Saturday, October 30, 2010

Let the Sugar Rush Begin!!!

Today was the Make-A-Wish Halloween party. It was an awful lot of fun. They had a banquet room at a hotel with a DJ and, of course, LOTS of treats. Popcorn and chips at every table, plenty of cookies, cupcakes, and funny-colored beverages, and balloons everywhere. Disappointing food choice at first--little sandwiches with all kinds of pepperoni and ham and such on them, and that was the only option. Fortunately, they ran out, and they had to get pizza. Cici's to the rescue.

The boys had a great time. They wore little horse costumes. Pictures to follow.

Both boys enjoyed dancing and were thrilled to see Elmo's "surprise" appearance.

We were reminded of how lucky we are. Obviously, "lucky" kids and lucky families aren't the ones who get invited to this party. But there were many families whose children had a lot more issues than ours. Make-A-Wish isn't just for kids with potentially terminal illnesses; I'm not sure exactly to what it extends and who else is eligible, but it wasn't just cancer patients and cancer survivors at this party, not by far. There were several kids in wheelchairs and several others who also had speech devices (like DynaVox).

Major snaps to a father we saw who turned his son's wheelchair into Thomas the Tank Engine, complete with Thomas face on the end and an engineer hat for the little boy. He obviously worked REALLY hard on the presentation and they got a lot of positive attention for it.

At the end of the party was "trick-or-treating" around the room, which I didn't get to see because Meatball was so done by that point. He was overstimulated and needed milk and a nap.

Musical Daddy had some coffee in the hopes of skipping his nap and getting himself to bed early tonight and tomorrow night. He starts a temporary job on Monday where he has to be at work at 7 AM, and it's about an hour drive. Fortunately, he'll get home by 4:30.

Tonight we're going to make pumpkin pie from real pumpkins, bake the seeds, and then carve jack-o-lanterns. Tomorrow? We trick-or-treat. The kids have never been, because The Boy has always been in the hospital or low-count. I think the first Halloween ever for him, when he was 2 months old, was on a Tuesday night. Musical Daddy was at chorus rehearsal and I was home with The Boy handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. Someone has to, right?

Not sure yet if we'll do the stores, the neighborhood, or both. The stores always do a nice job and it's supposed to be "safe" for the kids to go to the stores rather than the different houses. On the other hand, going to houses in our neighborhood means we can possibly see some friends.

I'll wear a costume. Musical Daddy has a good one (although some of you who know him will say that it's cheating). I'll let him show it off.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Image problems: who is to blame?

I've become a loyal reader of Single Dad Laughing, a blog written by (obviously) a single dad, who has a preschool-aged son. He writes plenty of funny posts, but his "famous" posts are all written about very serious subjects--bullying, self-image, and mean or negligent parenting. If you haven't checked him out, you should.

Today's post also talked about a serious subject--the major self-image problem that runs rampant among women of all ages. He makes a list of outrageously hurtful statement about women, statements that women themselves have said. He calls upon men to shoulder the blame for this, saying that even if men say nice things to the women in their lives, men perpetuate the idea that "perfect" women in magazines and the "perfect" women that walk by and catch their eye are really what men are after.

Single Dad Laughing does an excellent job of presenting this rather sensitive topic, and he issues a call to action for all men to appreciate the women in their lives, and maybe to avoid staring at the girl who is half the age of his wife and wearing half the clothing.

What he leaves out is that there is enough blame to go around. In previous posts, such as the one about bullying, he says that ANYONE can stop the vicious cycle and take a stand. In this post, he pins it all on men to do the work, and mostly for their wives and girlfriends and female friends. It's a little inconsistent, and we would do well to follow the advice that he usually gives, which is that everyone should feel empowered to make change.

Women are notorious for overestimating the thought processes of men. Sorry guys, but I'm on to you, and you're really not that complicated. If a man says that he isn't mad about something, then he probably isn't. If he says that he wants to eat this instead of that for dinner, that's probably what he's going for. Women, on the other hand, will say "no, I'm not mad" and be seething in the meantime, and then get more angry when their significant others don't just KNOW that they're still angry. Not only that, but that their significant others should KNOW how to make it up to them. Women assume that men think that way, and I'm just not buying it. They're not either--men are pretty face-value with their thoughts and emotions.

So if a man says that he looks at certain pictures in certain magazines but is also attracted to his wife, and that there is a clear delineation between the two, believe him. He doesn't really have a reason to lie, and more importantly, he doesn't have the imagination.

Some women have fantasies too. They can dream about a man who is excellent with the children, doesn't blanch at changing a diaper, does almost all the dishes, takes out the trash, loves to sing, and looks pretty darned good for a guy in his mid-thirties. Oh wait--that's my husband. Sorry, girls.

Whether a man reads certain magazines or watches certain movies, and how his female partner feels about that, is definitely up to them. Some women are fine with whatever their husbands/boyfriends choose to read and look at; others prefer that men limit themselves.

Of course, the issue of magazines and movies and websites is just scratching the surface. Single Dad Laughing also talks about men happening to catch a glimpse of something that they like on a woman other than the one with whom they are spending their time. Gentlemen, that's just ridiculous. Don't get caught. Ladies, too--I get that we're married and not dead, and thus can appreciate the scenery, but be sensitive to your companion.

Back to the original question, though: are men entirely to blame for the fact that women feel so insecure and don't love themselves as they should? We can extend the blame to another group of men, in addition to the husbands and boyfriends, and that is the fathers. Single Dad Laughing talks about how important it is for fathers to make their children feel worthwhile and loved. A woman who grows up with a dad who is always criticizing, or a dad who is absent and in her mind doesn't even love her enough to stick around, will likely gravitate toward that kind of man. So she can then be made to feel inadequate just like she was when she was growing up. So, gentlemen, parents of daughters and sons, if you'd like to improve women's collective self-image, start by treating your daughters right. And show your sons how to respect their mothers, because you do.

Mothers are certainly not without blame in this vicious cycle. Women who are constantly dieting and always watching what they eat to the point where they just don't enjoy meals or food-related celebrations anymore are teaching their daughters that women don't deserve to enjoy food. Women have to work so hard to be thin and perfect because otherwise, they're worthless. And yes, ladies, you're teaching that to your sons and daughters.

That's not to say that there is no place for watching what you eat, knowing what's in your food, and eating sensible portions. The best way to teach your children how to eat well and have a healthy attitude about food is to cook for them and with them. Serve them good, REAL, healthy food. Let them know what one serving is supposed to look like, and let them eat that first. Then, if they want more, and their bodies need more food, they'll eat more healthy food. Keep good healthy food in the house and take your kids grocery shopping to pick out their favorite fruits and veggies. But every now and then, get that container of ice cream and serve it for dessert. Go out for a meal from time to time and order the pie when you're done. Go to a party and try a little bit of everything. Single Dad Laughing has a post about this subject too--he said to throw out your scale and eat what you enjoy, when you're hungry, and exercise when you need it, and break the vicious cycle of getting depressed over a number.

Mothers, and fathers: help your children. Encourage them, be there for them, and help them correct mistakes. A bad grade does not indicate that the child is bad.

Women: get out of your own way and get out of your head. If you constantly feel like you're not good enough, not pretty enough, not thin enough, don't clean the house well enough, don't sing well enough...maybe you need to reconsider the people with whom you spend your time. Yes, that includes your husband or boyfriend. Yes, that includes your parents. Yes, that includes your best girlfriend who was always just a little bit thinner and just a little bit prettier, in your mind, and she knows it too (in case you're wondering, no, I don't have such a character in my life). You can help break the cycle.

Men: if you really think that you can get the girl on the cover of Maxim magazine or anyone like her, then I guess your name is Derek Jeter.

What? It isn't? Oh well, I guess you'll have to come back down to reality and accept that if we have to put up with your muffin-top love handles and your hairy back (and no, my husband doesn't have a muffin-top or a hairy back, but plenty of men do), then you can love us for who we are. In turn, we can love ourselves for who WE are and project the image to YOU that we're worth it. There's a better cycle to perpetuate.

I applaud Single Dad Laughing for taking on the absurdity that is the media image of the perfect woman. He really gets deep into this topic of men and the potential for out-of-this-world expectations of women. There was a great running theme on Scrubs (never a bad time for a Scrubs reference) regarding some of the women on the show and, as they enter into relationships, their discovery of when it becomes acceptable to let the crazy out. Because, you see, even the most confident and put-together woman will always have doubts, always have guilt, always be hyper-critical. But when she is with a man who loves her as she is, and is okay with her letting a little crazy out from time to time, she can get past the crazy and not let it rule her life. A man who criticizes, a man who thinks that there's something wrong with her just because she doesn't clean enough or doesn't put out enough or pays too much attention to the kids or whatever else, that's a man who is perpetuating the shame cycle for her.

The bottom line is that we all need to take better care of each other in order for everyone (in this case women but men can fall prey to this as well) to feel valued. It starts with parents letting their children know that they are worthwhile. It doesn't mean constant cheerleading; it means making some time for them, listening to them, finding out what interests them, going to their recitals and bringing the whole family for support, giving them space as they need it, and helping them decide what to do with their lives. It continues with girls not falling into the traps of eating nothing but celery for a week because the other girls are doing it to lose weight before the big dance. And boys getting to know girls as people, and treating them well because that's what they see at home. And then, men and women (or men and men, women and women, but I always got the feeling that there was a little more candor in same-sex relationships) entering into relationships honestly and not feeling like they have to hide everything about themselves.

I will close this with a quote from Gandhi. A little pretentious, sure, but very appropriate: "Be the change you wish to see in the world." Don't just wait for other people to improve the ways in which they relate to each other and to you. Start now. Love yourself, and love others without stipulation.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


We call them experts for a reason. They are supposed to know exactly what they're doing, and they are supposed to have a wealth of experience on which to draw. We consult with experts regularly. We rely on them to provide services. The experts do their jobs, and we trust them. But wait--is it really the best idea to rely on experts for everything without taking it upon yourself to know what you're asking for? And, if you're not an expert at something, is it really in your best interest, or anyone else's, to choose not to do what you CAN do in that area?

The example that dwells with me frequently is when adults who do not identify as singers pretty much refuse to sing anything and on the rare occasions that they do sing, they apologize for it or defer to other people who are experts. Not that I'd want just anyone who can carry a note in a bucket to be entrusted with the directorship of a chorus or a studio full of vocalists, but it is certainly within the realm of possibility that everyone be able to sing and not feel ashamed. It's certainly part of my mission as a music educator, even if I end up teaching orchestra again as I would prefer. People shouldn't feel as though they need to be experts to sing.

When it comes to issues of medicine, it is very irritating to doctors when the patients think that they know more than they do. After all, they're the experts, right? Just because we can read about diseases online doesn't necessarily mean that we have them. I'm recalling the hypochondriac character on Scrubs who decided that he had Yaba virus, which made no sense, and the doctor thought he was out of his mind.

However, it IS our job, even though we might not be medical experts, to be involved in our health. We need to eat well, get off our behinds, and be forthcoming with any information about abnormalities when talking to our doctors. We need to keep track of medical data for ourselves or whomever is in our care, because even though they go back and check it, it's nice to have as a talking point. We need to empower ourselves with as much information as we can get.

So instead of being either an annoying hypochondriac who spends too much time on Wikipedia or a person who just sits there and waits for a magic drug, we should take charge of our own health in the way that works best for us and our families.

In other areas of life, we'd do better if we knew what we were talking about. Even if we choose to pay for a certain service or seek consultation about something, it helps to be more informed. If you know a bit about cars, you can better describe to your mechanic what problem you have. Even without extensive knowledge of agriculture, you can still inform yourself about food production practices and decide what types of food you'd prefer for yourself.

There are experts in child development, too. You don't need to be one, but if you have a child, it's a subject that should be on your mind. It is remarkable how many parents think that their children are being bad when, in fact, their children are behaving appropriately for their age, and the parents expected something impossible for them (I'm thinking of toddlers being made to sit still and quiet at a restaurant with leisurely service practices and the parents are upset when the child fails to comply, or of toddlers knocking stuff over when it's right in front of them).

We need experts in our lives. It is important that certain subjects be addressed correctly. But we can do the experts a favor and know a bit about what we need before we go to them. Furthermore, we should feel free to take upon ourselves the "non-expert" tasks in a field. We can't fix our hearts or prescribe medicine, but we can learn about the lifestyle choices that protect our hearts. Not everyone can play an instrument, but it wouldn't hurt if everyone knew what they were. And, like it or not, we need to be experts on our own kids.

Are you an expert in something? Do you want to be?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Alexander and the List

Little Alexander of Alberta, CA had what they thought was medulloblastoma, which is a nasty enough type of brain tumor. Instead, it was something called "Embryonal Tumor with Abundant Neuropil and True Rosetes" which has no cure. Alexander was the 36th kid in the world to be taken by this type of cancer.

Alexander was around 2 years old when he was diagnosed, and still breastfeeding. So, Alexander was breastfed for his entire life.

When his parents found out that there was nothing they could do, they made a bucket list for him. They went on vacation. They went on trips. They did everything fun that Alexander would have wanted to do until he just wasn't strong enough, and then they had people come visit until they couldn't see people anymore.

He died in the middle of the night, in the family bed.

I teared up a bit when I read that it was time; I teared up again this morning when I read that Alexander was gone.

Since starting on this cancer journey, I've encountered so many people, such a long list of parents and children, who suffer. Who "only" suffer like we did and endured the hell that is cancer, only to come out on the other end with a happy ending thus far. Who had an easier time than we did but still hurt and are still picking up the pieces. People who are still suffering.

And then, there are the angels. I remember the first angel on the Wilms list. Her name was Samantha.

You know, every now and then I think, I don't HAVE to stay in touch with the cancer community. I could close the door on that chapter of my life and save myself a lot of heartache. I don't HAVE to get close to friends on the internet that I'll probably never meet. Alexander's mother was someone I "met" through a breastfeeding/natural parenting community, and when her son was diagnosed, everyone told her to talk to me. I don't HAVE to be so "aware."

Wait--yes I do. I can't "un-see" everything that I've seen throughout the cancer journey, even though I haven't "seen" everything, since we're "lucky" and didn't have to. I can't pretend that there aren't children dying, leaving behind heartbroken families. And I can't always find people in "real life" that have any clue. It's a long list of people that I "know" as a result, but I'm glad that I know them.

So, Alexander, I hope you did everything on your bucket list. I hope you know how much you were loved down here even by people who never knew you, and I hope you're having fun up there in heaven. And I hope Pablo is chasing you around and playing with you. I also hope that the idea of heaven and little children playing is comforting to someone because I even had trouble writing it and even more trouble believing it. Cancer sucks.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cheap and Easy

By now I'm sure you've heard of The Handbag Thing on Facebook, where women were setting their statuses to describe where they typically put their purses, except they would write something like "I like it on the kitchen table." Obviously, if you didn't know what they were talking about, you'd think something other than a purse on a kitchen table.

The link that I posted above really speaks to me about this particular "awareness" movement and about much of the breast cancer campaign in general. The widespread use of the color pink is a great way for people to say they're doing something to help fight breast cancer when, in all likelihood, they not only are contributing next to nothing but they also think that making a token pink gesture gets them off the hook for both cancer causes and feminist causes. Particularly since so much of breast cancer campaigning is cute, girl-power-y, sexual, and everything that actual breast cancer isn't. A quote from a patient, from the article above: "Cancer is not pretty. It's not pink. And it's definitely not flirty. It's a deadly, bloody, nasty disease, and it's killing me."

I don't need to tell people who have fought other cancers, particularly those of us who are parents to pediatric cancer survivors or angels, that the cuteness of the breast cancer campaign draws far more attention than any other cancers can hope to attract. And it's impossible, because pediatric cancer is not "cute." And prostate cancer? Well-funded in the grand scheme of cancers, but if someone wanted to raise awareness about it, it would be mighty awkward to try and make prostate exams cute.

While discussing this with a friend (with whom I pretty much disagree about everything), he asked me very simply: what would I do differently?

Ladies and gentlemen, in response to his question, I have an assignment for you.

When you hear about someone that you know who has been diagnosed with cancer, or has a family member diagnosed with cancer, do something for them. Make a donation to an organization that researches their type of cancer, in their honor. THEN make a donation to them in the form of a drugstore gift card or a gas station gift card. If you know them well, offer to take their laundry to the wash and fold or bring them meals to freeze for later. If you know them really well, you could even help clean their house. Because after spending all day at the clinic or in the hospital, housework is just not a high priority, but germs are especially problematic to the cancer patient.

If you'd like to do something to help pediatric cancer or other cancer patients, and you don't have a ton of money, buy some consumable art supplies, particularly when they are on sale at Staples, and donate them to an oncology playroom. Play-Doh is also considered a consumable supply because it can't be shared by sick kids. If you have a little bit more money, call up an oncology clinic and ask them if they have a wishlist of things that they'd like.

If you really think that pink ribbons are raising awareness, then put a quarter in a jar every time you see one and at the end of October, send that money (in check form) to Susan Komen or whatever other cancer-fighting organization you choose. Also, check the organization to which you donate and make sure that you want your money to go there.

Instead of just wearing "save the tatas" or "feel your boobies" shirts, encourage other women to do everything they can to take charge of their health.

Oh, and don't assume that every woman who has had cancer had breast cancer. My mother had fibrosarcoma, which happened to be on her back. She still went through chemo, and radiation, and still lost her hair.

Think about it, everyone. Cancer sucks. But if we dress it up all pretty in still sucks. Get up and DO something.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Failure to Launch

My plan of trying to substitute-teach in a bunch of districts is slowly getting off the ground. I've been signed up with one district for a few weeks but they don't actually have any work for me, like, ever. I'll have at least 2, maybe 3, districts in addition to that one by the end of next week. Then I actually have to start getting up out of bed and working. Remember that I'm not necessarily doing this for the money; instead, I'm doing this for the networking and recognition. Substitute teaching pays peanuts, most of the time, but if I can get people familiar with me, that at least takes care of one of my problems that hindered my getting hired this year. The other two I can't do anything about. I have an advanced degree, and I have experience. Really, those two things equal one problem--I'm too expensive.

Now, onto more important things: the children got the BIG shots on Monday--MMR and Chicken Pox. The Boy developed a high fever on Wednesday night and it only recently seems to have broken. The doctor saw him again Friday morning and said that he likely had a more intense immune response.

Meatball's only major issue since Monday is that his sleeping is abysmal. Which becomes a major issue for Mommy. I shouldn't say that; at least he IS sleeping. He's just getting up every 2 hours until 3 AM, at which point he may or may not sleep until 7. Not bad hours for an exclusively breastfed cosleeping infant, but Meatball is neither cosleeping nor an infant. Not for lack of trying; if he'd stay in bed next to me, he could nurse nonstop for all I care. Meatball is all about his own space. One of the nights this week I did get to stay with him for a little while, but 99% of the time, he is still awake after nursing and just wants to be put back to bed. When he gets up, I give him a minute to be sure that he really is getting up...then I drag myself zombie-style out of bed to tend to the needs of the little Meatball. Who also HATES to have wet diapers so he gets changed once if not twice at night. I just hope that he's growing, or something, and that I can get some sleep eventually.

Another point of interest was that Meatball apparently has low iron. Not too low, and probably something that we can address through diet. He'll have beans every day and more red meat. Yum!

Hmm...perhaps some sleep is in order. There's always time for blogging later, but sleep is a precious commodity around here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A little family magic

My mother-in-law passed away 9 years ago. Long before she was my mother-in-law.

At some point about ten years ago, she was videotaped reading a story to one of her granddaughters. The story was Froggy Gets Dressed. We happen to have that 4-minute video on our desktop which, thanks to the super-cool new AppleTV, is easily accessible on our upstairs television.

The Boy wanted to watch a few videos of himself before bed. Then I told him that his other grandmother was going to read him a story. He watched the video, enjoyed it, and, when asked if he wanted that movie again or another story, he chose that movie.

Then, he walked into his room and climbed into bed. I tucked him in, gave him a kiss, and said that I'd be back if he needed me but I had to start diaper laundry. By the time I returned, he was sleeping contentedly. AND he didn't wake his brother.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Mini Mommy Pity Party

No, it isn't what it looks like.

I think I've been neglecting my blog because I've been in a lousy mood, and while my parenting struggles and the trials we go through as they relate to The Boy's recovery and such are useful reads, my own little issues not so much. Sometimes, however, I just get stuck in my own problems and, frankly, this blog isn't really the place to air out all my ridiculousness.

Then again, since it's my blog, I can do whatever I want.

I had an interview that I thought went well, where they told me that they were moving quickly to the second round and that they'd be done by the end of the week. I never heard from them.

I tried not to get emotionally involved with this job interview because I've been let down multiple times. Unfortunately, the last time I had to go look for a job, I was an ideal candidate--nearly 24 years old, some experience but not too much, and no advanced degree. Not to mention, no kids.

I wonder if I walk around like I have a lot of baggage. Because I do have a lot of baggage.

Which brings me to an appropriate subject change--I've started getting into yoga. I hadn't done any yoga regularly since those months leading up to the wedding, which, for those doing the math, was over 6 years ago. The gym where we belonged happened to have an excellent yoga class that met on Tuesdays, with a great teacher.

Now I'm getting back into it with a combination of a few classes at a studio within walking distance and, believe it or not, yoga on the WiiFit. It's great for my balance and posture, which might help with the whole baggage thing.

Even better--there is a family yoga class at the studio, where I can bring The Boy and he can either play or participate in the class. Best part? Today during the relaxation portion of class, he actually snuggled with me.

The home stuff is good. The boys are good. I feel better because of that. At some point I'll look back at this point in our lives and see just another junction.