R.I.P. Baths

My life is a loop, like that movie Groundhog Day.  Every day.  But I’m not complaining, not one bit.  I like schedules.  I like knowing what is around the corner, over the hill, beyond the bend.  Weekdays during the school year?  Wake up, get Kids C and D on the bus. Kids A and B soon follow.  Sometimes Kid E goes to pre-school and I have to try very hard to keep myself out of trouble.  They come home at the same time, we run the seasonal sports schedule, have dinner, clean up, give the boys baths and everyone goes to bed.  Wake up.  Do it all over again.

Every once in a while when I get to be somewhere by myself I wonder how it got to be Summer/ Fall/ Winter/ Spring again so fast.  Then things get shaken up once more when we start a new schedule and I panic that some glitch will require me to be in three places at one time (physically impossible… I’ve tried), but somehow it all works out and we manage.  It may be little, insignificant day-to-day stuff, but the end of it seems to be making me more emotional than usual.

In the past as one kid would move out of a developmental stage, there was always another one right behind her or him.  We were never really done with things.  I was always having another baby.  Our crib has been assembled and disassembled more times than I can count (probably more times than recommended by the manufacturer – I even think I remember stripping the screws and needing to replace them).

As Kid E gets older and outgrows things and moves on to something else, I always feel like I should have some sort of ceremony or at least acknowledgement of the end of these things I will never do again.  When he was done with breastfeeding or diapers or naps I wanted to do something, but I didn’t know exactly what to do. (Honestly, when he gave up naps I just wanted to cry all the time, but that’s not really what I’m talking about).

So I just decided that it was a part of life and I donated my pump and got rid of the Pull-Ups and moved on to whatever pressing issue was waiting to be dealt with next.  Most recently the boys asked me to put up a shower rod and curtain in their bathroom so they could take showers instead of baths.  Kid D is certainly big enough to shower on his own now, but it was just easier to draw one bath and throw both of them in it at night for a quick hose down.  For some reason the end of baths is just tugging at my heartstrings.

Thinking about why brings me back to Kids A, B, and C taking baths as little girls. It seems like a lifetime ago… those pink wash cloths and Malibu Barbies and shampoo bubble hair-dos.  Bath time was often tedious, but it really was such a sweet ritual to be able to spend time with all three of them lined up in a row in the tub and tell each other about our days.  The girls would always ask questions about everything… sometimes profound, but mostly just silly.

I remember one time in the Pepto pink bathroom that one of the girls – most likely Kid B – asked a question about female body parts.  I always have answered those questions with age-appropriate honesty, using the correct names for things whenever possible (instead of the tee-tee, gucci, and ba-jingo that I grew up calling girl parts).  When I answered her, she thought I said “Cha-China” (she was in a Montessori preschool at the time, so the little smarty-pants knew her geography).  She then countered that Cha-China was an odd name for it and insisted that she was going to call it her Ja-Japan.  Thank goodness that didn’t last long.  Weird kid.

I guess I am just so moved by the end of these little things because it is the sum of all of the tiny parts that makes up our lives on the whole.  Mine is whizzing by and a break-neck speed and I want it to slow down. All of my kids are getting older and, while I look forward to each new stage and the experiences that come with them, I want to enjoy the ones we are in just a little while longer.  All of our kids are still just babies with little people issues.  The passing of time means that they will just get bigger and bigger issues come along with that.  I don’t want them to deal with college and love and drugs and sex and jobs and real life just yet.

If you have little kids, this might as well be a unicorn

So today I am taking all of our bath toys and putting them out with the trash and recycling.  Maybe I’ll hum “Taps” while I do it, or maybe I won’t because something new will come up in the meantime that demands my immediate attention.  Or maybe I’ll go in the master bathroom and draw a bubble bath, light some candles, and turn on some spa-like relaxation music and get into the tub myself.

Except that as soon as I do that, everybody will suddenly want to take baths again.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Memorial Day

The town I grew up in holds the best small town Memorial Day parade.  Even after I moved a few towns over and had my own family, I still took them back to Absecon every year for the wonderful experience that is their Memorial Day parade.  They traditionally start at the American Legion Post 28 and work their way down New Jersey Avenue, then they turn onto Route 9 and head up to Veterans Memorial Park.  The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9462 then hold a Memorial Service in the park.  It is thoughtful and reverent and a wonderful tribute year after year.  The park is filled with veterans and their families and friends.  Generations gather together to pay tribute and remember those who have served our country.  They deliver speeches filled with words like bravery, sacrifice, heroes, honor and patriotism.  They end the tribute every year with a gun salute.  It always moves me and makes me proud to be even a little part of it.

My uncle, Lance Corporal Gary Fredrick Paarz, H CO, 2ND BN, 7TH MARINES, 1ST MARDIV, III MAF, was one of the many who died during his service to our country during the Vietnam War.  Because he also grew up in Absecon, his name is on the memorial in Veterans Park.  He was my dad’s older brother by less than sixteen months.  I never met my Uncle Gary (he died before I was born), but I have heard many stories about him over the years.  He was fun and funny and full of life.  I can’t imagine losing a child or a sibling, but I do know that his family is so proud of his service.

Pop Pop at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Another source of pride for me is that I get watch my grandfather, Henry Singleton Speed, Torpedoman Second Class, who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, march in the parade.  Actually, he’s in his eighties now, so it is more like he rides in a classic military vehicle or a convertible, but he is in the parade nonetheless.  Afterwards, we go with him to the V.F.W., where he previously served 15 years as Quartermaster, to hang out and eat barbecue.  He served for almost four years on two ships… a DE-181 and a DD-808 everywhere from the Atlantic Ocean (both North and South) to the Pacific Ocean.  His family is also very proud of his service.

There are so many people who have similar stories… those who have served and those who are serving, those who have died in battle and those who now carry the title of veterans.  We owe them all our gratitude for their bravery.  It is on this day that we gather each year and stop to remember those who chose a path that can be difficult and dangerous and certainly requires sacrifice by them and their families.  And to them all we should give respect and thanks.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. gave a speech on Memorial Day 1884 in Keene, New Hampshire, to the Grand Army of the Republic in which he said, “I heard a young man ask why people still kept up Memorial Day, and it set me thinking of the answer. Not the answer that you and I should give to each other-not the expression of those feelings that, so long as you live, will make this day sacred to memories of love and grief and heroic youth–but an answer which should command the assent of those who do not share our memories…But Memorial Day may and ought to have a meaning also for those who do not share our memories.”

He continued, “So to the indifferent inquirer who asks why Memorial Day is still kept up we may answer, it celebrates and solemnly reaffirms from year to year a national act of enthusiasm and faith. It embodies in the most impressive form our belief that to act with enthusiasm and faith is the condition of acting greatly. To fight out a war, you must believe something and want something with all your might. So must you do to carry anything else to an end worth reaching. More than that, you must be willing to commit yourself to a course, perhaps a long and hard one, without being able to foresee exactly where you will come out. All that is required of you is that you should go somewhither as hard as ever you can. The rest belongs to fate. One may fall-at the beginning of the charge or at the top of the earthworks; but in no other way can he reach the rewards of victory.”

So please take time to remember all of the service men and women today, as well as their families.  Thank and shake the hands of the ones you see and pray for those you don’t.  And in their honor, believe in something and want it with all your might.  “So must you do to carry anything else to an end worth reaching.”

Gardening Highs and Lows

Apparently my food gardening thumb is anything but green.  I have tried over the years to grow vegetables in a garden.  I mean, I grew up in the freakin’ Garden State.  I love fresh vegetables.  In our first house here in Atlanta, Sheepdog built me a beautiful raised garden bed that was twelve feet by twelve feet and I did acidity tests on the weird red clay dirt and I read all the way through Walter Reeves’ Guide to Gardening in Georgia and I tried to grow lettuce and carrots and cucumbers and zucchini and green beans and tomatoes.  I made pretty rows with labels and I talked to the seedlings and I watered them and I loved them.  Nothing but the beans survived.  But I had ginormous green beans out the wazoo, even after giving bags upon bags to neighbors.  So I froze them and we had beans every night for about a year.  Now I hate green beans.

A couple of years ago I tried to grow a deck garden with planters at the house we live in now but I wasn’t so successful.  Apparently this house is an anomaly that always faces the high-noon, hot sun on all four sides for more than six hours a day.   I think it rotates or something, on all three axises.  Whatever the cause, I can’t grow a food garden because everything gets fried in this hideous Hotlanta summer heat, and shade does not even matter because even on cloudy days you step outside even at eight in the morning and you can watch as living things just spontaneously combust around you.  We must live less than a mile from the sun.

The thing on the left needs a little more of the thing on the right

It actually is more efficient to grow and cook your peppers at the same time

Nevertheless, as is the case in most areas of my life, I follow the rules of insanity (doing the same things over and over again, while expecting a different outcome each time).  Except that I always tweak the plan so that this time I will get it right.  And this year I will beat the heat and find a spot that will allow them to thrive!  So today I will head out to a local garden center and pick up some plants and seedlings and I will plant them and talk to them and water them and love them.  I will enjoy working the soil with my hands and adding just the right amount of nutrients and tenderly repotting the tiny little plants one at a time and lovingly making each one a label that indicates my hopes for what they will be when they grow up.

And one day very soon I will step outside and see that my beautiful and lovingly cared for little deck garden has been completely fried like a drive-thru order at Popeye’s.  And I’ll have to once again go to the grocery store to get my lettuce and cucumbers and peppers and tomatoes.  And I’ll vow to try again next year, finally with just the right changes that will result in bountiful produce from our backyard.  And when you find a bag of ginormous green beans on your doorstep, you will know that I have finally succeeded.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…


Some (nick)names in today’s post have been changed in order to keep the peace in my house.

This is a reminder to the daddies to say "I love you" to your daughters every day

Yesterday afternoon somebody‘s boyfriend came over to “study.”  I went down to the basement freezer to get some chicken for dinner and I caught them kissing.  So I yelled, “Fire!” and then sent Kids D and E down there to annoy them/ make sure I don’t become a grandma just yet until dinnertime.

I think back to when I was “going out” with boys in middle school.  My mom and dad always wanted to know where we were going (dorks!).  Maybe we would talk on the phone, but usually they would come to my locker after school or walk me to my school bus.  We would write notes to each other and pass them in class or in the hallways.  It really was innocent enough.  Then I thought about my boyfriends in high school and how I would have them come over while I was babysitting my little sisters and we would make out and my right eye started twitching again and I got all sweaty and threw up a little in my mouth.  I am not ready for any of this.

Because times they are a-changin’ and my kids are growing up and I know that we are just on the cusp of “real” love and real broken hearts and real decisions that can affect their lives in so many ways.  Did I teach them clearly enough that Edward and Bella’s relationship was obsessive and overly dependent and not a healthy connection?  Do the girls really understand that boys think about sex all the time and The Secret Life of the American Teenager, while very poorly acted, is not so far from reality?  Have I talked to them openly enough about sexuality and morality that they will make good decisions and not end up starring in an episode of 16 and Pregnant?  Am I successfully doing these things on an ongoing basis?  Will they come to me and Sheepdog if they have questions or fears or if they need guidance or advice?  Did Sheepdog spend enough time with the girls so that they don’t go looking for attention from inappropriate boys?  These are some of the things that keep me up at night.

I hope that we continue to face new situations as they happen with reasonableness and humor and understanding.  I remember my father-in-law calling the back room of their house the Petting Room when Sheepdog’s little sister was a teenager.  It’s not that he was encouraging them.  In fact, I think he was doing just the opposite by putting all of his cards on the table.  He was reminding everyone that he knew how teenagers think with their tingly parts, and then he randomly checked on them in there to make sure that everyone was keeping their tingly parts to themselves.

After her boyfriend went home I asked somebody if she had a fun afternoon.  She smiled and said that she had a really great day.  Then she thanked me for being pretty cool about walking in on them kissing.  So I let myself breathe a sigh of relief about just this one of many situations to come.

And then I made a mental note to NEVER have any of my daughters babysit while they have boyfriends in high school.  Just in case.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

I Am Not The Biggest Loser… or Am I?

Hot Mama check in!

On this morning after the finale of the whatever-th season of the show, I am sad to report that I am, in fact, not The Biggest Loser.  I didn’t completely win over your hearts with my hard work, charm and cunning game play during my transformation from giant, lost, aimless person who once upon a time had to sleep with scuba gear, into a svelte, appropriately muscular bombshell whose legs are now so thin that they do not touch and the stage lights shine all the way through them and even hideous bike tights look good on me.  I did not have an emotional reveal when Jillian broke me down with her repeated screams in my face that I was lazy or dumb and would never amount to anything if I didn’t follow through on something.  I did not train to box like Sylvester Stallone did in Rocky IV, in a barn using only railroad ties and farm equipment.  I did not fall off of the back of a treadmill and then have to endure watching the clip in slow motion along with a Ka-Boom! sound effect over and over on promos for the show throughout the season.  No, none of that happened to me.

But I did watch the show.  And I did occasionally eat cookies while watching (don’t we all?).  One time I think I ate a cupcake or two, which made me feel all bad-ass and rebellious.  I wondered if trainer Bob had a girlfriend or a boyfriend or both (no matter to me… just wondering).  And I was conflicted by Jillian’s angry motivation techniques and weirded out by her forced facial expressions.  And I decided that I didn’t, then I did, then I again didn’t like the two new trainers.  And that Allison looked tired all season, so maybe she’s pregnant again.  Imagine the stress of losing your post-baby weight while working on that show!  And I also felt bad for not working out enough and for not feeding my family with all-natural, whole foods all the time.  I mean how do people do it?

I have struggled with my weight throughout my adult life.  I was active and fit as a kid and maintained that all the way through high school.  I was residually muscular and fit through most of college, but years of a steady diet of cheap beer and 2 a.m. cheese steaks will eventually take a toll.  My wedding dress (aside from the hideous 80’s New Jersey mafia princess theme) was not a size to cry over, but I certainly wasn’t wearing the tag on the outside to brag about it.  I had Kid A almost three years later and took pregnancy as a license to do my best impersonation of the Michelin Man.  Over the years (and after the pregnancies) I would go up and down on the scale, which (I know) is the worst possible thing for your body.

I have read so many books and tried so many things… Stop the Insanity, The Cabbage Soup Diet, Atkins, gym memberships, body typing, yoga, boot camps, P90X, personal trainers, food diaries, juicers, Weight Watchers, Windsor Pilates.  I won’t ever take “magic” diet pills, but if there is some sort of well-produced infomercial that shows me how eating tree bark or jumping up and down on a trampoline every day will help me lose weight, then you can probably count me in!  It is absolutely no wonder that the diet and exercise industry is a kajillion-dollar one.  A few years ago I finally figured out that my body was not meant to be stick-figure thin, and that wacko diets and crazy exercise routines did not lead to long-term weight loss and overall good health.  Duh, right?  It is easier said than done.

Nevertheless, I keep on fighting the good fight.  I got frustrated recently when, shortly after turning forty, I was working out more than ever and eating fairly well, but I kept gaining weight.  Are you kidding me?  This just sucks.  So now I am following my doctor’s advice to cut out carbs temporarily and keep on working out.  He made me stand up and gave me the once-over.  Then he said that my body did a very good job of distributing my weight evenly.  Then he added, “On the plus side, if you ever had to endure a temporary famine, you would certainly make it through.”  Nice.

Keep my eyes on the prize and my hands on the plow.  That is what I want my kids to see me doing instead of some kooky food plan or unrealistic workout routine.  And I know that they are always watching and learning from me.  I’ll keep cutting up fresh veggies and serving fish for dinner, but sometimes we will have pizza or mexi-food or cupcakes.  And today I am going back on the treadmill, both literally and figuratively.  I may never be mistaken for a runway model, but someday soon I could be a big loser.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Wrangling the Entropy, Tip #3

Science geeks and Stetson-wearers rejoice!  Let’s get busy wrangling some entropy and saving ourselves from the inevitable chaos of family paperwork.

Tip #3 – In and Out (no this is not a sex tip, you pervs)

  1. Designate Your “In” Bin.  Mine is a simple 2-tiered letter sized sorting bin on the desk in our family office.  If you come to my house and you need to me to do, see, approve or pay anything, then your best bet is to put it in my “In” bin.  Permission slips, report cards, party invitations, bills, notes, etc. all go in there and I review them and then take the appropriate action.  Usually I review the “in” bin on Sunday afternoons (for the surprise “I need it on Monday” stuff) and most weekdays so I won’t overlook something important.  Make your “in” bin easily accessible and make sure everyone knows where it is.
  2. Give Everyone Else an “Out” Bin.  This part is derived from Newton’s Second Law of Motion.  What goes in must come out.  When you have done, seen, signed, approved or paid the things that others dropped into your “in” bin, you then must hand off to the appropriate party by putting into their “out” bin.  They can then take these things back to school or sports or wherever they need to go.  Make sure to teach them to look in their “out” bin every day as well, so nothing gets left behind.
Equal and opposite reaction feels pretty good, right? 

All or Nothing

This Week (Argh!)

Next Week (Ahhh!)

It really does work out to be all or nothing, doesn’t it?  This last week of school is just insanely busy.  Then next week starts summer vacation and there will be (relatively) nothing on our schedule.  I’ll bet that by mid-week next week at least some of the kids (and maybe me too) will have started the “I’m bored!” chant.

Today we all have our heads spinning.  I got almost no sleep last night, at least nothing in a consecutive chunk.  Everybody has at least one project, one deadline, one thing that requires our immediate attention.  Except Kid E, and he is sick.  Sick as a dog, because that’s how All or Nothing works.

I just wanted to let you know that I get overwhelmed sometimes too.  Today is one of those times.  Today I feel like I have to do it all…so for you, I’ve got nothing.  And I’m sorry.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Are You There God? It’s Me, Crazy Lady.

I am suggesting a different type of prayer in the bathroom, but do whatever works for you

This morning started off swimmingly… I awoke with a start just after six a.m. as what I perceived to be Godzilla (turned out it was only Kid D) was stomping down my hallway, yelling at top volume about nothing in particular, turning on every light along his route and opening and closing every door “just because.”  Of course he woke his little brother, who was up too late last night and desperately needed to sleep in this morning.  Kid E came into my room in a foul, foul mood… extra whiny, croup-like coughing, hug-me-but-don’t-touch-me, “I gotta pee” and just plain miserable.  Kid C was upset that her hair wasn’t looking just right and wanted me to straighten it for her (she has been ten-years-old for about five minutes… no I am not using a heating appliance on her hair.  What is this?  Toddlers & Tiaras?).  Kid A was harboring residual teenage anger at me for not trying hard enough to rearrange the schedule for her to go in late to school yesterday or be able to see her boyfriend tonight, and somehow (and I DO NOT understand how), Kid B managed to sleep through all of this and almost miss her school bus, thus requiring me to drive her to school this morning.

It was too early (well, anything before ten a.m. is technically “too early” in my book).  I hadn’t even put my contacts in yet, let alone started my coffee i.v. and all of this was barreling down on me already.  Let me check the calendar – wasn’t Friday the 13th just last week?  And, dammit, when is Sheepdog coming home?  The “Yelling Mom” part of me wanted to shout from the rooftop for all of them to just shut the front door.  Sometimes you can stop the insanity by simply being so loud and insane yourself that your over-the-top meltdown trumps everything else and they all stop to watch your spiral into complete lunacy.  I’ve done that before and it can be effective.  Kid C was about two-years-old or so and having a nice screaming fit in the car seat behind Sheepdog, who was in the driver’s seat.  We hadn’t even pulled out of the driveway yet and I had had enough, so I turned around from the passenger seat and I looked at her and I just screamed at the top of my lungs.  Let’s just say that I caught everyone off guard and it’s probably a good thing that Kid C was still wearing diapers at that moment, but she stopped her fit.

So I’m lying in my bed this morning, having pulled all of the pillows over my head to pretend I am anywhere but there and chanting ever so softly, “Eff, eff, eff, eff, eff, eff me” and basically being the guest of honor at my own little pity party.  I was going over the planned events for the day and dreading all that I needed to accomplish was never going to have enough time for and basically setting a really bad tone for my day.  And I already knew that the kids were queering up the mojo this morning, so they wouldn’t be any help.  But then I stopped.  I mentally popped all of the black balloons at my pity party.  I remembered something that Sheepdog is teaching me, and I began to meditate.

Meditation for Moms is not easy.  True meditation calls for silence and a mental escape to your happy place.  How am I ever supposed to do that when I’m usually being beaten over the head (either literally with a toy or metaphorically with constant demands or questions or requests)?  I’ll let you in on a little secret.  Tell them all that you have to poop, then lock yourself in the bathroom.  It usually buys about two minutes of uninterrupted time, which is just enough for a quick request for peace, patience and clarity.  My family thinks that I poop all the time.  It is such a great plan that I don’t even care if they tell their friends.

Alone for just a few precious seconds, I quietly whisper, “Are you there God?  It’s me, Crazy Lady.”  And I ask for help and strength and patience and creative solutions and generosity of spirit, because all of those things are missing or almost depleted from my stockpiles.  I pray for the Kids and I pray for Sheepdog, especially if they are struggling.  And I also ask for thinner thighs, even though I’m not supposed to do that.  And then, if I have time, I pray for the people who I don’t really like, especially the idiots.  By then there has almost always been at least one knock on the bathroom door and I am pulled away from thoughts of warm sand between my toes.  But by then it is okay.  I take a deep breath as I flush the toilet for effect, ready to face what challenges lie ahead of me today.

Can I get an Amen?  And can Sheepdog please come home soon, because this single-parenting thing is definitely for the birds.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Special Events Day

Today I am volunteering at my kids’ school for Special Events Day.  I used to be the kind of mom who just sent stuff or money in when they needed things, but I am trying to be a better person and a better mom, so this year I am a Room Mom (sorry, “Classroom Coordinator” so we don’t offend any dads) and a Team Mom (times two – how about that!) and I’m signing up for all sorts of things, left and right.  Last year the school had a similar Special Events Day, but I did not volunteer.  I don’t know if they failed to advertise or I was just not paying attention (most likely), or what, but I have been regretting my lack of involvement ever since.  This was a subsequent article that appeared about it in a local publication:

Elementary School celebrates “Public Safety Day” with Secret Service

Once a year, various law enforcement, fire and emergency agencies across the metro area pick one school to hold a comprehensive “Public Safety Day.” This year, a local Elementary School was chosen, and the Secret Service’s Operation Safe Kids program fingerprinted nearly 800 students.

The following agencies participated in the event: FBI, Secret Service, Georgia State Patrol, U.S. Army National Guard, U.S. Postal Inspectors, Homeland Security, ICE, ATF, McGruff the Crime Dog, Fulton County Schools Police Department, Johns Creek Police and Fire Departments, Roswell Fire Department, U.S. Probation Service and the U.S. Fugitive Service.

Now, except for the mailmen (really?!?) and the McDog, this is my ideal school volunteering scenario.  I couldn’t have written out a more dreamy guest list if I tried.  I can’t believe that I missed it!  I am a girl who appreciates all types of good-looking men, and even when you take an OK-looking guy and you put him in a uniform, his hotness quotient usually goes up at least a couple of points.

So when they announced that this year the theme was going to be Health-Wellness-Fitness-Safety and the Atlanta Falcons will be running their Junior Training Camp, I wrote an email to the volunteer coordinator that said the following:

To: Volunteer Coordinator Lady
From: Me
Subject: Special Events Day Volunteer
Ooooh!  Pick me!  Pick me!
Do you still need volunteers for this?  I will certainly lend a hand if 
there is a chance that it involves football players.  Or even if it doesn't, 
but I can't promise I'll be as excited about it then.

So I wished and hoped and crossed my fingers and was ecstatic to find out that I was chosen as a parent volunteer.  (How hard up are they for help, right?  That was my real email.)  So I brushed my teeth and put on my most flattering mom sweatpants and Kid A’s Falcons shirt and got ready to go meet some professional football players.

But no such luck.  I just got back from the Special Events Day festivities.  There weren’t any football players there because of the ongoing NFL lockout/ walkout/ strike/ freeze, or whatever it is being called.  The Falcons sent their Community Outreach team to run the show, which was entertaining (except for the dancing, A Night at the Roxbury style) and fun.  I had a great time throwing football passes to the fourth and fifth grade kids all morning, and we got some good exercise too.  Everybody worked up a good sweat.  And when our event was over, we followed the whole school outside to the playground where we all got to watch a helicopter take off.

The day really was special and I felt good about volunteering at my kids’ school, being a participant in our community, and contributing something.  I did it for my kids and their classmates.  I didn’t need to see young, strapping men who made their living being fit and strong and athletic.  I don’t need to be some dirty old lady who gawks at hot guys (not that there is anything wrong with that) and demeans them the way men often do to women.  So I gathered my things and headed out.  And when I walked out of the main office and into the parking lot, this is what I saw…

And I smiled.  I didn’t even see any of the ever-reliable firemen from Ladder 61, but I knew they were there.  I skipped back to my car, just happy to be me.

Volunteering really is good for you.  I think I’m going to keep it up.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

It’s Mayteenth… High-Five an Angel!

I don't think this is actually Kid C being born. But maybe it is. I was kinda out of it that day.

Ten years ago I went into Shore Memorial Hospital with some labor pains, but I had false labor throughout the last trimester and I was still ten days away from my due date.  Sheepdog was working in Philadelphia at the time and he had (rather inconveniently) taken the train to work that day, so he was hours away from being by my side.  Being a patient in the hospital brings feelings of helplessness, but being nine months pregnant and clumsy in your own body just makes it worse.  The staff was so helpful – hydrating me to stave off labor, even for just a little while longer, but they still didn’t discharge me.  Later in the day a new nurse came in and checked my monitors.  She then called my doctor and calmly told me that she was advising him to do a c-section sooner rather than later.  There was nothing blatantly wrong – no fetal distress – but this nurse had been doing her job for a long time and her experience told her that this baby should be delivered.

The rest of the afternoon was kind of a big blur to me.  I remember Sheepdog rushing in to hold my hand, frantic after his long day on mass transit.  At the nurse’s insistence, my doctor had arrived and was checking on me too.  They all agreed that this baby was being delivered on this day, but there was still no sense of urgency.  Then I felt like I had been stabbed in the side with a giant machete.  And again.  I remember being taken into the operating room and I remember getting an epidural.  I remember everybody coming and going from the room, but still not feeling like this was an actual emergency.  I even remember thinking that it would be cool to watch the surgery in the reflective ring around the operating light above me.  I felt the pressure of the incision, but I was no longer in any pain.

Then I heard a splashing kind of noise, followed by a frighteningly insistent, “Get it out!  Get it out!  Get it out!”  I think it was the normally very calm and soothing voice of my almost hippie-like obstetrician, but I wasn’t really sure because I had never heard him speak with any kind of urgency.  The rest of the surgery was controlled chaos, everyone in the room busily doing their jobs with single-minded focus.  I was asking (out loud, I thought), “Is it a boy or a girl?” over and over and over again, but I never got an answer.  After what seemed like an eternity, Sheepdog (who had been at the head of the table with me the whole time) told me that we had a beautiful baby girl.  I was so very cold and tired, but joyful over the birth of our third daughter.

I never passed out completely, but I do remember coming to in the recovery room afterwards.  The doctor explained to Sheepdog and I that the stabbing pain was a concealed abruption, wherein the placenta had torn away from my uterus.  That had caused significant bleeding in me and the baby had ingested some blood before she could be delivered.  She was having some difficulty breathing, but she was in the intermediary nursery (Shore is a community hospital and they did not have a N.I.C.U.) so they could monitor her respiration and the oxygen in her blood.  They never had to intubate her, so he was cautiously optimistic.  Sheepdog went to be with her immediately, but I was stuck in recovery, unable to see my helpless, sick new baby until the next morning.

Two very worrisome days of sitting by her side (me in a wheelchair… hospital rules), holding her tiny little hands and telling her all about the crazy family that she had been born into, and many tubes, monitors and tests later, Kid C finally was released from specialized care.  Her oxygen levels were stable and she was breathing very well on her own.  They even let us go home shortly thereafter, but I would forever be affected by this incredibly complicated weekend.

I kept Kid C close, even closer than I did with the other kids as newborns.  She slept in a bassinet by my bedside for over five months (I said it was because I was more convenient for breastfeeding, but I was secretly checking to make sure she was still breathing every five minutes).  I was intensely overprotective of her, even for a Type-A, control-freak, compulsively sheltering Mama Bear who was getting little sleep and had two other little active chickens in the coop to look after.  And Sheepdog?  He might as well have lived somewhere else, as he was still commuting to Philadelphia every day and I never had time for him anyway.

Then came September 11th, and everybody was holding their families a little closer, so I fit right in.  Then came The Story for Another Day, and Sheepdog and I moved our family to Atlanta.  By now, Kid C was just over a year old and she was running and playing and developing ahead of schedule.  She was fun and charming and silly.  I had started to relax my vigilant watch over her a slight bit, but it wasn’t until a specific day in the Fall of 2002 that I really was able to let go.  That was when I read the surgical report from the day she was born.

Because we had moved, I needed a new doctor.  I didn’t have one confirmed yet, so I had my old doctor send my file directly to me.  I was curious, so I looked through it and found the report.  It was technical and medical and official and void of any emotion, as any proper surgical report should be.  I read it many times over, always more stunned than the last time I read it.  I had done some research on concealed abruptions in my dad’s Gray’s Anatomy book the summer after she was born and I learned how dangerous they can be to both the mother and baby because they are usually undetected until it is too late (the concealed part is really bad).  I went over the report again, mixing in what I knew to be the facts and trying to make sense of the foggy parts from my memory.  Do you know how something can be staring you right in the face, but you are blind to seeing it until you finally get lucky and actually do?  Well, I finally got lucky.

I realized that my doctor and the surgeon who was assisting him, and especially the nurse were all angels disguised as medical personnel on that day ten years ago.  Yes, those people were experienced and talented and just doing their jobs, but mistakes happen and sometimes things are not clear while they are happening as they may be in hindsight, and there was no real reason that I should have been so close to the critical and capable medical intervention that I and Kid C so desperately needed when my placenta tore without warning.  Angels, lucky stars, fairy godmothers/ godfathers, guardians… call them what you want.  I believe that they were on duty for us that day.  And that realization gave me such a sense of peace.  So I backed off on the overprotective Mama Bear thing (not totally – I am still a classic Type-A, duh), and gave my daughters more room to grow and make mistakes and learn things on their own.

Often, and especially on this day – which Kid C has so lovingly called “Mayteenth” since she was little – I think about those angels.  I thank God for them and the so many others who have watched out for Kid C and the rest of our family over the years.  I am so incredibly grateful for all of the little and big miracles that happened the way they did in order to bring such a vivacious, crazy-haired, creative, kooky, burst of joy into our family.  Happy Tenth Birthday, Kid C.  Let’s go high-five some angels.