August 31, 2010

Oh, the Guilt...

It was a beautiful late summer day and I was heading outside to paint some window trim. I noticed a large, bright green insect crawling across the fresh black asphalt in the parking lot at work. It looked pretty neat so I walked over to get a closer look and was horrified by what I found. Sure, it was a praying mantis alright - a HEADLESS ONE! The head was on the ground and it's zombie body was walking around in circles. I contemplated stepping on it when my mother interjected "Leave it alone, maybe it still has a chance!" Now, in my own still-attached head, I knew this was impossible - things aren't meant to walk around headless outside of indie horror flicks. Besides being extremely creepy, it sure would make eating and seeing much more difficult. But despite that, I took her advice, hoping that nature would take it's course sooner than later.

Three hours later (!) I walk back to wash off my paint brush and who should I find still doing figure eights in the parking lot? At this point the creep factor had gone off the charts and I was torn. I could squish him, getting praying mantis juice all over my sneakers, and feel guilty about ending the life of such a neat looking creature. Or I could ignore it (somehow) and continue about my day, and feel guilty about extending the poor things' suffering.

Since when had I come to this? Not too many years ago, decisions came fairly easy to me. I didn't get into moral squabbles with myself over insects. If I wanted to do something, I did it. If I wanted to buy something, I bought it. There was no deliberation, there was no back-and-forth, there was no guilt. But ever since I had kids, my guilt-o-meter has gone into the red zone. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it isn't just about me anymore, or that I've become more maternal, or maybe I'm just getting old. But I feel guilty if my kids eat too much, or if they don't eat enough. I feel guilty for buying myself a new shirt, even if the kids have plenty of clothes already. I feel guilty about letting them watch TV. I feel guilty about not giving to charities enough. I feel guilty about throwing away an entire hamburger that may or may not survive a night in our fridge. I feel guilty about eating an oatmeal cookie at 10pm. I feel guilty that I bought a box of oatmeal cookies to begin with. I feel guilty when I see ASPCA commercials come on TV. I feel guilty when my daughter wants to run and play and dance at a morning hour that most human beings should never have to be awake to see. I feel guilty when I spend time to write a blog when that time should be spent with a vacuum and a dust cloth. I feel guilty over bugs.

In the end, I never did make a decision about the praying mantis. I was told that someone kicked him into the alley to let a car mercifully run over his robotic body, but I never saw him again. Which is probably for the better, because if I'd have been the one who crushed him with my tires I might not ever live it down...

Reason I Love Being a Mom #221

Reason I Love Being a Mom #221: Because there is no other place I'd rather be than curled up on the edge of the bed - teetering, in fact - thanks to a snuggly little bed hog that allows me nearly 6 whole inches of sleeping space in our king sized bed.

PS, No, I wasn't trying to suffocate him with green aluminum foil. That's just his giraffe lovey turned inside-out.

August 21, 2010

I'm Not a Hippie!

I was talking to a woman the other day about my son's amber teething necklace and a random assortment of other small talk when she says, "What are you, some kind of new-age hippie?" She then laughed as if she had just come up with a joke that would blow George Carlin out of the water. I, on the other hand, was not nearly as amused. Me, a hippie? A HIPPIE?!

Sure, I DO use cloth diapers for the sake of the environment and my budget. And yes, I clean with vinegar instead of chemicals and try to use rags and washcloths instead of paper towels whenever possible for the same reasons. And so what if I like to walk around barefoot, even when I'm outside? Most flipflops are just another method of Chinese torture to me. And honestly - who doesn't love a good granola bar once in a while? Perhaps the healing power of stones isn't everyone's cup of tea but I do believe the amber has made a difference with my son, at least on a small scale. And...ok....I DO implement gentle discipline, I wore my kids in wraps and back carriers, I cosleep, and I tend to ignore the CDC vaccination guidelines in favor of my own schedule. And I will freely admit that my favorite color is rainbow, because I believe in giving every color a fair shot, and that my favorite animated movie growing up was "The Last Unicorn". Peace is a pretty awesome thing, and will gladly honk at anyone with a big sign that says so. And, come to think, it sometimes does take me a day or two (or three) to find time to take a full shower....and when I wake up sometimes my hair does resemble a frizzy dreadfro (a cross between an afro and dreadlocks)....


Ok, ok, maybe she has a point. Maybe I AM a new-age hippie?

August 19, 2010

Freecycle Woes

When I first heard about Freecycle, I thought it seemed like a swell idea. I'm a frugal person, so anything with the word "free" attached to it draws me in like a moth to a flame. In fact, in my first week I scored an outdoor climber/slide - and that thing has been colored on, climbed up, jumped on, thrown at, broken, fixed, moved, slid down, rained on, snowed on, puked on, and peed on and it's still standing there in the corner of our yard, ready to take another beating.

Lately, however, I've found Freecycle to be rather sub par. Sure, I understand that things are free and therefore I don't expect them to be in mint condition - but spider infestations? Yellow stains? I'll pass, thanks. And I've already sent emails to two seperate people who have offered expired carseats. One didn't realize and said thank you, the other one shot me a snotty email back that said "That's why it's FREE." Silly me, I guess it's ok to endanger children as long as you don't charge someone to do it...

But to even find those things you have to sift through a hundred "WANTED" ads first...they should rename it Begcycle. For instance, someone recently was asking for a working 42" LCD TV, preferably a wall-mount. Seriously? I know there are some kind and generous people out there, but this almost surpasses Begcycle and goes right to Greedcycle.

On the bright side, no one emails me with an offer to send a certified check if I can hold their item and then arrange a dropoff with their mail-order wife at the airport, or sends me iPhone ads - so at least it has one-up on Craigslist.

August 18, 2010

From the Mouths of Babes

Here, I have compiled some snippets of actual conversations between my two year old and myself. Personally, I can't understand why anyone would pay to go see stand-up comedy - I have one working for free at my house, practically 24/7. Enjoy!

-- "Mommy, I have toots in my butt."
-- "I'm NOT a kangaroo, I'm a big girl."
-- "What do we do today? Let's catch the stars!"
-- "Does your car want to eat blueberries?"
-- "I don't want to say 'Arr Matey', I'm not a pirate anymore."
-- (I was building blocks with her and built a train, and showed it to her...with the same tone you would use to talk to a really slow person she says...) "That's not a train, mommy, that's some blocks."
-- "Let's go reaaaally FAST! Go high in the sky! And then we'll have lunch, ok?"
-- "I'm watching soccerball in Chinese."
-- "I love ants, and mommy, and Owen Edward, and TAMBOURINES!"
-- "My car likes raisins." (She managed to shove two raisins into a tiny Matchbox car window that took 5 minutes, a tweezer, and steady hands to remove).
-- "Does Owen want to go to the party in my tummy?" (Me - "No, that's silly!") "No mommy he is tasty. Sweet like candy!"
-- "I never get any birthday cake!" (Followed by a full-on pout)
-- "A lion says ROOOAAR! A monkey says hoohoohaha. Mommy says 'hi baby'."
-- "I can't eat my peas. I'm too little."

But one of the best one took place the other night, as I was tucking her in to bed. We had just finished the required two books and one song, and - as usual - I said 'I love you' and 'goodnight', to which she replied, "I wuv you too! Get out of here mommy, I'm tired."

August 13, 2010

The Idiot's Guide to Owen

I've had a lot of people ask me lately, "So what's wrong with your son?". Because he is such a complex little booger, I decided to type up some cliff notes - The Idiot's Guide to Owen, if you will. I'll have you know that I diagnosed at least three of these things prior to the doctors thanks to my extensive Googling. I'm confident that has earned me some type of honorary doctorate, however their club is pretty exclusive so this will have to serve as my official journal publication.

BIRTHDATE: 11/27/09

Let me start with a example. First, a healthy heart:And then, Owen's heart:Actually, it's not so much as his heart as it is his aorta...which is really a blood vessel that comes off of the heart...ok, scratch that diagram....

1) Vascular Ring - Owen presented with prolonged screaming fits and a tendancy to choke, gasp and gargle while eating. We were told over and over again that he was simply congested, and to run a humidifier. I attributed it to everything from milk intolerance, to disliking the outfit I had picked for him that day (in fact, I literally threw out a red hooded onesie that seemed particularly problematic). Turns out, Old Navy was not at fault - after some pressure on the doctors, a CT scan was ordered which uncovered the REAL culprit. His aorta actually curves the wrong direction (known as a Right Aortic Arch) and has forced some other things, like his trachea and esophagus, to get pushed out of the way. In addition, he was born with an extra blood vessel that was fused together with his aorta, forming a "vascular ring" that was literally squeezing his trachea and esophagus shut. The ring was surgically repaired in Feb 2010 at the tender age of 3 months

What they left alone at the time of that surgery was something called Kommerell's diverticulum which, thanks to the aforementioned ring, is basically large bulge, or balloon, in his aorta that was pressing on his esophagus. I'm guessing that doesn't feel too great and is why he spits out any solid foods as if it were rat poison. This portion of his anatomical discombobulation was surgically repaired on March 28th, 2011.

2) Bicuspid Aortic Valve - This never presented as anything, really, and was only found incidently during another scheduled echo of his heart. Much like the rubber thingys in your garbage disposal, your heart has three leaflets that open and close when blood flows in an out. Owen has only two (well, ok, he HAS three, but two have fused together so really there is one big one and one little one). Also, like the rubber thingys in your drain, stuff can collect on them and cause problems, which leads me to...

3) Aortic Valve Sclerosis - This is the "gunk" that accumulates on heart valves and then calcifies like leftover meatloaf in the back of our refrigerator.  Down the road, gunk build-up may cause his two valves (the big fused one and the little one) to work a little harder than necessary.

4) Heart Murmur - This is a result of the valve mentioned above. It was agreed that this was not significant enough for surgery right now but that they would follow Owen with regular echos to make sure his heart is functioning A.O.K until such time as he needs treatment.

5) VSD (Ventricular Septal Defect) - Otherwise known as a hole in your heart. Owen's VSD is small, and located directly under his aortic valve - which thankfully is a place where it isn't causing much commotion. It will likely never close, but we hope it will never be a cause for concern either.


1) GERD - GastroesomethingIdon'tfeellikespellingout reflux disease. Technically, he's been diagnosed with this twice. The first time, he was held down while a scope was inserted up his nose and down his throat (SO much fun!) and they concluded that since they saw nothing, he must have reflux. I was still working on my honorary doctorate at this point, and therefore did not make the connection between "we found nothing" and "reflux". However, despite this, he was put on a medication for it - which he promptly threw up - over and over again. He was then put on another medication, which cost us not only an arm and a leg, but fingers and toes too. After no obvious improvement, he was taken off the medicine. Fast forward a few weeks, we held him down as they inserted another scope up his nose and down his throat (which he hated just as much as the first time) except at that point, his esophagus is inflammed, meaning he has silent reflux. Bad news: Silent reflux is worse, because instead of spewing it out he swallows it back down, allowing the acid to burn his throat twice. Good news: Less puke stains on my shirt. Back onto the ridiculously expensive medicine...  UPDATE:  As of Jan 2014, we have taken him off of the reflux medicine as it did not appear to be making any improvement and it is not a medicine you are intended to take for an extended period of time.  Off the medicine he is the same as he is off of it, so I'm not 100% sure I'm on board with this diagnosis still.

2) Laryngomalacia - This was found during that same delightful scope. He was presenting with a high-pitched gaspy noise, similar to one that you would make if you accidently sucked a marble down your windpipe (or at least I'm guessing). Due to the fact that he was a baby and didn 't understand the concept of "Please stop screaming even though we have this tube up your nose and down your throat", they had a hard time getting good pictures, but they did get enough to confirm the existence of this defect of his larynx. Basically, the top of his airway collapses slightly when he takes deep breaths in, causing a squeaking noise. This is compounded by the GERD, since the acid spew he coughs up aggravates his larynx even further. I've been assured that he will likely outgrow both of these things.   
UPDATE:  As of Jan 2014, this defect appears to have resolved itself.  Woot!

3)  Tracheobronchomalacia - Whew, that's a tough one, right?  It is believed that this rare abnormality is because of the vascular ring that compromised the development of his trachea during fetus-hood.  His airway is not as strong as most, so if airway gunk (not to be confused with calcified heart gunk) gets down into his trachea and lungs, it is a struggle for him to clear it out - sort of like using a spoon to bail a sinking boat.

3) Severe Food Aversion and/or Eating Disorder and/or something else - Owen has not ever consumed anything beyond a thin puree consistency. At over 3 years old he still relies heavily on medical formula to meet his nutritional needs. Prior to his second surgery, we assumed that part of his difficulty eating was because of the diverticulum blocking his esophagus. Post-surgery, he actually started taking an interest in real foods like granola bars, mashed potatoes, etc. But suddenly, that stopped, and now we are back to a daily struggle to get him to consume more than a few ounces of purees - let alone table foods like a normal kid his age should be doing. We have made visits to the University of Iowa Children's Hospital, Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, and the Mayo Clinic, and Owen's case is just so unusual that they have nothing left to offer us except to keep an eye on him and hope that he overcomes these obstacles on his own.   
UPDATE:  I'm happy to say that as of Jan 2014 his eating has drastically improved.  He now eats some solid foods and no longer requires the medical formula we came to know and hate.  It's still an uphill battle most days but his openness to eating a more varied diet is improving daily.

4) PANDAS - This stands for "pediatric autoimmune neurological disorder associated with strep".  Around his 3rd birthday, Owen started showing some autistic characteristics.  He repeated things often and would become violently upset if you didn't repeat them back, he developed some strong OCD tendencies such as lining up toys and visiting the bathroom so many times that we may as well have just set up a tent in there.  He also had a motor tic of eye blinking which started to become so prominent that he did it every 3-4 seconds, all day long.  A visit to the pediatrician regarding these tics incidentally found him to have completely symptom-less strep throat - because, you know, nothing with Owen can be normal and straightforward.  A round of antibiotics and all of his behaviors disappeared.  Confused and intrigued, we visited a specialist who diagnosed him with PANDAS, saying that the strep bacteria actually triggers the bodies own immune system to attack part of the brain which is responsible for - you guessed it - motor and speech behavior.  So basically, his inflamed brain made him do it.

5) Genetics (yet to be determined) - This year, Owen was looked at by a team of geneticists at Mayo Clinic. He has a significant history for having some sort of genetic disorder or mutation, but nothing they could pin down. His basic genetic array test came back free of deletions or duplications, which essentially stunned the genetics team (and let me tell you, that's hard to do!).  So, they sent us away and told us to come back in a few years once more medical advances in genetics had been made so they could reevaluate him.  Yes, really.

So there you have Owen in a nutshell. There are so many people in the world who struggle with disease, deformities, and defects on a daily basis - and while Owen may be a complicated thing on the inside, he's a normal, happy boy otherwise and for that I consider us to be among the lucky. All the doctors, all the hospitals, all the office visits and phone calls haven't changed his smile one bit. Flesh, bone, and steel!

August 7, 2010

My Top 10 Most Unnecessary Baby Products

The amount of unnecessary baby gear out there astounds me. In no particular order, here are my Top 10 Unnecessary Baby Products, as pulled from the Babies 'R Us website:

Lillebaby EuroTote - I can see this being useful if I were forced to carry my infant on a dog sled team in the Antarctic. Anywhere else, and it looks like you shoved your child into your gym bag.

Especially For Baby Playard Netting - I hate mosquitoes as much as the next person, but this is a little extreme. Why not let your child enjoy being outside too instead of leaving them in this jumbo laundry hamper?

Walking Assistant - It's a wonder that anyone learned to walk before the development of this product. You COULD just hold on to your kid's hand, but then you'd miss out on having your own personal marionette.

Prince Lionheart Wash Pod - I heard great things about a similar product, but I just don't understand why it's any different than the 5 gallon bucket that people keep out in their garages.

Bebesounds NasalClear Aspirator - My child is scared of the vacuum when it's 10 feet away from her, I can't imagine how much fun it would be to try and shove THIS up her nose.

Diaper Genie II Elite - (I know this is a big baby registry classic, so I may be on my own on this one.) I try and eliminate the amount of trash I produce as much as possible, so the idea of saran-wrapping disposable diapers in yet another layer of plastic is a foreign concept to me. And it says it holds up to 30 diapers, as if that were a lot. It's not. Raise your hand if that thing looks like a lot of fun to empty and reload every day with a screaming newborn in one arm. Besides, when you have children who emit such noxious fumes as mine do, no plastic baggie is going to help anyway.

Safety 1st Little Men Working Potty - Hold on, this is a potty? If I can't even tell the difference, I wouldn't expect your two-year-old to.

Podee BPA Free Feeding Kit - I used to have one of these! Oh wait, that was a beer helmet...

Safety 1st Rear Window Shade - This product sucks. Actually, no, it DOESN'T suck - that's the whole problem. Unless you want to duct tape it to your window to protect your child from getting a black eye when the suction cups give way, I'd pass on this one.

KidKusion Large Driveway Sign - It's such a pain to have to go outside and watch your children play in the driveway by a busy street. Why not let this sign babysit for you?

Feel free to add on if you've encountered a baby product that had you scratching your head - I'd love to see what other wonderfully unecessary stuff I may be missing out on!

**Disclaimer: This is my own personal opinion and not meant to offend or insult anyone's parenting. I'm sure there is a time and place for each one of these products, except for the sun shade, because I've owned one and you really may as well just hit your kid in the head with a plastic object and save yourself the trouble.**

August 4, 2010

Reason I Love Being a Mom #36

Reason I Love Being a Mom #36: You can get great art for cheap. Take, for instance, this sculpture I acquired today. I believe it's called "Tower". I was asked if I would like to have it, followed by "Two dollars please!" Seriously, only two dollars? Who could pass up a deal like that? I know an investment when I see one, so I promptly dished out two one-dollar bills to which my daughter said "Thank You Sir" and crammed them into her piggy bank.

I also managed to sneak a picture of the artist's studio: