Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mileage Maniac

Jason and I did a lot of traveling before Emily was born. We visited New York, San Francisco, San Diego, Birmingham, New Orleans, and St. Lucia. We traveled all over Italy, Scotland and England. Then Emily arrived and our hobby of traveling came to a screeching halt. The two of us have not left the state together since before she was born... until now. In less than two weeks, we're off to San Francisco for the weekend to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary!

Planning this trip reminds me how much I love travel and lately I've been daydreaming about big trips again. I hoard frequent flyer miles and actually get many more from dining and shopping than I ever have from flying (enough to send us to Italy for free!) AA once gave 2,500 miles to anyone who would test drive a Lincoln. We stopped at the lot for 5 minutes -- long enough to tell the salesman that we had no intention of buying a car, but we'd be happy to waste his time for a signature. He quickly signed the form for us and we walked away with 5,000 more miles between us. I even entered (and won) an essay contest online once about how I'm a "mileage maniac" -- super corny, but very much worth the 25,000 mile prize!

I've already started calculating... I have enough miles for the three of us to fly to London in Coach. Orrrr Jason and I could fly First Class to Paris! (À tout à l'heure, Emily!) I'm not sure how long I can handle being away from her, though... Our weekend away will be a new record at two nights. The thought of taking her on a long flight, however, is equally as scary. I'm fairly certain we'd be that family on the airplane... The one you hope to God you don't have to sit near. Maybe if I expect the worse for her first flight, I'll be pleasantly surprised when the time comes. Or not.

I don't know if we'll actually do a big trip anytime soon, but it's fun to think about. For now I'll continue daydreaming and racking up miles. We'll talk it over more while doing all things touristy in the Bay Area. I've already looked up where I can dine for miles while we're there.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Shopping Story

I look like a mom, don't I? I like to think that when I'm not towing my 2-year old around people might not know it, but the fact remains that I wear comfortable flats, pony tails and a purse that may actually be too large for an overhead compartment. I may as well be wearing mom jeans.

On a recent shopping spree, I noticed that the trendy boutique salesclerks were noticeably less attentive than they used to be. I understand, of course. We have very little to discuss other than whether you can get me a dressing room. I can't even compliment you on your white denim skinny pants because I honestly don't understand how white denim is in style again. One of them asked me if I was shopping for a gift. Do I really look like I don't belong in here at all?? How does she know I'm not into giant belts and platform heels?!

Alright, fine. I'm not.

But occasionally I like to pretend that I wear something other than T-shirts and Capri pants (I don't) and that I don't find Disney stickers on my clothing at night (I do). While in the dressing room, I did a quick check in the mirror -- No stickers, no chocolate milk stains... What gives? Then I see it... It's a look (right next to the tiny eye wrinkles) that says, "This is my mini-vacation and I'm just here to zone out for a while." I recognize it in other shoppers now, too. That slowly walking, slightly dazed shopper who has no idea what she's shopping for? She's a mom. She left her kids at home and she's reorienting herself with how to shop for fun versus shopping for something she needs in the 15 minutes she has to find it.

I walked in without a shopping list and didn't even know where to start. It was actually kind of nice to be left alone while I wandered aimlessly looking at the trends I've been too busy to pay attention to. I didn't buy anything at the trendy boutique. I did, however, find some cute new Capri pants and T-shirts at the mall. As long as I have the look, I may as well dress the part.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Car Wash Therapy

I'll admit I do bring some of my training into my parenting repertoire (I don't have a lot to work with here, so I'll take what I can get). Emily is terrified of the car wash. I get it... Large spinning, spiky monsters, shaking snakes, gusts of wind and buckets of water being thrown onto the car are more than a little unnerving and overstimulating. I've convinced myself that the appropriate response to this phobia is systematic desensitization. In other words, we'll keep doing it until it's no big deal. Never mind the fact that I have to throw myself onto the console and hold her hands while she repeatedly calls out, "It's OK! You're fine! I'm right here!" My poor little parrot. It's not exactly a fun experience for either of us, but I hate to think that she'll be 25 someday and driving one of those cars with "Wash me!" carved into the dirt because she's too embarrassed to seek help for her car wash phobia. Plus, $6 is a lot cheaper than therapy.

I've even tried to make it fun by singing to her about how we're going to give the car a bath (insert 70's hit tune) "at the car wash! At the car wash, yeah!" You can thank me later for putting that awful song in your head. She's still not a big fan, but it's definitely getting better. My car has never been so clean.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Leash Law

Kids are fast... WAY faster than you think they could be and suddenly you're chasing your kid through a shopping mall or into the street while your heart momentarily stops. Never before did I understand the purpose of those funny toddler leashes. I completely get it now. Still, though... It's a leash. I don't care if you put a stuffed monkey on a backpack with a tail handle. It's still a leash. I'm not opposed to other people having kid leashes just as I'm not opposed to other people owning minivans. It's just not for me.

Maybe I feel like tethering my kid is admitting that I can't keep her in one place. I'm not saying I can, of course, but I like to think I can come up with other ways to keep her from taking off. Bribery, for example. I'll do what I need to do to get my daughter to eat her vegetables, hold my hand, and use magic words. The key for me, though, is to look like I have everything under control. I'm fully aware that most of us are making it all up as we go, but something about the pretense makes me feel more competent. If I use a toddler leash, the gig is up.

I'm pretty sure Emily is already on to me... A few days ago I tried to get her to follow me by saying, "Bye! See you later!" and calmly walking away. Emily gave me a sweet smile, a wave, and said, "Buh-bye!" Nice. A 2-year old just called my bluff. She knows I'm not leaving and she's giddy with the prospect of being chased. So, what's worse?? The mom who drags her kid through the mall by a leash or the mom who chases her toddler into a Nordstrom dressing room and pulls her out from under an occupied stall? I'm leaning toward the first and I hope you'll agree. I also owe you an apology if that was you in the last dressing room stall on the left. Sorry about that!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Skippity Do Da

I've never shared this part before, but I usually write here when I'm feeling anxious. It helps me to keep a positive perspective on everything that's been going on over the past year with my health and reminds me to focus on the parts of my life I love so much. There are 1,000 daily joys of having a precious toddler, a loving and supportive husband, and a completely neurotic (yet highly entertaining) dog. Is there such a thing as blog therapy?? There should be.

I've had a string of medical appointments and procedures lately that I wouldn't recommend and it's hard for me not to feel angry about it all sometimes. Then today I received the Oregon MS Chapter newsletter in the mail and found a page where they highlighted teams around the state from the April Walk MS. There's Emily and I at the bottom of the page with a caption about being one of the top fundraisers! I don't mean to brag (yes, I do), but my team grew to an unbelievable 98 members and we raised nearly $12,500! That kind of support was wonderful and the fundraising gave me something positive to associate with my MS. The timing of receiving this newsletter was perfect -- I needed to be reminded that I'm certainly not the only one going through this and not all of it has been SNL Debbie Downer material.

I have another appointment next week to go over my latest MRI, so I'm trying to be optimistic. Wouldn't it be great if my neurologist said, "This is incredible... You no longer have MS!" Then we'd high five and skip down the hall of his office together. Or maybe I'd be the only one skipping, but I'd keep going until I got to the gelato shop a few blocks away because that seems like the perfect way to cap off good news. This is a Journey moment, don't you think? Cue "Don't Stop Believing!"

I realize this isn't exactly how all of this will play out. It helps me, though to go into the appointment with cheezy 80's songs in my head and plans for gelato immediately after the appointment. I might skip anyway. After reading the newsletter and seeing photos of others whose MS has affected their mobility, I'm thankful skipping is still an option for me.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Not So Gentle Kisses

I have teeth marks on my face. No, she didn't bite me (although I've read that's a common toddler phase -- How scary is that?) Sometime over the last month or so Emily decided that if you really want to show someone you love them, you should kiss them... hard. Her love hurts. She literally presses her mouth onto my face and pushes as hard as she can, holding this "kiss" until I finally pull away whimpering. Last night her little teeth poked between her lips when she smashed her face against mine. Apparently it's hysterical when Mommy cries, "Ouch!" because Emily quickly swooped in for another smooch, laughing as I tried to bob and weave my way out of it. Where does she get this stuff?

She's incredibly gentle with other kids -- never hits or pushes and typically just puts an arm out as if to say, "This is my bubble." She felt crowded at the top of a slide once, turned to the older children behind her, stuck her arm straight out (stop sign) and said, "NO, Big kids!" That's my girl. When it comes to playing with Mommy and Daddy, however, our gentle girly girl can be a little rough. A few days ago I had a swollen and bleeding lip from a snuggle gone awry. We were sitting against the wall when Emily quickly lifted her head straight into my face while trying to wiggle onto my lap. I had the added bonus of slamming the back of my head into the wall at the same time. Good times.

Thankfully there's a nice balance of rough and tumble toddler play and gentle gestures (often mimicking what she sees / hears from us). There's nothing like a tiny hand patting my back or rubbing my arm during a hug. Even better when she says, "Thanks, Baby, I love your hugs." I love this. She may not be this gentle all of the time, but we're working on it. I show her how to give a gentle kiss and she responds with a head butt to my mouth followed by silly giggles. We obviously have some more work to do.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Welcome to TWO!

I get that this is a normal part of child development, but the push for independence is unreal!!! Right on cue, Emily turned two and has developed an attitude. She's still a sweet and precious little girl 80% of the time, but that other 20% is brutal! "NO!" is her new favorite word (despite the fact that I make her say, "No, thank you" every single time) and lately every day is the Emily show. She'll begin singing a song. I'll join in and she'll yell, "Listen to Emily!" Seriously!? We're in the car and she wants to listen to Elmo. Or should I say, "Ellllllll-MO! ELmo! Elmooooooo!" Wow. I've lost count of the times I've had her repeat, "Elmo, please." I have to remind her constantly that only her magic words will get Elmo for her. Don't feed me. Don't dress me. No stroller -- I'll walk. Apparently she'll take it from here.

Sometimes when Emily doesn't get her way she now resorts to a funny screaming / squealing thing. What often begins as a tantrum will then fold into a sort of experiment with different volumes and pitches and I can see her thinking to herself, "Did I make that sound??" before trying another. This scares the dog, of course. She tends to forget she was upset, but only after a minute or so of flailing and yelling. Jason and I go about our business and pretend we don't hear anything. I've even told her on occasion, "I only hear sweet voices." Isn't the lack of attention supposed to make it die down!? Is this a 2-year old thing? I can't wait for her to turn 3. Then again, I've heard 3 can be even worse than 2 when it comes to this stuff. How terrifying is that!?

The bedtime stalling continues...

A few new additions to the bedtime routine... This is after we had already done the bath, books, said goodnight to everything in the room, and a lullaby, of course.

"Bunny kiss?"
"You got it."

"Bear hug?"
"Grr.... Goodnight, Baby."

"Giraffe hug?"
(Apparently giraffes press their cheeks together when they hug?! Whatever.)

"Monkey hug?"
"You're kidding, right?"

"What books should we read?"
"We already did that, Dolly. Time for bed."

"Let's sing a song. Twinkle, Twinkle..."
"Goodnight, Sweet Girl!"


"Say goodnight to Daddy?"

I'm in the process of closing the door, but Daddy heard this request and can't help but go in for one last hug. This kid has us wrapped around her little finger.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dear Mr. Obviously Annoyed at Barnes and Noble,

Is it really necessary for you to stare while my normally sweet little girl has a full-blown meltdown? You've made it very clear you think I can't control the situation and you're probably right. She's tired and hungry. I'm buying the silly SkippyJon Jones book hoping that will tide her over, but in the meantime I'd like you to look the other way. It's a bookstore, not a library. You have no idea what else I have going on today.

In about two hours I'll be at the hospital trapped inside a loud, scary machine with an IV in my arm so they can take MRI images of my brain and spinal cord. If you knew that, would you be less judgmental? I'm totally stressed about this, but for now I need to focus on shopping for Father's Day gifts with my darling, screaming child.

I read somewhere once that if we all took our problems and put them in a pile in front of us, you'd take one look at everyone else's and quickly grab yours back. I believe it. It seems on my worst days, God has a way of making me see how much I should be thankful for. Sometimes, however, I wish we could all wear little labels just to give a little insight into what we're each dealing with and remind each other to play nicely. Short statements like, "Lost my job," "Car is totaled" or "I have a teenage girl" (YIKES!)

Just so you know, Emily morphed back into her sweet self after lunch and a long nap. I made it through my MRI with the help of the Ativan my doctor prescribed (1 = Relaxed, 2 = Loony Tunes. Now we know). I spent some time thinking about some of the labels my friends and family would wear to remind myself to be supportive, compassionate, and grateful.

Mr. Annoyed, If I ever see you again at the bookstore, I'll try to remind myself that you probably have your own label as well. Slim chance we'll see each other, though... Barnes and Noble is not likely to let us return after that performance.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"Her Dentist Said..."

I know a lot of parents who have brought pediatricians, advocates, and attorneys to special education meetings. I'm not sure if this is an intimidation tactic (aren't we all trying to help your kid?!) or if they really think we MUST do whatever the expert in that field tells us to. Just so you know, we don't. I've always said the same thing in those meetings. "Thank you for your recommendations. We'll take them into consideration." I'm really good at using that line in my professional life, and I wish I could remember it more often as a parent.

Trying to wean Emily from her pacifier has been really stressful on all of us. We tried going cold turkey, but I gave in after she failed to nap for a week. It's been a few months, so now we're trying again. Day 1: She screamed. A lot. It was the cry-it-out stage all over again, but this time it sounded like someone had cut off an arm. Even worse, she's verbal enough now to throw in gems like, "MAMAAAAA!!!! PLEEEEAAAASE!!!" Brutal.

At this point Jason and I asked ourselves why we were doing this. "Her dentist said it will affect her bite, but that problem will correct itself if she stops using it around age 2." The second it came out of my mouth I realized how bad it sounded. I'm letting her dentist make a parenting decision? Ugh. Now I see there's no need to rush this. We've cut off the end of one (now her "big girl beeper") to make it less satisfying for her and she only uses it for naps and bedtime. I figure this is a middle ground that will help us move in the right direction without making me feel like I'm torturing my toddler. Dr. D, Thank you for your recommendation. We'll take that into consideration. I'm sure you can refer me to a good orthodontist when my kid needs braces.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hamster Dance

I've had problems with needles my entire life and have passed out on more than one occasion from a simple flu shot. Waking up on the floor of a public bathroom following a blood draw was not a fun experience (yuck) and I never dreamed I'd be able to give myself injections. I'm now on Rebif, a disease modifying drug that reduces the number of lesions that develop in the Central Nervous System (the cause of MS symptoms) over time. A friend of mine who also has MS is on the same treatment and brought my attention to an interesting detail about this medication... Here's a quote taken from the Rebif package insert:

"Rebif® (interferon beta-1a) is a purified 166 amino acid glycoprotein with a molecular weight of approximately 22,500 daltons. It is produced by recombinant DNA technology using genetically engineered Chinese Hamster Ovary cells into which the human interferon beta gene has been introduced."


Amid all of the science talk, did you catch the part about Chinese Hamster Ovary cells?! Ew. After doing some research, I learned that CHO cells (yes, they have an acronym) are actually widely used in biotech manufacturing. It's pretty bizarre, but I also find it highly amusing. Jason and I now refer to my shots as my "hamster dance." This comes from a ridiculous cartoon of dancing hamsters that circulated via e-mail a few years back. He likes to play it on his iPhone while I do my shot -- The song is beyond irritating, but it makes me smile every time.

I'm not entirely sure how to explain all of this to Emily when the time comes. I do know, however, that I'll tell her all about the hamster dance. She'll like that part.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Welcome to the Club!

From the beginning I've always felt like being a parent has granted admission into a secret society of sorts. While pregnant, I'd commiserate with other pregnant women about cankles and weird cravings. After Em was born, I joined in on conversations with other new moms about the unexpected aspects of labor and delivery (I apologize to those of you we scared). The same was true for the newborn phase. We'd look at other new parents with their sweet bundle of joy and I knew we were all thinking the same thing... What the hell are we doing?! Will we EVER sleep again???

I feel like each stage is like that. If you have a toddler or pre-school kiddo at home, for example, I could say to you, "I know a teacher who looks just like Mr. Noodle" or "This mango is yummy yummy" and you'd get it. Because you're in the club. We understand that when the box says "Some assembly required," it's really code for "Pour yourself a drink... You're going to need it."

My friends without kids are surely reading this and thinking I officially have no life. I never said it was a cool club. Jason and I have gone from quoting Old School to quoting Grover. I spent my Friday night at a tea party with my daughter and Elmo in our family room. This was after we watched Barney clips on YouTube and played with Little People.

Wild, right?

The funny thing is that I'm not complaining. I can't think of anyplace I'd rather be than with my family (I could do without Elmo). I like to think we're cool parents, though. Is there a club for that? Maybe next weekend we'll do something crazy. We have big plans for a pretty nice little Saturday. We're going to go to Home Depot to buy some wallpaper, maybe get some flooring, stuff like that. Maybe Bed, Bath, & Beyond, I don't know... I don't know if we'll have enough time.