Friday, October 17, 2014

Reward the Good, Ignore (sort of) the Bad

Charlotte was sick about a month ago -- it started out with general malaise and a lot of sleeping. I remember asking if anything hurt and she said "my ear is wet like in the pool." Hmm. That's a weird thing to complain about it, isn't it? Ear looked fine. Two days later, there's gooey amber dripping out of her ear and I thought, "Ohhhhh, my ear is wet." The doctor says she's got two things going on -- both an ear infection and pneumonia. 

Thank god and ganesh, the antibiotics did worked their magic and within 48 hours, Charlotte was back to her sweet self. And then, almost like the lurking shingles virus, once Charlotte started feeling much better, she started to really annoy her sister. On purpose.

I'll admit it -- I did nothing. There was no parenting hotline to call and no crystal ball and Bernadette is so bossy 90% of the time, that I thought, pffft, turn about is fair play. I did nothing. 

And a week later, it escalated as we were getting ready for church. Charlotte was singing a silly song about candy corn and wanted her sister to learn the lyrics to sing with her and B would have none of it. She spoke unkindly, then she yelled and when I got upstairs, B had her hand over C's mouth (with C still singing).  

When I'm totally stumped and when my Love & Logic book doesn't have the problem in their index, I refer to my puppy training book. Puppy training says: reward the good behavior. No sense smacking them on the nose or rubbing said nose in kitchen floor puddle -- but if they pee outside, set off the fireworks, love, praise, snack. 

I told the girls we'd go to church and ask Pastor Mary what to do. The standard WWJD wasn't working -- baby Jesus did not have a twin sister. And then after church, Charlotte and I would go to Sweet Cakes and indulge in gluten free cake pops. Bernadette would stay home and help James with yard work.

Ever the planner, B asked if we would bring a cake pop home for her. No. 

"It's okay, you pick the flavor." 


"You could bring it home and then put it in the freezer and I could have it for later." 


"I know! You should buy three cake pops. One for you and one for sissy and one for daddy. And daddy doesn't like cake, so then he'd give it to me. But you wouldn't buy me one." 

Still, no.

 There's Charlotte, enjoying a vanilla cake pop with sprinkles. I'm hoping she's not thinking "I should annoy sissy more, this worked out great for me!"

And the two of us in a sweet selfie. I'm thinking "Hooray, first egg-filled bakery treat coated in delicious dairy in six months and, look!, I'm still alive. "

We did some shopping. And the joy with having just one child on hand is that yes, you can play a bit and try things on and take a moment to breathe and soak it all in. (And also wonder -- why does C also try on the 6+-in heels? No imprinting from me, that's for sure.)

Also interesting to watch, normally reserved Charlotte told anyone who would listen that she had a sister that broke the rules and so she, who likes rules, gets to have a cake pop.
About eight stores later, we were ready to go home. I called James and he and B decided to take the dogs on a hike and C couldn't believe sissy wouldn't be at home waiting for her. So she cried and moped on the way home. Until we got to Uwajimaya and she found kiwi fruit.

(As an aside -- snaps to Sweet Cakes and Jamie Seefurth for telling me about them in the first place. Delicious bakery that's gluten free. It's where we go to celebrate all our milestones -- potty training successes, dental work, physical therapy graduation, end of thumb sucking.)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Religion, Parenting and the Religion of Parenting

seriously, cuteness overload!
Parenting sometimes feels to me like a religion. There are some similarities. 

For starters, a religion asks that its followers take a leap of faith, to believe in the unknown. Likewise, parents embrace their new role with a blind faith that it'll all work out. 

Churches need tithes (ideally, 10% of income) to keep the lights on and the followers happy. Children also need tithes (50% is ideal!) for shoes, kindergarten (yep, we pay over $600/month to attend a public K), little bear leather orthotics we throw out every growth spurt, crib tents and My Little Pony hoodies. 

Parenting choices can also feel as divisive as religion. In these modern times, maybe even more so. Most parents I know are sort of vanilla on their spiritual decisions, but poke around and bring up a hot parenting topic, and, oh!, the fervor. 

I muttered many curses at the breast feeding zealots people who espoused the firm belief that if BF hurt, well, then momma is clearly doing something wrong.  Woe to the many doulas who tried to convince me that sleep training my twin babies was 'child abuse.' Don't even get me started on the doula broker that informed me that my BabyWise book has led to baby deaths all over the country. (And then there was the BF expert who informed me that she just knew that all BF issues always happen to moms who read BabyWise.)

People who sleep with their children in their beds do so to prevent night time crying and believe that crib-reliant folks are simply teaching babies how to cope with, and accept, abandonment. Parents who use cloth diapers feel morally superior to lessening the landfill burden while disposable diaper people are quick to point out that washing a cloth diaper on three separate cycles is stealing from the ocean (and, therefore, killing Nemo).

The biggest similarity between parenting and religion, IMO, is the lack of the bat phone, the direct hotline to god that confirms the Right Way and the Wrong Way for once and for all. It could be my former life as a search engine webchick, but I think a nice telephony app could fix a lot of woes:

 If you want answers about heaven entrance requirements and current wait time, press 1. 

If you are currently in heaven and having trouble locating a loved one, press 2. 

If you are at the rainbow bridge and have been greeted by an incorrect number of pets, press 3. 

If you've arrived and are unable to locate your allocated 72 virgins,  press 4. 
If you are a designated virgin and need help maintaining your perpetual virginity, press 5.  

If you've bitten into an apple and discovered a worm bit and need a kashrut exemption form, press 6.
[explanation of kosher dietary laws]

If you've been denied heaven entrance and would like to file a complaint against your sin-eater, press 7.
[the movie didn't quite get it right]

If you've begun reincarnation for the first time, press 8. 

If you looking for ways to defeat both evil and Nightmare Moon, press 9 to connect with Twilight Sparkle. 

For all other inquiries, please stay on the line. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

FODIWitis ... and car accident #8

I know they say you shouldn't self diagnose ... but I've come to realization that I'm suffering from acute FODIW. Fear Of Doing It Wrong. 

(Even thinking about writing this down had me worried -- was it doing it wrong? or doing it incorrectly? Incorrectly is probably more correct, but then FODII looks more like a computer language than an illness ... see there I go again. Naming my illness incorrectly. Oy.) 

Busted through the cobwebs and went to The Moth Storyslam last night in Seattle. 

And I won!! 

Technically, I came in 2nd place, but there was about, oh, one point between 1st and 2nd place. And I'm glad I "lost" to the amazing story about surviving climbing up a mountain during an avalanche. Also, overcoming crippling FODIW is a win in and of itself. 

Without further ado... here's the story I told last night.  (And, damn, if only had remembered to record it ... the audience was *amazing.*

----------------- at The Moth Storyslam at the Fremont Abbey Art Center ------------

The funny things is, when I saw that this Moth theme was “accidents,” I was thrilled because I’ve been in not one… and not two … and not three … but EIGHT car accidents and I finally get to use that to my advantage.

Since I have just five minutes,  I’ll have to pick my favorite car accident. Which is kind of a weird thing to do, since they are like little children, each one special in its own way. 

My favorite car accident is accident #8. First of all, it is my favorite because it was my last one. It was the most dramatic accident and, years later, impacted me profoundly. 

Ten years after my final and – did I mention? – eighth car accident, I was called to jury duty in the heart of Brooklyn. In case you are wondering, when you have eight car accidents, you eventually move to a city with great public transportation.

My super serious book club had just selected Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain and I thought that jury duty would be a great time to make a dent in one of those classic books that everyone claims to have read.

(as a side note: do not read this book if you have recently reduced your antidepressant medicine and/or if you have a family history of depression, suicidal tendencies or lung problems. Spoiler alert! Part of the book focuses on TB patients who are shipped to Switzerland, wrapped in blankets and left outside on a balcony. And then everyone is shocked and when that doesn’t work out well as a cure. )

Where was I? I’m settled in with a bleak, cold book, ready to do my American civil duty for the next 10 days. On day #4, I get called and during the voir dire, I am asked if I had ever been in any car accidents. When I mention that, yes, I have had, ahem, a couple of accidents, the lawyer wants to hear about them all and then the opposing counsel says he objects because who has time to hear about all eight accidents. So we focus on the last accident.

So the details go like this: I’m driving north on MOPAC, the equivalent of I-5, in Austin, Texas. I’m going about 65, it’s 1985 and there’s great dance music on the radio, Raspberry Beret, Would I Lie To You? … and then my car is smushed into the back of the car in front of me. In fact, I’m car #3 in a 5-car pile up. We all get out of our cars and no one is bleeding, which us drivers think is great. We talk and learn that the driver of car #1 is new to Texas and saw a squirrel on the highway and, being Buddhist, wanted to practice ahimsa and slammed on his brakes so the squirrel could safely cross the road. All 5 drivers agree that any sort of suing each other made no sense – the insurance forms alone would keep us busy for a while.

The lawyer is incredulous. He cannot believe that there were no lawsuits after such a big pile up. “I find that incredibly suspicious.” Someone had to be held accountable, darnit. Surely I could see that?

“You mean I should have sued the squirrel?

He pauses. “There are many avenues for legal remedies.”

“So I should sue the squirrel’s parents for raising a naughty squirrel?”

The lawyer angers and his cheeks turned shiney red. “What I mean is, the highway was on land owned by the city of Austin.“

“So I should sue the city for allowing bad squirrel parents to live and work on their land?”

No, he shouts, exasperated. “You could sue the city for not putting up a squirrel-proof fence?”

“A what?”

“A proper fence that would contain squirrels.”

And I don’t know why, but it just slipped out. I answered, “You are a city boy, aren’t you?”

City boy lawyer narrows his beady eyes and me and changes the topic. He sneers “I think you just don’t get that the legal system is an American god given right…”

And I said, “Well, it is true, I do think that karma is the ultimate supreme court of life.”

At which point I was thrown off the jury. All because of car accident #8.

On day #5, I’m called for a jury and the lawyer says “Are you the girl that had eight car accidents?” and I say yes and am thrown out.

Lather rinse and repeat for day #6 and day #7. When I enter the courtroom, lawyers start huddling and I can hear them whispering “it’s that squirrel girl” or “who has eight car accidents?”

I beg the woman at the front desk to just get me out, if everyone is going to shun me, then I’d rather be at home. She says it is up to the original cityboy lawyer and tells me I am prohibited by law from speaking to him. “Not a word,” she says sternly, “or you could be jailed for contempt. Not. A. Word.”

And so, on day #8, with the Magic Mountain book pushing me over the edge, I walk up to the attorney, Mr. cityboy attorney and I hiss at him. A nice big wet scary hiss.

Fifteen minutes later, I’m released from jury duty. And I’ve never, ever been called back.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hike to Heather Lake

With earnings season, teaching yoga at three studios and a new job (more on that later), my days off have been few and far between this summer.

August 24th is a big day here. For reasons that perplex, both of our respective ex-spouses share this birthday. So 8/24 is "happy ex-spouse birthday day" ... and our cat Fergus and poodle Charley were born on 8/24. I realized that I had zero work scheduled for Sunday or Monday (or Tuesday for that matter ... three consecutive days off, oh!, the possibilities!).

I hopped on to the Washington Trail Finder and decided that Heather Lake met all our criteria: less than 2-hour drive, less than 5 miles, rated as kid friendly.

Perhaps the newly-legal marijuana factored into the "kid friendly" reviews ... but, man!, this was one tough hike.

The first 100 feet were great and easy and we're like, yah, we are Rainier hikers, we got this.

In fact, I was filling chill enough to stop during the easy part of the trail and photograph the happy family. This is pre-waterfall, pre-mud, pre-river and (importantly) pre-meltdown.

Then the remaining 1.95 miles was a series of gnarled tree roots, loose unstable boulders or water-slick granite.  Like this little stretch.

James and I are both super proud of our little mountain goats. They did great despite the challenges and the second we got to the top and found the lake, oh!, what a view. Both girls scrambled up to the stop of a boulder to get a better view of the ice blue (and icy!) lake.

One teeny tiny meltdown over which was a 'nicer' boulder on which to dine ... and we settled on this spot. All I'm thinking here is "damn, one energy bar and bottle of water per person and one pound of trail mix ... I totally underpacked!"

And about ten minutes after this idyllic photo was taken, a thunderstorm blew in and it poured rain for at least 30 minutes ... and then hailed. We were oh-so happy to see our car and I was quick to point out how lucky our children were that I had packed dry clothes for them (but not the big people ... but the big people had heated seats for the way home). And a Family First: first drive through ... at a Starbucks. Hot cocoa for the two brave girls in the back, and yes!, of course we need whip cream on top.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Snowflake Hotel: Party On, Wayne

Who ya gonna call when your frozen snowbabies are staying in a hotel that just doubled its rates?

Well, I started with the FDA. They oversee a vast majority of the IVF process and, if I recall correctly, about $4,000 (mas or menos) of our IVF bill was paying fees to the FDA for their oversight.

The FDA wrote back fairly quickly and said that, yes, while they oversee a lot ... they have nothing to do with pricing. They recommended I contact the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. The ASRM members are doctors, os the odds of a group of doctors taking the side of a patient would be teensy. Say, about the size of a six-day old blastocyst.

I then contacted the state attorney general who replied about two days later saying that they would get in touch with the clinic on my behalf to investigate the pricing change.  And, voila!, I received an apology from the clinic and the lovely offer of another year at the Snowflake Hotel at our prior low low price of $360 for the year. Phew! This gives us some breathing ... I mean, I can barely pick out a new chair for our living room in 100 days, how in god's name could I find a new womb with a view for the snowflakes in 90 days?

If it seems a little windy up on our hill in Bellevue, that's us exhaling enormous sighs of relief. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Snowflake Hotel: Do You Guys Do Groupons?

For me, writing feels like a train station. All these cars line up in my head – both word by word and idea by idea and when the tracks are clear (e.g., no little people stealing sharpies and hiding my bras), then the trains just slide off the tracks onto the keyboard and it is easy. Really easy. 

Every now and then, though, a big giant locomotive stomps his way, a la Godzilla, into the front of the queue and I wrestle. No, it isn’t time for you, stomp to the back of the line. Put that cute weird-student-stories train down!  Quit huffing and puffing, I can’t see beyond you. I don’t want to write about you, you aren’t the boss of me.  I’m in charge. 

But like the rest of the human race, I’m in charge of very little, including, apparently, the billing practices of in vitro clinics. Specifically, the storage fees for my frozen children. 

Oh! The horrors of modern motherhood. We have two embryos in storage. Six days old, which is a feat in and of itself. Prior to creating them, I made certain I had done my homework. I learned that freezing in liquid nitrogen, flash freezing, is the preferred way to go for little tiny people. Heck, Whole Foods flash-freezes their salmon, so if it is good enough for them … 

For the past six years, we get an annual bill for the little snowflakes. (kidcicles, snowbabies, souls on ice … new technology yields new terminology; snowflakes seems the least cheeky.)  The bill has always been $360 for one year’s stay at the liquid nitrogen hotel. This year’s bill? $750. That’s a 108% increase. The $360 we plan for when we budget our HSA set aside money ... so maybe if the Snowflake Hotel had been moral and told us of this price "change" last year, we could have planned better. 

With the invoice, you get four choices every year: 
1. pay the bill, ensure your children stay deliciously frozen for another 365. 
2. donate them to science 
3. discard them 
4. donate them to another fertility-challenged couple 

(Charlotte: Mommy, can we watch one more Magic School Bus? It is the third one, but our last one we promise. TLC: Sure, mommy needs more time to write about your frozen siblings.

(p.s. I love the Magic School Bus, BTW ... educational and Lily Tomlin is the voice of the bus driver.) 

James and I are on the same page: option #4 is the best choice. I pushed the issue to the front burner last year when I felt like, damn, our snowflakes have already run up a $2100 hotel bill over the past six years, maybe the thawed children need that money added to their college fund. (Or, better yet, shoe fund.) I approached two friends, two people I had spent maybe a year or more eyeing as good candidates … only to have both say “no thank you.” Which is fine, really it is, it isn’t like I asked them to water my plants or take my tires in for rotation. 

Who ya gonna call? I mean, seriously, it feels as though someone has grabbed my kids and are holding them hostage, gun to the head. If they were real, non-frozen children, then 9-1-1 would be a good place to start.  If we were under a tsunami alert and they decided to double their fees, then it would clearly be a case of price gouging. Is it hoarding, perhaps? Obtaining a scarce resource (children are quite scarce to those of us that are barren) and holding on to the resource so they can be sold to customers for profit? Maybe. 

Whatever you name it, it is really heartbreakingly ugly. 

B&C... five days old
This is their petri dish mugshot, immediately prior to installation 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Cleaning Suggestion From Bernadette

They say that apples don't fall far from the tree, but when it comes to house tidiness this little apple flung itself from the tree into the next orchard.

Growing up, we had an immaculate house and to this day, my parents have a home that is both glistening and stylish. I often think Pottery Barn should hire my mum to improve their stagings. They did have someone help plan out bookshelves and I think my mum does have a cleaner 2 x month. In other words, they aren't supping juleps while the Downton Abbey staff does the heavy lifting.

(Though as a side note, when she was looking for a cleaner, she actually hid dirt under the corner of a rug as part of the job interview.)

In my defense, I am working 35 hours a week and have little twinados dervishing from room to room constantly. Whenever I mewl about how much I wished I had more time to have a cleaner home, James reminds me that our 60+-year old home isn't exactly air tight, that dirt has many, many entry points. Not to mention the in-out shenanigans of Gigi, Charley, Fergus and Coco.

Since we visited my parents over the holidays, Bernadette keeps mentioning the tidiness of grandma's house.

"That was so nice, I wish we had a clean house like Grandma Ruthie."

"Remember, peanut, Grandma Ruthie doesn't store cupcake liners and peach pits under the coffee table."

I made a cleaning schedule and told the girls if we work at it just  30  75 210 minutes every day, we could have a clean house.

"Can't we clean later? It's sunny outside and I have my new bee bubble blower."

"Grandma Ruthie cleans on sunny days. Also, I'm pretty sure Grandma Ruthie doesn't put used kleenexes on the bookshelves and blueberries on the windowsills."

We've been power cleaning one room per day. Yesterday, Bernadette said to me "Maybe the person that gave the house to Grandma Ruthie told her how to do it and that's why her house is clean."

Sure, we'll go with that.