Sunday, February 27, 2011

I'm the Mama!

I sometimes wonder how some parents keep that fresh, youthful, energized look about them.  I, unfortunately, do not.  I wear every tired moment of motherhood on my face, in my posture, and in between my eyebrows.

So, as some of you may remember, Ayla had gotten into the bad habit of hitting, kicking, slapping, and even an incident where she once clapped my face.

Lucky for us, that bad habit has been taken down a notch.  I'm by no means saying that she is a flower-wearing, peace-loving hippie these days.  I'm just saying she picks and chooses the moments to show that lovely side of herself.

Out with the old, in with the new.  Ayla has recently become very verbal (read: screaming) when she doesn't get her way.  Additionally, when she has something she should (most likely breakable or dangerous), she decides that rather than give it to us upon request, she instead would much prefer to launch it at the nearest hard surface.  This is why I can't have an IPhone or any of those other gadgets.  That and the outrageous monthly fees, but I digress.

The loveliest of her newfound habits is her foaming-at-the-mouth spitting and spewing.  It all started one day when she was crying hysterically about life not going her way (wouldn't it be fun to do that sometimes?) and she began to cough from the amount of exertion involved in her crying.  This resulted in her upchucking something fun she'd just eaten.  Which then led to her spitting to get the puke taste out of her mouth.  This, of course, was all on ME.  So now when she gets mad and cries (and sometimes when she isn't even crying) she spits.  She spits on me.  She spits on the floor.  She spits on herself (which makes me laugh evilly).  It drives me bat-shit crazy!  It is so ridiculous...but I suppose this too shall pass in exchange for something even more exciting.

The badge of motherhood is one I wear with both reluctance and pride.  I mean, if I had kept a blog of my first year of motherhood, the tales my readers would have to laugh at.  And perhaps reconsider their own desires to enter this allegiance of parents.  Being a mom isn't a fluffy job.  There ain't nothing fluffy about it, people.  Some folks are of the mindset that stay at home moms (SAHMs) are soooo lucky and have the 'best job ever.'  I won't lie, there are times that I'd like to stay at home too.

But I know the truth.  I would shower probably even less than I already do.  I would live in my awful excuse of pajamas.  I would graze through the kitchen about 16 times a day.  I would probably also lose my mind.  I don't know that I could do it all day every day.  In my perfect world, I would have a job that I could go to sometimes, but not have to go to every waking moment of my life.  SAHMs are some tough-as-nails chicks, that's all I have to say.

For those who didn't have the pleasure of going down the bumpy road of motherhood with me for that first VERY LONG year, here are some highlights of the challenges.  No fluff here folks!
  • I birthed an 8 lb. 10 oz. baby that ripped me from one end of China to the other and cracked my tailbone in the process.
  • Ayla wouldn't latch, she got jaundice, and I had to sleep (cracked tailbone and all).  Enter: formula feeding.
  • Spent forever trying to get the breastfeeding down, failed.  Got mastitis, didn't know it, lost my supply.  Cried and pumped like crazy for the next month.  Cried even more when I fed Ayla the last of the milk I'd been able to siphon out of my body.
  • Felt like I was going crazy, worried constantly about little bitty
  • Dealt with a baby that wouldn't sleep through the night until she was one and when she did actually sleep, I was up checking her breathing.
  • Struggled with a baby that couldn't and wouldn't poop due to the formula she had to drink since I had no boob juice to give her
  • That horrid cheesy, smelly neck thing that babies get 
  • Baby acne along with bald man baby hair loss (seriously, she had a bald man hairdo, just hair around the back of the head and above the ears)
  • Baby's first case of RSV (thankful for the motherly instincts that told me the cough just wasn't "right" so I caught it early)
  • Majorly lacking sex life.  That's right, I said it.  Congrats to the parents that manage to make it work during that first sleepless year.
  • Total change in social life and change in personal interests in general
These are just some of the many exciting moments that came during my first year as a mom.  I also lost a beloved cat and my grandfather in that year.  I gained a crazy dog, who Brandon has coined "Shoulda Been" as in "shoulda been a mother's ring" since those were the two options of what I wanted for mother's day.  

I might look tired, I might have random toddler-ness smeared on my work clothes, and I might not be able to talk about anything intelligent outside of my latest mama research ranging from car seat safety (I've been called the car seat nazi by my own sister!  So proud, is that weird?!) to chemicals in plastics to healthier eating to the argument against CIO (cry it out) sleep training.  

I'm full of opinions, but I'm entitled to every last one.  After all, I'm the Mama!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Baby Can Read

Not long after Ayla was born, my mom tried to convince me that we should become owners of the video series "My Baby Can Read."  I flat out told her no.  Multiple times.  Later on, a pregnant friend asked me my thoughts on it, as a teacher & mom.

Do I think it can work?  Yes.  

However, the whole notion doesn't impress me.  The whole concept I find to be lacking authenticity.  You see, I became a reader around the age of 3.  My mom had no formal training in teaching a child to read, but she read to me.  She read everything to me.  I wanted to know what the cereal box said, she taught me.  What does that sign I see looking out the window say?  She read to me and taught me that, too.  She taught me the sounds of letters.  So, when I was 3 years old, I became a reader.  

My mom told my preschool teacher I could read.  I imagine that this school teacher had many parents say the same, so I'm sure her dismissal of my mom's claim seemed warranted.  The thing was, I could read.  Not in the I-memorized-the-book reading, but the put-a-book-in-front-of-me-and-I'll-read reading.  Moving on to Kindergarten, same thing.  After failing to convince my mom to skip me a grade, they did get her permission to put me in first grade reading so I'd at least be challenged.  In our school library, only big kids got to go in the chapter book and non-fiction areas.  Except me.

My  mom didn't do flashcards or fancy state-of-the-art programs.  She did what any literate parent could do-she read to me.  She made reading something I associated with love and fun.  I'm sure my "I think I'm an adult already" attitude also had something to do with it, but that's beside the point.

Do I want Ayla's memories of learning to read be that I sat with her watching DVDs and doing flashcards?  NO!

The first year of Ayla's life, I had so much guilt about not reading to her all the time.  We rarely read to her, in fact.  We were exhausted, overwhelmed, and just didn't have the gusto in us to read to a baby that just wanted snuggles and her ba ba full of formula.

When Ayla turned 1, we moved her to her own room.  First of all, let me tell you that we should've moved her much sooner.  She slept.  We slept.  Hallelujah!  Again, that's another blog, the one where I write about obsessively keep checking her breathing (even to this day, just less extreme).  Along with that move, our entire nighttime routine changed.  We started sitting in the rocker, reading a book before bedtime.  That eventually became 2 books...or 3.  Ayla has had many favorites, ranging from Hello Baby by Mem Fox to Dinosaur vs. Potty to anything and everything Sandra Boynton to her current favorite Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.

She is going to be a reader, a great reader.  I can already tell.  She has toy upon toy, but nothing holds her attention like a book does.  She sits around and "reads" them out loud.  Her favorite books, she can point out her favorite parts and tell you about it.  For instance, in Don't Let The Pigeon Drive the Bus, she can point out the part where Pigeon is really mad (she says "MAD!") and the part where the bus driver comes back ("Back!") and the part where Pigeon discovers a semi-truck (she says "Hey" in the special pigeon voice).  Does she ever watch TV?  Sure.  In fact we recently discussed that we have the TV on too much.  Its always on a kid channel, but the funny thing is that she only is ever interested in the first minute and last minute of a show (for the most part).

My whole point is, I know from my MANY, MANY early literacy classes that I took for my  Early Childhood degree is that the foundation of reading starts with that quality time with a child, the special adults in the child's life, and books.  Lots of books.  1,000 books before Kindergarten.  Literally.

I'm not in a competition for my child to be the first to do anything.  So much of her first year of life, I was focused on those "firsts."  They are important and fun, but they just aren't the end-all-be-all or good predictor of anything, really.

So for now, we are teaching Ayla to love and respect books. To enjoy snuggling with Mama 'n Papa, wrapped up in a silly or exciting book.  We're teaching Ayla to be a lifelong lover of reading.

I'd say, we're well on our way.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"I wish I was a little bit taller, I wish I was a baller..."

I wish I was a morning person.  I'd love to be able to hop out of bed cheerfully upon hearing the sound of my alarm (people do that??) and get in a morning workout and shower in before starting off my day.  I don't think I'll ever be that person, but I'd like to try.

I wish my bedside table wasn't a heaping mound of junk, ranging from my Kindle charger to receipts to random coupons.  I wish it looked like a bedside table straight out of the movies with not a speck of dust and just a nice, thick non-fiction read of some sort and a tall glass of water.

I wish I drank enough water.  I wish that when I consumed more than 4 oz. of water at a time I didn't have to pee, then maybe it would be easier to drink enough water.  Did you know you're supposed to drink your weight halved in ounces.  Do you know how much water I'd have to drink to meet quota??  Yeah...

I wish that I could meet David Tutera.  Okay, sorry.  That is totally off topic, but as I sit here blogging, I'm watching him in all his amazingness with one of his brides.  If he could do my wedding for me, that would be awesome.  Unbelievable.  He is just a gem.  I just want to hug him every time I watch his show.

I wish I had the energy and motivation (and money) to always be dressed smart, accessorized, and polished from my makeup to my hair.  

I wish I was organized.  I wish I had it all together.  My world is kind of like my mind.  Going from one thing to the next, never staying on one thing long enough to actually get anything complete.

I'm working on these things.  In the meantime, I appreciate the fact that there are people in my life who love me just the way I am.  The morning grouch, chronically thirsty, messy, disheveled, makeupless, ponytailed, scatterbrained ME.

Monday, February 14, 2011

"Forgive but don't forget, girl keep your head up...And when he tells you you ain't nuttin don't believe him. And if he can't learn to love you you should leave him." -Tupac

When I was a little girl, I was afraid of many things.  Freddy Krueger.  Being kidnapped.  Getting a question wrong on homework or a test.  Losing my parents since my mom lost hers.

I also remember being very afraid of having a boyfriend that hit me.  I don't know where this fear came from.  Perhaps too much adult TV and novels too mature for me, even though I could read them quite easily.  (I always insisted on being more grown up than I was).  Luckily, I grew up in a very loving home where my parents argued so seldom that when they did disagree, I was terrified they'd get a divorce.  I just knew that to be a woman in a relationship with a man where I felt afraid for my own safety would be a terrible thing to endure.

This morning while on my way to work, I witnessed one of the most (if not the most) horrifying things I've ever seen.  Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a person balled up on the ground.  At first, I thought it was just two kids goofing off (as kids will often do), but then I realized that the person on the ground was being brutally kicked and punched with such force, it hurt to see.  I immediately pulled over and got out of my car.  I had just explained to my mom what I saw, and before I could even tell her what I was going to do, I just hung up.  I called 911 and reported what I'd just seen.  By the time I ended the call, the man (attacker) and woman (victim) were walking in my direction.  He was holding her up by the arm, but she was crying...wiping her eyes.  She was doubling over, in immense pain I can only imagine.  I quickly got in my car, looking out for my own safety.  I drove away.  I couldn't help but feel like there was something else I should've done.  Maybe I should've stayed to make sure that the cops arrived and were able to find the couple.  Maybe I should've honked my horn and caused a big scene.  But then again, maybe not.  Maybe by me leaving quietly, I allowed the cops to do their job.  I hope they made it in time.

Then, I arrived at work, where I had to put on a happy face and have a productive day with my students just 20 minutes later.  It wasn't easy to get out of my head.  As I sit here tonight after enjoying a nice meal and evening with my family, I am thankful.  But I keep thinking about that woman and wishing I could've done more for her.

I hope for my daughter that she never faces a situation where a man treats her with anything less than the utmost love and respect.  I don't want her to face situations that I have, where men have disrespected me, my beliefs, my wishes.  I've had my secrets shared, my name trashed.  I've been stalked.  I've been threatened.  Other situations were not such a big deal, but they still left me feeling like there were no good men to be found.  Some boyfriends were worse than others.  One was particularly bad.  When I hear his name or think of him, I am haunted.  He never hit me, but his words and actions damaged a piece of me.  I hope for my Ayla that she values herself more and regards herself more highly than I did for many of the years of my life.   

I guess I keep coming back to the question-why do I write this blog?  Why do I expose my thoughts, my feelings?  Even though I know I don't have a huge following on this blog, I hope that the truths I speak and the opinions I share (whether my readers agree or not) leave a meaningful mark behind for my readers.  Whether a laugh, a moment shared, the feeling that you're not alone, the spark of a new interest, or some fun and helpful facts.

Now I leave you with an excerpt to the song "Keep Ya Head Up" by Tupac.  I honestly can't say if I've heard this song or not, but the lyrics are so meaningful.  

Some say the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice
I say the darker the flesh then the deeper the roots
I give a holler to my sisters on welfare
Tupac cares, and don't nobody else care
And uhh, I know they like to beat ya down a lot
When you come around the block brothas clown a lot
But please don't cry, dry your eyes, never let up
Forgive but don't forget, girl keep your head up
And when he tells you you ain't nuttin don't believe him
And if he can't learn to love you you should leave him
Cause sista you don't need him
And I ain't tryin to gas ya up, I just call em how I see em
You know it makes me unhappy (what's that)
When brothas make babies, and leave a young mother to be a pappy
And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it's time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don't we'll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies
And since a man can't make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
So will the real men get up
I know you're fed up ladies, but keep your head up

Keep ya head up, oooo child things are gonna get easier
ooooo child things are gonna get brighter 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Soap box: car seat/child passenger safety

I haven't blogged about car seat safety before, mostly because my dear friend blogged so well about it HEREI have to say, I am so grateful that this same dear friend was a stay-at-home mom for over a year because it allowed her to impart her wisdom found researching while at home.

The main thing being REAR FACING.  Recently the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) changed their standpoint on how long a child should remain rear-facing in his/her car seat.  They now recommend the child rear face UNTIL age two, longer if possible.  I didn't know this, and sadly, my pediatrician is sharing outdated research with her hundreds of patients.  She continues to ask me if Ayla is forward facing, to which I reiterate to her the AAP's recommendation and research.  It makes me sad to know that many, many other pediatricians are continuing to promote this outdated practice to their families.

I have tried to share the information in a non-threatening, non-judgmental way, just as it was presented to me.  However, the feedback I've gotten has been ridiculous, judgmental, and borderline hostile.  So let me just say, I don't give a rip about people's opinions on the matter.  I have watched the crash test videos.  I have read the true life stories about toddlers (not just infants) whose lives have been SAVED because their parents practice extended rear-facing (ERF).  

People have said, "Isn't she a little old to be rear-facing still?"  No, I love her enough to keep her as safe as possible.  By that logic, I then imagine she is too old for me to keep socket covers in our outlets.  Huh??

"They get uncomfortable."  Ayla has never once had a problem. Toddlers are flexible.  If I was rear-facing with the years of wear and tear to my body, yeah, I might be uncomfortable, but guess what?  She doesn't know any different!

It goes on and on.  I watch parents who allow their very very young children to be in a booster when in fact, it is now also recommended that toddlers stay in a 5 point harness as long as possible.  This does not mean they stay in an infant seat or even a convertible until they are 5.  It means that instead of buying a booster, which most people use improperly and too soon, you buy a 5 point harnessed booster.  They are available.  I urge all parents to read the story of Kyle David Miller.  He was big enough for a "typical" booster seat.  His parents followed the rules.  And he died because the seat belt failed while in use with his booster.  His sister sat next to him, in the same seat.  Her seat belt did not fail.  Let me tell you, I've learned that seat belt failure is not uncommon in collisions.  The family of Kyle now has moved forward, using their tragedy to help families understand the importance of 5 point boosters for young children (once they've outgrown rear-facing and the limits of their convertible seat).  

I don't give a crap what looks "cool" or seems "weird."  If Ayla is in her booster at age 5, so be it.  I watch parents go to great lengths to protect their children, but then turn away from RESEARCH based, life saving recommendations.  I want her to be safe.  I know how frequently car accidents occur and that it is the leading cause of death in toddler aged children.  Why would I do anything less than my best to make sure I am doing the safest thing possible?

I watch children ride in the front seat when they can't even see out the windshield.  Ayla will ride in the backseat of our vehicles until she is both old enough and heavy enough to sit up front.  She will probably be 13 or 14 when she meets both requirements.  It is recommended that a child is 13 (due to bone density) and 100 lbs before riding in front.  I don't care how much she wants to ride up front as a kindergartner or a 2nd grader or a 6th grader.  I'd rather be an 'uptight' parent and her an uncool kid than have her be disabled or killed, if God forbid, we should be in a collision.

I'm not passing judgment, but I just don't understand the "logic" people have given me about why their child doesn't fit under the guidelines put in place for the safest car ride possible.  And I am certainly sick of hearing the nonsense people say to me when making their own judgment call about why I choose to secure my daughter the way I do.  Now there is no question why I do what I do.  Now everyone knows.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"You know girls this age..."

Health care in our country (and elsewhere as well) is pitiful.  I do not think it is all bad or ineffective, but overall I would have to say it leaves a lot for wanting. 

Note:  I've come back to the beginning to give this warning.  I don't have a plan for this blog...I am writing wherever it takes me.  It may become a series of blogs, as I have a lot to say that I can't even begin to cover in one night.

As previously mentioned, I was injured at the tender age of 12 due to the negligence of a grocery store and poorly designed freezer.  The result of that injury is a lifelong illness, one that may possibly disable me completely someday.  One that paralyzes me from the sheer, agonizing pain it entails.

Medicine, both Eastern and Western, failed me throughout the years.  The health care and insurance companies failed my family.  Insurance is more about profit for those companies than for the benefit of its policyholders.  My mother took me to every doctor she could to find out what was wrong with me.

Imagine after such an unusual injury that your child had a horrible headache (the first of many) instantly.  And the pain continued.  In fact, it escalated from day 1 to day 2.  It spread like wildfire in just a year.  Imagine on a hot July night that your 12-year-old daughter couldn't stand the slightest breeze or air from a fan hitting her because it caused her such pain.  That was my mother's (and family's life) the summer of 1996.  My mother took me to a general practitioner, who prescribed silvadine salve and Tylenol 3 (haha) for the pain.  Things didn't get better.  She then had to take me back to the GP to have the blisters lacerated from the four fingertips of my left hand.  The blisters were so bad, they wouldn't pop on their own, even after being there days and days.  In fact, they seemed to continue to fill with fluid, which was extremely painful.  When those blisters were lacerated (the thought of which makes me nauseous), it left behind deep gouges in my fingers.  It looked like an animal had taken bites out of my fingers.  When the pain continued, I was referred to a hand specialist.  The hand specialist referred me for physical therapy.  Finally, my mom asked the physical therapist, Todd, "Is there a name for what is wrong with my daughter?"  This began her quest to learn more about Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy.  

Once, the GP told my mother, "You know girls this age," when my mom expressed her pure frustration and desperation that I was still in such agony. 'Girls this age?'  What ever does that mean?  I was menstrual and just being bitchy?

The physical therapy continued, but my career as a violinist did not.  I had a full-ride scholarship for private lessons with a violin professor at a prestigious (read: expensive) private college.  My beginning violin instructor saw such promise in me that she initiated the process of getting me the scholarship.  I could no longer even handle picking up my violin, let alone play it.  I went from playing second chair at the age of 12 in a junior symphony (not just your typical school symphony, but rather a select group) and taking lessons and practicing daily to not being able to do a thing with the instrument that held such joy and passion for me.  As I write this, I realize I've never really properly mourned that loss.  That was me.  I played.  I played hours and hours a week.  My life revolved around practice and class and performances.  That was stolen from me.

My family racked up so much debt in such a short time, as my mom would not stop or give up on me, no matter what bullshit the doctors fed her.  I continued from doctor to doctor, specialist to specialist.  In the span of a few years, I actually went through 7 rounds of physical therapy.  We're not talking 7 sessions. We're talking 7 spans of time where I went for a prescribed amount of time.  Hours and hours.  I did warm water therapy, I went to a shrink to deal with the emotional problems that come with RSD and getting a lifelong illness at such a young age.  I had a block, called a bayer block (I believe) done, where they put me under anesthesia, drained the blood from my arm, and pumped me full of drugs.  My mom fainted from the smell of the drugs the one time I had it done. I had multiple stellate ganglion nerve blocks  done while under anesthesia.  I had to take a pregnancy test before each one.  Unreal, that I as a 12 year old experiencing the struggle to want to stay alive, was being forced to pee on a stick weekly when I hadn't even had my first kiss yet.  My favorite part of that procedure was going under, the one time I actually got sleep and a warm blanket as I came to in that horrible time of my life.

Let me just get off track for a moment to say RSD is a horribly painful disease.  People don't understand how you could look so normal, yet be so sick. Doctors refuse to look at a "normal" person and believe that they are sick.  It must be in their head.  RSD patients have been told this for years and years and years.   When looking at the Mcgill pain index the pain of RSD (which has formerly been known as causalgia, meaning "burning pain") ranks a 42 on a scale of 1-50, whereas cancer is ranked at 28.  (I am by no means saying cancer is easy or painless, but this is just to make a point about how bad RSD really is).  Another interesting fact: "It is estimated that between 1.5 and 6 million people have RSD in the United States; using the lowest statistic, that exceeds the combined total that have HIV/AIDS, breast cancer and Multiple Sclerosis."

I guess this is where I have to say that medicine fails.  We hear about cancer research, AIDS/HIV advances, and developments in MS studies/drug trials.  There is minimal progress/studies/advances for the 1.5-6 million people like myself.  I am lucky that my family and I found a doctor who, literally, saved my life.  In the two years of my illness that it took to find Dr. Hooshang Hooshmand (my miracle from God, no doubt), I considered on several occasions taking my own life because of the anguish it was causing my family emotionally and financially, as well as the daily struggle I had to just survive another day.

Doctors told my mom many different (horrible) solutions to my problem.  She was told to have me undergo a chemical sympathectomy (Dr. Hooshmand explains why it is such a bad idea for RSD patients).  She stood up for me.  She advocated for me when there was nobody in the medical world advocating for me.  After a week of many painful and at times barbaric tests, the great Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Illinois, basically confirmed my diagnosis of RSD, upped the dosage of nortriptyline I was taking, and told my family that it would "burn itself out in about 6 months."

We fail people in this country with many different illnesses while profiting off them.  Many doctors mean well and do well, but I find that the number of bad ones in my lifetime has outweighed the good ones.  And I'm not even speaking of just my experience with doctors for my RSD, but I won't take this train any further down the tracks for now.  We fail people with the care they receive at the end of their lives as well (another blog for another day).  

I guess I just have a lot to say, a story to tell.  Perhaps this is the time to blog at a time.