Friday, December 17, 2010

Lessons from my father

This time of the year is always hard for me. The holidays have been dappled with losses throughout my life and nine years ago tomorrow was the biggest loss of all. I realized today that a lot of the people who have become my closest friends over the past few years never met my hero, my father, so I decided to put together this small list of lessons that I was lucky to learn from him. I hope you enjoy the read.

Music is more than just notes.

My earliest memories of music are of sifting through my father’s records, curled up next to the record player, clutching Frank Sinatra’s Greatest Hits ( and listening to “Strangers in the Night” on repeat. Whenever I hear ol’ blue eyes sing “My Way” I still get teary eyed as that was my dad’s favorite karaoke tune (and boy did he love karaoke). At Christmas time I pulled out his cassette tapes of Perry Como and Johnny Mathis singing Christmas carols. My dad was always big on knowing more about the music than just the singer and that’s something I still look into today. When the radio still had an oldies station he would quiz me and my brother on the songs that played. “Who is this? Is this the original or a cover? What year was it? What album was it on?” And so forth. He was really excited when Forrest Gump came out because the music throughout that movie could have been my dad’s life soundtrack, too. He loved telling me stories about songs and it seemed like just about every song we heard had a story. “This was played at my 6th grade dance…” A big reason why I keep my XM subscription is because of Channel 6, and whenever we go to the Silver Diner every song I hear has a memory attached to my father. Now that Julian is obsessed with the Beatles, I am so grateful to share my dad’s passion for music with him.

If you see something you want (or in his case, someone), go after it with reckless abandon.

If you ever saw my parents together you knew they had a special relationship; a love story that any young girl could only dream of finding someday. I heard the story a million times. Here is the short version: He was a junior in college. She was a freshman running for class office. She walked into his science class one day to hand out campaign materials. She was wearing a peach fuzzy sweater, jean shorts, and platform shoes. He took one look at her and knew, “She is going to be my wife.” From that moment on he pursued her- followed her to her dorm, followed her to class, sent his frat recruits to carry her books for her. She would not relent. They were both in their own relationships which makes this story even more scandalous because he wanted her. She knew his reputation and she was *such* a goody-goody (still is). The government proclaimed martial law and everyone went home from school to their provinces, and while they were away boy and girl thought about each other a lot. “I wonder what they are doing right now?” Marital law ended, their other relationships ended, and they returned to the university town. Fresh off the bus, they were walking down the main road and they literally bumped into each other. They both claim they wanted to hug and kiss the other person but it would not be appropriate. He asked her out. She accepted. They went to a movie where he bought her some peanuts, and so began their life-long relationship. December 7th would have been 33 years married. They acted like two teenagers in love and their love story is my proof that true love- the kind you see in movies- does exist.

Ladies love the revolutionaries.

So my parents were in college in the Philippines during the Vietnam War. My dad said he would march in the protests not because he had beef with the U.S. government but because the ladies loved the revolutionaries. “Down with American Imperialism!” and the ladies would swoon. It’s ironic that he went on to join the U.S. Navy. J

Work hard. Play hard.

He was a workaholic but I wouldn’t say it was bad, although thank God Blackberries weren’t around when he was still working. I think it was because he could never turn off his brain. But still, he worked hard so he could play hard and every weekend (and quite a few week nights) you’d see him on the tennis courts for hours. He worked hard to take his family on vacation, take us to really cool places. I get my work ethic from both of my parents but he was definitely a model for me on how to balance work and life.

If you get a second chance (or third or fourth), make the best of it.

I didn’t know this until I was older but apparently my dad entered the University of the Philippines, the most prestigious university in the Philippines, as salutatorian of his high school class, to study engineering. He ended up being a Physics major. He partied a bit too hard and the engineering school kicked him out. The only school that would allow him back was the College of Arts and Sciences and that is how he became a Physics major. He was a brilliant man and it’s no surprise that he went on to get 2 postgraduate degrees during his career in the Navy. He took his second chance and did the best he could and I know it meant a lot to him that he was given that opportunity.

Look at the big picture.

I cried through my dad’s entire retirement ceremony from the Navy. These were not tears of joy but tears of disappointment that my dad did not stay in and go “for the glory,” as I told him, and get as far as he could. First Filipino supply corps admiral? I felt like he was walking away from his career and wouldn’t get the prestige that I felt he deserved. We had a big talk about it. At the time, his next posting would have been a move from Fairfax, VA to Corpus Christi, TX for my senior year of high school. He said he looked at the big picture of the move, its impacts beyond his career advancement, and decided it was time to move on from his career in the Navy and do what was best for his family here. After having been on a solid track in Fairfax County there was no way I’d be able to take the courses I needed to get into a good college in Texas. (Not that anything is wrong with Texas but I was looking at taking about 4 AP classes senior year that weren’t offered anywhere near Corpus Christi). What about VA schools? He could have gone alone for the year and left me and my mom in VA (Brian was at Old Dominion University at the time so he was away) but he couldn’t bear the thought of being separated from my mom for so long. And so it was, Mr. Practical, left his career as a Commander and went on to do some amazing things in the private sector. This is a lesson I’ve taken with me throughout my adult life, that I have to look at all the impacts of my decisions and do what’s best for all parties.

Always have plenty of toilet paper, water, and soap.

Did I mention he was a Supply officer? Commissary runs with my dad was like we were buying supplies to support a small village. Did we ever run out of essentials? Hell no. Our house was well stocked. For hungry teenagers, this was fabulous. As I’m finding with 2 itty bitties, you can never have too many wipes or crackers on hand. It’ll be interesting to see how that “essentials” list evolves as the kids get older.

Don’t wait to wear those clothes for special occasions.

My dad had dreams of being a singer upon his retirement. “Sitting at the dock of the bay” by Otis Redding was one of his theme songs. He dreamt of being a cafe singer in Hawaii, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, playing a ukulele, and hearing the ocean behind him. He had a stack of Hawaiian shirts that he kept for this specific occasion. He never got to wear the shirts. Lesson? Don’t wait to wear the clothes you want to wear or do the things you want to do. I have a couple of his shirts in my closet.

R.T.F.Q. and K.I.S.S.

God bless him, my dad had endless patience with me and math. I was pretty good at math until I got to Trig and Calculus where I might as well have been studying quantum physics. It was damn hard. There were times we’d be up late in our kitchen with endless papers around us with scribbles and marks and pencil points where he would point (with force) at formulas and say “RTFQ!” I was like, “what the hell does that mean?!” “Read The Fucking Question, Pamela!” Or he would look at my sad attempts at proofs and say, “Keep It Simple Stupid.” Throughout life I’ve written out these little abbreviations to myself if I am feeling a bit overwhelmed to remind myself to take a step back. My brother and I still laugh about these late night math lessons.

Remember your roots.

As a first-generation American, I always wondered what it was like for my parents to grow up in a developing country (is that P.C.?) and how it compared to how my brother and I were being raised. I loved hearing my dad’s stories of playing marbles with his brothers in the courtyard of their home or using sugar cane as a tooth brush (I think he told me the latter anecdote more to fuck with me than anything else. They weren’t that rural). When I was 10 we went to Hawaii on a family vacation and my dad climbed a coconut tree to get some fruit. Seriously? I had no idea he could do that. What I loved most about the Filipino connection was that no matter where we were or who they were, if my dad found a fellow Filipino whether it be in a grocery store or in a random city somewhere, he’d buddy up to them and before we knew it we’d be invited to this guy’s house for Christmas dinner with his family. We’re all related, right? I loved that my dad never forgot his roots and never held back in trying to share it with me and my brother. Does that mean I eat balut? Hell no. But I do remember him and my grandfather teasing me and my cousins with them.

Parenthood is not easy. Heck, life is not easy.

One of the last serious conversations I had with my dad was about him as a parent. I remember him thanking me for taking it easy on him and his parenting decisions because before he was a father he was just a man. He asked me to remember that he tried his best, to be the best father he could. That behavior extended throughout his life. He wasn’t perfect, he had his transgressions and his vices, but he knew them and he did his best by the people around him. I know that everything he did- making the Navy a career because it was the best way he could support his family (he didn’t intend on making it a career, but it just happened that way), moving us every couple of years- he did it all from a place of love and support. He did it all for us and I thank him. I thanked him all the time and I thank him daily now for the life he gave me and my family. In my eyes, he was a model father. He wasn’t perfect but he did his best and I try to live by that every day with my boys. (Mom, don’t think I’m not saying the same about you. You are absolutely the model mother and I can only hope to live up to the bar you have set for me).

Take care of the people most important to you.

I remember going to the Outer Banks the summer after 6th grade with a few other families. This was our crew when we lived in Philly, a group of Navy families that have watched me grow up from a wee one. My dad would stand in the water up to his thighs and watch us all play in the sound (our house was on Hatteras Island on the sound side so we could play without the waves). My dad didn’t swim (funny for being a Navy man). In fact, he didn’t like going too far into the ocean, but there he was, wading in the sound watching my mom windsurf and my brother and I go crabbing. The look of happiness on his face was overwhelming. Going off of my previous point, he did everything he could to bring happiness to the people he cared most about. He pampered my mom with trips to Europe, weekend getaways, dinners out- all because he knew he made her happy. How can someone get so much joy out of seeing happiness on other’s faces, knowing he’s responsible for it? I understand it now with my own family. I like nothing more than seeing my boys (Thad included) and my friends happy. I am so grateful my parents taught me this lesson.

As I read this list, I can only hope that someday my children can look back at the lessons I am trying to instill in them and think fondly of me. I know this list of lessons can go on forever but I think this is enough for now. I am a better person because of my dad and I miss him so much that my soul aches. I know that he is watching over me raise my family and I can only hope he is proud of the person I have become. I miss you, daddy.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Farewell, Fitzchivalry

You can keep a dog; but it is the cat who keeps people, because cats find humans useful domestic animals.

It was the day before Thanksgiving, 2005 when we brought them home. Thad and I had been dating for over a year and he just moved in that Columbus Day weekend. I was working from home at the time and, in my desperate need to feel social, told Thad that I wanted a dog to keep me company. He is not a dog person, or at least, wasn't. He is a cat person through and through. He gets cats. I joke that Thad is the Cat Whisperer because where most cats are aloof and run away from strangers, cats purr and run around Thad's feet. In compromise, we decided we'd get one cat and one dog. Good logic, right?

We found a cat rescue organization here in Fairfax that had two little grey kittens up for adoption. We didn't intend to get two, but really, how much more work is two than one? So off to Oakton we went to meet these two little furrballs. A Six-month old brother and sister pair who were dropped off at shelter in rural VA, we couldn't bear the thought of separating them so we decided to take them both after our vacation that week.

The first night here we watched them closely and they wouldn't come out from underneath Thad's easy chair. They were scared of the big screen TV and weren't too interested in letting us pet them either. Our roommate at the time said the first night here they howled all night. Little by little they let us get to know them and after a week or so we knew our home would never be the same.

First there was the little girl, Trillian, named after the main female character in "A Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy" by Douglas Adams. Then there was Fitzchivalry, named after the hero in the Assassin series books by Robin Hobb. They were identical but for size; if Trillian was Size 1, grey kitty, Fitz was Size 2.

If you asked me 8 years ago if I ever would have owned cats I would have laughed at you. I never really understood cats. I felt like they would sit there, judging me without getting a chance to know me. Cats made me feel incredibly inferior. Apparently this is normal behavior for a cat? I wish someone gave me this manual when I got the cats:

It's been a trying year with him. He's had to go to the vet several times for a recurring UTI coupled with total blockage; he has been through a lot. When we saw the tell tale signs again last night that something was amiss, we had a feeling that we'd be facing the same decision again soon- whether or not to keep treating the symptoms and then still wonder when it's going to happen again. Unfortunately all the tests kept on coming back that he was okay, so with no definitive answer on what was causing all these problems, we'd be back to square one. What do you do? I am so grateful to have other pet-loving friends in my life to help me be objective but caring about pet care.

And so it was today, sweet Fitzchivalry, at five and a half years old, continued on to kitty heaven. I've been thinking a lot about him and the adorable Fitz things he did. He loved to play. Julian has been using the kitty wand with the shiny strings at the end to play with him and despite his size, he was very quick kitty. He was deathly quick when he chased a laser pointer. He couldn't resist a cardboard box or a warm lap to curl up on. He loved to eat, everything from catnip mice to mango. He got out of the house a couple of times and he would be so excited about all the smells, he didn't know what to do with himself. Every night Thad's lap would never be empty as Fitz would jump up as soon as Thad sat down for the night to relax. Fitz also had an ally in Scout. Those two were buddies for sure.

Fitz also taught me about cats.
First and foremost he taught me that regardless of whether or not I was done petting him, he would tell me when it's time to be done. He also taught me to fear his claws. He taught me that even if cats seem to not care about you, they actually do. He kept me company while I was in labor with Dash, to the point of needing to remove he and his sister from the living room as they were sticking so close to me that they were getting in the way. He taught me that cats' purring could be LOUD. So blissfully loud. Really, he taught me about the unconditional love of a pet that no matter where or what we did, he'd always be waiting to sit on our laps and purr.

We'll miss you, sweet, cuddly, ever-purring Fitz.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Last week we were talking at dinner about our last family vacation, a trip to Aruba last December. Julian was only about 18 months old at the time and I figured he wouldn't remember anything about it. Wrong. Thad asked him what his favorite part of the trip was and Julian paused, tapped his chin (just like Wallace from "Wallace and Gromit") whilst looking up, took a deep breath and said, "Playing in the pool." I was astonished. He remembered?! Really?!!! Wow. He also remembered spinning him around in the water, going to the beach and playing in the sand. I know that toddlers don't forget anything- like a few days ago when Thad told Julian that we would get him a nutcracker next time we went to Target (he's very excited about Christmas decorations) and today when we went to pick up shampoo for grandma, he reminded me of daddy's promise. (The miniature nutcracker is currently sitting on our dining table...we named it Heir Friedrich)- but I didn't think he'd remember a trip almost a year ago.

This little exchange got me thinking about my earliest memories. When Thad and I first started dating I used to tease him about how much he did not remember about his childhood. With all those regular saturday night dates I wanted lots of stories, right? Thad claims to have very, very little memory about life before age 15. I, on the other hand, have memories back to when I was about 3. My brother may claim that some of this did not happen, but memories are memories and these are some of mine.

-Age 3. Getting off a bus/tram at the wrong spot with my father. We were in Italy or France, not sure. My mom and brother were still on the bus and I was convinced we'd never, ever see them again. Obviously, we did as we walked and were reunited with them at the next stop.
-Age 5. Laying on a towel on the sidewalk in my swimsuit. We lived in Monterey, CA and I was convinced the song "California Girls" by the Beach Boys was written for me. I'd prop my little pink umbrella up next to me and pretend to be at the beach. (I was very sad to move away from CA and could no longer consider myself a 'california girl.' 'Philadelphia girl' didn't have the same ring to it).
-Age 3. Wearing my blue leotard while watching "The Wizard of Oz" for the umpteenth time while my mom is making dinner. The house smells of garlic and onion, two of my most favorite smells of all time.
-Age 3. Collecting HUGE hail during a storm in Charleston, SC and bringing it inside to keep it for my father to show him when he came home from sea duty. I cried when the hail melted and wouldn't be able to show it to him.
-Age 5. My brother brought home the class pet from La Mesa Elementary School and the rabbit pooped by the wall and my brother said it was me that pooped. He claims to this day that it was me. I protest. It was the rabbit and I stand by that. (I did, however, pee on the stairs in that house one night when I was sleep walking).
-Age 6. My dad played in his class softball team at the Naval Postgraduate School and my brother and I would go to his games. This specific day my brother was swinging one of the bats and I happened to be standing behind him and he thwacked me in the nose so hard it bled.
-Age 9. Me, my mom, my brother, my dad, my aunt, my uncle, my three cousins, my two grand-aunts, my other cousin, and I think another aunt was in there too all drove up to Niagara Falls in a Suburban, starting our journey from Norfolk, VA. We get up there and one of my cousins, a Filipino citizen, forgot his passport so we couldn't go to the Canadian side of the Falls. We drove all the way there and waved at Canada. My cousins and I made a song up about our trip to the tune of Milli Vanilli's "Blame it on the Rain" and called it "Blame it on Manny." Manny is my cousin. I still haven't been to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.

I think this blog post could go on and on now that my cerebrum and temporal lobes have been ignited. Suffice it to say that I am glad to remember all these things of my childhood, no matter how erroneous. I only hope that Julian and Dash can remember a lot, too. Or maybe I should start giving them ginko biloba.

Before I end this post, I'd like to say this: I remember when I was growing up and my mother would lay on the couch while I played and said, "I'm not napping, I just need to rest my eyes." I'd then proceed to climb on her and pester her mercilessly. Mom, if you're reading this, I am very sorry for all those times I bothered you while you "rested your eyes." I understand now why you needed those little dozers. :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Don't you judge me

I hope you read that title with a head swivel cause I certainly am saying it that way. I *so* don't need other people to validate or judge my decisions.

I never intended our home birth to be a statement. At least, that wasn't an intention when we began our home birth journey last year, but now I am a proud, flag-waving home birth mama and I hope to spread the good word of home birth and midwifery. While I am proud of our decision to take control of our care, I didn't expect to feel like a pioneer (sometimes). I certainly never expected me or my child to be treated any differently on his home birth but, alas, that is not the case. Last month I ran into my OB from Julian's birth at Wegman's. I had been with that doctor since 2003 and she was the reason I was with the practice for Julian's birth. At the time, we didn't feel comfortable with a home birth and we naively thought we could have a simple, unmedicated childbirth experience in a hospital. For multiple reasons that did not happen and when we found ourselves pregnant again, we gave the benefit of the doubt (briefly) to our doctors that they would support us in our attempt at a vaginal unmedicated birth after a cesarean. When I saw my doctor at Wegman's, while wearing a baby that she or someone in her practice obviously did not deliver, her reaction was pretty flat. I still intend to write a letter to the doctor who made me cry as she was the catalyst for us to find a new practitioner and I want her to know that, after a lot of hard work, our son was indeed born at home.

Fast forward to today's visit. I am due for my annual exam and I originally thought of just going back to my old gyno because they are easy to get to and I know them, but then we ran into my old doc at Wegman's and I didn't get all warm and fuzzy seeing her. And, as Thad put it, if I'm going to "vote with my dollars" so to speak, I shouldn't go back to them because we were so dissatisfied with my care. I thought about Birth Care but it's incredibly inconvenient for me. I want to go somewhere that my insurance covers, so while I love my midwife, I just couldn't justify the cost considering I only see these people once a year when not pregnant.

My friend just had her second with a practice at Fair Oaks Hospital that is an OB/midwife practice. They take my insurance so I made the appointment there with an OB (whoever was available, actually). When I showed up I had to fill out the typical paper work asking about children, dates of birth, how they were born, any complications, etc. I clearly stated that my second child was a home birth and figured I'd see what they said. The nurse took me back to take my vitals and she asked me where my son was born, despite the fact that she was looking directly at my records.

Nurse: Where was your son born?
Me: Home.
Nurse: Really? Wow. I'd have no idea what to do with a baby at home.
Me: That's why we hired a midwife.
Nurse: Wow. ... Wow.
**enter 3 nurses who overheard our exchange to look at the home birth baby, expecting to see a messed up baby with three heads and blue hair, but to their disappointment found that he was a normal, happy bouncing baby boy**

It was very obvious they don't encounter many home birthers as it is an OB office, but I was armed and ready.

The nurse brought me to my room and she said not to take any clothes off, just to sit as the doctor wants to get to know me better before she gives me an exam and the nurse said a few times that this doctor would be SO excited to see Dash. So we waited and enter doctor...

Doc: Hi, welcome to our office. So tell me where did you have your son? (My chart was right there)
Me: Home.
Doc: And where did you have your first child?
Me: Here, actually, at Fair Oaks with a different practice. He was a c-section and we didn't want a repeat, so we did it at home.
Doc: Really? As a VBAC? Wow. That's high risk.
Me: Actually, it wasn't. We had great support and I left the old practice because they said they'd support a VBAC but in practice, didn't. Dash was 2 pounds smaller than my first, was in a great position for birth, and my midwife helped us have a great birth. I didn't feel like I was getting supported the way I needed to be in my former practice.
Doc *body language became physically repulsed by me, she wraps her sweater around herself and backs up against the door* Well do you have any questions? Go ahead and get undressed and I'll be right back.

I mean her WHOLE demeanor changed when I explained our home birth. I'm not too surprised, I mean she IS a trained OB with a lifetime of experience pointing her biases in one direction, I don't expect her to be welcoming me with open arms, but come on lady, get with the program. There is so much information out there for women now to OWN their births, you can't get all up in arms when someone is actually informed and makes decisions for herself.

So we did the exam and by the end of the breast exam I could tell she was just trying to get the hell out of dodge. I wanted to talk with her about non-hormonal contraception but she really, really didn't want to talk with me. She was just so....disapproving. She barely smiled at Dash, let alone cooed at him. I figure if someone is going to shove metal ware at my snatch she could have a *little* bit nicer bed side manner, but what can you do. At least I don't have to see them again for another year.

If today's experience has taught me anything it's that body language says it all. I kind of expected people to ask me about my home birth but I certainly didn't expect to be treated like I smacked them. I realize that she's looking at me through HER lens but the least she could do is try to look at me through mine. Am I going to go back there? Who the hell knows. Part of me wants to as a weird experiment to slowly infiltrate the system from the inside. :)

Point of this story? Not sure if there is one other than to laugh at this doctor and hope that whoever reads this takes control of his or her care. Just because you have an M.D. by your name doesn't make you better than me, we all travel our paths different ways, folks.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Making sense of it all

If you've followed either on Facebook or by occasional emails here and there, you know it's been an interesting year for us. I know that people usually wait until the end of the calendar year to reflect but too bad....the past few days I've been unable to do anything but reflect. This probably means, though, that you won't be getting a "yearly round up" letter in a couple of months. Too bad. Gotta get it out now.

This year has certainly been a year of ... trials? In April we got our house ready very quickly in an attempt to tackle the dismal real estate market. Since then we showed it for three months, were under contract for 5 weeks of those three months, and then took it off out of sheer madness of trying to keep the house pristine with 2 kids, a dog, 2 long-haired cats, and the rest of life. Also this summer my brother's herniated disc got worse and he was waiting for surgery after a crazy car accident that left him with 4 broken ribs. My aunt was diagnosed with colon cancer. Someone dear to me suffered a miscarriage. My mother in law broke her ankle THE DAY she was to fly to New Zealand. Two weeks after taking our house off the market the roof leaked and we discovered that squirrels and mice have made a home in our attic, along with the chipmunks in our storage room. My friend told me (jokingly) that she didn't want to be around me because apparently we were bad luck.

Thad and I laughed that we burned all our karma by having a successful home vaginal birth after cesarean with our son, Daschel, in February. It's so easy to leave things up to karma, isn't it? But still, oh, shining light of 2010, the babies being born has certainly been the biggest highlight of the entire year. Babies, babies, and more babies! Babies born every month...last December I knew of 6 babies born in the same week of each other, and every month after that has been just as baby-bonanza. This October alone I've known of eight babies being born. Eight! With 2 months left in the year we have many more to go...I keep checking those Facebook postings to hear about new arrivals. :)

Sweet, smiley, cuddly babies that are changing everyone's lives as we know it. I don't know anyone whose heart isn't melted by the coos and gurgles of a bouncing happy baby. Unfortunately, though, in comes the reality when this past week we got news that a friend's infant son has a brain tumor. *blank look* Are you kidding me? A brain tumor? In someone that can't even crawl?! In someone that hasn't even figured out what kind of ice cream he likes or what is her favorite color? Please, no more. If you're reading this and wondering if it's someone you know, it is absolutely not my place to spread their business so I'm sorry, unless they've let you know, then that's all I can say.

We were speechless. Tears, of course, have been plenty. I don't even know what to say. As I sat upstairs tonight nursing Dash to sleep I thought about how I felt when he was born- that hopeful, blissful feeling of a new baby and the possibilities that lay ahead of him. He's so young, so innocent, and yet how can this happen?

This December will be the 9-year anniversary of my father's passing. When he was diagnosed at the young age of 49 which was followed by treatment, recovery, and then illness again, I did some major soul searching to try and make sense of it all. I read When Bad Things Happen to Good People and while it offered some good perspective, I didn't finish it because it started to get a little too preachy for me. I mean, he's right, just because a "good" person goes outside in sub-zero weather without a jacket on doesn't mean he will escape getting sick. I get his argument that good people are not exempt from the laws of nature. But still. That answer doesn't give me peace when bad things continue to happen to people that just don't deserve it. I read all kinds of literature on suffering and grieving, all from different religions to see if I could make sense of it and I still couldn't find answers that put my heart at ease.

It's really, really hard not to take what's happening and turn it back to us. How WE feel by this. How WE make sense of it. Unfortunately, maybe that's where I am mentally because I don't know what else to do. I mean, what can we do? I can't cure cancer. I can't make the pain go away. I think most people turn the emotion back on themselves out of feeling utterly powerless otherwise.

How is it fair? How is it fair that a parent has to decide how their child will live their final days if that's the case? Or their days in general, for that matter. Is it fair to put a baby through treatments? What about their older child? How do you explain this to them?

Thinking of all this makes me physically sick. My answer? Seems flimsy and naive, but my answer is to have faith. No, not faith. Hope. Hope that things can get better. Hope that life can BE better. And I mean it. I mean it with every fiber of my being, deep into the deepest parts of my soul, I hope. Maybe its the eternal optimist in me but if I can't hope then I might as well not get out of bed in the morning. If you take away my hope, well, I just might shrivel up and die. So let me be. Let me live in my hopeful world where my glass is half full and peace can be found. Until then, I will keep this family in my thoughts and hopes and hope that their dear little one will be okay.

Lord save us all from... a hope tree that has lost the faculty of putting out blossoms. ~Mark Twain

Sunday, October 31, 2010


This is one of those times where the journey was much more important than the destination. I realize that our children will have MANY more "first times" in their lives and I think it's our jobs as our parents to prepare them for those times, especially for a kid like Julian that needs to know what's going on at all times, and know what's coming next.

This past month has been a lot of fun with all the fall festivities. We took Julian to choose pumpkins, fall festivals, and the craft store, which is quite festive with all the decorations (obviously). We went talked about trick or treating and Julian even chose his costume - a ghost. I'll definitely give credit to the Little Einsteins Halloween episode where the kids go on a mission to collect treats for their Halloween party. Julian has learned quite a bit (especially about music instruments) from these shows and while we are careful to monitor how much and what he watches, we approve of this show. This episode is about these three ghosts follow them to each castle as they collect treats and in the end of the episode they have a big Halloween party. Julian LOVES this episode. He carries around the plastic pumpkin and shakes the "treats" inside (he uses whatever will make noise) and has been very excited about being a ghost.

The month has been a ton of fun preparing him for tonight. Last night, he was SO excited to go to sleep because it meant when he woke up, it would be Halloween! How would the rest of the day go?! I got pretty nervous when he wouldn't let me measure him for his ghost costume. Very creative, I bought a white sheet and cut a hole in the top for his head. (Whoop-dee-doo). I showed him the sheet, helped him hold the sheet, and even cut a little ghost costume for Dash. When we were getting ready to go to our neighborhood costume parade and potluck, would he put it on? No. He *did* carry his super awesome skeleton treat bag that Grammy bought him at Pottery Barn kids. He even tried wearing THIS on his head. Alas, his ghost was not to be. When we got to the party he really liked seeing all the other kids in their costumes but still, he did not want to wear his. He didn't even want to stay for the parade. He came, he ate, he left. What would this mean for trick or treating?

After a quick dinner at home (mainly for daddy and Dash), we grabbed his treat bag and got ready to go trick or treating. We talked about the protocol for t-or-t and he was very excited to try it out! But what about the costume? Oh no. He definitely would NOT put it on. We explained that he needed to wear a costume to trick or treat but we didn't want to punish him by not taking him if he was adamantly opposed to wearing the costume. Daddy was very quick to think of something and he suggested that maybe he could wear his trademark hat and carry his guitar to be a "rocker" and since these are his most favorite toys ever, he complied and off we the house next door.

He stepped up to the house, knocked on the door, and when they came he even said "trick or treat!" He was so excited to choose a piece of candy from the bowl and said thank you when he was all done. Success! Off we went to the next house, our new awesome neighbors who have a 3-year old son and an 8-month old son. We scooped them up and "rocker" was joined by "buzz lightyear" (aka Emmett) and off we went to knock on some doors.

The boys did great. They knocked, asked politely, chose a treat, and said thank you. I think we hit up about 10 houses for treats and the boys were great at each one. The last house we stopped at there was a teenage boy standing in the shadows wearing a very scary mask and costume, holding a bowl of candy. If I didn't see him scratch his face I wouldn't have known he was there....oh gee, he was scary! Emmett got scared and Julian was very unsure, but Erica (Emmett's mom) got a lollipop from him to show them he was okay but the boys didn't bite. We asked him to take his mask off and show them it's just pretend and after that they were okay. Poor little guys....these decorations and costumes can be scary!!!

When we got home Julian ate one mini Snickers and was an angel going to bed. I think next year will be a lot more fun when he understands it better, but for now I think the evening was a total success....even if we didn't get any cute costume photos.

Happy Halloween go brush your teeth so you don't get any cavities.

Monday, September 27, 2010

It always comes back to poop

As a follow-up before I get into the main topic of this post Julian returned to school today for his second day of preschool. I don't know if it's because he knows the kids better, or because I was assisting today, but I think he did great. The kids had a lot of fun on our walk (in the rain) and they even enjoyed the mango/banana/spinach smoothies that, I admit, I was skeptical about myself but it was quite yummy indeed. Next week we move to a new home for the month of October so I hope that Julian does okay. We'll see what happens! Thanks for all the supportive notes about his adjustment to preschool. I think he's going to do great once he knows what's expected of him and what the routine is.

So. Poop. People have asked how it is with two kids now and the big differences between Dash and Julian. Ultimately, it always comes back to poop. Julian was a frequent, daily pooper. Sometimes he'd do it on the changing table with no diaper on, sometimes he'd get it on mommy and daddy. Ultimately, though, his poop was not an issue in that it happened when it happened and we really didn't discuss it much. Dash, on the other hand, is the most infrequent pooper and it makes *me* uncomfortable when day 5, 6, and this past time, day 9 comes and goes without a poop. When he finally does let loose, well, let's just say he takes a good nap afterwards. I've had 7 months worth of conversations about poop.

Other than their bowel movements, it has been interesting to see just how different two little boys can be. I try very hard not to compare them, and I wonder if they were of opposite genders I wouldn't compare them as much, but so it goes. Dash is a very happy little baby but he has no problems with voicing his displeasure if he is not getting his way. When he does his scream/yell/battle cry/howl, Julian goes over to him and says, "It's okay Baby Dash," and then proceeds to serenade Dash with his own rendition of the Wiggles' "Toot Toot Chugga Chugga" where he replaces all the names of the Wiggles with the names of our family. "Julian's in the back seat, playing his guitar...." It's adorable.

I do fear that we are not as neurotic about his goings on the way we were about Julian, but I think that's what happens with a second child. We definitely don't have everything chronicled for him the way we did with Julian (as you can tell from our lack of postings since his birth) and I feel like we blinked and he's already 7 months old.

The nitty gritty update? He's over 18 lbs now and about 27 inches tall. He doesn't have any teeth yet, which is odd because I feel like he's been teething for months already. He is sitting up pretty reliably now although when he's tired he'll still do the backwards dive so there's usually a Boppy or some other cushion behind him to catch his fall. He is pushing himself up really well but not pulling forward yet, but I have a feeling it's not too far away. He's a rolly-polly for sure, more than Julian ever was, and does enjoy rolling his way across our bed. He sure does love to eat. He likes to eat whatever we are eating- corn, pancakes, quesadillas- and does his battle cry when we don't share. Eating out has become quite difficult juggling the two, that's for sure!

Ah, sleep. Blessed, sweet, and unattainable sleep. I haven't slept more than 3 hours in a row, I think, since I was about 3 months pregnant with Dash, so...over a year? I am getting really tired of waking up at night but I am trying really hard to let him drive and let me know his needs. Julian inadvertently night-weaned when we moved him out of our bed when he was 8 months old and I am not entirely sure I'm ready for that to happen. We'll see, we'll see.

So that's my quick update before Dash wakes up for his 9:30 feeding. Life as a foursome has been wonderfully difficult at some points, but always wonderfully blissful. I love seeing Julian snuggle up on his little brother and I just love seeing the look on Dash's face when Julian comes to play. They are going to be great brothers and I am so glad they have each other. Daddy has his boys and mommy doesn't have to deal with pink overload. Life is good.

Family picture at the National Harbor, Labor Day weekend

Monday, September 20, 2010

First day of preschool

I know, I know, I owe major postings here about life with two boys. Dash will already be 7 months old this wednesday. Seriously? 7 months? I swear he was just born last week. I will put a post up about Dash shortly, but for now, here's what happened for us today:

Tonight at dinner we talked about his first day of school. We asked him what he did today. His response? "Julian cried. Played with Whitney and Cora. Circle time." Those were some good take aways, I guess, after the emotional day we just had. Our day started pretty smoothly. He was up at 5:30am (pretty normal), we had some breakfast (his favorite: sausage) and I packed his lunch in his awesome Planet Box lunch box.

Stainless steel bento box lunch box. For lunch? Organic grapes, organic oven-roasted turkey sandwich on wheat bread, organic honey wheat pretzel sticks, some homemade banana chocolate bread, and 3 chocolate-covered marshmallows. What did he actually eat? The grapes, the pretzels, and the marshmallows. Go figure.

Before we got in the car to go to Laurie's, I took the obligatory picture of his first day of school. He's wearing his new firetruck shirt, new shoes, and holding his brand new lunch box. All the way there in the car he was talking about Nemo's "first day of school." "Just like Nemo," he said. He was so excited!
Our program is a pre-school cooperative with other families from the Holistic Moms Network of Northern Virginia. There are 7 families and we rotate houses by the month. This month Laurie is our fearless lead teacher and she has 2 other parents as assistant teachers. They started this program last year and we decided to give it a whirl this year since it's only one day a week and we'd still be able to do our regular playgroup, La Leche League meetings, and My Gym, leaving thursday as our only free day each week.

My plan during this glorious morning (weather-wise) was to go for a hike with another mom from the group, Kathy. Kathy is due next monday with #2 so we decided to take the dogs for a nice walk at Bull Run to help her get things moving. (No dice, she's still pregnant). Drop off didn't go as smooth as I had hoped it would, though. Julian basically dropped me at the cubbies to go and play so I took it as a good time to exit. I got to the car, started nursing Dash, and within a few minutes I could hear Julian crying, "you want mommy! you want mommy!" (He hasn't figured out "you" and "i" yet). I waited it out to see if I should go in, but the other moms coming in from dropping off their kiddos said I should wait outside. So I waited. Then Laurie's husband came outside and asked me to come in, so I went in to give Julian one last cuddle. He didn't want me to go and he was doing that hiccupping cry that is so desperately sad. The other kids were coming to pat his back and hug him, too. One of the assistants of the day, Paul, came over to try and show Julian his camera and bring him to play in the main room. Eventually Julian decided to go and play and I took my exit again. I was expecting to get a call that Julian threw up from crying so much but thankfully, no call ever came.

As a former preschool teacher today was especially hard because I've been on the side of the teacher many, many times but obviously I had never experienced it from the parent's side. I admit it, I was fighting back tears leaving my crying son. I've always known that Julian is sensitive and needs to know what's going on at all times. We are a very routine-oriented family and I know Julian finds tremendous comfort knowing that routine. A new day like today can be hard on these little guys and I've seen it many times before with other kids. I am so, so grateful that I was leaving him with fellow like-minded parents that I knew would treat Julian's emotions with the respect and patience that we do. That's a huge part of why we decided to try this coop in the first place. At the same time, though, Americans are so big on making sure our kids learn independence...making sure kids learn to take care of themselves as soon as possible, so part of me is trying very hard not to feel like an utter failure with a son who didn't want to leave his mommy.

Would it be better if he just took off running away from me and didn't look back? What does that say about our bond? Nothing, really, just that he's a more adventurous kid. Am I a failure because my son needs reassurance that everything is okay, needs to know that he's safe, and needed an extra-long cuddle to say goodbye? Probably not, he just needed to know mommy's still there. I mean, he's only TWO for crying out loud.

My hope is for my boys to grow up to be independent but they will always be mommy's little boys. I don't think today was as scarring to Julian as it was for mommy....he's already talking about going back to school next week. Luckily, I am assisting next week so me and Dash will be there for the morning, so I hope that will help with his transition.

Oh boy, what I mess I've been today. Just imagine when he goes off to's going to be nuts!

Here's a picture of Dash since I don't want him to feel left out. Took this a month ago at the beach while we were waiting in line at 8:30 at night to get Ben & Jerry's. Julian loved it. :)

Friday, July 30, 2010


Last night at 1:15am I heard music coming from somewhere. I looked around the room and it was coming from Julian's monitor...apparently, he had gotten out of bed very quietly and turned on his sleepy music and went back to bed. I grabbed the monitor and shoved it into Thad's sleepy hand and said, "go check on him! there's music!" Sure enough, Julian was asleep on his back and his stereo was turned way up. So bizarre.

Thad asked him this morning if he had turned on his music last night and he said, "yes, julian cried, turned on music." I don't remember him crying last night but listening to his sleepy music at 1:45am in an otherwise quiet house was very, very odd.

Is 2 years old too young to sleep walk?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Daschel's Birth Story

It's been 9 days since our newest little bundle has joined our family and we are still in awe of our amazing ability to grow life. He's fitting in nicely and Julian is taking more and more to him each day. Folks have asked so here's the explanation of his name:

Daschel- A name we all liked, especially Julian. When we ran a few choices past him this is the one he liked the best.

Braddock- The name of the main road where we live. We found it fitting since he was born at home.

Mitchell- Mitchell is Thad's grandfather, and also Thad's middle name. We found out we were pregnant the day that we found out he passed away....we found it fitting to honor him.

Without further ado, here is Daschel's birth story.....I'll get into what my care was like under a midwife and our decision to do a home birth after cesarean another time.

Sunday, the 21st, wasn't anything particularly crazy, just a normal day. After dinner we were in the living room and at 7:06pm I had my very first "real" contraction. It was enough that I turned to Thad and said, "ow, what the hell was that, it really hurt." We kinda took note of the time but went on with our evening, giving Julian a bath and putting him down for bed. In the 7 o'clock hour I had about 3 contractions, and in the 8 o'clock hour I had about 4. By 9 o'clock I was like, ok, these really hurt and are coming every 10 or so minutes now...should we call someone?! I spoke to a friend to get her opinion since her birth story was still fresh in my mind (she had a planned home birth but it turned into an unplanned unassisted birth since her baby came so quick and the midwives didn't get there in time) and where I didn't want to call the midwife too soon, I also didn't want to wait too long. After I got off the phone with her, we called our doula and our midwife and Marilee said she wanted to come over to "check things out." I was really nervous about her coming over because I didn't want her to come and this just be a false labor. We sent Scout to my mom's since he was whining at me and I had to work through the contractions enough that his whining was pissing me off royally. So off he went.

The midwives showed up at about 10 pm and my contractions at this point were every 5 minutes, lasting about 60 seconds long. They hunkered down on the couch and took my vitals, listened to baby, and we spent the next hour seeing how things were progressing. We called Mary Beth, too, and she decided to come over as well. I didn't truly believe I was in labor and it wasn't until we lit the birth candle and I finally posted on FB for my friends to light their candles that I thought 'this was it.'

The next couple hours are a bit hazy to me as far as the timing goes, but essentially my contractions went from 5 minutes apart to 4 minutes apart over the next hour and then finally down to 3 minutes apart. We labored in the living room and they had set up the birth supplies in the bedroom, but as the night continued more and more supplies were appearing in the living room. Soon I was stripping down my clothes and chux pads were appearing under me everywhere I moved in case my water broke. I labored most of the time on my hands and knees or standing on the stairs (having my legs at different levels really helped) but as my contractions got to 2-3 minutes apart, I felt like I needed a change. I knew he was coming down but I couldn't figure out a better position to be in, so my midwife recommended that I lean back on Thad. Once I got in the sit position leaning back, the baby dropped incredibly low and I had a feeling I could start pushing. I was really, really worried to push since I didn't know how dilated I was and Marilee doesn't check unless I ask. I figured that we still had hours of labor ahead of us so it would be premature to push. Well the position we were in in the living room was so uncomfortable that I couldn't square up my hips. My hips kept on tilting one way or the other thus the baby did Marilee asked if I wanted to move upstairs on the bed to be more comfortable. We started a mad dash in between contractions up the stairs. Thad was bracing me for each contraction, Mary Beth was following me with a chux pad in case my water broke, Valerie (the midwife assistant) started shuttling birth supplies back up to the bedroom, and Marilee was talking me through each contraction. I distinctly remember someone saying to me, "when this one ends you have to move, pamela, to make it up the stairs before the next one." I don't think I walked so fast in my life, especially with a bowling ball literally between my legs.

We got into the bedroom, I laid on the bed, and I decided to have Marilee check me for dilation. Shoot, if I had hours more of this pain I had to be able to deal with my energy level, right? She checked me and very calmly said, "you are complete and the baby's head
is right there." With that we began pushing around 3am. She said she could feel my bag of waters right in front of his head and I remember asking her if she needed extra clothes in case my water broke all over her. Next contraction, I beared down and my water literally popped everywhere- it sounded like a water balloon! At that his head really came down and we pushed through a few more contractions when the stretching was really kind of freaking me out Thad was being a great cheerleader, "with every push we see hair," "his head is right there!" I love him but gee, I know where his head was! There was a point where Marilee told me that she'd ask me to stop pushing so she could guide his head out slowly and when that moment hit, boy was that mean! Sure enough, though, down and out he came (cool note, my sacrum was so loosey-goosey that they said they could see it moving to let him out...props to chiropractic care during pregnancy) and at 3:33am our little boy was born. Daschel weighed in at 6 lbs 11 oz (2 lbs smaller than his big brother) and 20 1/2 inches long.

She placed him right on my chest and he was COVERED in vernix, a sign that he was early. Marilee said his gestational age was about 38 weeks which is just fine since this little dude is perfect. The placenta took over an hour to come out (it was posterior so I ended up
having to sit on the birthing stool to get it out) and then I took a shower, got some stitches (which is why I was in bed for a few days to let them heal), and the newborn exam. Julian woke up just in time to see the newborn exam and check out the placenta (which is SO cool!). I'm still surprised he slept through all the ruckus.

By 6:30am everyone was headed home and Thad, baby, and I hunkered down in bed for a nice nap. Here we are, 9 days later and I am still on cloud 9 from our birth experience, and little Dash is napping on daddy's chest. My milk came in on day 2 and nursing (so far) has been a total breeze. Also, side note, all that eating well did me good...not only was Dash a great size, but I am only 2 lbs away from my pre-pregnancy weight. Granted, my belly needs some, um, toning, but damn, life is good.

Here is a photo right after he was born:

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Trust in the process

"The whole point of woman-centered birth is the knowledge that a woman is the birth power source. She may need, and deserve, help, but in essence, she always had, currently has, and will have the power." -Heather McCue

Belly buttons are a funny thing. I used to love my belly button. I decided at age 19 to pierce it and a little jewel made its home in my belly button until I was pregnant with Julian. It never quite looked the same after having Julian and I doubt that it'll ever look the same again. Today I looked at my belly button's reflection and barely recognized the now belly button-turned-volcano sticking out of the center of my body. The baby is so low it almost points down. Julian loves my belly button. I think he thinks it's the baby, or some pathway to the baby (which, I guess, technically it is) and likes to kiss it, stroke it, and rest his head on it. Every morning he comes into our room, jumps into bed, and immediately goes for my belly button. "Hi," he says, as though he's been away for decades. After a few minutes of relentless love on my belly button, I say "that's enough" and explain to him that mommy's belly button hurts. We repeat this process multiple times throughout the day. I wonder if he'll understand when the baby is born that there is no longer a baby in mommy's tummy and he won't be mad when mommy's belly button no longer looks like a sun. "Sun," he says and signs to me when he sees my belly button. I love that my son is not afraid to kiss the sun. Makes sense, he is my little ray of light.

Today was my estimated due date. Since it's 8:30pm I doubt he's greeting planet Earth today but that's okay. As I sit here thinking about where we were 40 weeks ago (celebrating Julian's birthday a bit too much *wink wink*) and the journey since, I need to remind myself that we put out trust in the process back then and I need to trust in it now. I've been trying birth-inducing tricks the past few days (walking, spicy food, ankle massage, eggplant parm, pineapple) more out of experiment and jest than truly believing they'll make this little dude come out any sooner. I have to believe that he will come when he is ready because so far this pregnancy, the process hasn't failed us yet

The knowledge of how to give birth without outside interventions lies deep within each woman. Successful childbirth depends on an acceptance of the process." -Suzanne Arms

When did we, women, lose the ability to know? Last saturday my friends threw me a mother blessingway ceremony to send me some positive vibes as I prepare for my second entry into motherhood. It was a beautiful and balancing afternoon for me and I left Kathy's house feeling incredibly prepared- emotionally and physically- for the home birth of my second son. Almost everyone at the blessingway had home births themselves and I look to that group, my dear mother friends, for encouragement and support for my own experience. My friend and doula, Mary Beth, was there and her words of encouragement (among many) were the phrase, "mama knows." Mama knows about birth, her body, and her baby. But, I have to ask, when did we forget?

My last pregnancy I relinquished a lot of my power to "the experts." I read the books, listened to the endless advice, and ultimately gave over the womanly knowledge inside of me that I should have trusted and listened to the whole time. This time around, I didn't want to make the same mistake. I didn't want to quiet the voice inside me, instead I wanted to help it sing out loud and reclaim that which I lost. I feel that through this pregnancy I've accomplished that and while we wait these last few days for our son to make his arrival, I know I did everything I could do to have the pregnancy, and hopefully birth, that I want and deserve as a woman. Only time will tell now and I will rest tonight, patiently awaiting his arrival with my open heart.

Here is a photo my friend, Amanda, took at the blessingway. See the belly button? :)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Snow in the DC area

So for those of you not in the DC area and who have been hearing about our ridiculously snowy winter, I thought I'd post some photos of the storms from December 19, 2009 (so fondly named "Snowpocalypse"), January 30, 2010, and the most recent one, Snowmaggedon, from February 6, 2010. We are expecting another "winter event" tomorrow evening into wednesday that they are forecasting to drop about 10-20 inches of snow into the area, pushing our total snowfall this winter to be the all time high. It's insanity. Anyways, enjoy the photos, although they really don't capture the overwhelming amount of snow out there. To those of you in tropical areas, can you make some space for me on your couch for after this baby is born? We're on our way.....


Friday, February 5, 2010

unexpected revelations

Still pregnant for those of you wondering....due officially 2 weeks from tomorrow, and I guess we'll just see when this baby decides to make his grand entrance. I am praying it's not tonight or tomorrow as I just don't know if it would be auspicious for him to be born during Snowpocalypse. I figured it's a good time to put up a little posting since it's been a while and after Dos is born Lord knows when I'll have to time to post again so....

Julian has been awesome. Every morning he runs into the room, lifts up my shirt and says, "Hi" to the baby then gives my belly a big kiss. We are reading books about becoming a big brother as well as "We're having a home birth" which has rapidly become one of his most favorite books. His favorite page is when the mother is in labor and making motions like she's belly dancing.

He's been talking up a storm! Tonight we were in the kitchen and he started pulling the letters off the dishwasher- and informing Thad what they were! He named about 8 letters...totally unexpected. We've been singing songs with him while still using our signs. We've found if we omit saying the word but still do the sign, he will fill in the gap and say the word for us! He's also repeating just about everything we say (I still think it's adorable that he sometimes calls Thad "honey") so no more cursing in the Lurie household. ha.

We started attending a My Gym gymnastics class about a month ago and he LOVES it. He loves the balance beam, the rings, and of course, the slide. He loves dancing and singing the songs, and on our way there he starts signing "ball" to me referring to the ball pit.

Last saturday was my birthday and around 3am I rolled over in bed, stuck my hand under my pillow to fluff it up, and got a handful of mashed, stale banana. I almost screamed since I had no idea what it was but the smell was pretty obvious....I like to think that was very thoughtful of him for my midnight snacks, but unfortunately I think it was just a coincidence.

The move into his big boy room was a success and he loves it. We did have to shut his door fully after about 2 weeks when he figured out he could leave his room and visit us at 3 in the morning. He knows now that his old room is for baby brother and when he goes in there now I think he's looking for him! Soon enough, son, soon enough.

Here's a photo of our little dude playing in the snow last weekend with Scout. We'll see what kind of photos we get over the next few days!