Sunday, January 31, 2010

Becoming "That" Age

So, we were all sitting around the dinner table, which is a pretty normal thing around my house. (No really, it is,) and the subject of conversation turned to how family genetics are a strange thing. For instance, Little Heart has straight, dark blond hair and little pixie ears, like my mom. Tiny Dancer has lighter blond hair, that is slightly wavy, like mine, but more coarse, like her daddy's. Evil Genius has a whole head full of very light, very fine, very curly hair that tends to get a little frizzy so that she occasionally resembles the Mad Scientist that she aspires to be. Both TD and ED have blue eyes from their father's side of the family but the older one has dark blue while the younger one has eyes that are so light they can turn almost clear. It was interesting to them how they could all look so different and so similar at the same time.

The subject then turned to my three sisters and the variety of traits they inherited from different branches of our family tree. #1 Sister is very thin and fair, with long limbs and fingers, but dark blond hair, and the same pixie ears of my mom. #2 Sister (the fourth child in my family) is the shortest of all of us and has olive tone skin, brown hair, a medium build, and a round face. #3 sister (the youngest) was the smallest of all of us as a baby, but she is now the tallest. She has straight light blond hair, fair skin with freckles, and has managed the perfect combination of slender frame and curves. I of course got the medium blond hair, medium fair skin, and more than my fair share of curves. They all can shop in the kids' section of the store, while I go to the Petite Woman's area. All of us have hazel eyes but each of us has a slightly different color combination ranging from bluish gray-green to brownish with gold flecks.We all have very similar facial features but it looks like someone took a copier and messed with the color and size adjustment to create each of us. (Just for the record, so you don't believe we actually did strangle him at birth, the middle child of the family is a boy and he is quite alive and well - with dark hair and skin, and the same hazel eyes, if you were wondering.)

My girls started wondering what they would look like when they got older. Would the two younger ones still look like twins (as they do now) or would one outgrow the other? Would the oldest keep her blond hair or would it darken to brown like my mother's? Of course the next question that would come up in a group of women is What would our little bips, or boobs if you will, look like when we get older? Well, at first I thought Dearest Husband would shy away from this conversation, as he normally does when it comes to subjects concerning most things girlie. But, I guess he was feeling a little brave that night. Or maybe he just decided to have a bonding moment with the girls over dinner. I'm not sure, really. All  I know was the next half hour was focused on the future coming of the Tit Fairy and what it would mean for each of our little darlings one day.

The tale of the Tit Fairy is quite an interesting one. You see, in my family, girls don't age and develop gracefully over the span of months and years, turning slowly from a little girl into a woman, day by day. No, in our family one day you go to bed in a training bra, completely innocent of the gift you are about to receive, and the next morning, Surprise!, you are blessed with a set of C cups and you have no idea where they came from. Lo and behold, the Tit Fairy has visited, and you will never, ever, be the same. Boys who picked on you yesterday, suddenly have brand  new names to call you. Girls who pulled your pony tails will now have the fun of popping your bra straps in the gym locker room, instead. The cute little top you just bought at The Limited Too, no longer fits around your new endowment, and you start to trip on your shoe laces because you can no longer see your feet to KNOW your shoes are untied.

Yes, I remember the day the Tit Fairy visited me. Thank Goodness she visited during the summer. (It was quite a different reception I got going back to school that Fall, I tell you.) It was between my 4th and 5th grade years in school and I woke up one day and knocked my alarm clock over - with my breasts - while reaching to turn on the lamp. That was a momentous and extremely difficult summer for me. My mother was a slim size 6-8 (even after 5 children!) but was just not very blessed in the breast department. I never thought twice about it, and it certainly didn't cause me to think less of her, or consider her less feminine. She was my mom and she wore a padded bra and that was that. Sister #1 is four years my senior and the Tit Fairy had visited her a few years earlier and so I understood what would eventually be happening, but I certainly was not prepared for it. Now there was not one, but two daughters in the house who needed steel belted reinforcement around the chest and Sister #1 simply would not share her bras with me, at all (it turned out to be not so bad, I outgrew her in short order.) 

Sister #2 was visited by this evil wench a few years later and her story was similar to mine. She went to bed one night feeling like a perfectly normal little girl and woke up in quite a different state. While she wasn't blessed quite as generously as her two older sisters were, it was still an enormously difficult burden to bear if you'll pardon the pun. (ok fine, don't)

After relaying these warnings to my young daughters, I was pretty sure I had inflicted enough horror on them for one night. Then, DH chimed in with his own little story to give the girls even more nightmares. He decided to entertain them with his recollection of my youngest sister and her glorious debut into the world of women. Sister #3 is roughly 8 years my junior so she reached That Age about the time our oldest girl was just old enough to walk. Again, it was during the summer and it was back when my whole family eagerly looked forward to the season when the local Renaissance Festival was open and we could all dress up in period costumes and eat turkey legs as big as our heads. Sister #3 leaned toward the more fantasy styled costumes - fairies, pixies, that sort of thing. One weekend she bought an adorable little (I emphasize little) leather halter top from one of the vendors. The very next weekend she decided to wear it, but suddenly it was just a little too tight. How tight, you ask? Tight enough to split down the middle in such a fashion that she had to relinquish it to the scrap bag after that because it was just too indecent for public consumption.

Of course all three of my girls giggled with a mixture of fascination and fear at this point. DH, never wanting to lose a captive audience, continued on with more stories about the shocking change that had overcome the poor girl that summer. She was all knees and elbows (and breasts) after that day and she just wasn't very observant of her surroundings, even before being blessed with a sizable rack. The girl would routinely knock over drinks and  blacken peoples' eyes  by jumping up in excitement and not looking before bouncing. My girls were now rolling at the hilarious stories of #3 and her bounteous bosom.

That was when I felt I needed to give them a stern reminder about why this was such a crucial topic to consider. Laugh now, if you will, at your poor mother with her shoulders permanently marked by bra straps and her back bent from the weight of her DD's. With a direct stare, I pointed at each one of them and reminded them, one day, they TOO would be visited by the Tit Fairy. Be warned, my dear girls. Soon for some and later for others, you will be visited in the night by the most malicious of creatures and you will awake a changed person. To my surprise, they failed to see the seriousness in all of this. With their father snickering at one moment and contemplating the purchase of a new shot gun the next, I can't imagine why.

To Mom or Not to Mom

Sorry about the slow posts lately. As I mentioned before, I have been a bit under the weather and I am still trying to get back on track.

Anyway, this weekend, since DH is out playing Boy Scout, the girls and I are left alone to our own devices, mostly. Last night I let them all "slumber party" in the living room together and I stayed up way too late, myself, just being silly. (Alright, I have become addicted to online jigsaw puzzles. I'm working on finding an online crisis center, right after I finish this last one...) I slept in a little bit late and the girls thankfully didn't bother me until they got really bored with the morning cartoons. They did make biscuits and gravy for breakfast (on their own) and they did wait to wake me up until AFTER they brewed a fresh pot of coffee, so I really didn't mind the wake up call, too much. (Yeah, my kids rock. I know.)

The dilemma I have been having is what level of "Mom-ness" I should be enforcing on these weekend days. Part of me wants to keep a schedule and make sure that we don't lay around and waste time doing senseless things when there is a To Do list to tackle. But, the kid in me remembers (quite fondly, I might add) spending entire Saturdays doing absolutely nothing. I really kind of wish I could be that way again. As a parent, though, I really should do something with the kids on the weekend, shouldn't I? I can't just let them run around all day in a pink tutu and galoshes in January. That wouldn't be responsible of me. But, do I really HAVE to be responsible? Do I? (Please don't answer that...I am in my happy bubble right now and I would hate for you to burst it.)

By tradition, Daddy being away means the girls get a little more freedom around the house - partly because it keeps them out of my hair and partly because I am more likely to be Good Role Model when there are other adults around to see it, but not so much when I am the only grown-up and I get to deal with our little horde as see I fit.  Also, letting them paint their nails (only in the bathroom I said!) and letting them build forts in the living room (those were my good sheets...) keeps them from asking to get out of the house. Leaving the house for anything other than a minor errand is a three-ring-circus I would just as soon avoid. Legally, I can leave them alone if  I need to grab a gallon of milk or refill my Xanax, but any longer than 30 minutes or so, and I am asking for trouble Unfortunately, trying to get these three ragamuffins dressed (in something appropriate for public) with BOTH shoes on their feet and hair styled in some other way than the "rats nest look" is usually a three hour process that is guaranteed to crank my irritation level up at least a notch or two. Once we get out of the house, it just gets worse. Mommy can we go to the mall? No. Mommy can I have McDonalds? No. Mommy can we get a new puppy? No. Mommy can I got to the bathroom in every gas station in the three mile radius of our house? NO. In order to preserve my sanity and the lives of these precious darlings, I try not to venture any farther than the mailbox without at least one other adult for back up support.

So, we spend these One Parent Weekends at home, mostly. The girls have Free Time and barricade my bedroom door and count down the hours until Daddy gets home and I can hand the whole mess to him for awhile. My girls are getting really good at taking full advantage of the  Free Time thing. They like the amount of independence I give them (in comparison to the school week) and I like the time to unplug and relax a little. They don't really need me for a whole lot, anyway. They all know how to use the microwave without blowing the kitchen up and LH can even use the stove for Ramen Noodles or Macaroni and Cheese. There are tons of things that they are allowed to do only on the weekend (like watch TV, for instance) that they don't strictly need my permission for. They manage to keep themselves occupied for the most part. Unless they are really sleep deprived or there really isn't anything to eat in the house, they seem to get along amazingly well. When they all get bored of Hannah Montana re-runs and games, TD and EG will come up with some sort of game involving the Polly House and they take turns being in charge of who orders the other one around. LH usually just plugs into a video game or grabs a book, and everything runs nice and smooth.

Over the past few years I have been sick and out of commission for the vast majority of the time, and that has only enforced their ability to take care of themselves. They normally don't make a fuss about anything unless it is an emergency (And by emergency, I mean blood, fire, or the sinister confiscation of someone's beloved Polly.) They also seem revert to a Lord of the Flies type of existence in an effort to find pattern in the mass of chaos. If I am not in the actively up and bustling around, the chances are very good that they will all be in their PJ's from dawn 'till dusk, they will live off breakfast cereal and PB&J sandwiches, the TV will be going, full blast, all day long, and they  might possibly be roasting the mailman on a spit over a fire behind the couch . (Charges were dropped by the US Postal Service, so we are in the clear for now. I'm not saying anything but EG had a quiet talk with the judge after the last incident and we have had midnight mail delivery ever since.) 

The problem arises when stuff needs to get done that no one wants to do. As long as I don't put my spoon in the mix everything would be peachy keen from Friday afternoon until Sunday night, but I just can't leave well enough alone. I feel the need to get all bossy and make them stop having fun to take care of "business." I don't usually ask them to do anything major, jut the normal house-stuff that always needs to be done - pickup the coats from the entryway, load the dishwasher, find the living room floor, that sort of thing. Truth be told, I don't want to do this stuff either, but I feel the need to be somewhat productive, and as I also said before, I hate for DH to walk into a mess-jungle after being gone all weekend.

Unfortunately, they are so used to fending for themselves these days, that they tend to get pretty uppity about me telling them what to do. One the one hand, I can't blame them. Usually they are right in the middle of "The Most Fun Game EVAR" and no one likes to be interrupted like that, do they? On the other, I can't just sit around and stare at the three levels of psycho that they have left in the kitchen from each of their meals, snacks, and grazing attempts.

So then, I have to stand up and be a Parent and tell them to Clean Up This Mess Right Now or So Help Me... First comes the Blank Stare as if to say "Who is this woman giving us orders and why does she look vaguely familiar." Then, I get the Mommy Face going, and they casually, ever so slowly, detach themselves from whatever distraction they are engaged in and make a pitiful motion towards where ever I just yelled at them to go. But, it looks a whole lot like "I am only doing this because I am getting bored of losing at Solitare and I was going to getup and get another glass of milk anyway." This sort of passive-aggressive beauty really gets me riled up and so I start The Counting (don't you just LOVE the counting...oh so effective.) I start at "five" and by "three" there are no children in sight, just the faint impression of a blond ponytail streaking across my vision. That doesn't mean, of course, that they are actually accomplishing anything other than just running around and screaming "Mommy is going to kill us!" at the top of their lungs. Usually it takes at least three more attempts at "guidance" and several more threats to inflict serious bodily harm before they really decide it's time to listen. By the time ANYTHING is accomplished (or let alone, started) I have already worn myself out and I am ready to call it a day. And that's all BEFORE noon.

If it was up to me, I would just as soon eat Pop Tarts and watch a Myth Busters marathon all weekend. The girls seem to do just fine without my interference. Besides, being a kid these days it tough. All week long they have to work and learn at school and keep a schedule and eat yucky cafeteria food and do their homework. Why shouldn't they be allowed to run a little loose for a day or two  every now and then? Grown-ups need a break, and kids do too. If we are lucky enough to be able to have a whole day (or more) without any appointments to be at, why should I FIND more uncomfortable things for them to to fill the hours. On the whole they are good kids and a few unsupervised hours at home shouldn't cause too much harm. But, I get the feeling that I should give them a little more...well, parenting than that. Thus, the yelling and screaming and aforementioned threats of breaking of limbs.

In my own defense, I do try to be nice about asking them to get off their fannies for a few minutes. I even smile and say "Please" at least three times before putting on my "mad face." I give my best shot at getting stuff maintained during the week so we don't have to spend all weekend on extra chores. I also attempt to balance fun stuff (like making snowflakes out of coffee filters, in July) with the not-so-fun stuff (like searching for the floor beneath their week's worth of school uniforms and every stuffed animal they own.) Sometimes, I know I get a little enthusiastic when it comes to taking care of the not-so-fun stuff and I have to remind myself that there can be a bridge between work and play. But, I feel like I am cheating to let them enjoy themselves during their chores. Really, though, wouldn't YOU rather giggle and goof around and act like a nut if you had to do something as unpleasant and boring as cleaning your room?

Today I reigned in the Mom a bit and let the kids run a little loose, and it turned out ok. Even though I was awake and alert and all, I tried not to be on their case too much. I let the silliness slide a little and let everyone off the hook when it came to completing things in any sort of a timely manner. When TD and EG were asked to bring their dirty clothes into the laundry room from their bedroom, they actually found a long belt and strung the clothes on it and carried it from their room across the house like they were Amazons transporting their latest prisoner to be tortured. (It was something else to hear their hup-hup-hup sounds as they were trekking down the path.) I remember doing similar things when I was younger and I just couldn't bear to shatter the moment by telling at them to Get Back to Work and Stop Messing Around. It took much longer than necessary, but most of the job got done...eventually.

After that, I decided to set up a new place to keep the ever expanding collection of artwork and papers that accumulate from day to day. I asked LH to help me clean and empty a set of toy drawers to do that and to relocate the toys to an appropriate place. It was a simple task and I didn't think it would lake very long or be too difficult. After about an hour, I hadn't heard anything from her, so I went to find out what had distracted her her so completely. She was sitting in front of the toy chest I had asked her to clean out for me, but instead of just emptying it, she was sorting and organizing all the toys as she pulled them out. In spite of the fact that I knew it was a complete waste of time and that she was using up a vast number of sandwich baggies sorting out all the cards and checker pieces individually, I kept quiet and let her have her moment. Sure, the little pieces will probably be emptied out by noon tomorrow and they will most likely never find their way back into their little plastic compartments, but LH seemed to be enjoying herself in the whole process so I chose to leave her be.I could tell that the organizing and sorting seemed to have a calming effect on her and I chose not disturb the rare moment of peace with my 12 year old.

By the time it was dinner hour around here, very little had actually been accomplished. WP came back this evening and if it weren't for him reheating leftover chicken stew (that he had made in the first place) it would  have been cereal and sandwiches for dinner as well as lunch. He also helped the girls by loading the dishwasher for them and made sure that they cleaned up their own messes in the bathroom and in the kitchen. So really, I didn't do much in the way of parenting other than being awake and (usually) in the same room as them all day. In spite of the relative calm of the day, though, I feel guilty for not being more of a Mom. I let them play around and be goofy instead of cracking down and making them work-work-work, all day. But, in the other hand, I didn't have to break up one argument all day. Maybe it was a freak coincidence. Maybe they were having so much fun because I didn't get in their way that they forgot to fight and argue. Who knows? So should I keep letting them run wild as long as they don't draw blood or set things on fire? Or should I strive for a more structured weekend to make sure our "days off" are as productive as possible?

Me? I think I would rather forgo productivity if it means my girls get to know each other as sisters, and explore their minds because they are pushed past boredom into creativity, and even learn how to get along without my intervention all the time (that's good isn't it?) 
Screw the To Do list. I'm going to go make a fort in the living room.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Toughen Up and Lean Into It

Right now I am learning more about what my new limits are. Since the preliminary diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, I have been able to view my pain and fatigue as symptoms of a condition. I am no longer worried about why I am tired or what is causing my pain. I know that these things are part of my daily life now, and I need to managed them instead of trying to treat them or fall victim to them. It has actually helped improve things all around. Because I am less worried and confused I can spend my energy on more important things - like getting out of bed everyday and being a real person again.

For the past three months, my Wonderful Poppa has been staying with us here. It has become a bit of a tradition, actually, for him to spend the holiday season with us. This year, I have more reasons to be thankful for him than ever before. If it weren't for him and his help, my kids would have been eating potato chips out of the bag for dinner and walking home from school by themselves in the rain. I admit, I probably am too used to him being around. When I am feeling my worst, I am so thankful to be able to call on him for help. When I am feeling not-so-bad, it is great to have him around because he is a really good motivator.

This week WP went back to his own place for a few days to take a break (I don't blame him. If I had a place to escape to, I probably would too.) It has been a test for me, to try and go it without him. Part of the reason that he is such a help to me is that he has car that he generously allows me to use for errands. The other reason I love having him around so much is that occasionally (ok, more than occasionally) he will run my errands for me. Some (most) days he picks up the girls from school for me. When I am too beat to form a decent thought, he makes dinner for the whole family. He will take me grocery shopping or even go shopping for me if I really feel that awful. Mostly though, he is a cheerleader for me. I can't count the times he has pulled my unwilling butt out of bed with a fresh pot of coffee and a few words of encouragement. He has a way of helping me find that little bit of steel I have left in me so I that I can go just a little bit further before giving in.

This week was especially hard without him. There were several appointments to attend this week, and a lot of other things that needed to be done. I got a lot of them done, but I had to rescheduled a few that I couldn't quite make it to. A few times, I just wasn't able to get moving enough to do what needed to be done. Then, I lost 36 straight hours to the same crud that the girls have been suffering from. I felt so icky that I took back to back doses of night time cold medicine day and night until I felt better. That meant, of course, I couldn't even think about driving, so I had to call in round two of my back-up force. My Amazing In-Laws took care of the afternoon pick-ups and Little Heart made her famous and delicious dinner of Macaroni and Cheese and Fish Sticks.

Now, DH is gone for the weekend, too, and it is just me and the girls. I am a little afraid of what condition everything will be in by the time Sunday evening rolls around. I know how much I hate walking into a crazy nightmare of a mess when I have been gone, so I try to make sure things are in order whenever I expect DH to get home from one of his trips. Between the yuckiness that the kids I are still dealing with and the general lack of motivation coming from my side of things, I don't really think a whole lot of progress will be made.
I think the best I could hope for would be that things don't get any worse before the weekend is over.

Doing research on how to cope with FM in your daily life, I found some advice about how to manage daily housework and errands - Don't overdo it on the good days, or your bad days will be worse But  do as much as you can on the bad days, so you don't feel quite so much like you need to play catch-up. Have a set of tasks that much be done every single day to make sure that the daily grind doesn't become overwhelming, but make sure that routine is adaptable to the level of pain and fatigue that might be ruling the day. Don't waste your energy on things that are unnecessary. Ask for help when you need it.

My wonderful mentor FLYLady says something very similar - Make a routine for each part of your day. Do your routines in the same order every day and you will be on "autopilot." The things that need to get done will get done without you realizing it.  She also recommends using these routines as a way to clean different areas of the house that need to be tidied most often so that you are never left with a huge mess. For instance, if you wipe down the bathroom or kitchen counter every day, even when it doesn't look dirty, it will always be clean. The "15 minutes of work at a time" technique is a really good way to keep motivation because, after all, you can do ANYTHING for 15 minutes. Most chores take less than 15 minutes each, anyway.  She also likes to remind all of us FLYBabies to always get dressed to the shoes (even when you don't feel like it) so you will be ready for whatever happens. Don't keep anything in your house that you don't love. Bless others with the things that you don't love. And finally, take care of yourself so that you can take care of others.

A few years ago, I read the biography of a very successful woman, Mary Kay Ash. Whether you love her company, or hate her make up, or whatever, you have to admit that she made a very successful business from some very meager beginnings and she did it AFTER she was already in retirement. Her tips to success read kind of like this: Make a list of the 6 most important things that MUST be done each day, and make sure that list is filled with things that will get your life where it needs to go. Always get dressed every morning as if you had something very important to do. Don't waste dollar hours on penny tasks. Set aside time each day to be alone so that you have time to focus and prepare for what needs to be done. She liked to start her day with some quiet time so she was well known for rising at 5:00am every single day. That takes a lot of discipline to get up before everyone else, every single day, to make sure that your day started off right. It must have worked because her company sells one of the most recognized and successful lines of skin care and cosmetics in the entire world.

When you get the same advice from more than one source, and those sources are all successful and positive, you should probably listen. I doubt that I will be starting my own mega-corporation any time soon, but I know I could use some of those tips to have a more productive day. I used to think that following this kind of advice was great, but not totally necessary. Now, I think it might be a bit more crucial to my sanity than I originally thought. If routines will help me become more balanced and enable me to manage my pain and fatigue, then that is what I need to do. I refuse to let this condition, or whatever it is, deprive me of a good life, my kids of their mother, my and husband of his wife. I am going to keep that thought in my mind as my motivation to get up and stay moving, as much as I am ever able to.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Darling Husband

So far, I have mentioned my Darling Husband several times. I don't think I have quite given him the credit he is due, though. So, Darling, this post is for you!

DH and I have been married for more than 10 years now and we have three beautiful daughters together.
Our lives have been filled with more ups and downs than any four other couples should have had to face, but we have faced them together, a unified front. Things are not always rosy, and sometimes our lives are extremely stressful, but we use each other as a solace and a shield instead of taking those stresses out on each other. We decided, not verbally but actively, that we would be for each other what we always wanted for ourselves. We both have our own checkered pasts.  There have been ugly relationships and terrible heartache. That kind of history will usually do one of two things to a person. It will damage them or it will make them stronger through their scars. The miracle of love is when you see the strength in each other and are willing to kiss each others scars.

For us, marriage is not a 50%-50% proposition. That would imply an incomplete devotion  to each other. We are dedicated to each other 100%-100% He is the one that taught me that when someone comes into your life and you find yourself loving them more than you ever knew you could, it doesn't diminish the love you already have for someone else, it only adds to the total wealth of love in your life. Take these analogies if you will. Consider a pitcher of water and candle with a flame. There is only so much water a pitcher can hold. If you share the water between cups, the water will be separated into smaller amounts. Now picture the candle. If you light another candle with the first, you now have two lights but the first is not diminished by lighting the second. They burn equally bright by themselves, but the two candles together burn more brightly than either could have alone. Your time and money is like a pitcher of water, but your love is like the candle.

This is what I mean when I say it feels like a have an entire heart for everyone that I love. I love each of my children with all my heart and I love DH with all of my heart, just as I love each of my family members with all of my heart, and so on.

I could go on for days about all the cool things he's done to prove just how awesome he is. That would probably bore half of you and induce vomiting in the other half. I will say this, though - after 15 years, he is still the same gentleman and still just fun. I love him as much today, if not more, than the day we married.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dinnertime Conversation

A lot of parents are having to answer questions that their kids are asking about what is going on in Haiti right now. It is hard to give answers that are truthful, accurate, and won't give our kids nightmares. The schools are doing a pretty good job right now fielding the initial concerns of the kids. They are also helping the kids be part of the rescue efforts by giving them opportunities to raise funds to send over to help. For my girls, that just brings more questions to their minds and so they come home and thankfully, talk to their parents.

On the TV tonight there was a telethon to raise funds for a host of different charities. We let it play in one room so we could listen, while we ate dinner together around the dinner table, like we do virtually every night. As the music drifted in, the questions started coming out. Little Heart had a lot of ideas of how to help. Her extremely generous nature showed clearly. Who is helping the sick people and the babies?  Why is it taking so long for them to get help? What more can we do besides just give money at school?

Trying to answer was both simple and complicated. Some parents might brush off the questions and keep the answers simple, but my kids never settle for the easy answers. If you cheat and hold back a bit, they know, and then they are disappointed. If you give them as much information a you have, it can overwhelm them or give them more fears and confusion than they already have. At first we tried to get them to understand what kind of a place Haiti was before the earthquake. It was very difficult to explain the sort lifestyle of the citizens of Port Au Prince lived in.  Our children have grown up in  such a state of luxury when compared to the daily life of the people of Haiti. I wanted them to understand that there are people who live a much different life and are satisfied with it.

To help them understand more fully we started at the beginning - where Haiti is located, and why the country is the poorest in world. We explained to how Haiti shares and Island with The Dominican Republic, but they are separate countries with hundreds of years of animosity in their history. That all the years of fighting and all the different factions trying to take over their country has caused the people to be without many of the things we take for granted, like police officers, fire fighters, emergency medicine, schools, and teachers. We also had to explain about how Cuba is located between us and them and how the Communist regime in Cuba has made it difficult in the past for us to directly help them out. Thankfully, I now understand that Cuba has opened its air space for medical flights going between Haiti and the US. Why Cuba and America don't get along or why it takes a catastrophe like this to convince them to take that small step of humanity is something I couldn't explain at all.

All of the girls wanted to know why we are donating money instead of gathering food and medicines to send to the people who need them. That led to a discussion on who the Red Cross is and how they use the donated money to help. Money can be used to buy and ship exactly what they need, like blankets and medicine for the sick and the right kind of food to help the hungry. Physical items would have to identified, received, and distributed and that could take much longer to get them where they need to go. We wanted to make sure that they understood that donations are going to the organizations that are there to help and not directly to Haitians themselves. 

We explained how the US is helping by sending ships that are floating hospitals and by sending doctors to help on land and troops to help clear the rubble and look for more people that might be still trapped underneath. I was happy to tell them how many other countries are working together to help and that there are many people making personal donations that are even larger than the amounts some countries have donated.. I told them that I heard The Dominican Republic was one of the first to respond and they are still helping their neighbors in spite of their history. I love that I was able to tell stories about people like the doctor from Mexico City who flew over with two suitcases full of Aspirin and Tylenol. He left his clothes and his own personal items behind so that he could take the medicines with him. We got to tell about the baby that was 12 days old and survived under the rubble of a building by herself for 8 days before being rescued.
LH wanted to know why we can't just bring them all here? So, we had to explain that there are 3 million people in the area of destruction. There is no way to get them all to the US and no where to put them once they got here. We also had to gently remind her that Haiti is their home, no matter how poor or damaged it may be. Our people have been sent there to heal and rebuild, not occupy or relocate. I needed to make them understand that just because someone lives differently, doesn't necessarily mean that they would like to live any other way. That is a choice they should make for themselves. I also wanted to impress on them the idea that no matter how close or far, regardless of how difficult or easy it would be, when people need help you give it.

Evil Genius, of course, had more practical things on her mind. First, she let me know what she thinks about how all of this happened to begin with. "Some people talk about the Science way that earthquakes happen, but I know the God way. He gets really angry and presses his fists together and CRUNCH! the earth moves around and earthquakes happen."

I have always known that she has a unique outlook on life and I feel she has a perspective that a lot of us miss. For her, there is a balance of Good and Evil that exists in the world, as far as she is concerned and God presides over all of this like a moody parent who is kind and firm but has angry fits sometimes. To a six year old, I can understand how this helps her to process the world around her and make sense of all the positive and negative that she comes into contact with.

Of course, she also had one other question before bed. I knew the others were thinking about it, but EG was the one to ask it - Do we get earthquakes here and do we need to worry about them destroying our home? "Truthfully," I told her, "we DO get earthquakes here all the time. Almost every day, in fact. But, they are all very small and they don't cause us any damage. Because we get a lot of small ones all the time, it keeps us from having to worry about really big ones happening."

That seemed to satisfy all three of them much better than I thought it would. At that point, it was hugs and kisses, our special Love Shake, and off to bed for all three of them. I have not heard a peep out of them since. The faith that they place in us sometimes brings me to tears. They go to sleep at night, perfectly confident that Mommy and Daddy will take care of anything that happens. That is one of the blessings I thank God for when I go to bed at night, myself - that my kids feel safe and secure and I am able to help them feel that way.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Fenceposter - It's soap box time!

I am a proud Fenceposter. When it comes to deciding which side to choose, I have a very difficult time sticking to one or the other. Not because I am being wishy-washy, or trying to please everyone at once, but because my views are a bit more... inclusive than others seem to be. I am just not one one of those "Fight and Kill to Have it MY Way," kind of people.

This isn't a political statement, it's more a common sense and belief based thing.

For starters (and I doubt this will win me any popularity awards) I can't really declare that I am pro-choice or pro-life. I would have to say I am BOTH pro-life AND pro-choice. Both sides have valid arguments but I think that blowing up abortion clinics or supporting the right for women to an have an abortion for any reason (or no reason) are both wrong. Women should not be forced to continue a pregnancy when the risks outweigh the potential for a positive outcome for both mother and child, but she should be given the opportunity to make that choice herself. It is also very sad to me that one healthy woman would give up the choice to give birth when there are so many families who would love and cherish that same baby with all the ferocity of passion that every baby deserves.

.There are many more thoughts and personal stories I have about this subject, but I will not go into them here. I will just say that there is no reason that anyone on either side of this should be willing to hurt, abuse, or kill, someone else to prove their point. If you don't agree pray for them (or whatever it is you do.)

On another topic, I don't believe that "Big" Government is any better than "Keep Your Nose In Your Own Business" Government. We all pay taxes (well most of us,do) and those taxes should be used to improve our lives in the ways that we would have used that money if we had the power and authority to. If your friend or sister (or mother, or cousin) were poor and had no job, would you give them financial help so that they could buy a suit, take a bus to a job interview, and afford to eat until the paychecks started rolling in? That is what Welfare is all about. If people abuse the system that is a sad thing and they shouldn't do it and they should be penalized for that. Should we throw the whole system out? I don't think so. No one that has ever filed for Unemployment and eventually got back on their feet can reasonably take that position. As some one who also receives Social Security on behalf of my oldest daughter to help out with medical costs, I can't take that position, either.

Neither do I feel that health care should be completely run by the government or that it should be completely left in the hands of medical insurance companies (and more importantly, the pharmaceutical companies.)  Having both worked for a Third Party Insurance Administrator and accepted Medicaid for my oldest daughter who is considered permanently disabled I have a unique perception, I think. Insurance Companies do overcharge and mismanage care quite frequently, but it is not only their fault. Nor is it entirely the fault of the doctors for charging extreme amounts to help allay the cost of malpractice insurance, or the pharmaceutical companies for charging exorbitant prices for pills that cost pennies to produce in order to recoup the cost of the research to discover the medication in the first place. It is a "perfect storm", if you will, of bad and expensive practices creating a downward spiral.

I don't believe the government could do much better if they took it all over though.  The cost for each citizen would be prohibitive and the transition of switching to complete government regulation would be such a mess that I fear how many lives would be lost in the mix up. I have seen what a normal insurance policy looks like on the inside. It isn't pretty. I have also seen the medical bills I did not have to pay for my daughter's three open heart surgeries. Those weren't pretty either, but Medicaid covered what my insurance would not and I am very, very thankful that I was able to receive that help.

I believe there should be an overhaul of the system at the base level. Less red tape and litigation, more care and choice. There should also be an ability to access health care regardless of your work status and/or financial comfort level. How can both of these co-exist? I don't have all the details or all the answers, but I do believe that with research, compromise, and basic common sense, a real solution could be worked out.

Another place that I don't have a cut and dry position on is the topic of Gay Rights. Some of you who know me well will be quite confused at this, but let me explain. I don't think that certain people should be denied anything because of race, creed, color, religion, what their partners look like, or whatever. I know far too many wonderful people who are both Gay and Straight to think, for one minute, that one persuasion is any more or less than another. However, when it comes to the topic of marriage specifically there are really two parts to that should be considered and only half of it is anything the government can or should be involved in.

When you go to a church and are married, the religious official has to say "By the power vested in me by the State of Wherever and by the power of..." This is what makes the legal part of a marriage official. Otherwise, anyone could perform a wedding without any legal authority and that would be just a mess. A marriage can be blessed by your church all that they want to, but the State still has to sign off on it. That's why you get a Marriage License before you can get hitched before said official. Your State isn't in the business of giving permission based on your individual attributes. That is called bigotry and it denounced by our Constitution. On the other hand, every church has different rules and regulations for its congregation in regards to marriage, and they are within their rights as a private or religious organization to enforce them however they see fit. Some churches are more strict than others, and some are not even recognized by others, but all of them have some sort of standard that they hold married couples to.

What I am getting at here is that marriage By The State is only half of the deal in most cases, but the biggest reason against gay marriage has to do with the biblical implications of it. Again, churches are private organizations. In this country a private organization can approve or deny membership or rights in their group to anyone they see fit. If they only want boys with blue eyes and back hair, well they can do it. If they don't want to see girls kissing girls, they can send them out the door if they choose. If you personally don't like it, don't join and don't give them your money. That is why we live in the USA folks. (In the same vein, I can be vehemently opposed to the rules and regulations of an organization, like, say...the BSA... but I can still support their right to make their own membership choices. I don't have to give them my money or my time, but I won't stop DH - who is a 3rd generation scouter - from being a part of it because that is his choice.)

The government on the other hand, is required by law to allow every person to be equal. That means that everyone deserves access to the same rights. The Constitution doesn't say "All men are created equal, unless those men like other men, or like to dress up like women, or if they actually are women, or if they wear funny hats every Tuesday." ALL men are created EQUAL all the time. There isn't a gray area there.

So, here is my compromise. Let the churches and religious officiate decide who they want to bless. They can give their blessing, help, support, or money to whomever they see fit. Aside from that, let the government STOP deciding who can or can't get the financial and legal benefits of marriage. The churches can decide if they really think you are a good fit for each other, or if you really love each other, or whatever regulations they choose to put on these types of unions. The government can stay out of that whole issue. They can, however, allow two people who share homes, finances, possessions, pets, clothes, or whatever, to legally become one household and also share medical insurance, refer to each other as Next of Kin and as Emergency Contacts, and enjoy the same benefits that other couples already do. It shouldn't matter to the government if you love each other. That's not their job to decide that. It is their job to ensure equal rights.  

So, maybe this is a little "out-there" as far as politics go, but it's the best I can do. I didn't get as far as I am today without using my own intelligence, common sense, and compromising just a little here and there.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Positively Surprising

When I woke up this morning, I immediately thought this was going to be one of those "bad days" I keep hearing about. When I first suspected I might be suffering from FM,  I read everything I could about the condition and the medications. What I learned was that there are treatments that help, but nothing really makes the pain and fatigue go away completely. There are good days. when you are able to be almost normal. And, there will definitely be bad days, when it feels like you are back at square one. Since I started on the latest treatment, I have had a string of pretty good days. This morning just wasn't one of them.

I worked last night for the first time in almost a month and I didn't get home until almost 1:00am. That is pretty normal for my job. That also means that when the kids get up at 6:30 I am not really awake, but I still have to get up and help DH get them dressed and out the door. It is quite a sight to me shuffling around in my bathrobe and slippers, trying to fix little girls' hair without poking them in the eye with a comb. I think I should just skip the coffee cup altogether some mornings and just guzzle the coffee right out of the pot. Thankfully, I usually have the presence of what little mind I have left to eat breakfast and take my morning meds before retreating to my dark and quiet cave. I don't actually remember being and around usually, I just have a faint sense of mild accomplishment upon rising from my cubbyhole later in the day.

I was already achy and sore when I got out of bed first thing and I was in no mood to do anything remotely productive. I could already tell that this was going to be another day with a long to do list and nothing accomplished. Because pain and stiffness have been affecting my upper arms recently, working where I do can be very painful. Transcribing means typing  - a lot of typing that is very fast and with only short breaks. By the end of a three hour shift, I usually can't raise my arms over my head and my hands and fingers are numb. Since I had only gotten four or so hours of sleep, I didn't have enough of a recharge to make a difference and I felt just the same as when I went to bed, but maybe a bit more sleepy.

I did manage to stay upright long enough to see the kids get out the door safely (DH is really awesome for always driving them in the morning without question, knowing I'm a danger to myself and others just trying to tie my sneakers before 8:00am.) Between the short night's sleep and the gloomy weather outside, I decided that I would sneak in one more hour of sleep as soon as the kids were off to school. As soos as the van started up in the driveway, my head hit the pillow and I don't remember another thing until my phone's alarm when off to wake me up.

That short nap has been my saving grace today! I have been able to keep moving all day so far. I was showered, dressed, and ready when I had to drive DH to work this morning (which is itself is an accomplishment.) As soon as I got back home, I started on some of the housework that needed to be done and I kept going for almost an hour. Now, the sink is shiny, the dishes are done, the floor is swept, and I have made half of the phone calls I needed to already.When it was time to take a break I decided to write for a bit.

Here is a bit of poetic inspiration that I would like to share with all of you!
I call it "Ode to Breaktime"

Time to rest, just for a bit.
The work will get done when I get to it.

My work's not finished, I've only begun,
But I have to pace myself for the race to be won.

Time to rest just for a spell,
So I can recharge my energy well.

I have started my work but now I must sit.

Taking a breather so I don't lose my grip.

Using my timer and duster is fun,
I'll have plenty of peace when the day is done.

Time to sit and have a drink,
So I can enjoy my shiny sink.

By: D.A. Lollar

Have a good afternoon, and may all your sinks be shiny!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

FOUR days in a row!!!

I think this particular school holiday was completely the idea of the teachers who didn't get enough rest during the Winter Break and now have decided they need just a little more time off because These Kids Are Freaking NUTS!!! The school kids just had the last two weeks of December off, and now, two weeks later, they get a four day weekend after two half days. What are these school teachers thinking?!?!

Seriously, I just spent the last two weeks recovering from having the little trolls, er...I mean DARLINGS creeping around here all day. What am I supposed to do with them for FOUR straight days again? I can handle weekends (mostly 'cause DH is here to kick them around for me and to schedule all sorts of stuff to keep us out of the house) and the occasional three day weekend is doable (I am the queen of Holiday Monday Do Nothing Days,)  but this fourth day has got me running up the walls. What am I going to do with them to keep them from killing each other (or me stringing them up like so many fish caught in the river?)

I am all out of ideas for arts and crafts, games that they can play outside, interesting things to do for lunch, and  now I am even running out of "Crazy Things to Let Them Do That I Normally Won't Let Them Do," like watch the entire "Fellowship of The Rings" trilogy or the "Star Wars" two part trilogy beginning to end. (Having nerdlings is so convenient sometimes.) They don't like to play outside for extended amounts of time, and I sure don't blame them. We are all very fair and even during the mild winter months the sun gets to us. This also means that they have limited space to release their extensive store of kinetic energy. They are getting so stir crazy that they pulled out my Yoga video and completed the "Fat Burning" routine before breakfast and the "Yoga Love" routine before snack time.

Now they have decided to pull out their supply of beads and are making "jewelery" for me and each other. By the time we get to lunch I will probably look similar to a Christmas tree (that just got taken down to days ago) because of all the homemade earrings, necklaces, and bracelets that are being made for me today. If any of you parents have seen "The Wizards of Waverly Place", just take one look at the best friend named "Harper" and you will understand what I mean.

I think I might have to pull out the "games of last resort." I like to use the Carrot and Stick policy (show them the carrot, then hit them with the stick!) I will give them permission touse the living room to make "The Fort" and then I will give them a list of things they must do BEFORE they are able to build said fort. If I am fortunate, they will spend all afternoon lingering over my list of demands so that the fort might get forgotten in the fray. Probably, though, I will not be so lucky. Most likely, they will give my list a cursory sweep and then demand that I give immediate permission for the building of the fort. I will probably give my blessing, regardless, because I just want a few minutes of peace and quiet.

I know. I am a pushover. There comes a point when it just doesn't pay to fight. I like to call it "choosing my battles." (Others might call it a sign of weakness, but I never listen to them. They all have bratty kids.) It boils down to two things. 1) I am a fan of anything that keeps them busy for more than 30 minutes (that doesn't involve the television.) 2) I really like to say "yes" as much as I can so it doesn't hurt as much when I have to say "no."

Think about my logic here for a moment. If I let them use paints for an art project in the afternoon they are in much better moods when I have to say "no" to ice cream sundaes for dinner. (I will not discuss why they actually BELEIVE they can have sundaes for dinner...that is a whole different topic.) Here is another bonus - by letting them make messes, I can get them to clean up those messes afterward (provided I include the clean-up time in the schedule for the rest of the evening.) Sometimes, during the clean-up of their play mess I can actually get them to keep going without realizing it and WHAM! I have a clean living room and I didn't have to lift a finger. I know. I'm sneaky that way.

An additional bonus to all of this is that I have a digital camera and I am not afraid to use it. (I often hide the flash so they don't know I have taken the picture until they hear my maniacal laughter.) I have some amazing shots that I am keeping just for First Date and Prom Night but the potential use fort these snap shots is unending. Since LH is now old enough to like boys and actually has a "steady" boyfriend, I already have the leverage I need to get the job done. For some reason, she doesn't invite this BF over very often (I wonder why...) The other two girls are too young to be able to use this kind of leverage, but I am building my portfolio for That Day. I have an entire thumb drive specifically for naked baby shots and faces covered with flour and food coloring. My girls think those shots disappeared from out online photo album, but, I have them here, just waiting for that special moment to use them to their full potential. Beautiful moments like these are like a fine wine or rare whiskey - they get more potent with time.

I just can't wait.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Deep Thoughts

I have been glued to my computer screen and for three days now. Since I heard about the tragedy that has hit Haiti, I have been searching fro whatever information I can. The first news was that a 7.0 had hit Haiti. Then photos started flooding in of the devastation that occurred. Thousands of buildings were simply flattened. The aftershocks caused even more damage. Hospitals were destroyed and the patients inside lost forever.

I don't know anyone in Haiti, or anyone from Haiti, or anyone who has ever even been to Haiti.Still, I am so deeply moved by the tragedy that has hit this small and impoverished nation. I want to help, to rush out and DO something but I am pretty much helpless. Haiti is so far from here and there is nothing I can do. I have no money to give or any valuable skills to offer. All I can do right now is offer up my prayers for the living that they can find whatever comfort and peace is available. I also pray for the thousands dead and the hundreds of thousands that are injured.

From what I have seen from the photos and videos that are streaming from the reporters and civilians there, the devastation is complete. The buildings that most citizens lived in were small concrete huts with almost no reinforcement. Even the larger, multistory buildings were not built to a code that would have minimized or even reduced the damage from earthquake damage. The entire country is too poor to have building codes or enforce them if they did. Entire neighborhoods are flattened and after 48 there are still so many trapped under the rubble that what few authorities there are have no idea what the casualty count might be.

Right now, the damage is so extensive that the supplies and personnel are not able to get to those in need. Those that have survived are without food, water, or medication to stay alive. There are some officials that are worried that the number of casualties after the earthquake cold top the number of the dead under the rubble.

How does this sort of thing happen? I know that earthquakes can not be predicted with 100% accuracy. I understand that the scientists have been warning the people of Haiti that an earthquake was imminent. That doesn't do much good for a country so impoverished that most of the country lives in huts and shacks.

I still feel helpless but mostly I feel sadness. I am praying tonight for a fast response to this tragedy and that the help that is on the way can get to those that need it most.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What was I talking about?

I really hate forgetting things. I also hate being wrong when I know I am right. I am more than willing to admit I am wrong when I am proven so and I don't have a problem apologizing when necessary. I just hate the feeling of being completely confident in something and then finding out I was completely wrong. It makes this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and then I start doubting everything I think about and then I just feel brainless.

Take yesterday, for instance. DH needed to go somewhere and pay for something on his way home from work. I told him to specifically use a certain checkbook for this purpose. We have two bank accounts and two checkbooks and I had budgeted only one of them for his purpose. I specifically remember handing him that checkbook on the way out the door to go to work. That was why I was surprised later when DH told me he didn't have the checkbook with him. I immediately checked my purse to see if it was still there, and no, it wasn't. I even took everything out of my purse to look better, and I didn't see that particular checkbook anywhere. I assumed, at that point, that he had the checkbook, and just didn't know where he has placed it and I was sure he would find it eventually. That was the end of it, I thought.

Last night I needed that checkbook back so asked him for it. DH was confused and said he never had it to begin with. I know he had to have had it because it wasn't in my purse and I haven't touched it since I remember giving it to him. He was insistent that I never gave it to him. The checkbooks are different colors to make sure there aren't any mistakes so I know I only had the other checkbook in my purse

Now, I know I can be a little stubborn sometimes. I also know that I have a very hard time distinguishing when someone is pulling my leg and I can occasionally be influenced in my decisions by the people around me. That is why I don't have a problem with admitting I am wrong, because I know that sometimes my decisions and statements might be partially based on my environment or my companions. (Some consider this being gullible. I feel that I just like to give everyone a fair chance at being honest.)  Last night I was already at the limit of my patience when the "conversation" between DH and I occurred. I was so angry that he wouldn't just give in and believe me or at least give me the benefit of the doubt. He JUST MIGHT have been wrong in his recollection and he refused to even admit that it was remotely possible that he made the mistake.

One of the reasons this made me so angry is that my absentmindedness and forgetfulness has always been a part of my personality, but not really more than would be considered normal. Over the last few years these problems have been getting worse and worse. After doing some research I have found that it is probably related to 1) some of the medications I have been on over the last few years (in which case the problem should have resolved itself when I stopped taking that particular medication) and 2) a side effect of suffering from depression and/or fibromyalgia. This has made the subject of my memory a sensitive subject for me.

Giving in to any part of these diseases makes me angry beyond belief. I will accept that I have these disease if I must, but I refuse to roll over and let them destroy my life. I will fight to my last breath to keep as much of my life intact for as long as I can. That being the case, you can imagine how upset I get when I feel that someone is treating me differently and using these diseases as an excuse.  Just because I have made mistakes does not suddenly make me wrong EVERY SINGLE TIME there is a disagreement about a previous event or occurrence. I might forget things every now and then but it does not mean I have forgotten everything I have ever done. I still have my brain and I am not considered deficient (not yet anyway) so it is very rude (if not downright infuriating) for DH to stand his ground and insist that I have mis-remembered something without trying to offer proof one way or the other.

While he didn't actually mention my memory problems or that they might be related to FM (or anything else) I have noticed a change in his attitude towards me in the last few years. He is still the most wonderful, loving, and amazing man in my world. He isn't, however, as patient as he used to be, which I don't blame him a bit for. (I am not as patient with me as I used to be either.) I have been sick in one way or another for more than half of our marriage, so far. This will try the strength of even the most loving and devoted couple. We have managed to come through pretty well at this point, but there is no denying that we treat each other a bit differently than we used to.

But, I don't want to be treated differently, at least not as if I am incapable of being smart or correct. I don't want to be patronized. I want to be listened to, and heard, and occasionally beleived. That is the very least bit of respect one person should be able to expect from another. By just dismissing my memory as wrong without (what seemed to me) a second thought, I felt as if he was dismissing ME without a second thought. Do you think I am being too sensitive about this? Am I making more out of this than I need to?

I should point out, now, that DH and I didn't actually have an argument about this. I asked him where the checkbook was, he insisted he didn't have it. and I insisted he did. We compared memories of the event, he said I was mistaken and pretty much that was it. I didn't try to continue on after that. I don't see the point in arguing about senseless things like this. Eventually the issue will resolve itself one way or another and pushing each other into a fight over it just causes needless bad feelings. I did, however, sit and seethe inside my head for the rest of the evening and on into this morning.

I didn't say anything else to him about it at that point because if I am getting THAT worked up about something so little, then I really just need to take a Time Out and get my head under control. (I'm not going to mention anything specific, but I think hormones of the monthly variety just might have has a play in all of this.) Generally, when we disagree I try not to discuss it unless I have a cool head. If I start to get really worked up about something, I immediately stop and try to figure out if it is really worth the hassle of an emotional response. If not, I walk away until I am calm and I talk about it later.  We have a mutual and unspoken understanding that if one of us walks away it isn't to avoid the issue, it is to calm down so we can reach an amiable compromise when we are both capable of thinking clearly. This is the method we both have used throughout our marriage and it seems to work well for us.

I had already decided that I was going to talk to him when he got home this evening and make a point to let him know that I really didn't like him instantly assuming that I was wrong last night. Then, (here comes the really awful part) I went through my purse this morning, looking for something else entirely different, and found the "missing" checkbook stuffed inside the other one.

So, I was wrong this whole time.

Somehow it didn't help to resolve the issue in my mind. Usually, I can laugh about these things and see the humor of the whole thing. I am not laughing today. In fact, I am still mad as a wet hen. I'm not mad at DH, really. He was right about what had happened. I am mad that I was wrong. Frankly, I just get tired of being wrong ALL THE TIME. DH never gloats and very rarely utters the words "I told you so." Even still, is it too much to ask to be right every now and again?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pleasantly Surprised

The Pit of Despair has been returned to a Safe and Happy Room. The floor is cleaned, the beds are made, the dressers are even cleaned off. The best part is that I didn't step foot in there. How, you ask? My family decided that they would take care of it on their own. Even DH had a big part in it, which is really surprising because usually, the cleaning tasks and direction fall to me. Today was certainly a pleasant surprise.

All of the girls (even LH) started out the morning in the bedroom, filling more paper boxes with anything they could grab. By 11:00, they had filled 22 - no joke. They were so excited to pull me in and show me the clear and clean floor. They wanted me to wear a little blindfold like they do in those home decorating shows. I have to admit I was completely shocked. They really had managed to keep out only a few handfuls of toys each and put the rest away.

DH went in there right after I did and immediately did the math of space needed to store 22 boxes vs. available space in garage and proposed a solution. He would see if he could reduce the total number of boxes and they could try to fit them under the bottom bunk. He then sat down and painstakingly went through all 22 of the boxes with all three girls sitting right there with him. The consolidated and sorted and got the total number down to 12. That was few enough to fit neatly under the bed and the room is once more clean.

Of course, within 20 minutes they had pulled out the beloved Pollys and had them strewn across the floor to locate just the right pair of shoes. The difference this time, was that it took 15 seconds before bed to get them all put back into their bin and the furniture back in the dollhouse. (that sounds like a euphemism for something but I can't figure out what.) They are now tucked safe in their beds snoozing for the night. Once they were bathed and kissed they fell asleep remarkably quickly. Maybe it was working so hard all weekend. Maybe it was the calm and peace of a tidy room that helped them nod off without three drinks of water and four trips to the bathroom.

I am feeling quite a bit of peace myself, right now. I know that the whole idea of removing toys to get a clean room will work. A few months ago, we packed up all the stuffed animals in the whole house for a matter of months. During that time, the bedrooms were as clean as I have seen them ever. It isn't rocket science to figure that less toys equals less mess. It still surprises me, though, what a large improvement the removal of a small amount of toys can make.

What I am most proud of is that the girls made the decision on their own. They made a plan and they followed through with it. The results were better than expected. I really could not be more proud of them right now.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Day 4 Not So Bad

Today was the first day I took the Lyrica last night and again this morning. I didn't have any ill side effects that I noticed. In fact, this afternoon was pretty successful and productive. I have been physically taking it slow but I have been finding plenty of things that I need to do without moving around and potentially hurting myself.I am impressed with just how much I have managed to accomplish by taking things slow and moving steadily throughout the day.

That's not to say that things around here are anywhere near where I want them to be, but I will say that I have had more energy and I have been able to make a dent. More importantly, I have been able to encourage the girls to make the dent. I am a firm believer in "kids pick up their own messes." That sometimes (usually) means that messes get left and occasionally pile up from the sheer amount of kid-ness around here. Just from my vantage point here on the couch I can see a week's worth of "left arounds" that need to be looked after.

Tiny Dancer's homework for the weekend is half done and is strewn across the couch (and across the floor in front of the couch.) Evil Genius has managed to bring all of her most favorite and important toys into the living room. Some how she has also managed to leave art supplies like little landmines all across the walkways and down the hallway. I am quite sure the placement of each pencil and scrap of paper is calculated for the most effective trip-and-fall impact. Little Heart has only a few chores to do right now (because of her broken arm) but one of them is the crucial "putting away the bath towels" job. I will sort and I will fold, but I just simply hate actually taking things out of a basket and putting them away. (Why should I have to? That's what I had three kids for.) She was reminded this morning (again) and this afternoon (again, again) but still the basket of towels is here, in the living room, preventing anyone from comfortably sitting on the couch or ottoman.

The other laundry baskets in here have a good excuse, too. The Pit of Despair that is the little girls' bedroom was too much for even my astounding amount of patience to endure. I refused, this time, to go in there at all, until they had managed to get things at least safe enough to prevent another EPA inspection. I busted them on the "throwing clean clothes in the dirty basket so I don't have to put them away" scheme (Not that I blame them, but still, I have a reputation to uphold as Mommy,) so I have withheld their clean clothes until I am confident I won't have to re-wash them for the fourth time. This wasn't nearly as effective as I had hoped. Apparently it is great fun to run through the house naked (except for a towel and dripping wet hair) to dig your clothes out of the basket after bath time. The sneaky little twerps have figured out that the laundry baskets are right in front of the TV in the living room and even though they are technically grounded from it (another "encouragement" to find the bedroom floor) they can't help but glance a bit at the grown-ups evening shows as they sneak through.

Strangely, though, this afternoon all three girls decided that they had enough (of the mess or the grounding, I'm not sure) and they all went into the Pit to work together on it. They have been in there for three hours so far, and surprisingly, some progress has been made. It is about bedtime now, so they will have to call it quits before it is finished, which of course means they will return The Pit to it's previous state by 7:30 tomorrow morning. I am positive that had I gone in there, the room would be spotless by now and they would all be praising my incredible cleaning skills and thanking me with all their hearts once again. The gratitude just wasn't worth it this time. The physical pain of sitting on the floor and crawling from toy bin to toy bin, not to mention the frustration of hollering all day for the girls to quit wandering around and get back in there to help me, well it was just more than I could tolerate today. So I have been quietly sitting in a different room, kicking them back into play as they wander from the task, hoping that somehow they will figure out just what the dirty clothes hamper is actually for.

Little Heart has been a ring leader for them all today. Her dearest love is getting everyone doing the same thing, mostly so she can be in charge of it. The latest game she invented was Cleaning Super Heroes. They have all dressed up from the various bits they found in the toy bin (which had to be completely dumped out before they could begin cleaning it back up, of course) and they are have been running up and down the hall with blankets tied around their necks and goofy glasses on as a disguise while fighting the evil forces of clutter! LH found a long baton of some sort and fixed a "Captain Hook" hook on one end and she has been swinging it around like a scepter. I haven't seen her this happy is weeks! TD is currently sporting a waitresses' apron and a tie-died picnic blanket. I'm not sure what the apron is all about but it seems pretty important. The last time I saw EG she was wearing a pair if blue tinted sunglasses and an elephant nose. Again, I'm positive she had her reasons.

At this point, the grouch in me wants to yell and scream and tell them all to put the junk away before I throw it out! The Mom in me is just glad all three if them are in the same room (not the same room that I am in!) and they aren't killing each other or obviously planning world domination. Actually, I am just fine letting them have their own time together right now. You see, somehow in all my threats and screaming, I DID tel them I was going to take all the toys out of their room if they didn't put them away. Just like the freaks they are, they ALL THREE decided that getting rid of all the toys actually sounded like a good idea. They each chose out 10 stuffed animals and the rest are getting put into boxes and bags and moved to the hallway.

Now, of course, the hallway outside the door is filled with more than a dozen paper-sized boxes and quite a few blue recycling bags. Someone (not mentioning who, but his initials are Darling Husband) is going to have to find a place for all of these boxes and such. I don't envy him the job. Or the inevitable cries for "Can you find my green pony? I didn't really mean to pack her up too..." While they seem to be enjoying themselves right now, I am positive that packers' remorse will set in within a few days.

One of the things that shocks me is just how many toys they have. LH was showered and literally buried in toys from birth until her fourth birthday (no exaggeration, we have pictures) and since then we have had eight years of Birthdays, Christmases, and Special Occasions to collect anything a little girl could possibly want. They have everything from wooden building blocks and legos of all sizes to a dollhouse and dozens of little dolls (and clothes, accessories, and vehicles) to go with it. They have big baby dolls, little baby dolls, Barbies, Polly Pockets, and even the celebrity and princess versions of all of them. Somewhere they started collecting teeny tiny plastic animals so now there are enough miniature animals in there to fill a miniature zoo, and perhaps a miniature ocean too. Oh, you can't forget the darling little bean-bag toys, of which there are enough to fill a 55 gallon drum, and then some. We have the 30 gallon bucket of pretend food and cooking stuff in one closet, and an entire library full off books in another. I believe DH moved the footlocker full of dress up clothes and jewelery to the garage for the time being. Not all the dress up stuff actually fit in it so they just moved the overflow to another toy box in their bedroom (thus the "masks" and "capes".)

At this point, it sounds like my girls are horribly spoiled. Really, they aren't (though you probably don't believe me any more than any other Mom.) They just have a lot of stuff that they love and they love to play with. They truly do play with just about everything they have. They are extremely imaginative and creative so might be a stuffed bear today will be a princess tomorrow. We also have a large extended family and more friends than I can even count so holidays can get pretty crazy in the toy department. Even after repeated requests for "No Gift" birthday parties we still end up with at least a few more toys for the collection by the end of the summer. Add to that, the room that TD and EG share is pretty small, and you have yourself a pretty big toy problem. We have bunk beds for them, but after the two small dressers, the treasure chest shaped toy box, and the two small toy dressers there isn't really much room in there left to play.

Trust me, this is only a shadow of what they used to have (back when they had a separate play room and we had a separate library.) Over the last few years we have had to move quite frequently and we really didn't want to keep moving around anything that wasn't genuinely loved. So, we trashed broken things and gathered bags upon bags of nice toys to donate to the local charities. I pretty much let them make the choices on their own and I found that they were much more generous, when given the chance, than I ever expected they would be. Through three or four rounds of sorting, we managed to get rid of roughly half of what was there. The girls were very proud of themselves and I was very proud of them, as well.

I am so thankful that they are getting older and toys aren't what they are really asking for anymore. Each of them has their own hobby so we are able to specialize on the items that each one prefers. All three of them are artists, like their father, so we have an extensive collection of art supplies that we can build without creating much more clutter in the bedrooms. We have been culling the book collection somewhat, so we are usually able to fit a few more on the shelves. Being girls, of course, clothes are always welcome. This year everyone has been all about the music, so MP3 players and CD Player Radios were the focus of the gift giving this holiday. While I am dreading the idea of paying for it all, in my heart I am looking forward to the days when small gadgets and electronics replace the Teddy Bears and Puppy In My Pockets.

By the end of the evening tonight, the room is about 2/3 cleaned out and put into boxes. The dirty clothes have mostly been found and placed in the appropriate bin. The Barbies and Pollys have been separated into their respective corners. And, there is still an entire floor's worth of stuff everywhere. The only thing I asked of them tonight is that they make a walk-way from the door to the beds so we can find them in an emergency at night. I let them stay up a whole hour after their normal bedtime, and boy did it show! First, TD goes to pieces because the pathway caused all the toys to be shoved in front her her dresser, then EG has a meltdown because she sleeps on the bottom bunk and everyone uses her bed to set stuff on and she is so tired of cleaning up big and bigger messes that she didn't even make!

Finally they are tucked in, hugs and kisses are handed out (including EG's and my special love-shake) and I believe they have passed smooth out within a minute of hitting the pillow. They wore themselves out today with all of their "cleaning." Tomorrow, I will go in there with a broom, a trash bag, and a stern look and we will probably have the last of the mess knocked out in an hour or so. I don't really mind all that much. At least at this point they are still young enough that I am welcome in their room, even if it is only for cleaning purposes. Now that LH is 12 and is getting to "that age" I find myself creeping carefully or simply lingering in the doorway instead of marching right in. Without a word we both have started to respect each others' space a little more. As long as she stays as open about everything as she is now, there won't be a problem.

I am remembering back to when she was little, before her sisters came along. Sitting on her bedroom floor, sorting the toys, each into their own bins - blocks here, cars there, balls in this, animals in that. In spite of having a job to do, those times were actually kind of special. It was an excuse to spend some one-on-one time. A way to turn an item on my To Do list into a fun and playful thing. It was my intention to turn the picking up into a game so it would be more fun and less work. She and all her sisters seem to have taken the game part of it to heart now. I am happy to let them play, as long as there isn't a deadline we're working with, anyway.

Tomorrow will probably be a little more work and a little less play, but I am going to try and remember the days from way back when, while I am sitting in the middle of a pile of stuff, grabbing hair clips and sorting out crayons. At 8 and 6, TD and EG are starting to move away from the little girl stuff into the Big Girl stuff and I might not have too many opportunities like this to spend with them. There is also a part of me that doesn't mind the mess too much because it means that they are happy and playing and getting along instead of being plugged in to the computer or watching TV.

At least, that is how I am going to try and see it tomorrow. Wish me luck because at half past eight, I'm going in there!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Day 3 and going strong

Day three has started out even better than Day two. I was able to wake up with the alarm. I actually didn't want to stay in bed at all. DH is wonderful and understands that I am not usually able to drive the kids in the morning (just still too fuzzy brained.) Because of the ridiculously cold weather this morning (15 degrees? Seriously) he was up and dressed in double layers head to toe so he could warm up the car for the girls and even take the trash to the curb (it's pick-up day for trash and recycling.) I really, really love that man.

TD and LH were bundled up in at least double layers for the ride to school. Last year I got a little silly and attached TD and EG's gloves together by a cord and slipped them in the sleeves of their coat, so we don't have to worry about finding a matching pair on a morning like this. We have plenty of scarves (both store bought and handmade) so that is never an issue either. My recent bursts of energy have been used to clean and organize the Launch Pad (the area we keep all our coats, book bags, shoes, etc. together) so having to layer up didn't really put a hitch in our getalong. LH even found a set of gloves that are long and stretchy enough to go over her cast, and a matching hat and scarf that are warm, but can be stuffed in her pockets for safe keeping. It was my favorite set last year, too, so she is being extra careful with them, she says, (four days in a row and all pieces are still there. That's a record for her.

Last night EG came to me after her shower and showed me that she had developed some sort of a rash on the inside of her elbows. After checking her over for any other sign of illness (no sore throat, fever, or signs of the rash anywhere else,) I put some calamine gel on it and sent her to bed with some benadryl thinking that if it was an allergic reaction to something, the benadryl would fix it and all would be well this morning. Not so much, actually. The rash is still there, so no school for her (at least until we get to see a dr.)

Now, I have a dilemma. We have a strict No Kid TV rule in the house during the school week. It just makes life easier for the kids and for us if the Hypno-Gourd stays off until DH wants to watch one or two shows before bedtime. A few days ago, I also restricted TD and EG from computer, art supplies, and music making devices until they decide to clean up their room enough to make it safe or donate their toys to needy kids (it's really a 50/50% chance which one they will eventually choose.) So, now I have a "sick" kid here, who wants to be occupied until we get into the dr.

The problem is this - she is the best behaved and most self-restraining of all three of the girls. The restrictions weren't as much for her as they were for the other ones. Should I stick to my guns and let her use her imagination all morning? Or should I relent and give her some TV or computer time? She is already being so very good and has chosen to work on a puzzle instead of even asking for the things I have already restricted. Plus, I really want to go back to bed. I have come to rely on that extra hour or two of rest in the morning to keep me  going the rest of the day.

I will probably go ahead and let her choose one or the other when she is done with the puzzle. I think she deserves a treat for being as good as she is being this morning. Besides, she will most likely be watching educational TV or going to Math Fun sites, so I really can't complain about that.

Now, to take care of a few things before going off to snooze....

Day 2

So, this is Day 2 of trying the Lyrica in combination with my other meds (Cymbalta and Wellbutrin.) It was MUCH better than yesterday.
The night before last I took the Lyrica before bed and skipped my evening Ambien because I was warned that the Lyrica can make you sleepy and you need to be careful of taking it with any other sedatives, narcotics, etc. I ended up NOT sleeping at all, which probably had as much to do with my awful day yesterday as did the weather.

Last night, I tried a different route. I took the Lyrica early (9:00) and took the Ambien once I was sure that it wasn't really making me sleepy. I had a very restful night and woke up feeling better than I have in a long time. I didn't hurt, I didn't have a headache, even my shoulders were not sore or stiff. This was a very good thing because I had a very long list of  To Do's that I have been putting off all week.

I did sleep in a little - DH was able to work from home so we both spent  an hour or so snoozing between kid drop-off and work start-time. This is one of those little luxuries I like to indulge in whenever I can. As a happily married couple with three kids, we like to take whatever quiet time we can get together. You know, good "bonding" time. Personally, I think one of the reasons we are still happy after all these years is that we DO take time to, uh, "bond" whenever we can. It's not just for date nights or special occasions. "One on One" time can happen whenever a few (or more than a few) minutes of alone or quiet time is found. We take time to kiss (on the lips even!) several times a day and especially before we say goodnight.

Anyway, (before I get lost in thoughts of "bonding") once DH logged on to work, I was up and out. I got to visit one of my sisters who lives in town. I love visiting #3 Sister because she has three kids who are pretty cool - Dudeman is her son who is such a little Gentleman, Awesome is daughter #1 who is just as spunky as any five year old can be, and Baby Spider is just learning to crawl and shake rattles and be as adorable as any baby ever was. I just love snuggling babies. Especially when they aren't mine and I can give them back when they get smelly and noisy.

Between waking up feeling good, getting dressed (including make-up and jewelry,) and getting to snuggle with Baby Spider and Awesome, I was doing pretty darn well. I even left my Poppa with #2 Sis and took off to adventure on my own for a bit. That's a pretty big thing considering I haven't felt good enough to leave the house, let alone drive, for several days. I managed to find my way around to all my errands with very few detours (ie., getting turned around and lost) and I knocked my Errands List flat. Score for me!

I was doing awesome, until about 2:00 when I finally made it to the office have my blood drawn so I could get the tests run to help define a diagnosis. Somehow between the bank to deposit a check and the test office, my shoulders decided they had just about enough of the whole "being productive" thing and decided to rebel. I made it until 4:00 (after picking up LH from school) before I gave in and took some OTC's for the pain and lied down for a bit.

I have been slowly learning my limits, especially over the past few days. I am getting more familiar about when I can push through the fatigue and at what point I need to give in to the pain. Something that has helped me immensely was learning that if I really am suffering from FM, the pain and fatigue is really in my head. Not that I am making it up, but that it is a mis-communication between my nerves and by brain. What should normally feel like a small bit of pressure is translated into my brain as pain. What would make normal people feel "a little tired" makes me feel exhausted. The good thing is that there is no real deterioration or damage happening to the muscles or joints that hurt so much. I don't have to worry that I am making things worse by pushing myself through. I might be using up the valuable energy that I have to spend each day.

Right now, the energy level is more of an issue than the pain. Pain, I can deal with for the most part (with help for the time being.) Energy is something I have in short supply and for the time being I have to deal with what I have. So, I am letting myself off the hook for resting or lying down when there is more to do. That, more than anything else, seems to make a positive difference in my overall mood, which translates directly to my overall health.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


So, the neurologist decided that I probably am suffering from Fibro Myalgia. On one hand, it sucks because there is no known cause or cure, just treatments. On the other hand, it is a relief to have a diagnosis that covers all my symptoms. this particular diagnosis means that I am not being whiny or wimpy. I really do have a problem that isn't just in my head.

I did as much research as I could about the condition and the treatments available. Three or four drugs have recently been cleared to be used for the treatment of FM. There isn't any information I can find about remission or symptoms easing up after time, just a bunch of stuff about people who have been taking drugs for years and now live happily. There are many support groups both online and in person, but I don't know if I am really the "support group" type. I admit freely that my mind works in hypocritical and judgmental ways. I don't actually agree with the thoughts that I get, but they are there, nonetheless. I don't want to be in a situation where I a) am encouraged to whine about how I feel, or b) have to listen to other people do the same. Not that I have ever been to a support group in person, but again I admit to thinking judgmentally and I know that I have preconceived notions about this.

I don't want to take drugs for years to be happy. I have already been on drugs for years, and while I am certainly more happy and decidedly more productive than I have been, I am FAR from where I want to be. As far as the headaches go, I have been through almost every headache maintenance medicine that there is and none of them seem to work well and all of them seem to have awful side effects. As far as the Gray Monster goes, my psych thinks it is actually Bi-Polar Disorder. That means a combination of medicines and not just one. Thankfully, those don't have too many side effects, and they do seem to help quite a bit. The issue there, is that getting off of them is difficult and extremely painful. I recently found a combination that helped to not only ban the Gray Monster, but it also helped ease the headaches quite a bit.

The goal has always been to arrest the problem and then become stable so that I can wean off the meds and and be "normal" (whatever that means.) So far, it has been a change from one med to another for the past eight years and no sign of getting rid of any of them. I hate to admit that I might need these drugs indefinitely, so I won't (admit it, that is.) A few times in the past year, I have tried to wean down to lower dosages in the hopes of eventually getting rid of one or more of them, but the withdrawal was so painful and the Monster was so persistent that I relented. I went back on the dose I was on before and tried to get back to "normal" as fast as I could. I lost weeks of my life trying to do this. It is scary to consider going through that again and I don't want my family to have to go through it with me.

The latest med that has been added in is the last straw for me. Something has to give somewhere or I will end up being a pharmaceutical junkie for the rest of my life.  It is my choice to take it or not, and I have chosen to - for the time being. That doesn't mean I have to like it. If it wasn't for the pain and fatigue that have caused me to all but quit my job, I wouldn't even be considering it. I just really need to the pain to stop.

Last night was the first dose of Lyrica, just 50 mg. I couldn't get to sleep until sometime after 2:00 am. This morning, I couldn't wake up until past 10:00 am. When I was finally able to wake up, I was sore, stiff, and achy. I don't know if that is a side effect of the medicine or if I am just having a bad day with pain already. The weather effects my pain level a lot and right now we are having the coldest weather that we have had in the last 10 years.  The headache I have is certainly from the weather (sinus pressure sucks) but the pain everywhere else, I can't be sure.  I know it is not my bed causing it. I have an excellent mattress (Tempurpedic rocks!) and I just bought a new pillow as well (thank you Wonderful Parents In-Law!) So either the weather (or something else) is causing the elevated level of pain today and I haven't been on the meds long enough for it to help, or the Lyrica is actually making things worse. I probably won't know for a few more days, yet.

My hope is that I will be able to get enough relief from the new medication that I will feel better enough to move around more, exercise more, and potentially go back to work. I could start walking around my neighborhood (which is well made for walking) but it is so cold right now, it makes me hurt worse just to go from the door to the car. I would love to find a yoga studio around here that I could join (that wouldn't cost me more than my rent.) I don't really feel comfortable doing yoga at home because of the environment (and the dog who thinks sitting on the floor means play time.) So having a place to go is important for me.

There is one other option for me. I could go to see Dr. M. He is a doctor that I have seen in the past who is both an M.D. and a chiropractor. He also has a massage therapist in his office and he has a sports rehab area for exercises. He is a really good doctor and I really like him and his theories on healthy living. The issue I have is that seeing him is a weekly (or more often) commitment of time and money. Time, I have. Transportation and desire, I have. The money is the issue. We have a limited amount of money set aside for medical expenses. Once we go through that limit, we pay out of pocket for everything - meds, appointments, emergencies, etc. We have excellent insurance, but paying for the co-pays and meds can be very taxing in my family. Little Heart takes three prescriptions and an OTC every day. I take three prescriptions (which are NOT generic and are very expensive) every day. Little Heart has two cardiology appointments per year and at least one check-up and now we also have to prepare for more orthopaedic visits since she has broken her arm. Winter isn't nearly over yet so I have to make sure we are prepared for emergencies related to cold weather (flu, pneumonia, slips on the ice...)

I really think that seeing Dr. M will help out in the long run. I just have a problem with using up our medical money to see him every week. It feels selfish to do that. On the other hand, it isn't really helping anyone for me to sit here and hurt and not take the right steps to get back on my feet.

What do you think? Should I keep taking the Lyrica and see what it can do, or just pitch the whole idea of more meds and start seeing Dr. M? Is there any other option I haven't explored?