Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Worst. Morning. Ever.

I awoke to the sound of a cat mewing this morning. Strange, I thought to myself in my semi-conscious state... our cat Buster doesn't meow. He makes a gutteral "growww" sound. But this was definitely a meow. Hmmm.

I opened my bedroom door to find a strange cat sitting there. Interesting. How did he/she get into my house?

I stumbled in to brush my teeth and put on some eyes (glasses or contacts) so that I could get a better look at our feline visitor. As I put in my first contact, I thought 'maybe he came in last night with Jason, who didn't notice.' As I put in the next contact I realized it was quiet downstairs... too quiet. Especially for 7 a.m. I raced down the stairs.

As I came to the bottom of the flight, I heard a bump and a scream. Katie and Sadie were by our kitchen door, wearing jackets and their pajamas. Katie was yelling at Carlie that she was a bad dog for knocking over Sadie. Sadie was howling.

I went over to pick up Sadie and to scold Katie - first for getting her sister out of her crib (a no-no) and second for taking her outdoors without permission while mommy and daddy slept (a not-previously explained no-no, but a common sense no-no). While lecturing Katie, I noticed a smell. And that Sadie's butt was soaked. And that the smell was overpowering, and worse by the second. I pulled out the full trash bag from our kitchen can, ready to stick the soon-to-be discarded diaper in it and took Sadie to the changing table. She was covered in poo - not solid, not cute, but the nasty, sticky, diarrhea type of stuff. Those who are eating while reading this may want to stop now.

As I mopped up Sadie and gagged profusely, I failed to hear the rustling coming from the kitchen area. I'd also forgotten about the strange cat in our home. I was intent on hazmat removal of toxic substances. I finished with the diaper duty to discover that underneath it all, Sadie had the worst diaper rash. Ever. She howled as I tried to wipe her, and screamed when I put Desitin on. Great.

I wrapped up the diaper in the first of many bags to dispose of and took it to the kitchen. Only to discover that the dogs had pulled out aforementioned trashbag and had strewn the contents all across my carpet in the living room. Yes, that carpet that I'd spent two hours the night before steam cleaning. That's the one.

As I picked up trash, I discovered another surprise. A mostly-melted popsicle (bright red and purple) sitting on our entertainment center, dripping steadily on... you guessed it... the freshly cleaned carpet. Oh joyous day.

I knew Sadie wasn't feeling great, but decided it was still a great day to go to Grandma's for some babysitting. So I struggled to get everyone in the car, to my mom's and back. Coming back, I opened the door only to be almost bowled over by one freaked- out cat that did not belong to me. He shot out that door like lightening - no doubt due to the smell emanating from our no-longer-fresh-scented home. I broke out the Lysol, stripped Sadie's room, re-steam-cleaned, lit every candle I owned and, for good measure, brewed some coffee to help offset the overwhelming aromas floating about our home. My employee later went in to use the restroom, and noted how fresh it smelled in our home. Hah.

I need to install some new locks. At first I thought about keyed locks that have the keyhole on both sides. Then I realized that that would be a serious fire hazard. So then I thought a chain lock would do it, then I realized that Katie would just stand on a chair and open it. And if Katie does that now, who knows what her rebel-rouser sister will do in a year or two.

I asked Katie tonight when I put her to bed how long they'd played outside this morning. (I'd asked her the same thing this morning during the "lecture" and she said just a few minutes). She informed me that it wasn't that long... they had waited for the sun to come up first.

I told a few people this story today, and I got the usual, "You'll miss these days when they get older." Actually, no I won't. I may miss the age, or the giggles, cuddles and laughs, but I will NOT miss the diarrhea-filled, strange-cat laden, floor-ruining, heart-stopping days like this. Not. At. All.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

To SAHM or Not to SAHM

That is the question. When I became pregnant with Katie, I was working at a hospice in the Roanoke Valley. I commuted, on average, 45 minutes each way, so was gone from home approximately 11 hours a day. I knew that once Katie came, I did not want to be gone those long hours from my little one. Yet I knew I needed income. And I needed mental stimulation. Thankfully, the perfect solution came along, I landed a client, started a business and was up and running two months after giving birth to Katie with my ongoing career in nonprofit management. I had a good setup - I worked from home, could flex my hours anyway I chose (within reason) to coordinate with her schedule, had college kids watch her and went to school full time. I even bartended on the side for a few months to make ends meet.

When we relocated, I took the business with me. I was determined to add another full-time client so that I could add the support staff I needed. I enrolled Katie in preschool part-time, which gave me just enough time to work in the morning, plus an hour or two while she slept in the afternoon and a few late-night hours. My day was work and childcare, and I didn't know many people in our area, so began to feel very isolated and alone. I wondered if I'd made the right choice. That said, Katie was blossoming, and I'm thankful I stayed with the business. My client was doing well, which was also satisfying for me.

Two months before Sadie's impending arrival, I took on a new client. The client was in a lot of trouble, and I knew it would be a rough transitional period. I hoped to have the files in place, history reviewed, finances up to code and standards and the office in good order before I left. I hired an assistant, who caught on quickly and felt confident it would be OK. I may even be able to take a week or two off work with the baby came. Then all hell broke loose.

The week before Sadie's arrival, my new client was having some major issues. My older client was in the process of obtaining an international contract and revitalization. The timing of these major events couldn't be worse. Then Sadie arrived with unexpected complications. Luckily, I had her on Labor Day, so I was off work, as was Jason. She was diagnosed with her heart defect that night, and the following day I was at UVA with her, miles from home. Unfortunately, she was a week early, and I had a major meeting that day. So I conducted it while standing outside of the hospital. I worked that night once her stats stabilized. I worked almost every day in that hospital.

When we got home, I continued to work, through the sleepless nights of withdrawal, through the days of ceaseless crying. I had thought she'd nap twice a day or so, so that I could use the downtime to work, and then work in the evenings when the kids went to bed. We all know how that turned out. I began to think that working from home was a terrible choice. Months went by, without a break until almost one year after I had her, when I took a week off and only checked email once a day. As a small business owner, and executive director of one international and one national group, there's no such thing as unplugging.

Now I find myself in a dilemma. I'm not looking for outside work - I enjoy being able to spend some time with the kids, but also work. The problem is I have little to no time outside of work and children. I'm suffocating in the confines of our home. And, I feel like I have less quality time with the children than ever. My time with them during the days is spent driving, eating, running errands. We rarely have the opportunity to sit and play until the evening. I feel like a bad mom, and guilty that I can't spend more time with them. At the same time, I feel like a failure as a business professional because I'm hitting a major burnout and am ready for change. I'd love to take a year or so off and just be a stay at home mom (SAHM), but I can't... the series of financial misfortunes we've suffered since Sadie's arrival have taken their toll on our budget flexibility.

So, I've kind of been watching for something outside the home. Not really actively looking, just watching. I don't want to give up things like taking Katie to her first day of school, afternoon gossip about what happened on the playground, random tickle fights with Sadie when I run in from the office to use the restroom during the day. But at the same time I feel like a shadow of myself, a flower that doesn't get enough sun, one of those kind of analogies. I miss the adult world, the mental stimulation of face-to-face interaction with colleagues on a daily basis. We do play dates from time to time, but I find that I have less and less time for them as the demands of my job seem to increase monthly. In a nutshell, I'm at a breaking point.

Today I came across MY job. That dream job I've been thinking of for months now. The new direction I want to take my career in. And it's only minutes from my home. I'm considering applying, but I'm torn... could I still be there for my kids as much as I am now? Would it be more or less time with them? More importantly, would the time we spend together have more or less quality to it? Do I want to really change my life this drastically? Then there's the company the job is with... there are some ethical issues they have, yet this job would be, in part, rectifying some of the problems (it's a corporate social responsibility position). What to do? What to do?

This post is way too long... I'm just wondering from my online friends out there, what do you think? I guess I can always apply... there's a good possibility I might not even get a call back on it. But if I did, would I want it? Could I be a good mom when working outside the home? I know many moms do it, but could I? Would the kids suffer? I just don't know... but I do know it's time to start looking for a change in my life. I'm wilting and my roots are dry.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lend a little energy...

I just can't seem to get into the flow of work today, because of some of my friends that are on my mind. If you don't mind (and I know I'm doing this too much lately, but can't help it), send some energy/prayers for them.

Yesterday, little Harlie went through her Nissen (stomach) surgery and had her feeding tube replaced. The surgery is successful, and she's in recovery. This is great news, as it means she can move forward with her jaw surgery in two weeks.

Today, Jameson (three stories and photos of her) is having her Fontan surgery, which is part 3 in a 3-part series of surgeries for a child that has, essentially, half a heart. It's a tricky surgery, but Jameson's in capable, experienced hands. Many friends and family wrote a J on their palm to remind us frequently to say a quick prayer for her and her family. Feel free to join in.

One more... Amanda's finally home with a newly hole-ridden pelvis (thanks to 4 biopsies in the last month), but she's worn out. If you're from Richmond, try to make it out to Dumbarton Elementary today if you can donate blood (3 - 7 pm) at a drive held in her honor.

Now, to try to focus on work... ugh. I need some inspiration to write about microwave stuff, and I'm not finding it today!!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Recently heard...

Katie's at that age where her reasoning, expanding vocabulary and innocent insight combine in a lethal combination of comedic quips. Here are a few heard just this past week:

Katie asked me earlier this week why girls just have the "short thingies" instead of penises, like boys have. I told her because that's how we're made. She replied that it would be so much easier if we had them, so that we could pee on trees like boys do. She then asked if boys have the "third hole." No, I tell her, boys don't have a vagina. Later I hear her telling Sadie "You have a 'banina' like me because you're a girl. You don't have a penis." Ah, great. Can't wait till my 20 month old starts running through the house talking about penises.

She loves to personalize Old MacDonald with family in it. For Jason, it's "with a poot, poot here," with me it's "and drama, drama there" and Sadie is "everywhere a scream, scream." Tells you quite a bit about our daily lives.

Katie: You know Carlee has a boyfriend now?
Me: No, really? Who is it?
Katie: It's Jacob.
Me: Oh wow, that's big news!
Katie: Yeah, but she's already tired of going with him. She's breaking up with him tomorrow, but she's too scared, so I'm going to do it for her.
Me: How will you do that?
Katie: Duh, I'll chase him when we're playing wolves, catch him and tell him it's over with him and Carlee and that he needs to move on.
Me: Sounds like a good plan. But try to be nice about it Katie. He may have his feelings hurt.
Katie: No, Mom, he's used to it. All his girlfriends break up with him that way.

Tonight, while playing animals I said something to amuse her. A few minutes later she told me that her brain was still laughing inside her head.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Thanks, Emily!

I got an award for the CHD blog... woo hoo! Ok, it's a blog award, but all the same, it counts! Fellow blogger Emily of Lovely and Amazing presented the CHD Blog I created with this lovely award:

  1. You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and that contribute to the blogging community, no matter what language.
  2. Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his/her blog.
  3. Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her/him the award itself.
  4. The award winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of Arte y Pico blog, the origin of this award.
  5. Post these rules.
So, ahem... speech!

I'd like to thank everyone who contributed to the CHD blog, and to those who actually took time to read it, even though you're not personally affected by CHD. I'd like to thank those who posted links, and sent stories. But the big thing is the amazing survivors I've been so honored to meet or share experiences with, the parents who've gone on after losing a child to CHD, the children who struggle every day to survive, the ones who no longer struggle but faced horrors in their past, and the adults who are paving the way into a new frontier of survival on the long-term. Thank you!

And onto the viral part of this award... Seeing as this weekend is all about celebrating moms, the chosen award winners are all superwomen in my book. Survivors, fighters, advocates and great moms. My nominees for the Arte y Pico award are (drumroll...)
  • Whoa Camel! - Amanda's witty material never ceases to be entertaining, even when she's undertaking the battle of a lifetime against leukemia. I've admired her writing skills since I was a mere lass, and I've learned a lot about zombies from her. Her musings are a true work of art.
  • Gabriel's Heart - although this is also authored by Emily, she officially gave me the award on Lovely and Amazing, so I can legally do this. Her son has TGA (same brand o' defect as Sadie) and her site is creative, insightful, has gorgeous photos, is fresh, clever and fun.
  • Home of the Four Trans - Beautifully designed, well executed, easy to maneuver, and Jen's not afraid to mince words and so tells it like it is about how tough it can be to have a child with a severe form of CHD.
  • The Holton Family - The journal of Christy, a mom with an unimaginably intense life caring for a special needs child... she keeps it real, writes eloquently, has some amazing video clips of her kids and her writing brings me to tears or to shear joy on a regular basis.
  • Toddler Planet - I'm a regular lurker on the site, but don't know the author. She's a working mom of two small kids who is battling breast cancer... need I say more?! I stumbled upon her when my friend Marie was diagnosed, and have been lurking ever since.

Saturday, May 03, 2008


Excuse my indulgence in a bit of a brag on my kid, but I have to do it - Katie scored her first goal today! She was so excited that she literally bounced back to mid-field for kickoff.

Her team practices every Saturday for 15 minutes, then they play a game. That's it. No weekday practices, not much formal coaching. They play 3-on-3, so it's pretty personal out there, much like no-holds barred wrestling on a soccer field, pre-school style. The quarters are pretty predictable - the kids tend to run back and forth a dozen or so times, with 1-2 kids just kind of running in circles, another scratching places that shouldn't be scratched in public and maybe one picking his/her nose while running. There's occasional violence (the coach's son on our team is VERY good, but roughs up the others all the time in the process of getting the ball), a lot of drama (at least 3 good bouts of outright bawling I've seen thus far, including Katie's in her second game because she hadn't made a goal yet), and no shortage of over-enthusiastic coaches reliving their childhood. I never fail to get at least one good belly laugh that brings tears to my eyes while watching from the sidelines.

Katie is great at dribbling, but has been very shy and lacked confidence until today. After that goal, she was in there, on the ball, running her hardest and dribbled all the way across the field several times - she's actually really good! (This I was very unsure of until today). Obviously, this comes from her dad, since I never played a team sport growing up.

Yay, Katie!! I was so proud when you scored that I got tears in my eyes - and this time it wasn't from laughing, it was from pride. Guess it's time for this mommy to go out, buy the minivan and get the soccer magnet to make it official - I'm a proud soccer mom!