Thursday, June 30, 2011

Parenting is hard and we all make mistakes so don't laugh at this guy

Every so often I am overwhelmed with the amount of responsibility I have for my children.  And not in a "Oh my god, I can't believe how all I do all day is take care of these kids and I can't do it any more!" way but in a "Oh my god, I have so much power in their little lives and I can't screw this up because I don't want them to be criminals someday." kind of way.

It's kind of a big deal, this parenting gig.  You try so hard to do everything right but the fact is that everyone who parents is doing SOMETHING wrong.  We're too cautious, we're not cautious enough.  We push too hard, we don't push hard enough.  We put strict limits on screen time and junk food, we say "Go watch Dora so I can edit some pictures and here's an ice cream sandwich for lunch.  Don't tell grandma."

So knowing that most of us are doing the best we can and that we all occasionally screw up I try hard not to judge when I see parents doing things a little differently than me.  Sometimes though ... sometimes I see parents doing things that make me think "Oh come on buddy!  Are you for real?"

At soccer yesterday there was a little boy on the opposing team who had no interest at all in being there or playing soccer.  He sat down in the grass.  He wandered around.  He picked his nose.  He looked bored.  Every so often his dad would call to him "Come on!  Get out there and play!  Run!  Run!  Run!" 

The little boy would whine "I caaaaaaannn't!" or "I'm toooooo hooooot!" or "It's hard!  The balls don't come to meeeeeee!" 

This was clearly bothering the dad.  He started to get antsy.  "There!  There!  Get that ball there!  Go! Come one! Run!" ( In Elle's soccer program they throw like five balls on the field at a time so that everyone gets a chance to play and kick the ball.  I call it the No Hurt Feelings League.)

Anxious dad got more and more worried as his son refused to play.  He started pacing.  "THERE!  THAT BALL RIGHT THERE!  GET IT!  RUUUUUUUUN!"  All the other parents started to look at him and exchange glances with each other.  A woman near me muttered to no one in particular "Way to have a stroke over pre-school soccer."

All of the sudden anxious dad ran on to the field.  He scooped up an used ball.  He ran over to his kid and said proudly "Here, I got you a ball!  Kick this one!"  And he stood back and looked really pleased with himself as his kid whined his disinterest and sort of took a half hearted swipe at the ball.

Anxious dad started to walk away but then ... he paused.  And picked up another ball to bring to his kid.  And then another.  And another.  And another.  So now in addition to a dozen four and five year olds on the field there was a full grown man running around and scooping up balls.  It was not ridiculous at all.  Each time he would bring his son a ball he look so pleased with himself, like a cat presenting it's owner with a dead mouse.

Now the kid still didn't want to be there or to kick the balls that were being brought to him.  He was just getting more and more annoyed.  Elle started to take an interest in the whole thing though.  She watched for a moment and then a smile spread slowly across her face. 

I don't know if I've ever told you this but I think Elle is part evil genius.  She went over to the disinterested kid and as soon as anxious dad set a ball down Elle swooped in and kicked it away.  She kicked it down the field and then ran back to get another ball.  She kept doing it.  Every time anxious dad tried to give his son a ball to kick Elle would run over and kick it away. 

Anxious dad was not pleased and at one point he looked over at me like he wanted help dealing with my out of control child.  I pretended I didn't see him.  Thankfully the whistle blew soon after and ended the game.  Anxious dad walked off the field.  He was red faced and sweaty.  Disinterested kid remained disinterested.

So, see?  We can't judge. We all make mistakes.  Some of us get totally owned by a feisty red headed five year old.  Some of us sit back and laugh quietly while it happens.  None of us are perfect.

Three years ago today my kids were chums.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sometimes I can't keep quiet

I don't want to take Elle to soccer practice any more. 

This past Sunday I took Elle to a birthday party.  It was awkward and uncomfortable and weird for a lot of reasons.  I suppose the worst part was about five minutes in when the mother of the birthday girl started telling a story about how she tried to cause herself to miscarry when she was pregnant (with the birthday girl herself.)  While that's a fun little story to share among family and friends it seems like an odd choice to announce stuff like that to a group of total strangers.  Especially when the attempt resulted in your child being born extremely premature and having life long effects on her health.

I think it goes without saying that leaving Elle at the party was not an option.  So I stayed and felt icky and kept an eye on all the other kids because no one else was and it seems like maybe letting a bunch of four and five years olds run around unsupervised is not the best idea in the world.  Not as bad as punching yourself in the stomach and not seeking medical attention when you start to bleed but I digress.

So after Sunday I was kind of topped off in the bad parenting department.  That will be enough for now thank you very much!

Then I took Elle to soccer on Monday.  During the game there was a random little girl running around on the field who looked like she was maybe just barely three years old.  She kept trying to pick up the ball and run away with it.  No one stepped in to take her off the field.  At one point she came over to me and told me she cut her finger.  I looked but it didn't look cut so I suggested she find her mom or dad and ask for help.  She said "My mom and dad aren't here.  Just Kristin." and she gestured across the field to a woman talking on her phone and paying no attention at all to the baby in her care who was an entire soccer field away from her talking to a stranger.  I suggested she go to Kristin for help and she wandered away from me.

I watched the little girl as she crossed the field.  Then she crossed another field.  Then another.  Then another.  Then another.  I could see her bright green shirt become a tiny dot as she walked all the way across the soccer complex.  I kept one eye on her and one on Kristin who never once looked to see where he charge had gone to.

The soccer fields we go to are at the top of a large hill and to get to the parking lot you have to walk down the hill with woods on either side of the path.  The little green dot started to head over to the path and I was just about to run over and get her when Kristin started to look around.  She looked casually at first, in no hurry.  She started to walk around the field slowly.  She looked unconcerned and didn't end her phone call.  The green dot paused by the port-a-potties.  Kirstin circled over to my side of the field and finally ended her phone call.  She looked confused.  The green dot started to move closer to the path.

Now let me clarify here that Kristin was not a young girl.  She was a woman at least the same age as me and certainly old enough to know better than to totally ignore the very young child she's supposed to be watching.  I don't know if she was a step-mother or a day care lady or an aunt or a family friend but she was doing a crap-ass job of watching the kid and it pissed me off.

Kristin called to a kid on the field "Where's your sister?"  Because of course the five year old playing soccer is going to be able to tell you the lost kid is.  The soccer player did not know of course.  The green dot started to head down the path.

"Are you looking for the little girl in green?" I called to Kristin.

"Yeah?" She looked surprised.

"She came over to me before. She said her finger was cut.  Then she walked away and now she's going down by the parking lot."

Now a flash of annoyance.  "She came to me twice for her finger too.  It wasn't cut."

"Yeaaaaah, that's not really the point. I didn't see anyone watching her and I think she was just looking for someone to help her." I replied as I watched the green dot pause again.

Kirstin started to slowly move away.  She muttered something under her breath and called for the green dot's sister to get off the field and come with her.

I should have sat back down and shut up.  I should have kept it to myself.

I should not have yelled at her back as she walked away "Maybe if you had been watching her instead of talking on your phone this wouldn't have happened!"

She didn't say anything but I know she heard me because I, um, yelled it and it saw her pause and stiffen up.

I'm not exactly sorry I said it (although I probably could have done it without yelling it at her as she walked away) and I don't think I was wrong.  I just think that the rest of this soccer season could get awkward.  Twice I week I'll have to see this woman and her non-child-watching-ass.  Oy.  The really sad thing is that this is not the first time I've yelled at another parent during a kids sports practice.  (Seriously, it's not.)  I'm just so good at making friends!

I don't want to take Elle to soccer practice anymore.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt

I bet you're on the edge of your seat wondering how the two most exciting things in my life turned out last week.  I'll fill you in on Joseph's birthday party and my tooth removal in a second but first, let me ask you a question.  I took the kids to the drive through at McDonalds for some ice cream after soccer practice and I ordered both of them a small McFlurry.  The order-taker-person snotted back to me "Small?  We don't have small.  We have regular and snack size.  Which of those do you want?"

Now is it just me or is it not a giant, impossible leap of logical thinking to figure out that if someone orders a "small" what they want is the smaller available size?  Like, if I had ordered a large I can see where she might have felt like she had to tell me there was nothing bigger than the regular size but was the snotty tone warranted when I ordered a small?  Most of the time I'm not one to say nothing when I'm treated rudely but I have this fear that all food service people are just waiting for an excuse to spit in my food so I just meekly corrected my order to two snack sized McFlurrys.  (That's a stupid name anyway.  Snack sized?  When you don't want to make a meal out of your ice cream?)  Plus, Elle had practiced soccer in the rain and she only cried twice so I wasn't about to tell her we couldn't get ice cream just because Mrs SnackSizedBossyFace was rude to me.

Aaaaaanyway.  The birthday party.  It went well.  In the end almost no one RSVPed so Joseph called everyone on his list and said adorable things like "Hello!  This is Joseph!  I invited your son, Aaron P, to go to my birthday party this Saturday.  Please let me know if he's able to attend so my mom knows how much cake to buy!  Thank you and have a pleasant day!".  After people were able to recover from the sheer, overwhelming cuteness of his phone messages they called and a total of 11 kids said they were coming.

The day of the party nine kids showed up.  I don't know what's worse, not RSVPing or RSVPing and then not coming.  Whatever.  We had the party at my grandma's apartment building and we rented out the theater so the kids could have a private showing of Despicable Me.  Then they had pizza and cake and spent the next hour screaming fart jokes at each other.  If volume is any indicator a wonderful time was had by all.

Joseph had a great time. He cried a little bit when the last kid was picked up.  Ever since the party he's been asking if we can throw more parties this summer.  A end of summer party, a middle of summer party, a 4th of July party, a sprinkler party to make the neighborhood kids jealous.  We might do that last one.

And now to the other thing in my life, my teeth getting pulled out.  Not much to tell about that since I was knocked out for the procedure.  All I remember is that a nurse came in to give me some laughing gas and somehow we got to talking about me being a surrogate.  She was asking all these questions and I was rambling on and on and I don't even remember most of what I said.  Then she said she was going to start my IV medication and then I started to feel really woozy.  I joked "Now I'm going to start telling you all the really embarrassing stuff!"  Pause.  "Like one time I..." and then I don't remember what I said after that so there's a very good possibility that the nurse knows something about me that I would rather she did not.

My mouth feels weird with the missing teeth.  I have to wait two months until I can see about implants so for now I sort of mumble/talk without opening my mouth much because I don't want people to see the gaps.  They're far back so I suppose it's not totally obvious but still, I sort of hate it.

And now I will close out this long boring post with a cute thing Elle says: She calls bumper stickers "bumper car stickers".

Two years ago today I got out of the hospital.
Five years ago today my kids were in a parade.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Friends, playmates and other enemies

Joseph is having his first ever birthday party with friends this coming Saturday.  We're having it a month early so that he was able to pass out invitations before school ended.  This is the first year he as really expressed an interest in a friend party.  Like most things with Joseph, once he got interested in the idea he got REALLY interested in.  This party is his current fixation.

We allowed Joseph to invite 13 kids to the party.  So far six have RSVPed with five yeses and one no.  I don't know if people just don't RSVP anymore or if all the other kids are not coming and their parents just aren't going to call.  We've already tried to set the groundwork so that he wouldn't be too sad if most of the kids can't come.  "It's a busy time of year.  There are lots of graduation parties and weddings and family vacations that people have to go to." and "You can have a really great party with six people.  That's a perfect number!"

To myself though I'm pleading with the universe to please let more kids come to this party.  It means so much to Joseph.  He's been working so hard and planning so much.  He wants the people that come to his party to enjoy themselves.  He wants to enjoy himself.  A big part of that will is dependent upon the people he likes being there with him.  He's such a sweet kid.  I just want him to have a fun party and be happy with the outcome.

We're dealing with bigger issues right now too though.  Elle is the youngest kid in our neighborhood and she's been picked as The Kid To Leave Out Of All The Fun.  The main instigator in all of this is the neighborhood brat across the street.  Most of the other kids on their own are decent enough kids but when the brat is around they tend to bend to her will.  Elle asks if she can join in with them when they play and they say no.  She asks if they want to come over and they say no.  If the brat is around that is.  Again, on their own they're nicer.

The brat is mean and manipulative.  She bribes the other kids in the neighborhood into not playing with Elle.  I have heard her offer the kids candy and Popsicles to get them to come to her house and not play with Elle.  The other day Elle was playing with the another little girl across the street and the brat came outside and saw them playing together.  She went inside and had her parents set her sprinkler up in the yard.  Then she came over and invited the other little girl to come over for a "sprinkler party".  Elle eagerly asked if she could come too.  "Please?" she chirped.  "I can go get my swimsuit on now!"

"You're not invited.  It's just a sprinkler party for my friends and we're going to have Popsicles too."

Elle cried and came back home.  The brat's mom stood in her front yard and watched all this and never said a word.  She just turned on the sprinkler and went inside.  Elle and I played a board game but she occasionally cast a wistful glance out the front window when the sounds of screams and laughter drifted across the street.

I've promised Elle that we will have plenty of sprinkler parties of our own and that I will make her the homemade lemonade popsicles that she loves.  And when the brat comes over to ask if she can join in (and she will) I have given Elle permission to say no and to be as rude as she wants about it.  Please don't tell me to be the bigger person here.  My daughter is sweet and tender hearted and it's in her nature to be kind.  She reminds me of myself when I was young.  "What's that? You want to kick me in the teeth?  Ok, but I still want to be your friend ok?"  I want Elle to know she doesn't have to take crap from people and do it with a smile.

Right now I'm on a mission to get a playground set for Elle.  All the families around us have them and all the kids play on each other's playgrounds.  Our yard has a big garden and an apple tree and a dying grape vine.  Wonderful for us but not so great for attracting playmates.  Those playground sets are expensive so I'm trying to find a used one. We have neighbors with a nice one I've offered to buy but they're undecided.  They have no young kids but I think they want to hang on to it just in case their kids have kids soon.  So now I'm scouting craigslist for a playground to help make Elle more popular.

Oy.  This was not a part of parenting that I was prepared for.

 How could anyone say no to these little dolls?

One year ago today my kids cleaned the bathroom.
Three years ago I added a chapter to Joseph's adoption story.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Teeth suck

Remember when my dentist was all "You have the most amazing teeth and the longest roots every!"?  Yeah, that was awesome.  The problem is that in addition to fantastic roots I also have two baby teeth left in my mouth.  Two of the bottom molars are baby teeth that don't have any permanent teeth under them.

Turns out that baby teeth don't last forever.  After a while the roots start to disintegrate and sooner or later they have to go.  And when one of your baby teeth has a cavity and one has a crack in it they have to go sooner.  I could have the teeth fixed but my dentist thinks I'll probably lose the teeth in a couple of years any way so it doesn't make much sense to pay to fix them now. 

Meaning?  The baby teeth are coming out.  And as long as the teeth are getting pulled I'm also having that stupid leftover fragment of wisdom tooth cut out.  You know, for funsies.

So tomorrow I have to go in and get two teeth pulled and a wisdom tooth removed.  It's gonna be so awesome!  And by awesome I mean terrible.  I'm going to be left with two empty spots in my mouth that have to heal before I can get implants or a bridge or whatever put in.  I'm not going to open my mouth at all for the next few months.  That should make some people in my life happy.  It makes me less happy as I rather enjoy running my mouth but what are you gonna do?

Wish me luck. I'm going to spend the rest of today drowning my extreme dental anxiety in chocolate cake.  And then probably a little wine.

One year ago today I had some news.
Two years ago today I liked Mike.
Four years ago today I got pregnant.  Awww!

Thursday, June 02, 2011


Three of the most emotional moments of my life were when I gave birth to Elle and to Little A and to the twins.  The excitement, the fear, the happiness, the relief, the overwhelming love, they all combine into a ball of pure, raw feeling that nothing else can compare to for me.  For two of those births I have been lucky enough to have my best friend Jen there with me.  She was there reassuring me when I started to cry "I'm so scared!" when Little A started to crown.  She was there holding my hand when I was getting stitched up after my c-section with the twins.  She's been with me through two of the happiest/scariest/most wonderful moments of my life and a few weeks ago I was able to be with her when she gave birth to her second child.

Jen wrote her birth story and I am beyond honored that she has chosen to let me share it with you.  I hope you enjoy it and please, give her some love because my girl, she is a rock star.

Twilight descends, while the smell of wood fire drifts in through the open windows. I am contracting, more forcefully than the dwindling waves that teased me this morning. I am restless, moving about with a subdued but excited energy. My bath a few minutes earlier was relaxing, soothing, and seemed to make the contractions space out to the point of nearly disappearing. Upon stepping out of the tub, however, the waves returned and were stronger than before. I start timing, and am surprised that the rushes are coming every two to three minutes, and lasting a minute in length. Hopefulness blooms into knowledge that we will be meeting our daughter soon. The contractions quickly evolve from mild to uncomfortable, and I find a deep moan escaping me with each one. I sway my hips side to side, rocking the baby within my pelvis. Nathan and Amelia are outside, enjoying a spring evening bonfire. I choose to remain alone in this early hour of labor, enjoying being the only one to know what is about to happen tonight. But soon, I realize that I am working hard. I summon my family indoors to shower and finish packing, and to get ready for our hour-long drive to this babe’s place of birth. Amelia is both excited and anxious, a mix of bitter and sweet in this evening hour. She is worried about me, but excited about the birth. Her sweet words of “Mommy, are you ok? I’m sorry it hurts.” melt over me like a soothing balm to a burn. I finalize plans with my best friend Jen, who is serving as birth photographer and labor support. She will drive to us, and then follow us on the journey to the hospital. As we wait, my discomfort intensifies and thirty minutes feels like hours… finally she arrives, and we head out on our journey. I’m thankful that the change of scenery and being on the move means a shift in my body as well… contractions space out to ten minutes apart. I feel like I am running a long-distance race, setting mile markers for myself along the way : one-fourth, halfway, nearly there. Navigating while Nathan drives is a welcome distraction. Somehow the dark night and lack of traffic makes the drive seem so much faster than in the past, even with labor upon me. We arrive at the hospital, and are directed upstairs. Welcomed by a nurse, I change into a gown and am monitored for a short while to make sure baby is well. Lying on my back is so uncomfortable, and feels so unnatural. I am meant to be upright at least, but what my body really hungers for is the birth tub. Susanna, one of my midwives, walks in to greet me. Tears wet my cheeks instantly, I think mostly in relief that this really indeed is happening. Now we are done monitoring the baby, so I can get up to labor as I please. I ask that the birth tub be filled, while I continue with the hard work of birth. Nothing feels good… not the birth ball, not bending over the bed, not standing still. The closest I come to comfort is rocking rhythmically in the rocking chair, keeping time to the metronome within me. With each contraction, my legs involuntarily straighten and shake. At last, I am told that the tub is deep enough for me. I step in and drop my round, full body into the deep warm water.
Instantly I feel my face soften, my muscles release, and my breath deepen. I manage a smile, a joke with my friend and even a bit of laughter. Amelia has, in the meanwhile, fallen asleep. Nathan and Jen take turns keeping me company, and I seem to be able to relax fairly well between contractions. During contractions, I don’t want them to talk to me or touch me… but rather to simply be near me. Soon, however, the relief I feel from the water is challenged by the intensity of my labor.
 I find it nearly impossible to give in to the discomfort which washes over me, my legs tensing up once again. It seems that I relax the best in between by floating on my back, but seem to be able to work better with the pain if I flip to my knees in a supported semi-squat. Soon, however, I realize that this position magnifies the ever growing pressure in my pelvis. I find that I am starting to make guttural sounds with the rushes, and am even pushing slightly against my own efforts to fight it. It has only been an hour and a half or so since Susanna told me that my cervix was 3 centimeters open, so I can’t imagine that I am even close to being dilated enough to push. My nurse checks me, and amazingly I am already 6-7 centimeters. From this point on, every bit of my effort during contractions is focused on NOT pushing. I manage a few contractions with breathing and am able to keep from pushing, but it takes every ounce of my strength. It is unpleasant to fight this urge but I know the reasons why it is important for me to do so. Renee, one of the other midwives, has finally arrived to support Susanna at the water delivery. I look to her with pleading eyes, and call out to both women with the mantra “Help me…. Help me…” each time a rush comes. They are truly, in this moment, fulfilling the meaning of their vocation – midwife means “with woman”. They are with me. I say over and over than I can’t do it, I can’t go on, but I see Susanna nodding her head “yes” to me with a sweet and silent strength. Renee confirms and encourages with words. Once again, I start to push against my own will. This time, I cannot fight this freight train that is barreling through me. I am checked again, and can push. It feels so good to work with my body. I feel the baby within me rocking herself out of me with each push. Amelia is quietly ushered into the room and sits with Nathan in the corner, watching intently.
 The contractions pick up, and I don’t feel like I am getting any rest periods. It feels best to keep pushing, and I nearly forget to breathe as this stage reaches its peak. I hear the words “Jen, you’re going to have this baby in the next two contractions”. Disbelief is my only reaction. Already? So soon? We’ve only been here three hours! Indeed, Susanna is right and I feel the intense burn of crowning. Suddenly the energy in the room shifts, for the baby is presenting with a nuchal hand. Not a dangerous presentation, but certainly a challenging one to be facing in a birth tub. With some twisting, pushing and pulling – a primal scream escapes me and my baby is lifted to the surface of the water and placed on my chest.
 Little eyes look up at me and I am astounded by this new yet familiar creature that is clutching to my breast. My daughter. Sweet little Olive… newest love of my life and holder of my heart.
No longer are we one being… no more will I feel her stretches inside of me and the tapping of her hiccoughs. Amelia cuts the cord, sobs of joy escaping her. Nathan and I are crying, too, so overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude. We are a family redefined, the final bookend in place. We are not quite what we were before, yet not something entirely new. All I know is that we are, in every sense of the word, complete.
Thank you Jen.  Thank you for letting me be there with you and for sharing this and for bringing Olive into this world because she is lovely.