Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Retinas of an 85-year-old.....

How about that for a compliment? In the words of my ophthalmologist, I have the "retinas of an eighty-five-year-old". Of course, he followed that by saying that my retinas were in the body of a 35-year-old who looks like a 25-year-old, so that softened the blow a bit!

That's what I did with my day yesterday. I went to the eye doctor's office to have pictures taken of my retinas. And, for this photo shoot, I didn't even have to wear make-up! Take that, Tyra!

Let me give you a bit of background before I explain what my modeling session entailed:
Even though I have 20/20 vision, that is "98%" (???), I have major macular degeneration. I have no symptoms; I don't even wear glasses. The kind doctor called me a "conundrum" who "stymied" himself and his colleagues.
I feel like I'm one big head-bump away from total blindness.

Back to the eye doctor's...

I arrived breathless with anticipation (or, fear. Call it what you wish.), they asked me if I had a person to drive me home, had me sign a release form, and seated me in the waiting room with other people "preening" for their photo shoots. Suddenly, the tech walked up and put some dilating drops in my eyes, and informed me that she would return to put in even more drops. Yes, folks, as if normal dilation of the pupils wasn't enough, they were going to "hyper-dilate" my eyes! Neat-O!
As I've stated before, relaxation is a luxury in my line of work, so I thought that I could try to read a little of my new library book before the drops kicked in fully. I made it to page 3.

About the same time, I noticed that my fellow "models" were acting a little odd.
When their names were called, one of two things happened:

1) Some people had to be led by the person accompanying them


2) Some people walked alone, looking confused while bumping into things.

I decided that since Option #1 wasn't a possibility for me (my husband had dropped me off, taken the kids, and promised to pick me up), that I was going to make sure that Option #2 was a little more dignified that it had been for other people.
I moved to the very front of the waiting room before those drops took their full effect. I was practically sitting in the receptionist's lap.

After a few more applications of the eye-drops, a LOT playing "Go Tell Aunt Rhody" on my air-piano (why hadn't I brought my iPod?), and one bathroom trip (to test my "sea legs"), the doctor called my name.

Here is where is gets really fun! I was led (my prep-work was for naught) into a room which looked just like any other eye doctor's examining room, asked to sit on the stool, and prop my chin on the chin-rest. You have to remember that, at this point, I was pretty much blinded by any normal light. And, for some reason, this temporary blindness makes you very dependent on other people and likely to do exactly as you're told to do.
It also makes you very fearful. So, when the tech asked me if I had any questions, my only query was, "Does it hurt?". His answer, "Not at all. Well, only the injection hurts.".
I honestly thought the man was joking. More on this later.

So, I stared (kind of) into this little red light while the tech placed a bigger, brighter light very close to my eyes. Not gonna lie... Kinda hurts. He turned the room lights off.
Then... BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! Who the H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks let the paparazzi in the room?!?
Still reeling from the onslaught of light-flashes, I'm told to "keep my eyes wide open" and keep looking at the light. Which ONE?
Eyes watering, breath held, a zillion more flashes follow. Yeah. No pain involved here. He told me this was the easy part.

The eye doctor came in and asked me which arm has "better veins". The bewildered look on my face made him laugh. As I said before, I thought the tech was joking about the injection. No one had ever informed me. Smooth.

"Um, my left arm is better."

Needle goes in, dye goes in. No problem. Then....

Lights go off again.

BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! More flashes.

Lights on. "Can I leave now?" "Not quite yet."

Five minutes later.... Lights off. BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

Congratulations! I am now fully blind!

"OK, you can call your husband to pick you up."
In all truthfulness, I had to have the receptionist dial the number for me.

I spent the rest of the day with a killer headache and (in the spirit of true journalism) neon orange urine. Also things they don't tell you.

The good news? I get the results in 7 to 14 days.

The GREAT news? I get to do it all over again next year!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Who Needs The Valium More?

I will be the very first person to admit that I absolutely love being a mother. I love my kids, in all their ages and stages.
I savor long, warm hours spent holding the cuddly newborns.
I cannot wait to see my babies take their first, cautious steps.
I feel all fuzzy inside when my toddlers repeat funny phrases in their little chipmunk voices.
I enjoy hearing my grade-schoolers talking about their escapades with friends at school.
I feel proud when I see my teens helping out younger siblings with more tenderness than I thought possible.

But, there are days, my friends. There are days.....

Currently, I am caught between a rock (my very intense 5-year-old) and a hard place (my very active 13-month-old). Both are very labor-intensive, demanding, and, seemingly, without consciences. At least when it comes to their mother's feelings.

Mr. Rock is going through a difficult phase right now which has it's legitimate causes, but this does not make it any easier when he has attached himself to a clothes-rack in the girl's section of Target and he's "informing" me that he will not go any further unless I buy him a plastic sword. A sword that Target hasn't carried in two years. A sword that he does not deserve and will not receive, especially due to the above-mentioned behavior. A sword that, at this point, I wish was a real sword, so that I could wave it menacingly at the group of old ladies who has gathered to watch our "show".

When we get home from our fruitful trip to Target, Mr. Hard-Place decides that now is the time to try to learn to crawl up the stairs by himself, for the first time. Being 13-months-old, he has failed to inform me of this new goal, and I proceed to (foolishly) turn my back on him and put away my purchases. One heart attack later, I am running up the stairs to catch Mr. H-P, as he sits on the top stair smiling his big, goofy grin at me.

Now, I realize that for you moms reading that this is normal, everyday action. Me too. Everyday. For 13 years, so far.

At this point, I figure I should weigh a svelte 102 pounds, and have biceps and quads that would make an Olympic bodybuilder drool with envy.
Oddly, I don't.

I do know that I am tired. Not a droopy-eyelid sort of tired, but a weary-in-my-bones kind of tired. The kind of tired where you sit on the couch with a kooky half-smile on your face, staring off into space, while your 8-year-old informs you that your bed just crashed to the floor because she and her brother jumped onto it at the same time.
It's not that I don't care, kids, it's just easier to fall asleep here, than it is to fix the bed. Again. For the 187TH time in 13 years.

So, this brings me to the question: who needs the Valium more? Me or my kids?

On the one hand, I could fall asleep at the drop of a hat, but it wouldn't be a deep and regenerating sleep. Valium would give me that.

On the other hand, my kids would receive the same kind of deep and uninterrupted sleep.

Kind of quandry, isn't it?

Ok, I jest. I would never take a Valium (and believe me, my resolve on this has been tested thoroughly), nor would I ever dream of actually giving one to my kids. No matter how tempting. Really. Whimper. Really.

Instead, I'll just continue this little stormy time sitting on the couch, smiling my beatific (in my minds-eye, anyway) smile, seeming calm. At least, when my children are adults they will be able to blog about how their mother was a true saint during all of the chaos, never knowing that, all the while, I was really praying that I could find the strength to wipe the tomato sauce off the kitchen ceiling. Again.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Food Fight!!!!

The other day, I found myself wondering why there seems to be so much confusion within the general population regarding large families. I grew up as the oldest of five children and I am married to a man who is one of twelve children, so we have both fielded more than our fair share of "big family" questions before we started our own "big" family.
So, we were certainly used to hearing things such as, "What's dinner like at your house? Do you fight over food?", by the time we were expecting our 5th child.

You may laugh at the above question; you may have even asked it a time or two... but, if you really think about it's meaning, maybe you can begin to see why a member of a large family might be slightly offended by it?

Sure, I have many friends who grew up in large families, and when we get together we joke about the various things people say to us when they discover we are members of a larger-than-average-family, or when strangers see a larger-than-average-family in public.

"Did your parents want to start a baseball team?"

"Are you a nursery school?"

"Didn't your parents EVER hear of birth control?"

"HOW many of you ARE there?"

"Are they ALL yours?"

"Your kids are so well-behaved!"
(this one said with disbelief)

"I'm glad it's you, and not me!"

And, that's just for starters! I have many quick answers to all of these questions, and I've heard a lot of other people's answers, as well. Just run a quick search on "large families", and you will find many, many sites devoted entirely to answering these rude (yes, they ARE rude!) questions.

Now, I am completely aware that our society has stopped reading Emily Post's book on etiquette, and I know that most of you have probably been offended by a really inappropriate comment/question a time or two. But, truly, large family-bashing seems to be the last "acceptable" form of discrimination.

And what is discrimination rooted in?

So, let me gently enlighten all those who really don't understand.
I mean it, I really do. I think that a little "education" goes a long way.
So, let's open our minds and our hearts...

1) I certainly do know what "causes" this many children to be born (I'm very good at it!), and I
don't feel that a large family is a "bad" thing or and "accident".
a) I am PROUD of being one of five children.
b) I am PROUD of being the mother of six children.
c) That said, my fertility is private and not up for discussion. And, NEVER in front of my
children. (Did you enjoy listening to your parent's sex life being discussed?)

2) As I mentioned in my first post, God is a necessity in my life. Not just because I am
the mother of six, but because I am a mother. Period.
a) So, yes, we let God "plan" our family. Sometimes, He plans to let us keep and raise a child,
and sometimes He plans to let one of our children bless us from Heaven.
b) This doesn't make me an uneducated doormat.
c) This helps me to realize that any one's "control" over any thing is an illusion, and if I
am to stay sane at all, I'd better let the Guy who is in control take over.

3) We did not win the lottery, and we are not "wealthy" by any definition of the word.
Conversely, we are not on Welfare.
a) If my decision to have even my first child, was financially based, I wouldn't be a mother.
b) Our children have all their "needs", and most of their "wants". If I had one or two kids, I
still wouldn't give them all their "wants".

4) We are very happy. All of us. 'Nuff said!

And, listen, EVERYBODY......
Big family or small, please think before you speak! It's a good rule for all of us. A little bit of politeness goes a very long way, and our world could use a few more polite people in it.

Hey, don't get me wrong! I love talking about my kids! I just don't think their creation is an appropriate (or practical) topic of conversation for the check-out lane at the grocery store. And, I am certainly not asking anyone why they aren't interested in having more kids. Whatever happened to "live and let live"?

Oh, and, no, we do not fight over the food at the dinner table...
My cooking just isn't worth the trouble.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Filling Out Your Pre-Schooler's Resume

One of the comments made about my previous post, included a question about how to fill out your pre-school's forms. And, given the fact that my brain has been (maybe permanently) sunburned by too many hours at the local pool this summer to think of another subject, I will indulge my dear reader's curiosity.

Well, as many of us are learning, many schools are taking a very serious approach to education; at least, the education of their student's parents. It is no longer sufficient to only fill out lengthy health, dental, and vision forms. Nope. We are also required to fill in the EXACT SAME information on emergency cards and the dreaded Child History Form. Which is the topic of my post today.

Interestingly enough, I discovered that for some schools, this "tradition" has been occurring for several decades already. In fact, in the 1970s my own mother was required to fill out these forms for myself and my siblings when we enrolled in our Montessori school. AND, it is still a point of contention for one of my brothers.
My mother, being a well-trained schoolteacher, kept copies of all the forms she filled out and "filed" them in our baby books: her first mistake. My brother recently discovered his child history form that was filled out when he was three.
And I quote: "Mike is very unreliable.".
In my mother's defense she claims that this was meant to be a response to the toilet-training question (i.e. "Mike is very unreliable at remembering to go to the bathroom"), but she "accidentally" wrote it in the "your child's personality" section. Hmmmm.
Coincidentally, this comment is right next to a photo of a three-year-old Mike shoveling our front walk after a snowstorm; a VERY reliable thing for a three-year-old to be doing!
Needless to say, Mike is still highly offended.

But, I digress.....

It's this very same "personality question" which gives most parents some pause. What do they mean? What do they want to know? What do they really WANT you to say? And, your secret fear: Is this a personality test for me and my parenting skills?
Admit it.
You HAVE gone that far in your mental wanderings/wonderings.

At the Montessori school my children attend, parents are required to fill out this form only once, upon your child's enrollment. Since my children begin attending school (2 mornings a week) at age two, this makes this form even more difficult to answer. After all, how much "history" does a two-year-old have? Hey, I'm still getting to know this kid, and he's still getting to know me!
And, what is his personality? Come ON! He's TWO!
Do you know how many different personalities even one of my two-year-olds has had on any given day?
For my daughter, I was tempted to just say, "Have you seen 'The Three Faces of Eve'?"

In my many coffee-breaks, playgroups, and margarita-sessions (kidding! sort-of.) with other parents, I have heard answers to the Personality Question that have run the gamut from apologetic to humorous to outraged.
Here are some of my favorite examples (some I may even be able to take credit for!):

"She's like every other two-year-old."

"House-Angel, Street-Devil."

"I try to encourage his free-spirit, but his father encourages
his neuroses."

"Why do you need to know this? Aren't you, as the teacher,
supposed to figure her out and then deal with her?"

You identify with all these answers, don't you?
I thought so.
So do I.

It's not that I don't sympathize with these schools and teachers. I very much do understand that they are acquiring an unknown entity in accepting each child. But, what do they really expect to gain from the answers that parents provide?

How truthful will any parent be, for better or worse, about their own child? Right?

Which leads me to believe that the sneaking suspicion I've harbored all these years is true: they don't really want to know about your child... they want to know about YOU. Which is even more frightening, when you think about it. A toddler can be excused from almost any behavior, but an adult? Forget it.

The accepted (unwritten) cultural belief is this: if you were foolish enough to enter into parenthood without having a "plan" for how to handle these small beings, you are a failure....and, (the most important part!) don't let anyone else know it!

Because, as we all know, in our society you have to have all the right answers before the questions even come up.
You didn't know that two siblings could be so completely different from one another, and you can't discipline #2 with the same techniques that worked for #1? Too bad. You should have known about this before you ever conceived any children. You get an "F" in parenting.

I'm joking, but only mostly.
Isn't that how it feels sometimes?
And, doesn't that feeling really come into play when you are asked to write it all down on a form that goes into your child's PERMANENT FILE?

So, that's what I've finally decided is the answer. The next time I am faced with one of these forms (another year, or so!), I'm only going to write down those things that would please my child when he is an adult. Wouldn't you love to dig into your FILE and see that your mother thought you were "a joyous and cheer-filled child, who is kind to others"? I would, and I bet my kids would, too.

Don't believe me? Ask my brother Mike.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Why the title?

As a mother of 6 children (5 on Earth, 1 in Heaven), I often get asked, "HOW many kids do you have? Are you CRAZY?".
Duh. Isn't the answer obvious?
I'd HAVE to be a little insane in order to become a mother at all.

For me, being pregnant means 12 weeks of nausea and vomiting, hibernation due to extreme exhaustion, mood swings like you wouldn't believe, and (my personal favorite) weight gain. Who in their right minds would sign on for this, even ONCE?!?

And then, there is labor and birth. My first child was a 57-hour labor during which I pushed for the last 7 hours (yes, you read that correctly), and still ended up with a c-section. Note to newly pregnant women: do NOT think that peanut butter on everything will EVER result in a small baby. And still, I proceeded to welcome more children into my life.

Still think any woman who has even 1 child is sane? Need more convincing? Read on...

By most people's standards, I've been very lucky with my newborns. Only one baby has ever been colicky. Of course, he re-defined the word "colic", but still...
Even a good baby requires many diaper changes, many hours spent breastfeeding (if you breastfeed), and miles of walking, bouncing, and swaying. Oh wait... did I mention laundry? Apparently, newborns and Dreft have a standard agreement in which the newborns promise to soil as many clothes and linens as is humanly possible, in exchange for their own laundry detergent which costs more than regular laundry detergent.

Toddlers. Gotta love 'em. No, I mean it. You are literally REQUIRED to love them so that you won't harm them out of frustration. Hence, the chubby cheeks and little lisps. And, I DO love them.. generally, while they are sweetly sleeping in my arms.
Relax! I'm kidding!
But, the little stinkers are very labor-intensive. Chasing them, potty-training (a whole separate post!), feeding them umpteen times each day, playing the same games over and over (ditto on books. songs, etc), having them hang off your legs while you cook. The list is endless.

Got the straight-jacket ready yet? No? Let me try to sum up the rest ASAP.

Preschoolers: they are craft-crazy. They seem to crave playdoh, crayons, paints, etc. Basically, anything that prevents cleanliness.
Of course, by this age they have learned how to press more than the buttons on the TV and your cell-phone; they have learned how to press all of your "buttons". There is nothing like a 4-year-old who purposely hides your car keys every morning just to see you spin out of control. Precious.

School-age: "Mom, where do we keep the milk?" "Mom, Janie-Sue* is eating old cereal she found in the couch, and she won't give me ANY!" "Why can't I vacuum the dog's fur right off her body? That way I won't have to sweep." That's just the tip of the iceberg, my friends.
I haven't even mentioned explaining the birds and the bees (especially fun when they bring their friends along!), last-minute bake sale requests, begging/threatening them to clean up guinea pig cages/dog poop, and mediating disputes over dirty socks. (My father was right! Kids really will argue over spit on a doorknob!)

Now, my experience goes as far as a thirteen-year-old son, so I cannot (yet) speak to dating, high school drama, helping with calculus homework, or (cringe) driving. But, I'm sure it can't help restore any sanity that I might have once possessed.

So, here we are. I MUST be crazy because I signed on for this challenge/honor more than once, right?
But, it's a craziness that breeds warmth, love, compassion, humility, laughter, funny stories, and a deeper connection with my husband and God (a real necessity in my profession!). In what other capacity can you obtain all of these attributes on any given day?

Of course, I'm crazy, so what do I know? I guess I'll have to plead "guilty by reason of insanity"... GLADLY!

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.