Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A plea to save a life

My father, who's only 62, has acute meyloid leukemia. He was diagnosed just over three weeks ago. It's a very aggressive, very dangerous disease. My parents are amazing, giving, loving people and it breaks my heart to see my father, who has always been so strong and vibrant, knocking on death's door. And what's amazing is that when I visit him in the hospital he's still just as strong and vibrant as before - at least on the outside. It's hard to believe there's an all-out war being fought on the inside.

Now the only thing that can save his life is a bone marrow transplant, most likely from an anonymous donor through the National Marrow Donor Program. (Unless his sister is a match, but that's only a 1 in 4 chance.) We're all hoping that out there, somewhere, is someone of Eastern European Jewish descent who's not only a match, but willing to take a few days of his/her life to give my dad a second chance.

The process of registering to become a donor is easy and can be done online. All it requires is sending in a swab of cells collected from the inside of your cheek using a kit provided by the Program. If it's ever determined that you are a match for someone, you will have the choice about whether or not to donate at that time. Unfortunately, it does cost $52 to cover the cost of the kit. But if there's any way you can afford it, I urge you to consider registering. I will be. You have the opportunity to directly save the life of someone's father, mother, child, or other loved one.

Thank you.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Anna Quindlen Newsweek 10/16/2006

Oct. 16, 2006 issue - For anyone who has spent a lifetime listening to the bumper-sticker rhetoric of abortion politics, hearing Renee Chelian describe how she does things at the Michigan clinics she oversees is, no question, a shock to the system. "We're not going to correct a woman when she says 'baby' instead of 'fetus' and 'killing' instead of 'termination'," says Chelian flatly.

"If it's her body, she gets to use her terminology. We have to speak the language of the patients, not of political positions. Women don't come to us and say, 'I'm having an abortion because it's my choice.' They say, 'I'm having an abortion because I can't have a baby.' And sometimes they feel sad about that."

These are some of the honest discussions taking place around America's most contentious personal moral and ethical issue. They're found in places like Northland Family Planning, where the counseling staff may suggest that a woman who is uncertain complete a pie chart with the heading "How much of you wants what?"

At clinics like Chelian's the staff deals with the actual, the difficult, sometimes the terribly necessary. But in the legislative world, it's all about strategy. When South Dakota's governor signed a measure banning almost all abortions, much of the second-guessing that followed could have concerned a tax cut. Would a more moderate approach have been better for the Republicans? Would the legislation push more female voters toward the Democrats? On Planet Spin, it was possible to forget completely that the legislation could change the destinies of many ordinary women. A coalition of nurses, teachers, doctors, ministers and other nonpoliticos finally brought the matter back to earth and onto the ballot for all the state's residents to consider in the November election.

Recently the House passed a bill that would make it a federal crime to accompany a minor seeking an abortion from a state that requires parental notification to one that does not. Like most abortion debates, this one had its stock characters: the grandmother imprisoned after helping a girl impregnated by her stepfather, the young woman victimized by the predatory older man. If those sound like plotlines from Lifetime movies, it may be because none of this had much to do with reality, with almost no chance of squaring the House and Senate versions of the law for a compromise that could be sent to the White House. But voting the bill out now gave House conservatives something to crow about just in time for the midterm races.

The conventional wisdom about parental-notification and consent laws was that they would cut down on abortion, which is why anti-abortion activists loved them. But earlier this year The New York Times ran a jaw-dropping analysis that found the laws had no significant impact on teenage abortion rates. (They also may be way behind the curve; at Chelian's clinic, young women already tell counselors that you can order an ulcer medication online that all their friends swear will cause a miscarriage.) The statutes did, however, have one unintended consequence. "We have parents who come in and want to force their daughters to have an abortion," Chelian says. "Their attitude is, 'If I can prevent you from having one, I can force you to have one.' And we have to tell them that that's not so. The mother will say, 'She's 14, I'm already taking care of her sister's baby, I can't take care of another one.' You know that it will be really hard for everyone."

Public pronouncements rarely make any of this sound hard for anyone, since they're too often based on mean-spirited assumptions. The gay-rights movement has shown over the last two decades that a powerful enemy of such misinformation is personal testimony, that coming out as an individual can combat the big lies about the group. In that spirit the current issue of Ms. magazine contains a list of the names of thousands of American women under the headline WE HAD ABORTIONS. It is riveting, even disconcerting, because telling their own abortion stories seems in direct opposition to the bedrock belief that this decision, above all, is not subject to the scrutiny of strangers.

It's that very determination to stay within the zone of privacy that has made abortion, and the women who choose it, such an easy mark for cheap mythology and easy demonization. And sometimes the triumphant talk of rights has overshadowed the complex responsibility women feel. "Having the right doesn't make the decision any easier," said one of the signatories of the Ms. magazine petition. Chelian notes that while most patients come to the clinic with their minds made up, that doesn't mean they are not conflicted. "Sometimes we're working with a person who feels like she's got nothing but bad choices," she says. "She doesn't want to have an abortion, but she doesn't want to have a baby. That's what I think people need to understand. You can be ambivalent about abortion and still decide to have one. And you can be ambivalent about abortion and still be pro-choice. Lots of people are."


Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Story of My Surgery

September 13, 2006. A day that will always be seared into my memory. The day of my surgery to remove my acoustic neuroma (aka, head booger).

Believe it or not, I had little trouble sleeping the night before my surgery. We did have to get up at 4am to check in at the hospital by 6am, but I slept quite soundly up until then. I didn’t expect to. And when we got up before the crack of dawn, I still wasn’t feeling nervous.

The drive into Boston was eerily quiet. Not much traffic that early. Brett and I didn’t talk much in the car. I think we were both in our own worlds, thinking about this surgery from very different perspectives.

We get to the hospital around 5:45am, and I need a pit stop before going up to surgical admitting. While my mind may not be nervous, my insides are starting to betray me. We soon go upstairs to admitting. The waiting area for outpatient surgery is already pretty full. I am somewhat envious of all those people there for such minor procedures that they can go home the same day. I check in and we head over to the inpatient waiting area. We are the only ones there. Shortly, another older couple joins us, and then by a younger couple with their young child – he couldn’t have even been 2 years old. I was heartbroken, watching the little boy play quietly, wondering what had gone so wrong in his young life that he required surgery. And I was heartbroken for his parents, having to watch their baby go through something so awful. I tried to flip through my magazine, but it wasn’t working. I couldn’t read the letters on the page. Fortunately, there wasn’t a lot of time to fret – I was quickly called back to the pre-op area. The first among the inpatient surgical patients. Brett has to stay in the waiting room for now.

I follow a very nice nurse, Eleanor, back to pre-op. It is a huge bright, white room filled with curtained off stretchers. My first task is to remove all clothing and change into the requisite hospital garb – gown, robe, and slippers. Eleanor then returns to go through her pre-op checklist. I confirm, three times, that I am there to have a left AN removed, and she uses a Sharpie to write the word “YES” behind my left ear. Don’t want those docs attacking the wrong side! After all the requisite vitals (again, my body betrays that maybe I am a little nervous when my blood pressure is much higher than normal), I sign all the papers saying I will consent to the surgery today.

Finally, around 6:15am, Brett is allowed back to wait with me. But we only have about five minutes before the woman from Transport shows up to wheel me off. Brett and I try to say a decent good-bye, but it’s hard with Stern Transport Woman (STW) watching. And then it’s time for me to be off. STW takes my stretcher and pushes me through the Big Silver Doors, down a hallway, and through another set of locked doors. I am now in the surgical wing. I try to look around, but it’s hard with no glasses and I’m starting to feel a bit queasy and shaky (it doesn’t help that I haven’t been allowed to eat or drink anything since the night before). I do notice that both sides of the corridor and lined with surgical suites, and all available hall space is occupied with all sorts of bizarre equipment. STW pushes me, without speaking, for what feels like hours. Finally, we stop at O.R. 27. I’m wheeled around in a small holding area outside the O.R. so my back is to the O.R. doors. STW goes behind me to poke her head into the O.R., announces my presence, and unceremoniously leaves.

A few minutes later, the anesthesiologist (Dr. Kamdar) comes out. She’s young, and quite attractive. It is her job to start some of my IV lines, as well as get my final consent for the anesthesia. At this point, I am starting to freak a little. My stomach is all uptight and I have to remind myself to breathe at times. Dr. Kamdar starts working on the back of my right hand to start an IV (a BIG one), and a nurse comes out to go through everything with me – again. Finally, I sign the last of the paperwork. I guess this is really happening! Now that I’ve signed all the consents, Dr. Kamdar asks if I’d like some medication to help me relax and I agree. It takes effect pretty quickly – I feel kind of tingly all over, like I’ve had a couple glasses of wine. I’m still freaking out, but breathing is a bit easier now.

Dr. Kamdar then shoots my right wrist full of Novocain so she can put in the arterial line. I can’t watch, but try to ask her a few questions (how many people are in the O.R.? What kind of anesthesia do you use?) to distract myself. She’s having trouble with my veins (I’m somewhat dehydrated because I couldn’t eat or drink that morning) so I probably should be letting her concentrate, but I really feel like I need someone to talk to me. She’s been working on my wrist for several minutes when I start to feel very light-headed. I try to ride it out, but finally have to tell Dr. Kamdar that I feel like I’m going to pass out. She quickly pushes a medication into my IV, and a few moments later I’m feeling better. It’s all very unreal at this point. Shortly after, the arterial line is done, and Dr. Kamdar straps my wrist to a soft board so I don’t accidentally move the wrong way and dislodge a large line in a major artery. That could be bad.

Now Dr. deBros, the senior anesthesiologist, comes out. We chit-chat a few minutes, and then he starts discussing the anesthesia protocols with Dr. Kamdar. I listen, amazed that he has a specific protocol he likes to use for AN patients. What really gets my attention, though, is when he describes the dosage of a specific med to push when the surgeon is about to start drilling the skull to put me under a bit deeper – otherwise, he says, the patient can reflexively startle and move a bit from the noise. (I later find out that Dr. deBros specializes in anesthesia for neurosurgery cases.) I actually find myself reassured that this team is so experienced with ANs that even the anesthesiologist has developed a specialized protocol. At this point, Dr. Kamdar has given up on starting the other IVs she needs, saying my veins are too collapsed from dehydration and she’ll finish up after I’m under to minimize my discomfort. Then she and Dr. deBros disappear into the O.R., leaving me alone in the waiting area.

I have no idea how much time passes, but I don’t think it’s too long. A nurse finally comes out, and says it’s time to go in. And just like that, I’m wheeled into the O.R. I wanted to remember to look around and really take it all in and remember it, but I think the meds are starting to play with my brain. I note that the O.R. is very large, and there are lots of large, white, shiny pieces of equipment all over. And enormous lights over the operating table. My stretcher is wheeled over so that it’s right next to the operating table. I hear someone say out loud “In the room at 7:45am.” Then a couple nurses appear right next to me. One asks if I can slide myself over to the table, or if I need them to do it for me. I reply that I can do it, and proceed to (somewhat awkwardly) move myself over. The nurse remarks how strong I am, and quickly covers me with warm blankets and puts towels under my elbows on the little armrest jutting out from the table. To my right, I see someone I think is one of the surgeons pacing back and forth and muttering to himself. In a very disconnected way, it again hits me that this is actually real.

Dr. Kamdar is back, near my head. She places a mask over my nose and mouth, telling me they’re starting to give me some oxygen. I’m grateful that she just holds the mask a bit away from my face – I somehow know that I’d freak with claustrophobia (though I’m not usually claustrophobic) if the thing were strapped down tight. The air in the mask suddenly starts to smell different and I wonder if Dr. Kamdar is starting to put me under, hoping that she’d tell me if first if she was.

There’s a hive of activity around me. I can hear it. I will myself to open my eyes and they do for a brief second. I see a woman standing to my right, writing on a clipboard, before my eyes decide they really don’t want to be open. I lose sense of the activity. Then it comes back, though I have no idea how much time has passed. I hear people talking about what I think are medication doses. My head hurts, A LOT, and I say so. But I don’t know if I actually say the words, or if it’s just in my head. Somewhere back in the deep recesses of my brain, I finally realize I must be in Post-Op Recovery. And I’m convinced it’s 5pm, which is good – it means the surgery went faster than expected. And then I pass out again. Suddenly, I’ve got the dry heaves, which is exceptionally miserable and kills my head, and them I’m out again. (Looking back, that’s probably when they took out my breathing tube.)


My stretcher starts moving. It’s not a good feeling. I really don’t want the world around me to be moving. I feel like I’m spinning. I close my eyes and try to pass out again, but it’s not working. After what feels like a three-hour trip through hell, I stop moving. I’m in a room – ICU. My brain is working enough again to realize what’s going on. The room is buzzing with nurses, doctors, and other people. I look around a bit and see the clock on the wall – it says 9:00. For a minute I’m very confused. Is it 9pm or 9am? I thought I was only supposed to spend an hour in Recovery. Did something go wrong?

The doctors notice I’m alert and start talking to me and asking me questions. I’m actually pain-free – good meds! I pass the initial neurological assessment, which is great. I can actually feel both sides of my face moving – is it possible my facial nerve wasn’t damaged? That would be amazing. But my left hand is numb. I tell this to the doctor, and he looks concerned. He examines my hand and arm and finds that I have a pressure bruise on my elbow that is causing problems with the nerve going down to my hand. He seems disappointed, but not concerned.

I ask to see Brett. But, again, I’m not sure if I say the words out loud or just in my head. I think I’ve been given IV morphine, and it’s starting to make me very sleepy again. I start to doze off, and then Brett’s suddenly standing at the foot of the bed, talking to the ICU nurse. Everyone else has left. Brett and I talk for a few minutes (about what, I have no idea) and then I’m dozing off again. By the time I can get my eyes open again, Brett has gone and I’m left in the ICU, with a wonderful nurse, to recover.


Day by day by day… I feel a little better every day. And I never did figure out why I thought it was 5pm when I was in recovery. Trick of the meds, I guess.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

10 Years Today!

Happy Anniversary, m'love!

Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be the shelter for each other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be the warmth for the other. Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before. Go now to your dwelling place to enter into the days of your life together. And may your days be good and long upon the earth.

Apache Marriage Blessing

Saturday, August 26, 2006

My Surgery

Yesterday, I had a conversation with friends in which they asked me if I was nervous about my approaching surgery. I said "no" and they looked at me like I had fourteen heads! I couldn't explain it well at the time, but it was (and is) true. I'm not nervous, despite the fact that I'm about to have my skull opened up in an OR. That conversation yesterday afternoon has had me thinking hard since then. Why am I not nervous about this surgery? What kind of freak am I that I'm not?

So I've been thinking. A lot. (This is what I often do at times like this - get very introspective.) And I think it comes down to several factors that I'd like to try and explain, mostly so I have the exercise of putting it into words. And see if it makes any sense to anyone else! :-) So, please excuse the novella that follows!

First, I really think I went through all the stages of grief (shock, denial, anger, grief, acceptance) last summer after I was first diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma. And I truly have Accepted this as part of my life now.

While I really don't think I'm "nervous", I freely admit that this is A Big Deal. It has changed my life, and life for me will never again be exactly like it was before. And honestly, the least of it is the loss of hearing on one side. I assume I will have temporary facial paralysis, and hope that it is not permanent. I assume I will have temporary facial numbness, and realize there is a higher likelihood that this will be permanent (feeling like part of your face is on Novacaine all the time). But I really think these, and other possible, minor physical issues will not affect my overall quality of life. I refuse to submit to that. For me, the bigger change has been internally. I have much less tolerance for any bullsh** from anyone. And I've insulated myself from relationships that aren't as two-way as I might have thought. It's just no longer worth my energy to continually reach out to people who aren't willing or able to give back as much as I give them. And so, as often happens in times of crisis, I've been able to differentiate between True Friends and Casual Friends. There is a real difference between the people who really reach out to support me, and those who say they're thinking about me but I never hear from. All this has made me feel much more centered and focused in daily life.

And while I don't participate in organized religion, this has - in its own way - been a very spiritual journey for me. A lot of re-evaluating what's important to me and what fulfills me. A lot of focus on my family. A lot of weeding out of negative energy (as hokey as that sounds). And a lot of faith in the medical choices I've made, with my husband, about treatment and the doctors I'm seeing. I really feel like I did everything I could to possibly learn about what I'm facing; made well-educated, rational choices about treatment; and put myself in the hands of the best possible medical team. I've done everything I can do, and know that I won't second-guess my choices regardless of the outcome. I have to have faith in that or I have nothing.

The other thing that helps is that I've found an online community (a forum sponsored by the Acoustic Neuroma Association) for AN patients all over the world. It's a wonderful resource, and a true community with people from all walks of life who are facing the same challenges. And I've met some of the funniest, honest, most generous-of-spirit people who are a wealth of information. I can practically touch the support from them radiating out of the computer. And, through them, I think I have a realistic picture of what I will be facing post-op. I've had the opportunity to meet a few of these people who live in the Boston area, and that has only solidified my faith in my medical team.

I also know that I simply *can't* allow myself to be wheeled into an OR if I feel uncertain, either about the surgery itself or the outcome. My life won't be the same after - I know that and accept it. But it will continue to be a wonderful, happy life - with a few accommodations.

So, what all this boils down to is that it's been a long journey for me to get to where I'm "not nervous". It's not as simple as it may have sounded yesterday. And while it's hard for me to put words to these thoughts while I'm in the middle of it, or on the spot, it's been a good thing for me too think about. I don't feel like such a freak now! ;-)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Pickle Count

31 quarts of pickles now. From 130 cucumbers. And my husband correctly pointed out we have 5 cucumber plants, not 6. Egads!

Do you think I can get away with giving everyone pickles for Christmas this year? :-)

Monday, July 31, 2006

Only on the 'Net

I had brunch yesterday with 6 other acoustic neuroma patients from around New England. Obviously, we connected online. Where else can you find a community made up only of AN patients (the ANA Discussion Forum)? And the brunch was great! Three of the six had been treated by my team of doctors and had nothing but good things to say. (Of the other three, one is still waiting for treatment, one had radiation treatment, and one flew to CA for surgery.) While I have a ton of fantastic support from family and friends, no one can sympathize quite the same way as someone who's already had the same surgery.

It was also quite amusing watching the conversations since all but one of us is deaf on one side! LOL! Lots of craned necks trying to get the good ear around to whomever was talking!

On a completely different note, we're up to 130 cucumbers picked, 20 quarts pickled, and another 8-ish quarts of pickles to make tonight. Just from 6 itty-bitty plants. Arrrggghhh!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

What a weekend!

Yesterday, we spent a lovely day in Newport, RI. It's a resort town on the coast - the place where gigantic mansions were built in the late 1800s/early 1900s by families like the Vanderbilts and the Astors - as their summer homes. We drove by some (now maintained as museums), and it's astonishing to see that kind of ostentatious display of wealth. Especially considering that these turn-of-the-century mansions are nestled among many, many similar mansions that are still used as *private* residences! I can't believe there are still people around today who find that a useful way to use their wealth.

But anyway...

The trip was brought about by wanting to see the Newport Kite Festival. Unfortunately, the winds were uncooperative so there really wasn't much kite flying. (Though some of the massive kites on the ground were spectacular! I wish we could've seen them airborne!) But we still had a very nice lunch in downtown Newport on the harbor and then, after a brief attempt at kite flying, wandered around the tide pools at Brenton Point State Park. Elliot was fascinated by the streams of water flowing between the ocean and the tide pools, and with the small snails inhabiting one of the pools. Jonah, adventurous soul that he is, simply wanted to run all over the rocks (slippery with seaweed) and stomp through every tide pool he could find! It was a good day.

Last night I had a talk with a very good friend of mine who had some very bad news, so that's been occupying my mind since some. But it's not yet public information, so I can't go into more detail yet.

This morning, I took Elliot to the pool where he'll start swimming lessons tomorrow. He's a very cautious soul, so he needed to go to the pool several times to play before lessons started - that's the only way he'll be even a little bit comfortable tomorrow, which is going to be stressful enough for him as it is. We came home for lunch, and then I spent an hour and a half slicing 51 cucumbers (that's just what ripened in the last 4 days), which I think will make about 16 quarts of pickles. Holy moly! Good thing we like pickles. I hope other people do, too! ;-)

Then later tonight it's off to the local homemade ice cream place to celebrate my mother-in-law's birthday.


Monday, June 05, 2006

Not This Time

Last fall, my sister inspired me. She grew her hair, then cut it off to donate to Locks of Love. And ever since she did, I've been growing my hair to do the same thing. They need to be able to cut at least 10" before you can donate. I currently have a good 6-7". Getting there. But it's not to be.

I will need skull surgery. Soon. To remove an obnoxious acoustic neuroma that has decided to take up residence in my inner ear canal and has started elbowing my brain. Not a good thing. And part of the skull surgery is shaving a good part of the hair behind my ear. Sigh. So, I'm now contemplating getting a short haircut before surgery so it doesn't take 3 years for the hair to grow back out to match the rest of my head.

It's minor, I know. Someday in the future, I WILL donate. It's just aggrevating to keep finding more and more aspects of my life that this AN impacts.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

OK, I Admit It

I'm stressed. I didn't think I was - I really didn't! But, I've been having trouble sleeping (both going to sleep and staying alseep) which means I'm stressed. Even if I didn't know it.

First there's Elliot. He's a great, bright, funny kid. But he's got some mild sensory integration issues that I don't know how to handle. Well, that's not quite true. Within our household, we adapt to his needs pretty easily. What stresses me out is dealing with the school system. His issues aren't severe enough to warrant a special ed plan, so schools aren't (in general) going to go out of their way to accommodate him. Not when there are *so many* kids out there designated "special needs" that the schools are mandated to accommodate. That's fine for kids with true special needs, but I don't like it when kids are labeled as such just for a different style of learning (which definitely happens around here). It seems like any child who doesn't conform to the narrowly defined "normal" is put on a special ed plan because the school systems, and the state, no longer allow teachers the flexibility to treat all their kids as individual learners with unique (but still normal) ways of learning.


I think Elliot has some sensory issues, but not enough to require special intervention by the schools. Which means he's going to be on one of those margins where the schools aren't mandated to do anything to help him, but we'll all be miserable if they don't. So we're at the mercy of individual schools and teachers. And I hate that. And I don't know if a private school would be better suited for him (though that would mean me going right back to work instead of back to school first). I don't know what to do.

And DH is working insane hours (home at midnight or later) so I've been a single parent - even more than usual - this week. At least his deadline is over with next week and then his time should loosen up again.

And then there's me. I'm facing skull surgery this summer because my tumor (acoustic neuroma) is growing faster than expected. I knew this was coming, but I thought I had more time to decide what to do. Which meant I could ignore the whole thing and pretend it didn't exist. But now I can't. Until last week, I could avoid thinking about *surgery* and what that means for my boys, even if everything goes as well as possible (I can't even contemplate what happens if things don't go well!). And I know we have tons of family and friends who will all generously be there to help with everything (babysitting, groceries, laundry, errands, etc.) during my 6 week recovery. But it's still scary. I mean, this is all because I have a tumor in my head! (Well, technically, in my ear canal but growing into my head.) Not something you like to think about. And now I'm being forced to.

No wonder I'm taking a Benadryl to help me sleep at night. Sheesh.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

About Family

Swiped from Heather (thank you!).

It's about adoption and blended families, but the sentiment applies to me and my sister, too.

"Not flesh of my flesh, Nor bone of my bone, But still miraculously my own. Never forget for a single minute, You didn't grow under my heart - but in it" --- Fleur Conkling Heylinger

Saturday, April 22, 2006

A Funny Sidebar

Webmasters who didn't think when they registered their URL

Here's a list of some funny URLs, where the designer didn't think about how people would read the name of the site:

1) Who Represents?, a database for agencies to the rich and famous:

2) Experts Exchange, a knowledge base where programmers can exchange
advice and views:

3) Looking for a pen? Look no further than Pen Island:

4) Need a therapist?

5) Mole Station Native Nursery, based in New South Wales:

6) Gas central heating anyone?

7) New to Milan and you need electric light? Why not sign up on-line with

See Domain Rookie for more.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

On Being Mom

This has been around a while, but it really resonates with me.

by Anna Quindlen

Newsweek Columnist and Author

If not for the photographs, I might have a hard time believing they ever existed. The pensive infant with the swipe of dark bangs and the black button eyes of a Raggedy Andy doll. The placid baby with the yellow ringlets and the high piping voice. The sturdy toddler with the lower lip that curled into an apostrophe above her chin.

All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like.

Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.

Everything in all the books I once pored over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach., T. Berry Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education, all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, they are
battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories.

What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations --what they taught me, was that they couldn't really teach me very much at all. Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until
finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One child is toilet trained at 3, his sibling at 2.

When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing.

Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow. I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk, too.

Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the, "Remember-When-Mom-Did Hall of Fame." The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language, mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, What did you get wrong? (She insisted I include that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs.

There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.

Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I'd done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be.

The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity.

That's what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were....

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

My Baby... No... My Toddler!

This afternoon, Elliot told me he was hungry, so I asked if he wanted a snack. Before Elliot even had the chance to answer, Jonah comes trotting over enthusiastically signing "more". OK, so I guess he understood and wanted it known that he was hungry, too! So I asked Elliot to pick a snack from the pantry and I asked Jonah to go to his highchair (which he usually does). Today, though, Jonah went over to the pantry (which Elliot had opened), grabbed the bag of Baby Goldfish, and *then* went over to his highchair. Silly baby! ;-)

I think the problem is that I do still think Jonah is a baby - but clearly *he* doesn't think so! LOL!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The last cord is cut

I'm pretty sure Jonah nursed for the last time yesterday. He's been down to once a day (at bedtime) for the last week or so and for the last couple of nights he's been getting frustrated and had a lot of trouble staying latched because there's really no supply left. Last night he kinda, sorta nursed for 15 mins before bed (constant fussing and latching/unlatching b/c there was no milk), but he went to sleep at 7pm. At 9pm, he was up screaming (which he doesn't normally do). We tried to nurse, but it was more of the same. So DH gave him 5 oz of whole milk in a bottle, which he sucked down in about 3 minutes! And then he slept until 7am.

So, I think this is it. We've been weaning slowly, so now there's just no supply left (I couldn't even squeeze out a few drops in the shower this morning). It's a little sad, but I'm also ready. My goal was to not use any formula, which I was able to accomplish. And Elliot's last nursing was 4 days after his first birthday, so they're almost exactly the same! LOL!

In the last week, Jonah's morphed quite quickly in skill and temperament from a baby to a toddler, and I'm feeling like my relationship with him is changing a lot right now to keep up with him. So this just fits right in!

I not quite sure what to think about this. The last physiological connection between Jonah and I has been severed. Should I be sad? Relieved? I think the saddest part is the idea that I'll probably never nourish another child with my own body again. It's such an amazing thing to be able to do.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

None of the Above. None.

A few ground rules for standardized testing for members of the House and Senate: test-prep fees can never be paid by lobbyists.

By Anna Quindlen

Feb. 20, 2006 issue - When I read that a presidential commission was considering standardized testing in colleges to gauge the level of learning, I was a little dispirited. I'd gotten a kick out of the fact that my homegrown college students were finally free of percentiles and national means. For what seemed like the first time since they turned 4, they were able to forget about filling in those little bubbles and swap their No. 2 pencils for paintbrushes, props, ancient prose and modern experimental poetry. And parties. Well, never mind that part.

Then I realized that I was thinking small, and so were the Feds. Through their No Child Left Untested initiative, they'd managed to metastasize school testing so that it was everywhere, from the early grades through high school. Why stop there? Why stop at all?

You there, with the plumber's van! Which of the wrenches pictured here is really best for removing this piece of pipe? Wait, wait—not the one that would do a pretty decent job if you held it the right way! The very best one as determined by a government panel of plumbing experts. And don't peek over the shoulder of that guy next to you. He's doing the heating-and-cooling achievement test. That's an entirely different thing.

Miss! Miss! Put down that tray. Dover sole is to flounder as mahimahi is to what? Where exactly are the thousand islands of Thousand Island dressing, and should you serve pie a la mode with a fork, a spoon or both? Mom, stop the stroller. Have you really studied "100 Irrational Fears You'll Have Before She Turns 2"? Are you ready for the multiple-choice questions about introducing solid food and whether or not to use a pacifier? And please don't try that "use your best judgment" excuse. A blue-ribbon panel of psychologists developed this test, which they were able to do because none of them actually have young children.

And don't think you babies are off the hook. For years you've gotten away with nothing more taxing than that Apgar test at birth, which measures stuff like muscle tone and respiration. Anyone can breathe! Keep an eye on that mobile over the crib. Track it... track it... yes! It looks as if there may be an excellent preschool in your future if you can pass the AP potty test by the time you're 3.

Of course, we've made sure some Americans already take government-mandated tests even when they're not in school. Immigrants becoming citizens, for instance, take a test on the history of the United States that most of us born here wouldn't be able to pass. By contrast, people getting their driver's licenses take a written test, much of which could be answered correctly by squirrels:

You are approaching a stop sign when an elderly person using a cane crosses in front of your car. You should:
(a) speed up
(b) slow down
(c) beep your horn
(d) stop

The presidential commission is allegedly concerned about analytical skills, although one of its members runs a big test-prep company, which my analytical skills tell me means he has a vested interest in more testing. But testing the capability of college students surely isn't enough. If, as the commission suggests, colleges and universities are under pressure to prove their worth because they're pricey, Congress clearly has something to prove.

A few ground rules for standardized testing for members of the House and Senate: test-prep fees cannot be paid by lobbyists. No one can accompany the legislator into the testing room—no press secretaries, no aides, no special assistants in charge of health-care policy. Health-care policy won't be on the test anyhow because there are no clear answers to any question. There will, however, be a math portion for those legislators who think you can increase spending, cut taxes and yet still bring down the deficit. They'll be able to use their calculators. Their magic calculators.

The president has a lot on his plate, so he will be asked to take only the same achievement tests that American high-school students already take. European and American history, and maybe biology, so that he can have an introduction to pure science, as opposed to the political kind. He should probably also take the new SAT writing sample: "Benjamin Franklin once said, 'Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.' Discuss, using examples from your own foreign or domestic policy."

Think of all the job creation going on here: test writers, test monitors, test graders. And what about the underlying lesson learned, that it doesn't matter if you really resonate to knowledge, only if you can manage to spit it back over the course of a single, long, tedious session? That should be useful in much of the work world. Naturally, the commission must be tested as well, perhaps with this short essay question: "In recent years learning is said to be plummeting while at the same time the use of standardized testing is skyrocketing. What's the point? Discuss."

© 2006


Saturday, January 28, 2006

Only In Our House

Cats are supposed to be creatures of grace and elegance. They move with ease and always land on their feet.

Except our cat. Arthur, the King of Klutz Kitties.

Arthur has always been the least graceful cat we've ever met. He regularly misjudges how far it is to a chair or the counter. He trips over his feet when he's running. He tumbles down the stairs. Then, this morning, he was delicately balanced (uh-oh) on one of our wire shelves in the office when he tried to gracefully leap to the floor. But, of course, Arthur can't do that. Instead, he manages to shove a foot between the wires as he pushes off and ends up awkwardly twisting as he launches himself into the air. The result? A broken foot. Our clumsy, graceless cat broke his foot. I've even got the xrays to prove it. Good grief.

So, now we have a cat in a bandaged splint with a cone collar on so he won't chew off the bandage.

Oh, yeah - this is gonna be a fun six weeks!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Top Ten Reasons Geeks Make Good Fathers

Thanks to this blog for this list that really resonated with me. #2 doesn't really apply to my husband, but that's okay. The rest do! (Thank you, Danielle!)

1. LEGOS. The Geek is really more of a Man-Child than an adult. In their minds, they are still 10. They freakin' still love to play with their legos, and have never grown up. I have one friend, WHO WILL REMAIN NAMELESS, that still has legos in his room. He doesn't have kids. Just legos. Of course, my children love legos and Steve will lovingly spend hours playing legos with them.

2. VIDEO GAMES. Due to the whole Man-Child thing as stated in #1, the Geek loves video games. And he's good at them too. My husband is the hit of all the kids' friends because not only can he talk video games, he plays them too. If my children get "stuck" while playing their Gameboys and bring it to me for assistance, all I can do is feebly hold it and say " Mommy doesn't know how to play this." Daddy, however, can beat the game.

3. MATH. A huge plus here. No matter how old they get, Steve can still help with the math homework. My ability to be of assistance is going to last another few years before *I* end up throwing the math homework across the room in disgust.

4. SMART KIDS. Smart Geeks make smart children. Although for the most part, it's great to have really intelligent children, when your just turned two year old is using the word PREPOSTEROUS correctly, it makes for some difficult times as they get older. I literally spend a large part of my time scheming to stay one step ahead of my oldest child.

5. UP ON TECHNOLOGY. The beautiful thing about having a Geek for a parent is that you aren't wondering what your children are doing online. You *KNOW* what they are doing online and you can limit it if necessary.
It's fabulous peace of mind.

6. SCIENCE FAIR PROJECTS. Children of the Geeks always have the coolest science fair projects. And you don't have to cajole your Geek into helping. You'll find him fiddling around with the science materials whether you asked him to help or not.

7. TOY ASSEMBLY. You will never, ever have to spend six hours of your life, that you will never get back, trying to assemble some 2,000 piece toy at 3 am on Christmas Eve again. The Geek can do it in minutes flat. Usually without the directions. Whereas I have tried to assemble toys and said "Mommy has to go to the bathroom" just so I could escape and scream into my pillow in frustration, if the Geek is around, he can take it right off your hands. I now just say "Daddy is really good at this, let's wait until he gets home."

8. GADGETS. Never again will you have to wonder what that new electronic toy is that all the kids have. In fact, your Geek will probably already own it. The problem arises when the Geek won't share with the children. "Daddy, I want a digital camera." After the child leaves the room: "I'm not spending hundreds of dollars on a digital camera for him, he's too young." I say "Let's get him a cheap one." Steve looks at me as if I just said Aliens are invited to dinner. " To have it take crappy pictures?" He scoffs and walks away in disgust. No sub-par electronics in this house! How dare I suggest it.

9. SMART IS COOL. Having a Geek for a father instills the message into your children that smart is cool. They idolize Daddy. Hopefully, they'll want to grow up to be just like him.

10. BEING IDOLIZED IS GOOD FOR YOUR GEEK. Course, you have to be careful that his head doesn't get TOO BIG. That's why I blog. Gotta keep his ego in check SOMEHOW.

Monday, January 09, 2006


Four jobs you've had in your life:
1. Wendy's
2. Associate at Hancock Fabrics
3. Customer Service Rep for an ISP
4. Instructional Designer/Curriculum Developer

Four movies you could watch over and over:
1. Apollo 13
2. The Red Violin
3. Chicken Run
4. A Mighty Wind

Four places you've lived:
1. Tempe, AZ
2. Champagne, IL
3. Palmerston North, New Zealand
4. Littleton, MA

Four TV shows you love to watch:
1. The West Wing
2. Desperate Housewives
3. Lost
4. Mad About You

Four websites you visit daily:
1. CNN
2. For Better or For Worse
3. Yahoo! Groups

Four of your favorite foods:
1. Homemade lasagne
2. Twice-baked potatoes
3. My husband's beef stew
4. Melt-in-your-mouth, top quality chocolate fudge

Four places you'd rather be:
1. Kauai
2. Nantucket
3. Moosehead Lake, ME
4. Scotland

Four albums you can't live without:
1. Marc Cohn "Marc Cohn"
2. "Ragtime" soundtrack
3. Vienna Teng "Warm Strangers"
4. Sarah McLachlan "Surfacing"