Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ten and Ten to ring in 2010

I hate top 10 lists. Naturally, I had to make one of my own. As we are entering 2010, it seemed appropriate.

But instead of resolutions, or shoulding on myself, I will celebrate what I have managed to do, and look forward to evolving even more in 2010.

Ten things I did well in 2009:

1. Followed through on a hunch. In late May, after being jealous of everyone else in the world going on vacation, including my sister to Italy, my brother to Italy, my other sister to Cancun and my other sister to Cancun, I actually read an email asking me if I thought I deserved a vacation. Well, hell yes. So I wrote a few paragraphs in a few minutes, and thanks to the kindness of over 1300 strangers and Homeaway, we won a $5,000 vacation from Homeaway.

2. Chose well. We are going to France in May 2010. This apartment in Paris for 3 days, then this apartment in the south of France, Villefranche-sur-mer, for 7 days.

3. Addressed the mounting medical bills. This was not fun, but necessary. However, I will say this: it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. It hardly ever is. Answer: Payment plans. For five years, but who cares. It was worth it to have my son have those surgeries.

4. Kept dental appointments. Ok, I didn't perform the dental work, but I DID show up for the appointmentS. And got a bunch of old fillings fixed.



5. Performed my job duties. Part of my job, in addition to litigating, is to train people, create powerpoints, explaining laws and recent cases that impact my clients' work. I do that. And at several different points this year, I received compliments. I was called "a natural," "fearless," "clever,"; they asked me to train additional departments, and while I can't get into the details, I made my mark in a significant way that changed the way a very big entity did business.



6. Parented. I have to say, Brody is a pretty spectacular child. He is genuinely joyful, and surpasses any limits anyone thinks he has. He is starting to recognize letters, his vocabulary is effervescent, and he is always, consistently, improving his fine motor skills. And he is sweet. He adapted to having thumbs, and maintains a wicked, sly sense of humor. At age 3. Mostly, that is just him, but I will take some small measure of credit, even if its only that he has my eyelashes.



7. Juggled. Not balls or oranges or eggs, but surgeries, and work, and marriage, and friendships, while obtaining casts, renal ultrasounds, right thumb, left thumb, pin removal, clinic visits, doctor visits, H1N1 vaccinations and boosters, and trips to Michigan, Santa Fe, and Salt Lake (x6). The thumb surgeries were the longest, riskiest surgeries - what with the potential of losing his fingers, and being under general anesthetic for 4-5 hours each time; yet, I hardly wept at all, and I did not malpractice. Win-win.

8. Planned for happier days. No, we are not debt-free. Yet. In 2009 I made sure we had a concrete plan in place to be debt-free in 3 years (except for house). I've worried about this many nights; to have a plan in place, a plan with which we are complying, is lovely and liberating.


9. Wrote it down. I have a lot of ideas that float in and out of my head on a daily basis. In 2009, I actually wrote two of them down: Five Skies, and listing my jewelry for sale on Etsy. Things are afoot, and 2010, well, I'll get to that in a minute.

10. Decluttered. Ten lawn and leaf size bags of maternity clothes, five large storage boxes of 0-24 month clothes, multiple trunk fulls of books, toys, stuffed animals, blankets, sheets, my clothes, J's clothes, crap we don't need. All to goodwill. It felt fantastic to get it out of the house/garage.

Now, for resolutions.


I hate resolutions.

They do not work, because they are, at least for me, things I *should* be doing, but not things that I actually want to do.

So instead of resolutions, I look forward to a year from now, when I can look back and hopefully have a few of these on my "things I did well in 2010" list.


Ten feats I look forward to accomplishing in 2010:


1. Yard cleanup. We bought a house in 2001 with a pie shaped lot, meaning it fans out behind our house. Biggest yard in the area, by far. Great for dogs. Not great for people (J & me) who cannot keep green things alive, discern whether something is a weed or a flower, or would rather nap in sunshine than garden in sunshine. But it is time. I want the yard to look, if not spectacular, at least maintained. I plan to be out there quite a bit.


2. Jewelry on Etsy. I have a store front. I just need pictures of the jewelry. And recently, my anon friend who is a photographer agreed to take the pictures for me. Perhaps she can teach me, because this is the best I can do with my Kodak easy share I bought in 2004:


3. Reorganizing. And continue decluttering. Really, we have so much more room. But I'm in the mood to revamp, reorganize, repurpose.


4. Maintaining a clean house. We suffer from chaos: can't have anyone over syndrome. We don't like to clean. But clean we shall, in 30 minute bursts throughout the week. As a reward, on the 15th every month, Maria will come and clean our house from top to bottom, including the hardwood, pet-hair-covered, floors. The cost is budgeted, and will require sacrifice. The sacrifice will be worth it.


5. Laundry. I'm the kind of gal who likes to start, but not finish. I will load a dishwasher, load the washing machine, load the groceries into the trunk. I cannot stand the thought of unloading a dishwasher, putting clean clothes into a closet, or emptying groceries from the store. It's so anti-climactic. The exciting things were the doing of the thing, not the aftermath. But I like the sense I get after I do the putting away that I get. It's serene. I like that.

6. Sculpted arms. And legs. And glutes. When I dated a trainer from my gym in law school, I had them. I want them back. It's time. I want to be strong in body.





7. Topless on a beach. It helps that no. 1, 2 from above and no. 6 from below are in place, no? I just want to be topless. It would feel nice and liberating. Men can do it; I want to do it. As long as I had adequate SPF.




8. Singing in public. I sing in the shower, car, Brody's bedroom. Why not public? Sure, I will most definitely probably be intoxicated at a karaoke bar, but there you go. I will hopefully be dressed.


9. Contemplate part-time work. Not real part-time work, but a 4 days a week, resulting in a 3 day weekend. .80 time, specifically. I talked to my bosses about it today. They have no problem if I want to do it. I don't actually want the concomitant 20% pay cut, however, but if no. 3 above works out, maybe I can do it. Target date, if it's viable, is July 1, 2010 (new fiscal year).


10. Plan an extraordinary 40th birthday. It's hard to believe, but there are only 358 days until I turn 40. I have 40 before 40 to do (posts coming later), and some kind of awe-inspiring something to execute, and a grand slam party to plan.

What did you do well this year? What do you look forward to accomplishing in 2010, and why?

PS. I have anon comments turned on.


PpS. Happy New Year

"We will open the book. Its pages are blank.
We are going to put words on them ourselves.
The book is called Opportunity and
its first chapter is New Year's Day.”
~Edith Lovejoy Pierce~

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas recap

I had a wonderful birthday, a fun Christmas, and a relaxing, nap-filled weekend.

This is how Brody rolls on Christmas eve, when we have to run out to the grocery store.

Naturally, he became hungry while in the produce department, so we engaged in the traditional banana-eating-grocery-store-experience.


It secretly delighted me that he is this way. He made tens of people smile on Christmas eve just by being himself. I love this boy.
We left out cookies, milk, and carrots. The cookies had a few bites taken out of them, Santa drank all of the milk, and Santa took the carrots for Rudolph and Comet (the only reindeer Brody designated as being worthy recipients of said carrots).
I was going to film his reaction to Christmas morning. It was not to be for two reasons. First, he was crying because he wanted Santa to, in fact, still be there. He was sad Santa had already left. After recovering from that trauma, he decided that clothing is for chumps. Here is Christmas morning:
For the rest of the days, we did puttering. Not much. The house is a disaster area. It looks like we had a big party and opened a bunch of presents and did not clean up as much as we should have. Oh, wait.....
Even Brody seemed tired as he refused to leave the house on Saturday (or wear any clothes). He refused the carousel, the park, sledding, the library and the ice rink. Didn't want to go anywhere.
Sunday we napped.
At one point yesterday, Brody was sleeping in our bed with the dogs, Jeremy was watching football silently, and I passed out in Brody's race car bed.
And our dog, Kahlua, spooned Brody's new lacrosse stick.














Wednesday, December 23, 2009

39 and ripening

Today is my birthday.

I'm giving myself quotes:

Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. ~Samuel Ullman

You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair. ~Douglas MacArthur

It's sad to grow old, but nice to ripen. ~Brigitte Bardot

- Posted while lounging in bed using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Giddy-up

I'm tired. I stayed up until 2am making jewelry for Brody's daycare teachers and my co-workers. Thank God I work with mostly women; it's really helped lower the costs of my holiday gift-giving.



Speaking of my co-workers, look at what my office looked like Monday morning before Christmas.


What I love about these gifts is that we genuinely love each other and give these things out of caring, not obligation.


In other news, my 12 year old nephew babysat Brody on Saturday while we went to dinner with friends.


Curiously, that nephew was able to bring his 9 year old brother along.


Curiouser still, they both stayed overnight at our house, leaving my sister and brother-in-law child free for the night. How did that happen? It was quite ingenious, really.


All went well. The boys had a great time together. Brody behaved. I made pancakes the next morning. The boys watched TV. I love how the 9 year old w as actually discussing Tom & Jerry (cartoon) and discussing ways in which the cat could really improve his chances of getting the mouse, as if it was a serious, real thing.


On the drive back up to Marilyn's house, we had all 3 boys in the backseat. The 9 year old and Brody were . . . loud. Loud. Loud.

Probably not unreasonably loud, but loud enough that after telling Stevie and Brody for the 23rd time to stop or be quiet or use their inside voices, Jeremy looked at me and said,

"And you wanted more."

I replied,

"I wanted a girl."

The past tense here is fairly astonishing to me. And my ability to laugh sincerely about the idea.

Finally, on January 15, 2010, at this year's National Western Stock Show, one of the biggest events in our cow-town of Denver, on Shriner's Day at the Stock Show, in the middle of the big pro rodeo, a "fancy, white, Cinderella-style carriage with a team of horses" will come to the VIP seats that Jeremy, Brody and I will be sitting in.

The three of us will get into the fancy white carriage and be driven around by the team of horses, while the announcer explains to the packed arena what Shriner's Hospitals has done for Brody, and what it's meant for us.

Brody will officially be the poster child of Shriner's. And awesomeness.

And he will have an arena of people clapping for him.

I'm so excited I could spit. (I'm getting my cowboy on already).

Also excited about the notion of living out my long-buried girlhood Cinderella-carriage fantasy.

And yes, there is mutton bustin that night, but Brody is still too young.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Better

I'm feeling better. Got through the long day.

Jeremy got me flowers and a card. He never buys me flowers. Because they die. But he did that day and it meant a lot.

Then I was sitting in Brody's race car bed, and I got an idea. I asked him to say, "I love you, Grandpa Ed."

And he did.

And he giggled, and looked into a corner of the room and said, "Is dat yer daddy, mommy?"

I said yes.

It was better.

Monday, December 14, 2009

20 years ago

20 years ago....

I was 18 years old.

I was home on winter break.

I went to the mall with a friend and ate dinner.

I went to my sister Donna's house after the mall.

I listened to Donna answer the phone.

I listened to Donna say that mom just got home and found daddy on the floor of the kitchen and had called the ambulance.

I sat in the car trying to remember how to do CPR.

I walked into my house, and noticed the paramedics weren't doing anything, no rush, no urgency.

I remember our Christmas tree was up.

I remember my dad lying on the floor in the kitchen. Only our dog, Lucky, had been home with him.

I handed one of the medics one of the pieces of equipment he had left in our office.

I remember there was no autopsy because my dad's doctor was sure it was a heart attack.

I remember his stocking was hung up on the fireplace mantel, with all of ours.

I remember my brother in law Mark trying to hug me and I shrugged him off.

I remember not wanting to see my dad's body.

I remember it took a long time for the funeral home to get him.

I remember waking up the next day and being astonished that Good Morning America was on, and that the Detroit Free Press did not mention my dad dying.

I remember seeing him in the casket and thinking how artificial & still he was.

I remember my brother in law Sam, married to Donna, crying as much as the rest of us. And it was an odd comfort.

I remember learning how important and kind it was for my friends to come to the funeral. For me.

I remember being worried about what my brother Eric was doing, and how much I loved him for giving such a stirring and beautiful eulogy.

I remember Angie coming to the cemetery, and her crying when we each put a rose on top of the casket.

I remember how sunny and freezing it was, but I didn't feel cold.

I remember the weird gathering at some place that was catered after the funeral. I thought it was so strange. But now I see it was necessary.

I remember how hollow my 19th birthday was, but my friends Angie and Megan took me to Windsor, and gave me a Michigan State sweatshirt I still have.

I remember how fiercely my mom would hug me every time I left her presence, how often we all said "I love you" to each other.

I remember looking at his clothes in the closet, and seeing his things around the house, like his infinte number of reading glasses.

I remember taking one of his plaid flannel shirts, which I still have.

I remember kissing him goodnight the night before, on the back porch, while he watched TV. I remember I gave him a real hug and kiss, instead of the sullen perfunctory teenage "g'nite."

I remember.

And I wish.

I wish I wish I wish...

That he could know Brody, bevase those two would love each other.

That I had one more minute, one more conversation, one more hug.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Denver

Friday, December 11, 2009

Party at my house

Tomorrow evening is my unit's holiday party. It's an annual event, hosted at someone's house. I work with over 500 people in my agency, but our unit party is just for my cohorts, 10 of the awesomest people you'll ever want to meet, and their similarly situated spouses.

Last year was at our house, as is this year's. Potluck, and a wine contest: most original name, and most original label. (My original label entry and my original name entry). After dinner, we play Catch Phrase, girls vs. boys. It's wicked fun, especially after a few bottles of wine. And not just because the girls always win the game.

It's nice to host because Brody (aka, the life of the party) can be there, (he gave everyone hugs and kisses, two rounds, last year) and we do not have to drive home afterward. And because even after we consume about 10 bottles of wine, we, the hosts, get to keep the unopened 10 bottles of wine.

To give you an idea of the awesomeness that is my work life, I just sent this email to my co-workers, boss, and my boss's boss. My boss responded, and called the email "outstanding." Who says lawyers can't rap?

Tomorrow is our unit's sublime partay,
Which starts at 6 o'clock on South Estes Way.

Before you leave your home and brave the ice and snow,
Remember these rules, they will keep you in the know.

Our street is lovely, but a cul-de-sac
Meaning no plows ever & still snow-packed!

Our dogs and cat can't wait to see you at your ease,
Remember your Claritin, lest you start to sneeze.

The glasses are ready to hold all of your wine,
Maria's at our house now, making it shine.

Brody has a cough, but we think he is fine,
But take all your vitamins so you don't decline.

Dress is casual; yes, you can wear jeans.
If you get lost, our porch light will be green.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ho ho ho. . . I guess we can return fire to a direct hit.

Ah.... wisdom. I'm not sure exactly what lesson I should garner from this experience, but here it is. Maybe you can tell me.





We went to a Christmas party with Colorado Unlimbited.





Being the only child with a limb difference in our immediate set of friends and family, we wanted to go to this Christmas party so that Brody could see other children with limb differences. We wanted to go so we could see them too.





It was held at a swank place. Most of the other kids were older.





Brody's reaction? He was having a great time, and so were we, right up until the moment he asked the girl whose one arm was 50% shorter than the other: "Your arm breaked?"



As he continued to ask the other children for the next 3 hours.



"He's young." Jeremy stammered apologetically to the 10 year old girl.


God bless her, she responded to Brody with a genuine smile, "No, it's not broken. This is the way I was born."



Poised, obliging and kind. She had said that countless times in her life so far, but her smile was no less sincere.

"I have five fingers," he responded, holding up his four-fingered hand. Then he ran to play.


Most of the kids there had unilateral upper extremity limb differences. Growth stopped sometimes above the elbow, sometimes below the elbow. Sometimes a finger or two, sometimes not.

Brody stared at them just like countless other children stared at him.

And continued to ask, "Your arm broked?" "Your arm hadda owie?" as he walked around and played, ran and laughed with the children.

Then Santa came.

The real one.

The children sat around him, enthralled. I admit, I was enthralled too.

If ever I saw the real Santa, this man was him.

He asked each child to sit on his lap, even the teenagers, and asked them what they could do better, what they wanted for Christmas, and then gave them a gift. When Brody's name was called, he bravely went up, sat on Santa's lap, spoke with him, agreed to brush his teeth more, and requested "Toys."


One by one, the children went to Santa, and the room was hushed while we listened to each conversation. Of course, the kids could not open their gifts until everyone had one.

Which left a lot of down time after Brody had his turn on Santa's lap.

Which let Brody's mind wander back to arms, and so he asked me, while we observed another boy in Santa's lap, in full voice in the hushed room, "His arm broken?" No one reacted, except for my stomach clenching.

"SHHH!" Brody's mother yellpered into his ear (a yelling whisper, and I just invented the word). "No," she continued, "He was born that way. It's not an owie."

Satisfied, he quieted down.

We had a wonderful time. We found the kind of connection with other parents where you do not need to speak of the struggle, but just by their presence and smile and warm greeting, you receive comfort and hope and security.

We are still mortified, though.

And I think we are officially on both sides of the equation.

Leave it to Brody to open our eyes wider.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Direct hit

We are very close to our neighbors, living in a cul-de-sac as we do.

For example, we have neighbors who are around our age, who have a son who is 12. Ryan.

Ryan is the epitome of hip kid. He has many friends, including a few girlfriends, yet he helps us around our house, and plays with Brody. He actually gives Brody a lot of his toys that are too young for Ryan. Brody, in turn, idolizes Ryan.

Ryan came over Sunday to bring Brody a few "guys," and some other toys. We were in our living room, talking about everything.

Including phones. Ryan has a cell phone. Yes, it's for safety, but he also gets calls from girls.

We started discussing how much Brody plays on our iPhones, and how antiquated the iPhone will be by the time Brody starts middle school, and since Jeremy is a techno-geek, Brody would have the coolest, newest phone.

Then Ryan said, "I can totally see it now. The other kids will be making fun of Brody, then he'll walk in, and have this really cool phone, and the other kids will be like, 'Dude, you are so cool! I wanna see!'"

Ouch.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thankful


Thankful for Dr. Alan Beer, RIP, reproductive immunologist, without whom I would not have my beautiful, extraordinary son.


Thankful for Lovenox, a blood thinner, and steroids, and progesterone, and IVIG, all of which I am convinced helped Brody to grow better than he would have without them by stomping out my immune response to pregnancy and increasing blood flow to the placenta.


Thankful for every nurse and aide who was kind to us & cared for my boy throughout 14 surgeries in 3 years, and to every anesthesiologist who kept him breathing and asleep.


Thankful for Shriner's Hospitals, Salt Lake, who gave my son his thumbs, and helped his hands to function, especially Dr. Hutchinson, aka Hutch.


Thankful for my son's other Doctors, who have saved his life (& ours) a few times at Presbyterian St. Luke’s and Children’s Hospital Denver: Dr. Rothenberg, Dr. Kramer, Dr. Furness, Dr. Markson, Dr. Wilkinson, Dr. Ketch.


Thankful for antibiotics, especially Primsol, which for 2.5 years scared away any urinary tract infections that could have damaged my son's only kidney.


Thankful for my husband, who has cried with me when scared, made me laugh when sad, and loved me through it all. And who is cleaning our house right now.


Thankful for blogger, which allows me to write these posts.


Thankful for Homeaway, which has given my family the trip of our lifetime.


Thankful for my friends and family, who have waited with us, prayed with and for us, given us money, and made sure we know we are loved, all the while making me laugh.


Thankful for you, even if we haven't met (yet).

Monday, November 23, 2009

Update - Five Skies

Thank you to one and all who have participated. The response was amazing.

Including a co-worker I spoke to this morning about it, as we were discussing something else.

Thank you.

Care package en route. You can still donate. There are more families.

No tax deduction, but 100% of your money goes to support a family with a very sick child.







Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Inundated - let's help - Five Skies

I know a family who is going through a very very bad week with their son, who has a similar diagnosis to Brody, but who is sick, very sick, with many many more hospitalizations (think most of his life). His family is hanging on by a thread, to their sanity, and hope.

I just heard of another little boy, Dax, who is 2 and has only weeks to live, so his family and his neighborhood are decorating with Christmas lights early.

It's gotten to the point that I feel nauseous when I see these things. I think the nausea is telling me to get up and do something.

So, I'm doing this.

Five Skies is NOT in any way a 501(c)(3) foundation. It's not approved by the IRS. It's an idea.

But if I have to wait for the IRS to approve it, it'll be months, perhaps even a year.
If you have $5 or $6 or $2 to spare, please donate to help the families of these children.
There is nothing worse, nothing, than watching your child suffer.
I know money will not fix these children, but it might help ease the stress and terror of the family, maybe even just let them know that someone cares.
It won't count as a tax deduction, you are not giving to a nonprofit, but every dime you give will go to the family of a sick child.
I know no one has money to spare, so I understand. I just. . . I just cannot let this go anymore. It's not fair, it's not fair that these families are torn apart, that mothers cry for their sick child, that little brothers and little sisters grow up in hospitals. . . I'm so sick of it, and I'm getting angry, and I need to channel it to something positive.
To all who donate, you get a guaranteed accounting of where and to whom your money goes.
Special thanks to Sarah, who, days before she gave birth, provided the mock up graphic for Five Skies.






Monday, November 16, 2009

Weekend away & the first parent teacher conference

Vail.


If you take about three seconds to say that word, that would sum up our weekend in Vail.

Exhale.


Ski season starts on the 24th. This translates into hardly any people, and half off every restaurant in town.



I've said this to everyone else I've talked to about Vail, so I will record it here. The sidewalks are heated. As a result, even when snowing, the cobblestone streets are free of ice or snow. It is how I envision the North Pole.



Vail.



I got a massage, which was 30% off, and my neck and shoulders were in such a state that the woman climbed onto my back, put her knees in my bottom and worked out some knots. Of course, she only weighed 100 pounds or so, but um. . . let's just say I need to stretch more in future.



While in Vail, my friend told me of a tradition her mom did for her that I decided to do for Brody starting today. She bought each of her kids a Christmas ornament each year, and kept them with dated in boxes. When her child was grown, she gave them the ornaments for their tree. Heirlooms to start on your own tree. I thought that was lovely. I bought Brody an ornament: a star with a snowman wearing a cowboy hat. It's hanging off his rocking horse until we get the tree up.





When I arrived home, we built a snowman and sledded down our front lawn.



Please note that Brody is wearing his father's hat, and clutching his beloved snowball. He doesn't even get mad when you throw one back at him, unless it lands in his face.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~



This morning we attended the first parent teacher conference ever for Brody Alexander.



In sum, he's doing wonderfully well. He is a sweetheart, they say, and tries really hard. No worries on the speech/language/reading front, and none really on the motor skills, except that he is delayed.



Improving, however, which is what I have trained myself to hope for and expect. Like when he didn't walk until almost 24 months, I just kept looking to see whether he was improving on mobility.



I learned, however, that most kids his age put on their coats by themselves. Huh. Not having other children, I don't realize things that "most" other kids his age are able to do. Like, going to the bathroom themselves. Because they can, apparently, take down their own pants. Huh.



They told us about his writing. Lines are good, circles are good, spirals not so good, but "even with his handicap," he is about where he should be for a 3 year old.



Yeah, she said handicap. I didn't say anything. The woman is sweet, I really like her, and I just have to get over my aversion to certain words. They don't treat him differently, it is just a word.



I tried to channel Sarah's mom. I actually thought, "What would Sarah's mom do?" The answer: let this one go for goodness sake.



We asked about socializing. They say he is shy in bigger groups, but with 8 or so, he is happy to participate.



We asked about friends. They say he gets along really well with everyone.



We asked about his difference and how the other kids view him. Bullying and teasing is our biggest fear in school. They say the other kids noticed his shorter arms at first, asked about them, and the teachers explained we are all different.



They say there is another kid who has a prosthetic leg. The leg was a topic that the kids initially discussed, the kids looked at the leg openly (the boy pulled his pant leg up so everyone could see), and that was the end of it.



Relief.



They explained that, really, everyone just accepts everyone else, and it's not a "thing." They said if anything, the other kids want to help Brody do the things that he has trouble with, to the point that the teachers have to tell one girl to back off a bit so Brody could learn to do a new skill or two.



I think, at some point, helping can be patronizing ("oh, look, you couldn't possibly do that, let me do that for you") but at this point, when a 4 year old girl wants to help a 3 year old boy work a pair of scissors, it's just sweet.



I asked them if they believed Brody knew he had different hands, because he insists to me that he has 10 fingers. I'm just fascinated by Brody and what he perceives and understands. It doesn't matter really, but I'm curious. The answer is, we do not know, but it appears not. At least, not that he can verbalize.



The teachers were sort of upset that they had not realized all of the times that they say things like "Ok, hold up your fingers, count to ten." For the record, Brody believed he had 10 fingers before he started there, but the preschool is now aware and will address if necessary. I told them we do not care if he thinks he has 8 or 10 or 20 fingers, really. Again, I'm curious.

Goals for the next few weeks: have him write and recognize the letter B, improve scissor usage, learn to put on coat by himself.

I missed him like crazy. His smile when he saw me reached all the way into his eyes and submerged his whole face. "I love you, mommy," and sounded almost shy while he squeezed me in a hug.

Exhale.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Brodyisms

Jeremy walked into the room, wearing a muscle shirt.

Brody: Daddy, you look like a girl.

Jeremy: I look like a girl?

Brody (giggling): Yeah, daddy, dats a girl shirt.

***********************************

Putting Brody into the car. He notices the gas tank cover.

Brody: Dats a square mommy.

Me: Yes, it is.

Brody: See dat mommy? Say "skw."

Me: Skw.

Brody: Now say "air."

Me: Air.

Brody: Now say "square."

Me: Square.

Brody: Good job, mommy. You say dat perfeckly.

Me: What shape is mommy?

Brody: A . . . rectangle!

Me: Hmm. . . a rectangle. That's good.

Brody: My head is a circle.

***********************************

We play hide and seek, and family wrestle, most nights in our bed or Brody's bed. Brody is the worst hider in all history. He giggles, he moves, he's loud, half of my body can be sticking out and he thinks we are hidden completely under the blanket, he falls for every trick (Where are you Brody? I have a toy for you? "I'm here!!!").

Last night, Brody and I were hiding under a blanket in his bed. Jeremy was supposed to "find" us. Instead, he came into the room, wearing a sheet and a gas mask (I have no idea). Brody became TERR.I.FIED.

Jeremy instantly stopped and said, over and over while hugging Brody, "It's just me, Brody, it's just daddy."

In the 10 or so hours since then, Brody has taken to wearing his knight helmet, "scaring" me or Jeremy, then removing his helmet, and saying, "It's just me, mommy, it's just me."

When he asks us if he scared us, if we say no, he says, "A little bit?" hopefully, until we answer yes.

***********************************

Since making jewelry yesterday, I had my supplies out.

Turns out, Brody loves making jewelry.

It's a little hard because the wire is thick as thread, but I found some plastic beads.

He loves the jewelry. He kicked me out of my chair at the jewelry desk.

Then he said, "I have to make joowee mommy, it's my work. Dis my job."

Is it really child labor if it is also occupational therapy for the child?

***********************************

The day of me was lovely. Didn't nap, didn't overeat. Watched Dial M for Murder, The Maltese Falcon, and made lots of jewelry, cleaned and made dinner. I could do that every day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Social experiment update

She paid.

The Craigslist woman.

And she sent an email thanking me for the 3 baby frames I left (new, unopened, unused) on top of the changing table.

I actually had a friend email me about whether she paid or not. It seemed like a lot hinged on this stranger's conduct. I think we are all a lot more cynical than we realized.

Other news?

Yesterday I sent Brody's daycare teachers a bouquet of chocolate covered strawberries. When I picked him up last night, she said they cried when they got it. See? We are all apparently
surprised at kindnesses. What does that say?

Today they did the first transfer from preschool (who also loves that daycare now) to the daycare. They said Brody was not happy, because of course, Miss Melody did not pick him up. Miss Melody is Brody's teacher and, apparently in his mind, girlfriend. He loves her and has told me for three days that SHE was going to pick him up from the preschool.

I'm the recipient of a 2.5% paycut starting next year. But at least I have a job. I'll deal with that later. 2.5% is not that much. Hopefully we won't notice.

I'm trying to get my 3 sisters to start an Etsy shop with me. One makes beaded jewelry (like me), one makes silver and gem encrusted jewelry, and one paints and sketches. All beautiful.

I'm going to Vail for the weekend with a good friend. It's not open for skiing yet, so we got a ridiculous deal at a place that, a week later, I could not afford an hour in, let alone a night. No skiing. Just. . . being. And perhaps a cocktail or two. She's getting a massage. I'm reading and napping. What am I reading? This book. Megan is my best friend and a beautiful writer and author. Josh is her husband. His book is extraordinary.

Tomorrow is a day of me, at home, for Veteran's day. I'm making jewelry all day in an effort to prepare for a jewelry show on Friday. Here's hoping for productivity.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Looking up and up and up

Grocery shopping Saturday:


I walked into Brody's daycare Thursday night.

"You," she said. "You, I need to talk to you."

"Yes?"

"Kim texted me right after you talked to her. We decided that is just unacceptable. Brody will not be leaving us. We love him too much. He can't leave. We'll pick him up."

"What?"

"We'll do it. Just give us directions, and we'll give you the names of people who will do the picking up, and that's that."

I got teary eyed right then and there.

How much extra each week?

Nothing extra.

Starts tomorrow.

In other news, I'm doing a social experiment.

I'm selling our changing table and diaper champ on Craigslist.

A woman wanted to pick them up today, during the day. When we are not home.

I left them outside, along with some baby-themed picture frames we never opened. Asked her to put the money for the items in our mail slot.

This is completely contrary to my lawyerly nature, and general cynicism.

Even if she doesn't leave the money, I do not believe I will be upset. If she needs them that badly, it's not the end of the world.

But seriously, a few years ago, I never, ever, would have done this sort of thing. Honor system with a stranger?

I think I'm mellowing.
Finally, is it me?
Or are sunsets getting prettier?
Behind our house this weekend:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Things are looking up

It's been a difficult few weeks. I decided to give up fighting it all.

Today Brody again missed preschool. I told the preschool the truth: we are having transportation issues. We can't pick him up to take him to daycare so he doesn't go and that we are looking at other daycares.

The administrator was so nice. She said she knew of one, the one we had looked at. I said we had looked at that one, but it wasn't as good as our current daycare, but we were probably going to switch anyway. She said she goes to school with the director of the possible new daycare, and she knows, and she is making dramatic changes over there. That made me feel better.

Then I called our current daycare. I said we might have to give notice of leaving, and explained the reasons why. I told the director we were heartbroken at the idea of Brody leaving because we love them. She said she is heartbroken too. I asked if she knew of anyone who could do the transporting twice a week? She is checking it out.

That made me feel better, too.

Jeremy got his license in the mail. And then he got another license in the mail. Thanks DMV. Is that an admission that the cancellation was wrong?

Brody had his 3 year well-check visit at the pediatrician yesterday. I brought him to my office first, and he was in rare form. Dressed as Spiderman, shooting webs at my co-workers, hugging my co-workers, it was fun. Then at the pediatrician, we had a surprise waiting.

Apparently, our pediatrician had a stash of H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines. They hold them for the high risk of the high risk population. Being 3 is one thing, being 3 with only one kidney is entirely another. So we got the vaccinations, and I cannot tell how you relieving it is. We have to get the booster in a month.

He also checked Brody's blood pressure. High blood pressure damages kidneys. Brody has never had it, but it needs to be monitored. Brody would not stay still enough. But we got a pretty good reading, and it was good.

But then the doc said that the "poor man's" measure of kidney function is really whether a child is growing.

And Brody is growing.

Three inches and six pounds in one year.

He is in the 40th% for weight (he has never been that high) and the 75th% for height. Estimating he will be 6ft, 1in when he is an adult!!!!!

It was a very good day.

I took a leap of faith and booked this apartment in Paris for our trip in May. The owner, Isabelle, was lovely at the start of our email correspondence, but then I told her about how we won the contest. She read the press release about Brody and our struggles thus far. She wrote back and revealed that her sister had kidney problems until she was 13, and got a new one. She said they spent the majority of those 13 years in hospitals, so she knows how difficult it is. I already liked her from our emails, but now I know this was THE apartment we are meant to rent. And her mom lives 50 yards from the apartment. I cannot wait to meet her as well.

That made me feel much better.

Then this morning, Brody climbed into our bed. It was 5:30am. I told him it was still the middle of the night and he had to sleep. Because it feels like the middle of the night at 5:30am.

He was quiet for about 2 seconds, then started giggling.

What are you doing, Brody?

(giggling) I'm tickling myself.

Tickling yourself?

(giggling still more) Yeah, in my armpit.

I looked and in the pre-dawn light, he had one arm raised over his head, and he was, in fact, tickling his own armpit.

That made me feel the best of all.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Guilty. Liable. Wrong. Felonious. Culpable.

These words are all synonyms.

And describe how I feel quite perfectly at the moment.

It's been two weeks since we did a Tuesday or Thursday transfer from preschool to daycare.

I did one today.

Brody was at first so happy to see me. Grins. Dimples dazzling. Running into my arms.

"Hi mommy!" squishing hugs.

"Mommy, I wanna go home."

I know, Brody. I wanna go home too. But you get to go to [name of daycare] today! And see all your friends!

Crumpled face. Tears. Sobbing.

"Mommy, I wanna go home!"

"I don't wanna go to school. Peez mommy, peez I want go home!"

My heart feels like his face.

Crumpled.

I tried bribery.

I'll bring you a treat, Brody.

"Mommy, I wanna go home. Peez I can go home? Peez?!?!"

I hugged him a lot between the preschool, the car, the daycare.

"Daddy misses me, mommy. Peez no school today?"

Daddy does miss you. I miss you too, baby, but we have to take you to school because mommy and daddy have to go to work. I'm sorry sweetie. I'm so sorry. All your friends miss you too, sweetie. Like Monty, Dylan, Zoe, Ryan, Noah. They all are waiting for you at [daycare].

Hugging me fiercely, muffled into my hair, I hear, "I wanna be wis you, mommy."

I can't do this anymore. He loves his daycare. He truly does, and the teachers adore him. We walked in and they got his naptime mat and blankie ready. He leaves my arms calmly and passes right out on his mat, with his blankie on him.

But I seriously can't do this.

He only has problems when I do the transfer from preschool to daycare. It is too much to ask of him to be okay with seeing me, in the middle of the day, and have me leave him twice.

We looked at the other possible daycare this morning, before this episode.

It's not as nice as the one we have. It's in a church, which is not our church, but they seemed nice. A few of the kids he has known from other daycares when he was little little. The kids were happy and orderly. Teachers normal. Outside play area was awesome. Licensed by the state; I've seen the inspection reports, it's all okay.

And they would pick him up from preschool and take him, with his classmates, to that daycare. For $120 less a month. And it's 10 minutes closer to our house.

But I can tell it's not as good a daycare as the one we have. The facility, for one, is just a big room that is "multi-use." No actual rooms divided by age. Smaller than the center we're at, seemingly less organized. Less professional.

And they said, "So you said he has some disabilities?" Um.... no. I said he has a limb difference. That made me not like them, but it IS a fairly innocent, and relevant, question. But it got my hackles up.

But I can't repeat today. I can't do that to him. It's demanding too much of my little boy. And I will just come to work one day and quit if we don't figure this out soon.

And if we do have a pay cut, I may reduce my hours even more anyway and go to some kind of part-time schedule. One of my co-workers does that; she works 4 days a week; a 20% pay cut.

But it would be so nice to have more time with him.

My poor baby. I'm a terrible mother.

Monday, November 2, 2009

It might just be genetic? Oma-ism. . .



I sent this email to my mom, Brody's Oma:

Last night we were getting B ready for bed in his room. He was putting his toys away, and suddenly found his toy phone. He said very seriously, "I gotta make a call. I gotta call Oma."
Then he "called" you, and told you he was going to be Spiderman for Halloween. :-)


Then my mom emailed me back:

How cute, I take this just like a real call. I told him that his costume is very cute (I saw the photo) and that Spiderman is one of my very favorite costumes because he is a very good Super Hero.
Love you,Mom

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Where have I been?

The run down since the last post, in more or less chronological order of events that have taken place in the last 10 days.

I'm driving to work. My husband has left 30 mins before me for work. As I'm driving, I see him walking on the side of the road.

Strange.

I pull over.

His rental car, the one he had since his other car was getting repaired from hail damage ($500 deductible) is crunched in the front.

Yes, he has rearended someone, who rearended someone.

And forgotten his wallet and phone at home.

Cop runs his license.

My husband's license is cancelled.

Not suspended.

Cancelled.

Because he paid a ticket late 2 years ago.

It was cancelled for 2 years, even though he was rear-ended 8 months ago. And pulled over and given a warning for failure to stop completely 1 year ago. Is no one running his license?

Then again, he disclaimed all knowledge of his failure to pay that original ticket timely (and all memory of receiving the original ticket).

Which I doubt.

It was a . . . . . tense week in our household.

Because I wanted to murder him.

We were then down to 1 car, because of course, the police impound and tow the rental car ($200) and we pay another deductible ($500).

And then he had no license so we had to pay ($95) to have him take a written and driving test.

See what I mean about tense?

He passed the written test, but the next available driving test was 3 weeks away.

And I was scheduled to go out of town twice for work within that time period, that same time period my husband had to work, drop Brody off to and from daycare.

That same time period during which my husband had as much legal right to drive a car by himself as my 3 year old did.

Like I said, tense.

Finally, he listens to me and we hire a private driving school that will give him the ($50) test. He passes.

We go back to the DMV to have his picture taken ($24).

We still have one car, because the hail damage repair place has not called us.

This is the same month we paid our deductible ($500) to install a new roof on our house.

Then the one car we did have decided to be difficult, and flashed a light that said:

check engine

check engine

And, $832.40 later, the check engine light is off.

In the meantime, Brody has missed 4 days of preschool because with one car, and our current ridiculous level of busy-ness at our respective jobs, we can neither wait until 8:15am in the morning to drop him off nor pick him up at 11:15am to transfer him to daycare.

Now we are looking at switching daycares from one that will not transport him to and from preschool to one that does. The problem? I love the daycare we have. I love them. Brody struts with confidence into and out of that place, and gives hugs to the teachers. He talks about his teachers with us and is always smiling and squealing while there.

Then my car's rear brake light stopped working on one side.

Which I discovered the day before I find out that I am being furloughed (no pay) for 3 days before the end of this calendar year.

Which is better than being laid off.

Which I know intellectually.

But then another friend of mine who works for the same employer, more or less, says she heard in addition to that, They are contemplating 8 more furlough days starting in January 2010, along with a permanent 2% reduction in pay.

Again. We are better off than many many people.

But if I have to lose any more money to stupidity, bad luck, or this economy,

I will cry.

By the way, we got over a foot of snow yesterday and today in our yard.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ideas for Five Skies

Remember 234 years ago when I announced my desire to start a non-profit? Well, I'm filling out paperwork for the IRS to complete that process.

But part of that process involves a vision for Five Skies.

My vision was to help families who have chronically ill children in and out of the hospital.

How?

I'd like ideas.

Maid service?

Sitting with your child while you get some needed rest or away time? It's draining being a caregiver.

Gifts for siblings?

A masseuse to come to the hospital to give you a neck and shoulder rub to try to heal from those awful, low down dirty parent "beds"?

Visa gift cards for food and gas and other essentials?

Food baskets?

What does a family need when their child is in and out of hospitals repeatedly? (Besides answers and solutions to the obvious).

I permit anonymous comments here. Please post some ideas.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Brodyisms

I cannot believe it's Friday again. It's been a helluva week. A HELLuva week. But that's neither here nor there. Or it's everywhere, but I'm not blogging about it just yet. Nothing extremely bad, but some incredible frustration.

There are some very good, very good parts of this week.

Edited to add one more Brodyism that Sarah just reminded me about:

I went to pick up B from daycare the other day. He was about to go potty. He asked me to come with him, so I followed. In the potty room were two toilets, no stalls, with stepstools. And three girls around Brody's age. Two girls on the toilets, pants pulled down, skirts hiked up, going potty. The door to the hallway was open, and the teacher(s) at least one) were in eyesight of the kids at all times. Then the girls jumped off the potties, and Brody and the other girl went. The first two kids were now washing their hands in the sinks.

I'm sitting here stunned that we can all see (most) of each other's potty parts, and Brody and the girls (and eventually the two other boys who had to pee) could not care one whit. They were just going potty, talking to me about Santa Claus and snow, and they are all half-nekkid.

On the weekends, and most nights, Brody will say, out of the blue, "I wanna be nay-kid, mommy" and lift up his arms for me to disrobe him.

One day recently, the DirectTV repairman was on his way to our house. He had just called to confirm. Brody says, "I wanna be nay-kid now." I say, "Sorry, Brody, we have to wait. The TV guy is coming to fix the TV. We have to wear clothes."

B: (pouting with the big lower lip, looking down): I wanna be naykid.

He had to wait until the TV guy left.

**********************************************

Tuesday morning, 5am, Brody walks into our bedroom.

B: Mommy, I hadda bad dweem.

Me: It's okay, sweetie. I'm here. Wanna sleep with us?

B: Yeah.

B climbs on the bed, J and I snuggle him in between us. He immediately falls asleep. I hear his even breathing, then I fall asleep. Ten minutes later, I wake up to shaking.

I open my eyes. Brody's eyes are closed, and he is on his back. Giggling. A silent, whole-body-moving, giggle. Then, with his eyes still closed, and still smiling,

B: I like dat.

More giggling. Eyes still closed. Then he stops smiling and giggling and rolls over, presumably to have another dream.

***************************************

Ninety minutes later, same morning.

I wake up to a softly whispering Brody. I look at him. He's laying on his back, eyes open, doing what appears to be "itsy bitsy spider" with his hands, and whispering something while looking out the window.

Me: What are you saying, Brody?

B: I'm just counting da twees.


**************************************

This morning. I am finishing wetting down his hair so it doesn't stick straight up. He says,

B: You pretty, mommy.

Me: Thank you, monkey. And you are beautiful.

B: No, I'm handsome.

Me: Yes, you are handsome. And beautiful, too!

We drive to daycare. While getting him out of the car, I can't help but say:

Me: Who's handsome?

B: (smiling) I am.

Me: Who's beautiful?

B: I am. then

B: Who's pretty?

Me: (shocked and smiling) I am.


**************************************

Hope everyone has a happy and safe weekend.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Universe goes to happy hour

Friday night I had cocktails with 3 women I've known for 25 years. Well, one of them I've known since kindergarten which is, ahem, a bit longer than 25 years. The other two, I've known since the mid-80's when we all went to high school together. And I hadn't talked to them for 20 years.

Remember the movie Grosse Pointe Blank? That's where we went to high school.

It was a local "mini-reunion" at a bar.

We had tried for months to schedule this meeting. Literally finding holes in our schedules over a period of 6 months. Finally someone wrote that we just had to pick a date months in the future and just go.

So October 9 it was.

I was not what you would call friends with two of the women in high school. I was on the tennis team with one, and sort of just knew the other one by name. But never ate lunch with them or went out to parties with them.

Strange, then, what happened 3 days ago. They look fantastic, and essentially just like they did, with better hair and clothes. I will say that I look pretty much the same, minus the spiral perm and bangs, as I did then.

It was surreal. We talked about leaving Michigan, and how we wended our way to Colorado. We talked about people we grew up with, our teachers, our current lives and our children.

But you know what we bonded over?

Fertility issues.

How is it that after 20 years of not speaking that within 60 minutes of re-meeting, we are talking about someone's stroke after doing IVF, my 4 miscarriages, another's blood clot and another's ectopic pregnancy?

Sure, the second round of drinks helped.

But I was struck by how much we were able to connect. It was like worlds colliding at first, seeing these two women that I hadn't seen since the first George Bush was president and East Germany was still a country.

As we talked, the worlds stopped colliding and started meshing. The 4 girls from 1989 were as familiar as the street I grew up on but, unlike that street, those girls with big hair and bigger dreams had morphed into accomplished, wise, secure women with love and loss and tragedy and triumph within and behind us.

The ease with which we spoke of these things surprised me endlessly.

I told my husband I'd be home at 7pm. He texted me at 8pm wondering if I was okay.

Really, though, the point of this is not that, but this other.

One woman, let's call her New Mom, divulged that she had tried to conceive for 10 years (starting in her 20s), and suffered a stroke during an unsuccessful round of IVF. She just adopted her daughter and is blissfully happy.

Another woman, let's call her Zahara, revealed that she was adopted. We had no idea in high school. She explained that she loved her family and never felt different because of the way she came into their lives.

Then my friend, let's call her Lynn, recently suffered her third pregnancy loss, an ectopic pregnancy after the 2nd round of IUI, and lost one of her fallopian tubes (but thankfully not her life).

Lynn is the friend with whom I am still in regular, close contact. She is also in the middle of hell, and attempting to figure out what to do, and when to do whatever it is she is going to do, and how to proceed in general while not entirely breaking down. Lynn is in limbo: completing another round of IUI while contemplating maybe, but not really, but maybe adoption.

Before the happy hour Friday, there were supposed to be 6 of us: another woman, who has 2 or 3 kids, and a man, who just had his first child with his wife. They both cancelled at the last minute. We debated about still going and decided that we really had no good reason to cancel.

But I think those cancellations enabled the discussion to be about building families.

There we were, four women who had not seen each other in 20 years and had never shared a drink or a meal. And New Mom is talking about how happy she is with her new daughter and how they were matched within 3 months. And Zahara is talking about how wonderful it was to grow up adopted. And I looked at Lynn at one point, Lynn who is contemplating the next step if the IUIs do not work, Lynn who was listening to all of this information.

And I thought, once again, that the universe is not subtle at all.

And I love that about you, Universe.

I do not know what the outcome will be for Lynn, or whether she will adopt or conceive biological children. Or both. But I do know that New Mom is going to forward her adoption agency info to Lynn.

What I hope and pray for is that this time next year, Lynn is able to hold her child in her arms.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Oma's birthday and our Homeaway from home



It's my mom's birthday today. Again. I love that. Happy 71st, mutti!

When we were talking this morning, she said "I won't see you again until next year." She lives about 12 hours drive south of us.

I said, "Why don't we meet in the middle?"

And then I went on Homeaway, and found a few properties that would accomodate our family, my Colorado sister and her family, and my mom and stepdad. If we rent a house, we could still cook Thanksgiving dinner, and have the comforts of home! But at half the drive time and no airline chaos.

I'm going to start suggesting this for all of my people I want to see more. Although I think it would only really work if drive time between was 12 hours or less.
Let's meet halfway via Homeaway.

And no, Homeaway did not ask me to do this. And I really only thought of it because, well, I think about Homeaway every day because I like to ponder the trip that we won from Homeaway.

But seriously, this is a good idea, if I do say so myself. Updates will follow.

And for no particular reason, this is Brody, after his first trip to an actual barber shop instead of a kiddie salon. He is pouting because he was mad I had not shown him the photograph yet.



Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Breaking my heart

You may recall we have B in preschool Tues/Thurs in the morning, then at 11:30 we drive him to his daycare.

For the record, he seems very happy when we pick him up.

But when I drop him off, it breaks my heart and maybe his too.

Today, as we are driving from the preschool to the daycare, we had this conversation:

Me: are you happy?
B: no.
Me: why not, sweetie?
B: (quietly but with no emotion) because I just wanna go home.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

No pressure, Brody, but. . .

Dear Brody,

Just because you are differently limbed, don't think we are not expecting you to get a scholarship to college for basketball.

Love,
Mommy & Daddy

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The origins of things: Brodyism

Brody has lately started asking "who got me this?" For example, when we are playing basketball, he'll say "Who got me da basketball hoop?" And I'll reply. "Who got me da tennis racket?" "Who got me da motorcycle?"

If I don't remember who gave what, I'll just say, "Mommy and daddy." Yeah, I'm taking credit for certain things.

This morning, Brody woke me up. We went into the bathroom, and I took off his overnight pull-up.

B: Mommy, you hurt my penis. (gets onto the potty)

Me: I'm sorry, sweetie. Are you okay? (Even though I know I didn't hurt his penis. See how I validate?)

B: Yeah. (Starting to go to the bathroom) Who got me my penis?

Me: Hmm. . . . um. . . . you were born with it.

B: I was born wis it? Who got me it? Who got me my penis?

Me: Ummmm. . . . (thinking thinking thinking. . . DNA!) Mommy and daddy gave it to you.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wicked cool advice for parents of children with differences

You know what I mean. Yes, we are all different, thank god, but I mean visible differences. Stand out and get stared at differences.

In case the 30 or so readers a day did not read the extraordinary comments from my friend Sarah, I'm reprinting it here.

Honestly, Sarah, I got chills when I read this. Your mom is brilliant and you are a treasure. Thank you for sharing this information and, in case anyone ever googles "what to do when people stare at your child's difference," here is the best answer I've seen from a woman of strength and wisdom:

I have a cleft palate and while it is noticeable now, it was MUCH more noticeable as a child. Especially right after surgeries (had tons of them.) When kids stared, my mom often kindly asked them if they had a question. If they said yes, she asked them about what – never assuming it was my lip. Most of the questions (whether prompted by my mom or not) went something like, “What happened to her?” or “What’s wrong with her lip?” or “Why does she talk funny?” All of these questions could have frozen both of us – certainly shy little me. My mom would patiently explain that I had been born without a lip and that marvelous doctors had been able to give me one --- and didn’t they do an AMAZING job? She’d make it sound so lucky and exciting. Her approach did several things for me: 1) gave me words to one day answer the questions myself, 2) respected the normal curiosity of other children and broke the ice for us to play, and 3) made it a not shameful experience – no reason not to answer questions because my lip IS different but it’s not THAT big of a deal. Differentness is interesting and, thank God, exists in all of us. Brody’s thumbs are nothing short of wicked cool miracles (hard fought for with your whole self, but miracles, nonetheless.) We didn’t choose to be part of these wicked cool miracles but I sure am glad we get to.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Feeling better

I had a bit of a breakdown. Some old problems reared their heads. But I'm feeling better now. One of the keys is to remember to be grateful.

I had lunch on Sunday with two friends, one of whom just had her third miscarriage, an ectopic requiring emergency, life-saving surgery, and one of whom is pregnant with her second child.

In some ways it felt like a UN summit. But really, because of their mutual courage and bravery and willingness to talk about that which most would leave un-addressed, it was one of the better times I've shared with them.

And now, I have bloggy writer's block.

Here's a topic I started long ago.

Brody and I were in the bread aisle at the grocery store.

A boy, age approximately 11, and his mother were also in the bread aisle.

Brody eating rice krispie treat. Boy staring.

Staring.

At Brody's hands.

He nudges his mother, who looks, becomes horrified at her own son, whispers angrily in his ear to stop staring.

But mom, boy says.

He still stares.

I have to admit, I was angry at first.

But as the mother's distress at her son's behavior grew, I felt sympathy for her, and empathy. He wouldn't stop staring.

It became amusing. His mother was mortified. Our eyes met, and I half-smiled.

I made sure Brody hadn't noticed. He ignored them.

So did I.

But what to do about staring people? He looks different.

Ignoring is my favorite option.

Then a boy at Brody's daycare, age 5 or 6, pointed his middle finger at Brody as we walked by to go to our car. Brody's middle finger is his pointer finger. It was such a weird gesture that I thought it was directed at Brody's different-ness. But maybe I'm paranoid. I can't tell if it was malicious or random or neither or both.

Again, Brody didn't notice or care.

I think I might one of these times though.

Thoughts?

Friday, September 18, 2009

I'd bungle it all if I could

Do you ever just feel completely inept and overwhelmed at everything you do?

So far this week, I've forgotten my ATM/debit in the ATM machine, and didn't realize it until 30 minutes later. After the machine had taken it.

I've lost tickets to the Thomas the Train exhibit at the Railroad Museum for September 27. They arrived in the mail, and I opened them. I cannot find them anymore.

This morning, I parked in front of the dentist's office, locked my car and plugged the meter. Then realized my keys were still in the ignition. As a result, in between a cleaning and getting 4 fillings from the 1980's replaced, I got to pay $155 for someone to jimmy my car door open. And that occurred in front of a construction crew so the embarassment was a nice little addition.

Then the shot didn't work the first time, which I found out during the first drilling.

I am trying to look on the positive side.

I did, after all, not need 2 crowns on my teeth. I did, after all, have exactly enough cash left to find the one last parking spot for work. I did, after all, wake up this morning.

Good god I'm tired though.

To cheer myself up for the weekend, two conversations with Brody in the last 24 hours:

Setting: Brody and I are walking out of daycare.
B: Mommy, I yike yer boobies.
Me: Thanks, Brody.
B (shaking his head and furrowing his brow): I'm not gonna eat dem dough. Dat's not nice.
Me: Thank you, Brody. You're right. We don't eat body parts.

Setting: This morning, as I get out of the shower, I overhear the boys in the living room. Brody is naked from the waist down (he resists diapers and underwear in the morning).

Brody: Daddy, I only have one butt.
Jeremy: Yup, only one.
Brody: Can you see it daddy?
Jeremy: Yes, I can see it.
Brody (in a sad sigh): I can't see it.

Once I regain feeling in my lips, tongue and cheek, I might go home early and make Brody take a nap with me.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

A potential mousepad. Kodak Gallery is having buy one get one free of anything today and tomorrow, including mousepads and mugs and calendars and photobooks.

And 20 free prints for new people, and 10 cent prints for us old ones.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Two-topic Monday

Topic no. 1. Growth. Or something.

I gave away all of my maternity clothes and most of Brody's baby clothes yesterday.

It hurts to even write those words.

A woman at work sent an email asking for maternity clothes donations for pregnant teenagers. I replied. We arranged for her to pick them up. Then I asked if they needed baby clothes too. She replied even faster and said "Yes!"

I had no idea we had so much maternity and baby clothing in our house. Granted, a lot of it was inherited from girlfriends who recycled their clothes to me. But still.

A few pieces even had the price tags still on because I never got to wear them. I was expecting to be pregnant for 2 more months, after all.

It was more difficult than I thought. I held each piece and remembered how happy I was to be finally buying maternity clothes. It was like I was buying maternity clothes for all 4 pregnancies, instead of just the one.

I saved a few of Brody's clothes. A few pieces that I especially loved, including the preemie outfit with the bears on the feet that was too big for him. It still has formula stains on it. I held it up for Jeremy and asked him if Brody was ever really that small? He smiled this sad little half-smile and shook his head.

Once the items were collected in one spot, we had seven large storage crates empty and ready to be filled up again, and ten bags of clothing. I even found a few pregnancy books and the free diaper bag they gave me at the hospital. I put the books in the bag and set them all out.

Surveying the carnage, Jeremy said, "I can see why we have no money."

It made me laugh.

But I was letting go of a lot. I have let go of a lot.

I gently saved these clothes because I just assumed I would need them again.

I stood over them, and instead of being bitter and sad, I forced myself to send wishes with them. I wished that the girls who wear the clothes have enough love, support and money to raise their children. I wished them years of happiness, and health, and love. I wished the babies who will wear Brody's clothes love and health and light and safety.

We ran out to get brunch and then saw my co-worker - and one of the pregnant teens - in the car leaving with the clothes. They thanked us sweetly and profusely, which helped. I asked if they saw the pregnancy books in the diaper bag.

Coworker: "YES! She is reading one of them right now!"

at the same time, grinning pregnant teen: "Oh my gosh, thank you!"

I feel good to have done this.

Topic no. 2. Brodyism.

We are potty training.

sigh.

Frankly, I wouldn't mind if he stayed in diapers. I really would rather that than have to ask 1500 times "do you have to go potty?" then take him to do it.

Not to mention cleaning up accidents off our floor and carpet.

And potty training is of no interest to anyone except other parents, as it should be.

However, there is one point that is comical for all here.

When Brody uses the potty, he gets an M&M (or 5).

Sunday, we were driving to Jeremy's lacrosse game. Jeremy didn't feel well. We stopped on the way to the field for him to use the bathroom.

It was the 7-11 or the portapotty, so I convinced him that 7-11 would be infinitely the lesser evil.

He came back out to the car after.

"Did you go?" I asked.

sigh. "Yes," Jeremy replied, "I did."

Brody: (from the backseat) Daddy gets a em-a-em!!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Update to nerves

Remember the nerves post?

It was bad news at first.

We were sleepless in Denver.

He tried again. Re-submit. Re-create. Re-do.

We just got word.

It worked!

And the person is my husband.

Thank you, Universe!

Celebrate: Pictures & Brodyism

The setting and view from the covered picnic area:



Party at large:
Brody and me:

Enjoying pizza and garlic knots:


My mother, age 71. Not bad, eh?

Brodyism from the party:

Ducks: quack quack quack

Me: What do you think the ducks are talking about Brody?

Brody: I think they're saying, "Happy birthday to me!"

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Happy Birthday Brody

For some reason, it's hitting me now.

My baby is 3 years old. Three.

I'm not going to have any more babies, and the one I have, he's turning 3 today.

To my sparkling, darling Brody,

Today is the day we celebrate your arrival. Here are a few things you need to know. Or a few things I need to say.


You make me laugh every single day. Not just smile, not just laugh even, but belly laugh. Every single day. And the moment when I see in your twinkling eyes that I am not alone in my delight is my favorite part of the day.


I waited for you for what seemed like forever. And you are worth every second, every tear, every anxious sleepless night, every moment of despair when I wondered if we would ever meet.

When you were born, we were terrified for you. Everyone else was terrified for us. But you were completely unaffected by the turmoil. When the g-tube broke through your stomach causing emergency surgery, the doctors prepared us for the ensuing infection. You never got that infection. I came home from the hospital in a daze of heartache and worry, and I saw that your dad had written your moniker on the board we usually used for meal planning and phone messages. It said only two words: "Super Brody."


Those weeks in the NICU I remember wondering what your face would look like without the tubes crisscrossing your features. I was besotted when I could finally hold you. I think I stared at you for hours in those weeks, learning all I could from every movement you made.

I spent months imagining what you would look like when you smile. And then you smiled at me. And I felt my world shift.

I remember wondering how it would feel when you started to reach up your hands for me, to hear your voice say "mommy," to walk into my arms, to run into my hugs, to hear you say "I love you." And now I know. I know all of that and so much more. On Sunday I counted; you said, without any prompting, "I love you" to me five times.


You even say "Bless you, mommy," if you sneeze and I don't say "Bless you" to you fast enough.

To think I worried before I knew you that I would only be able to relate to a girl.


I know you get scared when you get hiccups because usually that means food is stuck in your little esophagus and you have to throw it up. If it's one of those times, we get a bowl and we wait and I rub your back. If it's just the regular hiccups, I tell you you're not going to throw up, and you believe me, without question, instantly. I know if I say "No owie" in the presence of a doctor, you know you will not be hurt by whatever the doctor wants to do to you and you relax. You trust me more than anyone on this earth.

I know you are scared of car washes and the big bad wolf. Although you insist you like car washes and the big bad wolf, when I ask you if you want to get the car washed, or read the book about the big bad wolf, you instantly say no.

I know your father and I are not good enough for you. But we try and we will continue to try to deserve you.


I know at one point we pondered steering you into loving soccer, because that would, we thought, be easier for you considering your arms, only to have you teach us that you could, in fact, play tennis.


And something you don't know is that when you played tennis with your cousin's racquet, on a Sunday afternoon, on a court at Conifer High School a few weeks ago, I started crying while I watched you, with your cousin tossing balls to you and you hitting them, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 times in a row. And that is the moment when I realized finally that you have no limits.


And I know you are going to get a brand new shiny tennis racquet of your very own tonight when you open your presents.

When people told me before I was a mother that having a child is a different kind of love, I rolled my eyes and thought they were mistaken and just maybe prone to exaggeration. Turns out, they were exactly right.

Your second birthday - when you turned 1 year old - was difficult for me in a strange way. Because I could not reconcile my love for you with the absolute terror of the day you were born, and the days and weeks that followed. Your third birthday - when you turned 2 years old - I was so proud you had learned to walk, and I didn't believe I could love you anymore.

Until the next day. And the next. When I did, unerringly, love you more.

And so, on your fourth birthday - when you turn three - I am in awe. You look more like a boy than a baby and, while growing up is the best and only thing a parent can hope for, it is also bittersweet because now that we are finally at the point of not knowing when or where or what the next surgery will be, I've noticed something.


I've noticed that while all of your 14 surgeries were happening, I've already had 3 whole years with you. Three years gone in the blink of an eye.



And according to our team of cognitive, speech and occupational therapists, you will be ready to start kindergarten in two years. How can that be when I only just met you?


It's still strange and new to me, being a mother; some days I look in the mirror and think, "You? You're a mother?" But as strange as being a mother is, being your mommy is more natural to me than breathing.


Was there a time I didn't know you? Were there things I had done in my life besides be yours? I know there were. I remember them.

And I've done some pretty spectacular things, Brody. I learned to drive a stick shift, I survived the death of my father and brother, I've fallen in love, I've won tennis tournaments, I watched the sun rise over the sea of Japan from the top of a mountain in Korea that I climbed in the dark, I've seen Boris Becker serve over 100 mph just feet from where I stood, I've sat on the back of a horse and jumped over fences taller than you, I passed the bar exam, I can use chopsticks the proper way, I've submitted a brief to the United States Supreme Court, I sat on Bill Clinton's campaign plane, I won a vacation to anywhere in the world, and I can order beer in five languages (French, German, Spanish, English and Hangul (Korean)).

But, compared to you, these things are all black and white. You, my love, you are yellow and green and blue and pink and red and purple and striped, bursting technicolor.

I remember when you were growing inside me. And I wasn't sure you were a boy, and so I called you BrodyZoe, just in case you were a girl. But how could I have not known you even then? It's amazing to me that I lived for 35 years without knowing your smiles, your voice, how sweetly you sing, how ticklish you are, how much you like to run in circles, how you like to jump up and down when you are happy, how loud you are, how much you drool, how dearly you adore a train named Thomas and a guy named Spiderman, how courageous you are, how your arms feel around my neck, how much you like to cuddle and hug and kiss, how selfless you are when you offer to share your food and your blankie with me, how your breath feels on my face when you wake me up in the mornings and how your lips feel on my skin.


How did I not know these things my whole life?

It seems like when you meet someone, you learn all about them and when you've learned a sufficient amount, then you fall in love. But with you, my son, I loved you before I ever saw you, and that multiplied a thousand-fold when I first glimpsed your wrinkly red face, and watched you pee on the nurses. At that exact moment, I was still trying to understand why your arms were bent inward and crooked. Yet that rounded arc of urine made me think you would be alright.


Super Brody.

I love learning about you as you reveal more of yourself. I'm even starting to like the color "lellow" as much as you do. I listen to the tales you weave while you play and I marvel at your imagination and intelligence. Your joy at the mere mention of rice krispie treats, seeing a rainbow or finding the moon in the sky reminds me to seize life, just like you, and not to take a single moment for granted.

I'm sorry, too, Brody. I'm sorry for the 14 times I've had to leave you in the operating room. I'm sorry for those times you begged me for food and I had to deny you, I'm sorry for those times you were still awake when they took you out of my arms, I'm sorry for all the times we didn't get you pain meds fast enough. I pray that those meds worked and make you forget those moments. And yet, even after 14 surgeries, you have never, not once, asked us why you had to wear casts, why you had 8 pins in your arms, why you had to have so many surgeries.

I'm sorry for all the times I have to leave you now, too. It shatters me the days when you cry big tears saying "Mommy, I want you," and I have to leave you to go to work. And even though I leave you, you forgive me and make my heart whole again every day when I pick you up, and your face splits into a grin and you sprint into my arms.

When I think of everything you had to endure to get here, and all you've had to endure to stay here, and how clever and loving and sparkly you are, I am. . . speechless. Your mother, who writes, talks and argues for a living... I do not know words to explain how extraordinary you are and how deeply we love you.

Thank you for choosing me and daddy.

You made my life come true.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A beautiful lesson

As the parent of a child with challenges, I was struck by the following clip I watched during Ted Kennedy's funeral. Ted Kennedy reminds me of my own father, the same hair, similar eyes and, apparently, the same unfailing belief in the ability to overcome.

The speaker is Ted Kennedy, Jr., whose leg was amputated at age 12 because of cancer. I love it because my dad told me the same thing when I was young, and I've already told Brody.

I can't figure out how to imbed the thing, so click here if you'd like to see it. It's about 90 seconds.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Kindness revealed

The woman who sent me the MAC makeup a few posts ago? This is her: Anonmom. And it's her baby's birthday today and she made me tear up with her post so I thought that it was appropriate to divulge her "identity," anon as it is.

Thank you my friend, again, and may Baby enjoy the happiest of birthdays.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What do you say.....

I had a very wonderful time with my friends at bookclub last night. I tried my first rose wine (that wasn't Boone's Farm) and we sampled spumoni cheesecake (better than you think) and warmed baklava (as good as you imagine) for dessert.

One member of our bookclub was absent because she just suffered an ectopic pregnancy, her 3rd miscarriage after two years of trying. In short, we - her friends - are wondering what to do for her as she and her husband grieve this loss and try to move forward.

I can only say, given my history of recurrent miscarriage, what not to say to someone who has suffered a pregnancy loss. And over the course of 4 miscarriages, these were all said to me:

“It was meant to be.” Why not say this? Because it does not help. Do not say it.

“You can always try again.” Why not say this? Because she will never have this baby. And that is the baby she wants and grieves. Or, maybe she is unable to try again.

“At least you know you can get pregnant.” Why not say this? Because getting pregnant did not result in anything but heartbreak and loss.

“It wasn’t really a baby.” Why not say this? Because no matter how early, or what the woman’s belief system of when life is conceived, the loss is real. The heartbreak is real. And this statement is an insult to the love and grief felt by the woman. That grief is not diminished by thinking or knowing that there was a problem with the baby, nor by the idea that there was not yet a baby. Yes, I know intellectually that losing a 2 year old child is much more devastating than losing a 4 month pregnancy. But the point is this: in that moment, the grief gripping that woman for the loss of that pregnancy doesn't give a shit. Heartbreak is heartbreak. I remember having this very conversation in my own head and thinking, well, at least if I lost a child, I would have known what it was to have a child. See what I mean about grief?

“Well, at least you’re okay.” Why not say this? Because she doesn’t feel “okay.” She feels tormented mentally and emotionally and physically.

“It was just a miscarriage. Get over it, already!” I have to admit, I thought this at one time. Before it happened to me. The reason not to express this sentiment is that, in addition to just being rude, it invalidates the grief the woman is suffering. And if you want to help, you want to validate the loss, and help her to process it.

“Shouldn’t you be over this by now?” A milder variation of the above statement. Everyone grieves differently. Some people need more time and space than others. There is no wrong way to grieve. If you detect signs of depression, urge her to see a grief counsellor.

“At least it was early, before you really got attached to it.” Why not say this? Because she is attached. Hence, grief. Any woman who has ever been pregnant, and wanted the pregnancy, will tell you that within the first week of knowing about the pregnancy, she has imagined holding that baby in her arms, what time of year that will be, who the baby will look like and put her hand on her stomach. There is a primordial connection between a mother and child, and it starts in the womb.

“God had a reason for this.” Why not say this? Because why would God have a reason for ending a pregnancy? It is illogical. It is hurtful. And, even if you believe it to be true, it will not help the woman grieving.

“This is because you…” or “If only you hadn’t…” Why not say this? Because chances are, she already blames herself. At one point or another, every one of us blames ourselves for losing a pregnancy. In my case, I blamed the fact that I went up to altitude at Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s nonsensical. Don’t rub salt in the wound.

Do not discuss any information you have regarding child abuse, the crack whore who is having her 5th child, your own miscarriage(s) or stories describing the triumph of fertility against long odds. Even though we all think about those things. Why? Because the woman does not want to hear it. Discussing these things will, in turn, make her angry, enraged, resentful and pissed off.

What others can you think of to add to the list? (I enabled anonymous comments).

Now, of course, is the more difficult question: What do you say? The truth is, there is nothing anyone can say or do to stop the pain of a pregnancy loss. But what I found most painful about grieving the loss was that hardly anyone really understood it, acknowledged it, validated it. So I suppose that what you say is whatever you can to comfort the woman, and her partner.

Examples of what to say:

“I’m so sorry for your loss.”

“You don’t deserve this.”

Or just complete honesty: "I don't know what to say, except I'm sorry, and I love you."

And one more nugget of wisdom I have learned over the years....

Instead of saying, "What can I do?" or "Let me know if you need anything," (which I have said many times in my life), just do something. Anything, really.

This applies to anyone in crisis: medical, financial, emotional.... just do the thing. People in crisis do not have the ability or energy or whatever to organize and ask for what they need. Plus they probably feel guilty about it.

Again, we are not going to fix the problem anyway. So what I have learned is best, having been both the person in crisis and the friend not knowing what the hell to do, is just do....something.

Bring the dinner, send the flowers, buy the wine, mow the lawn, send the chocolate, show up with stupid magazines, mail a card, order the gift card, write the email. Or call. Just call and if you get voicemail, because they are screening no doubt, tell them you are thinking about them. Tell them you love them, you are praying for them, you are hoping their hopes, you want to buy them lunch, just something to express that you are there, and they are not alone.

And if they don't call or write you back? You call or write them again. Not in a stalker-esque manner, but just to let them know that they - the person grieving or in crisis - are not alone.

Because when it comes down to it, isn't that what counts the most? Ensuring that your loved ones know that they are not alone, through all the pain, which you can't cure anyway, and through all the joy, because it multiplies when celebrated together, is really the most and the best that we can hope to receive.

Henri Rouwen, a Dutch Catholic priest and writer, said it best (this is this quote's second appearance in less than a year on this blog):


When we honestly ask ourselves
which person in our lives mean the most to us,
we often find that it is those who,
instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures,
have chosen rather to share our pain and
touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.
The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion,
who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement,
who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing
and face with us the reality of our powerlessness,
that is a friend who cares.

And it does not matter if you do not know the person that well. Some of the most poignant moments I experienced after Brody was born and we were waiting and terrified were from virtual strangers, the friends of friends, the friends of sisters, who reached out to me, via email or a card in the mail. Sure, you probably don't want to do the whole "I love you" thing to them, but you get the idea.

Finally, one wonderful service that the March of Dimes has is to send out a free, (yes, really free) bereavement packet for the loss of a pregnancy from conception to one month after birth. The March of Dimes explains:

When a baby dies, a bit of hope dies too, a bit of our dream breaks away, a bit of our future is erased before ever being written. Besides the physical loss, there is an emotional loss and a loss of all that a new life promises. This is true whether the baby died as a newborn or before birth due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or other reasons. Society has been slow to recognize that the impact on the parents can be the same, regardless of when the loss occurred. Parents' grief over a miscarriage is as valid and real as their grief over the loss of a full-term baby.

You can order the bereavement materials for yourself or for someone else. Click here.