Our Little Orator

Okay. I reaaalllly don’t want to be a braggart mom.  I strive not to boast or be a maternal egotist – even when I fear my head is visibly swelling every time someone compliments our offspring.  I bite my tongue and not-too-quickly put my phone pics away when I’m tempted to unabashedly share child updates to a most likely uninterested victim.  But…I have to point out that our 2 year old’s language skills are admirable.  Sorry.  She has an objectively impressive vocabulary for a tiny tot and while she occasionally requires a translator in her mother or father, her rapid improvement in communication and ability to parrot nearly everything she sees or hears often leaves us in awe.

However, the things that come out of Hazel’s mouth also occasionally terrify me.  Sometimes they’re eye opening; sometime they’re hilarious.  But if they are at all a reflection of Nathan and I, then we need to consider some serious improvements in our selves and our rhetoric.  Apparently cynicism, sass and stupidity are more easily conveyed than we feared.

Thanks to her developing language, we have also come to realize we are not nearly as good at deceiving her as we gave ourselves credit for.  Where she might have gone with our lies in the past, she now calls us out on our frequent attempts at manipulation.  While asking if she can watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, her favorite cartoon:

“Mommy, Danny T might be on TV?”

“Umm, nope, I think he’s sleeping right now.  He’s not on TV.”

(Leaves room, brings back and forces remote control into my hand):
“He’s not sleepy.  You have to check, Mommy.”

Crap.

While out to eat recently and choosing her meal, she asked for french fries.  Much to her dismay, I turned down her request.

“No, sorry, I don’t think they have fries here.  How about green beans?”

(long pause, points to table next to us)

“There’s some fries, Mommy!  See? They got fries here.  Yay!”

Son of a…

I don’t entirely blame her for these instances.  She’s unintentionally demonstrating she is already a better person than I and perhaps we should use real parenting techniques instead of dishonesty to teach her life lessons and allow her to comprehend why we make certain decisions.  But before you picture her with a halo and us with our horns, know she is already showing signs of inheriting (perhaps by default) our flaws.  I’m not proud.

Just tonight – out of nowhere – she felt inclined to tell Nathan he smelled.  After coming in from work, she scrunched her nose, dramatically pinched it and while shaking her head said,

“Peeee-yooooo, Daddy.”  He laughed, “That’s not very nice, Hazel.  I’m pretty sure I don’t stink.” And she immediately replied,

“You stink.  Thas just TERRIBLE.”

Even if he WAS malodorous (I don’t recall he was…), it is not polite to point out another’s lack of hygiene.  Or their pungent, and perhaps unavoidable, aroma.  But how do you explain this to a 2 year old?  She has taken to blaming her poopy diapers on the dogs, so maybe she is just really sensitive to or self-conscious of bodily functions?  Who knows…

She also seems to be going through the trend of picking a new word (generally a delightful term anyone would LOVE hearing from the mouth of a babe) and repeats it no less than 732,394 times.  Hazel’s favorite word of late is “crazy.”  I’d like to think I have a more sophisticated vocabulary, but I must incorporate this word into my everyday conversations, and more frequently than I intend.  Upon announcing she had finished her dinner, for example, Hazel couldn’t wait the 13.5 seconds it takes me to get a wash cloth and clean her up.  Naturally, she threw the remaining barbecue pork and fork down on the floor.  After telling her “No!” and (apparently) feebly explaining why it is naughty and unacceptable to throw her food, she looked at Nathan across the table and said,

“I in big trouble, Daddy,”  followed up with,

“I just actin’ crazy.”

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“Baby bear wants a pancake.”
Right….

Although I have never described her particular behavior as such, she now uses “actin’ crazy” as justification for doing anything she knows she shouldn’t.   I truly hope her newfound defense isn’t foreshadowing.  If she’s practicing her insanity plea for a future crime, then my parenting skills are even better than I thought.

Earlier this week, after a particularly exhausting series of offenses, temper tantrums, refusing to listen and total defiance, I lost my $hit cool and yelled at Hazel.  I don’t remember what the exact culminating act was, but she became uncharacteristically quiet.  Fortunately, she didn’t cry.  She didn’t even pout.  She simply left the room, walked down the hall and sat down next to our pug, Curry.  Feeling guilty for my impatient reaction, I peeked my head around the corner to make sure she was okay.  I then witnessed her lean toward her beloved canine and all-too-clearly say,

“It’s okay, Curry.  Mommy’s just crazy.”

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I know, she scares me too. We’ll get through this together, brother.

I hope, at the least, Hazel’s perception of mommy is able to pull off a flattering straightjacket.  A few more of our chatterbox’s phrases stuck on repeat:

“Go ahead, I’m not ready yet.” (bedtime)

“OUUUUCHHHH.  My leg! That hurts my butt!” (attempting to make her wear pants)

“These my biker boots.  They’re tough.” (admiring her sparkly winter boots)

“Oh crapper.” (anytime she drops something)

“I got a big mudpile.” (she needs her diaper changed)

And so it goes.  Our little one is catching on to the ways of the world faster than we anticipated.    While we’re (mostly) keeping our cussing in check (as highlighted here), we apparently need to upgrade our filters and only converse using the classier dialects of Mister Rogers or Big Bird or a nun.

In the meantime, we dread look forward to her new, unexpected word of the day and whatever inopportune, inappropriate phrase she chooses to mimic next.  Keeps life interesting and keeps us on our toes, I suppose.

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“Stop swinging your arms and let’s pick up the mess you made, please.”
“I can’t!! I’m justa ballerina!”

Wish us luck.

SAP ALERT: Celebrating the two best years of my life (so far).

It’s hard to believe now, but for a large portion of my life I didn’t want to have kids.   True story.  It wasn’t because I didn’t like children or babies – I’ve always adored tiny humans.  Procreating just wasn’t something I thought I needed or desired in life.  I had different plans.  I was, after all, going to be a pediatric cardiologist, and I would spend what little free time I had from my lucrative practice volunteering to perform open heart surgeries on needy children in third world countries.  It wouldn’t be fair to put my own offspring on the backburner while I prioritized the success of my work and helped needy orphans in India (because apparently they have heart defects AND no parents? – yeeesh).  If that didn’t pan out, then I would probably fall back on being a photojournalist for National Geographic.  This would require frequent and extended travel to obscure locales with limited communication, and what if I contracted Dengue Fever or Hepatitis A from residing with the locals?  How selfish would I be to put my own health in such jeopardy when I should be focused on the health of another?  And if THAT plan didn’t work out, then…well…you get the idea.  I had an ongoing list of illustrious and adventurous career choices that were neither conducive to nor favorable for childbearing.

I remember telling Nathan in our early days of courtship (do people still say ‘courtship’?  Probably not…) that it was too bad I liked him so much because marriage and kids just weren’t in the cards for me.  He smiled smugly, responded with something overly confident like “Oh, we’ll see about that,” I rolled my eyes and we went about our dating ways.

But along the way – obviously – something changed. Maybe it was the overwhelming love we shared for our nieces and nephews.  Maybe it was seeing friends and family around us having babies and seeming, surprisingly, both happy and successful.  Whatever it was, after several years of marriage, multiple moves, completing my education and a couple blissful years of being D.I.N.K.’s, Nathan and I came to the intelligent conclusion, “Why not?” and thought we’d give baby-making a go.

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Baby T-rex in utero

We had miraculous, fortunate – and faster than expected – success.  I’m ashamed to admit our initial reaction to the pink plus sign on the first pee stick  – and the 6 that followed – were words of the four letter variety.  It wasn’t because we weren’t happy, excited, or grateful, but I’d be lying if I said we weren’t overwhelmed.  We couldn’t help but feel denial with a side of panic.  What were we thinking?  Clearly, we were idiots.  Why did we think we were qualified to create, sustain and nourish a life?  Did we have the credentials? Who were we to put this poor, innocent child through the burden of having us as parents?

But shock and denial quickly turned to bliss and gratitude and anticipation, and before we knew it, parenthood became an overwhelming reality.  Along the way, I presume the physical and emotional changes of procreation took over our feeble minds.  I am convinced nature does a brainwashing of sorts – the changes in hormones, neurotransmitters, electrical impulses change not only your desires and priorities, but your overall thoughts, personalities, demands, circadian rhythm, conscience and even consciousness.  Since Hazel arrived the last day of November, 2011, Nathan and I’s lives have never been – and, of course, never will be – the same.

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Most people cry the first time they meet Nathan and I.

I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in over 2 years.  I can count on one hand how many movies I’ve seen in the theater.  I can count on that SAME hand how many times I’ve left the state.  We haven’t taken any extravagant vacations, haven’t been on an airplane, and haven’t left the country.  Our DVR queue is filled with movies and shows I am certain I will never see.  With the exception of fashionable maternity necessities, I can’t remember the last time I shopped for myself.  In 24 months, I haven’t tried any exotic new foods, learned any new languages, taken on any new hobbies or expanded our social network.  And you know what?

I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Because despite the sleeplessness, homeliness, reclusion and overall loss of freedom, I am more happy, appreciative and patient than I ever thought possible in my previous 27-ish years of life.  I have given and felt more love than I deserve.  I like to think I had a big heart before procreating, but in my sophisticated mind, I often liken the changes of parenthood to the Grinch.  “And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day!”  This cheesy, Christmas-y, childhood story quote seems – to me – to so accurately describe what happens the first time you see your child.  I in no way want to convey or insinuate that true happiness and love only occur when you have kids.  That’s not true. I am confident Nathan and I would be very happy even if we had decided not to remove the goalie (his affectionate term) and make babies.  There’s no question we’d be a lot wealthier, healthier and sociable if we hadn’t.   But since having Hazel 2 years ago, it’s as though another dimension of happiness has been opened to us and we have a much greater appreciation for life, health, family and time.  Our previous goals and driving forces have been replaced with whatever allows us to spend the most time together and with our beautiful daughter.

I'm smiling, but please help.  These people are always watching, always smothering me.  I can't walk yet, so I need assistance escaping.  Please.

I’m smiling, but please help. These people are always watching, always smothering me. I can’t walk yet, so I need assistance escaping. Please.

Hazel, in 2 incredibly fast years, has amazed me and taught us what truly matters in life.  I have laughed, smiled, snuggled, and hugged more than one should merit in a lifetime.  I have cried and worried more, as well.  Mama bear instinct has kicked in and I’m more protective than I ever thought I was capable of.  When someone relates they would take a bullet for another, or risk their own life for someone they love, you agree.  And with your own child, you know there is no hesitation.  If someone offered me a life of poverty, pain and destitution to guarantee our babies would never endure heartbreak, illness or suffering – I would leap at the opportunity.  I spend perhaps too many free moments wondering how I can keep her safe, happy and untainted by the world.  I occasionally find myself daydreaming of giant bubbles (Crazy? Yes.)

Per usual, I have gotten carried away with this post.  I blame my fingers and the sticky, crumby keyboard (Apple Larabar remnants?) beneath their tips.  I could go on and on – more than I already have – about how much we love and adore Hazel.  My inadequate words don’t do justice, but we are indescribably grateful for our sweet daughter and the 2 years of utter happiness she has provided us.  I can sense the eyerolls and fake gagging of the few people who have stuck on to read this far and will try and bring this solilioquy to a necessary close.  We are anxious and excited for the what the future brings, we hope and pray we can provide our sweet, healthy, smart, funny and affectionate little girl the life she deserves, and are filled with even more anticipation to see how bringing a baby brother in the mix will alter – and augment – our lives.

And with that, feast your eyes on a barrage of birthday pics.

I’m sure I’ll be back to my cynical self in the next post.

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Party preparations are too intense to wear a shirt.

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She generously offered to let Curry blow out the candle.

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The Rogue Turd: Adventures in Potty Training

Hmmm…this title might be a bit misleading.  Potty training and the clown show we are currently performing are loosely associated, at best.  Since the ideal outcome of both is a child who uses the toilet instead of their pants to relieve themselves, however, it’ll suffice to call our efforts potty training.  It’s not that our efforts aren’t genuine or that we are apathetic or lazy in this endeavor, it’s just that attempting to train our independent, stubborn strong-willed daughter to do…well…anything is generally met with an admirable but frustrating resistance.  Plus, when I hear the word “training,” I can’t help but picture a rolled up newspaper and a nose pushed near a pile of poo.  It may be effective for our furry friends, but it doesn’t seem very nice or appropriate to do this to a 23 month old girl.  Although we might just throw her outside the next time she has an accident (KIDDING! It’s way too cold).

We’ve witnessed the horrors feats of potty training in those around us and it wasn’t until several months ago that I came to the realization we might actually have to embark on this enviable journey at some point.  During my pregnancy with Hazel, I apparently entered my email for something somewhere in the vast spam-o-sphere of internetland because I have since received countless monthly email updates with baby tips, advice, milestones, “what to expect,” and other garbage.  I ignore most of these because we already know EXACTLY what we’re doing at all times and are basically pregnancy and parenting experts who don’t have time for these measly pointers.  Besides, other than the glaringly obvious and concerning milestones, a lot of them are variable and subjective and at different points make you feel like the best parent in the world (“My kid rolled over a whole month early – they’re superhuman!”) or like you’re mucking up their development (“My two year old is supposed to be using utensils regularly, but prefers to shove applesauce in her face by the fistful.  I have failed her for life”).

Every so often, though, I will open and peruse these unwelcome inbox-fillers, and I’ll never forget the 18-month update.  I skimmed through with a growing ego as I silently checked off my amazing toddler’s accomplished milestones with ease.  But then came the unexpected: ‘Your baby may show interest in or have already have started potty training.’  What the…? REALLY?  18 months?  I was shocked, to say the least.  This couldn’t be accurate.   Any potty-trained 18 month olds were probably Doogie Howser-type genetic freaks or their parents must have withheld affection and meals until their darlings had consistently dry, white-glove tested bottoms.  I likened these tots’ existence to that of the elusive Bigfoot or the Chupacabra. Debatable.

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I didn’t need diapers after my first birthday. But I’m still a dork.

At the least, however, it sparked the thought of having Hazel out of diapers before college.  We knew with her demeanor it would have to be on her cue, at her doing and with her interest, but we knew it could happen….eventually.

Fastforward to a few weeks ago (because I’m rambling…again…and not in a cool Allman Brothers way).  Hazel developed a heinous diaper rash overnight and despite everything we tried, it didn’t seem to want to heal.  The best treatment? Nudity.  Much to her glee, we have been letting her hang out sans pants as much as possible and allowing good ol’ air and nature treat her nasty ailment.  Though letting a normally diapered tot run amuck is about as relaxing as a game of Russian Roulette, we thought it would be a good opportunity to introduce Hazel to the porcelain throne.

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Potty Party >>> Pity Party!

Our flawless routine encompasses sitting her on the potty at various times a day, urging her to tell us when she has to potty and then singing/dancing/applauding/cheering/hugging and acting-a-fool anytime she obliges or has a successful void.  Our reactions probably resemble that of a lottery winner or an audience member during one of Oprah’s ‘Favorite Things’ giveaway, but really – who needs a new car when you could have a 2 year old that no longer poops their pants?

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No more diapers? No more Pull-Ups? It’s a Christmas miracle!! AHHHHHH!!!!!!

Last week I had a minor disaster – to which the title alludes – that I’ll consider a memorable hiccup in the marathon (definitely not a sprint, people) of potty training.  I was letting her air out per our current prescription/plan.  I sat her on the toilet for a trial run.  She proceeded to sing and laugh and grunt with enough enthusiasm and vigor to make a World’s Strongest Man competitor jealous.  Not surprisingly, it was all an elaborate and humorous act that failed to produce our desired results, but it was an attempt nonetheless.  I let her down and invited her to come downstairs to play while I folded laundry.  While in the laundry room I peeked out at her – seemingly every several seconds – to ensure she was playing safely and happily and not trying to feed Curry, our pug, any more of her toys.  All was well and status quo when on the last glance something seemed…off.  She was still singing, happy and as far as I could tell without a sharp object in hand or having swallowed any corrosive materials.  Her stance and movements, however, seemed…awkward and uncomfortable.  I closed the dryer and hustled out to witness….the prairie dog.  She was prairie doggin’ it and at this point half-limping in a failed attempt to hold in the very mess we had been trying so desperately to prevent.  I tripped/lunged in her direction screeching, “Nooooo……waiiiiiittt…..grossss!!”  In one swift swoop I swung her over my shoulder, sprinted to the bathroom – not even 10 feet away – and plunked her down on the toilet.  It was too late.  Tragedy had struck.  Her leg and foot, and now my shoulder and hair had fallen victim to her apparent incontinence.  Failure.  Seeing the panic in my eyes and showing obvious remorse, I downplayed my disgust for my new shirt accessory and tried to downplay my initial reaction.  “Its okay, it was an accident.  We’ll get there next time. Just tell mommy, okay?”

While doing damage control and cleaning up the carnage of her lower half and my upper, I examined the evidence and – CSI style – concluded there had to be more to the mess.  The shape, the consistency led me to believe there was more to the scene.  Setting her back down I rushed out to the downstairs living area where she had been playing.  I scanned the carpet, walked slowly over every tile, analyzing every bit of grout.  I even caught myself lifting up furniture – as if she had the time or strength or desire to leave a dookie under the loveseat?  I searched high and low and, to no avail, found no messes.

Sighing with relief and thanking the stars I wouldn’t have to bust out the carpet cleaner, I suddenly locked eyes with our beloved pug on the opposite side of the room.  He paused, seemed to give a silent nod of acknowledgement and…..licked his lips.

If you learn anything from this story and you choose to go with our nudity method, just be prepared to take (crap) matters into your own hands.  Our efforts have been about 10% fruitful, and at the current rate we project Hazel might reach 100%  by 4th grade.  And that’s okay.  We are patient, not pushing her, and genuinely thrilled with and celebrating even the littlest of successes so far.

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Enjoying the new hang out.

You may, however, want to monitor any pets in the vicinity while undertaking this gamble.

[FYI: Don’t get grossed out.  She wasn’t dropping a deuce or anything in this photo….she was serenading me, kicking her heels and asking when she could flush.]

The Perks of Being a Preggo

I had a somewhat physically and emotionally trying week.  By trying, I mean really not that bad.  I was a little more achy, tired and bloated than normal, was coping with the physical and anxiety-riddling effects of an “irritable uterus” (I’ll post more about this glorious diagnosis another day – don’t lose sleep!), and had to tolerate some asinine comments from a few rock stars about my pregnant – and apparently sizeable – status.  Was it really so terrible?  Of course not.  But due to the detrimental effects of pregnancy duration on tolerance for other humans, I had to fight the urge to do and say some things that otherwise would have landed my expanding darier in the clink.

Just as I was prepared to sit down, rant and share a grumbling post about pregnancy woes, I remembered Thanksgiving is around the corner.  I made a silent vow to attempt to be more appreciative and optimistic and not fuss about trivial things when I know I have it really, really great in the grand rollercoaster of life.  Pregnancy is a blessing and a miracle and I am grateful every day I have the health and hips to withstand such an endeavor.  However, I would like to touch on the underappreciated and less obvious perks of creating a life.  I’m sure some of my cynicism –a quality I’m incapable of completely repressing – will inevitably bleed through the lines of positivity, but here’s a solid attempt at being a rosy, graceful woman with child instead of my usual beastly, griping, knocked-up self.

#1: FOOD.

I love food and I love to eat. This is nothing new.  I have been told at multiple points in my life that I can consume impressive amounts of food, and while I’m sure it wasn’t intended to be such, I take it as a compliment.  Nathan and I used to half-joke, half-daydream of being a competitive eating couple/team.  In reality, he would carry the team because while I might do okay with the quantity, I just don’t have the speed.  Also, why do competitive eating competitions always have such crappy food choices to eat in bulk?  Hot dogs? Oysters?  Gross.  If they smarten up and choose pancakes or mu shu pork or enchiladas, sign me up!

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That guacamole isn’t going to eat itself!!

The glorious thing about pregnancy is you are expected and encouraged to eat more.  Sometimes while out to eat, I picture myself confidently telling the waiter, “No sir, just one entrée for me today,” and the whole restaurant stares at me with awe and admiration and a slow clap commences.  “Just look at that pregnant lady – so dainty! Such self control!  She’s amazing!”

Surprisingly, I eat healthier than my normal self when I’m pregnant.   This is primarily a result of near-constant maternal guilt that if I don’t eat more fruit and veggies and less junky, processed foods, our baby might come out with a third eye or a dozen nipples.

I wish my mom had given broccoli a chance.

I wish my mom had given broccoli a chance.

Also, in the long haul I know that after the tiny person escapes my womb, it will require certain effort on my part to shed the extra poundage, and my overall lack of energy and willpower might pose a challenge.  Therefore, although I hardly obsess or pay too much attention to the devil bathroom scale, I make a conscious effort to limit my pregnancy weight gain to double digits.

When it’s obvious you’re eating for two, family, friends, and coworkers generally try and throw more food at your face – which makes me very happy.  Old ladies are especially guilty, and praiseworthy, of this.  Older women – particularly strangers in public settings – are the same individuals that ask inappropriate questions like, “Did you get pregnant on purpose, dear?” and “Are you leaking any fluids? Make sure you tell the doctor if you do!” They also enjoy telling cringe-worthy, unwelcome stories like, “Oh my friend Delores almost DIED in childbirth…let me tell you all about it!”  Fortunately, they are quickly forgiven by standing in as your biggest cheerleader in the eating department.  “Are you SURE you’re eating enough?”  “Keep eating, it’s good for the baby!”  Then, like pregnancy angels, they hand you more pie.

You can't see your ankles? This will cheer you up!

You can’t see your ankles? This will cheer you up!

#2: People are kind.

Something about a burgeoning belly brings out the best in people.  Seeing a preggo, strangers are more likely to spontaneously smile, strike up conversation, open the door for you, or even let you cut in line at the grocery store.   I vividly remember an occurrence in Hazel’s young baby days when I was loading up the car to head home from I-don’t-remember-where.  While Hazel was crying in her car seat and it was pouring rain, I fumbled with the stroller which refused to fold up like it was supposed to (nothing to do with the operator, of course) and I was clearly struggling to load something heavier than my noodle arms could comfortably manage into the trunk.  Amidst the awkward and frustrating debacle, some butthole waited in his vehicle to pull into my parking spot.  He waited, blinker obnoxiously reminding me I was wasting his precious time, and at one point when we made eye contact through the rain, he put his arms in the air as if to say, “What’s the hold up, dummy??” This was one of those rare instances where I felt such hatred and rage, I wanted nothing more than to throw the stroller through his window.  (I didn’t).

Where am I going with this?  Pregnancy usually changes the way people act.  Although this guy would probably have been a jerk no matter what, most people seem to bend over backward to aid a damsel in distress – or, just a waddling lady with a melon stuck in her torso.  In contrast to the story above, I left a store the other day – in sunshine – with one lonely bag of oreos peanut butter carrots in hand, and not one, but TWO people offered to carry my bag for me.  Their offers were generous, genuine, and thoroughly appreciated.  While offering me assistance, their faces appeared in such a way that they clearly worried the 1 ½ lbs of groceries would tear my arms from their sockets.

When pregnant, people seem sincerely concerned about your happiness and well-being.  Like the old ladies discussed above, they also feel it is time to ask wayyy too much about your personal biz-ness, but at least they are asking, and sometimes they’re even sympathetic when you drone on about how visually and physically challenging it has become to paint your toenails.

#3: Excuse, excuses.

I remember someone telling me shortly after we found out we were pregnant with Hazel to “…milk it for all it’s worth.”  I was appalled.  Were they insinuating I would use this miracle baby to take advantage of others?  I am better than that!

Except…I’m not.  Between morning sickness and fatigue, leg cramps and backaches, I have found I often don’t have the will or energy to get sucked into doing things I otherwise wouldn’t want to.  Pregnancy provides ample excuses for lots of things:

*Crying at every Hallmark and ASPCA commercial you see?

It’s the baby’s fault.  And Sarah McLachlan’s.

*Don’t feel like tackling that chore?

Lie down and rest!  There’s an adorable little human zapping all your strength.

*Is your filter broken and you said something you shouldn’t?

Those pesky hormones are obviously to blame.

*Forgot to do something?  Cursed pregnancy brain!

*Don’t wanna do that thing that somebody asked you to do and you would normally be guilted into doing even though you don’t want to?

Just point to the belly and say, “Well, I’m pregnant, so….” And they’ll get off your case.

Gosh, I'd love to come visit, but I just showered AND brushed my teeth, so I've already maxed out my energy quota for today.

Gosh, I’d love to come visit, but I just showered AND brushed my teeth, so I’ve already maxed out my energy quota for today.

The great thing about these excuses is that nobody really likes to question them.  Without a baby on board you might be pressured or nagged for failing to accomplish or participate in certain things.  But when you’re pregnant?  No inquisitions.  It seems individuals – especially men – don’t want to push any buttons or ask any questions for fear you will collapse or cry or the baby will fall out right in front of them.

As you can see, in addition to procreating and bringing another life into the world, pregnancy has its advantages.  There are many more benefits, of course, than those listed above, but I wanted to highlight a few of my favorites.   That way, when the final weeks approach and I am especially prone to spontaneous pity parties, I’ll recall this list and aim my focus on the perks instead of the pains.  Or, at least, I’ll REALLY try.  Or…more likely… I’ll seek out an elderly female and let the pie wash away my tears.

Learning The Ropes: Lying To Children

Before getting pregnant, Nathan and I had a lot of conversations about what we absolutely would and would not do when we popped out miniature versions of ourselves.  Although we didn’t yet have children of our own, we obviously knew everything about parenting.  It was oh-so-easy to witness young families in public, look at each other in our knowledgeable and nonjudgmental ways and say, “Oh, our child will NEVER do that.”  Once you have babies, however, you quickly realize you know NOTHING about parenting and all those starry-eyed, intellectual baby-rearing conversations at the dinner table would have been better spent drinking more wine or getting more sleep than filling your brain with false pretenses or ideologies. Truth is, even the best of intentions frequently fall apart, are forgotten, or are altered out of fear, desperation or necessity.  And you know what?  That’s okay.  I think.

To give ourselves an ounce of credit, we haven’t dropped the ball everywhere…yet.  We have stuck to a few of our initial, well-thought-out parenting plans.  In accordance to the hippy parent recommendations, we managed to stick to cloth diapering Hazel from the start and it, in fact, turned out to be just as money saving and tree-huggery, garbage-saving as suggested! For better or for worse, I also faithfully nursed Hazel for 12 months, as I hoped I could.  It was exhausting and physically demanding and socially challenging, but at least it was something  I could proudly cross off the attempt-to-do baby list.  More importantly, we have not let her get eaten by wild animals, we never set or forgot her in her carseat atop a vehicle and drove away, we didn’t give her Mountain Dew in a bottle, and we haven’t been the target of any CPS investigations, so….I think we deserve at least, like, a C+ in parenting so far.

One of my most adamant proclamations was that I absolutely would not lie to my child.  Period.  With the exception of the jolly man in a red suit and the fairy that brings you cash for your baby teeth (although, really, who came up with this creepy idea?), I wasn’t going to feed my child false fluff.  I absolutely was not going to give sugar-coated answers to difficult questions, and I would not lie or bribe to coax her into being a better child.  Instead, I would use reason, patience and whatever explanation was necessary to give her an honest, appropriate upbringing.

Let’s take a moment to pause and catch our breath from laughter.

Here’s the thing.  White lies are inevitable.  Colorful lies are necessary.  And now that our toddler’s communication skills are developing at a more rapid pace than we can keep up, the lies are erupting in my gullet so fast I can’t help but to spew them out.  It seems a 23-month old cares less about common sense and reason than doing what she wants, when she wants, so I have turned to the dark powers of dishonesty to get where we need to go.  Admire some of my more shameful untruths of late:

“If you don’t wear your hat, your head will fall off.”

Not true.  Or, at least, highly unlikely.  Despite explaining to Hazel how cold her head will get without proper covering and that the wind will hurt her ears and that the hat is not “owie” or “itchy” or painful, she didn’t want to cooperate.  Because we had already spent 18-ish minutes trying to leave the house, I turned to the scare tactics of cold weather-induced decapitation and…it worked.  Feeling a rush of simultaneous relief and reproach, I opted to suppress the fear of upcoming toddler nightmares.  Instead, I mentally saved this stumbled-upon threat in my bucket of successful parenting tricks for the next windy day outing.

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Progress?

“Henry Hugglemonster is sleeping.”

And so is Doc McStuffins.  And Daniel Tiger. And The Cat in the Hat. And every other cartoon or TV character she has ever had the luxury of viewing.  Turns out, the little turd is a bit of a smarty pants.  Sort of.  She has deduced that even if her favorite show is not ON, there is always an emergency DVR catalog for the desperate moments of appeasing a toddler meltdown, cheering up a sickly girl, or an emergent need to sit still and away from her mother for 10 minutes so she can prep dinner/clean/make an important phone call/rock back-in-forth in a corner without a wailing child attached at the ankles.  You get the idea. So while Hazel may be aware that Henry Hugglemonster “might be on right now”  (she has no realization of appropriate bedtime, but an innate perception of daytime TV scheduling) or “is there…jus’ push da buttons!” (acute DVR awareness), she is also, fortunately, aware of JUST how much sleep these characters need.  If they don’t get their rest, after all, then they can’t do their show and they can’t be on TV and then won’t you be so sad?  All because you didn’t want them to get their hard-earned rest?  Apparently toddlers are capable of guilt and I’m using this to its full advantage because I am a sweetheart.

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Learning to cope with the duration of Henry Hugglemonster’s nap.

“That’s your front butt.”

Remember the Oscar-worthy flick Kindergarten Cop?  It starred the Austrian bodybuilder turned actor turned Governor of California turned retired politician turned back-to-thespian of action films, Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger (disclosure: I had to look up the appropriate spelling of his surname…didn’t want to do The Terminator an injustice).

Well, anyway, I was all of six years old when it came out and I remember little of the movie other than a scene in the kindergarten classroom where a student blurts out, “Boys have penises and girls have vaginas!” which led to hysteria and laughter among his classmates.  Why do I remember this?  Because being the awesome kid I was, a social butterfly, and a genius who didn’t really understand the true humor/nature behind the statement, I picked up on this socially acceptable quote and RANNNNN with it.  I remember chanting and giggling it in public outings with my father who scorned and stink-eyed me all the livelong day.  But it was TRUE, after all.  And ever-wanting the adornment of my peers, I was convinced it must be a good thing to say because all those kids were laughing and who doesn’t want to make someone laugh?

I don’t want to lie to my kids, and I want them to know the correct nomenclature of human anatomy.  What if Hazel decides to enter the medical field some day?  She should be prepared for her first postgraduate interview and not be held back by the perception that boys are born with “wee wees” and girls with “jay jays” or whatever people say these days (for the record, I nor anybody I know was asked about genitalia in their interviews…).

But I don’t want our daughter to end up like the obnoxious kid in Kindergarten Cop or….well…me.  Hazel, in her innocent and knowledge-thirsty ways, has learned her body parts and points them out with impressive enthusiasm and volume.  So what happened when, during an otherwise routine, pleasant bath time, she pointed to her girly parts and said, “Whus dis mommy?”

I panicked, that’s what.  Unsatisfied with my “Ummmm,” she persisted: “Mommy, whus dis HERE?”  And how did her honest, well-intentioned, medically educated mother respond?

“That’s your front butt.”  REALLY, Erin?  The best word-vomit you could come up with was front butt?  Fortunately she was equally dissatisfied with my response, failed to repeat the term, quickly lost interest, and went back to attempting to expel every droplet of water from the tub via maniacal splashing.

Hazel came to the realization there weren't enough letters to spell out 'How are babies made'

Hazel realizing there aren’t enough letters to spell out, ‘How are babies made’

The moral I have so eloquently highlighted is that despite our best intentions, preparations and hopes for parenthood, there are many things we can’t control and sometimes we’re forced to do and say whatever is necessary to get things done.  Sometimes we lie and say really stupid things like “front butt,” because we suck at coming up with a spontaneous nickname for a child’s nether region.  Sometimes life gives you lemons, and you tell your daughter they’re delicious because you’re a crappy mom and you love the pucker her adorable face makes when she takes bite #1…#2…and #11 of the sour treat.

Blech.  I'm gonna need 3 more of these.

Blech. I’m gonna need 3 more of these.

At the end of the day, I’ve concluded all that really matters is that your child is happy and healthy and knows they are loved.  When Hazel is old enough to realize we’re dirty liars then…well…we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

Patience for Patients

There’s an overused, knee-slapper of a joke tossed around in the health care field that “medicine would be great if not for the patients.”  It’s a little cheesy and generally evokes an eyeroll or a sympathetic laugh, but its roots in reality are undeniable and its candor is something to which most people in the medical field can relate at some point or another.

One of the first things I learned when I started working as a PA is that despite your best efforts and preparations, there is a lot that can’t be taught in school.  You can’t be taught to give a patient bad news.  You can’t be taught time management.  Although it would be helpful, you can’t learn from a textbook or powerpoint the art of arguing with insurance companies or coping with endless paperwork so patients can get the prescriptions/tests/referrals they need.  I could continue this list ad nauseam.  But often the most common and challenging aspects of medicine – that have little to do with medicine itself – are the personalities of everyday patients.

I hope I don’t appear ungrateful, grumpy or disgruntled in this post (although at times I am probably a little of all these things).  I love patient care. I have a good job. I love feeling I’m doing some small good in the world by helping others, and I truly enjoy the broad spectrum of ages, races, health conditions, income levels, demeanors and quirks that comes with family care.  But when it comes right down to it, sometimes patients can be real A-holes.  To someone outside of the medical field, I hope you don’t judge me a burnt out jerk.  I am not.  And for the record, even to the buttholes I am nice.  Having been a patient myself, I know it is a scary and vulnerable position; I know first-hand it can be emotional, frustrating and expensive.  This encourages me to be empathetic and sympathetic.  But because at the time of this particular post I am overtired and hormonal and more easily exasperated than usual, I feel inclined to offer insight on the most common offenders that make our jobs much more difficult than need be.  Perhaps by sharing you might get a laugh, or even nod in agreement.  And if you ARE one of these people, then perhaps you will make changes to get off this list or at least be kind to your provider while being a pain in our backside.

#1: The Noncompliant Victim.

I have allergies and 14 cats.    WHYYYYY am I so SICK????

I have allergies and 14 cats. WHYYYYY am I so SICK????

Even people with the healthiest of lifestyles get sick.  Sometimes it’s bad genes, bad luck, or a nasty accident.  Sometimes there’s no real reason at all.  But a lot of patients cause– or fail to improve – the diagnoses themselves.  People make poor decisions all of the time.  My drug of choice, for example, is an oversized jar of Nutella and a spoon.  I’m not proud.  But those who fail to acknowledge or change their ways, knowing they are sick, are among the most frustrating to treat.  The man with the chronic cough who continues to smoke two packs a day curses his inhalers for “not doing their job.”  The diabetic with the 20 oz. Mountain Dew peeking out from her purse blames me  – and those “worthless medications” that her sugar isn’t under better control.  Or the patient who didn’t show up for their previous 3 appointments, shows up a year later for a previous condition that “DIDN’T GO AWAY!”  Despite extensive conversations, education, attempted treatment and every bit of energy I can muster to be understanding, supportive and thorough, the noncompliant leave me feeling I would be more successful beating my head into a wall then spending another second explaining why they need to make their medications.

#2: The Googler.

I might just start selling shirts for The Googler’s that say, “I use WebMD, therefore, I have cancer.”  You know ‘em.  You’ve probably done it (raise your hand if you’re guilty…my arm is getting tired).  I remember early in my college years I got sick and when a large lymph node popped out on my neck, the urgent care doctor said “if it’s not gone in a couple of weeks we’ll send you for biopsy.”  Not having any legitimate medical education at this point, I turned to the internet for the questions I was too embarrassed to ask and saw the words: CANCER. Obviously, it was lymphoma.  Time to drop out, use my measly triple-digit savings account balance to create and fulfill the world’s most pathetic bucket list, and wallow in self pity. Why did the doctor want to wait two weeks? I WOULD PROBABLY BE DEAD BY THEN.

948198-frightened-woman-looking-at-the-computer-screen-in-the-dark-with-the-light-coming-from-the-computer

I thought it was just bad take-out, but now I have diverticulitis, hepatitis, cholera AND lactose intolerance!! What would we do without technology??

But – plot twist! – I didn’t die. I didn’t have lymphoma.  And I never went back (even though it took well over 2 weeks to go away).  I am still here to share the tale that not every symptom indicates a serious, life-threatening, disabling illness.  For the reason I just described, I am not angered by these patients, but they can be…tiresome.  It is essential to educate and explain things to patients – I do and I should.  But it seems these people require all but me promising to give them my next born to reassure that the eye twitch they had last week isn’t a brain tumor.  We are taught to look for and acknowledge the “zebras” (a term for the rare, unusual and serious conditions that you might only see once in a career – if ever – but need to be aware of nonetheless).  But The Googler seems to think they ARE a zebra and as soon as a sniffle or rash or sore throat appears, they jump to the world wide web and are in our office that day for confirmation they have Ebola (they don’t).  To be clear, I am not suggesting people ignore illnesses or concerning symptoms.  But stay away from the internet, give it a day, cut back on the Red Bulls and RELAX and that eye twitch will go away without the charge of an office visit.  And if it doesn’t – or if you start bleeding out the eyeballs – then, well, you should probably get it checked.  With haste.

#3: The manipulator.

Sooooo many manipulators.  Right out of school, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, I was naïve to these individuals.  Diligent and freshly educated, it hadn’t crossed my mind I couldn’t trust a patient.  I needed them to trust ME, after all!  I took every complaint and demand seriously (as I still do, bear with me…) and took in every patient’s sob story with deep concern.  But guess what? People are liars.  Sadly, the majority of these patients fall into the oh-so-familiar category of “drug seekers,” because they will travel far and wide – tell stories big and small – and feign or even create injuries, illnesses and obvious trauma to get their hands on a handful of pills or an injection.  Because my first job was working in an emergency department, I was – fortunately and unfortunately – exposed to the manipulators quickly and frequently.  Since they often burn bridges with “regular” providers, the ER becomes their dealer of choice and they will do and say anything – and I mean ANYTHING – to get what they so desperately need.  Unfortunately the manipulators have ruined things for the general population.  It makes providers less trustful, more reluctant using or prescribing pain medications (not that this is an entirely bad thing), but it also presents the ol’ “boy who cried wolf” concern.  Initially, these patients will likely get unnecessary tests, prescriptions, or referrals because we don’t want to undertreat or misdiagnose their pain or complaints.  After being seen in offices or ERs every 6 minutes, however, their intentions become apparent and when they do have a legitimate injury or illness, they are much more likely to get blown off or ignored.  There starts a whole new barrage of problems I won’t get started on…

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I’m allergic to every medication that has ever existed except for Percocet. And…ummm…Dilaudid.

[Did I just import a photo of Nick Nolte?  Yikes.]

I could list at least a dozen more: The “We just met, but I definitely know more than you” king,  Mr. “My life is miserable but I don’t do anything to change it and I want you to be my therapist and fix everything,” and Miss “I regularly show up 14 minutes late for every appointment just enough so you can’t turn me away but I muck up your schedule for the rest of the morning” were close runner-ups among my favorites.  But I’ll spare you any more novellas as you probably want to stab your eyeballs from taking in all this whine.  I’m sure anyone else with experience in the medical field could contribute – and I would love to hear them because misery loves company and I fancy me a communal bitch session from time to time.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a bucket of chocolate-y hazelnut spread calling my name.

Happy Hump Day!

Halloween 2013: Fear the Old Man

This Halloween had all the makings of being a total disaster. And by disaster I mean an earthquake/tornado/ epidemic/ health crisis/zombie apocalypse/accident-free, coming home to a roof over my head disaster, so…you know…not much of a disaster at all. But it did start with the potential to be an overall disappointment.  The morning started on the wrong foot when my husband consumed a massive quantity of the cake I had baked for a coworker’s birthday party that day:

“At least you know it tastes good!”

After withstanding verbal threats of violence and annulment (sort of kidding!), he claimed he had no idea it was not intended for his consumption, but we all know the Y chromosome is strongly associated with selective hearing disorder, and I knew better.  My amazing coworkers dressed as characters from “Grease” – homemade poodle skirts, “Pink Ladies” jackets and all (I did not snap a picture because I suck, but trust me – they were awesome!).  As highlighted in a previous post, I am not keen on dressing up for Halloween, and I am the pooper of all parties – but I managed to don an orange maternity shirt and the following pin (a kind parting gift from our last PA student):

I am a heaping pile of fun!

I am a heaping pile of fun!

Despite limiting my afternoon patient schedule, I didn’t get out of the office or home nearly as early I had hoped (WOE IS ME!).  Our initial plans fell through so I didn’t have anything planned for dinner (I should have warned you to grab some tissues for this doozy of a tragedy).  Our biggest detriment to a successful holiday, however, was the craptastic Michigan weather.  Granted it wasn’t freezing, but it was rainy and windy and damp and overcast and not ideal “let’s take our tiny child outside and walk around” conditions.  Sure last year it was more or less snowing, yet something about walking around in cold rain always, always seems worse than cold snow to a Michigander.  At least to this one.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, was the costume debacle.  Holding rank as the queen of procrastination, I gave myself minimal time to create/purchase a suitable ensemble and turned to Google for assistance.  While scanning through the results of a desperate well-thought-out search of “girl halloween costumes”, I was horrified by what I found:

When I’m trick-or-treating, I never know if I’ll get my favorite candy – or a communicable disease!

When I’m trick-or-treating, I never know if I’ll get my favorite candy – or a communicable disease!

What the…?  I don’t even understand what these girls are supposed to BE other than hussies.  Fish nets?  Hot-pink hooker boots?  Granted these costumes aren’t intended for the toddler for whom I was searching, but these “costumes” shouldn’t be intended for anybody other than dancers of the vertical pole variety.  Or college chicks.  It seems to be a  right-of-passage for many college girls to dress as a slutty something-or-other on Halloween.

ANYWAY, I decided to venture out on my own and found an absolutely adorable homemade red cape off Etsy.  [The Etsy shop was called MeetMehaffWay should you be in the market for a cute custom kid cape!] The cape was fitted perfectly to Hazel’s tiny stature and when it arrived in the mail, I tore open the package like a kid at Christmas and skipped over to have her try it on.

Failure.

Placing the hood over her head and loosely tying the knot, she started gagging and flailing and saying “No, mommy! Ow! Itchy!”  Obviously satin is known for being an uncomfortable and borderline tortuous material, but every night up until the big day I would nonchalantly try and slip it over her head to the same response.

The day before Halloween there was hope as she at least PLAYED with the cape, but apparently she was aiming to be more of a matador.   For a second I pondered if the grocery store or after-hours pharmacy would sell a tiny sparkly vest to complete the ensemble, but…probably not.

Ole!

Ole!

When Halloween finally rolled around and we pouted and fidgeted while we listened to the rain outside, we admired her use of an empty toy bucket to be “a adro-not!”  At Nathan’s prompting she would proclaim, “To the moon!” and sprint down the hall to inevitably (because she is her mother’s child) run into a wall or door jam or other blatant obstacle.

Probably won't hold up against space debris...

Probably won’t hold up against space debris…

Ultimately we decided to put on our big kid pants and give trick-or-treating a shot.  What was the worst that could happen?  Because of my aforementioned lack of planning for a nutritious meal, we needed to run into town for take-out anyway, and thought we would scope out the situation.

Although it failed to cease, the rain let up dramatically and as we pulled to a stop in a nice neighborhood, Hazel – miraculously – put the cape over her head and LEFT IT ON THE REST OF THE NIGHT.  I am still amazed.  With umbrella and Little Red Riding Hood in tow, we made our way through the streets.  From one house to the next, Hazel’s smile grew and she started talking more and more.  She threw out a couple “Trick or Treat!”’s, but usually after we had left the porch.  She carried her basket, smiling and singing along the way and you would never know she was the reluctant matador/astronaut just an hour before.

Despite our preemptive concern, Hazel was unfazed by even the scariest of Halloween decorations.  She seemed not to notice the ghosts, giant spiders, lawn corpses and grotesque masks of passerby.  What did terrify our youngster?  None other than:

I am what nightmares are made of.

I am what nightmares are made of.

What is more intimidating and terrifying than a kind-eyed, slow-moving, corrective lens-wearing, friendly elderly man handing out candy? Apparently nothing to our dear tot.  Fortunately, by the third home with a gentle geriatric matching the above description, Hazel pulled it together enough to stick out her basket, accept her sugary treat and sprint back to us before burying her head between our knees.  After the last house – once we were out of earshot, of course – she even yelled, “Thank you guy!”

Ultimately, we consider Halloween 2013 to be a success.  Although I strongly doubt she will have any recollection of her first legitimate trick-or-treating experience at her mere 23 months of age, Nathan and I will hold warm memories of the night for many years to come.  And now, the requisite, unabashed photo sharing of our too-cute-for-her-own-good offspring:

photo 2 photo 4 photo 1 photo 3 photo 5

…just don’t tell her we ate her candy.