Wednesday, January 25, 2012

does this mean i am throwing in the towel?

photo credit to the baby. there are five more for the following 5 seconds of that experience; i could basically post an almost-video of me sitting on the floor. he is like a sports photographer. also, i wear those slippers out of the house. they have a semi-solid sole.

In the same vein as the previous post, it occurred to me today when I wore what basically amounted to pajamas to the library and saw a really pretty and stylish acquaintance of mine and felt no shame, that I don't know who I am anymore. That is a big change from a few years ago, and I realized suddenly that I have changed a bit, without noticing, over the last few years. I am not saying that all of these changes (or any!) are positive. I just don't have room in my life right now for my old ways. I am sure that will change again. Do not feel judged if you are a classy person who looks nice most of the time, or do any of the other things I used to do (or wish I could do) but mysteriously no longer think to do. I was once you, or aspired to be. I still think you look great, I am just no longer inspired to try, too. nothing to do with the topic, but fun to note that porter shares andrew's love of riding in the backpack while brigham operates loud, heavy equipment. it was the only way he stopped trying to wrestle the blower from our hands.

1) I don't take much time to groom for the daily grind anymore
I used to put on makeup every. single. morning. I did not leave the house. I know I was doing this two years ago when Andrew started preschool bc I remember being late bc I could not drop him off and see everyone looking the way I look wtihout my bare minerals! If I am going out for some sort get-together with other women or with Brigham, I will (maybe!) put makeup on in the car on the way. But just for my life at the park, store etc. No. That is the first thing I scratch off the list. If I had a list. Now I am just glad to know where the car keys are (in the car, of course! best place for 'em).

2. I don't wear jeans.
This is a subpart of 1) but it is a more recent development. Over the break when we all got sick I wore sweatpants all week, and then I just couldnt go back. I have never worn tight or uncomfortable jeans, but still denim is not as cozy as sweats. I bought some yoga pants that are passably attractive and that is that. I look like I am always on the way to the gym even though I never am.
he's happy because he has the camera again. he knows he is taking photos. he has bangs over his face for another reason.

3. I don't care about being social
This is tricky to word because I don't mean to imply that I don't care about being friends with people. I guess I just noticed that earlier in my parenting years (like two years ago for sure), making friends with other moms was really really important to me. I was always interested in having another family come over to have dinner or spend time, and I needed weekly playgroups and other forms of mom-socialization to sustain me. I still enjoy those things, but I just don't really think about them anymore or make plans for them. I hope that doesn't mess with the kids' social lives!
we are pants-optional around here.

4. I am not self-conscious about my parenting. I know I am not perfect, and suddenly I am ok with other people knowing it, too. I do my best and I don't find myself cringing when my kids are being awful in public, or even wondering what the other parents think of me. I think I just assume all kids are awful sometimes, and all parents, too. It used to matter to me if my son could deliver his scripture from memory without being ridiculous into the microphone. Now I feel a little ashamed that I took that too seriously. What's a 4 year old boy to do when the opportunity to make wonderful, shocking noises into this coveted instrument suddenly becomes a tactile reality? I used to feel nervous to get together with old friends with my kids in case my children embarrassed me. Now that isn't even a thought. Maybe I just am beyond shame or something.

Maybe that is exactly what it is for all four of these.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

checklist mom-ing

Porter wears a given outfit (usually a sleeper, but apparently not always a sleeper) for 24 hours. He can often be found in this pose.

I think that I have overall improved as a parent over the last six years (poor Andrew!). My expectations for everyone and everything have become more realistic, for one, which has been huge for me. I am more realistic about how much sleep to expect (for myself), how much time it will take to do things, what is developmentally appropriate for each age and stage (no more being embarrassed that my 20 month old will occasionally strike me about the face or trunk or frustrated/worried about tantrums or other behaviors I used to think were a) unique to my emotionally disturbed or undisciplined kid and b) permanent. It doesn't make me crazy that the house is just going to be sorta messy during the day, and overnight here and there. I learned that an hour of happiness in front of the tv is so worth avoiding the parental tantrums that might ensue without it every once in a while, and that weekly field trips to museums were more of a pain than a payout. I know you all want me to go on to paint a clearer picture, but that will have to do.

But I also realized this week that while my stress level has gone down with my expectations, so have a few other things that were good and worthy. I basically used to live my life as if I were running a preschool. We had lessons, did a daily craft, went to the park to blow of steam. Every day. The kids were happier and my life was easier to live. Now that Andrew is in school and we are in the middle of making some good progress with Will at the dinner table, we have more constraints on our time that leave us more homebound, and somehow I am have become less preschooly. With Andrew in full day school, our center of gravity has moved up to the next level, even though I still have a toddler who could really use the home=preschool schedule. It doesn't help that there are three instead of one or two, now. Poor Porter definitely gets read to less often than the other boys. (Our bedtime reading is Harry Potter, for goodness sakes.) Yesterday I pulled out the crafts for some cutting and gluing, and I realized it had been almost a month since our last such session. I resolved to be better.

This morning I listened to this Freakonomics podcast and it reminded me of two books I read that were supposed to change my life but instead turned into mental shadows that scold me on occasion: Better and The Checklist Manifesto.
It also reminded me not to be lazy about enforcing pre-meal hand-washing, another detail that has unjustly slipped when our axis turned toward the elementary level of parenting (mostly because Andrew is now faithful at it on his own?). It also reminded me of the lesson I have learned from our issues Will, which is that eyeballing and estimating can yield grossly incorrect assessments. You have got to write everything down and do the math.

So I decided to make a list of things to check off each day for myself. I have a Mom Chart to go right next to the Boys' Chore Chart (which I hope ends up on the floor less often than their does). Living this way is not really my personality. My personality is much more laid-back and lax (the positive spin--or can I say "side"?) to being a bit sloppy. I need a bit of a report card over my shoulder to keep my accountable, to show me that even when I feel like I haven't done things well enough because I have been in bad temper or whatever millions of ways I misstep every day, I can at least see that I have met my realistic goals. I am not worried about losing the forest through the trees, or becoming too letter of the law while losing the spirit of it. I am definitely a spirit of the law person by nature, and I need some built-in letters to make sure I stay on track ("You can't understand the spirit of the law until you have lived the letter, Elder," wrote the wise dad of a fellow idiotic missionary).

I shouldn't publicize, because it just shows how much I have lowered the bar. Also I don't feel like taking a photo and going through the whole rigamarole of uploading it. Trust me, you probably already do all these things.

Gotta, go--Porter's nap time is passing me by!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

obama and abortion

This election is about the economy, and I am gathering my thoughts to tackle that complex issue. I know no one is paying attention to abortion this time around, except for conservatives who don't like that Romney used to be pro-choice.

But, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I can't help but bring up Obama's record on abortion because it raises several huge red flags. In this single issue, Obama shows himself for the radical he is (more protective of abortion rights than any other national politician), unwilling to tell the truth about it, and pathologically accuse those who reported the truth on his record of "lying," all the while knowing that it was he, not they, who lied.

Obama has eloquently stated that "no one is pro-abortion," an attempt to distance himself from the moral implications of a practice that is becoming increasingly difficult to defend as medical technology advances and 1) makes unborn babies viable at earlier ages and 2) provides clear photographic evidence that unborn babies are not just masses of cells, but tiny humans who feel pain. Yet Obama has gone further than any politician in fighting limits on abortion, even when it meant dispensing with basic humane treatment of dying babies.

When he was a state senator, Chicago nurses came forward and testified that they had found babies that had survived an abortion attempt thrown into soiled linen closets and left to die. The state immediately tried to enact legislation to stop this, hoping to mandate comfort care to babies born alive after a failed abortion. Obama found such care too threatening to the right to choose, and not only voted against the bill, but railed against it on the floor of the state house. When confronted about this during the '08 elections he simply lied. You can read about it here.

This article on has all the details. The article's rhetoric demonstrates some pro-choice bias (using the term "anti-choice" instead of "pro-life") and concludes that whether Obama embraced infanticide rests on one's definition of the term. Obama did not embrace infanticide, the article states, so long as infanticide is the killing of a viable baby (as opposed to simply doing nothing while watching a nonviable, but living, baby die), but admits that Obama really did reject comfort care to babies born alive after a failed abortion, that those Obama accused of lying were actually telling the truth, and that he was the one misrepresenting the law and the facts.

Here is Obama's moving argument against requiring medical staff to not dump living human babies into dirty clothes hampers as they were dying: “As I understand it, this puts the burden on the attending physician who has determined, since they were performing this procedure, that, in fact, this is a nonviable fetus; that if that fetus, or child, however way you want to describe it—is now outside the mother’s womb and the doctor continues to think that it’s nonviable but there’s, let’s say, movement or some indication that, in fact, they’re not just coming out limp and dead, that, in fact, they would then have to call a second physician to monitor and check off and make sure that this is not a live child that could be saved.” This, he argued, was too much to ask of a doctor performing abortions, and it could also, as he put it, “burden the original decision of the woman and the physician to induce labor and perform an abortion.”

When the identical bill went before the U.S. senate, it passed unanimously. Only Obama found a bill that explicitly stated that it did not limit abortions in any way but simply required comfort care be given to babies born alive after a failed abortion was so much of a threat to the right to choose that it would be better that dying babies be left to die in piles of dirty clothes than to encumber the right to choice with a duty to provide humane care. Of course, rather than say so, he lied again, claiming that the state bill did not contain the same neutrality clause (basically stating that the law would not impinge of Roe v Wade) that the federal bill contained. The truth was that he killed off in committee the state bill that contained identical language to the federal one, lied about it and then accused those who correctly called him out on the facts liars. Fact check has it all spelled out clearly.

I know this is not going to come up in the election. It barely came up last time and Obama's lies were believed (the truth is so monstrous that it is incredible) and the media covered for him. So he got away with it and the issue died. I get that people are not voting on social issues this year and maybe no one cares about this. But it just speaks volumes to me about the man we have elected.

Friday, January 20, 2012

changes, or why i should be taking more footage of them

(not posed)
A couple of months ago, just before he turned 4, Will, who had been silently mouthing words in the family room, suddenly piped up with an observation: "Mom, your name is the only one in our family that you can say without moving your tongue!" Then he demonstrated. I found myself copying him to verify. He meant, of course, "Mom," not Alexandra. But he was right. Even "dad" requires some different placement of the tongue. I should have know he was up to something.

Shortly after that, his sweet little pronunciation (or mispronunciation) of 'r' changed. He used to sort of swallow the r, in that very typical way of young kids. He is "foe" not "four," etc etc. But suddenly he began over-enunciating his rs. He was fouRRR, now. Did we want to go to the stoRRRRRe? And now his little brother is PoRRRRRteRRR. He had performed speech therapy on himself and in the couRRRRse of a few weeks he had gone from his sweet mispronunciation to funny over-enunciation and now perfect pronunciation of r. He explained that he had to do this because he wasn't saying his words coRRectly. He was tired of me sometimes being confused about what he was communicating to me. I don't even notice anymore, we are that used to the change. I even thought to myself when he was going through the transition that I needed to videotape him speaking, because he would still slip back into old ways, and I wanted to capture it before it was extinguished. But I just didn't. I found some footage of him at his birthday breakfast declaring himself to now be "foe," but it is so short.

The least I can do is record now that it happened over the Christmas season. And though I have printed it here before, this poem has taken on special relevance.

Saying Goodbye to Very Young Children

They will not be the same next time. The sayings
so cute, just slightly off, will be corrected.
Their eyes will be more skeptical, plugged in
the more securely to the worldly buzz
of television, alphabet, and street talk,
culture polluting their gazes' pure blue.
It makes you see at last the value of
those boring aunts and neighbors (their smells
of summer sweat and cigarettes, their faces
like shapes of sky between shade-giving leaves)
who knew you from the start, when you were zero,
cooing their nothings before you could be bored
or knew a name, not even your own, or how
this world brave with hellos turns all goodbye.

Perhaps this is the silver lining to Porter's failure to develop the power of speech? (He has about 10 or 12 words).

Sunday, January 08, 2012

light at the end of the tunnel

The hardest aspect of trials for me is not knowing how long they will last. When Will first was recommended to have an ng tube placed, Brigham and I were relatively cheerful about it. We did not relish the idea, but we felt optimistic that it would finally help him put on the weight he needed to be healthy and that it would be relatively short-term. The tube was placed in January of 2009; I was sure it would be done with by July. The time came and went and nothing really changed. He didn't even make progress in his growth. It was like we just substituted his po calories for tube calories. I really think that is what happened. And now we had to deal with vomiting, tube replacements every few weeks, skin breakdown under the tape, food refusal and the fear that his tube would get snagged or pulled (this happened more than it should have) or be put down too far, or not far enough. It sucked. But still we were not that worried, more burdened by the duties of its maintenance.

Then January of 2010 came and we switched doctors to a man who went on high alert. He was sure we were doing something very wrong, yet he seemed mystified by the problems we were experiencing (incredulous about Will's vomiting episodes and food refusal). Accusatory that I had not gotten Will in to a full-time treatment facility (6 weeks long, out of town), judgmental that I was pregnant when I was so clearly failing with my current kids. That was when we started to lose hope that Will would just grow out of this. We got really stressed and Will's struggles with food seemed to intensify. We were bolusing him constantly, and he threw up multiple times a day. By the fall of that year, we had switched doctors again to someone who thought to prescribe antacid to get the vomiting under control (it worked, but by now it was August) and had his g-tube placed. His g-tube surgery brought out the saddest little boy I have ever seen. I think he felt betrayed by us when he had been promised this miraculous transformation and he awakened to a thick foot long tube hanging out of his stomach (you can see it in the photo below). He wouldn't walk for a week, he couldn't keep anything down. He developed a facial tic. He lost weight. We did a feeding treatment out of town and he made some progress, but not enough to be kept on for the second week. The therapist said he seemed depressed and that we would be wasting our money and our opportunity to use the facility and that we should go home. A month later his tube was pulled out of his stomach when he was playing a climbing game in the back of my parents' car. More trauma.

Will grew well during the rest of that year and into 2011, but it was only because of the tube feedings. But we were happy and relieved that at least he was healthy and growing. We started to despair that this was our new life, and to despair that maybe we were looking at years and years of daytime tube feedings and nightly hook-ups to a feeding machine, diapers, soaked sheets and clothes. We felt so sad for Will that one of life's great pleasures--food--was his deepest aversion, and that he had to face it multiple times a day. It was like a disability, a type of blindness.

I told him on New Years this year when we shared our family resolutions that I knew this would be his year of not needing his tube anymore. I thought there was a 50-50 chance of making enough progress that we would only need to supplement at night, which would be life changing in itself. But Will was so happy at this news of mine. He believed me, I guess.

He also came down with the flu. While this meant 24 hours of sickness for the rest of us, for Will it meant 7 days of vomiting and fever. He ended up with strep and double ear infections. We couldn't feed him anything other than pedialyte and he lost weight like crazy. We failed to order more enteral supplies and ended up without his night bags, too, for a few days. We felt like the worst parents.

I don't know how much of it was my declaration of faith that Will would make progress this year and how much was the total cessation of tube feedings (which we have tried periodically and in many forms before to no avail), but Will has been eating totally normally all week. He has asked for new foods and declared his approval of them. We have not had to bolus or supplement at all. Maybe it is too soon to say that he has turned a corner, but the change in him is so stark that I can't help but feel that he has. We used to be so pleased when he would take a bite or two of something without throwing up or complaining. Now he is eating things he used to claim to hate (like chocolate cake), and eating them in appropriate amounts.

This is life changing for him and for us. I was worried about whether I could send him to kindergarten. I was worried that he would always feel different and strange, always hate food, always feel a little sick from the bolusing needed to keep him healthy. It seems that all of that might be in our rearview mirror now. It came on like a miracle.

I am praying that he will keep this up, and that maybe he can even forget about his life of hating food and he can continue forging his way into a new adventure of tastes. Maybe even one day he will be fat. A mother can dream.