Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Eeewwww! Gross!

There has always lurked inside of me a nine-year-old boy's fascination and delight with that which is truly gross. On more than one occasion, my dearly beloved cousin, whom I shall refer to as "Roberto", and I were rebuked for playing a game at mealtime in which we would take turns describing the most disgusting things we could think of. Naturally, the goal of the aforementioned game was to render the opponent unable to finish his/her meal. I don't think either of us ever was grossed out enough to stop eating, but our siblings were.

Another game from my innocent childhood was similar in nature, and involved imagining the most horrific form of death possible. My personal favorite was the idea (perhaps practiced by one of the more depraved Roman emperors?) of binding a healthy person to a corpse and leaving them there to die slowly of maggot infestation. What a happy, well-adjusted child I was...

Anyway, the last few days our family was afflicted with the puking plague. All of us were spewing from both ends, although, thankfully, Elena had only one episode of vomiting. At one point, doing yet another load of noxious, bio-hazard laundry, I thought of the old game. I don't remember if drowning in vomit was one of the things we came up with (it probably was), but if not a winner, it should definitely be an honorable mention.

Heh. Yes, at least I am recovered enough to laugh about it, right? Never fear, gentle reader, my subsequent posts will contain cute photos, heart-felt spiritual musings and light, love and holiday cheer. I will, for the most part, eschew crude references to bodily fluids and things of that nature. So perhaps this is my last chance to go ahead and admit that I still pick my nose, enjoy popping zits, and find removing ear wax to be peculiarly satisfying.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Checking in, and a check up

Vacation time is great, but I'm slacking a bit in the blog department. Got my second migraine a couple of days ago. Blech. Thank God, it was very mild. It helped that I knew what was going on this time once my vision went wonky and I started seeing flying neon triangles. I was much better the next day, although I still had the residual headache. Carlos sweetly suggested that I run to Borders by myself while he watched the kids. I love my husband! I am glad that he sees himself as a parent, not a baby-sitter.

I've got most of the kids' Christmas gifts--basically all cooking stuff. I know that they'll love it. I found a cake pan for adorably elegant tiny tea cakes, some pastry cutters, fun little pop-out cookie dough scoops and some other stuff. Most of it was very inexpensive, but they're going to be thrilled.

Elena had her first check up. She is doing great--almost 27", and just over 15 lbs. Developmentally, she is right on track. Interestingly, I was never asked about her sleeping habits. She still nurses a couple of times each night, but she is usually half asleep and it is fine with me. The nurse was relieved that we are not vaccinating, and mentioned that her granddaughter is being pressured to vaccinate and how much it upsets her. They are glad that Elena is exclusively breastfed and not in a hurry to introduce solids.

This was such a far cry from Ariana's 6 month check up, where our ped told us she was strong-willed (like it was a bad thing) and gave us a copy of the Pearl's how-to manual on child abuse. (No, that isn't an exaggeration. It is one of the most vile things I've ever read, and advocates hitting a newborn with a switch, because "if it is big enough to pitch a fit, it is big enough to get hit". They also tell a mom that she is to remain submitted to her husband even when he is sexually abusing their daughter and other twisted stuff. They are both sick and sickening.) Needless to say, we never went back to that doctor.

My mom's health is still precarious. I thought they had run a lot of tests at the hospital to rule out a heart attack, but I was told the only test they did was a stress test. She is still having pain, pressure and numbness, and she is still trying to blow it off as nothing. She hasn't made any changes, and isn't even taking her meds regularly. Stress-wise, she is near the breaking point, and yet she is considering taking on even more responsibility for my grandmother. That is a very messy situation. Realistically, moving in with my mom isn't an option, for several reasons. One of them is that you can't even walk on the floors at my parents house because of spots where they are falling through. But no one else is able to take her, either, and my mom is convinced that my grandmother would die of a broken heart if placed in a home. It is horribly sad, but I don't see many alternatives. One that did come to mind was to look for a good place here as well as in the area where my grandmother is now. If my mom could visit her every day it might make things a little easier for both of them.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Book Reviews

It has been so nice being off work and having Carlos off, too. We haven't done anything particularly interesting, but we are enjoying the time off.

I'm always reading, either new books or rereading old favorites. I was actually very disappointed with a recent purchase, Faro's Daughter by Georgette Heyer. Normally, her books are hilarious. They are old historical romances (the romance generally consists of a couple of kisses on the last page), with remarkably witty dialog and well-done characters that usually have me giggling at each page. This one, unfortunately, wasn't very funny. The guy was a boorish jerk, the girl was stupid, and I won't bother reading it again. I'd give it a 2 out of 5 stars. If you are interested in one of her better ones, read The Corinthian or The Masqueraders.

The non-fiction book I've been reading recently is Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, by Naomi Aldort. A bit of hyperbole to follow, but there is some accuracy in it: If you read books by Ezzo, Dobson and some of that ilk, you get the idea very quickly that babies and children are BAD. They are selfish, manipulative little monsters that must be defeated by the parents against whom they are at war. This book presents a very different perspective of children who are always trying to do their best in any given situation. Parents need to validate and just deal with their own issues. OK, as I said, that was exaggerated and oversimplified. It was actually a good book that I am glad to have in my toolbox, and one that I will draw on at times. There were times when the way things were phrased made me roll my eyes a bit, but I felt like I was a better mom on the days that I applied some of the principles in the book. I'd give it a 4 out of 5. Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen was better, though.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy

It has been a crazy couple of days. My mom was in the hospital with heart problems, but is doing well and was released yesterday. Definitely a wake-up call for all of us, though. Tonight we made some extra-special memories, for which I am grateful.

Carlos' parents got tickets for the Nutcracker, and we had a ladies night out. First, my mom, Carlos' mom, Ariana and Elena and I all met at Starbuzz for white chocolate steamers and coffee. On the way, we noticed all the lovely Christmas lights.

Ariana was entranced by the ballet, and so was Elena. I was actually a bit nervous about taking Elena, particularly since she had been a bit cranky earlier today, but she didn't make a peep through the entire ballet. She watched intently during the first half and tapped her hand in time to the music. During the intermission she got sleepy and dosed throughout the second half while sipping leche.

Ariana was fascinated by the orchestra, but once the dancing began she couldn't tear her eyes away. Almost without realizing it she stood and began to mimic the dancers a couple of times. She enjoyed the performance as much as anyone I have ever seen. It was such a perfect, fairy-tale night. I am sure that as she sleeps, visions of sugar plums will dance in her head.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The final final!

I gave my last final today, so all that is left is grading and the typical end-of-semester check-out, which I'll do this week. Then, I have a month off! Yay! I really do love teaching, but a month off is nice, too. Without it, I might not love teaching quite so much.

I don't mean this to be as flippant as it may sounds, but I was thinking about the last ten years of teaching, and it seems like every semester, I have students weeping during the final. Not over Spanish, at least not usually ;) It seems the whole principle of kicking someone while he is down comes into play, though, and students who are already stressed over exams go through very difficult personal situations this time of year. Relatives pass away. Miscarriage. A new pregnancy. Marital problems. Severe health issues in their children.

It is difficult sometimes to know how to respond, how to encourage them and help bear their burdens and maintain appropriate distance. I'm glad that they feel they can open up to me. For any cynics out there (I usually am one), it is generally the students who have earned a solid 'A' in the class, so it isn't an attempt to obtain mercy. I wish them grace, strength and hope in their challenges, though.

A few anecdotes for the aforementioned cynics: once, a student missed the final exam and called to reschedule. When I inquired as to why she had missed, she told me that she had gone shopping and found some marvelous sales. She sacrificed her grade, but looked fabulous. Another decided, perhaps after calculating her dismal grade, that it might have been good to have bought the book of homework assignments, after all. At the final she suggested going out and getting the book and doing an entire semesters worth of homework in the next day. I politely declined. I could come up with more. Fortunately, most of my students are responsible, rational people, though. The wackos are more entertaining, but also more fatiguing.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A chronicle of a night spent in futility

The following is a harrowing tale of realism. Granted, it isn't nearly as harrowing as what many parents endure on a nightly basis, but it is my blog and I'll whine if I want to, whine if I want to, whine if I want to...you would whine, too, if it happened to you... Well, perhaps you wouldn't, but I will.

It began yesterday with a combination of circumstances that led to me going to bed more than 2 hours past my usual bedtime. Years ago, I could pull all-nighters without even a dark circle. I would gladly forgo sleep in pursuit of any activity that seemed more entertaining, and, let's face it, unless you have spectacular dreams, sleep isn't precisely entertaining. Oh, the folly of my youth. Now, even a mere hour or two of deviation from my normal allotment leaves me groggy.

I woke up...surely just a few moments?...after falling asleep. Elena nursed and went back to sleep. For all of one minute. She squirmed and began to whimper. I try to respond quickly when my babies fuss during the night. As a compassionate mother, of course I want to comfort them in distress. As a selfish mother with a modicum of common sense, I want to quiet them before it escalates into an all-out scream that will wake the other two. If Elena is going to settle, she does so in a few seconds, and she wasn't, so I made sure she was warm and adjusted her position a little. Peace.

The peace lasted less than five minutes. She began kicking and grunting and arching her back. I could hear her tummy gurgling and figured she was having a bit of reflux. I held her in a more upright position, which helped a little bit, but not much. She started rooting around. Dilemma: I think comfort nursing is a wonderful thing, but I don't want her to get too full and then throw up or exacerbate the reflux, and although I don't have the OALD issues I did before, I was dripping a bit and knew she'd get more milk. Maybe I should give up dairy again, but she seems fine most of the time, and I love cheese...

I cycle her legs a little, she passes some gas, nurses for a few seconds and seems to go back to sleep. 10 minutes later, she is whimpering. She seems uncomfortable, but not in pain. I check her diaper. Soaked. This thing weighs a lot. So I change her diaper, button her sleeper back up and get rewarded with a beautiful smile. Awww.

She is now comfy and happy. And very, very wide awake. She starts playing with her hands, the side of the crib, and one of Ariana's socks that somehow made its way into the bed. She soon loses interest, however, and starts asking for more personal interaction. So we cuddle and play some quiet peek-a-boo, much to her delight. She doses for awhile, but everytime that I start to fall back asleep begins to make noise.

Eventually, the noises become more ominous. My little one is not yet discreet, and any bowel movements are unmistakeably loud. Another diaper change, which also involves running warm water onto our cloth wipes to clean her up, because regular wipes give her a rash. Suddenly, she lunges into a sitting position. Wow--I can't do sit-ups, and she is barely five months. If I weren't so tired, I would be excited about this new feat.

At this point, I am beginning to despair of going back to sleep. Worse, I am starting to listen to the peaceful breathing of my wonderful spouse with a bit of resentment. Since he isn't lactating, I do night-time kid duty. It doesn't make sense for both of us to be up, right? I look at the clock (big mistake) and start mentally calculating. If x=the number of minutes until I fall back to sleep, and y=the total number of minutes until everyone else wakes up... Argh. I don't even like math!

Perhaps in telepathic sympathy to my exhaustion, perhaps from the laser beam of my eyes directed at his sleeping countenance, perhaps because I move Elena over next to him, Carlos wakes up and I sweetly ask him to take the Bittykins. She cooperates by breaking into a huge grin of delight and giggling.

Joel begins to sleepily ask for leche. Usually, he will go right back to sleep. He nurses, closes his eyes and smiles angelically. Then both eyes pop open in alarm. "Mami, mami. Baby's gone!" I explain, and he jumps up to go play with Elena and Daddy. He also leaves the door open to the sweet sounds of his exuberant play. I briefly wonder if it is worth it to get up and close the door, but can't muster the energy. Carlos, truly a prince among men, happens to pass the door and softly close it.

I pull the covers over my head and pray for a miracle, aka a few more minutes of sleep. Instead, Ariana wakes up and wants to snuggle. A cuddly warm body next to me. Even better, she is both still and quiet. No, that doesn't last. Within five minutes, she loudly announces that she needs to go to the bathroom and gets up.

Two more minutes pass, and I recognize the futility, and get up. Normally, I avoid caffeine, but perhaps today I will live dangerously. The kids excitedly plead to make gingerbread men. Well, ginger is a natural stimulant, right? Or is that ginseng? Maybe, if I can get some sleep, I'll remember...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Christmas presents

I'm already excited about planning what to get the kids for Christmas. I have some gift cards that I plan to use up to buy some cute (and fairly cheap) apron/chefs hat sets, and I plan to add some cool little cake pans. Maybe a set of measuring cups? And a cookbook for each of them. They enjoy cooking so much that I know they'll be thrilled.

Ariana has started showing an interest in music, so I'm going to pull out our old keyboard for her. Carlos saw a cool block set (or was it Legos? Anyway, something like that.) that he wants to get for Joel. We'll probably finish up with some art supplies.

Their birthdays are less than a month after Christmas, so I'm already thinking ahead. Maybe some dress-up stuff. I consider books a necessity rather than a luxury, so probably a couple of stories for each one. Joel likes dolls, but Ariana doesn't, although she loves super hero action figures, so maybe a doll accessory for him and an action figure for her.

Bittykins has enough hand-me-down stuff that we don't need to do much for her. She'll be happy with shiny gift wrap to tear. :)

It is so much fun just to think about, and thinking about it doesn't cost anything. :)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Feliz cumpleaños

It has been a fantastic birthday weekend. Saturday, my sister in law took me out shopping and helped with a new bathroom set. I love it! I've had a nice, grown-up, subdued bathroom with cream and green and blue for nearly a decade. Pretty, but boring. I found an adorably whimsical jungle set. The towels have furry monkeys and hairy manes on the lion--way too cute. I'll have to take some pics.

Yesterday was such a cozy day. Lots of snuggling on the couch (watching Star Trek, of course). We went out to the Cheesecake Factory for coffee and appetizers. No cheesecake. :D I like the cheesecake (as if that needs to be said!), but I prefer their White Chocolate Raspberry lattes. Sublime. It was perfect.

The kidlets, bless them, wanted to make me a cake. It started out well: juice, mashed banana and cinnamon. Then one of them poured in about half a container of garlic powder. Ay, ay ay. Well, it is the thought that counts, right? Anyway, their birthday hugs are the best present ever.

This morning my mom came and played with the kids while I got a few things done around the house, and then she took care of them while I had lunch with my dad, aunt and grandparents. It was nice to have lunch without having to divide my attention.

One of the best parts has been all the notes on Facebook and emails and the thread on my favorite message board. Each post has made me feel special and loved.

This is the fifteenth birthday that my beloved has made a happy one. Wow. It doesn't seem nearly that long. Being married to him is the best gift of all. He has done a zillion "little things" the last several days to make them more special, and I think that any married person will agree that those little things are actually a very, very big deal.

Many, many thank yous to all of you for reading and commenting and for the birthday wishes. I hope this will be a year of peace and joy for all of us.