Monday, June 24, 2013

Weekend At Camp (The Post is Nearly As Long As the Weekend)

Calliope and I spent our second weekend at camp this past weekend. The previous weekend was pretty easy because it was just staff orientation, and we camp nurses are generally exempt from attending most activities. We are always welcome, but never required. This works well for me. I like doing my own thing.

But this Sunday was opening day.

When I worked here in 2008 and 2009, I was the only nurse. It was fine most of the time, but dispensing medications twice a day was always stressful -- these kids take a lot of medications despite it being a regular population of kids (apart from a small cohort of campers on the autism spectrum who participate in the Mitzvah Corps program... "mitzvah" means good deed in Hebrew. The rest of the campers have the choice to choose the mitzvah corps major, where they work with the ASD campers.) However, my second summer there, we witnessed an H1N1 outbreak, with 75 campers having fever (almost all within a few days of each other), then the director, Melissa, got MRSA, then we had a lice outbreak. So I was exhausted by the end of that summer.

So I'm very grateful that the camp now hires two medical staff. The second nurse, Francesca, is great. Very, very laid back. I am struggling not to naturally take over. She's totally competent and while there are some areas of being a camp nurse where I am clearly experienced and she is not, there are a lot of times where I naturally speak up and take charge because that's what I am used to do in my solo practice. She's very graceful about the whole thing and never seems to take offence but I don't like this tendency in myself. And I'm trying to work on it.

Opening day was brutally long. We had Saturday to prepare, and Calliope did beautifully in her two hour "practice" with the new babysitter. But being away from her for nearly 11 hours on Sunday was hard. I felt physical pangs towards the end of the day, and suddenly just couldn't be in the infirmary any more -- the longing to see my girl was intense.

Saturday night, the night before opening day, we were at an outdoor picnic dinner -- way past Calliope's bedtime -- and she tripped and fell on the pavement. Her mouth immediately had a rivulet of blood spilling down her lip. I grabbed her up and swabbed her mouth and immediately scanned her wailing mouth for dental damage -- I'm terrified of her breaking a tooth, or jamming one up into her gums -- and luckily couldn't find any sign of injury beyond a small laceration to her lower lip. Phew.

Her cries of fear and pain changed to screams of outrage as I attempted to hold an ice pack to her lip -- Francesca, well prepared nurse that she is, was carrying cotton balls to sop up the blood as well as disposable instant "ice" packs. I gave up after about three minutes, figuring that she got some benefit even from brief icing. And carried her off to a very late bedtime. Unfortunately, the next morning, jumping (from a kneeling position), she bumped her lip again, barely, and it bled profusely all over again.

The schedule at camp is stressing me out. Well, we've only had one day of actual camp, plus training days. But the schedule seems to always be in flux. There's a lot of hurry-up-and-wait. I need to be available to distribute medications prior to meals. And it's also important to me to be fairly consistent with Calliope's schedule. So if I know dinner is going to be late, I can take Calliope to the cabin and feed her ahead of time. And either put her to bed, or not, depending on the timing. But last night, we were ready to distribute meds from 6:15. A half an hour later, we still hadn't seen any sign of the campers, so I lugged Calliope -- who was done with hanging out with the babysitter -- to the camper orientation session. The assistant director whispered that the director had forgotten about "med call" and was going to postpone the medications, but changed her mind, and would, after all, be sending camper for meds before dinner, in just a couple of minutes.

So I scurried back to the infirmary with Calliope, handed her extremely "reluctant" self over to the babysitter once again, and waited. Soon after, a number of campers showed up. Maybe one third of the number we expected. As this was our first time dispensing meds, we had some snafus with things being in the wrong place. Finally we were done and everything was safely locked away. Then a new camper arrived to be medically cleared. With an apologetic wave to Francesca, I scrambled to the dining hall and found Calliope sitting in a high chair at a table with the assistant counselors, two of whom are her babysitters -- everyone eating. Except maybe not Calliope. On her plate was a whole (unripe) pear, 95% of an apple (the rest was sliced off and shaved into pieces on her plate), some olives, cucumbers, and raw broccoli. The size of the fruit made me laugh. Bless their good intentions.

After dinner -- I made Francesca a plate so there was food for her when she finally arrived, though I didn't have enough foresight to make it until the meatball supply was limited -- I very deliberately and a bit resentfully did not return to the infirmary until I had taken Calliope back to our cabin for a bath and to read some books. I felt like she had been neglected long enough, opening day or not.

Once Calliope was in bed -- at the shockingly late hour of nearly 8:30 (normally it's 6:30-7) -- I returned to the infirmary. Francesca reported that another one third of campers had come after dinner to pick up their medications while I was gone. Leaving a fair number of medications still unclaimed. Two hours after they were due.

I carried a box with remaining medications down the hill to the outdoor synagogue. The campers and staff were facing the large pond as it reflected the setting sun, their singing voices carrying beautifully across the open water. I squatted in the back and started popping open blister packs with my walkie talkie turned on low and tried to be unobtrusive. The other senior staff in the back were sympathetic.

Eventually the medications were all poured into little tiny envelopes and labeled with the appropriate names and cabins and handed off to the head counselor after a whispered consultation during the Mourner's Kaddish. Yikes.

Walking back across the property to the infirmary, I mused about this camp director. Melissa has unbelievable gifts. For one, when she's talking to you, she can make you feel like a million bucks. And this is true not only one on one, but also in large group settings. Shortly before the campers arrived, she had all the staff sit together and close our eyes, and instructed us, "Remember how you felt when you arrived at this place ten days ago, and how we've grown as a community. We are about to create a summer of magic for our campers. You are the keepers of that magic. And out of that magic comes the next generation of Reform Jews."

Even I, a (mostly) non-believer, was ever so slightly awed. And for the eighteen and nineteen and twenty year old staff, I'm sure they were completely enthralled.

That part is amazing.

The not so great part... is her organization. She likes to be involved with minutiae -- like being in charge of the grill at dinner -- making her unavailable when I have important questions. She plays fast and loose with the schedule. Often for unimportant reasons. She asked Francesca and I to wait for a meeting for five minutes for a meeting so she could say goodbye to a friend who was leaving... and kept us waiting for thirty minutes. She could have said, "I'll call/walkie/stop by when I'm ready" so we could've continued our preparations for the onslaught of opening day -- the infirmary is always the bottleneck on opening day and I wanted to maximize our organization and thus, efficacy -- but instead, we sat, unproductive, while she chatted.

Likewise, the evening activity, and not giving clear instructions to the camper regarding when to pick up their medications. Medication dispensation is not something I take lightly.

A previous summer, I was pretty sure a junior staff member had broken her leg, and needed an ambulance to bring her from her cabin to the local ER because she couldn't walk and her ankle had swollen to gross proportions. But the counselor's mother also worked at the camp, and didn't want me to call the ambulance until I confirmed that the camp would pay for it, because her child didn't have health insurance. But the director was in the midst of expelling two (favorite) campers who had been caught having sex. And was having a long and drawn out conversation with each of the expelled campers, in turn. I sat on the floor outside the director's office for forty-five minutes while the worried mother paced. The assistant director sat on the floor beside me, powerless to interrupt as the director had specifically demanded no interruptions. Both of us frustrated, though he was diplomatic enough not to say anything critical about his boss.

Finally, finally, I was able to talk to the director. I had just slid into one of the chairs in her office when the increasingly panicked mother bounced into the door and announced angrily, "I couldn't wait any longer! I had to call 911!"

And then the two of them got into an argument. The director yelling that the mother had no right to do so since it wasn't a true emergency, and the mother shouting back that the director had taken too long to talk to me.


Of course, this happened five years ago. Maybe a lot has changed. But the disorganization of last night, especially, worries me, and makes me doubt it.

And as a side note, I still don't know if I did the right thing by waiting to talk to her, or if I should have interrupted. I so rarely have a non-medical person question my authority to interrupt a meeting that I was wholly inexperienced in this situation. The principals in my school -- a building of 1350 children -- have never questioned my right to call an ambulance or make any other medical decision. Was a broken leg an actual emergency? I thought not, since it wasn't life threatening, especially since the patient had waited overnight to even report the problem. On the other hand, she was in a lot of pain and I was enraged that I was told by the assistant director, on her orders, not to interrupt, even to help my suffering patient. He sat beside me on the floor, clearly frustrated also,  both of us feeling powerless. (I suppose I want her approval and positive feedback, as we all do, or else I would've interrupted any way. I mean, who cares if she gets mad at me, right?)

Compromising Calliope's day so much was the most frustrating of all for me. So much time spent waiting, when I could've fed her and put her to bed, but was waiting to be available. If I just decide that past a certain time, I'm going to leave and put her to bed, I'm not being fair to Francesca and the campers. If I make Calliope wait (and wait and wait), I'm not being fair to her, and it's not her fault that the schedule is so disorganized. I could ask her babysitter to feed her early, I suppose, though I prefer to assume that responisibility myself. And I hate to use a babysitter (no cost to me, but still) when I am not actually doing any work besides waiting.

The money is helpful, for sure, but I'd love to find a way to not be frustrated by this situation. I know, as is true in life, that I can't change her. So how can I find a way to provide appropriate care for my daughter (and by extension, myself) and also make peace with camp, and Melissa, being who she is.

I know that I can't change her, and I can't change camp. How can I change my myself and my thinking so that I'm not frustrated by the realities there. And how can I get to a place where I don't care about her approval?

Friday, June 21, 2013

My Own Parenting Fail

Prompted by Obernon's post...

A few weeks ago, I was in the hall with Calliope, waiting for the elevator, when I realized I had forgotten my water bottle. I dashed back into the apartment, grabbed the water bottle, and dashed back out, hurriedly locking the door behind me.

I rounded the corner to the elevator... and Calliope was gone. It was eerily quiet.

I started laughing hysterically. I didn't know what else to do. Then I pushed the elevator button maniacally a few times. And waited, because what other option did I have?

Moments later, the door opened. There was on older Russian woman standing there with her laundry cart. And there was Calliope, looking up at me uncertainly. Not crying, though.

I swooped her into my arms, giggling and nudging my face into her neck, kissing her repeatedly and saying, "I didn't know where you were. You have to wait for Mommy."

But this was partly as defense against the Older Russian Woman, who immediately began scolding me. Until she heard me faux scolding Calliope, and joined me in chiding my toddler.

The truth was that I never imagined she would think to get into an elevator without me. So I never even paused to warn her to wait.

My parenting fail.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Twenty-One Month Recap

Feeling like herself again after a nasty virus

Doing her best to play despite a fever and sore throat

After applying sunscreen all by herself (she LOVES sunscreen).
Not sure if she's felled by the virus or the sunscreen.

Scooter and purple shirt from Grammy

Water Fountain Fail. She's eager, but clueless, on the technique.
When her appetite returned. In her new Big Girl Chair. 
She loves being able to climb in and out by herself.
And the buckles! So. Much. Fun.

Honey Bear needs her teeth brushed. Notice the extruding tongue
 -- a serious task like this requires total concentration.

Massaging some peanut butter and honey into her hair.

Friends out for a walk

What's more fun than dinner spent at the playground, 
contemplating the sprinklers but not quite going under them?
Serious hair volume, post-peanut butter and honey treatment.

Sitting on the cross bars of the elliptical while Mommy works out

Sorry, my darling girl, Mommy hasn't done a very good job of keeping track of your accomplishments this past month. So this is a little haphazard.

You can now identify pink and purple correctly, at least some of the time. Purple is your clear favorite -- you say it in such a delighted tone of voice, "Puhhh-pull."

You don't know your letters, but when you want me to sing the alphabet song, where as you used to ask, "AB?" plaintively, you are now saying "ABCD?"

You love our goodnight song, You Are My Sunshine, and as soon as I finish singing it, ask for another round of "Sunshine?" Sometimes you "sing" along, in your own wordless, tuneless crooning. You know this makes me laugh and lose my ability to keep singing, and you revel in this. In fact, you do your best to make Mommy crack up each night during singing. When I start to laugh, you chuckle delightedly in my arms as we both shake with mirth.

You also ask for the Itsy Bitsy Spider -- by making the (very approximate) hand motions, and "Tinkle" by making the sign of a "diamond in the sky." And you love "YiYiYo" (Old McDonald).

You still doesn't run very well. Eleanor started walking 2-3 months after you but now she runs much better than you. Admittedly, she looks hilarious, because she runs with her hands up in the air. But what toddler doesn't look funny when she runs? You tend to swing one arm wildly and clench the other close to her chest and sort of fast-walk-shuffle when you want to run.

Babycenter says you should be able to jump from a step, albeit awkwardly. Well, you delightedly announce "jump" ... as you step down. On a flat surface, you squat down and says "jump!" as you straightens your legs and swing your arms... and never leave the ground. Oh well. It's very funny to watch.

What you lack in running and jumping, you make up for in climbing. You can scale ladders and clamber up climbing structures at the playground intended for much older children.

Last weekend we went upstate to work at camp for the weekend. There are no campers there yet, so it was a pretty chill weekend. You loved all the freedom of exploring paths without Mommy insisting on being right next to you. The Canadian geese were fun to watch, but even better was pointing out Every. Single. Piece. Of. Poop they left on the nearby pathway. I'm a little nervous about the un-fenced pond where the geese swim, and I wonder if I should avoid it in hopes that you will never go for an unplanned and unsupervised swim in the not-very-swimmable pond. Luckily the pool where we are supposed to swim in surrounded by a high fence.

But while you were an avid explorer of the physical space, you were reserved when it came to interacting with others. Well, you were happy to share pebbles and crayons and books with 19 month old Kylie, but you preferred not to talk (or give high fives) to the many teenagers who gushed over you. Hopefully they will still think you are cute even if you are reserved.

I'm nervous about what you will think about being with a new babysitter this coming weekend, when we go back for opening day. And I'm dreading another car ride. Since the day I brought you home from the hospital, you have hated the car. You are easy going in nearly all things... except when it comes to the car. You screamed and cried for all but the first ten minutes of the ride up, and all but forty-five minutes on the way home (when you blessedly fell asleep for an all-too-short nap). I feel awful torturing you like this -- given your happy nature, I know you must be very uncomfortable to be causing such a ruckus, but I don't know what alternative I have. This coming weekend, I am nervously going to turn your car seat around to face front and pray fervently that this does the trick. Is it possible that the sight of me, driving, could do the trick? Or could it be that it would less carsickness? (You never throw up in the car but I suspect you might be nauseous.) At the end of our trip back to Brooklyn, you were sweaty and shaking with sobs. I had to hold you and rock you for a long time, and then when I set you down for a mere moment to put on the baby carrier, you dissolved into sobs once more. My poor girl.

I just ordered a book about teaching young children to swim, and am hoping to work on that while we are camp. I think you will love the beautiful photos of babies swimming, regardless.

You were thrilled with the muffin bar, though, on Saturday morning. And clutched the muffin with dogged persistence for over an hour. No way were you letting that thing go -- who knows when you might get another again?

In the last month, you became a big fan of chocolate milk, thanks to the nanny -- she got you interested in one of those "juice" boxes of chocolate milk. We eventually segued into milk with just a teaspoon of chocolate syrup stirred in. And then you got felled with a nasty virus -- high fever and painfully raw throat that left you refusing to eat or drink anything for two days. And finally you agreed to drink, and kept asking for milk. I think it made your throat feel better. And so one day I gave you plain milk, and you drank it readily. And that was the end of chocolate milk.

Now I'm getting a little nervous about how often you ask for milk. If it's not one thing, it's another.

Off to practice the banjo now... this is something Mommy is doing for herself in the [limited] hopes that it might make her a more interesting and well rounded person.

Why bring books into the bathroom when you can bring the bathroom to the books?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

And Everything Else

I talked to my mother earlier today and she sounded pretty good. Hoarse, from the NG tube going from her nose to her stomach, but pretty aware. She's been out of bed and walking a bit. Once her GI tract is functional again, the NG tube will be removed, she can start eating, and assuming all goes well, she will be discharged to a rehab facility for a week or two, then home.

My sister left for Maine last night to go on vacation with her family, but my brother visited this morning and my mom's friend is staying in Boston to be with her for a couple of days.

So I was shocked to find my sister terse on the phone this evening -- I called to ask her to set up the Caring Bridge site so that people would email me so I could coordinate a visitor schedule. Apparently my mom asked (insisted?) that my sister return from vacation to be with her, my mom. My brother heads out on vacation tomorrow, I think, but he's been very involved with my mom's care all along, since he's the only one who lives near her. To be fair, my sister is annoyed with my mother, for not trying to schedule the surgery during any part of the summer except for the very brief 10 day vacation she has with her family. She's not mad at me, as far as I know.

But... I'm nervously waiting to see if there is fallout from either of my siblings. Part of me feels guilty for shirking my duty, the other part of me reminds myself that they are vacationing while I am starting a second job and working seven days a week for the next several weeks while also juggling being a full time mother to a toddler. Plus I have to go get my sutures removed next week (wouldn't be a big deal except the doctor is in no way convenient to where I live and work), so it's another really big item on an already crowded to-do list.

I'm trying to stay present and not get into arguments in my head ahead of time, and to remember that I can be sympathetic to their troubles without making them my responsibility. This is not always easy.

 Have I mentioned that I'm really nervous about starting this second job? I will be a camp nurse until July 21. This weekend is part staff week, which shouldn't be too taxing. I will be joining another nurse who is already there. I've worked there for two summers before, and it was kind of awful. Especially the second summer, when we had a massive H1N1 outbreak, the director had a misdiagnosed (by the local hospital, not me) case of MRSA, and a lice outbreak. Ugh. I swore never again.

But... I could really use the money. And I think, I hope, it might feel really different to be there now, now that I have Calliope. I think it will be fun to have a little cabin outside of sweaty Brooklyn, where there's a pool to play in (including a toddler pool), and nearby state parks to explore (if I can break away), and even a little daycamp for staff children -- I think there will be a little posse of five two year olds.

And being there with another nurse should make the workload manageable. And it's all adolescents, who generally avoid going to the nurse (unlike homesick younger campers), except for picking up their medications. There's tons on medications, particularly psychotropic meds. Not judging, but it's surprising the difference compared to when I was of camper age.

But I'm nervous about driving with Calliope -- who's not a fan of the car, though not the miserable ball of fury she was as an infant in the car -- and about tossing her to a brand new babysitter so I can get to work. And about the food -- I'm bringing lots with me, but not enough to entirely avoid the dining hall -- and about next weekend, opening day, when we will be swamped with work and I will have to fight Sunday traffic back into the city. And getting the rental car, and packing it (almost done packing, so one less thing to be anxious about), and mostly, just the many unknowns, and lack of control that comes with not living entirely independently.

Anyway, the plan is to work this weekend -- should be pretty easy -- then come back to Brooklyn and work Monday-Friday here. Then return to camp next weekend, and prepare for opening day on Sunday. There is a retreat starting mid-week next week so there will already be some teens there when I return on Saturday, but Sunday will still be insanely busy, checking campers in.

I will drive home sometime towards the end of the day on Sunday, leaving the other nurse to do a ton of work getting meds and forms organized while I bring Calliope home and prepare for my final three days of work.

I will work Monday-Wednesday in Brooklyn. Wednesday is the last day of school, a half day. I will scramble to finish all my end of the year reports and make it to a staff luncheon at 1 pm. Then hurry home and pack the car. Thursday morning we head back to camp for three and a half weeks. The other nurse leaves on her previously-planned vacation at dawn, but there's a staff spouse who's an MD who has agreed to bridge the gap until I get there. But that means arriving and handing Calliope off to the staff day camp and immediately getting to work. Hard on both of us.

I'm really nervous about all this, but trying to take it one day at a time. I just paid my annual malpractice premuims and thanks to them, feel like I'm going to barely come out ahead despite doing all this extra work. Oh well. I'm trying to focus on the fact that this could well be a fun little adventure for us. Calliope's first exposure to group daycare, but a mere five minute walk away from me. And I can pick her up and bring her back to our cabin for lunch and a nap every day. And we can swim every day -- she can learn to swim! And we can dabble in a little Judaism, since it's a Jewish camp (oh yeah, I forgot to mention that part). I had zero affinity for religion before now, but since having her, I'm marginally more interested. I think she will love all the singing .

The State of My Nose

The surgery, such as it was, wasn't really a big deal. Just time consuming.

After waiting at least an hour, I was the only one in the waiting room when I was called back (previously, my company in the waiting room was all a generation older than me.)

Once we got started, the doctor reviewed the procedue, then left before the nurse injected me with some lidocaine. I waited a while longer, then the doctor took off some skin. I kept my eyes tightly closed the whole time so I don't have any idea how much skin. I didn't want to know. Then she cauterized the wound. That part was creepy. She didn't warn me -- I just heard a whirring noise and then smelled it. Ugh.

I waited in the back waiting room with all my "friends" from the front waiting room, all of us with bandages in peculiar places on our faces. No one spoke.

Eventually, I was called back again, and the doctor said she had to take off just a little bit more. The nurse injected me with more lidocaine -- happily, I couldn't feel the sting this time around -- and then the doctor came back and cut some more, and this time remembered to warn me before cauterizing.

Then I waited in the back waiting room again while they once more examined the specimens under the microscope.

Eventually I was called back into the exam room again and told the surgery was done, and I just needed suturing. The doctor had previously told me it was possible she would refer me to a plastic surgeon, but now told me she would be able to do the work herself. Apparently, nose surgery can be tricky because the skin there isn't stretchy, and she would need to cut and stretch the skin over wound to minimize scarring.

The nurse injected me a third time with lidocaine. This time I waited an insanely long time, more than an hour. Finally the doctor returned. The suturing was strange. It didn't hurt but it felt very strange to feel all this tugging on my nose.

The nurse bandaged me up afterwards -- using an excess of gauze and paper tape, I thought -- and finally sent me on my way with a prescription for antibiotics, instructions for cleaning, and an admonition to avoid exercise for a week.

Um, what?

I become a b*tch on wheels if I don't exercise. The one week of my pregnancy that I didn't exercise (week 39, when the chiropractor was trying to get my pelvis into alignment so the baby would drop), I nearly killed everyone around me.

So I took today off. And tomorrow I will do an easy workout on the elliptical. And will most likely take Saturday and Sunday off because we will be traveling.

The nurse said that increased blood pressure associated with exercise can affect healing. So, fine. I will avoid Insanity. I think it would hurt too much to be jumping around, but mild exercise... feh. I will take my chances.

I changed the dressing this morning, before I was supposed to, because I just couldn't go to work with this montrosity on my nose.

Monstrosity, right?

I thought about staying home but that seemed uncalled for. The pain was getting to me on the subway ride home yesterday -- thank goodness I carry Advil and remembered to take it -- but this morning I felt fine.

So I very cautiously unwrapped the tape and curiously peered into the mirror. And was totally impressed with the doctor's handiwork! She did a beautiful job with the sutures. As nice a job as I've ever seen. (To be fair, I don't see a ton.)

I packaged myself up with a minimum of gauze, bacitracin, and tape and it looks much better... but certainly not any less noticeable. You just can't attach anything to your nose and expect folks not to notice.

Much less bandaging but still, not subtle. Check out the swelling, 
especially at the bridge of my nose. I'm lucky I didn't have two 
black eyes as well. 

Calliope certainly noticed.

She seemed concerned, and kept pointing at me saying, "Hurt."

She didn't want to let me pick her up at first, but eventually got over her fear.

Sufficiently recovered from her fear to have fun playing with the
camera on Mommy's phone

I brought home her first box of (character) Bandaids with me, so that she and Eleanor could experience having "boo boos" of their own (especially because she skinned her knee the night before and a bandaid plus bacitracin rendered her hysterical). They played with the bandaids briefly but seemed a little nervous about the concept -- could wearing a Bandaid make me have a boo boo? -- and quickly abandoned them.

Oh well. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before a box of Bandaids is thrilling. I just read a suggestion to bring a box on airplane flights for entertainment -- brilliant!

She's since gotten over her fear, though she still points to me and says "hurt" occasionally.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Mom Got Through Surgery Successfully

The surgery went well. It lasted about eight hours. The surgeon got "clean margins" (meaning all the tumor) so he was pleased. He ended up taking a bit of her abdominal wall, too, because there was a hard spot there. It doesn't sound like a large area, though.

They successfully re-routed (or created?) ureters to drain urine from her kidneys plus a stoma to form an outlet for the urine.

She has a tube from her nose down her throat into her stomach but is breathing on her own and talking a bit. The tube makes her throat her so they are giving her Chloraseptic spray for her throat. She can't have anything by mouth until the tube comes out; I'm not sure how they know when to take the tube out.

My brother and sister are both spending time with her at her hospital in Boston, for which I am grateful. My sister leaves tomorrow to join her family in Maine for vacation (they only came up for the summer a few days ago; my brother in law will have to return to work in Florida in another week but my sister and my nieces will spend the summer in MA).

Tomorrow I go in for my own surgery, which will not be a big deal, I think. Certainly nothing compared to bladder removal and hysterectomy! But it feels a little strange to go in for this procedure, having never met the surgeon nor having a chance to ask any questions. All of my information is from other folks who have had the procedure.

Mainly, I'm nervous about having a bunch of stitches and a big bandage on my face. Especially since I start my summer camp job this weekend -- making a bunch of introductions with a mess of bandage on my face is not appealing.

In brighter news, I had my first banjo lesson tonight! Fellow SMC Casey met me via Skype -- what better way for two SMC's to meet??? -- for a really fun half hour. I'm so excited to be making this lifelong dream come true! And I'm already looking forward to next week's lesson.

And now I return to another rousing rendition of Polly Wolly Doodle All Day.

Daddy Crush

Calliope has a big crush on Eleanor's Daddy.

She's not really one to cuddle with folks other than Mommy, though she occasionally shares a hug with Amy's Mommy or cuddles in our nanny's lap.

But Eleanor's Daddy came to watch Eleanor have dinner with Calliope tonight and Calliope was enthralled.

Of course she's too young to have an idea about what a Daddy is -- she just thinks this guy named Seth who comes with Eleanor is so funny and silly.

But I'm a little wistful. Watching her climb into the chair with Seth tonight made me a little sad on her behalf. I have no regrets about our little family. But I wish I could provide her with another person that loved her as much as I do, one that makes silly faces and plays chasing/tickling/turning upside down games.

She will be fine without this. And I will do my best to be both parents. I won't be perfect, and she will be fine. Maybe with Daddy issues, more likely not. And still, what good parent wouldn't want even more than what she can provide?


Monday, June 10, 2013

Please Keep My Mother in Your Thoughts

She's undergoing removal of her bladder and a hysterectomy this morning. We are hoping to fully eradicate the cancer.

She has asked for people to hold her in their thoughts as part of the Reiki and meditation work she has done for the surgery.

If you would like to follow her progress, you can do so on the Caring Bridge site. You will need to sign in (or register as a new user if you've never used the site before.)

She Didn't Get This From Me

Calliope, 21 months, hanging from the play structure while Eleanor watches
Thanks, donor!

Friday, June 7, 2013


I went to the dermatologist last week to get some questions answered about my chronic seborrhea on my face. It's fine for a while, then gets red and irritated again.

While I was there, I asked about a little plaque on my face, and also this slightly itchy grey ?pimple on my nose that I've had for a couple of months now.

He scraped off the plaque and aspirated the contents of my ?pimple and said it was texture. I didn't think much of it. He sent both to the lab for analysis.

He called last night to tell me that the plaque was fine but the ?pimple was actually... basal cell carcinoma.

Skin cancer.

He hastened to add that it's a very localized form of cancer, and not life threatening.

But it still rattled me to hear it.

I have to go have outpatient surgery next week, called Mohs surgery, where they take a bit of skin at a time and examine it under the microscope to make sure they got it all, then taking more skin as necessary. They said to allow 4-6 hours for the procedure.

The scar from where the ?pimple was is tiny, so I figured the scar wouldn't be a big deal, but my friend Jenn said she had something similar (on her abdomen) and ended up with nine stitches! So now I'm worried about that, and wondering if a plastic surgeon should be involved. I've left messages for both my dermatologist and the Mohs surgeon to ask about this.

Then, of course, my mother has her big surgery next Monday. I've mostly refused to think about it. She's having her bladder taken out as well as a total hysterectomy. I can't really deal, so I'm not.

And then this guy, the one that I mentioned, asked if he could call me on Wednesday. I said I had plans, but he could call me on Thursday at 8 pm.

And didn't call.

He texted me today -- late morning -- apologizing and saying he was driving in the rain and conditions were bad and he needed to concentrate. And also, that he thought I would call him. And finally, that tomorrow is his birthday.

That irritated me no end.

I haven't asked him for anything. Didn't initiate contact. Didn't ask to be in touch. But if you make a phone date with me, keep it. Or take the time to call or text and say, "sorry, change of plans."

This seems disrespectful.

My guy friend said, "Don't text. Wait until he calls -- he will -- then tell him that you treat a friend with respect. And he did not."

My female friend liked my initial idea of just being passive aggressive and saying, "No worries. Enjoy your birthday with your daughter."

I decided to go with her vote because I don't really feel like expending any more energy on this.

I'm not sure if it was a good focus for my nervous energy or just made me a whole lot more agitated.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

One-And-Done Versus T4More

There's been a lively conversation about having one child versus more than one on the SMC Forum of late.

I've always assumed I would have more than one, because it seemed like that would be the healthier choice for both me and Calliope -- to keep us from getting too enmeshed, to give her a larger family, to let me experience the joys all over again, to give her someone to play with.

But seeing one of my SMC peers, Obernon, seemingly conclude that maybe she's one-and-done, when previously she had planned to have two, really caught me by surprise. (Check out her blog post here.)

Somehow, seeing that she, whose daughter is the same age as Calliope, might be done made me re-think my assumptions that of course I should have another.

One of the questions I'm struggling with right now is how much I am being influenced by finances. (Not that that's necessarily a bad reason to decide to stop having children, but somehow, it doesn't seem a very interesting reason. Dumb, I know.)

I felt like I was doing better with money for a bit, but after a couple of more expensive months, I'm digging heavily into savings again. Our nanny costs will go up slightly next year. If I knew that I would hopefully only have a couple more years of full time childcare, I think I would breathe a lot easier. (I'm hoping and praying for a pre-k spot for Calliope in the school where I work when she turns four. If she gets in, I wouldn't have to pay for daycare at all, because she could be in my office before and after school... but it's a big "if." Otherwise I will have three more years of full time childcare costs ahead of me.)

The thought of paying for four more years on top of the two more years I currently face makes me swallow hard. I have no idea where the money will come from.

I have a second job lined up for July, working as a camp nurse. There will be free childcare for Calliope. And my friend who works for Avis is arranging for a rental car that will be extremely low cost, so I should be able to save quite a lot of money by working while simultaneously not paying a nanny. If I do it again next summer, I can also sublet my apartment and save a bit more (co-op by-laws state I have to live in my apartment for at least a year before subletting, which is why I'm not doing it this summer).

So this should help quite a bit. But I'm not sure I can make enough in a relatively low paying one-month job to offset the amount I am spending right now.

My family is supportive, and would help if I asked. But beyond asking my mother for help with things like birthday presents and baby clothing, I really struggle. It just feels wrong to ask for help paying my bills. So far, I haven't done it, apart from (major) help buying my apartment. Which my mother offered -- I didn't ask.

Money is really weighing heavily on me right now, T42 or no.

Apart from money... I'd love for Calliope to have a sibling. The question is what kind of mother would I be with two? I think I'm pretty fantastic right now, actually. I'm able to meet both our needs. Calliope gets tons of attention during the day, and I get plenty of rejuvenating alone time at night and during nap time. But with two children, that delicate balance would be out of whack.

I felt like there wasn't enough love to go around when I was growing up. I never want my child(ren) to feel that. I don't want to be a nagging, irritable, exhausted mother. I fear I would become this if I was juggling the needs of three people instead of two.

Thinking about having only one feels shocking. Like, it would be so easy. Isn't it supposed to be hard? So far I have found single motherhood to be very manageable. It feels like cheating, somehow, to just keep skirting through life.

I worry, though, about my life as Calliope grows up. With her as an only child, I fear I would be far too focused on her. Not a reason to have a second child, I realize... I could develop more outside interests instead! On the other hand, though, raising a child has been the most amazing thing I've ever done. I had no inkling of how much I would love it. How could I miss doing it again?

Project Mommy: Day Two

Even though I was totally exhausted last night, and didn't even have the energy to finish cleaning up the kitchen, I forced myself to get the guitar down from the wall before I went to bed.

I was not looking forward to it... and was pleasantly surprised to see how much fun it was to play and sing.

Guess what I was practicing?

The Alphabet Song.

But you know, it's perfect for practicing. Nice, simple chord changes. I'm terrible at remembering what chord goes when, so only having three chords to choose from was perfect. The version I found was also in a nice easy key.

I ended up playing for nearly a half an hour, trying to memorize the chord changes without looking at the music.

Then this morning, the sun woke me before the alarm clock. I got up, planning to work out, but as soon as I started warming up, my legs felt really sore.

So I played guitar again instead. And successfully memorized the chord progression, I think.

And then cleaned out my tub and my shower because the pipes backed up over the weekend, and got snaked yesterday. They were grimy and horrible when I got home from work yesterday but I didn't have it in me to deal with it last night.

I'm planning to show off my progress for the Calliope and Eleanor and Eleanor's mommy, Amy, tonight!

My strumming pattern is none too impressive -- I have no sense of rhythm, really, so it's just one down strum after another, but the chords and singing sound nice, I think.

I haven't subscribed to NY Magazine yet but I was looking for restaurant recommendations for my big night out on Saturday and ended up reading a great article about female sexual desire. Check it out!

When Women Want Sex, Even Men Don't Get It

Monday, June 3, 2013

Project Mommy

Thinking about dating, or at least, friends with benefits, and also reading Beans' post "Staying Interesting as a Mom" has left me thinking about what I could do to make me more interesting.

I've been thinking that becoming a mother has made me more introverted, but I realized today that's not quite it. The truth is that being with Calliope is not the same as being alone. Duh. This seems obvious, but it wasn't. Because she is easier to be with than anyone else, because I am so used to being with her.

But the result is that I really crave time actually alone. And in the evenings, when she's in bed, I typically watch a downloaded TV show and maybe catch up on blogs and Facebook.

But this makes me a very boring conversationalist. I mostly haven't cared enough to do anything about that. But I forsee a day in the near future when I might want to be a little better at carrying on a conversation about something other than my daughter.

To be clear, I don't think that I am one of those oblivious parents that blathers on about her child without being aware of my audience. Oh no. Last weekend, hanging out with childless friends of friends, I was careful not to talk about Calliope once she was tucked in bed for the night.

It's just that I didn't have anything else to talk about.

So I was generally silent.

My ignorance of the news, especially given that I was visiting Washington, DC, where news is what's for dinner, conversationally speaking, was especially noticeable. Hillary Clinton fainted? And resigned? Who knew?

Anyway, I've no desire to follow the news just yet. I don't care enough.

This obviously makes me shallow. I can accept that.

But I do care enough to make two (shallow) goals. Neither will change the world, but they will change me, just a little bit. A manageable amount.

One is to start reading New York magazine again. I used to really enjoy it. It's sort of a cross between a gossip magazine and a news magazine. But the writing is decent, and the gossip certainly isn't about dieting or bathing suits or anything like that -- they tend to do rather deep investigations of a random story I might not otherwise of heard of (even if I didn't live under a rock). Like, looking at the history of cheating in a prestigious NYC prep school, that sort of thing.

I figure this should give me some fodder for conversation and it's enjoyable, now that I have a little more free time with the infancy phase behind me. Reading really recharges my batteries, so to speak... so why not read something that might give me fodder for conversation?

The other thing I'd like to do is start playing music again.

I have never been a talented musician. And playing music is a solo activity, of course. But, something about hearing live music makes me feel alive ("canned" music leaves me cold -- I almost never bother to turn on my Ipod). Even just singing along with the street musician at the playground this morning -- his wonky rendition of Itsy Bitsy Spider -- left me feeling energized.

So when we got back from the playground this morning, I dug the Martin guitar that I inherited from my father out of the closet, where it has rested, undisturbed, since we moved into this apartment nine months ago. I dusted it off and tuned it and spent a few minutes playing and singing while Calliope played around me.

It was great!

My voice wasn't as rusty as I expected, probably from singing to her most days, so that was a nice surprise. (I sing "You Are My Sunshine" every night at bedtime, and as of a few nights ago, she learned to ask for "Sunshine?" so now I sometimes sing several rounds each evening. And then we sing Itsy Bitsy Spider for tooth brushing every night. And occasionally songs at other random times. Apparently that is enough to keep me ever so slightly in practice.)

My goal is to play both my guitar -- I can play basic chords and one bar chord and do some very basic finger picking, plus sing along - -and also the banjo -- I learned a few chords and then forgot them, several times.

My struggle with the banjo is that I love the clawhammer style of playing but the basic technique relies on a sense of rhythm, which I lack. If I could just get the basic technique down, playing wouldn't be hard and it would sound pretty good. Bluegrass style is much easier to master but doesn't sound as good. I've never quite gotten over the hump with the clawhammer style and I don't really like my bluegrass book and so I always get to a certain point and then give up again.

So my plan is to keep working on the guitar, and hopefully get past the plateau I've been at for several years... and hopefully that success will keep me motivated with the banjo.

Once I can master some basic banjo skills -- and this is the really exciting but also really challenging part -- my plan is to attend a "Banjo Slow Jam" meetup group for self-described "advance beginners." I am so excited by the idea of making music with others, knitting together my love of making music with an opportunity to socialize with others. And what sounds more breathtaking that making music with others?

My eventual goal would be to get a babysitter once a month to go to this Slow Jam. That's assuming, of course, that I like the group. I know the first time I go it will be terrifying. Meeting a whole group of new people plus showcasing my very limited banjo skills -- yikes! But if I can get over that initial hurdle, and if the people is nice and the music isn't too challenging, I think the group might really bring to life a dormant aspect of my life. I've never done anything like this, so it won't be easy. Wish me luck!

In the meantime: my modest goal is at least ten minutes of playing music per day. That should be do-able, right?