Thursday, March 26, 2009

So a short update. My last IKEA trip was successful, and relatively low-stress. The worst part about the whole thing was having to stop to sit down every 15 minutes or so because I thought I might go into labor. We got some furniture for Noah's room, and put it together in a few hours. He was so excited for his "new room," and now I can actually have some space for the poor boy's clothes. And we got a crib for the newest little one that will get us through until we figure out where we will be living in the future. AND, miracle of miracles, I did manage to find a bookshelf for my playroom closet that fit and was put together in about 15 minutes. So all in all, I would say that Sweden has redeemed itself with me.

We are still ironing out details on the job/moving front, which has been stressful. Alex will be finished at his current job in less than 2 weeks, and hopefully starting with a new company immediately after that. But we are still in limbo with many things, so I am hoping that we get it all ironed out soon and I can know what is in store for us over the next 6-12 months.

And on a more fun note, today I caught up with a friend of mine from grad school. Our lives have seemed to follow parallel paths the past 8 years. We got married within a year of each other, got pregnant (twice!) within a few months of each other, and she just dealt with a long-distance move so that her husband could have his dream job. We both have an older girl and younger boy who are about 2 years apart. And today we discovered that our children are exactly the same in their personalities. It is very strange. Anyway, she gave me a great idea for a new project to add to my blog, and I am really excited about it. I need a start date, which will proabably be either the day Alex takes his new job or the day our next child is born. I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Here I am, sitting in front of my computer, trying to put into words all of the craziness that has been my life for the past few months. There has been a lot of drama in our family lately, some more pronounced than the everyday drama that is normal at this point. Between losing a job, trying to find a new one, possibly moving, selling/renting out house, and thinking about basically living apart from my husband for a year, my emotions have been on complete overdrive. Oh, and add in the hormonal craziness of pregnancy that I have talked about before. It really is amazing to me that I make it through any day without melting into a puddle of tears.

But one thing has been the hardest to deal with through all of this. My grandmother is dying. It sucks, and there is no way around it, or to say it so that it doesn't sound so bad. She is dying, and she doesn't have much time left. Now I know that death is a perfectly normal and natural part of life. I fully accept that. In fact, when I was working in hospitals, I always loved working with families and patients who had terminal illnesses, or who were actively dying. It sounds totally morbid and bizarre when I read it in black and white. But being allowed to sit with a person and help he or she and their loved ones through the process of dying is an amazing privilege. It is a time when people really need to talk about what they are going through, but unfortunately, many people are too uncomfortable to hear a lot of what needs to be said. And of course it is a sad time for everyone, but it can also be very therapeutic to be able to talk honestly about what everyone is going through, even if some of the feelings are quite ugly and scary.

My grandma has cancer. Stage IV cholangiocarcinoma, which means it is inoperable and metastatic. It is also a very rare cancer, that is almost never detected until it is too late to "cure" it. Now, from work experiences, and losing other loved ones, I always thought that having terminal cancer would suck, but at least it would give the person and their family time to say goodbye, spend time together, and comfort each other through the whole thing. And the hospice programs out there are simply amazing. The hospice philosophy really addresses every need of a dying person and their family, and tries to help everyone through the process with as much respect, dignity, and support as possible. I always thought sudden deaths were so much harder because you just don't know when something might happen, and there is a chance that things could be left unsaid or undone. But the fact that this woman is dying is absolutely killing my family right now.

My grandma is an amazing woman. She dropped out of high school and got married when she was 17 years old. She has raised 7 children, has 23 grandchildren, and almost 16 great-grandchildren (there are a few that will arrive in the next few months). She worked both in- and outside of the home, and I always thought she was one of the smartest people I knew. She has always been independent, joining classes, going out with friends, traveling, etc. And she was a lot of fun. Growing up, we spent part of almost every weekend at her house, celebrating birthdays, swimming in the pool, and having sleepovers. She even taught me how to do a headstand when I was younger!! And she had always been healthy and active. After my grandfather passed away 5 years ago, she had a rough time, but seemed to be doing better the last few years. She and her home were the hub of our enormous and crazy family for as long as I can remember. I have the most amazing memories of all of us swimming and barbequeing at her house for hours on summer nights.

Unfortunately, as usually happens over time, the family has grown apart. Some of it is just due to normal everyday events. All of my cousins and I have grown up, gotten married, and we are all having our own families. So it is a lot tougher to have to entire family together at any given time. There have been some more divisive events that have occurred over the past few years, but with a few exceptions, we all keep in touch and see each other when we can. However, with this illness, the family is trying to work together as much as possible to take care of my grandmother for as long as she is with us. But in addition to the actual cancer, and the medications and side effects that come with it, my grandma has also had a lot of mental and emotional changes over the last 6 months. The last 2 months has been especially hard. Is it dementia, or from the cancer? Does it really matter? Not really. She has started to have a lot of memory problems, gets angry and agitated very easily, and needs supervision and care 24 hours a day. It is hard on anyone to take care of an aging parent, but when that parent is suffering from both a physical and mental decline, the toll on the caregivers is enormous. And though her children are trying to work together as much as possible to care for my grandma in their homes, it is hard. I can see the toll it is taking on everyone, trying to balance the grief and anger over losing a parent with the mental stress of caring for someone who isn't really the person we are knew and loved for so long.

I am pulled in different directions over the situation. The social worker in me wants to put a plan into action, and can be very practical about what decisions need to be made. Maybe she needs 24 hour nursing care and aides to come into the home, or maybe she needs to be cared for in a skilled nursing facility, where people are trained to deal with dementia and the behavior it brings. I know it is not worth the family become angry or bitter or burnt out, when what we need to do is concentrate on the time that we have left with this amazing woman, the matriarch of our family. But how do you say that you can not take care of your parent? It feels like you are giving up in a way, that you can't "suck it up" for a while. It feels like a betrayal of her and all that she has ever done for us. But what is the price that this family will pay?

I am trying to get through this whole thing, and balance the other things going on in my own immediate family. I can not imagine what it will be like when my grandmother is no longer here with us. But I also know that, in a way, that woman that I have so many memories of is not the same person that I see now. There are times when she seems like the same old grandma, but often she is distant, removed from what is going on around her. And I know that it must be terrifying for her to experience. To not remember the simplest things, like how to count money. To become suspicious of your own children, or lash out towards them, and then have no recollection of the event. I know that everyday the person we know and love is slipping a little bit further away, retreating into a place that we may never find. I just hope that we can all help each other get through this time, and keep remembering the woman who gave us this huge and wonderful family, with so many happy memories. I hope we come through this as an even stronger and closer family, who can know we did the best we could for her at one of the most important times in her life. And I hope she continues to know how much we love and treasure her. I hope we remember that she loves us, and would do anything for us, even though she may not be able to express it in the right way.

I hope.

Friday, March 13, 2009


So I know I swore off the store for all eternity, but tomorrow I am headed back to IKEA. We need to get a few pieces of furniture that won't cost an arm and a leg, so hopefully the Swedish design warehouse will have what we need. But this time I will quadruple check every single item in my cart before I check out, and measure any necessary spaces 5 times before we go. Hopefully there won't be any crying involved in this trip, or the aftermath of the assembly. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Mixed Bag

I now have 8 weeks left until I am scheduled to have a C-section to deliver the newest addition to our family. I am a total emotional wreck most days, feeling like my hormones are taking me on a most unpleasant roller coaster ride to hell and back. I go back and forth from being excited to terrified, from feeling like I might actually have things under control to sobbing for 20 minutes because someone asked me how I am feeling. It is so frustrating not being in control of your own body, and never knowing what it is going to do to you on a certain day. Added to the hormone craziness is the fact that I have not gotten a solid night's sleep in over 2 months. I was never this physically uncomfortable during my previous two pregnancies, and it is really driving me up the wall. I have had terrible, and I am talking rotting out my insides terrible, heartburn and reflux. It is so bad that daily doses of Zantac and about 15 Tums doesn't even touch it. I also have hip pain that makes me feel like a 90 year old arthritic woman. I know that some women are so ill, need to be hospitalized, on bed rest, etc. I know that all in all I haven't had it that bad, but these two things, combined with all the usual discomforts of pregnancy and a kid that seems to want to box 10 rounds in my uterus the second I get ready to sleep, have driven me to a level of sleep deprivation that I have never visited before. I just hope I can manage a few good nights before the baby arrives and I am up all night feeding and rocking and changing him. I pray that this little boy makes an early entrance, so that maybe I only have 5 or 6 weeks left of all this. Still, in the midst of all of the complaining and discomfort, I am so excited to meet this little being that has been growing inside of me. I can't wait to hold and rock and feed a newborn again, even if it is at 3 AM!! I have started getting out the old baby clothes to wash, and I find myself smiling and giggling while deciding what he will wear home from the hospital. At the same time, I think about all the memories I have of my Noah in those little onesies and hats.

Which brings me to a whole other set of feelings about bringing a new little boy into our family. While rocking and singing to Noah at bedtime the other night, I found myself getting sad. Sitting here now in front of my computer, tears are coming to my eyes. With the birth of this baby, Noah is no longer my baby. And as much as he has been driving me insane the past few months, this little boy is just the sweetest, cuddliest, most adorable thing I have ever seen. I feel like I need to mourn the loss of his "baby-ness." I find myself giving him some extra cuddles during the day, and rocking him just a few more minutes before putting him in his crib at night.

I went through this with Georgia when Noah was born, too, but she had such a different personality. Georgia was always much more independent, quieter, and calmer than her brother is at the same age. She was not a super-cuddly kid, even at 22 months. At bedtime she was all business, preferring to get right in her crib after stories instead of cuddling for a few minutes in her rocker. She definitely had a rough time going from the only child to sharing the attention with her baby brother, but adjusted pretty quickly. I was also able to give her a lot of individual attention during the first couple of months, so I think that made a big difference. Noah still seeks out a lot of attention from us, and would gladly be held and cuddled all day long. He is very much the "baby" in our house, and I am dreading how he will handle giving up this role. My attention will be divided by three, and he will now be the middle child. I know I can still cuddle him and hold him and rock him at night, but I also know that I need to get him used to being more independent. And I know I am going to be even more tired than I am now, and so I may not have all the energy or time that I want to be able to give to each child.

It is so easy when you have the first one. You can devote as much time and attention as you want to that single, beautiful baby. You can hold them, and dote on them. You can sit and just stare at them while they sleep. There are only happy, welcoming, thoughts when that first baby is born. With every child that comes into a family after that first one, the emotions are split. The anticipation and excitement at meeting the new little one are still there, but they are tempered with a bit of sadness and loss. Your stable little family unit of three now has to take in a new member, and find a new equilibrium. You don't know what to expect anymore, at least for a few months until things calm down. And everyone has to adjust to their new roles, saying goodbye to the old ones.

We are at that point right now, just before jumping off the cliff again into the abyss of the unknown. I know that 6 months from now I will have no idea what it was like before I had three children, and my family will be wonderfully chaotic, yet stable again. As much as I want the next few weeks to fly by for my own comfort, I also want time to stand still. I want to take in every little moment of calm and quiet before the proverbial storm. I want to give and get as many cuddles as I can, and really enjoy my children and where and who they are right now. So tonight I will sing a few extra songs to Noah, and sit with him for a few minutes longer, knowing that I might not be able to do that very soon. And I will love him as my littlest baby for as long as I can, before he says goodbye to that title forever.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Perfect Example.....

....of what is wrong with our society.

First, the background info. Georgia and I were having a disagreement today about her clothes. Mainly because she loves to wear as many items as possible during the course of the day, and I am sick of the amount of laundry she generates. She has other, quirky, 4-year-old requirements about her clothing, of course. She prefers to wear dresses and tights, and does not like to wear pants that have a button and zipper. She is very sensitive to how things feel on her skin, so I try to work with it. Consequently, whenever I see any elastic-waist pants on sale in her size, I usually bring them home. But the child must add to all of this by feeling the need to change her clothes almost every 3 hours, and by putting on such crazy combinations and layers that I end up doing 2-3 loads of laundry a week just for her. It is never-ending.

So today, after we had a potty accident, I sent her up to her room to get new underwear and pants. And I specifically said, "only underwear and pants." When she comes down she has on a completely new get-up: pink leggings, pink long-sleeved shirt, blue skirt, and pink and brown short-sleeved shirt. So I tell her she needs to take off the one shirt and skirt, and we will take them up and put them away when she rests this afternoon. A meltdown follows, with her flailing on the floor, and me pointlessly trying to help her understand the copious amount of time that washing and putting away her clothes takes me. Eventually she calms down and I hear her say quietly, "But I am not pretty unless I wear a dress or skirt."


I called her over to me and asked her to tell me what she said, and she told me she didn't want to, that she was just talking to herself. But within a minute she was crying in my lap, that she, "just doesn't feel pretty unless she wears a dress." My heart broke for her, and tears began to stream down my face. I just wanted to hold her and rock her and go back to those quiet moments we used to share when she was an infant and toddler.

Now, I know this is not the worst thing a child could say. But for my just-4-year-old daughter to say something about not feeling pretty enough based on the clothes she wears , something has to be seriously wrong out there. I can not figure out where such an idea would come from. I, like every other mother out there, think that my baby girl is the most beautiful thing to walk this earth. And I tell her so everyday. But I also tell her how brilliant, and funny, and caring I think she is as well. And maybe I am making too much of this remark. Maybe she just likes dresses more. She does play with her sparkly, frilly, dress-up clothes every single day. But she also plays with the doctor, pirate, and chef outfits, too. So why on earth does she think that she isn't pretty unless she has a dress on?

My only thought is that there is such an emphasis in our society on appearance, both material and physical, that is has already reached our girls in their pre-school years. And it makes me sad.....and sick at what the next 20 years will bring both Georgia and I. I fear that she will travel down the same road I did, only now it seems like young girls have it a thousand times worse. I have struggled with body issues, feeling like I just don't have the "right" thing to wear, and fear of rejection for a large portion of my life. In my mid-20's and 30's I have finally come to believe, really believe, that I like myself exactly as I am. Sure, I would love to lose a few pounds, and the stretched out skin that my soon-to-be three kids have given me. Who wouldn't? But I try to focus more on just doing things to keep me healthy. Besides, every stretch mark I have is a reminder of the amazing process that my body underwent, and that brought me the most treasured beings in my life. I will never be a size 6, and that is okay. I don't think I would feel like myself if I was. But I do take care of myself, and want to make sure that I am as healthy as I can be so that I can see my babies grow for years and years to come. I want my kids to see that taking care of yourself and your health is what is most important, not looking a certain way, or having a certain item of clothing. I try to focus on the relationships that I have, ways that I can improve myself and the world around me, which is why I chose to become a social worker. And it makes me ache that my only daughter is already starting to think that some "thing" could make her feel better or worse about herself.

Maybe I am over-reacting, blowing this whole thing way out of proportion. But I was so blown away by the intensity of her feelings and tears, that I feel like I need to start really paying attention to her self-esteem. I know she will ineveitably have those moments where her self-confidence falters, when she wishes her hair or eyes were a different color, her clothes from a different store. Right or wrong, those moments are a part of every teenage girl's life. But those moments should be few and far between, not constants. I want to raise a daughter who is proud of herself, all of herself, for who she is, what she does, and how she treats others, not for the label on the back of her jeans. And now I know that I need to work even harder to help her get there.....starting now. At 4 years old.