Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Now Hear This

My husband went to visit an ear-nose-throat specialist, my father's ear doctor, incidentally. (Is this an example of how I married my father?) As I'm sure you remember from previous posts, Todd has been quite ill the past few weeks. He has had general cold-type crud, which turned into walking pneumonia. As you also probably know, pneumonia can be bacterial or viral; Todd was given a course of antibiotics, which he recently finished. He still is not feeling swell.

One of the main symptoms has been tinnitus (ringing) in his right ear. It's driving Todd crazy, is greatly affecting his hearing, and is making it difficult for Todd to concentrate at work, concentrate at home, even sleep. (His crabbiness has also rubbed off on me... and I was already crabby enough without his input!) It's been going on for about two weeks, without relief, and has lasted through two visits to general practitioners. So, today, Todd was off to the ENT.

This is another one of those things I share not so much so you will have a window into our family life, but so you will be aware of this same symptom in yourself or someone you love and will take action: Basically, the viral sickness caused the tinnitus, and the ringing in the ear is caused by nerve damage. The doctor said there's no cure for tinnitus, and Todd's hearing loss is significant, but it's good that he came in early. With aggressive treatment, there is a 50% chance that Todd's tinnitus can be controlled and his hearing loss reversed.

Todd will begin taking inhaled steroids. After two weeks, if there is no improvement, he will switch to injected steroids. Just one more minor medical issue we're tackling. Isn't life interesting?

Monday, March 28, 2011

The New Kid, Jesus

Benjamin got into the car after preschool and told me, "Mom, we got a new kid in our class. He was just visiting today, but he is going to join our class after Spring Break. He's really nice. His mom is really nice, too. She was visiting, too. He hardly speaks any English. His name is Jesus."

"Jesus?" I asked. Here in the Upper Midwest, we don't encounter many little boys named Jesus... Still, I knew where this was headed. But, before I asked, Ben jumped in, "Mom, how to you say 'Jesus' in Spanish?" I pronounced for him, "Hay-SOOS." "Yeah," Ben said, "his name is Hay-SOOS. And he hardly knows any English. He mostly speaks Spanish."

"So, your new classmate's name is Hay-SOOS?" I asked. "Yes," Ben said. "But we won't call him that. We'll just call him 'Jesus,' because it's easier. Everyone in my class already knows Jesus."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Not the Fun Mom

I am not the Fun Mom.

It really doesn't bother me... I never really tried to be the fun mom... I truly do not want to be the fun mom... I don't care if my kids, or other people's kids, think I'm the fun mom.

I think parenting is about a lot more than being fun. It's about keeping children safe, making sure they feel loved, doing what's in their best interest, and on and on. And I take the parenting job very seriously.

Don't get me wrong-- I know it's possible to be a good parent and still be fun. I'm just not. I don't paint fingernails. I don't agree to most sleepovers. I don't make pink pancakes or cakes in the shape of cartoon characters. I generally don't dance around the kitchen with Daddy.

My kids don't let me forget that I'm not the fun mom. And it really bugs them. So, this weekend, when the big girls asked me if they could "camp out" in the toy room, I said, "Why not?" They set up their Disney Princess pop-up tent in front of the television, pulled out sleeping bags and pillows, even set up their own nail painting station. Not Fun Mom continued to prevail, with warnings against spilling polish on the carpeting and reminders that they would be required to clean up their camp out mess in the morning.

In the morning, the girls told me what a great time they'd had. I was feeling so nearly fun, I went into the playroom to help them pick up. There, we encountered Madeline, with an open bottle of polish, painting herself, the pillows, and the TV stand. Not Fun Mom is back in the house.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Who Said That?

Most women are afraid of turning into their mothers. History has shown me it's pretty much inevitable. At this juncture, I'm not too terribly frightened-- yet-- partly because I'm not all that old... and partly because my mom's not all that old either, and hasn't totally gone off the deep end, doing and saying the kinds of crazy crap that make her mom infamous. Still, twice in the past 24 hours, I've heard one of those classic statements and looked around for my mother, only to realize the words actually came out of my mouth.

I entered the Target parking lot and was slowly cruising toward a parking space when a woman began crossing in front of my car. I slowed to a stop, but the woman kept looking at me, as though terrified that I would suddenly hit the gas. "Don't worry, Honey, I'm not gonna hit you," I muttered. "You'd dent my car."

At the dinner table this evening, I watched not one but three of my children children dance around their chairs, not eating the lovely meal I made. (The fourth was confined to her high chair, and ate like a champion, I should add.) Over the course of 20 minutes, they wrinkled up their noses, told me they weren't hungry, begged for fruit, begged for ice cream, declared themselves done and cleared their plates. I finally threw up my hands in the air and exclaimed, "I don't know why I ever bother to cook at all!"

I am my mother. I heard it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Simple Joys of Parenthood

I certainly waste enough words rambling on about the challenges of parenting. Obviously, it's not all bad-- or no one would ever do it. I think about something radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger liked to say... (Is she even on the air anywhere, anymore? I don't care what you say-- I liked her, and she was pretty much right about everything, even if her approach was obnoxious.) Anyway, Dr. Laura always used to say: Each of us has two chances at the parent/child relationship. The first is as the child, and the second is as the parent.

Dr. Laura was usually talking about people who had crappy childhoods, and how that does not mean they have to later turn out to be crappy parents. I didn't have a bad childhood... and I'm a good parent now, so, whatever that means. I'm thinking about other, less global issues, such as how my mom says, "I always hoped you'd get one like you-- now you know how it feels." And, now, Todd and I now get to utter all those swell parenting phrases our parents used to use on us: "Because I said so," "Watch your mouth" and "What part 'no' don't you understand?"

We spent the evening with some other families at a local bowling alley/arcade/pizza place. Bowling with 14 children, aged 3 to 12, made for the world's longest game. Then, of course, we had to hit the arcade, where half the games were broken and my kids still managed to blow $20 on the other half, earning hundreds and hundreds of tickets to cash in for crap. Elisabeth, Deal or No Deal Champion, scored a set of toy handcuffs. Of course, she did.

By the time we left, everyone was overtired, and as spent as the cash in my wallet. As we pulled into the garage, the kids got their second wind, and burst into the house asking, "Can we play 'Cops and Robbers?'" A tired and still-sick Daddy retorted, "Nah, let's play 'Last One to Bed Gets a Spanking' instead." Yeah, parenthood.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Still Sick, May or May Not Travel, Clothing Optional

Todd has continued to be miserable after coming down with some crud last week. He finally got in to see his regular doctor (who is right up there on the list of loves of his life) and she diagnosed Todd with walking pneumonia. She said a "spot," like a bulging blood vessel, on his eardrum is causing the ringing in his ear, which has been making him battier than he typically is. The best news: the diagnosis came with drugs.

In other Todd-related news, I told him I wanted to go away next weekend. Nothing too extravagant-- just a long weekend, anywhere really, without the kids. Grandma R. had already promised an extended sleepover during the kids' Spring Break... they are all suffering withdrawal after pretty much the constant togetherness during the run of the musical. So, it seemed to me the stars were aligning.

I got this idea a few weeks ago, but haven't done any actual planning, since I don't really care where we go. I said we could drive to Chicago... or fly to New York and see a couple shows... or just look wherever we could get a cheap flight to somewhere warm. Well, Todd didn't seem too thrilled about any of my ideas-- his one suggestion was Vieques, the island off Puerto Rico, the destination of the only vacation we've already taken together in the past decade.

So, I said I would just go somewhere without him. He didn't like that either. He did bite his tongue to keep from reminding me (again) he really wanted to take the whole family to Disneyworld this winter and I told him Madeline was too young, and I just couldn't cope with the anxiety that kind of trip would cause. He suggested we leave Madeline home with my parents and I said the chances are so low for a family of six to go to Disneyworld more than once in a lifetime, and I couldn't imagine explaining to Maddy that we'd decided to just leave her out of it. That was months ago... but I know he still thinks about it every time I suggest any kind of trip. (Don't even get me started about what happened when I suggested we take a summertime road trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota.)

We spent the other evening surfing travel websites. Have you checked out this Kayak site? It's cool because it scans the prices of all the other big travel sites at once, so you don't have to keep going back and forth. Anyway, using Kayak, we discovered there's really no place "cheap" to go, at least during the dates we want to travel.

Since it's not Todd's idea, he's not really invested in the process, and would be just as happy to stay home. I asked him what he wanted to do, and he said he'd do anything I wanted, as long as I planned it. Oh, and he would prefer the following three criteria were also met:
1. fly using frequent flyer miles (Delta Airlines)
2. stay using credit card points (SPG hotels and resorts)
3. destination should have a nude beach

Thanks, Dear. Why don't you go take some more drugs?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

No Laughing Matter

Well, thank heaven for a snow day, because Elisabeth and I are still recovering from the trauma of yesterday.

She had a nuclear cystogram (RNC) to reevaluate her vesicoureteral reflux condition. Elisabeth was diagnosed as having Grade II reflux before her third birthday. We doctored regularly and treated her pretty aggressively with medication for a couple years. Then, around the time she started school, her issues with accidents, leaking, posturing (that's the "potty dance") and, most importantly, infections, no longer seemed to be much of issues, anymore. With the urologist's blessing, we gradually weaned her off her medications and went on with life.

Fast forward to this past January, when Elisabeth came down with another, serious urinary tract infection. We got the immediate treatment required and went back to the urology clinic. Up until that infection, the assumption had been that Libby was outgrowing her condition, as is often the case. The specialist did some x-rays and a renal ultrasound, which found her kidneys to still be healthy, normally sized and functioning properly, thank God. But she also recommended further testing to see what was going on with Libby. That testing was yesterday.

Elisabeth has previously had the RNC, and related VCUG, tests. They suck. And I do not use the word "suck" lightly, because my parents raised me with the standard that it is a poor word choice. But, the tests do suck. Due to related symptoms in my own childhood, I've had them. I remember, they suck. They are invasive, humiliating, and painful.

When Libby was younger, we could kind of skirt the issue, not give her too much information, and just try to press on through these kinds of appointments with smiles and hugs and bribes. Not so any more. Libby is too smart and too strong, and she has a very good memory.

This time, the nurse practitioner suggested we give Elisabeth nitrous oxide. You may know it as laughing gas. If you have little kids, you probably know all about this, because the use of nitrous has become more and more prevalent in medical and dental situations. My CRNA SIL hails its powers. One of my RN friends, whose daughter, incidentally, has similar bladder issues as Libby, strongly advocates for the use of nitrous oxide. I know lots of other friends who have had their children use laughing gas in different dental and medical scenarios. I believe and trust all of them.

Still, do you ever have that nagging mommy feeling? The heaviness on your heart? The voice in the back of your head that warns, don't do it? Well, I did... and I ignored it. I figured any chance of making Libby more comfortable with this nasty procedure was worth it. At the same time, I talked at length with the sedation nurse before the procedure about my concerns, mainly, that Elisabeth was such a lightweight and that I and others in my family all have trouble handling different kinds of sedation. I wanted to make sure the nurse didn't deliver any more than the minimum suggested level of nitrous. I told her, "I would just hate for Libby to have an adverse reaction, anything that would compound today's challenges instead of easing them."

The nurse was wonderful at answering my questions and allaying my fears. We got a very reluctant and pouty Libby gowned up and into the radiology procedure room. Even with the world's most competent and kind children's health professionals present, "The Cheetah Girls" movie playing on the TV, and the watermelon scent covering Libby's air mask, nothing could soothe my anxiety-- or my daughter's-- and, within seconds of the start of Libby's sedation, I knew I'd made the wrong decision.

Elisabeth clearly fell into that remarkable 10% of the population that has a bad reaction to nitrous oxide. Instead of the nitrous calming her mind and relaxing her body, it made Libby flip out. She became physically rigid and combative. Her eyes were wild and full of fear. She screamed and screamed and screamed. She got sick to her stomach. She hyperventilated.

The sedation nurse whispered soothingly, adjusted the mask, smoothed Libby's hair and lowered the gas level. Libby gripped my hands so tightly she left marks. She looked at me like she was terrified and begged me to make it stop. The procedure had not even begun.

After what seemed like an eternity, but could not have been more than a couple minutes, I demanded the nurse turn off the nitrous oxide and just give my daughter oxygen. I told Libby we still had to do the test but promised the medicine would stop. After all that, the catheterization and the RNC procedure still had to happen. So I, along with three medical professionals, held down my scared and sick baby and put her through the trauma, without sedation.

When it was all over and I'd helped Elisabeth dress and gotten her a drink, the sedation nurse told me, "I think that's one girl who would rather be in charge of her own faculties at all times." I thanked her for her kindness and professionalism. She apologized to both of us for putting us through that. Before the procedure, the nurse told Libby the gas would make her feel as though she were having a good dream. Afterward, Libby told me she'd felt as though she were trapped in a nightmare.

After the test, we still had to head over to the clinic-- in another building of the same hospital complex-- and get the results and make a plan with the specialist. Upon leaving the radiology department, Elisabeth soon became dizzy and nauseous. I took her to a restroom where she cried and cried and sat with her head between her knees and laid down with cool towels on her head. Finally, I picked her up and carried her outside the building to get some cold, fresh air.

Some time later, I carried her back into the building and walked to the urology clinic. I told the receptionist we needed to be seen immediately and she obliged. In an exam room, Elisabeth laid down on the bed, watched Disney Channel and began to feel better.

The specialist who ordered the test seemed baffled by our experience. Since Libby appeared to be perking up, we discussed her test results, which showed the same as always level of reflux. The CNP said, if the condition were to resolve on its own, it likely would have already done that, and she recommended one of two surgical interventions: the less invasive Deflux or the more involved, more successful ureteral reimplantation. The other option is for Libby to return to taking a prophylactic antibiotic for an indefinite period of time. We have not made any decisions, yet, and likely will not take action until school lets out for the summer.

Leaving the clinic, Libby seemed much improved from her earlier state, so, naturally, as any guilt-laden mother would, I bowed to her every whim. We immediately drove to the mall, where I stuffed Elisabeth with cheese pizza and she stuffed a Build-A-Bear cat with fiberfill. On the way home and throughout the evening, Libby was quiet and seemed tired, but I figured she had good reason. Todd and I just kept pushing fluids and reminding her what kind of discomfort was normal and what kind was not.

Around 1 a.m., the screeching began: "Ow! You're hurting me! Stop! Stop it!" Libby was yelling Amanda's name, and, for a minute, we actually thought they were both awake and fighting. But Todd went down the hall and found both girls were still asleep, one soundly and the other definitely not. He carried Libby back to our bed, as she continued wailing. Elisabeth was frantic, and HOT. It took quite a while to assess the situation and to wake and calm her.

Libby's fever was above 102. She still seemed "out of it," and was breathing in a rapid, shallow way, but we were able to get some Tylenol in her and start her new antibiotic. We wondered if this was an after-effect of the bad nitrous trip... or if she might have contracted an infection during the procedure. We got Libby situated in a bed on the floor, only to repeat the scenario again at 5 a.m.

This morning, Libby seemed understandably tired and peaked, but otherwise improved. I've had some telephone exchanges with a nurse at the urology clinic, who has also been consulting with a sedation nurse at the hospital. Neither of them think the fever and night waking were in any way related to the nitrous oxide or the RNC. The urology nurse did suggest we make a note in Elisabeth's chart about her reaction to the laughing gas. Yeah, because that's something I'm likely to forget.

I'm just really glad it's over... though, I'm sure, not half as glad as Libby is. I'd sign her up for the surgery in a second if it meant we never had to relive yesterday. Yeah, I wish Libby didn't have this problem, just as I wish all children could be free of medical issues. Yeah, I'm bummed we got another foot of snow overnight, when, a day earlier, I could smell spring in the air. But, today, we are focusing on playing Webkinz and tie-dyeing t-shirts and making things out of modeling clay. It's an awesome snow day.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Better Sleep On It

So, we made the crib conversion and survived the first night of toddler bed transition. I don't want to jinx Krinkeland, but it actually wasn't so horrible. Of course, that's from my perspective... and I had a "meeting" on "Monday evening" for "Birthright," so I wasn't actually home for most of the bedtime process. (I really was at the monthly Birthright meeting-- just thought it would be funnier if I put everything in quotes.) When I arrived home, I just had to throw the three older kids in bed, while I heard through Maddy's bedroom door Todd softly cheering, "Shh, shh, shh, I got this..."

After Todd escaped and all was quiet in there for a while, naturally, I had to sneak in and look. Here's what I saw:

Madeline fussed a little bit in the night, but never enough for me to go into her room, and I never heard a thud or other evidence of a problem. As is quickly becoming her habit, Maddy was sleeping, sleeping the morning away, too. Todd really wanted to go into her bedroom and check on her before he left for work, but I threatened him bodily harm. A while later, I heard whimpering coming from the room, figured Maddy was confused about her new furniture configuration, and went in. Here's what I found:

Is an almost-two-year-old clever enough to play a joke on Mommy? (Don't answer that.) Where was Madeline? I stood very still and listened. Nothing. I softly called her name. Nothing. I began to panic and wildly moved furniture, tossed pillows and threw blankets. Then, I walked around to the end of the bed. Here's what I discovered:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Escape Artist

Todd has been warning me we need to convert Madeline's crib into a toddler bed, before she falls out and hurts herself. I have been putting him off. It's not the whole, "Oh, my baby, my baby, my last baby... let's keep her in the crib." It is the knowledge-- having lived this already three times-- that once a child is able to get out of bed, she will... repeatedly... and will trash her bedroom and get into all kinds of trouble... and we will have to baby-gate her doorway... and then she will stand at the gate and yell at us because we are right across the hall... and then she will push on the tension gate and knock it over, sending herself flying in the process, and then she will cry... and I will put her back to bed, over and over again... and I will lay down on the floor next to her and show her how to go to sleep... and then I will get frustrated because she will not go to sleep and I will leave... and then Todd will go in and take a turn... and then Todd will yell at her because Todd will fall asleep first, so then she will start banging on his head... and then her yelling will wake up the other kids... and everyone will be out of their minds for about two weeks. That's just been my experience.

Anyway, even though he's still under the weather, Todd offered to take apart the crib last evening. I pleaded with him not to, said between his snoring and his coughing I haven't gotten any sleep, so could we please wait one more night? Todd agreed. Benjamin was up three times last night, so that was a big bust.

Madeline, on the other hand, has been sleeping really well. I've felt guilty when I've had to go in her room and wake her in the morning, but, come on, on Sunday it was 9:45-- does she think she's a teenager already?! This morning, when I went to get Maddy so I could take Ben to preschool, I found this:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Gift to Others

My sister started a tradition with her goddaughter, my daughter Amanda (and that tradition is spreading to my other kids because they really want in on the action) and I just love it: In honor of a birthday, she gives the birthday child the most special gift-- her undivided attention and time. The day generally includes eating, pampering the self, and serving others.

Due to the musical production, basketball, kids' sicknesses and general craziness, Amanda's Day Out with Auntie was delayed until today. Amanda was up early and absolutely beside herself by the 11:30 pickup time. I wasn't in on any of the planning or details... but I wouldn't have told her, anyway.

The time finally arrived, and my eldest was off. I got text messages with photos throughout the afternoon and I knew Amanda was having a ball. She returned home beaming, brimming with information, and full of herself after a fun afternoon that was also educational and beneficial to the world.

Ellen and Amanda visited Feed My Starving Children, and packed dry meals for hungry children around the world. Amanda gave an animated account of how much fun she had, and how she "felt like an angel" knowing how many people they helped. She dashed to the playroom to make a poster to tell others about Feed My Starving Children... and somewhere, somehow scrounged up a bunch of change to put in her FMSC collection box. Amanda has a new cause.

Oh, I forgot to mention the pampering part of the birth-day. The other stop was to Paint My Nasty Fingernails.

All kinds of needs were met today. Thanks, Auntie.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Out Sick... and Annoying

I apologize, in advance, if the following post reads as though I am ripping on my husband. I do not intend to belittle or ridicule him; rather, my goal is to showcase my own wit, as well as my ability to laugh at myself and at my life. Also, this entry states clearly a basic truth about life: Men are babies.

Todd is sick.

I believe that he is sick, mostly because he stayed home from work. He never does that. Further evidence of Todd's sickness includes: moping, walking slowly, making the world's saddest face, telling me "I feel like s@*#," texting me "I feel like s@*#," sighing, moaning, closing his eyes for long periods of time, making himself a bed on the couch in the center of the house, and moaning some more. Ladies, I ask you, does your man do this, too? (No need to jeopardize the peace in your home by admitting it... I already know the answer.)

Last night, he refused my repeated offers for over-the-counter drugs. I tried to warn him that all the energy he was expending moaning and sighing was energy that could be better spent resting and healing. Then, I just put up a king-sized pillow barrier between us and prayed the germs would not cross the Great Wall of Krinkeland.

This morning, in the midst of getting three children off to two schools and the babe and me to the all-important weekly coffee "meeting," I asked Todd whether he thought he needed to see a doctor. He croaked out that definitely he must. While I was dialing the clinic with one hand and pouring his requisite orange juice with the other, Todd whimpered that I should rub his back. I shot back, "Sure. Are you giving up the doctor's appointment or the fluids, because I only have two hands!"

Todd gave further proof of his ailment by asking me to please text his boss and explain that he would not be in to the office. I picked up Todd's phone (which was within his arm's reach) and typed: "Hi. This is Andrea. Todd is sick. I don't think he'll actually die today... but he's going for a strep test, just to be sure. Can you come over and rub his back? Thanks." Then, I set Todd's alarm for 45 minutes before the doctor's appointment and left.

Todd's phone call interrupted coffee time: He does not have strep. The doctor said he could take Tylenol or Advil. How many women are at coffee, anyway, and what are we talking about? When am I going to come home and "tend to him?" And, by the way, thanks a lot for the text to his boss.

Naturally, I stayed away all morning. When the kids and I did return, I brought Todd a milkshake and a bunch of movies. I am not completely heartless. But I did tell him, "You know, Honey, when you carry on in this way over every minor thing, it makes it difficult for me to discern when you are really, truly, seriously ill." He just sighed, closed his eyes for a long time, moaned, and went back to watching the Disney Channel.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

All Kidding Aside

We've had some rocky moments in Krinkeland-- some that have made me rethink sending the girls to a small, parochial school... and some that have made me rethink having girls. I'm talking about teasing.

One member of this household recently had a major meltdown-- very uncharacteristic of this particular child-- and refused to give any explanation or background for it. Over the course of a few days, it eventually came out that she was being teased for a combination of reasons: one part her role in the musical, another part her body type/physical appearance.

Another member of this family-- this one very prone to tantrums and outbursts-- has been dragging her feet about going to school. Actually, she's been stomping and screaming and purposely missing the bus. Since she often behaves badly at home, I have been letting most of this roll off my back and have somehow still managed to get her to school, on time, every day. But, after one particularly rough morning, where the dark cloud returned home with her in the afternoon, I sat down the daughter to get to the bottom of the issue. It turns out she, too, feels as though she's being teased at school, specifically in gym class. They are in the middle of a rollerskating unit, and this child says the other children rib her for her lack of skill, skinniness of limbs, and shortness of feet.

I gave these examples to my mother-- my expert on all things child- and school-related. She said it just sounds like kids being kids to her... and she thinks it's a universal problem. I gave these examples to Benjamin's physical therapist and adaptive phy. ed. teacher-- one of whom has been very involved in her kids' Catholic schools. They blamed not the parochial school environment... not the typical kidliness... but the weather. "It's been one, long winter," one said. "They all just need to get outside and get some space."

On one hand, I just want to use that hand to punch out these kids. On the other hand, I want to pat my children on the back and reassure them that it happens to everyone... and remind them of how they feel right now... before they decide to join in on the teasing-- ever.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Talk

Here's one of those things I've been meaning to blog about for a week now... but I've been too busy playing catch-up with my life. When I went to Google to search for the following clip, I found zillions of links to other blogs talking about this-- but, it's not as though I thought I was the only one. Say what you want about "Glee." It is by no means a "kids' show"-- not even for middle schoolers or high schoolers, in my book-- it can be raunchy and raw and just plain rude. Last week's sex ed. episode certainly topped the list in all those categories. BUT, when I heard Kurt's dad, Burt, deliver "the talk," I stood up and cheered.

(May I re-emphasize before you click "play" that this is not for young audiences. You can see the scene with Kurt and his dad if you click to time code 32:21.)

Burt Hummel: "When you're intimate with someone in that way, you gotta know that you're exposing yourself. You're never gonna be more vulnerable, and that scares the hell out of a lot of guys... With two guys you've got two people who think that sex is just sex. It's gonna be easier to come by and once you start, you aren't gonna want to stop. You gotta know that it means something. It's doing something to you, to your heart, to your self-esteem, even though it feels like you're just having fun... When you're ready, I want you to be able to do everything. But when you're ready, I want you to use it as a way to connect to another person. Don't throw yourself around like you don't matter, because you matter."

My children are, as yet, too young for this kind of talk. (And, yes, I know it's coming... now it's my turn to stick my fingers in my ears and sing loudly!) Most of them are girls. No one has yet come out as homosexual. Of course, we need to address issues of sin and morality, pregnancy and disease. Yet, I have been saying for years, I-- without any kind of medical and/or psychotherapeutical and/or religious degree-- could write a book on the long-term damage caused, especially to girls, by teens and young adults having sex before they are emotionally ready.

I firmly believe if they were confident THEY MATTERED... they would wait. THEY MATTER. WE ALL MATTER.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mom's New Diet Plan

1.Make high-fat, calorie-dense lunch for two skinny kids, including adding extra cheese to pizza.
2. Put away groceries and wash dishes while kids eat, well, nothing.
3. Throw away food and wipe saucy faces, but not before popping a Lean Cuisine into the microwave for self.
4. Sit down on couch to eat low-fat, low-cal dish.
5. Immediately get invaded by toddler on one side and preschool on the other, begging for bites.
6. Alternate forkfuls of diet meal into kids' mouths, while they make "mmmm" sounds.
7. Once plastic dish is empty, throw it away and re-wipe saucy faces.
8. Eat a leftover cupcake from the play's concession stand stockpile.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Opening Night

This evening was the opening night performance of "The Music Man Junior," the first production of Saints on Stage. Of course, my anxiety and workload will not be set aside until the final curtain drops, every set piece is packed away, each costume returns from the cleaners, and the kids, Todd and I have all caught up on our sleep! Still, it feels good to see the finished product take the stage, and to hear so many positive comments from out opening night audience members... most of whom had no idea what they were in for.

Above all, I am a proud mama bird tonight, strutting around with my chest puffed out, soaking up the praise for our sweet and talented Amaryllis/Amanda and our cute and loud tattletale Gracie Shinn/Elisabeth.

Libby and her stage dad (and super-secret crush) Gabriel

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Stealing the Stage

Today was the final dress rehearsal for Saints on Stage's inaugural production, "The Music Man Junior," which opens tomorrow evening at the girls' school. There is so much I could write about here, but also so much I wish to keep to myself. I did have to giggle at the exchange with my two young actors on the car ride home:

Mom: "Are you ready for tomorrow night?"
Girls: "Yeah."
Amanda: "But (fellow cast member) really needs to learn his lines. He doesn't know all the words."
Elisabeth: "Yeah, he really needs to learn his songs."
Mom: "I believe he does know his lines... maybe he just gets a little nervous sometimes and that makes him forget."
Girls: "Oh."
Mom: "How come neither of you ever get nervous and forget your lines?"
Amanda: "Because we're professionals."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sock It to Her

I don't know if any of you will find this as frustrating-slash-amusing as I do, but, here goes:

We all survived the first dress rehearsal for "The Music Man Junior," the inaugural musical being performed this weekend at the girls' school. In this process, occasionally my "mother" role trumps that of "producer," as it did when I was assisting my children with their costumes, hairstyles, etc.

After rehearsal, as we were all instructing the children on taking off and hanging up their costumes and making sure everyone got properly re-dressed, I asked Amanda, "Where are your socks? Why aren't you wearing any socks?" Amanda told me that when she got back into her street clothes, she couldn't find one of her socks, so she left the other off and was going sock-less. I shook my head, thinking about how we were trying to get dozens and dozens of children into and out of costume, while keeping track of their regular clothes, and it was my child-- my oldest, allegedly wisest, child-- who lost a sock.

Later, when we were leaving the building, I paused at the lost-and-found table by the front door, where I noticed a familiar sock. I held it up and said, "Look what I found, Amanda!" Amanda said, "That's not my sock. It's Libby's." I looked down at Libby's ankles, but both appeared covered. I began to press Amanda to own up; it had to be her sock, as her sister was clearly wearing two. At that moment, Libby said, "Oh, yeah, there's my sock." I pointed out she was already wearing socks, and Libby explained, "Well, when we were getting dressed in the changing room, I couldn't find one of my socks. So I just put on one of Amanda's."

Monday, March 7, 2011

God's Gotta Talk To Me

You know all those chain emails that go 'round and 'round and 'round? (Coca-Cola will clean your toilet and corrode your stomach... the president is a terrorist... blah, blah, blah.) I tend to not even read them, much less forward them. However, someone is trying to tell me something, since I have received similar versions of this prayer from so many people in the past week, I've literally lost count. Combine that with this cool post I read on another blog today, and I feel compelled to pass it along:

God our Father, walk through my house and take away all my worries and illnesses and please watch over and heal my family. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Connecting the (Tissue) Dots

I'm typing this post only because so many of you beloveds saw an entry on the calendar or are involved enough in our family life to know Benjamin had his annual check-in with the geneticist... and you've been asking how it went.

Here are the highlights:
1. For his age, Benjamin is at the 27th percentile for height, the 4th percentile for weight, and just under the 95th percentile for head circumference. In Mommy's mind, these were the most "normal" statistics I could recall, so I was pumped.
2. At one point in reviewing Benjamin's year, the results of all of his GI tests, and the results of his recent echocardiogram, the doctor asked, "So, why am I seeing Ben, anyway? He's perfect!" I agreed, and started getting really excited that she might fire us-- but she didn't.
3. In an attempt to reassure me, the geneticist, who is well-known and outstanding in her field, said, "Well, he has been seen by the king, the queen, and God." This was, no doubt, a reference to the doctoring we've done at the Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital, and Minneapolis Children's, her home turf. Still, I had to bite my tongue to keep from asking, "Which one are you?"

This geneticist has become more convinced Benjamin has some type of connective tissue disorder. Whether we will ever have a definitive diagnosis, or whether it actually matters... well, those answers remain to be seen. The doctor is ordering more tests, but they will be done based on previously taken blood and tissue samples. Results could take weeks or months, and very likely will not come at all.

Since so many have asked, here's a general description of what we're talking about:

Connective tissue is the material inside your body that supports many of its parts. It is the “cellular glue” that gives your tissues their shape and helps keep them strong. It also helps some of your tissues do their work. Cartilage and fat are examples of connective tissue. Other substances in the human body related to connective tissue include collagen and fibrillin. (from MedlinePlus, a division of the NIH)

There are hundreds of types of connective tissue disorders, some with specific gene mutations, many with mutations that have not been identified. And, there is a broad range of symptoms that are loosely associated with such disorders. Benjamin has already been tested for some of the more "severe" of these conditions... but the remaining possibilities are endless.

One of the things I found most interesting about this doctor's visit and the above definition was the doctor's concern over Benjamin's low weight and lack of body fat. I had never before thought of fat as a connective tissue. As has been a cyclical issue in Benjamin's life, the geneticist stressed the importance of Ben getting a high-fat, high-calorie, calorie-dense diet. Oh, and she suggested Elisabeth needs that, too.

Do we want our kids to be unhealthy, full of fat, and overweight? No... duh. But, we must remember that fat is essential for brain function. That's why we give whole milk to toddlers when they start on cow's milk. More fat. YUMMY. By the way, while searching online for that connective tissue definition, I came across this fascinating site on the link between connective tissue disorders and possible nutritional deficiencies. I tell you, this World Wide Web thing is wild-- it just might catch on. Thanks, Al Gore.

The geneticist did follow the trend set by the cardiologist, in saying we do not need to come back for two years. Oh, happy day. In that time, maybe we can get Ben to start wearing pants.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Nine Years Old, Deserving of Love

The Birthday Girl announced at the close of our family celebration this evening that her name means "loveable." Indeed. The happiest of birthdays to our beloved firstborn.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bad Brother, Slippery Sister

Benjamin misbehaved at preschool today. It was problematic enough that the director pulled me aside at pick-up to tell me everything he'd done. In the scope of life, it wasn't anything major, but it was a lot of little stuff that clearly is not acceptable: not following directions on a project, using bathroom words-- even after being told not to, calling names.

There are so many excuses I could make for my child, but, I didn't... and I won't. No matter what else is going on in the world, we are all still expected to behave. If not, I'd have decked somebody long ago.

Benjamin and I had a talk. I'm not sure if I got through to him or not-- he had that crappy half-grin on his face the entire time. However, when I stopped at the gas station and got out to pump gas, he decided to "make it up to me" by "helping" his sister, who was sad. How did Ben help? He gave Madeline hand lotion-- a LOT of hand lotion:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Substitute

Elisabeth is upset about having a substitute teacher. Our condolences go out to Libby's teacher, who originally told the class she would be gone for a day so she could spend it with her sick father. Well, her father died, and now her students know she will be out the entire week.

Libby really does not like having a substitute teacher, and she is not afraid to let everyone know it. I do not believe she tells the substitute teacher how she feels, but, boy, do I get an earful when she comes home.

"I hate having a sub!"
"She's not nice!"
"She's not fun!"
"She doesn't teach us anything!"
"She's not like Mrs. W.!"

I told Libby I understand-- I never liked having a sub, either, and, in fact, distinctly remember spending one kindergarten class sobbing because my regular teacher was gone and the fill-in just could not read the book the right way-- but I stressed it's important she be respectful and help the sub, not be a problem. Of course, Elisabeth rolled her eyes at that one.

She then launched into an impression of the sub, where she screwed up her face and pursed her lips, put her hand on her hip and called everything "little": "Put your little bodies in your little chairs, now. It's time to do a little reading. Where are your little books?"

I didn't laugh at the time, but I did later, when I was imitating the imitation for a friend. My friend said, "I don't blame her. Have you seen that woman? She has such a sour expression pasted on her face; it's like smiling at a child would be a crime."