Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye 2012

My muscles are pleasantly achy and tired as I force myself from my warm nest on the couch. My belly is pleasantly full of delivery (I love NYC!) burrito and I should go to bed. But my heart is full, too, so I'm taking a moment to remember this moment.

This was my first full year with Calliope. I remember a lonely and quiet New Year's Eve two years ago, stranded at my mother's house because of a blizzard, perpetually cold and tired at 17 weeks along. I went to bed early, but took a moment to whisper to my belly, "next year, I'll be celebrating with you."

And indeed, though my home movie date fell through at the last minute, I was happy to spend the day with my girl, and my evening at home. I gave her ice cream for dinner as a special treat (and if a fully belly helps her to sleep longer, so much the better). I'm going to miss her when I go back to work, the day after tomorrow. Once we stopped the potty training, it's been wonderful being home with her. She's changing every day. Today's word of the day was "baa."

After she went to bed, I watched What to Expect When You're Expecting. It was plenty stupid, but the birth scenes made me choke up, and the adoption scene had me outright teary. There's also a scene where one woman publicly denounces pregnancy and all the various ways it sucks. That made me realize, hey, pregnancy really does suck! Why has no one ever said that before? Yes, it's miraculous that there's a baby in there, growing and developing... but that doesn't mean it's pleasant for the baby's personal incubator.

I don't know why, but this was a revelation for me.

So, my goals for 2013 are simple. I'm pretty anti-resolution. So I have two experiments to try. One is to try working out in the evenings. I have a fair amount of time to myself after Calliope goes to bed at 6:30 or so. If I could take advantage of that time to exercise, I could sleep significantly later in the morning (by not having to get up early to work out before work).

The challenge will be to transition quickly from her bedtime routine to my workout, despite being tired from a long day. That will be essential if it is going to translate to more sleep. And quick transitions to working out are never my best skill... especially after work. I'm not at my best at the end of the day.

The other goal is to get up fifteen minutes earlier in the morning than I otherwise would to tidy up. A neat and organized home makes me happier. A lot. And I don't have energy at night to organize. I'm a morning person (but exercise doesn't feel as good in the morning) so getting things set for the day seems a natural fit for the morning. Assuming the evening workouts, well, work out, I think this should be an easy win.

Oh, and after being off work all week, I have observed that I seem to naturally sleep nine hours at night. Call me greedy. Probably the increased workouts -- I've done great with them over the break -- have something to do with it, and my sleep needs may die down a little, but I'd love to get more sleep during the week. I don't know if I can realistically get nine hours... but it's a good goal.

And finally, I'm hoping and praying that my mama is healthy and strong to ring in 2014. So far she has survived her first round of chemo and now that the nurse practitioner tweaked her meds to troubleshoot anticipatory nausea and migraines, it seems like the next round will be easier for her.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Potty Training 2.0

Today I'd adequately recovered (emotionally) to let Calliope have some diaper free time, which seems almost normal now, after three days of total diaper-free time.

But for some reason, it doesn't seem stressful anymore. I'm pretty sure, after observing her patterns, that she won't poop on the floor. And she seems to go an impressively long time between pees... unless she pees on the floor, in which case it stops as soon as I grab her and try to transfer her to the potty (with one exception, where she was able to start going again after a momentary pause). And thus will have to pee again shortly thereafter.

So I don't think she will necessarily successfully use the potty while diaper free (only happened twice, I think, in three days... ten minutes apart, separated by nursing, or maybe three times, total), but it feels weird to keep her wrapped in a diaper all the time after investing all that energy into teaching her about the potty. And it's pretty cute to see her climb onto the potty. Though she's happy to do that with clothes on, also. The other night, I came back from washing my hands to find her sitting on the potty, "reading," wearing both her pajamas and her sleep sack.

Regardless of what happens, I'm feeling very low pressure about it. I need to re-read Potty Training Before Three to review her method.

Last night as I was cleaning her face and hands in the high chair, she started to cry, "Pah-Ee! Pah-Ee!" (that's  "potty" for the uninitiated.) She'd never done this before. I whisked her out of her high chair and rushed to her potty. Where she had a little gas. And then pooped in her diaper maybe twenty minutes later.

But I recently read that knowing the difference between gas and poop is a learned skill (though I don't remember what age we learn this). So perhaps she was feeling gas, or perhaps she was feeling that poop that didn't come for another twenty minutes. Either way, I'm confident that she was feeling something, and more importantly, communicated that to me.

Which makes me feel like those three days were not totally wasted. And makes me want to continue.

Another semi-success... After her nap today, I left her without pants or diaper because I was getting in the shower and thought she might want to join me. Afterwards, I was getting dressed and let her wander off (I've gotten much more zen, suddenly, with the idea of mysterious puddles and pee on the carpet... her pee is pretty dilute so I'm cautiously hopeful it won't stain). Anyway, I was getting dressed in my bedroom when I heard a sharp cry of distress, that "I need help!" cry that doesn't make your heart pound but does make you come quickly. I came into the living room and found an anxious Calliope, crouched on one of her new toddler chairs, hands full with an old cell phone in one and Baby Annie, the potty training doll, in the other. On the surface of the chair, underneath her, was a puddle.

"Pee!" squeaked Calliope.

I rushed to rescue her -- she couldn't figure out how to move with both hands full -- and quickly determined that the pee in question was not from Calliope, but from Baby Annie, who was feeling a little waterlogged, still, after her bath a couple of days ago.

So I was very pleased that Calliope was aware of the puddle, and also that it was, sort of, pee.

So I gently chided her, "Oh Baby Annie, pee pee goes on the potty. Next time you'll get it."

Friday, December 28, 2012

Potty Training Boot Camp: The End

Despite the fact that a friend came over during the afternoon of Day 2, and spent the night and stayed until naptime on Day 3, I was going crazy by Day 3. Just waaaaaay too much time spent in very close proximity to Calliope, constantly asking, "want to sit on the potty? where's the pee-pee?"

A mom from a local moms' group offered to host a playdate on the afternoon of day 3 and I decided to take Calliope, even though we were only "supposed" to go out for an hour, per the potty training methodology. I took two sets of dry pants, a dry shirt, dry socks, the potty, three cloth diapers (for clean up), and two disposable diapers plus a pack of wipes.

She had peed on the floor (with the last few drops caught by me "whisking" her over the potty) right before we left. I put her in dry pants with nothing underneath (no training pants or underpants as well as no diaper) as per Babycenter's instructions. She stayed dry on the way over... but wet her pants shortly thereafter. I mopped up the puddle with her wet pants.

She passed gas while playing so I grabbed her and put her on the potty. She lunged off. I put her back. She lunged off again. And suddenly, seconds later, we all smelled something. Each mom sniffed her toddler's diapered bottom, but no one could find the culprit. And then in one horrible moment, we all realized that Calliope had let go a few drips of very liquid poop on the sissal rug.

Ouch! So embarrassing. I was trying to be so careful! And the host is a woman who makes me a teensy bit insecure anyway, in her apparent perfection -- just bought a beautiful Victorian house AND a car, despite having decided recently to stay home for another year with her daughter (she has a husband). Oh, and I did I mention she bears a striking resemblance to the character of Charlotte from Sex in the City?

So it sucked. And I was just DONE.

It's clear to me that Calliope knows how to hold the contents of her bladder... just not how to release on command.

She was remarkably good natured about the whole endeavor. I would have found it annoying to be constantly pestered about sitting on the potty, but she cheerfully clambered on each time I asked. She was very, very interested in the idea of pee, and kept checking the potty to see if any had landed there (one reason I think she wasn't ready is that she couldn't tell if she had peed or not). And now we have been talking about poop more (she says it as "pppp" or "pooh") and I have been showing her the dirty diaper because I read somewhere that if they've never seen it, it can be scary when they see it in the potty.

I was a little mad at myself yesterday for wasting so much of a perfectly good vacation on a rather miserable and of course unsuccessful endeavor... but I'm mostly over that now. It was an interesting experiment.

And now I'm very grateful to be back to diapers! Calliope and I had a very low key day today, with a visit from our downstairs neighbors this morning and a trip to the chiropractor (for me) this afternoon. Her bedtime has been creeping later as she's been really amped up in the evenings... but the lovely side effect is that she's been sleeping later, too. Past 8:30 this morning! I know I need to nip it in the bud because we go back to our old schedule in a few more days... but today never seems to be the day! Maybe tomorrow I'll get her to bed on time.

Oh, and one more thing. About poop. She had a stomach bug maybe two-three weeks ago? Only threw up once, the rest of the time was diarrhea. She finally started eating more and seemed better. But now she's having really frequent loose stools. I think 5-6 times today. But they don't smell particularly bad like diarrhea. But her diaper rash can't heal as a result. So diaper changes are painful for her. Even though I change her diapers right away. So I'm wondering what is going on. She's not acting sick, but I wonder if something she is eating isn't agreeing with her? She mostly eats a somewhat constipating diet these days, so I don't really get it. I've been giving her probiotics since she was sick and I'm wondering if they could be the culprit?

Her diet: cheese (lots), banana, apple, toast, crackers, peanut butter, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes (lots). Oh, and she's breastfeeding. No other dairy at the moment except she has had ice cream a couple times in the past week.

Could the cherry tomatoes be the culprit? I only let her have them once today. She's obsessed with them so it's not easy. I bought the yellow ones which are supposed to be low acid, in case that makes a difference?

If anyone has any insight, please let me know!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Fitness Update

I started Week 6 (aka Level 6 -- it would be impossible to increase to the next level on a weekly basis as suggested) on Saturday. I'm really proud of this!

Week 6 is waaaay harder than Week 5.

It's funny, the stuff that is hardest for me is all chest -- mainly, being in a full plank and having to bring my knees to my chest (with my feet suspended in the straps)... so tough!

Whereas my brother finds the cardio hard -- the jumping jack sequences got much more challenging this week, with jumping both feet together side to side accompanied by traditional jumping jack arms, for example. These are challenging, no doubt about it, and my calves are aching by the end, but it's not nearly as unpleasant as the plank-based exercises.

I also tried a new work out that my cousin Tom suggested, called Tabatta. The basic gist is that you warm up for a few minutes on a piece of cardio equipment -- I use the elliptical -- then you alternate twenty seconds of 100% effort with ten seconds of rest. The goal is to get to eight sets. I tried this two days ago and did five sets.

The limiting factor for me was my lungs. I felt like I had knives in my chest. So painful!

My heart was racing, of course, and my legs burned, but that went away almost immediately. But my chest was still fiery pain ten minutes later. And about thirty minutes later, I suddenly started coughing up mucus. That lasted about 30-60 minutes, then disappeared again. I'm not sick, and I don't have allergies. But I was diagnosed with asthma a few years ago, though I haven't had any symptoms in ages, so I'm wondering if that is the problem? If it happens again, I will call in prescription for myself for an asthma pump to use beforehand.

The weight stuff is not going so well. I was doing better, a bit, with eating, and wasn't gaining, and then, well, Christmas and cookie dough happened. But I haven't been able to get back to actually losing weight. And I'm quite a bit over where I was at my low point in October.

I'm trying not to beat myself up, and my goal now is to cut out the easy cardio on the elliptical and just do hard workouts 5-6 days a week, a mix of Rip 60 and Tabata. But it's frustrating. I see other folks that are trying to walk more and just eat healthy as a way to lose weight. Oh, how I wish that would work for me! I feel like I have to work so much harder than anyone I know. And the recent stall and subsequent weight gain makes me wonder if I will ever successfully lose weight and keep it off. It's like my metabolism wised up on me.

I'm trying to not get discouraged but it's not easy sometimes.

I read pat of a diet-oriented book the other day, and I think that has something to do with the cookie dough (which I have since thrown away) incidents. The very idea of restricting my diet puts me into "last supper eating" -- eating lots now to compensate for the diet that will be starting. That and also getting too damn hungry. So I have to back off on that, and hope that what I was doing before will somehow work again -- lots of sleep, lots of fat, moderate protein, limited but not too little carbohydrate. And making sure to not get too hungry.

And now, after a day of rest (if you can call potty training and being stuck at home, rest!), I'm off to work out again. Hoping that Rip 60 is easier today!

Potty Training Boot Camp: Halfway Through Day Two

What the well dressed potty training hopefuls wear when it's chilly

"This would look amazing with my current ensemble"

If I can just land my tushy on Baby Annie's potty, maybe the
pee will come out!

And... nothing.

She slept very late, until 8:20 am, presumably because of our late night on Christmas Eve.

Woke up soaking wet (and dirty), which had never happened before, literally soaking her PJ's, until the previous night the same thing happened.

But she was in fine spirits, and the rash seemed slightly better after starting the ketonazole (again) last night.

We spent the whooooooole morning oh-so-very-together, sitting on the potty every thirty minutes, plying her with crackers (salty), to make her drink, and apple (wet) to encourage urine production. A lot of the time was actually spent sitting on my lap, for example, whenever she was eating, because I was pretty sure she wouldn't pee on me, but after peeing in the high chair yesterday, I decided to avoid it until she's got this concept down better.

She was such a good sport, and never got impatient with all the time on the potty, and got up good naturedly each time to peer into the potty and ask, "bay?" (pee)

But it was dry. Every. Single. Time.

I wondered if I should put a couple of drops in the potty just so we could have something to celebrate, to remind her why it's so great to pee on the potty... but I thought that would be confusing, since she wouldn't have felt any pee come out of her body.

So I didn't do anything.

And she went back to her crib for a nap more than four hours after I took her diaper off, with never a pee.

I don't know if that's great -- look, she can really hold her pee! and has learned that we don't pee on the floor! -- or bad -- now she doesn't know how to let go and pee when she needs to.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Potty Training Boot Camp: End of Day One

Getting ready to go to our friends for the Feast of Seven Fishes
(we don't celebrate Christmas, but we celebrate friendship)

Putting the new"Baby Annie" on the potty. 
Baby Annie's ability to pee makes quite a mess so her talents 
will be restricted to the tub from now on!

Well, after a morning filled with accidents (plus the second half of one pee, caught on the potty), I was a little discouraged.

Calliope woke up from a nice long nap (thank you!) with a dirty diaper and a worsening diaper rash that looks fungal. So that was a good motivator to keep her diaper free this afternoon.

And then she didn't pee all afternoon! Granted, we took a long bath together during the mid-afternoon (she wouldn't get in without me, not sure why, given that she was begging for the bath), which was kind of cheating, since I obviously can't tell if she pees in the tub... though to be fair, she is standing up most of the time so maybe I would be able to tell. Regardless, I didn't see any pee.

After that, she stayed accident free until dinner, when she peed in her highchair. Luckily I had lined it with a dishtowel. I realized it was damp when I had to get her out of the highchair to pick up some food she had thrown (luckily this is relatively rare nowadays, after months with it being a regular occurrence) but I decided to let her keep sitting on it, as a valuable lesson on why it's better not to pee just anywhere. In hindsight, that might not have been the best thing for her rash. Oh well. She didn't complain, anyway.

After dinner, we were winding down for an early bedtime when she started with a little gas. I was very nervous about her pooping on the rug. She popped up a few seconds later but then broke wind again so I put her back on the potty. (I am extremely grateful that she is quite willing to sit on the potty and often initiates, though not this particular time.) Anyway, this second time, she peed!!!

Hooray! Much rejoicing. I sang her potty song with good cheer and wild clapping. She loved that.

We then nursed with her bare bottomed, mostly because she didn't want to wait, and not because I wanted to potty her one more time. But after nursing, I decided what the heck, and tried one last time.

And she peed again!!!

Cue joyful singing and raucous clapping again!

This last pee was a little tiny one and so I think she eeked it out just so she could hear the song again. After all, it had been, what, ten minutes? If that. But I don't care!

I had been hoping to have just one success, to make me feel like today was worth the sacrifice of my sanity. But two successes made me feel like a rock star!

Just praying that tomorrow builds off today's wins. I know the odds are good that there will be many more setbacks. But at least the first day is over. I know that I won't go completely crazy -- I sort of found my stride in how to mentally cope with the tedium. It was actually sort of nice to be one hundred percent focused on Calliope. She certainly loved having me at her beck and call!

The salty snacks (crackers) were definitely a win -- she drank tons of water as a result. Popsicles were a big loser -- she refused to try them and sobbed desperately when I had the gall to restrain her and brush one against her lips (am I wrong to do this? to force her to try something I know she will like? there are so very many things she refuses to ever taste).

Tomorrow afternoon, my friend and Calliope's pseudo godmother (one of my two friends present at her birth), Auntie Salt Lick, is coming to keep us company. She will spend the night and much of the next day. I am very, very grateful for the reinforcement!

Potty Training Boot Camp: Mid-Day on Day One


We've had zero true successes.

We had about five accidents on the kitchen floor. In at least two of them, we got at least one drop of pee, purely accidentally, in the potty as I snatched her up and quickly transferred her to the waiting potty.

In another accident, she actually started to pee again after being seated on the potty! But that was mid-morning, and she had at least two more accidents after that. So while it was exciting at the time, I'm a bit discouraged again.

I made up a potty song, if not a dance, as instructed by Babycenter.

I plagiarized the tune from some old ditty that I can't quite name but it's very familiar:

Calliope did a pee on the potty, doo dah!
Calliope did a pee on the potty, doo dah doo dah day!

Doo dah doo dah day,
Doo dah doo dah day,
Calliope did a pee on the potty,
Doo dah doo dah day!

I'm extremely clever and plan to substitute in "poop" for "pee" in the song, should that exciting event ever come to pass.

Anyway, I sang the pee song, with much enthusiastic clapping, whenever a drop of pee managed to land in the potty, and she totally loved it. I think it's good to heap on the praise, even for purely accidental successes, because that's what will motivate her to succeed.

Whether or not she's capable is another story.

I'm drawing comfort from my friend Emily, who successfully potty trained her daughter at this age, though with a more gradual approach. She is more zen than me.

As annoying as this approach is, I like the idea of being done in three days, more or less, one way or the other.

But I'm definitely irritable from sitting on the floor within arm's reach of Calliope all morning long, not to mention mopping up puddles. And it's possible I just ate a bunch of peanut butter cookie dough (stupidly purchased from middle school students who were raising money for victims of Hurricane Sandy... why I didn't just give them the $10, I'll never know) to comfort myself. I tried to just work out to make myself feel better, but I'm sore from workouts earlier in the week, and I think I need to take today's planned day off from exercise.

Oh well, due to napping (hooray for naps!!!), the afternoon session will likely be shorter than the morning's. Hoping for at least one (but more would be even better!) success to convince me to stay the course. Though I'm re-reading the SMC boot camp thread and am reminded, thankfully, that lots of initial accidents don't necessarily mean you can't have great success by the end of three days. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sixteen Months (and One Week) Update, Plus Potty Training Plans

Every self respecting Yetti carries a sensible and earth friendly canvas bag or two for her
purchases, right?

The back view of her drugstore rampage

Current state of the mullet

We tried watching Tellytubbies while she was sick (a rare treat -- she normally
doesn't get more than two songs from her sign language DVD per day)... 

... But neither of us could bear its awfulness. Phew! (Plus she 
clearly wasn't feeling well.) 

I'm perhpas not all that, ahem, good about rules about
where she's allowed to eat. When she was sick, she
ate so little that I was all, "sure, honey, you can sit
on the counter and eat tomatoes right next to the 
paring knife, no problem." 

Calliope is newly obsessed with the parts of her body. She will pat her head proudly when asked, is constantly pointing to her own nose as well as mine, and her shirts have to allow access to her little round tummy or else she is tugging them down at the neckline so she can insert her arm into her shirt to gain access and slap heartily against her belly. I love that she sticks her stomach out and pats it so proudly -- may she never lose this love and pride in her body!

She just learned how to climb onto the potty today without having to step one foot into it ever so briefly. Her dismount has been great for ages but climbing on always required that one foot into the potty before this. She's very pleased with herself.

She has almost entirely stopped throwing food -- hurray! Now she just hands it to me with a shake of the head and a "neh neh neh" (no no no). As long as I take it away, we're all set and there's no projectiles off the tray.

New words include:
"heh" (head)
"bee" (belly)
"ah" (apple)
"dada" (banana)
"quack-ahh" (cracker)
"gheez" (cheese, her new favorite food)
"cap" (clap)
"Gah!" (Jack!, said with emphasis... any mention of the playground starts a long series of "Gah!"... though she's not necessarily interested in playing with her "friend" once we see him at the playground. We see Jack most weekends but she sees Eleanor daily... no clear sign of "Ellie" yet)

She's also got new signs: bath, and tooth-brushing (I invented this one -- not idea what the official one is). Tonight we were visiting friends and she was signing "bath" to everyone in sight, hoping, apparently, that someone would take pity on her and pop her in the tub? Never mind that we had a nice long time in the tub today. She seems to think one can never have too many baths. She's also very focused on tooth brushing, and wants to brush after every meal (we do it in the highchair because she's conveniently restrained already) but then fusses when I actually start to brush. I guess holding the brush and sucking on it afterwards for her "turn" make up for the indignity of Mommy brushing? I only manage a cursory job, as much as I can accomplish during a round of Itsby Bitsy Spider, but I figure it's a lot better than nothing.

She's also eating much greater quantities, which is awesome, but a strikingly small selection of foods. An SMC mom whose child has been in feeding therapy for a while (for sensory issues and resulting Failure to Thrive, neither of which Calliope has) recommended a book to me called Food Chaining. I just started skimming it last night. It recommends a meeting with a pediatric dietitian, which I hope to pursue next month if things don't improve. It also defines a "picky eater" as one who eats fewer than 30 foods, and will take a break from certain favorite foods but eventually start eating them again after a while, versus a "problem eater" who will eat fewer than 20 foods and once she stops eating a certain food, won't start eating it again after a break.

Calliope is definitely the latter. I came up with sixteen foods she will eat. Not including sweets -- I'm assuming they don't count.

But for now I'm just relieved she's eating and gaining back the weight she lost when she was sick. Last night she woke up at 1:30 am to nurse, which literally hadn't happened in many months before she was sick, and then woke up again at 3 am. She was really wailing, and I had just nursed her ninety minutes before, so I went in and asked her what she wanted, not really expecting her to answer.

But to my surprise, she immediately stopped crying and signed "food."

So I scooped her up and carried her to the kitchen, where we sat on the floor next to the refrigerator, bathed in the pale light of the nightlight, as she munched on cheese and crackers. After maybe one ounce of cheese and two half crackers, she handed the leftovers back to me and let me know she was done.

I popped her back into her crib (JenDDS, I know you'll be disappointed to hear that I most certainly did not brush her teeth) and she settled right down and slept four more hours.

I'm so grateful for having taught her sign language -- it would've never occurred to me to offer solid food in the middle of the night! Which would've made for a long night of crying if she hadn't been able to communicate with me.

Signing to the "Change Me" Song, Plus Having to Peek at Her Irresistible Belly

And finally, Calliope is very, very fond of climbing on and off the potty, and looking for "bay" (pee) in the potty and in the toilet, and is at least sometimes waking up dry from naps so...  we are counting down the days to a three day potty training boot camp.

PTTC will commence on Christmas Day. I'm following a program described on BabyCenter. Basically, you get up on the morning of day one and take off the child's pants and diaper. And the child goes pantless in the house for the next three months! Outside the house, the child can wear loose pants but no underwear for three months -- apparently underwear can feel like a diaper and be confusing in the early months -- and certainly no diapers again, except for sleeping.

And then, that first day, I have to stay home with her all day, intently watching her naked bottom, waiting for pee or poop. As soon as I see anything, I whisk her off to the potty. As soon as even a drop of pee hits the inside of the potty, I do an enthusiastic "potty dance." Apparently after 10-12 successes, children start to get the idea.

One day two, we can go out for up to an hour in the afternoon, right after she uses the potty, and on day three, we can go out for an hour in both the morning and the afternoon, again, right after she uses the potty -- apparently this teaches them that they can go "on command."

Supposedly, after three days, the child should have the basic concept down, assuming the process works, though there will, of course, be accidents from time to time.

I think that Calliope is ready, but I really don't know. My friend Emily told me that there is a window of opportunity for potty training at about 16-18 months, when children are often very interested, and are too young to be rebellious like a two year old. She had good luck training her child at about this age, as did another friend of hers.

The program is actually designed for 15-28 month olds, so that makes me feel like it's worth a shot, though in today's world, where so many children seem to start at age 3 or later, I feel like a bit of a lunatic sometimes when I talk about this.

So I'm trying to have realistic expectations. Truthfully, if she's not ready, I will be fine with that. The only thing I'm anxious about is being stuck at home and fixated on my daughter's tush -- I think that could make me a little stir crazy. So if it's  not going to work, I hope I can figure that out quickly. But I'm pessimistic on that front -- I think you have to just push through a lot of accidents in the beginning to see if one's child is ready.

Luckily my good friend, Salt Lick, is coming over on Day 2 and will spend the night and keep me company and help out. I think that will be a huge relief. Especially since Christmas Day is always a lonely day for me, not being one who celebrates.

I expect I will be reporting back with far, far more excruciating detail than you were hoping for on the potty training front in the coming days.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Re-Thinking the Evaluation

I called Early Intervention today and they no longer provide services for feeding problems, as they have been redefined as a "medical issue" and not a "developmental" one.

However, the very nice intake person told me that if Calliope qualifies for having a speech delay, the speech therapist is also qualified to teach feeding skills.

The thing is, Calliope doesn't have a speech delay, at least as far as I can tell.

But the pediatrician didn't think that Calliope would qualify even if they did still provide services for feeding issues. But she thought the evaluation would be helpful.

But if the evaluation is for speech, would even that be helpful?

The thing is, the evaluation appointment that I have right now interferes with our scheduled potty training boot camp. Which I am not, well, excited about, but I am definitely psyched up for. The prospect of spending three days largely at home and alone with one's child would normally fill me with dread, so getting psyched up for this is sort of an accomplishment. (To be clear, I love spending time with my child, I just love taking her outside, and also spending time with other people in addition to her.) But Christmas would be boring and lonely no matter what, so why not attempt to knock out potty training while I'm bored at home on Christmas anyway, with no one around to hang out and everything closed?

But then I think it sounds ridiculous to cancel the evaluation because of a silly thing like potty training.

Also, we have a weight check scheduled for December 24th, which my pediatrician suggested when I called, anxious and stressed, about Calliope's lack of eating. But I think she suggested it more for my own reassurance than any sort of medical necessity. My doctor is not one to lose weight over children's failure to gain weight, at least, not at this age group. She said her kids were similar, and eventually, kids grow out of it.

Visiting the pediatrician will not interfere with potty training; it's just inconvenient to get there, and then there's the lengthy wait in the waiting room.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

This Post Is Not About the Newtown Massacre.

Sick baby watching a video on the couch for her first time

I'm sorry, but I just can't stomach thinking or talking about it.

Moving on.

The next paragraph mentions poop. Be forewarned and skip it if you like.

I took Calliope to an urgent care center this morning because her pediatrician's office doesn't have weekend hours right now, and the 6 am and 8 am diaper changes were traumatizing for both of us. She woke up to nurse at 4:30 am, and despite multiple deep whiffs in the diaper area, I think I may have missed a dirty diaper then. She's been nursing so much and is eating so little other food that it's like having a newborn again -- no smell. So at 6 am I didn't trust my nose, but undid the sleep sack and the pajamas and the diaper and saw the resultant mess. I took a cautious swipe or two at her, but the piercing screams of terror and the arching of her back was too much for both of us.

So I took her clothes off, in the light of just the nightlight, and carried her to the bathroom and did my best to seat her thrashing self in the bathroom sink as I filled it up with warm water and tried to clean her with my hand. She still wailed and sobbed and screamed and tried to arch her back to lift herself out of the water, but I think it was less painful than with the wipes.

After all that, I put her back in her pajamas and sleep sack and clean diaper, nursed her briefly, and tucked her back into her crib for two more hours of sleep.

At 8 am, I was dismayed to find yet another diaper situation and more screaming. This time we tried the kitchen sink. That was a little easier.

But her whole... area... is red and raw and angry. Not just, you know, her butt crack, but practically her entir diaper area is just bright red and raw and painful. My poor girl.

So after the second change, I was depleted from the suffering I was inflicted on my baby. So after some breakfast for me (Calliope refused to eat again), we loaded up the stroller with toddler friendly snacks and took the subway to the new urgent care center in Park Slope.

We were in and out in less than an hour, even with doing lots of registration paperwork. While we were waiting, Calliope discovered an old Kashi Go Lean bar in my bag from a long ago trip -- I bought two and found out with the first that I don't like them -- but she dug it, and ate some. Hooray!

I'm not sure I was impressed with the doctor -- working in pediatrics, I'm a tough critic -- and his reasoning about why her rash wasn't a big deal, but he gave us a prescription for once daily ketoconazole cream and checked her ears and her belly and said she didn't look skinny to him. The medical assistant weighed her with clothes, shoes, and diaper on and her weight was 19.4 pounds, so unchanged from a month ago, only then it was a naked weight. I was surprised because she looks and feels noticeably thinner to me... but it doesn't really matter, either, if she's lost weight from being sick. But the important thing was that someone else looked at her and that gave me peace of mind. Phew.

After that, we met up with our friends Catherine and Jack for a very brief rendezvous at a nearby playground, where both babies were too tired to play. We came home and Calliope took a 3 hour and fifteen minute nap!

After her nap and a failed lunch -- I made mac n cheese, turkey breakfast sausage, and broccoli with butter, none of which she tasted -- we went to the playground to again see Catherine and Jack. And Calliope was again too tired to play. Oh well.

But she perked up in the health food store afterwards and had several bites of banana, so that was great, and then some more of the morning's Kashi Go Lean bar. For the first time, she was grabbing things off the shelves, and greatly wanted to try out a bag of hard sucking candies and also some kitty chow. Apparently the packaging for both are irresistible.

We came home to another dirty diaper/diaper rash debacle, then a brief bath that ended all to abruptly with another bout of diarrhea.

My poor girl. Poor Mommy, too, who had to scrub out the tub but dumped all the bath toys into the dishwasher. That's okay, right?

About yesterday.

Yesterday was the big conversation with the three doctors at MGH. My mom was there, obviously, along with my brother and my cousin. And I was there via speaker phone.

The conversation was long and thorough. The doctors sound excellent.

But. They estimate her five year odds of survival to be approximately 50%.

Because I hadn't known the staging of her disease -- because of the inconclusive pathology report -- I hadn't been prepared for that.

Fifty percent doesn't sound that bad until it's your mom who you need in your life and your baby's life 100%.

My mother seems to have a great attitude and is full steam ahead. She scheduled her full body scan for next Monday and she will start chemo next Wednesday.

But I felt like I'd been steamrolled after the conversation.  Which was complicated and made more stressful by the fact that the nanny was texting me in the middle of it to tell me that Calliope was vomiting. I tried to stay at work and my medical assistant mostly shielded me from patients but when the nanny texted me at 2:50 pm to tell me that Calliope wouldn't stop crying and wouldn't get up off the floor, I was officially 110% done with work. I threw my files in a drawer and took a cab hurriedly home, preparing to take her immediately to the doctor. But once I got home, my fears were assuaged. She looked like she didn't feel well but not in any danger, medically.

So I put on a video for her -- a first, really, but she was too tired to play -- while I worked on (mostly) finishing assembling her new toy kitchen. It was good to be distracted. And then I watched my two TV shows on Hulu and did my best to avoid thinking about anything at all. My mood was all kinds of black. I know from experience I just have to get through the evening and not talk to anyone or blog or think. Just get through it and go to bed and do my best to make sense of it all in the morning.

And today was better, at least in part because I was distracted by Calliope's stomach bug. Whatever it takes, eh?

This afternoon my brother and I talked briefly by phone, and he again broached the subject of me coming "home" to MA to visit. I explained that I had to balance the needs of myself, Mom, and Calliope. There was a brief pause, and then he responded,

"Well, I hope you'll add me to that list."

"What do you mean?"

"I hope you'll add what I want and need to the list of people you are considering."

I was completely taken aback. I mean, seriously?

But I responded, "What I meant was, I have to think about how those three people are feeling, physically. Because I've been exhausted, Calliope is sick, and Mom may not be feeling well from the chemo."

But after we got off the phone, I was stewing. Seriously? You want equal consideration with me, my baby, and our sick mother?

We just talked a few days ago, and he asked me to come down, and I said I would do my best. I was already feeling pressured about it, and trying to calculate if I had the energy to come down after Christmas, after all. But was also trying to remind myself that I need to do what is best for Calliope and me, not what is best for my brother.

But after steaming about it for a couple of hours, I'm proud to say that I called my brother back and said, "I'm feeling stressed about our conversation. Because I really liked what you said the other day about trying to be there for each other. But I need to know that your support of me isn't contingent on when and how often I come to MA. And I need to know that you are doing for Mom because you want to, without expectation of how much I will do, and that you will pay attention to how you are feeling with how much responsibility you are carrying."

We had a productive conversation and I feel much better now, like I won't have to worry about him bringing up a visit every time we talk. I'm feeling very relieved that it went as well as it did.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Advice From the Pediatrician

  1. Try mixing baby food into her yogurt, fruit purees and the like. It won't necessarily add a lot of calories or nutrition, but at least it's exposing her to some new flavors.
  2. Bring her in for a weight check. Preferably during January, but she agreed to the week of Christmas instead, since I'm off from work then.
  3. Contact Early Intervention. She thinks that Calliope won't qualify, but that the intake person will have some useful suggestions.
  4. Try offering her a book or toy to look at while she's eating. Normally she doesn't advice distraction while eating, but sometimes with reluctant eaters, it's worth it.
  5. Rest assured, at some point, she will start eating more. 

Tomorrow's Appointment

Tomorrow is Mom's big appointment with the team at MGH (I suppose that's Massachusetts General Hospital) -- a urologist, an oncologist, and a radiation oncologist.

My brother is going, and my mom just asked my cousin Bonnie, former RN, to go as well. And I will be there via speaker phone.

My mom is very anxious, not surprisingly, but I'm not. I suppose because I feel like we aren't getting news, just having the plan revealed to us. I'm not exactly clear what the difference is, but to my pea sized brain, there is one.

Of course, it's my mom's life that's about to change, not mine, so that's a big difference, also!

My brother and I had a good, constructive conversation tonight. He asked that we communicate more frequently, and try to be supportive of each other. He was really calm and thoughtful on the phone, which is not always the case, but it reminded me that I really ought to give him the benefit of the doubt more often. He was such a jerk for so many years that I automatically assume, now, that he will be a jerk now, and he is occasionally, but often he's a lot nicer than I give him credit for. So I'm going to work on that.

Calliope was up at 5:15 am, perhaps because she was in bed at 5:30 pm last night, sans dinner. (Of course, she was up at 10 pm and 4:30 am to nurse, and then nursed again at 5:15 when she decided that sleep was for the birds.) I was convinced that she was hungry, but she refused to eat anything. Well, she took one bite of banana, but promptly spit it out. She even refused -- gasp! -- Cheerios and crackers.

She did eat some toast with cheese with the nanny today -- and had diarrhea afterwords (sorry for TMI). And a couple of ounces of plain yogurt in the morning and at afternoon snack time. Otherwise, no food. But the nanny said she had a good day, including a long and joyous and splashful bath with Eleanor, plus a more than three hour nap!

So I was shocked when I walked in tonight. She looked, well, awful. I mean, she was walking and "talking" fine, babbling away, but her face looked haggard and her eyes looked drawn. Apparently she had been having a stomach ache and crying in pain a few minutes earlier, sitting on the potty. Poor peanut.

She skipped dinner tonight (but, sorry TMI again, had another bout of diarrhea) and with all the nursing yesterday, I had ample milk again, which she didn't even finish. So I'm prepared for midnight snacks! And am swilling herbal tea like crazy, just for extra fortification. I'm glad for only one more work day before the weekend. I do feel like breastmilk and yogurt, with all those live active cultures, are the best things for her right now, so I'm glad that she will take them.

I tried to call to make an appointment to see the doctor about the feeding issues (not the ones of the last few days, but before that), but the receptionist offered to have the doctor call me to discuss them. I'm still awaiting a call back -- she texted me that she would call me this evening. I'm eager to hear what she has to say. Who knows, maybe she will say it's all due to teething, and let's just do a weight check and hold off for now. That would be fine. I just want someone else to shoulder a little responsibility.

I'm feeling a little guilty, in advance, because my brother said he really wishes that we would come to MA for the Christmas break. And I really don't want to. And I know that's selfish.

It's a huge amount of work to travel with Calliope. Not just picking up the rental car (or cabbing to the airport), but the packing, the schlepping, the organizing... and there's the getting there. Which is worse: screaming on an airplane, or crying through the long car ride? (And if I've just potty trained, how does that work in concert with being stuck in a car?) And then, I arrive. To a house that's not baby proofed -- not terribly dangerous, since there's at least a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs -- but isn't ideally set up, either. Very few toys. So lots and lots of Mommy trailing Calliope around the house. That's pretty tiring, too.

See, I know this sounds selfish. And to some extent, time "off" with a toddler won't be relaxing no matter where I am. But being in my own space, I pretty much know the extent of the mischief she can get into. It usually consists of her emptying the drawers of my nightstand plus the toiletries drawer in my dresser. Which means I find a bar of soap under my desk, say, and cotton balls scattered around the entryway.

It also means that we can walk to the playground every day, or to hang out with whichever friends end up staying in the city during the holidays (it seems most folks flock to the suburbs where relatives can more easily accommodate visitors than we urbanites). It means Calliope can sleep in her own comfortable crib, and I can sleep in my comfortable bed... in separate rooms. Without climbing stairs. Without riding in cars. Without being in someone else's space.

I guess here's the thing: if I wanted to go, the work wouldn't be a big deal. But I don't want to. I want to stay home and potty train and enjoy life at Calliope's pace, or at least, do things with and for her, like trips to the zoo and the children's museum. I want to slow the pace down for a few days, instead of trying to accomplish something like a trip to MA, never mind dealing with the whole situation once we get there.

I so wish the distance wasn't so great. I wish we could go for a night or two, and without such a long drive.

But the thing is, I just don't want to come back to work tired from my "vacation." Life is challenging enough right now.

I guess we will have more information tomorrow about what to expect for my mom. It may turn out that she won't want a busy (and germ laden) toddler in the house while she's enduring chemo. Which makes me feel awful, to think about how sick she may be, and how all I want is to avoid seeing that.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Feeding Evaluation

Unless things change rapidly in the next few days, I've pretty much decided to take Calliope to the pediatrician over the Christmas break to discuss  her rapidly shrinking diet, and to explore the idea of a feeding evaluation. She is eating only a handful of foods now. Really, peanut butter, crackers, and dry Cheerios are not the mainstays of a healthy diet. (She also eats yogurt with the nanny, though not with me, and occasionally a little cheese. Plus she's still nursing, though not a lot.) The nanny and I keep a notebook with what food she's eating, and we also sometimes record what we have offered. So I think that will be useful.

But basically, the situation is stressing me out, and I need someone else to either tell me, hey, she's fine, don't worry about it, or alternatively, yes, there's a problem, and here's the solution.

I'm not so worried about her weight per se -- though I don't think she's gained any weight in the last month, I also don't think she will starve herself -- but more about the stress of meal times for me, and why it is she won't eat. Why she's lost interest in fruits and vegetables and bread.

After A Day Off From Work, I Shouldn't Feel Crappy

But I do.

Possibly it is the result of spending several hours on the floor, trying to assemble the stupid toy kitchen I ordered for Calliope as her Hanukkah present.

I called in sick today because of Calliope's 103 degree fever last night, but she woke up without a fever and seemingly feeling fine, apart from a runny nose and an unwillingness to eat anything all day, apart from a couple of spoonfuls of peanut butter and some dry Cheerios. Plus she nursed, but who knows how much milk I have these days?

So I asked the nanny to come at 10 am with Eleanor and watch both girls so I could work out and shower, then go to my lunch hour chiropractor appointment. (God bless the chiropractor, who does amazing work and also has become a good friend. I cried on his exam table last week, my only breakdown since my mom got sick. Something about being a patient let me feel like it was okay to let down my guard for a minute.)

Anyway, I came back feeling great and got right to work on the toy kitchen. And got totally stuck on the second step -- I couldn't get the screws to align properly. After about five times of taking them out and trying again, I finally oh-so-casually mentioned my frustration to the nanny, and she graciously offered her assistance. We spent the next two hours on the floor while the babies crawled over and around us, scattering an entire box of ziploc bags everywhere, "talking" to Siri on the nanny's phone, and generally wreaking havoc. We let them watch the entire DVD from the baby signing class -- they've never seen more than two songs in one sitting before. But sometimes, you have to do what you have to do.

The kitchen is still far from done. Even though I put in at least another half an hour after the nanny left to bring Eleanor home.

And so maybe it's the mess in the middle of the living room floor that's making me feel, just, I don't know, pissy and off.

Maybe it's that my mom was advised today that there's no time to waste in starting chemo, and ideally she should start next Monday. Maybe it's the fact that I feel like she's skittering from one team to another, each time convinced that they are the obvious best and only choice.

I don't know. But I'm trying to avoid feeling how crappy I feel right now.

I also mentioned the weight thing in my last post. And I know that is weighing on me (heh). The thing is, I'm eating well. I'm not eating any junk. I am eating more carbs than I am supposed to, but that's because I'm hungry. And any plan that suggests I ignore my hunger is not maintainable. Biology is stronger than any diet. I just wish I wasn't hungry. Though I'm definitely eating tons less than a year ago, say. So why did the weight loss stop? Is it starting again? Sometimes I think so, other times, I think not.

And now, back to the stupid toy kitchen, just to get the mess off the floor. Or else to bed. At 8:10 pm. Because at least then I can't see the mess.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Progress and Setbacks and "It's Not About What You Can Do But What You Are Willing to Endure"

What a whirlwind couple of weeks it has been.

Calliope seemed slightly congested at bedtime last night, more congested this morning, and spiked a fever while I was at work. Her temperature was up to 103.1 at 5 pm. She looked remarkably good when I got home, and was toddling around saying "Hi!" cheerfully, but decomposed into runny nosed tears shortly thereafter.

I gave her some Motrin, nursed her, and put her to bed at 5:30 since she had no interest in dinner. I'm glad she at least was willing to nurse; I was shocked to realize this morning that we had both forgotten about it, a first. I'm hoping for a peaceful night tonight, though planning to go to bed early just in case it's not. I'll stay home with her tomorrow, guilt notwithstanding.

My mom finally got her pathology report. It still seems pretty vague but diagnoses her with a "high grade carcinoma." She has her appointment at MGH on Friday with a team of doctors (she's had to postpone this twice because the pathology report wasn't available.

She seems to be extremely positive and focused on getting control of the situation. Although she told me yesterday that she wasn't planning to work for a while, that she lacked focus for the office (she co-owns a small law firm), she apparently changed her mind and went to work today and plans to continue to work for now. I'm very glad about this. I think she needs to stay busy, even if it's hard to stay focused on work. Sitting around alone at home and focusing on her illness seems like a recipe for depression, even for my remarkably cheerful mother.

As for me, well, last week was tough. I felt totally exhausted and overwhelmed. And stressed and a little depressed. I had balancing work plus home so well for so long, relatively speaking, that I thought I was on top of my game... but adding my mom's new illness into the mix completely threw me.

Last week, my body and soul was so bone tired I thought long and hard about asking for respite care help from friends with Calliope so I could have some time truly alone to decompress. But then my darling girl took a two and a half hour nap on Saturday and a three hour nap on Sunday! God bless her. I worked out both days, and during Sunday's nap,  after my workout and shower and cooking for the week and cleaning up the apartment (three hours is a loooong time to get things done, especially when you think each precious minute is your last one to get things done, and so you're racing around at top speed), my mood turned around. Phew.

Apart from my mom's illness, I've been struggling with my, well, body situation, for lack of a better word (I am try to avoid using "weight.")  Again.

Rip 60 is going very well. I started Level 5 after the Thanksgiving week (a recovery week of yoga which I only did every other day), and I was surprised to find Level 5 not nearly as hard, relatively speaking, than Level 3. Though it's ten minutes longer, which is an adjustment, now a full hour, including warm up and stretching afterwards. But the challenge seems more doable. And I love my alternate days of elliptical -- it feels so fun, now, to "just" work out on the elliptical, compared to Rip 60.

My brother unwittingly gave me a new mantra which I've found very helpful, "It's not about what you can do, it's about how much discomfort you are willing to endure."

This is great because it's easy for me to get discouraged that I can barely do a plank with reverse crunch, despite all these weeks. But if I just focus on how hard I'm able to push myself, that's a lot more motivating.

And yesterday, sprinting up the stairs at school in pursuit of a "profusely bleeding head injury on the fourth floor," I was shocked how easy it was to pound up the stairs. Pretty cool.

I plan to increase again to Level Six during the week of Christmas, since as a Jew, I have no real plans and lots of opportunities for rest between workouts. My brother seemed to get stuck on Level 6, so I'm a little intimidated by that, but hoping for the best.

The thing that's been hard is the weight. After losing a bunch of weight, slowly, over months, it's been coming back. Very disheartening. Mostly because I don't feel like I have much control over the process.

I eat as healthy as I know how. I refuse to starve myself, or to count anything. I eat when I'm hungry, and stop as soon as I'm full (not stuffed). I believe that dieting only leads to weight gain, so I no longer even try it. I do follow a general nutrition plan -- high fat, moderate protein, low-ish carb -- and it was working well, albeit very slowly, for me, so it's incredibly discouraging to see my progress falter and, indeed, reverse.

But now I'm wondering if it's just that my body takes a long time to show the effects of eating, so that the gains I'm experiencing are from Thanksgiving and before, when I was eating cookies and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. So that I won't really see the results of the hard work I'm doing now for several weeks.

I hope so. I hope the tide is turning.

I'm reading Anne Lamott's new book, Help. Thanks. Wow. And she talks about asking for help when we feel stuck. So I'm practicing that. And it feels good, to turn over some of the responsibility to the universe.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Good News

The chest CT shows no sign of cancer!

Thank god.

Another Tiny Bit of News

My mom went to the gynecologist yesterday. Remember that the urologist who did the biopsy felt that her cervix felt "strange" and hypothesized that the tumor had possibly spread from her cervix to the bladder?

Well, the gynecologist was so sure that her cervix wasn't cancerous today that he didn't even do a biopsy, just a Pap smear (her last was two years ago). He also did an endometrial biopsy. She had one of these two years ago as well. Both were normal.

But he apparently felt around all her organs in the reproductive tract and said that everything felt 100% normal and he was pretty darn confident that the cancer had not invaded.

My first reaction to this news was dismay, as in, "Oh crap, if it's not cervical cancer (which is generally so very treatable), what the hell is it? And where is it coming from?"

But my mom was very cheerful about the news, and seems to think that this means it's just in the bladder.

So I'm not sure anymore what to think.

The doctor also gave her a copy of the report from the pelvic CT scan, so my mom read me some of that over the phone last night. Here's the "impression,": diffuse infiltrative bladder mass with perivesicle tumor invasion, illiac and retroperitoneal lymphadenopathy."

I'm not sure what the "perivesicle" part means (an online dictionary says it means "near the urinary bladder") , but the rest, I think, means that the tumor has invaded the walls of the bladder, and that there are enlarged lymph nodes in some parts of the pelvic/abdominal cavity. Although two different doctors said they were not able to see any enlarged lymph nodes on the scan.

Again, I no longer no what to think. I guess my mom's optimism cheered me up, at least for the time being.

Her consult with the team of doctors at Mass General has been delayed until Monday as the pathology report is still not done. Apparently trying to figure out what these undifferentiated cells are, and where they are coming from, can take a while.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Tiny Bit of News, Sort Of

So my mom has a preliminary report on the biopsy. The tumor is "a poorly differentiated carcinoma."

In other words, the tumor isn't made of bladder cells. They can't quite tell where they come from, but think they might be cervical.

My mom goes for a cervical biopsy tomorrow, and is working on getting a chest CT scan.

So I feel like I'm weirdly hoping that this is cervical cancer, because cervical cancer is very treatable. Right?

I'm sick at the thought that it could be in her lungs. I'm hoping fervently that the fact that she had no symptoms is good. I mean, it has to be, right? Just doesn't guarantee it won't be in her lungs.

I got into bed at 8 pm yesterday because I just needed the damn day to be over. I wanted to work out this morning but Calliope was up at 5:30 am (after a 4:30 am nursing) a rare occurence for her -- asking for food, no less, and then only eating a little peanut butter -- so I spent the time with her... and put her back to bed at 7 am! It's been a very long time since she took a 7 am nap.

Calliope's diet seems to be shrinking. Today she refused to eat any fruit, something she used to love but is gradually becoming less interested in. She also has been refusing meat lately (before she used to at least eat chicken apple sausage), and only had a few bites of cheese this evening. She has started refusing yogurt with the nanny (she hasn't taken it with me in a while). She used to love toast but now only eats the peanut butter (or rarely, cheese) off the top and leaves the bread. She has always loved grapes and clementines, but is lately refusing them.

Foods she eats as of this week: peas, corn, cherry tomatoes, peanut butter, crackers, cheerios, hummus (sometimes), cheese (rarely). A couple bites of banana, but only if it's not cold.

And of these, only peanut butter, crackers, and cheerios are a sure thing.

It's making me anxious.

And yes, it's good to have something to be anxious about that doesn't involve my mom's diagnosis.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Thank you all for your lovely and supportive comments. They were wonderfully helpful and heartwarming. I hope I will respond to them more personally but until then, please know they were appreciated.

My mom is feeling pretty much back to normal now and is awaiting results of her biopsy. Originally we thought we would hear tomorrow, now it sounds like we are hoping for the day after tomorrow.

My brother gave up his heroic act after three nights and fled back to his own apartment. I think he will be easier to deal with now.

I asked my mom to please stay with my brother for the night before their consult at Mass General so they can both see what it feels like for her to be staying there, since he had said she could stay with him while receiving treatment. She responded that she's planning to do so... but she already thinks it won't be a good idea to be dependent on him.

So now she's moved on to Plan C, based on the advice of a good friend and neighbor of hers, which is to go to the Lahey Clinic in Boston. This friend of hers works there and she has several other friends that work there as well. This way, she could rely on friends to help her get there if she can't drive herself, rather than only relying on my brother.

I'm very, very relieved that it seems like we won't have any family drama for the time being.

Oh, and this neighbor also told her that bladder cancer has an excellent prognosis! So that's excellent news!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Dark Cloud

My brother called me at the end of my work day to share the report from the surgery: the tumor was "remarkably large," larger than they typically see. And her cervix felt "strange" so the surgeon thinks it is involved, also; too soon to say if the tumor spread to or from there.

It's funny, I'm remembering now the pattern with my dad's illness and my reaction to all the steps in the journey.

Because, you see, cancer isn't this piece of bad news you get and deal with.

It's this incredibly long string of little pieces of bad news. So very many days get to be ruined by little pieces of bad news. Here's how they go.

First, there's the strange calm as I receive the news via phone, generally in the clinic where I work, my mind  elsewhere. I am intellectually processing the information, but marveling at my lack of emotional involvement. I hear the words, but it's almost as if we are discussing a patient. I ask astute questions, answer other questions politely, even make merry comments.

Then we get off the phone, and I marvel again, at how quickly my cheerful attitude evaporates. A dense, grey fog settles over me, like it crept over the San Francisco hills in the years I lived there. I feel frozen. Neither happy or sad, just... numb.

And then I get home, and it's the evening, and I'm in a black mood. I'm pissed off. I don't want to do this, dammit. I've been through this with one parent already. I don't want to do it again.

I distract myself with senseless entertainment. Tonight I watched an episode of Parenthood, a blessed relief... which would've been better if one of the characters hadn't been suffering the ill effects of her first round of chemotherapy. But it was still good, still an escape. I don't want to talk to anyone, don't have anything to say.

But when I called my brother to ask how my mother was feeling, my mom answered his phone, so we had a nice chat. She sounded like herself, despite having been under general anesthesia earlier today. She asked about Calliope. I racked my mind for cute details of my girl's day. I acted and sounded exactly like normal, cheerful and constructive, until I got off the phone. God forbid I share any part of my emotional landscape. That's not part of the way I do things in this particular play.

Now I'm planning to download the new Anne Lamott book, because I deserve a treat, and because sometimes her spiritual wanderings speak to me. I could use that tonight. My Kindle and I will curl up in bed, and I will wait for the anger to leave.

In the morning, I expect that I will have re-adjusted to today's new normal. And my anger will have lifted, and I will be my cheerful again, even knowing that my Mom has a very large tumor in her bladder, and that we await results from Monday's pathology report.

Monday, after that report, I expect to go through this same cycle of emotions all over again. I did it so many times with my dad's illness, and it seemed to be the same every time. I hope I've learned something about how to do this "better," somehow, by now.

Family Drama Already?

It's two days post-diagnosis and my mom is at the hospital, awaiting her biopsy. I am assuming this confirms the cancer diagnosis and also presumably tells us the cell type and thus, how aggressive the cancer is.

I'm still avoiding doing any internet research and am just waiting to see what the doctors tell us. My brother is with my mom and he will call me after the procedure, since she will be groggy from general anesthesia.

My mom lives in a suburb of Boston, and my brother lives in Boston proper. With my sister recently relocated to Florida (from Western MA) and me in Brooklyn, he is the one who is local, and also the one without a family (he is recently divorced, and doesn't have kids). My sister and I have volunteered to come up as needed, but it's obviously not practical for us to to be there on a regular basis.

When my dad was sick with brain cancer (diagnosed seven and a half years ago, died five years ago), I was a nurse practitioner student and living on the upper west side of Manhattan (and childless, obviously, though in a long term relationship), it was a lot easier to get to MA. Typically I would rent a car (my ex-boyfriend worked for a rental car company, which made things easier) and leave Manhattan at 6 am on Saturday. I was able to make the trip in just over three hours. Friday night traffic made it not at all worthwhile to even attempt the trip then. I would stay until noon or so on Sunday, then head back to the city.

Now, well, I'm an hour further from MA. And of course, I've got this little person dependent on me. Who doesn't like the car, particularly, though she's much better about tolerating shorter rides than she used to be. And packing for us both is much. much more complicated than packing for a single adult. And then there's the idea of a toddler tramping all over my mom's house, which wouldn't be relaxing for a sick person, not to mention the fact that her home isn't babyproofed. At least my mom recently bought a baby gate for the bottom of the stairs (but not the top). Traveling with Calliope for Thanksgiving was stressful and exhausting (though rewarding, also), and I had really, really hoped to avoid it for Christmas. I was looking forward to a quiet week at home, enduring potty training bootcamp and enjoying trips to the zoo, botanic garden, and children's museum.

But of course, if my mom wants me to come, I will find a way to make it work.

What I'm worried about is that my brother will want me to come, simply to even the score. To make up for the care that he is providing, which may or may not be needed or wanted.Which is frustrating on so many levels.

When we spoke on the evening of my mom's diagnosis, he already alluded to his expectations for me, something along the lines of, "with me being the one that's local and on the front lines, I'm going to need help from you and J (our other sister)."


First off, my mom is still healthy and feeling fine. He has taken it upon himself to move in with her for a few days, which is very nice but I'm not sure my mom feels it's at all necessary. (I wonder if she's cooking for him every night? At least tomorrow night my cousin is bringing over a pot of soup!)

She also told me immediately that she did not want to get a second opinion, that she really liked the first doctor she saw. He immediately told me that of course she needed a second opinion, and his ?soon-to-be girlfriend, who is a OB/gyn, got him the cell phone number of the "best" specialist in Boston. And that furthermore, treatment in Boston would be clearly of higher quality than in Worcester, at UMass, and also much more convenient for him. And for my mom, too, since she might want to stay with him, to be closer to the hospital.

I don't disagree with the idea of getting a second opinion, but I felt like it was also important to honor my mom's wishes. He technically listened when I explained that it's important to respect the autonomy of people with serious health problems (not my own original thesis, something I was taught in nursing school), but obviously didn't agree with the sentiment when it came to getting a second opinion. I'm concerned she may be swayed by his forceful "persuasion" (he is like a dog with a bone when it comes to an argument, and has been like that since he was six years old and could, even then, bend her to his will, which of course, brings up her own issues with being all-too-easily persuadable, but I digress) and end up getting treatment at a facility that is inconvenient to her home (and of course she will want to be in her own bed, in her own home if she's not feeling well, not on an Aerobed in his empty bachelor's apartment!) and her friends.

I'm also remembering the very terrible day after my dad died, when my brother and sister decided that we simply had to clean out every cupboard and drawer in my mother's entire three story house before the funeral and shiva calls. Cleaning was the last thing I felt capable of; they were convinced that this was an obvious example of my selfishness. Never mind that I had been getting up hours earlier than each of them each day to help with our dying father's care while they slept. That was ancient history, as far as they were concerned. This descended into a screaming brawl that left battle scars for me, at least, for a very long time.

So I'm very worried about my brother's demands on me, which I may feel are unreasonable, and having to choose between doing things that are arduous for me (like traveling to MA with Calliope) and feel unnecessary versus having pitched family battles again. Enduring another experience like that would probably do severe and permanent damage on our relationships.


My attitude when it comes to siblings is live-and-let-live. I'm not placing expectations on my brother about what he should be doing for our mother. Her friend offered to take her to the biopsy, but he insisted on taking her. Which is wonderful, and I'm grateful, but I don't expect that to be held against me, either.

Why is it that these challenging family experiences, which have the potential to bring us together, seem more apt to tear us apart? How do I get through the coming months and try to protect those relationships while also protecting the lives of Calliope and myself?

Advice welcome.

And now I return to being in a more present and positive "space," and leaving these worries to fend for themselves for the time being.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Bad News

My mom called today as the work day was drawing to a close and I was frantically trying to finish charting in a depressingly tall stack of charts.

"Well, the news isn't good," she said matter of factly.

"They found a tumor that's taking up 60% of my bladder. No wonder I've had to go to the bathroom so much lately!" (A symptom she had failed to mention until this moment.)

She continued, "the doctor thinks it looks like an aggressive kind of cancer, and that one or two lymph nodes are involved, but not the kidneys. But he can't be sure.

He wants to do a biopsy, hopefully later this week, to see exactly what we are dealing with. But most likely they will want to do chemotherapy first, before surgery, to try to spare the bladder."

Almost cheerfully she added, "but not to worry, Massachusetts just passed a medical marijuana law!"

My heart is heavy tonight.

I'm trying to stay present, and not think too far into the future, and also not tell myself stories about why this isn't fair. Although I don't know how to meditate, and surely wish I did, and also that I had the discipline to actually do it, I'm mostly dwelling in my feelings, and not my thoughts. I learned through my dad's fight with cancer as well as other painful events in the last few years that thinking is a dangerous occupation.

Geneen Roth, a writer I admire, says to describe how an emotion feels in the body, to give it a color, a texture.

So how I feel right now, it feels like a gluey, gelatinous grey cloud is sitting on my diaphragm. Not making it hard to breathe, exactly, but just making my heart feel very, very heavy.

Tonight, after I dressed Calliope in her pajamas and fleece sleep sack, and gratefully nursed her (one side only), I just sat in the chair and held her for a few long minutes. For once, she was still, and simply rested her head on my shoulder, sucking her thumb quietly and contentedly. Finally, she pulled away and looked into my face with the kindest, gentlest, most loving smile... and then leaned in and carefully pressed her lips against mine in her first ever closed mouth kiss.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Feeling Wistful

Eating her Thanksgiving "dinner" -- the cookie was the only thing she ate

Playing train with Cousin William, age five, who generously donated
the hand me down and completely grotty doll she's so avidly clutching.
Naturally, she greatly prefers that doll (who came home with us) to the
completely lovely, soft and cuddly, baby doll my sister got her for 
Hanukah. <Sigh>

Calliope continues to progress towards weaning.

I nursed her at 5 am when she woke up crying... but her crying already sounded like it was starting to trail off by the time I made it into her room. I decided to nurse her anyway, partly because I was about to start working out and I didn't want her to wake up hungry while I was in the middle of it, but partly, maybe the bigger part, because I didn't want to miss my chance. We've gotten out of the habit of nursing when she gets up for the day (around 7 am) because it's time consuming and makes me late, and I figured she didn't need it if she was nursing at 5:30 am.

Plus, the nanny and the other baby were coming at 7:15 am and that would be way too distracting for nursing.

Anyway, even at 5 am, she only wanted to nurse on one side.

Despite my vows to the contrary, I decided to pump at work today because I felt full.

Tonight, once again, she only wanted to nurse on one side, and shook her head decisively no when offered the other side.


Part of me wants to stop offering and wait for her to ask for it, because it hurts a little when she says no.

But that's being silly. I'm the grown up, and I need to keep my ego out of it.

I think part of this is that my mom has a knee replacement surgery scheduled for Friday. Last week, as part of pre-op testing, the doctor discovered some unexplained blood in the urine. A CT scan today showed a thickened urethra. And there is some small chance that it could be cancer. And I'm scared about this possibility. I've already lost one parent. I can't bear the thought of losing another. Calliope's and my life would be bereft.

So I think this is playing a big part in my melancholy tonight.

And yes, I'm worried about the impact of weaning could have on my mood.

Thanksgiving was otherwise good. We traveled to the Boston area to see my family, both immediate and first cousins, plus their families. It was lovely and drama free and totally fun... but also exhausting. Fifteen months and honing walking skills is not an ideal time for airplane travel, in case you were wondering. And waking her up at 4:30 in the morning to go catch a plane felt terrible, though she handled it well. Of course, when we were at the totally empty airport and through security with two hours to spare, I felt a little silly... but far better than trying to rush through a crowded airport with a toddler.

I'm very thankful for the nice time away and also to be back home. One more reason I'm hoping my mom is just fine is that I'm very excited for a quiet Christmas break at home. Even if it contains an attempt at potty training!

Modeling the beautiful new sweater my sister made for her

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Baby Led Weaning, Part Two?

Calliope found this random Santa hat and decided it was a stuffed animal
and thus carried it around with her, hugging it and saying "aww!" 

Here she is being busted out of her "secret" hiding place behind
the glider where she had retreated here to cuddle with her new
friend the Santa hat.

Baby led weaning is a phrase coined to mean "letting your baby learn to eat solids by sharing your food with you."

We tried this and it was pretty much a dismal failure. As an infant, Calliope was very hesitant to try new tastes and textures, and seemingly repelled by the prospect of actually touching any food with her hand.

She now eats quite well, but it is still quite limited in what she will try. Our local mom's group was discussing popular quick foods to serve toddlers; suggestions included: lassagne, quiche, enchiladas, all sorts of beans, lentil soup, and scrambled eggs. Calliope won't touch any of these foods.

Correction: she ate a black bean once. Well, she tasted it. And promptly spit it back out.

She also had her first taste of pizza last night, and likewise, spit it back out.

I think she still prefers foods that are made up of single ingredients. Or two. Like toast with peanut butter, or slices of cheese, or chicken-apple sausage (cut into strips). Pizza or casseroles are way too many flavors mixed up together.

But anyway, in this case, when I say "baby led weaning," I mean weaning from breastfeeding.

I have been wondering when weaning will happen, because she greatly enjoys nursing. In the evenings, when I ask her if she wants "neh neh," she starts fake crying immediately, as if I've been refusing her all evening. When she hasn't even asked for it.

But today, after a long nap which left her crying hysterically (should I have waited to go in to get her until she stopped crying? I never know what to do in this situation), she outright refused to nurse. Usually nursing in this situation is a magical "reset" of the situation, so I was disappointed. This morning, before her morning nap, she only nursed on the right side. We missed the afternoon nursing because we were out with friends (at this point, I try to avoid nursing in public). So at bedtime, I was sure she would nurse enthusiastically, so I started again on the right side (the left always has more milk so I always start on the right). But she refused the left side again.

Leaving me an evening spent cozying up to my crappy mini breast pump (the good one is at work), because I was afraid of getting a plugged duct or mastitis if I went twenty-four hours without emptying my left breast.

I'm planning to pump two more days at work, Monday and Tuesday, for my friend's baby.

And then, that is it!

She clearly doesn't need the calories from milk, since she's obviously filling up on table food and just using the nursing as a quick comfort. So there's no point in my trying to maintain my supply by pumping (she's refused to take expressed breast milk by cup or bottle since the end of last school year).

I'm curious this is baby led weaning (of nursing), or if a decreased need for milk won't mean a decreased desire for comfort nursing?

I thought I'd be sad to wean, but I think that if it happens because she initiates it, and it's gradual, that I will be fine with it. I suspect that as a working mother, I can see all the advantages of her increased independence. I felt like my sister prolonged my nieces' babyhoods in some ways and I wonder if some of that is because, as a stay at home mom, so much of her identity was (is) wrapped up in their needing her?

This is not to say that my sister nursed too long because of being a SAHM (that's too intimate of a relationship for me to judge... she nursed the older one to 28 months and the younger to one day shy of four years), more that I saw her doing other things for them that I suspect I won't do, like carrying them a lot even when they could walk well, particularly the younger one (who was very small and thus easy to carry), and "wearing" her in a baby carrier long after others have stopped (she sent me a picture of my niece strapped to her back on a fussy day when my niece was seven). I love it that Calliope can walk now, and just today let her push the stroller instead of ride in it on our way to a friend's car, and when we arrived at our destination, I opted to leave the stroller in the car in favor of letting her walk or be carried.

Time will tell how weaning works out. But I do think it's funny that I was just wondering about this issue, and worrying she would never wean and that I would have to force the issue... and now it looks like maybe she will take care of it all on her own. Growing up is an amazing thing!