Category Archives: me and the family

Random thoughts about risk

I’ve been thinking today about the cocoon we seem to default into as parents.  The media has us hypervigilant, and social pressure from other parents, grandparents, etc., has us feeling that to invite risk upon our children is to fail as parents.

The first thing that got me thinking was a couple days ago, when my daughter, who is 7, was playing at the next-door neighbor boy’s house.  His grandparents were there watching him (which is common – we know the grandparents pretty well), and I told my daughter to be home at 4:30.  I just so happened to go outside at about 4:28 to take out some garbage, when I saw Lane walking toward our house with the boy’s grandma.  I went and met them and chatted for a moment with the grandmother, who told me she felt odd about letting my daughter walk home alone so she decided to escort her.  “You never know these days!” she told me.  Well, no, ‘these days’ there’s no more crime against children than there ever has been, historically.  It was daylight, our houses are about 100 feet apart.  It really, really, REALLY does not require an in-person escort to see my daughter home.  I think it was thoughtful and sweet that she did it, but at the same time I feel such actions also convey a sense of mistrust to kids that they aren’t capable of these easy things.   Her main motivation seemed to stem from the fear that some ill-intended creepy person might happen by and snatch her from under our noses.  Well.  The teaching of “Stranger Danger” is, by and large, a disservice to kids, and I refuse to indoctrinate my kids that way.  Sure, I tell them if they’re lost who would be the best people to trust (in a store, for example, someone who works at the store, or another mom with kids).  And, I have talked to them about behaviors an adult might engage in that should raise a red flag in their head (asking them to keep a secret, asking them for help to find a puppy, stuff like that).  But I simply will not make them fear for their own safety every minute they are out of my sight for my own (false) sense of security.

Next, a quick conversation I had with my daughter’s bus company today.  Again, she’s 7 – in second grade.  The bus driver had told me once, a ways back, that it was “policy” that parents have to meet the bus.  Well, OK… but really?  Obviously it wasn’t set-in-stone policy because he never needed the 5th grader-at-the-same-stop’s mom to be present.  Is there a cut-off?  He refused to give me a clear answer.  Well, I have a baby at home, and the weather’s getting cooler.  I like getting my daughter off the bus, but with the baby it isn’t always practical or prudent or even possible for me to get to the bus stop (which is not far, it is across the not-very-busy street and one house down from us) every single day right at 3:18 p.m.  I plan to inform him of this, that occasionally I may not be there and it is OK for Lane to walk home by herself, that she knows how to get into the house.  (We have a door with an electronic keypad; she doesn’t even need to remember a key.  Which,  if you are considering getting one, do it.  Tomorrow!  It’s an incredibly awesome convenience.)  However, I didn’t want him coming back at me with “but it’s against policy” bullcrap.  So I called the transportation department to find out what the real policy was.  Officially, I was told, only kindergartners have to be met by an adult to be let off the bus.  However, I was firmly scolded, “there’s policy and then there’s common sense.”  Yeah, well, common sense tells me that empowering my daughter to take care of herself on occasion in a low-risk situation is nothing but beneficial to her self-sufficiency and independence.

Then there was an internet posting I came across just now that lambasted the lack of risk to which we expose our children.  They need to play outside (agree), engage in unstructured activity (agree) be allowed some independence (agree), and car seats aren’t necessary after a couple years, seat belts are just fine.  Um, no, big fat disagree.  I’m totally for letting kids be exposed to risk.  They will get bee stings and scraped elbows and even a broken bone or two, and that’s fine.  They might get scared from time to time, and that’s OK too.  Everyone gets scared.  But moving out of a car seat too soon, or switching from rear- to front-facing, that’s not an acceptable risk to me.  Simply because there’s no real derived benefit.  It might be a little more convenient, or maybe you can save a little money, but is there anything long-term that comes of it?  In my opinion, absolutely not.  My kids won’t gain any emotional benefit from not sitting in a car seat.  My baby won’t increase her self-worth by forward-facing any sooner.

 

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Death and grudges

My step-grandmother died a couple days ago.

But, wait, just a little framing & backstory before I get into this…

Backstory part 1:

My mom’s parents got divorced and both remarried other people when she was in high school.  Her father married who I had mostly always thought was a nice enough lady, and since they’d been married *my* whole life, I just always thought of her as another grandmother.  She was affectionate with me and really gave me little reason to think of her as anything but “grandma”.

However, she and my mother had had a very contemptuous relationship for a long time, which my mom told me about once when I was in my teens, after sort of realizing I didn’t think that my ‘grandma’ could do much wrong.  They didn’t get along for a long time, like REALLY didn’t get along, to the point where my mother felt that her father’s home was not a welcome place for her.  Long story short, they eventually made amends (must have been before my mom got married at 25, because they had their wedding reception at my grandpa’s house), and as far as I knew got along pretty well from then on.

Backstory Part 2:  My mom died when I was 22.  She was 47.  My grandpa and grandma (really my step-grandma) both outlived her, really a tragic sort of situation.

My grandparents lived in the Adirondacks, and it was always nice to visit them.  My aunt, their daughter (so, my mom’s half-sister) also lived up there with her family and I have always adored my aunt… she’s only seven years older than me so our relationship was always more sisterly than aunt/niece, even if we were never super duper close because I grew up in the Buffalo area and she was up there.  As I got older, the Adirondacks felt like more and more of a home (especially after my mom died), to the point where my husband and I chose to get married up there, and a year or so after getting married, semi-seriously considered moving up there.

My grandfather died of cancer in 2004.  About, oh, a year before he died, (and before he knew he was sick), he and my grandma decided they wanted to give a hunk of money to each of their kids.  Since my mom had passed away, they gave me and my brother her share.  (This wasn’t life-changing money, but it was enough to ‘pay off a car loan we had’ kind of money.)  My grandpa let me know ahead of time, and I was effusively grateful before he’d sent the check.  At about the same time, he’d sent me a check for $10 to cover an internet football pool a friend of mine ran that my grandma was involved in every year (she was a pretty cool lady, there were some very solid reasons I liked her!).  I was working full-time, well, really, more than full time, and I’d just found out I was pregnant but wasn’t telling anyone yet (thus my brain was pretty unreliable), and the $10 check had wallowed in my wallet for a while.  Well, my grandpa calls and says, “Hey, did you get that check I sent?” and all I can think of is this $10 check that’s been getting cobwebby in my wallet.  “Oh yeah,” I said, nonchalantly, “I have it.  I just haven’t been to the bank.  I’ll cash it soon, sorry.”  He seemed…. odd… about my response, but dropped it.  Then, going through about two weeks of mail that had piled up the next day, I found a slip for something certified mail that had arrived sometime in that time frame, which I didn’t actually think anything of because we’d gotten a couple weird pieces of what were basically junk mail via certified mail over the last few months.  Went to the post office a couple days later, and discovered it was the check – the generous, much more than $10 check – from my grandparents.  Oh.

OOHHHHHHHHH.

Needless to say, I was mortified and called my grandparents and apologized profusely and vehemently expressed my gratitude for the gift.  Then after I deposited the check and paid off the earlier-mentioned car loan a few days later, I wrote them a thank-you letter, telling them about how we’d paid off that loan with their gift.

Backstory Part 3:

About a year later I had a baby (the first pregnancy ended as a miscarriage and I got pregnant again pretty quickly afterwards), and a week after the birth, my grandfather died of cancer.  There wasn’t a wake or funeral per se, but they had a memorial service for my grandfather about a month after he died.  It was 7 hours away from where we lived on an uneventful drive, but our daughter did NOT handle car rides well.  Lots of screaming and crying and not a lot of sleeping, and at that point she was still nursing every hour for 15 minutes.  Flying wasn’t an alternative because the service was in the middle of the Adirondacks, where commercial flights are few and far between and wicked expensive.  With much regret I explained to my grandmother that we just weren’t going to be able to make it.  She tried to sound understanding but in retrospect I think she was pretty offended.

A couple months later, once car trips with the baby weren’t a total nightmare, we did make it up to visit for a few days.  And overall, it was a really nice visit.  But on the day before we left, at a moment when my grandmother had me alone, she decided to tell me how offended my grandfather was at how ungrateful I was for the gift they’d given me.  Not only had he been taken aback at my behavior, but surely my mother raised me better than that.  She would have been mortified to know how poorly I’d behaved.  “OK,” she concluded, “I just had to get that off my chest.  Let’s not let it bother us anymore.”

WHAT?!?

I don’t doubt for a second that my grandfather probably said something to that effect in the days between his call about the check, and me realizing the extent of the misunderstanding and apologizing profusely for it.  I knew he probably had a few days of thinking I was horrid.  But was she unaware of my apology, or did she forget about it?  I was truly so shocked at her scolding of me that I barely defended myself.  Instead I was left to wonder – did my grandpa somehow not really understand the root of the misunderstanding?  Did they never receive my thank-you note?  (I specifically asked that, and my grandma had no recollection of it.)  Did my grandfather die thinking I was some awful person, or had she been so angry in her grief after he died that she just ruminated on every wrong she felt was committed against him, remembering vividly the harsh words but forgetting the amends?  Regardless, that moment she felt she had to be ‘honest’ with me has permanently and unalterably made me question how my grandfather, and maybe even how my mother felt about me.  99% of me knows she was just way off-base, and grief had made her behave out-of-line.  But in a more meta way, I was just really pissed she would say something that accomplishes nothing but to help her soothe the pain she was feeling by trying to right the wrongs she felt had been committed against my grandfather.

I later came to learn she’d similarly laid into my brother when he was up there for different, but similarly somewhat petty reasons that had happened years earlier… which means she verbally disciplined him on behalf of my dead grandfather for stuff he did when he was a teenager.  A teenager whose mother had died when he was 15.  As cross as I was about the gall she had with what she said to me, I was doubly angry that she could do the same to him.  My brother had also missed the memorial, but through no fault of his own.  My grandma had told my dad, who for whatever reason couldn’t make it, and he never told my brother about it.  I was sleep-deprived with a new baby and never thought to tell him, I only happened to mention it a few days later to ask why he and Dad didn’t go… and that was the first time he’d heard about it.  He was really, really upset that he missed it.  He adored our grandpa.  Of course grandma also got really mad at him for it, and probably mad at me also that I didn’t make sure he knew.  I’m sure a lot of that fueled her need to ‘get things off her chest.’

Had she told off anyone else?  I never heard about it, if she did.  But it made me wonder if we were targeted because we weren’t really “hers”… and had she always felt that way, disconnected from us because we weren’t her biological grandchildren?  I remembered what my mom had told me about how poorly my grandmother had treated her when she and my grandpa first got married.  It made me question everything I thought I knew about my relationship with her.

I think we only visited twice after that.  Both visits were fine… but her brutal ‘honesty’ that one visit had me constantly on edge that she might decide she needed to tell me something else that would further chip away at truths I took for granted.  So the visits stopped, and we rarely spoke on the phone.

I can own that I was probably being petty, and perhaps I should have leveled with her about how what she said made me feel.  Maybe our relationship could have been salvaged.

I’m sad she died, for sure, but I know she’s been pretty sick for awhile so I’d sort of already mourned her over the last couple months.  If there’s anything though, her death has made me realize how angry I still am with her.  I hate that I feel this way.  I’m just not quite sure what to do with it.

I’m a mom again

We went, we delivered, and we are home. 🙂

It was quite an interesting saga, the lead-up to the birth. Because I have (albeit mild and easily diet-controlled) gestational diabetes, my midwives were itchy to get the baby out, and started talking an induction if I didn’t go on my own by my due date, as I have previously chronicled. I did my research and was OK with postponing any induction until Thursday, if needed. Well, Monday I had an appointment and midwife Sue was generally OK with the few days’ postponement, but we both agreed it would be reassuring to have a biophysical profile done (an ultrasound where they specifically check baby’s well-being, blood flow from placenta, amount of amniotic fluid, stuff like that). So I had that done on Monday as well, and while the baby was looking very healthy and everything else looked good, I was apparently low on amniotic fluid… which mostly means it makes it easier for the baby to accidentally wedge up against the cord in utero and cut off its own oxygen supply. Combined with the gestational diabetes, it was a good reason to not wait until Thursday, but given the baby’s otherwise very healthy status, Sue let me wait until Tuesday morning which also gave me an opportunity to drink lots of fluids and try to get the amniotic fluid up a little. I was told to report to the hospital at 6:30 a.m.

Well, long story short… some strong contractions woke me up at 4:30 a.m., and we left for the hospital at 6:15 a.m. I was, quite fortuitously, seemingly in labor, all on my own. Called the midwife from the car, told her we would be just a little late (there had been a little snowfall and the roads were a little slick) but that I was pretty sure I was in active labor.

Got to the hospital, got checked in and changed into hospital garb, my very awesome OB nurse checked, and I was already at 6 cm. That was about 7:30 a.m.

Continued to progress, got the all-clear to push around 8:40, which was good because I really really wanted to push. I think I was still only in transition because the contractions never let up. I JUST HAD TO GET THE BABY OUT. NOW. Her head emerged almost immediately, they got me to pause for just a second because she had the cord loosely wrapped around her neck, so they slipped it off, and I went about the very quick business of pushing out her shoulders. The midwife had me reach down and grab the baby and finish delivering, and lift the baby onto my own chest. So awesome!! She also asked me to do the identifying… “Lisa — what do you have?” she asked. My first delirious thought was “It’s a baby, duh!” but then I realized she was talking about looking for gender!! I took a very hard look, because even delirious I knew I didn’t want to make a misidentification, certainly my husband would never let me live that down. And once I was incredibly certain there was no penis to be found, declared “She’s a girl!”

She cuddled skin to skin with me on my chest until her cord stopped pulsing, then the midwife clamped it off and Frank did the honors of cutting it. I delivered the placenta and was just exhausted. I knew I’d torn a little (how could I not have, I delivered her way too fast…) and while my labor wasn’t very long, it was very intense. The OB nurse took the baby while I started to get stitched up and did all the weighing and measuring and other requisite birth things, and I took her back about 20 minutes later. She latched on at that point and nursed pretty well. I also decided, in an odd fit of whimsy, that we were going to keep the placenta and buy a new tree and plant it under the tree in the spring. Never even hearing of anyone doing this before, let alone with the complete absence of any discussion between us, my dear husband took these new plans in stride. 🙂

And our baby is, in a word, awesome. She’s a great nurser, she sleeps pretty well, she has amazing periods of quiet alertness where she just does her best to look around and see as much as she can (before her eyes cross from the strain, but then she just blinks a couple times and tries again). She is crazy strong, too… even the pediatrician at the hospital commented on it. If she’s laying on your chest, semi-upright, she can lift her head and chest up and do a little push-up. It took her about a day to pick up that little trick, mostly because it helps her look around better.

Since I avoid using real names for my kids on this blog I shall only give you her nickname, and that is Catie. She is perfect and I am in love. Her birth was a great experience and I am so happy and proud that I got to have another drug-free birth… but I am also quite pleased that I never have to do that again, since we have no intention of having any more kids.

Expectations

I’ve got one of the ultimate in expectations right now… a baby!  Right now my due date is January 23, but since only 5% of babies are actually born on their due dates, we’re basically on an “any day now” sort of expectation.  I spent most of a couple days ago having lots of contractions, but yesterday and today have had barely any at all.

Since I’ve already had a couple kids, I’m not in any sort of panic to be really ready.  The baby will be born regardless of how “ready” we are around the house.  The one big need is a car seat, and that’s all ready to go.  I’ve bought some diapers, we have some baby clothes.  The crib is still in pieces in the attic but we’ve never used the crib much until the baby was a few months old (we have found co-sleeping works well for us) so that part doesn’t concern me much. 

There is so much anticipation for a new baby, and hopes for what will or won’t happen, but it’s hard to really expect anything.  I hope to have a smooth, drug-free labor.  I hope breastfeeding will go smoothly.  I hope my gestational diabetes won’t lead to any hypoglycemia for the new baby.  But I can’t expect any of these thing to happen, because if they don’t I’ll be incredibly disappointed.

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This post is a part of Kate‘s “madhouse”, of whom all these other fine people try to participate when they can:

Allison – Allimonster Speaks
Barb – Spencer Hill Spinning & Dyeing
Batty – Batty’s Adventures in Spooky Knitting
Dave – Notes from the Field
Evil Twin’s Wife – The Glamorous Life of a Hausfrau
G – Not-A-Box
Heather – She Flies With Her Own Wings
Jennifer – Ask Poops, Please
JMLC – Daydreams and Ruminations
Kate – One More Thing
LC – LC in Sunny So Cal
LeeAnne – This is the life…
Louise – Child of Grace
Marcy – Mittentime
Melanie – usually, things happen
Nikki – Land of the Free, Home of the Depressed
Sara – yoyu mama

Grace

My great-grandmother’s name was Grace.  She passed away when I was little — I think I was eight years old.  Thus I don’t remember too much about her, and what I do was a little kid’s perspective on who was then a pretty old  lady.  She was quiet, and kind, and had a canary.   She didn’t really go out much, as far as I knew.  Her house was always dark, but not in an unhappy way… more in the way that people might keep their curtains drawn so the furniture doesn’t fade.  She gave me candy, so overall she was OK in my book.

What I also knew was that her husband then, who passed away when I was five, was not the father of my grandmother.  Sometime after she was born, my great-grandparents, in a time when it was pretty nuts to do so, got divorced and both remarried other people.  My great-grandmother had two more sons (my half-great-uncles) with her new husband, who we called Papa H.

Nana Grace was, all tales told, not very forthcoming with the details of how this all panned out.  We knew my great-grandfather, Papa Bill, had been away for awhile, in Canada, finding whatever work he could, as he grew up in Canada and one would assume he knew people who were hooking him up with opportunities to earn a wage.  (It was the Great Depression after all, and he was by trade a construction worker, though he would also work for a long time caring for and tending horses once he returned.)  Nana Grace’s parents, also needing income, rented out rooms to boarders.  One of those boarders became my Papa H.

And beyond that… the story was fuzzy.  Especially in relation to dates.  When asked on their anniversary how many years she and Papa had been married, the answer was always something vague… “Oh it’s been so long, I can’t really remember.”

After she passed away, one of my half-great-uncles came across their marriage license.  It turns out he was born only a couple months after they got married.  So the story the family sort of pieced together is while her first husband was off in Canada, she was living with her parents, and when Papa H came along as a boarder, something “clicked” with them… and clicked enough that she ended up pregnant.  Oops.

Nana Grace seemed much cooler after I found that out.

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This post is a part of Kate‘s “madhouse”, of whom all these other fine people try to participate when they can:

Allison – Allimonster Speaks
Barb – Spencer Hill Spinning & Dyeing
Batty – Batty’s Adventures in Spooky Knitting
Dave – Notes from the Field
Evil Twin’s Wife – The Glamorous Life of a Hausfrau
G – Not-A-Box
Heather – She Flies With Her Own Wings
Jennifer – Ask Poops, Please
JMLC – Daydreams and Ruminations
Kate – yoyu mama
LC – LC in Sunny So Cal
Louise – Child of Grace
Marcy – Mittentime
Melanie – usually, things happen
Nikki – Land of the Free, Home of the Depressed
Sara – yoyu mama

The sweetest little boy on the face of the earth

Hey all!

My pregnancy has been very uneventful.  So I guess it shouldn’t come as much surprise to have something crop up – that ‘something’ being gestational diabetes.  I also had it with my pregnancy with Jake, and it was managed very easily with some dietary alterations.  I only got the diagnosis this go-round a few days ago, so I’ve been back to testing my blood in the interim until I can see the perinatologist that my midwives recommend.  After a few days of testing and eating smaller, more frequent meals that are lighter on the carbs, I’m already getting the hang of it again, and I’d say that the diet modification should hopefully do the trick this time, too.

The kids have had very different reactions to seeing me test my blood.  Lane wants nothing to do with it and thinks it is completely weird and gross and generally runs from the room when I do it.  (Which I think is a very normal and healthy reaction!)  Jake, however… oh my goodness I could just eat him up.  He saw me testing for the first time last night, and his three-nearly-four year-old curiosity piqued. 

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Well,” I answered, “because I have the baby in my belly I have to make sure I don’t eat too many sweet things.  This actually tests my blood and tells me if I’m doing a good job.”

He was still very interested and wanted to see the whole process, so I showed him.  He saw the little dot of blood that emerged from my finger, saw me get my “score” on the meter.

“Can you test my blood?” he asked.

I explained that I would have to poke him with a lancet, and he would bleed just a tiny bit.  It might hurt just a little, but only for a second.  He was cool with it.  In fact he said, and I quote, “That’s OK mommy.  I’m brave.”

So I tested his blood.  He got his little poke, which he said didn’t hurt at all, and when his blood sugar came back at 114, he raised his arms over his head and cheered for himself like he’d just won a race.

Lost

I’m in the car with my kids, and to get from my neighborhood to the “town” part of town, we have to drive down a bit of a hill.  Lane and Jake are going “Whee!” and Lane asks if I can go faster.

“No, honey, that wouldn’t be safe,” I reply.  “If we go too fast, we could get into an accident, and one of us could get hurt really badly or even die.  I wouldn’t want any of us to get hurt.”

Lane says, “Could the baby get hurt?”

“Yep,” I reply.  “If I got hurt badly enough the baby could get hurt too.”

“Or could you die?” Lane asks.

“I could,” I say.  “If another car hit us hard enough I could die.”

“I wouldn’t want you to die,” Lane replies.  “Then we’d be lost.”

My, what a philosophical thing for a six year-old to say, I ponder.  “Well, if anything were to happen to me, Daddy would take very good care of you.”

“Yeah,” she responds, “but first we’d have to find our way home.  We’d have to walk or something.”