfortable with the risks that come with general anesthesia."

The doctor and nurse consulted - it was pretty clear that I was not budging and they wanted to make sure my boy got fast treatment. "Yes," the doctor said. "There is another way. We can do a digital block or a block of the hand. He will need to be wrapped in 'the papoose' though, he won't be able to move at all."

"Fine, we've had the papoose before and I'm fine with that."

We proceeded to the back room.

From that point forward, everything went seamlessly. X-rays were taken. A fracture in the middle finger, none in the first finger. Should heal on its own in about three weeks, as long as the hand stays splinted.

I lay in the hospital bed holding my bed and cuddling him while they turned on PBS kids for him to watch his favorite cartoons while he waited. After a little while the team of doctors and nurses came in and we carefully wrapped my sweet boy in the papoose, then they gave him an ulnar nerve block until he could no longer feel his fingers.

His big hazel eyes stared deeply into mine and filled with tears when they gave him the numbing medicine but after it was done, he completely relaxed and spent the next thirty minutes watching television and checking my face to make sure that he was okay while the nurse and I bantered about raising children to keep the atmosphere feeling lighthearted and jovial around him.

The ulnar nerve block worked fantastically. He felt nothing at all, and didn't cry or even whimper for the entire surgery. He was the bravest kid I've ever met. At one point in the surgery his doctor said out loud, "I am LOVING this ulnar block right now. This is fantastic!"

The surgery did last for about 30 minutes as they'd said. The doctors irrigated his wound, took off the nails, sewed up his fingers, and then glued his nails back on. (New nails may or may not grow back but frankly... in the grand scheme of things, who cares.)

Finally they wrapped him into a splint and gave him antibiotics. After a lot more waiting, they (darling, angelic women that they were) gave him two toys and a popsicle to thank him for being such a stellar patient.

My husband, who felt absolutely terrible about the entire thing, had followed in the other car after taking our eldest boy to camp. He sat patiently in the waiting room with our two year old daughter during the surgery and then came in to visit our little patient as soon as he was allowed to. His remorse was palpable - the poor guy. He wouldn't hurt a fly on purpose, he's the gentlest soul and the least violent person I know. He adores our kids and would NEVER put them in harm's way intentionally. This was a hard morning for him.

Just as I'd hoped and promised our little boy though, we were on our way home by lunchtime (just after 12pm). The rest of the day has been a swirl of homemade strawberry pancakes, playing with our boy's brand new "Finn McMissile" remote control car, eating burgers, watching Star Wars (while his big brother enjoyed Surf's Up on the laptop) and figuring out how to eat a bowl of chocolate ice cream one-handed.

Not the healthiest menu perhaps, but comfort food was highly necessary for all of us today.

Slowly, slowly, life is setting back to normal.

A few things have changed, obviously. First, no more swimming lessons for now. He isn't even allowed to bathe for at least three days - at least, not that arm. Next, he (a right-handed boy) is learning how to use his left hand for all of his needs. Watching him try to manage a hamburger with his tiny left hand was pretty poignant this evening. He's such a trooper, no matter how many times it dropped he continued to tell us how yummy it tasted to him.

Summer school isn't possible until he's had his wound check with the orthopedic clinic on Wednesday afternoon - and unfortunately Thursday is the last day of school until September. I'm hoping to be able to bring him to the end-of-summer ice cream party.

So unlike the quiet week of writing I'd originally planned, it appears that I will have two little buddies by my side every morning and three in the afternoons. So much for getting work done...

I couldn't be happier though.

When things like this happen you realize so fast just how important some things are, and just how little other things matter. I already knew that my three kids were the most important thing in my world - but seeing my son bleeding all over our house reinforced to me that NOTHING but the well-being of my family is even remotely important to me. Not even my own health or life.

My kid is okay tonight ~ sleeping peacefully, fever-free ~ with five full fingers on his right hand.

For this, I am so humbly and vastly grateful.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

July 23, 2011 ~ Day 225
Cleaning for the Babysitter

Sometimes I wonder if I am the only mother out there who actually cleans the house intensively before a babysitter arrives.

(Geez, I even clean it before the housecleaner comes. Isn't there something deeply WRONG with that? LOL!)

In all honesty, I still struggle with my pride and the reality we live day-to-day.

It isn't really a money thing, although money would obviously help the situation.

I didn't grow up in a family with much money, but somehow my mother always kept our house looking clean and well-maintained. It was a beautiful home to grow up in, and I always felt confident and comfortable inviting people over for playdates or slumber parties.

Even as an adult, when I lived in a string of apartments with roommates and then on my own, I was never ashamed to have people over. My furniture and flooring may have been second hand, but everything was always polished, scrubbed or vacuumed... with lots of cheerful colors and flowers to make up for whatever elegance may have been lacking.

I framed posters to hang on my walls instead of having "real" art to look at, decorating more with plants and music than anything else... but I made every place I lived in into a home and felt proud and contented with them all.

When my husband purchased our first house in 2004 it wasn't much to look at but we felt so excited about it! Delighted to have our friends over for dinner and parties, excited about the many household projects ahead. We made the most of our space and our dreams, and it was great.

So this terrible self-consciousness, this angst over dirt and disarray, this is really and truly a child-induced phenomenon.

It has come on slowly over the course of six years, building to a crescendo that hasn't really peaked yet. I just can't seem to stop my children from destroying every home we live in now. Recent landlords have not been thrilled about our family, a huge blow to my pride as I'd always been considered an ideal tenant in the past.

Worse, I can totally understand why they feel that way! These children truly are more destructive than pets. I'm not even joking.


-Pee on floors and rugs
-Draw with all manner of markers, ballpoint pens, crayons, chalk and paint on freshly cleaned white walls
-Peel paint off of cabinets and built-ins with their fingernails
-Punch screens right off the windows
-Clog the toilets and drains with their small toys and entire bags of baby wipes
-Leave the hose on next to the house, drenching its foundation
-Make permanent dents and scratches in the wood floors
-Bend venetian blinds into permanently altered shapes
-Forget about random crusts of bread and pieces of fruit they've hidden furtively... until we discover them by scent or accident months later

...and the list goes on.

It may sound like I am exaggerating here, but let me just say that our last landlord took $2000 from our security deposit for damage repair.

That's not chump change.

When we moved into this wonderful house nearly six months ago, it was older and in run-down condition but still freshly painted and pretty decent looking. I loved it instantly, not least because I felt like we could be comfortable here and not stress every second about damaging a "perfect" environment.

Good thing, too, because in just half a year, my children have managed to run this place far into the ground, to the point where I honestly think I will need to personally repaint it before we throw any more parties or get-togethers. I'm so embarrassed!

The last time we had friends to dinner I recovered all of our dining room chairs by hand... only to have my daughter "improve" them with her scribbling less than two weeks later. Ballpoint pen in large, loopy swirls. It doesn't really come out of upholstery fabric apparently.

The funny thing is, I've never really noticed as a child if the homes I visited were messy or small. I recall going on playdates and loving the experience of being away from home doing something totally different. Loving the newness of the environment. Feeling excited about relaxing in a place my own (meticulously clean) mother might not have enjoyed.

I never felt inclined to judge any other place... just my own home, especially now that I'm an adult.

It goes beyond just the interior of our new house unfortunately; our lawns are also in desperate need of watering, which we were trying to stay more on top of until we received our last water bill and learned that the price of maintaining a green lawn in the height of summertime is actually $318 per statement.

Um, eek! Not possible.

So, the lawn is turning brown again... and I try not to cringe or hide my head when I see our neighbors in passing.

All this to say that as much as I adore our house and love the new neighborhood, I really feel anxious about having people over ~ especially babysitters who (by the nature of their job) are already so privy to the inner workings of our life and family.

Today then, when a very sweet and smart tenth grader came by to be "interviewed" for a babysitting position with our family, I found myself cleaning for about three hours before her visit. She isn't just *any* tenth grader, there is a family connection to some very dear friends of ours... and I was anxious about the thought that it might get back to them that our house is so small and shabby. Even though it is! LOL.

You know you've got a problem when you're a 35 year old worried about the perceptions of a teenage babysitter.

Babysitters have just been *really* challenging for us to come by since we moved up here though, and I so badly want to find a good one that likes us and wants to stick with our family for a few years. The last sitter we tried out a few weeks ago was not thrilled with our kids, and when she left neither of us said anything about setting up another time.

I really hoped we'd make a good impression on this one.

I swept and scrubbed and polished and put clothes away and made beds... washed dishes and folded laundry (all while wrangling my three kids and trying to keep them from undoing my every good deed)... until at last the doorbell rang (too soon!) and the house wasn't yet ideal.

In the end, here was the biggest irony though...

It didn't even matter that our house wasn't perfectly clean because my children acted CRAZY during the interview. They were literally screaming and growling at each other while she was here. One of them used his hands to make claws and tried to scratch his sibling's faces. They spent most of her visit crying and yelling at each other.

We actually could have been living in the Taj Mahal and our home still wouldn't have seemed like a fun and relaxing place to babysit. The way my kids behaved today during the 20 minutes of our babysitting interview, we'd probably need to pay $40/hr just to get any sitter to consider the job.

My attempts to infuse any discipline into the situation went down in flames. Ultimately I had to laugh, because inside I just wanted to cry.

* * * * * * *

For at least 31 of my 35 years I was so *very* Type A. So controlling. So perfectionistic.

These three children must have come along in a swarm of Life to teach me Humility. Spontaneity. Grace under difficult circumstances. Humor.

I guess they're currently teaching me how to find inner peace by creating a constant storm of chaos; how to feel comfortable amid dirt, stains and various other minor disasters. How to let my hair down and not try so hard to make it right.

None of this comes easily to me though, and I really felt badly as I said goodbye to the potential new sitter today - not sure if we would ever hear from her again.

Calmly I turned to my eldest son (the one screeching like a banshee and attacking his siblings in front of her during the interview) and asked,

"Honey, you seem so quiet and relaxed now. Why did you act up so much when we met the new babysitter today? Did you not like her?"

"No, MOM..." he replied in that new pre-teenaged voice he is developing at the age of six. "I acted that way BECAUSE I liked her. I like her a lot! She is very pretty."

I responded -

because I couldn't think of anything else to say. I guess he and his siblings were trying to be charming?

* * * * * * *

When I was in high school I used to tease that when I grew up I wanted to write Denny's menus because their descriptions of the food made every dish sound so mouth-watering and delicious... even though it was just, well, Denny's food. You felt like you were ordering a Rolls Royce when you might be presented fifteen minutes later with a... Yugo.

These days I am learning that I may need to adapt my descriptive language to accomodate the figurative Denny's menu that has become my family and our home.

= Charming, Energetic and Articulate

= Quaint, Cosy and full of Innovative, Original Decoration

My advertisement for our new babysitter will need to read something like this:

Loving couple with three charming, energetic and articulate children living in quaint, cosy home full of original design decorative artwork seek a cheerful, "glass is half-full" Pollyanna-type for ongoing babysitting position in a home that will always be full of energy and optimism.

Please give us a shot!

My fingers are crossed... for now though, I suppose I'll keep on cleaning.

Friday, July 22, 2011

July 22, 2011 ~ Day 224
Our Favorite Graffiti Artist

Lately, our home has been decorated by a unique artist fond of bold colors and large canvas creations who happens to make her dynamic art at moments when no-one is looking... perhaps because she knows that what she is doing is pretty innovative and really breaks the established rules.

We call her our mini GA (Graffiti Artist) and today, I will be interviewing two of the people closest to her to learn a bit more about her about her life and art.

Guest one, how do you know our secretive Graffiti Artist?

I am her older brother. I am six years old. I have actually seen her draw, using marker and chalk.

Guest two, what is your connection to the Graffiti Artist?

I know her from the park... no, actually I know her from home. I saw that she colored with pen on my wall!

So, G1... you say you've seen her in action. Please tell us more:

G1: She marks on our wall, and then runs with a pen and draws on our Daddy's wall.

G2: And then, she draws with crayon on the walls and Daddy's desk!

The artist sounds quite motivated. How would you describe her general personality?

G1: She is a naughty little girl. She is also very cute and friendly and she laughs. However, she is very naughty. She always laughs and giggles, but then she draws on the train table and the toys. She draws on framed pictures, too.

G2: She drawed on the side of the wall in Mommy and Daddy's room above the bed, to the side of the desk. Come and see!

Can either of you give our audience a physical description of the artist? What does she look like when she is drawing?

G1: She has light hair and she is very pretty. She is tall - well, tall for her age.

And, how old is that?

G1: She is two!

G2: And she puts paint on the wall!

About how often would you say that the artist "strikes" around your home?

G1: Twice a week? Two days.

G2: Yes. I agree.

Are her works of art permanent or temporary?

G1: What is permanent, Mommy? What is temporary?

(Permanent lasts forever, temporary can be changed.)

G1: When she uses chalk, we can get it off. With soft scrub we can get paint off the wall, and the crayon comes partly off of the white paint - but some of the crayon does not come off. Marker does not come off easily. Oooh yeah, and ink pen is the worst.

Where do you think the artist learned her technique?

G2: From us! Because we draw pictures, so she draws pictures.

Do you draw on the walls?

G1: No, we do not. We do not but SHE writes on the wall. And the bed. And the pillows and blankets.

G2: Also the tables, chairs and floors. And she she puts marker on the rug.

What do you think she intends to do with this art work, long term?

G2: We don't know.

Is she aware of the rules about graffiti art? Is she aware that it is illegal?

G1: Yes, she IS aware that it is illegal.

G2: But she thinks it is funny.

G1: Next time she makes a mark on the wall, we need to make a puffer face.

G2: No! We have to video tape her! We'll see her drawing on the wall, and then mommy can take a video. Mommy will videotape her.

Why would you document her work through videotaping?

G1: We want our Daddy to see her working.

Do you think she has a future in art?

G1: Yes, she really does.

G2: She could be in an art museum every day. She loves and loves to do art. Good thing that Mommy caught her with the art crayon in her hand.

Are you proud of her art?

G1: Yes
G2: No
G2: Yes

Do you have a name for the Graffiti Artist?

G1: I like to call her "The Destroyer!"
G2: "The Cactus Artist. Because there is a big lady that is in the desert that is an artist. Yeah. She draws inside a little thing that chalk is supposed to go on. Actually, not. It's like a thing that we have with finger clips to paint. And she was painting all over the cactus. It was a story, but it was actually real. So I call our artist the Cactus Artist."

Thank you both very much for your time today. To the best of your knowledge, where is the Graffiti artist now?

G1: She is asleep.
G2: She is napping. She is dreaming about drawing.

(Cries come from the direction of the slumbering artist.)

Shortly thereafter,

A brief interview with the Artist:

"Yeah. (Crying) I want my shoes. I want draw on the wall. Yep! Um, I draw with my princess."

What is your favorite part of drawing?

"I want to draw on the wall. Yep. Now I put on my shoes. Tada!!!"

And with that, she was gone... scampering away to plan her next installation.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

July 21, 2011 ~ Day 223
Was it Destiny?

A long time ago I saw a movie called "Sliding Doors" that tracks a woman in two different versions of her life... one in which she discovers that her lover is cheating on her, and one in which she does not.

For many reasons I really enjoyed this film, not least of which that I find the actor John Hannah to have a very sweet quality and I was rooting for Gwyneth Paltrow's character to end up with him.

One of the most interesting twists of the film for me (Alert! Spoilers ahead!) was the way in which certain major events in the woman's life (including pregnancy and a car accident) occurred in both versions... e.g. they were Fated.

I like to spin this idea of predestination around in my mind and ponder whether certain things are simply meant to be for us, while others are changeable.

For example, was the Leaning Tower of Pisa destined to lean? Or could they simply have built it somewhere else where it would have stood upright?

This line of thinking came to mind tonight as I was feeling frustrated about an irritating spinal disc injury I've had now for about six years since I took an impromptu yoga class at a work retreat and my friend who was teaching it accidentally pushed a little too hard on my back.

Thanks to my lifelong tight hamstrings and position at that moment, not to mention the general disarray and looseness of my muscles after giving birth to a baby six weeks earlier, the pressure ofmy friend's hand pressing down strongly managed to actually herniate my spinal disc.

After six years and two more babies, I would say that I'm *very* lucky that the pain, tingling and numbness haven't gotten worse. There are now two discs involved though, and in all it is pretty darn frustrating. After all, I'm only 35 - not 95.

Many, many times (especially while doing physical therapy exercises) I have wondered what would have happened if I had just NOT attempted her impromptu class on the concrete patio that day. What if I had walked down to the beach instead? What if I'd opted to stay indoors and read a book? What if I'd gone home to see my baby?

Would I still have chronic back pain today?

This is the 64 million dollar question, and I think the answer may be that no-one can know what 'might' have been... but there is nothing to guarantee that I *wouldn't* still be here. Maybe I'd have exactly the same injuries ~ received in a different way, or perhaps something ELSE would have managed to occur that would be equally frustrating or disabling.

Some really weird examples of this exist in real life ~ cases when life is stranger than fiction. For example, when people end up getting in the same kind of accident twice.

It's rare, but I've definitely read about people who get into near-fatal bike accidents, recover, and then die in other bike accidents years later. I've read about people who get into more than one plane crash. What are the odds on that? Surviving a first crash only to die in another one? Or even more unimaginable, surviving two crashes? This actually happens to people.

Are some things just predestined?

I'm not peddling a philosophy of life here, I don't even know what I believe about all of this. Mostly I just observe things about the way the world works, and then I think about them late at night when my family is sleeping peacefully.

I wonder if I was destined to be a mother, a wife.

Would I have ended up with three kids, no matter what? Clearly, they couldn't have been these exact three kids with *any* husband... these are three really unique, special amalgams of my actual husband and myself.

So the question becomes, was I destined to become a mother to any three children? Or was I destined to have THESE exact three children?

Was I fated to become a wife? Or was I fated to be a wife to THIS (adorable) man?

I'm so happy with how it all worked out. I wouldn't trade my life for any other hypothetical life in which I was smarter, healthier, more successful, younger or wealthier... not if it meant missing out on these four precious souls; these beautiful children and their Daddy.

Whether or not they were destined for me, I surely CHOOSE them every single day.

Happily, I suppose that it goes both ways! If these four people were destined for me... I must have been meant for them too. What a total blessing, to know that my existence may have a deeper purpose, one that will help propel them along their way.

I'm overwhelmed by how lovely it is that I've been given an opportunity to play such a unique, integral, positive role in these four interwoven lives. What a gift! I don't know how I got so lucky...

Perhaps it was simply written in our stars.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

July 20, 2011 ~ Day 222
Plugged In... or Shackled?

As I sit here waiting for the Time Warner technical support technician to arrive at our house (anywhere between 3 and 5pm) it strikes me just how dependent I've become on technology.

Scary dependent.

If I want to get in touch with my closest friends, I have to admit that I need my computer or cell phone to access most of their telephone numbers. As a kid I memorized all of the telephone numbers that were important to me, and for the calls I made less frequently I used an address book with each name and telephone number neatly recorded into the columns.

These days, I rely on distant servers, routers, functioning outside lines and a variety of other things which I typically choose not to try to understand (leaving them to my more tech-savvy husband) in order to keep me connected with my nearest and dearest.

Yet it seems so effortless. So easy.

99 times out of 100, the new system works so smoothly for me that I manage to conveniently forget that my information *isn't* MORE secure these days. (It may be more easily available, but it isn't more secure.)

I also frequently delude myself into believing that it is safer to put my documents on a google server, to store them 'remotely' in a facility thousands of miles away.

Private messages that might once have seen only two pairs of eyes - mine and those of the person I wrote them for - are now accessible with one click to (potentially) billions of eyes. Just as I was able to find the tweets that our trial babysitter had written about my children within hours of her leaving our home, my own online documents are really not that secure.

Worse, I rely on a functioning internet connection to do many of the most important things in my life:

-Wish my friends a happy birthday
-Share photos of our family activities
-Write hundreds of articles for my husband's company
-Keep my family journal in the form of this blog
-Access my stored telephone numbers and addresses
-Look up telephone numbers for local businesses, physicians, restaurants
-Do research ~ so much better and faster than a library!
-Shop for gifts, vitamins, books and music
-Make and follow up on appointments with tutoring clients
-Schedule babysitters
-IM with my husband when I don't want to interrupt him at work to ask simple questions

and much, much more.

At times like this, then, when our internet goes down it feels almost like my world has collapsed upon itself... which surely can't be a good thing.

Suddenly I'm left staring at a bookcase, wondering if I should re-read a book while the kids are sleeping because I can't work, exchange messages or research... and I can't talk on the phone because my voice would be too loud and wake the kids up.

Facing all of this squarely, I have to wonder sometimes... am I actually better off thanks to technology? Or have I essentially given away my personal power (yet again, in a different way) to a large corporation?

Do I belong to Google and Facebook now?
Could my life function as effectively without them?

Or am I shackled to them... addicted enough to my social networks and Google docs to the point that my life would be substantially less enjoyable, healthy and fulfilling without them?

Can I even function on a day-to-day basis without their assistance?

What would I do if I needed, say, information about the safety of a medication prescribed for one of my children and I couldn't check with Ask a Patient... or if I wanted to check out a new restaurant and didn't have Yelp! to let me know whether the food would be decent?

What if my city or state suddenly unplugged? Would I ever again speak with the wonderful rheumatic patient friends I've made in the last year who have been such an incredible support system for my autoimmune journey? Would I even be able to stay in close touch with my old high school and college friends who live in other cities, states and countries?

It's just something I've been meditating on, all these long 24 hours as I've wondered what Bachelorette spoilers may have been posted since the last time I was able to check... as I try to figure out if I will need to dial 411 to find out the individual telephone numbers for each movie theater where Harry Potter will be showing this evening, to find out movie times.

Where is the divide between mankind and our technology, I wonder. Is it even possible in this day and age for us to maintain a responsible distance between our actual "lives" and our software creations?

I wouldn't be surprised at all if during my lifetime scientists invent chips that can be implanted within our own brains or DNA... so that WE become the computers, the blackberries, the databases. We're so close to that already... somehow it doesn't even sound far-fetched.

Despite the gravity of these questions, I'm not going to lie. I've really missed my internet access today and cannot wait to get it back. I guess I'm simply a woman of my time.

Monday, July 18, 2011

July 18, 2011 ~ Day 220
Power, Reclaimed

As I write this post, I gaze upon two small shells and two polished beach rocks... talismans of growth, faith and strength.

In order to explain the importance of today's story, a little background information is necessary:

Two years ago in June, my father died while I was hospitalized.
Without meaning to, I transferred my personal power and sense of being protected to the doctors who orchestrated my care.

I had no idea that I had done this.

Six months later, after a long while of feeling vaguely ill, I began to experience a persistent, twinging pain in my lower abdomen. After a few days of this, the day after Christmas to be exact, I contacted my OB-GYN to see if I could make an appointment to get it checked out.

Her office was on holiday break at the time, and the partner doctor with whom I spoke sounded an immediate alarm. "You need to go right to the ER," she said - "It sounds like you have appendicitis."

Immediately I was filled with fear and worry. Without hesitation I gathered my wallet, keys, purse and a book and set off for the ER. I had almost never been to an emergency facility before *but* had gotten quite familiar with doctor's offices during my three pregnancies.

I'd grown to feel that they were places of safety; harbingers of miracles.

What had started as a simple telephone call rapidly devolved into an entire weekend at the hospital. Test after test was run, all of them expensive, to try to determine the root of the pain and whether or not I would need a laparoscopic surgery for appendicitis.

During my weekend at the hospital, I was given one pelvic ultrasound. A CT-scan, which read "equivocal" due to my allergy to IV contrast (no contrast = hard to read = equivocal scan= radiation equivalent to 400 chest xrays for NOTHING). Then an MRI which was slightly more emphatic regarding the LACK of appendicitis, and finally one more CT-scan (whee! we're at 800 chest xrays!) which at last demonstrated NO appendicitis and revealed only a significant lumbar disc herniation.

After much exhaustion, a lifetime worth of unnecessary radiation, and so much stress that my adrenal glands were significantly diminished, I was unceremoniously released with the pronouncement:

"We don't know what the pain is but if you were going to have acute appendicitis, it would happened by now. Whatever you've got isn't acute. Please follow up with your GP."

I left the hospital worn down, mentally drained, and feeling as though I might have a bladder infection. When the OB ran tests, she found only a very common form of Group B Strep... something that 1/3 to 1/2 of the women in the world carry at all times. For months thereafter she treated me with antibiotic after antibiotic, none of which took away the pain or feeling of discomfort, even when the strep went away.

Finally a specialist told me the truth - "The strep is a false alarm. They don't know what is causing your pain."

Not long after all of this, Aetna decided NOT to pay for one of the CT-scans or the MRI that the ER doctors had ordered. "Those procedures were not medically necessary," they wrote, "and required preauthorization." I then fought for nearly a year to get the insurance company to pay for the scans I was told were mandatory before I could leave the hospital. It was a mess.

This was the beginning of my long medical odyssey, which ultimately proved far more complex than anyone had imagined and ultimately turned up an IRBBB, dysfunctional esophagus, Lyme Disease and autoimmunity. I also discovered after visiting an allergist that when I strictly avoid foods that I am allergic to, I have no pain or burning.

Over the course of 18 months, I have become so well versed in medical knowledge that my husband has often teased me that I deserve an honorary degree in medicine or nursing.

I have definitely become much more comfortable with my own understanding of the human body, medications, and physician protocol.

I've also begun to work with my own spiritual and mental energy, and actively focusing on keeping myself within alignment. I'm learning how to turn my thoughts around and focus them on what I WANT, not what I DON'T WANT.

Today then brings a really powerful story of the Law of Attraction, and reclaiming what is mine.


Last week, I once again began to experience the identical symptoms that I had in late 2009.

It's been a long while though, and I'm on a lot of antibiotics and supplements - so I couldn't be absolutely sure that I was dealing with the same thing.

When I saw my rheumatologist last Wed and described how I was feeling, he pushed me to see an OB-GYN. on Friday, I did so... the same one who originally prescribed me 5 antibiotics for the Group B Strep and ultimately referred me out to a specialist because she had no further help for me.

She did the checkup, took cultures, and told me she thought I had an ovarian cyst which would resolve in a month. She gave me a lab slip for a pelvic ultrasound to do Monday (today) and sent me on my way.

As the weekend progressed, I felt worse. I woke nauseated on Sunday, unable to eat, with the pain continuing in my lower pelvis.

Not wanting to jump to conclusions, I called an Aetna 24/7 nurse and she encouraged me to speak with my OB-GYN again... "I think you may need to be seen tonight," she said.

I called the OB - and 18 months later, it was like an echo... nearly the same conversation.

"I think you should go to an ER to rule out appendicitis and ovarian torsion," she said.

"I really don't want to do that. I do not think this is appendicitis, and if I can just wait until morning I can go get that ultrasound performed that you'd recommended."

We went back and forth.

Finally she caved. "Why don't we go with a middle ground? Is there an urgent care center near you? You could just go get some bloodwork done to make sure your white blood cell count isn't too high. They might also be able to rule out the ovarian torsion."

I sighed. "Fine," I said. I knew I was in for a long night.

As I drove to the Urgent Care center, I listened to one of my Abraham-Hicks CDs and thought about what kind of life I want to be living. I decided, no matter what happened, that I was going to use this Urgent Care experience as an opportunity to focus only on the positive, and on the things I most wanted.

Good thing, because I was in for a heck of an evening.

The wait to be seen was nearly two hours. When I finally got seen, the nurse used an antiseptic on my arm that I'd just told them I was allergic to... and then popped an IV in my arm without my consent.

"What are you doing?"

"Doc ordered an IV."

"Um, no. Not with my consent. He and I didn't talk about that at all."

"Okay, well - I might have to draw blood from your arm more than once."


"You'll need an IV if you get a CT-scan."

"I'm not going to have a CT-scan."

"You'll need one if you have appendicitis."

"I don't have appendicitis."

"Well you'll need an IV to get contrast."

"I'm allergic to contrast."

...and so forth.

By the time she left my room I heard another nurse say to her, "What's wrong? You look seriously perturbed!"

In truth, over the last 18 months I've become a difficult patient. I'm informed. I know what I want, and what I don't want. I know the risks of common procedures. I don't accept treatment without researching it, and I *definitely* don't accept treatment that Aetna has not pre-authorized.

It was a very long night. Five hours, in fact, before I was allowed to stumble out of the Urgent Care at 3am and make my way home.

During the latter hours, I rejected a CT-scan not once but several times. I did accept bloodwork and the pelvic ultrasound that showed a perfectly normal body. No cyst. No torsion.

The doctor wasn't thrilled with my bloodwork, or the nausea. However, after a long and very in-depth conversation he said, "Well, the truth is a woman under the age of 40 who has had 4 CT-scans of the abdomen has an increased risk of breast cancer of approximately 1-2%. They're your breasts and not mine, so I'm comfortable letting you make the call. Your bloodwork isn't perfect but it isn't THAT bad."

He then told me that the CT-scanner at their sister-office in a different part of the city was newer and gave off 40% less radiation than the one at the facility we were sitting in. "If you feel the same or worse tomorrow," he advised, "Go to that office and then if you need a CT at least you'll be getting about half the radiation."

I wonder how many women realize that your cancer risk can vary so much based simply upon WHERE you get scanned and how new their scanner is. Pretty amazing.

Here though, is the crucial part of my evening:

I spent the entire time visualizing the positive. Keeping my thoughts and feelings focused on where I *wanted* to be. I thought of my children, and how I wished I was kissing their sweet heads. I thought of places I wanted to take them, like the art museum and the zoo and the theme park. I thought about things I wanted to do with them like cook, bake, go to the park, laugh and tell jokes.

Most of all, I thought of the beach. I thought long and hard about how I wanted to be feeling healthy and sitting at the beach, watching the waves crash into the sand under a sunny sky. Every time I heard a nurse say something in the hallway, I focused on the beach. When they wheeled me to the ultrasound room, I focused on the beach.

I kept my energy only positive, only strong.

Finally they released me and after nearly crawling into our house I fell into a fitful slumber. My husband, bless his heart, took the kids to school and on errands so that I could sleep in.

This afternoon I received a call from the OB-GYN office. "Your cultures are back! You have Group B Strep. The doctor wants to treat you with clindamycin."

"Um, yeah- " I responded - "I've had that same Group B Strep for at least 18 months. With every single culture. It's a red herring. I'm just a carrier. It's not the problem."

"Oh, really?"

"Yes. Have you read my file?"

"Well, no."

"Okay well, thanks for the call. I appreciate your time and you're welcome to fax the prescription but I'm not sure I'll be acting on it. This is not a new problem."

Then I had to decide what to do about the appendicitis risk and ultrasound. We decided that I would head back to urgent care to get the scan so that I could relax and sleep well tonight.

When I got to their office though, I could tell that it would be another 2-3 hour wait. Looking at the line and then out at the beautiful day, I decided to move on to the sister office.

As I drove down the side of the hill toward the freeway heading East, I looked west and saw a dazzling ocean view. The sea glittered under the sky and suddenly I realized that I was looking at my vision. The same vision I'd held to so strongly all night yesterday.

Right then, my stomach started to growl for the first time in two days.

"Oh my gosh - I'm hungry!" I thought. "Should I go get something to eat? Or should I go to the sister urgent care clinic to get a scan?"

"Follow what you WANT," said my intuition, "You're OKAY!" - and for the first time in two years, I decided to follow my own gut instinct rather than medical advice.

Pulling to the side of the road, I made my decision. "You know, I'm going to get a burger!" My stomach growled its approval.

Thirty minutes later with a protein-style burger and fries in hand, I pulled back in front of that same beach and stopped my truck. Got out, stretched, and made my way down to the sand. Sat and watched the sun sparkle on the water. Took a deep breath.

And ate. I ate that entire burger with gusto and joy.

"I DO know myself better than any doctor does. I don't care if the bloodwork was a little off. I feel okay. The pain is much better. I'm hungry. It's a beautiful day. And what I WANT is to be here - right here."

Suddenly I realized that this was my moment of moments.

The moment when I finally reclaimed my personal power, took control of my own health again, and stopped relying upon the advice of others to tell me how my own body felt or what I should do to 'play it safe'.

To celebrate I collected two small shells and two smooth rocks, talismans to keep in my pocket and run my hand across to remember what is REAL.

(My husband was so happy. "That was a GREAT decision," he encouraged. "I know you're fine. I know you!!!")

It is 8:30pm and I currently have no pain. I am at home, taking care of my children and spending time with my husband, participating in our family ~ and so happy to be here! I know I will stay well this evening. If perchance tomorrow brings pain or fever, I know how to take care of it, where to go and what to do.

It's great to feel empowered again, and at peace.

Tonight instead of worrying about my health, I'm busy visualizing the life I want to be living. This is what it feels like to live without anxiety.

I love it.