Silent Auction

We went to an event for our daughter’s new preschool over the weekend. It’s an annual fundraiser and as incoming parents we didn’t know anyone there. Everyone else appeared to have already been lifelong best friends. So we had a few drinks, checked out the venue, and the silent auction items. There must have been at least 60 different things. We figured we should put our names down here and there to show our support but pray to God we didn’t win anything and have to pony up (there might have been an actual pony for sale). A few more drinks later, we (and by we, I mean me, because I can’t handle my liquor) were playing fast and loose. Not that I wanted to win, but I also thought, “ok, we haven’t actually bid up to the actual value of the prize, so we would still get our money’s worth and chances are, someone will outbid us”. After we were sufficiently bored, we decided to leave. It was before the auction ended.
We have both been a ball of nerves ever since. We haven’t yet received a call saying we won something, but I’m hoping we don’t. I don’t really want to play a day of golf followed by a dinner with wine-pairing. The only things I find entertaining about golf are the ridiculous outfits, golf carts stuck in sand traps, and people who golf clap. I also don’t really want to schlep to the Brazil vs. Argentina soccer game (but honestly, that might be a little cool since my grandfather played for Argentina back in the day). And the last ridiculous thing we bid WAY too much money for… Wait for it… Santa coming to our house on the back of a firetruck. What the fuck were we thinking?
First of all, our kid is obsessed with Santa. She talked about him today – its friggin’ May! How could we ever top that again (if it doesn’t scare the crap out of her in the first place)? And let’s just talk about why Santa is on a firetruck. Who came up with that tradition? Couldn’t anyone find a horse drawn carriage around here? Is this like a Smokey the bear thing? Are they trying to send a fire safety message with a Christmas flair? “Ho Ho Ho! Put out the fire if you want a toy or a maze. So you don’t set Santa’s big ass ablaze!”. Got it, thanks Santa. Safety first!
So you see why we are on pins and needles waiting to see if we lost… I mean, won anything. I should have put our name down for the plastic surgery stuff. Now that would have actually come in handy.

Mother’s Day

When you have two kids under the age of three, you don’t really get a day off for rest and relaxation. Mother’s Day doesn’t entail much more than wishing you a happy day and giving a homemade card (which is, of course, a keepsake I will cherish forever). I still had bottles to give, laundry to do, and tooshies to wipe. I did, however, get a very beautiful bouquet of flowers from my husband and the girls.
We had a busy day and while the little ones napped in the car as we hopped from visits with grandparents and errands around town, my husband and I talked about something my mother had taught me when I was young. I mark it as the most important lesson she’s ever given me and something that I want my girls to learn as well. Here it goes: There are only three things you have to be in life: kind, kind, kind.
Yes, it is that simple. It’s not always as easy as it sounds though. I read a blurb in a magazine the other day asking readers to write in about what was the biggest regret they have. I honestly can’t think of many and in fact the only one that comes to mind is something that I have only ever told my husband, just today actually. When I was young and in dance camp, a few of us girls choreographed a dance together. One of the other girls who was a year older than I, told me I had to go tell another girl she couldn’t do the dance with us. I did it. It felt awful to purposely exclude her and intentionally hurt her feelings. So horrible was the feeling that those two minutes have plagued me for more than 20 years. Both of these other girls probably don’t even remember this happening, but I do, and I never want my girls to experience any side of a situation like that. I don’t want them to be the alpha dog who barks the order. I don’t want them to be the hurt girl who gets excluded. And I don’t want them to be the one who succumbs to peer pressure and doesn’t act with kindness.
I’m sure most of us can think of a time when we were in one of each of those roles. I recently had a conversation with someone who had a horrible experience with a doctor who she said was “heartless” and she spoke so poorly of this doctor and the office she runs. I had had an experience so the opposite at the same practice, but I started thinking twice about whether or not I should go back there or recommend the practice to others. But perhaps that doctor had just had a bad day and hadn’t been able to act kindly towards this lady. We can’t all be who we want to be all the time. But I feel that as long as we stick to our morals and values as much as humanly possible, we can still live without regret knowing we have been true to ourselves and be proud of who we are. Thank you, Mom, for teaching me that valuable lesson. I will be passing it down to my girls so they can also be the people they want to be thanks to you. I love you. Happy Mother’s Day!

Sunscreen Scuffles

What a beautiful day!! This morning we went to the beach for a birthday party for my daughter’s best friend. It was warm, sunny, laid back. Kids and adults alike had a great time. We put sunscreen on the babes before we left. It is always a battle of epic proportion to slather the goo on the two year old. I usually do it very thoroughly because I never want her to burn as we are a very fair skinned people. My husband actually used to call me his albino princess. I’ve put SPF 15 on my face everyday since I was 15. I literally cannot get color on my face now, seriously, not ever. Well, my little girl isn’t so lucky and now has a red V shaped burn on her chest from where her polo shirt buttons were open. Even the baby who had a little sweater, light pants, a hat, and a face full of sunscreen still had rosy cheeks by noon. Ugh, it breaks my heart and drives the Mom guilt into full gear.
My two year old wasn’t even complaining that it hurt and by tomorrow it probably won’t even be that bad. However, knowing that I carry a higher risk of skin cancer because I’m BRCA + makes me worried that she does too. I have to remind myself that even if she screams and carries on, it is sooo important for her to have sunscreen all over her. We both have to suck it up and just do it. It’s going to be a long summer of sunscreen scuffles.

Facing Fears

My two year old goes to preschool two days a week.  She told me she didn’t want to go both days this week.  She’s not sick anymore, but the first day I thought maybe it’s just because she wasn’t there for a day last week and she’s out of her routine.  Today though, she was dressed and ready and still didn’t want to go.  I felt like a bad mom for essentially forcing her to go.  It’s not like she was kicking and screaming and at least today there was no silent weeping of baby alligator tears to make me feel like the devil.  And today, once I got her jacket off in the entrance, she walked off towards her teachers by herself.  Improvement, but I still felt horrible as I bolted out the door.  I stood next to (not in front of) the window to listen if there was crying, but I didn’t hear any.  As always, when I picked her up later, it was smiles and giggles and “Mommy, look at this…” showing me her new trick on the playset and the artwork she made.  When asked how her day was, she replied “Great!” 
Mom guilt is an evil emotion.  In so many scenarios, we know we are doing the right thing for our children but still suffering these same conflicting feelings.  I know I have to help her face her fears and get over them.  I know that I can’t keep her home from school every time she says she doesn’t want to go.  Look at all of the fun from today that she would have missed out on, the developmental milestones she achieves by being there, the friendships she makes and strengthens each time.  And damnit, I wanted that Happy Mother’s Day thing she made me (and the free time, which I used to clean the office while the baby napped – argh!).
She’s totally forgotten about this morning’s request to stay at home, but I tried to remind her when I put her in the car that she had a great day and next week when it’s time for school she should remember all the fun she had today and be excited to go again.  I don’t know what is prompting this sudden desire to be a homebody on school days.  Maybe she’s missing Daddy and thinks if she stays home he’ll appear?  Maybe there’s a kid at school she’s not fond of?  Maybe she’s just two and wants to be in her jammies all day?  Whatever it is, I know it’s the right thing to do to say “Ok little Cowgirl, back on that horse and giddy up to school.”  (maybe next time, I’ll actually say that, she likes horses).
After I got my breast test results, for a moment I thought, “Hey, I don’t have to do these surgeries yet, I’ve got time now.”  That was fear talking.  I quickly realized how that frame of mind is going to get me nowhere, or worse, somewhere awful.  So I didn’t let myself linger in that mythical place of a no mastectomy future.  I know my plans are right on target with what I have to do to ensure my best chances of not having breast cancer.  I’m not going to let fear dictate what I know is best for me or my family (except when it comes to snakes… you will not find me frolicking in a meadow… EVER!  pavement please).

Monday and Mom Friends

Around here we always have a case of the Mondays.  It’s not that our weekends are jam packed with exhilarating events, but we’re all together and that’s always pretty awesome.  So Monday feels like we’re going through withdrawal.  When we were in our twenties, our withdrawal was alcohol based.  Now it can be summed up by the complete meltdown that the 2 year old had when Daddy left for work today.  It was a pitiful site.  If she could have truly expressed herself adequately (instead of just freaking out and crying for an hour), it would have gone something like, “Daddy!!  You’re leaving now?  How could you do this to me?  What the fuck!!!!!?!!!!”
So you can only imagine the rest of our day.  Tantrums at the library, the grocery store, and in the car all day.  I wanted to join her.  I felt like throwing a total fit too, but these damn societal expectations of public behavior exhibited by a 30 year old had me maintaining as much composure as possible.  Thank God my relief came at 4pm when my babysitter showed up to watch the little one while the big girl and I went to a neighborhood playdate. 
My unsolicited advice to any first time Mom (or pregnant woman in line behind me at the grocery store), find your Mom friends and find them fast.  I have always said that playdates are half for the little ones, half for the big ones.  Adult interaction is one of the keys to surviving parenthood.  Sure, the kids learn a lot from each other and have a lot of fun too.  But the Moms leave happier and more grounded nearly every time.  The support you get from other women (in any phase of life) can be some of the most powerful you’ll ever receive.  I hope that this blog can provide that to other women who are in my position.  Whether it’s the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of parenting, the woes and wonders of marriage or the anxiety and angst of a medical procedure; I’m so grateful to have these friends with whom I can share life’s twists and turns. The following is a love letter to my Mom friends:
Ladies,
What would I do without you? When I am at the brink of losing my shit, there you are. When I don’t know what to try next with any parental dilemma, there you are. When I’m all out of creative activities to do at home, there you are. How can I count the ways that you are there? To even make an attempt at describing them wouldn’t express my gratitude sufficiently. Compassion coupled with commiseration; loneliness knows not the Mom with Mom friends. Thanks for being… there.
love,
me
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”  ― C.S. Lewis   

The Skin I’m In

There hasn’t been a stretch of longer than 3 months in the past three and a half years that I’ve had my body feel like it was my own.  I’ve been either pregnant or breastfeeding.  It takes about 2 months for the breasts to stop producing milk completely once the baby has been weaned.  So I’ve enjoyed about a month of being comfortable in my body.  It feels nice and a bit unusual.  Until I have surgery, I’ll have the luxury of feeling this way. 
It’s amazing the time I wasted feeling bad about my body during adolescence and in my twenties.  It took having babies and realizing that I’m going to lose a part of my body to really embrace it fully.  A woman’s body is pretty amazing; that you can grow these beings inside of you and then they come out and you can feed them from the same life source.  It’s some trippy stuff (and I’m not the first to admit, at times, it felt sort of like an alien was in there).  I’m not one of those women who looked good pregnant or even felt good pregnant. 
Yesterday, I had a stomach bug and it felt a bit like the nausea from when I was pregnant. Thank God for my mother and my mother-in-law who came to watch the girls and bring me chicken soup. I was reminded that I am so not ready to be pregnant again yet. I really don’t enjoy that part of the process, but I do love the end result of the cuddly baby in my arms.
While I do not have the perfect body (and never have), there have always been things I like about it.  Trying to highlight those and disguise the others is every woman’s challenge.  I hope my daughters will feel secure in their skin and understand that you can feel good about your body no matter your shape or size.  I’ve had friends whose bodies are far from the model images you see in magazines, but they look and feel fabulous.  They dress well, accessorize amazingly, and walk with the confidence that everyone deserves to have.  How do I help my girls skip that awkward time in life when nothing feels right and you want to live in anyone else’s skin?  Is that just a mandatory rite of passage?  Do you have to go through that to come out on the other side a secure, confident woman?  Or do you have to go through some life changing scenario to feel it?  Childbirth?  Double mastectomy?  Extreme Makeover? 
Everyone has some obstacle to overcome with their body at some time or another. I know I have several hurdles left to jump, but for now I’m going to enjoy this moment feeling comfortable in my skin.

Daddy Cures All

The other day my older daughter was sick.  I thought at first she was trying to play me so that she didn’t have to get out of her jammies on a rainy day and go to school. But she loves school, so I knew something was wrong when she sadly told me she really didn’t want to go.  As the morning progressed and she started complaining about her ear, I decided to take her to the pediatrician.  Sure enough, she had a double ear infection and tonsils so big that they were touching each other. After her first strep test ever, the subsequent gag, and Mommy and Me shower of vomit, I’m so glad that I got her in there early enough to get her on medication right away. 
When we got home, before the first dose of meds could kick in and after both of us hosed off, her symptoms and mood got increasingly worse and she was in a state of utter misery.  Well, we both were.  I gave her some Tylenol, which didn’t kick in until 45 minutes later when I told her that Daddy was coming home early to see her.  I’m not sure if it was the Tylenol or the prospect of special daddy time that seemingly alleviated all of her symptoms and she started bouncing around like ‘who me?  sick?  I was just kidding.  I still get to play with Daddy, right?’  It reminded me of high school, when you were so sick that going to class was the last thing you thought you could possibly do but you just found out that so-and-so was having a kick ass party, so all of a sudden your flesh eating virus was just a little rash as long as you could go out that night.
Her miraculous recovery wasn’t shocking, because she is absolutely in love and in awe of her daddy.  It’s fun to see her reaction when he walks in the door.  The expression really shouldn’t be ‘like a kid in a candy store,’ but ‘like a little girl seeing her daddy walk in the door.’  It’s pure joy!  So when he went away for a bachelor party weekend, I was very worried about how she’d react.  To my disbelief and relief, she handled it quite well.  I prepared her a day ahead by telling her that Daddy had to go help Uncle Matt celebrate his wedding and get ready to be married.  So every time she asked where he was, I had a consistent line to give her and ask her to repeat back to me.  She accepted it and moved on.  It is amazing how resilient and accepting kids are. 
This weekend away gave me a good sense of how she will be when I’m in the hospital.  I stressed so much when my little one was born about how the older one would feel when I’m away from her for two nights and then bring home something that demands my attention.  Again, she handled it with a grace and maturity I didn’t know she had.  Of course, in both scenarios, we called in reinforcements: grandparents, friends, cousins as distractions.  I’m not as worried about the little one because she might not truly feel my absence and she’s naturally very easy-going, but I still plan on preparing both of them (see the BoobyMoon post).  I’m glad I got the chance to see how they’ve handled my husband being away.  I know now that they will do just fine while I’m in the hospital.  Now if only I could find the magic cure-all like Daddy is to my 2 year old.  Ice cream?  New clothes?  Diamonds? 

Accepting Help

I have a really hard time accepting help from other people.  I usually feel like I should be the one helping someone else.  This can be to my detriment.  I do get a lot of help from my mother and she seems to be the only one that I can freely ask without feeling guilty (excluding my husband because we’re partners and that’s different).  However, that’s not always the case; I often don’t want to bother her with something I know I can handle myself. 
When I went to pick up my daughter’s meds after the pediatrician’s appointment the other day, my mother had offered to go for me, but I said not to worry, I could get it.  Fast forward to me standing in the pharmacy for an hour with the baby strapped to me, the 2 year old running around touching everything and a painful, albeit very sweet, attempt by the pharmacist to coax my daughter into taking her medicine.  He tried everything from ‘what flavor should I make it?’ to ‘I’ll have some, if you have some’ to ‘Nope, this is just for me.  You can’t have any.’  Nice try.  I’m convinced she’s giving Scientology a shot because she’s got a near religious convinction: will NOT take medicine. (at least not that she knows of, spiking her PediaSure with a little amoxicillin usually does the trick)
How I wish I had listened to my mother and accepted her help for that pharmacy errand.  It got me thinking of all of the other things that I say I’ll do myself when smarter people have offered to help me knowing that I’m in over my head.  I need to let go and accept help.  My sister is 5 weeks post surgery and her community continues to bring her family meals. That is awesome and so nice that she doesn’t have to worry about her family eating well while she recovers.   I would probably refuse help and my husband would end up eating frozen meatballs every night (and no, they wouldn’t be homemade).
While he was away at the bachelor party, my mother stayed with me. It’s not that I couldn’t be with my girls by myself for the weekend and it pained me to put her out, but it was such a relaxed and enjoyable time with her there. It probably would have been difficult to distract my older daughter and do everything for both girls while maintaining my patience had she not been there. Instead, we all had a great time.
Even though my first inclination is to do it all myself, I know the joy I get from helping others so I’m going to try not to deny others the same feeling by helping me. I’m hoping to maintain this new attitude post surgery. As usual, I’m a work in progress.

Painting

Paint the walls of your mind with many beautiful pictures. – William Lyon Phelps

I read this quote the other day in regards to thinking positively.  Immediately my mind conjured the room in the Musee de L’Orangerie in Paris that houses 360 degrees of Claude Monet’s waterlilies. There are benches in the middle that in my head are replaced with my brain (like a sci-fi version of it, almost as big as the room). This is perhaps the most beautifully lit room I’ve ever seen, nearly simulating sunlight on these magnificent paintings. This place is so peaceful that if I could have a backdrop on the set of my mind, this would be it.
Yes, I realize how snobby that sounds, but I have been obsessed with Monet since I was little.  There’s a picture of me at probably 7 years old on vacation in my Speedo one-piece wrapped in a towel reading Linea in Monet’s Garden.  It was my favorite book.  If only I’d had the artistic ability to pursue this passion.  I had the good fortune to go to Giverny and visit Monet’s home, see the waterlilies in person and enjoy the serenity of the landscape.  While the gardens themselves were swarmed with tourists, it’s the room in L’Orangerie where his visions of home come to life and offer me an image of beauty and complete tranquility.
I know it’s a bit bizarre, but when I’m in pain I try to put my mind right to the point of that pain and either count to myself until it goes away or try to visualize it being alleviated.  I guess this is some form of hippie-dippie meditation, but it often works for me.  So I’ve been thinking that when I go into surgery or during recovery I’m going to have to think of something very peaceful to calm myself from getting totally freaked out.  I think placing myself mentally in this gallery of Monet’s waterlilies might just do the trick.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I’ll mostly be thinking of my husband and my girls and their joyous faces and their laughter, but those are my visions of happiness.  I think I’ll need thoughts more like Valium than Prozac to keep my nerves from getting the better of me and letting my head go to a negative place.  They say that positive thinking helps you live longer.  I’ll give it a shot.

Liver"worst"

Today is my dad’s birthday.  He is 65 years young and has a lot to show for it.  It was evident last night as all of his kids and grandkids gathered to celebrate with him.  My mom coordinated a delicious dinner and had us all dress in purple, his favorite color.  It was so much fun to see all the little cousins playing together and to enjoy the banter of my siblings and their spouses (minus one who was missed, but for good reason). 
Although it was a night to honor my dad and his milestone birthday, my parents made a toast to my sister and me in regards to how we are handling our decisions to have double mastectomies.  I added “and for blazing the trail” to my sister.  It cannot be easy for her to be the one that has to go through all of this without knowing what she can expect to face.  That being said, she looks fantastic, is so positive and optimistic and is a true inspiration.  It has been five weeks since her surgery and she is feeling great, has started her physical therapy and could even lift and bounce my 20 pound baby.  If you didn’t know what she had been through, you wouldn’t be able to guess. 
It was such a joy to be around her and the rest of my family last night.  I was able to forget for a while that I have been awaiting results from a follow up ultrasound I had on Friday.  It has been weighing on me since the previous Friday when my doctor called to tell me that although my breast MRI results were normal, that they had found “spots” on my liver.  She said they looked like benign cysts, but I needed to have an ultrasound to determine if they were really benign and nothing to be concerned about.  My first thought was, “Great my boobs are normal and cancer-free, phew!”  My second thought was, “Ugh, if it’s not one thing, it’s a-fucking-nother.”
It’s been a week and a half since my breast surgeon told me about the liver issue.  I have been seriously disappointed with my primary care physician’s office for their awful follow through and response time. Apparently one of the reasons why I still don’t have a definitive answer as to what these spots are is because I never got the actual MRI images from my breast surgeon’s radiology department sent to the radiologists I used closer to home for this follow up.  Perhaps had I had both tests done at the same place, this would not have been an issue. Maybe if my PCP had told me that I was supposed to have these images sent ahead of time, I could have done that last week while I was waiting to have my appointment. 
According to my parents, the more tests you have, the more crap they find elsewhere.  So next time I have to do a follow up, I am going to have all my ducks in a row.  I will ask the PCP and the radiologist’s offices what information/images/reports they will need ahead of time in order to give me conclusive results as quickly as possible.  I would like to ask them what I can do to expedite the process so that I’m not waiting, seemingly forever, and feeling anxious about why they’re not calling me and subsequently annoying their staff as I call twice a day to ask for a response.  The last thing I have learned is that I should probably drink more alcohol.  I’m not a big drinker; alcohol was the easiest thing for me to give up while pregnant and I’m always the sober driver. But apparently during college, I didn’t learn to preserve my liver as well as my peers did. Go figure, I haven’t heard of any liver issues from my friends or loved ones (you know who you are) who have so diligently exercised theirs for years.