There’s this stupid Burger King commercial on TV right now where a chicken announces, “French fries and I are pregnant and we’re having chicken fries!” Normally, I wouldn’t even notice a commercial like this. If I did notice it, I would think, “Lame” and wonder aloud how much the ad agency got paid for creating it. But, things haven’t been normal since April 30, when I found out my pregnancy was ectopic (growing in my left fallopian tube). After an emergency surgery, I came home to sit in front of the TV for a week, during which time I saw that commercial about 20 times and hated the f-ing world.
What I’m saying is it’s no secret that I spent a good deal of time hemming and hawing about whether or not I should tackle parenthood. My sister said, “You think too much,” and that’s probably true. Then, in the months after I got married in 2014, something shifted and I wanted a family. My husband and I talked about it for hours upon hours over many weeks and months. We didn’t take the decision lightly. It was very thought-out. We couldn’t be impulsive even if we wanted to be because I had to taper off my antidepressant before we could even “try.” That was a grueling two-month process in itself.
All that said, when I took 3 pee-on-a-stick tests and found out I was pregnant, I was ecstatic. Like, I was shaking, which I haven’t done since I was 15 and my crush gave me a ride to school one day. I saved the three tests until just yesterday when I finally decided to throw them away.
My plan was to tell my family on Mother’s Day by showing them the ultrasound picture and saying, “My gift won’t be ready for 7 months.” We had started talking about names and how to convert the guest bedroom into a nursery. I had started fantasizing, big time. I bought the very best prenatal vitamins and cooked awesome meals, saying to my husband, “This baby is gonna love me for 9 months.” I took the cliché “just found out I was pregnant” photo, planning to keep a log showing my growing bump. I couldn’t wait to see that bump grow.
My excitement turned to worry when I had some spotting. Google told me this was fairly common in early pregnancy. Still, I called the doctor and they said, “It’s probably nothing, but we can check your hormone levels with blood tests if you want.” I did want. I needed some peace of mind. The first two tests were fine. My levels were in the normal range and, most importantly, were rising as they should. In fact, they tripled from the first test to the second, which the doctor said was “excellent.” But, the third test was not good. The levels had barely risen. In retrospect, this makes me sad. The levels were still rising, albeit slowly. The baby was trying to grow.
They wanted me to come in right away for an ultrasound. I was expecting a miscarriage. I felt like a ticking time bomb, going to the bathroom every 10 minutes to see if I was bleeding. I wasn’t. I had some mild cramping, and figured that was just the beginning of losing the baby. I tried to comfort myself with, “Well, if you miscarry, it’s probably because there was something wrong with the baby.” That’s what I’d heard. I like to pride myself on being logical.
During the ultrasound, the tech kept sighing and shaking her head. I told her, “I know it’s bad, just be straight with me.” She said, “I think it’s in your left tube.” That was not what I expected to hear. After all, ectopic pregnancies are rare—1% to 2% of pregnancies. Ten minutes later, the doctor was having me escorted to the admitting desk of the hospital to have emergency surgery. I was shocked and scared. I’ve only been under anesthesia once—when I had my wisdom teeth removed. The whole process—getting vials and vials of blood drawn, having an IV inserted through my hand, answering questions about my advance directive—made me feel ill. And then the lights went out at the hospital and I had to wait, lying there on the gurney, for 2 hours before they could operate.
I should consider myself lucky. People die from ectopic pregnancies—not just in the 1800s, but today, especially in countries where medical care isn’t great. I’m fortunate to live where I do. When I woke up, the doctor said I was already bleeding internally so the tube would have ruptured “at any minute” if they hadn’t operated. That would have been bad, very bad.
From the moment I got home from the hospital, I was stubbornly determined to just move on. I was not prepared for the tsunami of grief and sadness and anger that would crash down. I keep looking for a reason why this happened. Maybe it’s because I was wishy-washy about kids for so long. Maybe it’s a sign that I was supposed to stay on the “no kids” side of the fence. My husband thinks it was to test our resolve and prove our strength and resiliency (because god knows you need strength and resilience if you’re a parent). Oh my husband, his glass is always half full, even when I attempt to drain it.
Physically, I could barely move for a few days. It hurt to sit up. I fainted during my first attempt at walking. I ran my first marathon a few months ago and felt so strong and empowered by that. Suddenly, that person was gone and I was completely weak and depleted, unable to even go to the bathroom without help. The only thing that felt okay was lying flat, staring at the ceiling. With my type of surgery, they pump you full of air so they can see around in there. I was so bloated and uncomfortable. In a bit of cruel irony, I looked about 5 months pregnant for several days. My belly still isn’t back to normal.
Physical effects aside, the emotional recovery has been incredibly difficult and humbling. Logically, I know it was barely a fetus, but I can’t stop thinking about how the baby’s heart was beating and the baby had eyes and all of that. It’s sad. It was a healthy union of egg and sperm, just in the wrong spot. That f-ing sucks and really pisses me off. The pregnancy hormones take weeks to go away, so I still “feel pregnant.” If I pee on a stick, it will say I am pregnant. That’s probably why I’m so sad. My body is responding like I lost a baby. I did, I guess. I did.
People try to say the right things. They really do. But when you’re in a certain head space, nothing really helps. It goes something like this:
Nice friend: “At least you could get pregnant.”
My imagined retort: “Yeah and it turned out to be potentially life-threatening. Lucky me!”
Nice friend: “I didn’t even know you wanted kids.”
My imagined retort: “Right, so I guess it’s okay this happened. Thanks.”
Nice friend: “You can try again.”
My imagined retort: “If you went skydiving and the parachute didn’t open, would you go again?”
Nice friend: “I’m sure it happened for a reason.”
My imagined retort: “When our friendship ends, that will be for a reason, too.”
Seriously, folks, I had a days-long, very elaborate pity party. A real rager.
And don’t even get me started on the evils of Facebook when you go through something like this. I follow lots of runners. I hated them for their health. I follow lots of friends who are pregnant or already moms. I hated them for their bliss. Even now that some time has passed, I still feel angry. I know it’s not rational and I know it’s bitchy and unfair of me, but it’s there.
Not even my husband has been safe from my wrath. Frankly, spouses can’t understand. They want to, but they can’t. And that’s frustrating. I don’t know if we’ll try again. Even though I have only one tube left, my doctor says many women go on to have healthy pregnancies after an ectopic. I think we will take the summer to heal and relax and drink some beers and think about what’s next. I see this experience as a microcosm of motherhood itself. It stripped me of so much control and left me feeling so vulnerable, which is probably what it’s like to be a mom a lot of the time. I have to wonder if I can handle that long-term.
We did a small ceremony at the beach, involving some rose petals disappearing into the waves. I cried. My husband said, “That was nice,” which is the closest he will get to crying, I assure you. I’ve been up and around now. I’ve spent time with my family. They’ve made me laugh. It freaking hurts my belly when I laugh. But at least I’m laughing.
To all you women who have struggled with losing a baby in whatever way, shape, or form, I am so sorry. And you are so brave. Stay off Facebook for a while and you’ll be okay.
A portrait of my family once a week, most weeks, in 2015
Willy: Is no longer super stoked by this series but is being a good-ish sport about it nonetheless. Also got his hair trimmed; he’s holding strong on growing his hair out — something I only support because I don’t want to hear him bitch about why I let him cut his hair when he does give in and – in turn – misses his long lovely manly locks.
Hooper: I swear someone has given him meth or speed or whatever amps you up because he has been a torpedo the last few days; eating like mad, forgoing his nap (insert sad face), and buzzing around like spinning top.
Van: Thinks attaching the word ‘poop’ to just about anything constitutes a joke; like when we drove through a tunnel the other day and he said, ‘tunnel poop’, and proceeded to giggle to himself.
Me: I’ve been overly exhausted, trying to get back on track I suppose. Willy granted me an hour and half nap the other day, which was heavenly. I went on to finish six loads of laundry that day so sometimes I just need a little juice in the ol’ engine. Also, I have the smallest head and I feel like my head is swimming anytime I wear a hat. I’m considering trolling the junior sections for a smaller one — unless someone knows of a hat that comes in a very small x-small?
Jimmie: Has been wandering our room at night and has thus landed himself back in the crate to sleep. If he’d just stay perched at the end of our bed like he used to, he’d have a nice warm cuddle session with our feet. But, you know, there’s not talking sense to him.
Weekly Resolution: We were supposed to have a vegetable each night at dinner. All these resolutions seem manageable in theory… but in reality we are rarely home for dinner all seven days of the week. With that said, we missed a few days and there was also the day we had the neighbors over for pizza so we missed that day too. We suck at this resolution bit, but our intentions are good.
When I became a mother, I felt this annoyance with all those women before me who fought so hard for women’s rights. And by “women’s rights,” I mean this notion that women can “do it all.” I mean of course we CAN do it all. In my opinion, we are more equipped than men to “do it all.” We are biologically hardwired to multitask because motherhood is, essentially, multitasking.
But, as a mom, I quickly realized that the implication is not simply that we CAN do it all, but that we MUST. And “all” now encompasses taking care of the household and working a good job and sustaining wonderful friends and being a good sister/daughter/whatever. I don’t think the feminists intended to make us all stressed out. They wanted us to have equal rights. They wanted things to be fair. They wanted to be inspiring. Unfortunately, I think many of us have taken their “you can do anything” mantra and turned it into a “you should do everything” mandate.
When I had my boys, I hated the fact that I had to leave home and return to work. It felt very unnatural to leave my child. Everyone says to follow your instinct as a new mom and my new mom instinct was barking like a little annoying yippie chihuahua for me to stay home.
What I do for work has changed some over the last few years and when someone asks me what I do, I kinda stumble over the answer. Consistently, I say, I’m a registered nurse. Passionately, I say, I’m a photographer. And, because I wanted to, I opened an Etsy shop. Sometimes I wonder if doing all three inhibits me from doing any one with any sort of excellence. I never give it much thought though because all three make me happy and I have come to the conclusion, over much time spent mulling it all over, that all three work symbiotically. I have, however, witnessed the struggles of those around me; moms who feel less adequate because they’ve chosen to leave their careers to mother children, moms who never had the opportunity to pursue a career because they stayed home with kids from the beginning, and moms who do a little of both but don’t feel like winners at either one.
Point being, I think we all question what we do and if we’re doing it right. I think women are notoriously hard on themselves and tend to compare themselves to one another and set unrealistic expectations; expectations that can lead to us feeling really crummy about ourselves.
I came across this article on The Huffington Post that kind of touches on women who seem to give more energy to what they’re not doing instead of to what they are. I suppose it’s the whole glass half-full versus glass half-empty phenomena. Or the notion of wanting what you have as opposed to having what you want. In general, I think we’re all more inclined to self-scrutiny and I think Elizabeth Gilbert’s article is a great reminder to lighten up a little. In today’s day n’ age, it feels like we’re doing more than ever – in all facets of life (home, work, motherhood, etc), and yet we’re seemingly more self-critical. It’s backwards.
The last bit of the article has a ‘screw it’ like mantra and has really stuck with me:
“Move to the wrong city. Lose your temper in front of the boss, quit training for that marathon, wolf down a truckload of cupcakes the day after you start your diet. Blow it all catastrophically, in fact, and then start over with good cheer. This is what we all must learn to do, for this is how maps get charted — by taking wrong turns that lead to surprising passageways that open into spectacularly unexpected new worlds. So just march on. Future generations will thank you — trust me — for showing the way, for beating brave new footpaths out of wonky old mistakes. Fall flat on your face if you must, but please, for the sake of us all, do not stop. Map your own life.”
The reality is that there is no right or wrong. Sometimes I think I need to stop analyzing what I’m doing with my life and – so long as it’s working for me – keep on keepin’ on. What I’m doing right now is fulfilling. There is always more out there, always. But, to me, the point of life isn’t to cram it full of accomplishments; it’s to find accomplishment in the simplicities of the everyday.
Every now and again I’ll write a post that really means something to me and I’ll let it sit, completed, in my drafts bin for months, even years. I haven’t quite figured out why. I think it bothers me to post something that I feel so deeply about only to have it soon be buried underneath future posts. But I also can’t stand for this post to sit in my drafts bin any longer…
One of my fellow Childhood Unplugged photographers turned me on to an article published by The Atlantic called, “The Overprotected Kid”. The subtitle states, “A preoccupation with safety has stripped childhood of independence, risk taking, and discovery – without making it safer. A new kind of playground points to a better solution”. The article highlights the transformation of playgrounds in the US from the 1960s and 70s until now, noting that changes were made due to safety concerns without much of a change in the number of injuries that have occurred on a playground between then and now. It speaks to how consumed we, as parents, have become with safety and how driven we have become by fear. This fear has led to very little unsupervised playtime, which the article states can be detrimental to the development of a child. I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t agree.
So what is this “new” playground like, you ask? Well it takes up half an acre and consists of things like tires, mattresses, a creek with a faded plastic boat, mud, wood, and other materials that allow the “playground” to transform daily. Contrary to many of the playgrounds we’re used to, “there are no bright colors, or anything else that belongs to the usual playground landscape: no shiny metal slide topped by a red steering wheel or a tic-tac-toe board; no yellow seesaw with a central ballast to make sure no one falls off; no rubber bucket swing for babies. There is, however, a frayed rope swing that carries you over the creek and deposits you on the other side, if you can make it that far (otherwise it deposits you in the creek)”.
Childhood has changed. I was just having a conversation with friends when one admitted that, back in day (she grew up in the 60s-70s) when the cops used to show up to the parties, they’d simply hold their joints under the table and blatantly deny the presence of any drugs or alcohol. And the cops, who could certainly smell the marijuana in the air, would “take their word for it” and move on. In the same conversation, someone else admitted that he was in the car when his group of friends got pulled over for drunk driving (this was also in the 60s-70s). Instead of arresting anyone, the cop asked if anyone in the car was sober and took another kids word for it when one raised his hand and volunteered to drive the rest of the way home. I’m not saying I want my kids to be able to get away with doing drugs, nor do I think cops should turn a blind eye to drunk drivers; my point is only that times have changed and it’s affected the way our children interact with their world. The article states, “Actions that would have been considered paranoid in the ’70’s – walking third-graders to school, forbidding your kid to play ball in the street, going down the slide with your child in your lap – are now routine”. It continues, “When you ask parents why they are more protective than their parents were, they might answer that the world is more dangerous than it was when they were growing up. But this isn’t true, or at least not in the way that we think. For example, parents now routinely tell their children never to talk to strangers, even though all available evidence suggests that children have about the same (very slim) chance of being abducted by a stranger as they did a generation ago. Maybe the real question is, how did these fears come to have such a hold over us? And what have our children lost – and gained – as we’ve succumbed to them?”.
The article goes on to say that somewhere along the line risk became synonymous with hazard and due mostly to fear of lawsuits, playgrounds began to change substantially. And now, they’re all the same. From one playground to the next, you’ll notice that all the slides are at the same heights and angles and many share the same accessories. There are no elements of surprise and whether you’re in California or Kansas, chances are your kid is playing on the same blue and orange painted equipment with rubber pavement as my kids. And if you’re kids are like my kids, the actual equipment itself holds their attention for a whopping 10 minutes or so. After that initial 10 minutes is up, I rely on them interacting with other children (fingers crossed there is someone there for them to play with), the sandbox, or – if they’re lucky – their bike / scooter I brought for them to ride around on. And am I the only one that gets annoyed by the constant signage, “use caution”, “intended for children ages 2-5”, “adult supervision required”, and so on and so forth? It reminds me of a comedy show I saw with Demetri Martin where he does this whole bit about signage and how stupid it is, in general. He talks about driving across a bridge in the summer time that has a sign that reads, “May be icy”. He suggested that instead of concentrating on the negative, signs ought to concentrate on the positive; like, instead, how ’bout it read, “May not be icy”. It translates to mean the same thing, doesn’t it? I digress.
“Two parents sued when their child fell over a stump in a small redwood forest that was part of a playground. They had a basis for the lawsuit. After all, the latest safety handbook advises designers to ‘look out for tripping hazards, like exposed concrete footings, tree stumps, and rocks.’ But adults have come to the mistaken view ‘that children must somehow be sheltered from all risks of injury. In the real world, life is filled with risks – financial, physical, emotional, social – and reasonable risks are essential for children’s healthy development”. It’s as if we’ve taken the trust for our children to properly judge the safety of a situation away. I hate watching my boys in yards where there is a pool, for example. But rather than chase them all over the place, like those guys who tease the bulls with those red flags, I sit back and wait for them to fall in with the reassurance that I will simply jump in after them. I remind myself that a few seconds under water will not kill them. Maybe some people may find me crazy for doing such, but I trust in their ability to know that playing by the water’s edge is not safe. What I don’t trust is their ability to swim and that’s why I sit out there with them, at all times, carefully observing, or “loitering with intent“, as the article calls it. And to this day, neither Hooper nor Van has fallen into the pool while playing around it.
I agree that learning to negotiate risks is an important part of survival. I mean the human race has survived as a whole because of our abilities to defend ourselves, run from danger, and be independent. The article states, “Even today, growing up is a process of managing fears and learning to arrive at sound decisions. By engaging in risky play, children are effectively subjecting themselves to a form of exposure therapy, in which they force themselves to do the thing they’re afraid of in order to overcome their fear”.
Hooper became a bit more daring when he transformed from toddler to kid, but I would describe him as far from reckless. Both boys are terrified of cars in the street or parking lot. When Van hears a car’s engine start in the parking lot, he latches on to my leg. Because the fear is innate in them, when we cross the street or ride bikes I make it a point to educate them about crosswalks or looking both ways but I’m careful to instill more fear and I speak to them in a calm and matter-of-fact voice. I think it’s important to know your children and teach to their individual levels of understanding, or in this case fear.
Even with the introduction of the safety handbook for playgrounds that subsequently led to the change of all playgrounds today (due in large part to fear of lawsuits in situations where the playgrounds were not up to the new codes), there has been little change in the rate of injury between then and now; “We might accept a few more phobias in our children in exchange for fewer injuries. But the final irony is that our close attention to safety has not in fact made a tremendous difference in the number of accidents children have. According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which monitors hospital visits, the frequency of emergency-room visits related to playground equipment, including home equipment, in 1980 was 156,000 or one visit per 1,452 Americans. In 2012, it was 271,475, or one per 1,156 Americans”.
It seems that these days we are driven to shelter our children; encouraged to always hold their hand and guide them and supervise them. But, in-doing-so we can also dissemble them by making them reliant on us for safety and protection, guidance and direction. When you work at a job, for example, and show you are able to conquer a task with competence, you move up the ladder and are given more responsibilities and, as a result, you build confidence and independence and self-worth. The same goes, or used to go, for raising children; “Children used to gradually take on responsibilities, year by year. They crossed the road, went to the store; eventually some would get neighborhood jobs. Their pride was wrapped up in competence and independence, which grew as they tried and mastered activities they hadn’t known how to do the previous year. But these days, middle-class children skip these milestones. They spend a lot of time in the company of adults, so they can talk and think like them, but they never build up the confidence to be truly independent and self-reliant”.
The article concludes in differentiating between avoiding major hazards and making every decision with the primary goal of optimizing child safety (or enrichment, or happiness); “We can no more create the perfect environment for our children than we can create perfect children. To believe otherwise is a delusion, and a harmful one; remind yourself of that every time panic rises”.
It’s difficult to trust my boys at the age they’re at and I’m still adjusting to letting go and encouraging exploration; but I think it’s a battle worth fighting. I remind myself often of the big picture. I’m not raising children, I’m raising future adults.
What are your thoughts on the subject? Do you encourage your children to take risks? How did you grow up? Did you have a lot of unsupervised time as a child? And if you’re a grandparent, how do you feel things have changed (or not changed) since you raised your kids?
A portrait of my family once a week, most weeks, in 2015
Willy: Gifted me a trip to visit Janet for Mother’s Day. We’re in the Dominican Republic right now, actually, celebrating some of his resent accomplishments through work, so he’s making big waves in my world this week. So grateful, so proud.
Hooper: Woke up in the middle of the night looking for one of his stuffed animals. If you saw how many things this kid sleeps with, you’d know why I’m considering barricading him in with toddler rails on both sides. It would sure beat having to get up in the middle of the night to retrieve a fallen monkey, or book, or stick, or ??
Van: Insists on wearing his high top Converse. I’m sure I’ve mentioned the fact that the jokes on me because I thrifted them for $3 and they’ve caused nothing but trouble. His interest in them has hit a new height; he insists on wearing them all the time despite the fact they are a size too small and require you to unlace them entirely just to get his foot in. He even insisted on wearing them during his nap. He woke up mid-nap crying for me to tie one of the laces that had become untied. He later woke up butt booty naked, having had taken off all of his clothes, but those trusty Converse? They were still on.
Me: Had a booth at the Mermade Market last week, which was exciting to be a part of. Did any of you attend? It was nice that I didn’t have to be there and nice to have the inventory that didn’t sell folded, tagged, and ready to go. So, a win-win.
Jimmie: Is rather reluctantly adjusting to all of our coming and going as of late. But he’s officially the-dog-that-sleeps-with-us-in-bed, something neither Hooper nor Van can say much about, so… I try not to feel too guilty.
Weekly Resolution: Whatta know? We’re gone again… so no picking from the jar until next week, when hopefully I can get caught up with laundry and grocery shopping and cleaning and, well, life in general.
As parents, especially as first time parents, we want to do everything right. We’re impressionable. We read books and blogs and take advice from everyone around us to heart. And then, at some point, a metamorphosis occurs and we realize that all along we had something more valuable than research or advice; we have instinct.
Sure, I backed my decision to try for a home birth with research I valued. But, as many of you know, for every research article there is supporting home birth, there’s another one to tear it to shreds. So really, it was never a decision based solely on research, but instead on my instinct that a home birth was right for me. It’s where I felt comfortable.
This post is not about home birth. It’s about instinct over research.
When my in-laws were in town, I listened as my father-in-law explained that there is a direct correlation between eating ice cream and drowning. When looking at the statistic, one is led to believe that if they eat ice cream, the chances they may drown in a pool of water are higher. In actuality, the two are related only through the fact they are both prevalent during summer. The statistic does not, however, even mention summer, which is the key ingredient, wouldn’t you say?
Nothing is as valuable as your instinct. I’ve never gotten lost from trusting my gut. Parenting has taught me that time and time again. I no longer rely on research, I rely on myself.
How about you? Were you influenced heavily by research / advice as a new mom? Do you value your instinct?
There was a time when I used to track every single one of my expenses—down to the penny. I was a little crazy. And I’d make a game of seeing how many days I could go without spending money. I patted myself on the back if cash stayed in my wallet. But, still, even if I loaded up on groceries and filled the car with gas on the weekend, I was spending money throughout the week—in the form of electricity for the lights in my house and other basic essentials. If I factored in those per diem amounts, it would be virtually impossible to spend zero in the society we live in—the society we are privileged to live in.
Not everybody lives like we do. Duh. We all know this. But I don’t think we really understand what it’s like (or what it could be like if we were born in different circumstances). That’s what inspired Chris and Zach, two kids (I’m in my mid-thirties so I consider people in their early twenties “kids”) studying environmental development to travel to a remote village in Guatemala and live like 7 out of 10 people there—below the poverty line. What does that “poverty line” equate to? A buck a day. Yep. That’s it. And, sadly, 1.1 billion people live on that amount. That’s so many people living on so very little.
That’s Chris (and Zach in the background).
The guys take 2 filmmakers (Ryan and Sean) with them on the journey. The 4 of them stay for 8 weeks and have $56 each to live on. To simulate the unpredictability of income for the people in Guatemala, they put dollar amounts on little pieces of paper and draw out one per day. Some days they draw a $9; some days a $0. That’s how people live there—they never really know when they will have money coming.
Most people rely on a service for the poor called Microfinance, which gives loans to impoverished people trying to get their lives on the right track. The guys doing the documentary use their $125 loan to pay for housing and a plot of land to grow radishes (their chosen business venture). Every 15 days, they have to pay back $6.25 on their loan or they default. That’s the reality of life.
In the beginning of their stay, the guys estimate that they’re getting less than 1000 calories per day each, in the form of black beans, rice, and bananas. Thankfully, they meet Anthony and Rosa, a couple in their early twenties who are already managing a household of 8 (including a newborn). Anthony and Rosa teach them how to make fires more efficiently, eat more substantially (lard is the key), and bargain better in town. Despite the daily juggling act of budgeting, compromising, and sacrificing, Anthony and Rosa (like many Guatemalans) are happy. As Chris says, “they have so little and they’re willing to give so much.” Their smiles are magical really.
That’s Rosa. See what I mean about the magical smiles?
What this documentary showed me was how simultaneously simple and complicated life is when you’re living on $1 per day. It’s simple in that focus narrows and life becomes about bare essentials. It’s complicated in that every small choice can have a big impact. Every penny counts, and must be pondered seriously. I’ll tell you what though—such tight constraints breed great creativity. For example, Anthony is part of savings club in which 12 members each save $12 and one person gets a $144 payout for something big, like a wedding or house repair. The club continues until everyone gets a payout. Pretty cool, huh?
That’s Chino, a young boy who has already accepted a future as a farmer because his family can’t afford education.
At one point during their stay, Chris gets both giardia and E.coli. He can’t afford medicine on his Guatemalan budget, so he uses antibiotics they brought in case of emergency. It begs the question: What do people living at this poverty level do when something unexpected happens? It can be impossible to come back from setbacks that many of us would consider mere “bummers.” In the end, Chris says he’s lost 20 pounds and he gets to go home and rehabilitate. What if the Guatemalan village life wasn’t something to rehabilitate from? What if it was your life? Feeling grateful much? I am.
Because $1 is such a big deal to most people in villages like the one Chris, Zach, Ryan, and Sean visited, it doesn’t take much for you to make a difference. With just a $200 loan, Rosa was able to start a weaving business. Many other women like her have used modest-to-us loans to change their entire lives. So here’s my pitch to you: Make a donation. Visit livingononedollar.org to learn more.
A portrait of my family once a week, for most of the weeks, in 2015
Playing catch up here…
Willy: Caught more crabs than we had buckets for.
Hooper: Pronounces “lobster” as “whompster” and “hibiscus” as “hibiscuit”. Also told me he needed a tissue because a booger was coming out and it was “running fast”. Told a stranger on the beach a long and embellished story about a “mean whale” that comes and eats buckets on the beach when no one is looking… only the story was much longer, included lots of hand motions, and was told as one run-on sentence.
Van: I asked Van, as I periodically do, what he wants to do when he grows up. He said he wants to be a cowboy, which he’s said before, after he gave up on his dreams of becoming a turtle. But when asked what he wanted to do as a cowboy, he said he wanted to pick pumpkins.
Me: Spent the kids’ nap time poolside, everyday.
Jimmie: Per the photos we saw, enjoyed his dog sitter. He greeted her (after we got home and she came over to drop off the key) by peeing on her leg.
Weekly Resolution: We resolved to enjoy our vacation. It wasn’t hard.
“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.” -Debra Ginsberg
I’d like to think that every parent falls into the toy trap at some point in time. It may be accumulating toys while you’re pregnant and in frantic nesting mode. I know I picked up one too many vintage toys during this time all built around this lovely image of my soon-to-be child playing with them. Or maybe it hit later, like during the toddler years, when you’re willing to fling just about anything in your kid’s direction to buy yourself a treasured moment of peace. And by moment, let’s not kid, I mean minute.
Hooper never had a lot of toys when he was a baby, aside from the vintage toys I mentioned that I ended up using more for decoration than anything else. He was always happy with real-life objects; water bottles, keys, junk mail. He’s still into junk mail, actually. So industrious, that one. When he did start showing interest in toys, it was in little toy cars which he would feverishly line up on one side of the sofa and then rearrange – again – on the other side of the sofa. Willy and I would huff and puff when trying to find a place to actually sit on the sofa, but it never stopped us from surprising him with a new toy car and, overtime, his collection of toy cars grew to okay-now-we-have-a-problem proportions.
And then, of course, there were birthdays and Christmas’ and visits from family and toys started invading every crevice of our home. At one time we had a bike, a scooter, a tricycle, the little tykes cozy coupe, a plasma car, a balance bike, a vintage playskool wooden giraffe ride on, a wagon, and those are just what I can remember off the top of my head.
By the time Van started showing interests in toys, it was non-stop fighting. I remember Christmas of 2013 vividly; Hooper and Van were at each other constantly. As soon as things calmed down (and the new toys lost their “newness”), the fighting dissipated. It was in hindsight that we connected the two – new toys and non-stop fighting.
When we moved last year, we donated a lot of their toys. The select few that we decided to keep got tucked away in the coat closet downstairs. Ninety percent of the time we are at home, you can find Hooper and Van in the garage; Van on his bike and Hooper organizing the random inhabitants of the garage (Note the picture above: a neighbor gave us that 4 wheeler thing, which has since been donated, but check out everything he has stashed on there: traffic cones, a bike helmet, an empty Stella carton for heaven’s sake, a broom, dirty dish rags that were by the washer, his halloween bucket, part of the vacuum, a vintage suitcase, scraps of wood, his school backpack…). These kids clearly don’t need actual toys. And so, the other day when they were napping, I loaded the car with another round of toy donations.
Currently we have a few toy trucks and tractors that they play with often, a toy kitchen with toy food in their room, wooden blocks, heaps of books, and, of course, their bikes in the garage.
And it’s been more peaceful than ever. They’ve been playing together in all sorts of new ways; their bed has become a pirate ship, they have picnics, they use the tractors to dig the rocks out of our potted plants (grrrr, but whatever), they build “homes” with their blocks, and they ride bikes together… all in peace.
Not that they don’t fight anymore. They do. They’re kids. But I’ve definitely noticed a change.
We’re due for another purge. I know friends and grandparents and other family members enjoy surprising them with gifts – namely toys because let’s not kid, kids could give an f’ about clothes – and I would never be the kind of parent to ask that they not buy our kid’s toys. But when the newness wears off and pieces go missing, I donate or throw out.
And they never notice and never ask. In fact, Hooper has a better sense of when I’ve taken his junk mail (also known as his “work stuff” than when entire toys go missing — I kid you not).
How do you deal with the invasion of toys? What are your kid’s favorite toys?
And my apologies for the virus that infected my site and sent everyone to a viagra site… So frustrating. I believe it’s been taken care of.
I’m not super choosy when it comes to my kid’s health care. Or at least I didn’t think I was. You can decide, I suppose, after you read this post.
Before we moved, we saw a pediatrician that our midwives loosely recommended. I say loosely because he was simply a name on a long list that they provided and they didn’t really seem to remember how he ended up on that list. A good friend of Willy’s ex-girlfriend’s mom also worked at the office, so he came recommended from her as well. We interviewed him when I was pregnant because it seemed like something google told us we were supposed to do. He seemed on board with our decision to birth our child at home and even threw out a few supporting statistics and articles he had read.
He was never very friendly. His bedside manner was average. He didn’t talk to either of boys in cute, high-pitch silly voices. Instead he was direct and to the point. He talked to me, not the kids. And he made really sound decisions; decisions that were always thoroughly thought through. And that’s what I loved most about him. He was conservative with antibiotics, quick to recommend natural remedies. More than that, he gave me – and several others – his cell phone number. I’d text him pictures of rashes and he’d tell me whether I needed to bring them in or not. He’d always respond within 12 hours. Always. And it saved so many unnecessary trips to the office (which was a 45 min drive from us, so I really appreciated that). He took appointments seven days a week and always left room for same-day sick appointments.
Then we moved out to Orange County and it seems like every pediatrician office is a corporation with a call center. I interviewed one pediatrician, which already made me uncomfortable because I’m not the interviewing type. She didn’t seem to offer that I-care-about-my-patients feel. Willy and I both decided not to go with her. I didn’t really want to go through the interview process all over again. I figured the boys are older and rarely need to go to the doc for anything other than vaccines. So I decided not to be so picky and made an appointment at an office close to us, based off some random parent’s recommendation. And it was fine. We went in, got our vaccines, and left.
But then there was that time that Van was struggling to breathe and I had to take him to ER in the middle of the night. He had several breathing treatments and a steroid injection before he was breathing a bit easier and without wheezing. The ER doc told us to follow up with our primary the next day and I agreed that it would be important to do so. As a nurse, I know you don’t mess with airway. Especially the airway of a child. So when I called the office to get an appointment, I was told they didn’t have any and was offered the alternative of going much further away to their other location. I was so furious. Then, recently, when Hooper came down with some bug that he seemed to have trouble fighting, I called again for an appointment and was once again told that they were full and again offered the alternative of going to their other office that’s much further away.
It’s not the drive to another location that bothers me, it’s the lack of continuity of care. And the fact that every time I call I’m talking to a call center, not office staff.
I ended up taking Hooper to urgent care, where they put him on antibiotics. And in hindsight, I’m not sure he even needed antibiotics.
I’m so fed up with the pediatricians out here. What’s it like in your area? And if you’re in the Orange County area and have a mom-n-pop pediatrician you see and like, by all means, hook a mama up.
An evening spent at the beach, eating pizza for dinner and ice cream for dessert, watching the trains roll by, the sunset, and “gunning” all the passersby who very kindly obliged by stickin’ them up, each and every one of them; boys being boys, kids being kids, barefoot with snot running from their noses, and one happy dog who ate all the left over bits of crust. Childhood, unplugged.
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