Monday, May 30, 2011

Changing tides

We co-sleep. I should probably correct that to the truth of what we do; we bed share. I'm all about co-sleeping safely and effectively, except that we've never owned a co-sleeper and neither of my kids have functioned well sleeping on their own in a separate unit, even if it was right next to the bed. Believe me, I tried both times! G had a bassinet and a crib, neither of which he spent much time in, and we had a Pack 'n' Play with an upper section for smaller babies that we tried to put A in when he was little. Neither slept well, neither liked it, and with A it just made breastfeeding a pain in the patootie. So we shared our bed with our kids - sometimes happily, sometimes not so much - and made things work. In 2009 it meant an upgrade to a king sized bed so we could easily accommodate ourselves (we're big!) and two growing kids, but we had by that time also acquired a big blue racecar bed for G that fit his crib mattress perfectly. We introduced it slowly but never really pushed the issue of him using it, and after a while he was more or less content there. A went much the same; we found a toddler bed that fit his crib mattress and had rails (because he seems to flail much more in his own bed) and introduced it to him.

But we put them in the same room. Granted, we didn't HAVE to, but it seemed to work out. Then, we lapsed. We had some lazy days, some bad days, some late days where bedtime simply wasn't enforced or followed, and our routine collapsed simply because we didn't want to have to stick to it. Granted, it isn't tough, but we were grouchy and self-centered. We threw (not literally) the kids into our bed. And for a long while, Hubby and I really didn't see much of each other.

Mind you, I love bed sharing, especially when the kids are little. It makes caring for a new baby so much easier, and I love knowing my little ones are close to me if they need me. But as they grow, it becomes tougher and tougher to share space with them. G, for instance, is 41" tall and 44 lbs - at or just barely above the 95th percentile for boys his age, and trust me when I say the kid is a bean stalk - and he knows how to use those wiggly appendages to his advantage at night. He kicks, pushes, shoves, and has a tendency to find a way to shove his heels into Hubby's testicles a bit too often for comfort. Add in a squirming 22 month old who reaches similar proportions who prefers sleeping perpendicular to everyone else, and I'm sure it's easy to understand how even in a king sized bed, two overweight adults of average height could feel... Well, crowded out of bed. Hubby seems to deal with it worse than I do, though in all honesty the physical comfort aspect isn't the only reason we're starting to feel that itch to make sure the kids at least start the night out of our bed again - we're human, after all, and sort of in a relationship where we kind of like spending time together alone for a multitude of reasons. It's hard to be intimate when you know you're sharing space with a kid who can and will wake up at the most inopportune moments (they already do it from their room, I don't see why it would change if they were IN the room), difficult to snuggle, hard to even have a conversation in the dark at the end of the day.

So two weeks ago or so the migration back to their own beds began again. And it wasn't pretty.

The first probably 11 days or so were hell. There were a few nights we crumbled, where I bent the comfort level and stayed in the room far longer than I probably should have to comfort upset kids who wanted nothing more than to come lay in Mommy and Daddy's bed. I sang extra songs, we read more books, we told more stories. I patted backs and offered comfort and even sat in the hallway in a folding chair sometimes, just outside their room, because it seemed to encourage A to stay in his bed and give sleep a fighting chance. We learned to remove ourselves from the room more swiftly than ninjas. I gave in and let angry, half-asleep kids come back into our bed after only a couple of hours in theirs because I knew I had to pick and choose my fights - and I need sleep to function during the day. But overall, we managed, and the last two nights have been surprisingly easy. A has stopped insisting that he be held to sleep, or that he be laying on my arm. G has been more accepting of his bed (although he still complains before bed that it's "too soft", which I know it isn't, and this confuses me) and the other night actually stayed there until 6AM. Sure, both boys end up in our bed more often than not halfway through the night, but in my opinion it's a good start.

Besides, I don't mind still sharing space with them sometimes - I just miss my Hubby.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Roughing it out

I know I promised not to bring our finances into this blog, but to be honest I need to rant! So have a little story.

When I was very young - middle school or so - I was selected to be part of a local program that follows kids through high school. If they volunteered so many hours a year, kept good grades, and participated in enough extracurriculars, once they graduated they were given a four year scholarship. The first two years were to the local community college to work on general classes, and the last two were to the local university - a Franciscan endeavor - to finish off a degree. While I accepted the scholarship, it paid only my first two years, because after that I realized that my passion at the time (music) was poorly represented at the university, and that I had lost my desire to follow through with the associates degree I was after. The classes I had taken were no longer pertinent, but I had no idea what I wanted to do with myself or my life. After three years at the community college, a place people normally only spend two, I dropped out only a couple of classes shy of graduation with an associates in arts.

Fast forward a few years to this year - two months ago, in fact. I had been out of the community college four years and our finances are a mess, we can't pay the majority of our bills, and we're generally a disaster. It's stressful on us and on the kids, and I'm beginning to lose faith in.. Well, everything. It's straining our marriage, making the kids act out (kids can sense energy changes and feed off of them like you'd never believe), and it's driving us crazy, so I chose to make a VERY big change. I had always wanted to be a stay at home mom, but that option seemed less and less viable, so I began making arrangements to get the kids in day care and to go back to school.

This is where things get tricky.

I've been SO blessed to be able to stay home with the kids this long. Both are older, no longer babies, and are walking and talking true individuals. They've grown into themselves beautifully, and I've been able to watch the whole process from the front lines. I've taken an opportunity that maybe I shouldn't have in doing that, because we've sincerely needed the money, but I've been on the hunt for a job since last October and have yet to find something long-term and full time that would provide the benefits we need. After all, we live off the state right now via WIC and food stamps and the medical card, and have for a little while now, and to be perfectly honest I hate it. I know it's help that's there for when families need it, but I detest that we've been on it so long, that we've had no other choice. I WANT to bitch about insurance prices and co-pays. I want to  budget for groceries. I want to do all the grown up things that normal people do, instead of shrugging it off and saying that the state pays for us to exist so who cares. I want to change. I want things to be different.

So I chose an RN program at the local college of nursing and found out that to enter it, I needed two more classes - but if I could take at least one of those before the fall school year started, I could possibly enter as a sophomore instead of a freshman and be saved a full year of gen ed classes at the university. I signed up at the community college for the first of those two classes. I had all my ducks in a row, so they say, with information sent through the proper channels and everything set up and ready to go for fall and summer. So I thought.

The best part of all is that with the track I'm taking, I can put cost of living into my loans and we would be able to put back Hubby's work money as extra to keep us going on the side. It's brilliant. I have it all thought through.

And then the community college informs me that because I'm over the Department of Education's credit hour limit for their institution, I have to basically plead my case with them on paper to have them let me back in and offer financial assistance. For one class. I have to explain my degree direction and why they should let me back in. Not only that, but apparently I also just so happened to be randomly selected for "verification" - meaning I have to fill out a bunch of paperwork confirming the tax information I entered on the FAFSA. Mind you, I didn't lie on the FAFSA, but on some of the portions where it asks for my husband's income specifically versus mine, I just made it all add up, I think. I honestly don't remember. It shouldn't be a big deal, but having both of these things approved could set me back a good three weeks - and classes start June 6.

And I can't apply for loans until after both of these things have been approved.

So I'm in a rut right now, grouchy and discontent and wishing that somehow things were different and that it didn't always seem like something was getting in the way of letting me accomplish my goals. I guess in all honesty I'm just frustrated, because every time I make a life-changing decision, something happens to make everything tougher. And I can only take so much of it. I'm only one person!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Admitting it hurt

I spent a long time trying to come to terms with the birth of my second child. My first labor and delivery was pretty much a disaster, but I was willing to chalk that up to ignorance and a lack of faith. But my second? I had a doula, I had support, I was educated. I felt I had no excuse for being dissatisfied, even hurt by the outcome. Who was I to say that things should have gone differently when I supposedly had all the support I needed?

The problem is that I still wasn't happy with how things went. So was it okay for me to admit that, despite doing what I thought was my best? Was it okay to admit that the doula I adored - the only one in my area - hadn't fulfilled her end of the bargain? Did I have a right to be upset at my OB, the hospital and nurses? Or was all my anger in my head?

The anger I originally felt was immediate, but it took me two years to come to the conclusion that I really did have a right to feel that way. There was a lot of self-guilting along the way, soul searching, and doubting. But yes, it is okay to be upset about how your birth went, to be angry. "At least you have a healthy baby" doesn't have to be the end all, be all.
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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Listening to yourself

Listening to my body is, for me, especially difficult. Years of abuse through injuries, improper exercise, excessive weight gain, and having two children have all left me a physiological mess. Add in years of undue stress (completely mismanaged), a couple of mental issues, and absolutely no self esteem and you have a recipe for one large, depressed woman. The worst part is that none of that factors in the physical problems I have from being overweight all on its own: sleep apnea, severe knee and back problems, digestive issues, low blood oxygenation, diminished lung capacity, asthma... The list goes on.

Granted, I've always erred on the bigger side. I was an average baby for the mid-1980s at 8lbs, 4oz and maybe 20" long at birth, but most of my childhood I was just plain big. My lack of friends and the names I was called all attested to that fact. I more or less ate what I pleased, when I pleased, by no real fault of my mother. The experiences I had with "healthy" foods were not particularly positive, and I can honestly remember eating nothing that could call itself a veggie other than corn and potatoes, neither of which are really as healthy or nutritious as the mountain of other foods available. I was not a healthy kid, nor a healthy adolescent, and now that I'm an adult those years of abusing my body have caught up to me.

Naturally, my body has found ways of getting even. I now find the massive amounts of sugar that I once happily and readily consumed to be disgusting, and can only eat or drink a fraction of the portions I used to consume. Disgusting amounts of food coloring twist my colon in unpleasant knots, excess sugar leaves me with a temporarily geographic tongue (trust me, a single experience having the skin of your tongue peel away in long slabs is nasty enough to make you rethink future sugar consumption) and recently, the thought of deep-fried foods has left my stomach turning. One would think that after 25 years of taking with no care in return that my body could keep up with itself - or, rather, with what I choose to unwisely put in it - but it has begun to rebel by refusing the larger portion sizes and fast foods I once coveted and craved. Now, healthy lunchmeat sandwiches on whole wheat with massive amounts of fresh veggies on top and lots of water are my cravings; ice cream has been replaced by low-fat versions or by frozen yogurt, or better yet by fresh fruit that has somehow found its way into my house by way of bananas (for the kids, unfortunately; I love them but am painfully allergic), grapes, and strawberries. Pastas come in whole wheat only, with mountains of veggie-laden sauce, and broccoli with cheese is a more delectable side dish than chips or french fries.

I'm not sure I can explain this revelation; it wasn't conscious, although every deity in existence knows it should have been. But I'm not complaining. The moral of the story: Listen to your body. It really does know what's best.

Also, happy rapture day! We're about an hour and 15 minutes from the rapture here in Illinois and I'm pretty sure at 6:01 PM I'm still gonna be here, hanging out. As will everybody else. Much love.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Confessions of a Vaccinating Mom

Originally, despite all the crunchy tendencies we had, there was never any question for us about vaccinating our children. With G, our first, we truly had no idea what we were up against. Back then (all of four years ago), when he was born, it was still okay to give pain killers before vaccinations, and although it seemed a bit odd, neither Hubby nor I really thought much about these routine childhood shots. We were under the impression that there were no risks, because surely if there were our healthcare providers would have been more up front with potential adverse reactions and what to watch for. Instead, we were assured that there was nothing wrong with having three or four different vaccinations given at a single appointment, and had a small packet of papers shoved at us every time highlighting why childhood vaccinations were so important (and leaving potential allergic reactions, symptoms of adverse reactions, and other vital information to the very back page in small print). We figured that by aiming for intervention-free births, keeping our boys intact, making the change to natural and organic foods, and using cloth diapers, that we were doing the utmost for our children.

Even after we became aware of some of the true potential problems, the possibility of tie-ins with debilitating disorders, we still smiled and nodded because the idea of having our children catch whooping cough or measles or whatnot was more frightening than what seemed to be the far more remote possibility of a problematic reaction. Issues related to vaccines seemed to be so few and far between, while every year or two pertussis cases would suddenly appear in our local hospital, often unreported until weeks after the outbreak, leaving us paranoid as to whether or not we had come into contact with someone who had pertussis before they had shown symptoms. Our paranoia outweighed our ability to seriously look at what we were dealing with, and even the beloved comedy duo Penn and Teller seemed to further justify my thoughts that vaccinations were typically nothing to be feared.

There were other things, too, that eased my worries. Neither of my children ever had a visible reaction. Fevers afterwards, with or without Tylenol beforehand, were rare; both are rambunctious, friendly, creative boys who have been either right on time or ahead of where they should be developmentally. Neither has given us any real reason to worry about a physical reaction to their vaccinations; even the possibility of allergies made no sense to me because my mother, who was vaccinated back in the 60s when not even half as many vaccinations were given, has allergies, as do I. To me, it's unrelated, and a lack of negative reactions in my children and (to me) a lack of proof that vaccinations were linked to any one of the numerous childhood problems that affected families seemed to tie them to justified vaccinating both on schedule. We just always skipped the flu vaccinations because they seemed unnecessary.

But every once in a while, when discussing vaccines with parents who were vehemently against them, I'd have an odd comment made to me: "You're really, really lucky." We're what? How on earth are we lucky? What, our children aren't autistic or delayed, didn't have an allergic reaction to an ingredient, and that makes us lucky? I didn't understand in the least. But it was an unsettling thing to hear, and it made me wonder.

The occasional references to doctors - legitimate medical doctors with experience in their fields - who were completely against vaccinating young children with so many different vaccines bothered me as well. I typically tried to find ways to discredit their commentary, by seeing what other things they had done or said that seemed overly radical or was specifically tied to anti-vaccinating groups or organizations. It made me feel better to be able to shake my head and laugh at these silly radicals, without realizing that I was the same - an intactivist, a lactivist, a natural birthing advocate - on other subjects where I was probably looked at the same way by those on the other end of the spectrum. When I realized that, I started being nicer to anti-vaxxing parents, aware of what they were feeling and thinking to a degree, and how it felt to be ridiculed and argued with without having their position considered or even being labeled as potentially legitimate. I figured out nicer ways to disagree without figuring out why I still hesitated when it came time to vaccinate.

Where am I going with all this?

I wonder, now, if I did the right thing. If the choices we made as parents were the right ones, if we should have more seriously considered the potential of vaccine injury. I wonder if, by making what we thought was the right choice, we completely risked the lives of our children. I wonder what we ought to do in the future with any subsequent children we have; if we should assume that they won't have a reaction either and fully vaccinate on schedule, or change things by delaying and selecting vaccines. I wonder if we risked the health of our boys, or what we would do if we changed how we vaccinated (if we did at all) next time around, and what would happen if one of our unvaccinated children became seriously ill, while our vaccinated kids were able to fight off the illness faster and easier because they had gotten the vaccine.

The more I see and learn, the more I question our choices. The more confused I become about what options we have, and the "truth" behind what keeps going on with the medical community, the government, the CDC and the ever-increasing list of childhood vaccinations. I'm posting this because I know I can't be the only parent who is wondering if they did the right thing, but it's really hard to step forward and admit because it means there is a possibility that you didn't make the right choice and potentially risked the health of your child or children. It's okay to be worried and wonder, as long as you're also willing to learn more and take into consideration all possibilities.

Friday, May 6, 2011

This Is The Life

Anyone who knows me could figure that the title of this blog post is also, not by any small coincidence, a Weird Al song. Of course this was done purposefully, and this is a bit of a lie - life's been a pain in the tuckus as of late - but we manage all the same. Finances have been a horror but through some perseverance and a lot of trying to keep our caseworker on track, we've managed to get back onto the Illinois LINK/SNAP card program, meaning that at least our groceries are taken care of. Rent, insurance, water bills, and all those other grossly important things aren't taken care of right now but the least we can do is work one day at a time and hope for the best. Our landlords are amazingly understanding people who know we've been in a tough spot, and I can't begin to express our appreciation for that.

The mini garden needs desperately to go outdoors where all the plants can get suitable light and fresh air, but I have nothing to put them on that could keep them safe from the numerous groundling critters that like to sneak in and munch on greens. The old gifted coffee table I was using has since lost two of its legs and is incredibly unwieldy, so for now our plants have taken up residence on our kitchen table - still! - and will remain there until I can figure out something better. Unfortunately, they seem to be suffering thanks to our lack of suitable light, so I hope I can rearrange things without losing them all. Here's hoping.

My mother is still in the hospital. She's got two doctors right now who are overseeing her care, the floor on call doctor and a separate podiatrist who are apparently in conflicting opinions as to what should be done for her foot. The on-call thinks she should stay another day or two to ensure she has enough IV antibiotics pumped in her, and that the tissue isn't necrotic and the remainders of the abscess she had disappear, and the podiatrist thinks she may need to have surgery after all, likely some degree of debridement, even though the MRI she had showed that there were (thankfully) no pockets of puss in her bones. Too much information, I know, but it is what it is. She is absolutely miserable there, and I can't blame her; it's not the world's greatest hospital and she also works there, down in their pharmacy, so she is absolutely tired of being there all the time. Thankfully, she has had visitors, and the antibiotics seem to be doing their job, so that's good news. The poor woman is only 53 and is too young for all of this crap. On top of her foot problems she is pre-diabetic, has asthma and COPD, has an enlarged heart, had her right knee replaced in 2007 and will need the other knee done soon as well, has extreme back problems, has osteoarthritis in her feet and knees and back, and a menagerie of other potential issues that I probably don't even know about. Needless to say, this is a big downer for a woman already troubled with physical health problems.

Sadly, her being in the hospital means twice the work on my end, too. She has two dogs whom I grew up with also, and they are used to being in their kennels only about eight hours a day, with freedom to roam and eat and drink and be let outside whenever they please otherwise, including at night. She also is obsessed with keeping a very clean house, so it's up to me now to start my day an hour earlier than usual to let the dogs outside and feed them, then head home and take care of my own house and kids while Hubby is at work, then when he comes home and I've done cleaning my house, I go to her house and clean there, which means dusting and vacuuming her entire house, cleaning her floors, doing her laundry that I bring home for her, feeding and watering and brushing the dogs, keeping everything generally picked up, and then in the evening I head over to see her and stay at her room in the hospital with her, keeping her company until 9 or 10 PM. Then I come home in time to almost wake up the kids and finish picking up and cleaning before sitting around, a complete insomniac, until 1 or 2 AM. Then I finally fall into bed and the whole process begins again the next day, and will continue to do so for some time even after she gets out of the hospital, because she will still need my help at her house. To say that I am overwhelmed would be an understatement; I am exhausted, sick constantly, and grouchy beyond explanation. I know this isn't really anyone's fault, but I am still overwhelmed because I need to manage our finances and am working to find a job in the meantime. My head is spinning almost constantly and by the time my day is over and it's too late to accomplish anything else I realize that I have forgotten ten or so different things that needed to be done, too, and were simply forgotten amongst the other things that needed to be done too. I would try to get back in to see the therapist I was seeing previously, but at this point I am not sure when I would have free time to go in. Probably never.

Otherwise, I have nothing new or interesting to report or discuss. There are a dozen things I could rant about but at the moment, nothing seems more important than my own problems, which I'm having difficulty dealing with. I am simply angry, and bitter, and tired, and sick, and see no end in sight, that's all.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Oh, the insanity!

So, obviously, some time has passed. A lot has happened, as always, that has kept me from forming more than a single coherent sentence in the last month or so. G's birthday, my birthday, I got a job and three weeks later was again unemployed, I contracted a three-week-long strain of strep throat (that I am still struggling with), A got sick (is sick?), Hubby got a job, and most recently my mother went into the hospital with what started as cellulitis in her right foot, but has progressed into a nasty abscess. They've given her IV antibiotics and did an MRI on her foot, but we won't know whether or not they think that surgery is necessary to remove dead tissue and potential pus pockets in her bones until the doctor does his rounds and actually looks at the MRI today.

So, anyway, what are we doing now.. Ah, yes. A and I are working on potty learning. This has been an interesting experience, and unquestionably way different than the first time around with G. With G it was difficult and a battle; at the time we used disposable training pants, which he was still wearing day and night at just over three years old. He seemed to have no interest in using the potty, no matter how many times we showed him how Daddy did it, no matter how much we played it up to him and celebrated the few rare occasions where he actually managed to pee on the toilet. We had a potty chair for him but in all honesty, it didn't change much, and in desperation we bought a dual toilet seat that has a larger seat for adults with a smaller seat on top for children. This worked, to a degree, but it was still a constant fight. He could wear training pants all day and not particularly care if they were wet or dirty, and while we could catch the signs for the latter, we had no idea when he was ready to pee or not (we don't do EC, mostly because of this; we just can't learn our boys' signs, apparently), and even if we did catch him before he pooped, he refused to poop anywhere but in his training pants. It was an absolute disaster - and then, randomly, one day he was just done with them. I truly think he was ready just after his third birthday when he suddenly was dry day and night, either asking to use the potty when in public or doing so without difficulty on his own at home, and was completely accident-free. It was, I think, a small miracle that we never could have foreseen. It literally just happened one night, and he was on the potty whenever he needed from then on.

A, of course, has been a different story. With his big brother to guide him, he has found using the potty to be more interesting and appealing to him. He's still in diapers at night, but during the day he's either in training pants or completely naked. Granted, he still has accidents, but a good portion of the time he asks to use the potty and seems unafraid to do any and all of his business there. We deal with the accidents in stride, without criticism or disgust, and afterwards take him to the potty where he always seems to find he has a bit more to offer. He shows all the interest in learning to use the potty that G seemed to lack, and is self-sufficient enough to wipe (if given the toilet paper, and not if he has pooped, still needs help with that), shut the potty, and flush. He needs help getting on and off, but that's to be expected despite his impressive height. It's like we're in a different world here, and the difference is honestly astounding.

Meanwhile, I am still trying to grow things. I'm succeeding in a way, and failing in another; life got in the way and the place my plants were located didn't allow me to remember to water frequently enough. My plants are behind where they should be, hands down, but are still struggling to survive. I'll take that.