January 20, 2014

occupational hazzard

While I was in college, my Dad wrote to me each week.  He ended each letter with the same remark.  'I really wanted another nurse.'  My older sister was a nurse.  She could 'write her own ticket', as my Dad put it.  I finally wrote back with a suitable response:  'If you want another nurse in the family, go adopt.'  To be honest, I would have loved to be a nurse.  Passing out at the sight of blood precluded me from pursuing such a career.  This wasn't a secret to Dad.  He knew I fainted when the doctor attempted to fit me with a pair of contact lenses in 8th grade.  OK, so he probably doesn't know about the time I fainted when my best friend's mom explained the concept of the tampon to me.  Still no excuse, because there were other more mainstream incidents cluing him in to the fact that I would not make it as a nurse.  I remember my sister practicing her needle sticks on oranges while she was a college nursing student.  Not me.  The orange thing might work out OK, but as soon as they provided me with a real arm with actual veins - watch out. 

Mini, who lives up to the 'Mini-me' nickname more and more each day, is a planner (not sure where she gets it?).  She has recently been pondering what she wants to be when she grows up.  While driving her to Irish dancing last week, she explained that she would like to be a person who teaches people how to be a veterinarian.  Otherwise a veterinarian professor, I guess?  Or she would like to be a veterinarian.  Each idea she came up with concluded with the question:  'I can do that and still have kids, right?'  In all honesty I point out that some of her choices might be quite time consuming, and might be difficult to juggle as a mom who wants to play an active role in raising her kids.  Not to mention by the time she completes all of the schooling it might be too late to start a family.  She shared that she'd also enjoy being an artist.  Well, that might be fun, but few people are able to develop that into an actual pay check generating career.  Maybe I shouldn't be such a dream killer, but I would like to see my daughters choose a career path that can be done part time, and also prove fulfilling or challenging.  Accounting, teaching, nursing, etc.  So I suggest nursing to Mini.  I am my father's daughter.  She says that sounds boring.  I fail to mention that it won't be boring if your fellow nurses need to revive you after each incubation or needle stick.

I first learned that my fainting spells had a name when I was pregnant with Laddie.  During a regular check up the doctor explained to me that I would need a Rhogam shot because of the negative rh factor in my blood.  He described how components in my blood might attack the baby's blood.  That was it.  There were no blood splatters, no needles, no open oozing wounds.  Just talk of blood.  I got woozy and saw the room start to spin.  I held my head in my hands for a second before I flopped gracefully back on the exam table.  I heard the doctor jump up and yell out the door, 'Nurse, we have a vasovagal reaction in here.'  My problem had a name. 

I probably shouldn't even suggest to Mini that she aim for a career as a nurse.  I know too much.  I am aware that she and I have been cut from the same cloth in multiple ways.  One day I learned that we were similar in an additional way.  It was a few years ago.  I offered to let Mini watch TV while I brushed her hair before school.  The day was not typical.  While she was a morning kindergartner, this day both a.m. and p.m. classes would combine in order to walk to the local high school to see a play.  Having just had an outpatient procedure, I was moving slowly.  The big kids were sent to school and after a leisurely morning, I was preparing Mini for her trip to see 'Seussical the Musical.'  Blessed with a thick head of hair - unlike her mother - Mini dreaded having her hair brushed.  I clicked on the T.V. and threw the remote on the bed.  Oprah's voice was saying, ' . . . this is what happned after a gorilla ate off her face.'  Pictures of a puffy face flashed across the screen.  A face transplant.  I struggled to reach for the remote without releasing the hair gathered into a pony tail that dangled from my hand.  Admittedly I had a slow reaction time.  I wasn't 100% yet, and I was shocked.  Before I could turn the channel to PBS, Mini started pulling away from me.  Her body was rigid.  "Mini, what are you doing?"  She was on the floor.  Face as white as a sheet.  Although her eyes were open she couldn't see me.  Her body convulsed briefly. Then she was back.  Her eyes darted around.  "Why as I on the floor?" she cried.  Wow.  It all happened so fast.  Whole episode probably lasted less than a minute.  She talked about the bad show that grossed her out.  I apologized for putting on the TV without knowing what was on.  The gorilla factor . . . she needed assurance that there would never be a gorilla loose in our neighborhood.  "Positively not a chance.  Ever." . . .

 . . . But I can't promise that she'll not find a variety of other gross out issues in life.  I did consult the pediatrician and he assured me that she had a vasovagal convulsion not a seizure.  She has taken my issue to the next level.  Impressive.  Note to self, next time career choices come up suggest something unrelated to the medical field.  When Mini was very little when she would tell people that she wanted to be 'a mother to the poor.'  Perhaps she was just aspiring to be the next Mother Teresa (talk about some hard shoes to fill), or perhaps she was just not going to marry well.  Regardless being a mother to the poor might result in less occupational hazards as nursing. 

January 12, 2014

no school, hold the toothpaste

Part of me was sad to see Laddie go off to school.  Thanks to his summer birthday, he seemed too young for 3 year old preschool.  I waited for the 4 year old program to start him.  But school screwed up my freedom.  The advent of school meant the end of our mom and tot adventures.  I used to keep the kids up late to see Coach, who worked long days as a Physical Therapist.  Naps were late, bedtime was at 9 pm, mornings were leisurely, and bath time took place after breakfast.  Days were spent visiting the zoo, exploring children's museums, inviting friends over, walking to the park, attending library story time, or stocking up at the grocery store all before our late-by-design nap time.  There were plenty of days devoted to relaxing at home reading books, playing toys, cleaning house, and maybe baking.  Never-mind there were also occasions when I was too tired to think straight. 

Enter more kids into the picture, and my schedule-free lifestyle spun out of focus.  In the blink of an eye there were attitudes, mischief, and opposition.  School became a welcome friend.  While the older kids were being educated, the tots and I managed to still explore our immediate world.  I recall sweating on several occasions as I prayed that I would beat the half day kindergarten bus to my driveway by 11:20.  It was hard to squeeze in a grocery run between breakfast and bus drop off.  I would be flashing the lights of my blue minivan as I raced down the street toward the bus begging the driver to allow my kid to get off the bus mid block.  An unscheduled stop broke basic bus bylaws.  Even afternoon adventures became a stretch.  The arrival of a few babies who refused to sleep past six a.m. forced siesta time to commence right after lunch.  Late nap times came to an alarming halt, and the earlier nap replacement time interfered with prolonged morning fun.   Like it or not, my ideal schedule ceased to exist.

As the temps warmed up each Spring, I anticipated our summer fun.  Of course the older and more challenging the kids became the more eager I was by mid August to greet the first day of school with open arms.  

More change.  Curly marched off with the rest of the clan for school in the fall.  No more half day kindergarten.  My daily routine now includes a part time job at a distant school while my kids are attending our local school each day.  Now I look forward to breaks from school as much as the kids do.  I race the clock on the weekends to catch up on laundry, run errands, prepare meals, review homework, and accomplish a bit of housework.  After-school-hours are devoted to the kids' activities.  Multiple sports, Irish dancing, art club, music lessons, chess club, and hopefully sufficient time for homework.  While I don't purchase fast food, I prepare food as fast as I can.  I make it portable:  wrap it, cover it, or paper plate it and toss it in someone's direction.  "Shovel it in, we have to go!"  If all else fails, I reheat it.  If the first helping wasn't sufficient, I end up repeating the process once home in hopes that homework time isn't compromised.  Organized chaos.

No surprise that I was desperate for Christmas break's arrival this year.  Only high school swim team still conducted practices over break, but no meets.  Everyone relaxed.  My last minute shopping and baking wasn't punctuated with pick ups and drop offs at practices.  The kids' commentaries referring to how siblings chose to relax, whose space they entered, what they touched, whose feelings might have been hurt, and what poor choices were made - well, anyone living under our roof was briefed on these issues constantly.  Even with Santa watching.

Just after Christmas Curly asked me if eating toothpaste can make you sick.  While 'no' was my first response, I realized this sounded like a loaded question.  Initially I assumed that she accidentally swallowed while rinsing her teeth.  I didn't want to alarm her.  Then part of me wondered if this was a result of a brother's dare.  'Why?' I asked.  She hesitated.  I promised not to be upset while secretly hoping to not walk into the bathroom and find five empty toothpaste tubes strewn across the floor.  After some heavy sighs, she confessed.  'I want to be sick, so I don't have to go back to school.  I want to stay home with you.'  Didn't see that coming.  Long road ahead if she's already dreading kindergarten.

While the first five attended 1/2 day kindergarten at a parochial school, Curly is our first all-day kindergartener.  Catholic school, which didn't make family budget cuts a few years ago, drained our finances for years - thus my reluctant re-entrance into the work place.  The older kids experienced the ideal kindergarten teacher, but I fear Curly's teacher is feeling the pressure to turn these little ones into reading mathematicians by May.  It's been my experience that today's five year olds are learning what was being spoon fed to most of us in 1st or even 2nd grade in the 70's.  Even with an all day schedule, its hard to squeeze in warm and fuzzy time.   

Curly insisted that it wasn't that she didn't like school.  She would just rather be home with me.  Easy solution.  'Mommy isn't home while you are at school.'  Case closed.  'Well, you can just leave the TV on for me when you leave,' she replied.  Wow, so more time with Mommy was less of a factor in this equation than initially thought.  I explained how this would never be a legit option.  I put a positive spin on things by pointing out that Mommy doesn't work in the summer, aren't we lucky there?  We'll be together all summer.  She wasn't sold.  Realizing there was no quick solution, I moved on to details.  How much toothpaste had she eaten?  If the quarter inch she displayed with her finger and thumb was accurate, no worries there. 

When I briefed Coach on the 'wishing to be sick' issue, we both felt like we'd each swallowed a mushy handful of Crest.  After some thought, I decided that Curly wasn't really disliking school - she's basking in the nonexistent schedule that has left us all feeling free over the two week break.  She may not be overly committed when it comes to after school activities, but she still gets dragged to lots of other practices, games, and lessons.  Whenever possible, she stays home with an older sibling or Daddy, so she can at least hang out at home and go to bed on time.  Those easy going early years that the other kids enjoyed are unfamiliar to her.  Unfair.  Visits to the museum, zoo, park, and friends houses happen less frequently in her world then they did for the rest of the gang.  Hard to believe that back in the day I refused to sign Laddie up for Boy Scouts because I couldn't imagine attending anything after school.  The thought of disturbing naps or needlessly squeezing toddlers into winter gear and stuffing them into car seats didn't appeal to me.  So part of my New Year's Resolution is to somehow carve out more relaxing down time when we are home.  It will be challenging not to throw dinner on the table and bark out orders to study, clean up, practice music, and bathe Curly before bolting out the door with a kid in tow, undoubtedly late for something. 

No toothpaste necessary.  Curly's wish came true, and toothpaste wasn't even part of the equation.  The record breaking low temperatures - or the polar vortex if you want to be technical, accomplished everything a 1/2 a teaspoon of toothpaste couldn't.  School was cancelled on Monday and Tuesday thus extending Christmas break an additional two days.  Hooray!  Since I'm only part time, I won't get paid for those days, but I had to rejoice anyway.  The kids' behavior was less than desirable thanks in large part to the arrival of an Xbox that Santa brought (look for an expanded explanation in a later post . . . I hate video games).  Still, I prefer to be confined to my cozy home and update photo albums or organize some out-of-control corner of the house.  I carved out time to read to the younger set, played a family game, and braved the cold in response to their friends' requests for a play date. 

All in all, it was a good week to stop sucking down minty, fresh toothpaste.

January 7, 2014

gum drop sidewalks & combo gifts

I admit as a kid it was cool to have no school on my birthday.  Awesome.  Of course a summer birthday allowing for pool parties, outdoor fun, and relaxing celebrations would have been my preference.  The summer birthday kids got all that, and NO SCHOOL.  'Lucky!'  So, the 'no school' factor was the sole highlight for being born on December 30th. 

My brother was born December 27th, so his birthday sucked too.  Mine sucked more, because my 'big' day (yes, the note of sarcasm you sensed was accurate) arrived after his.  Let me describe the order of birthdays in the month of December in our home growing up.  December 25th - the birth of Christ.  December 27th - the second coming of Christ.  December 30th - the day celebrated when no one can stand to celebrate anymore.  Adults would shuffle around mumbling about whether or not there were any candles left.  Gifts were either unwrapped and offered in a store bag, or were hurriedly wrapped in left over Christmas wrap.  That was of course when there was something to open.  Often I received remarks like 'Remember, you got such and such, that was a Christmas/ Birthday gift.  We told you that on Christmas.'  The glorious combo gift. 

The year I turned seven we moved from Davenport, Iowa to a suburb of Chicago.  In order to make the transition between schools easier and because of the time of year that my Dad's promotion was offered, we moved over Christmas break.  We left the home and friends that I loved on December 20th.  My folks even bought a Christmas tree in Iowa and threw it on the moving van with all of our stuff.  One of our Davenport neighbors gave us a gingerbread house as a going away gift.  We were allowed to pick at the roof and trees of the gingerbread house on Christmas Eve.  On the 27th as we celebrated my brother's birthday, the remnants of the 'house' served as his cake.  We snapped off bits of the brown walls and the tasty chimney until there was very little left.  When the 30th rolled around, the gumdrop sidewalk and a bit of the stale foundation were brought to the center of the table on the cardboard slab.  I am guessing we just didn't bother with a candle. 

My sweet sixteenth was more sour than sweet.  My sister had a scheduled lumpectomy on the 30th of December.  It made sense.  She was home from college, and it needed to be taken care of.  Fortunately, it was not serious.  Outpatient procedure.  Not much focus on birthday celebrating - understandably.  Still, sucky.  I actually think my dad took me to get my drivers license that morning, or the following morning.  I wasn't able to drive for ages though, because he said it was too costly to add me to the insurance.  They were nervous about a teen driving in the snowy, icy Chicago winter weather.  A jedi mind trick, and definitely a hand well played.  One that I hadn't seen coming.  Just a bit of parent trickery, and a bit of birthday bad luck.

The good news in all of this is that I have a very low set of birthday expectations.  One of my roommates in college expected the red carpet to be rolled out every year in celebration of the anniversary of her birth.  I couldn't wrap my brain around it, but still find myself trying to remember to shoot her an email if I haven't dropped her a card in the mail before April 25th.  My husband doesn't realized how lucky he has it.  (OK, I can expand on this big time . . . but I am trying to keep my blogging concise.  I will save the remainder of that topic for another post). 

I once had a D & C on my birthday.  Talk about sucking.  It wasn't as a result of a miscarriage, but because I had a polyp which was possibly making it difficult to conceive.   So, I looked at the procedure as a gift.  Afterwards, my insides were ready to grow a brother for Laddie.  Eddie was fittingly baptized on my 30th birthday:  12/30/00.  Talk about coming full circle.  I didn't mind sharing the limelight that day, or the cake!

One of my best birthdays as a young mom was when Tetonka was 3 1/2 weeks old.  Coach and I flew to Detroit to attend the wedding of one of my closest college roommates.  Coach and I were both sleep deprived and Tetonka barely slept in the hotel room.  Why should that day be any different than his first 24 days?  We arrived home on the 29th.  I woke up to feed the bottomless pit in the middle of the night.  Coach rolled over and mumbled something to me.  I had to ask him to repeat himself.  I finally got the message . . . 'I took the day off, Happy Birthday.'  Translation:  the morning of my 32nd birthday I wasn't dragged out of bed by Laddie and Eddie.  Coach was available to get up with them.  Now that was a gift!  

Over the past few years, Coach has arranged for another couple to meet us for dinner a few times for my birthday.  He threw me a surprise party the day after I turned 39 (New Year's Eve) siting it as the first day of my 40th year.  As a kid I can remember sharing the news that I was about to turn another year older with anyone who would listen.  As an adult I find it awkward to announce my birthday to people.  Most of my mom friends don't know when my b-day is.  Even the friends who Coach invited to meet us out for dinner don't typically have my b-day penciled in on their calendar, so by the next year they don't recall the date as anything special.  Enter Facebook.  I have a Facebook page, but I rarely even look at it.  No time.  I stopped accepting new 'friends' some time ago.  Every December 30th I receive tons of Facebook b-day messages from random people.  I barely knew these individuals in high school and now I get a birthday message from them via Facebook.  Strange.  Of course my life long friends call me with birthday wishes.  Overall, I find being a grown up with a birthday is just weird though. 

The mom birthday.  Just another day.  If my birthday falls on a weekend or on a day that Coach is home for dinner, the kids are forced to behave and treat me well.  This year my birthday fell on a Monday.  Coach's long day.  No constant Daddy reminders to stay out of trouble.  Kids home.  No school.  I couldn't wait for the day to end.  The pressure to enjoy a day when a fist fight broke out between Tetonka and Eddie in the kitchen pinning me against the counter was daunting.  In an unrelated incident the same daring duo snuck cookies from my sacred, homemade, freezer stash frustrating me to no end.  Add to that plenty of talk back, teenage attitude, a necessary grocery store run, and hosting three cousins for a rescheduled play date - the day was like any other.  Me begging kids to listen, trying to accomplish something, and being startled at some of their antics.  Mini even voiced her disappointment that I hadn't baked myself a birthday cake.  The little scoundrels didn't bother with homemade cards until the next day when they caught Coach's wrath.  Seeing as most of our appliances just quit working that fall complicated our already tight budget, so no real birthday gifts.  I must admit, Curly still conforms to the idea that birthdays should be wonderful.  She dedicated herself to delivering a steady stream of hugs and kisses and her attention to good behavior was appreciated.  Eventually after the kids were in bed, Coach and I were able to salvage the day by watching a hilarious movie.  Ah, the little things.

Looking back, gum drop sidewalks and combo gifts rock when compared to naughty kids, no gifts, and a reminder that most of my friendships were developed back when technology wasn't part of the equation.