Friday, December 15, 2006

Ellie's Birth Story

This is the public version I shared with family and friends shortly after Ellie was born three years ago. Trust me, it could be even uglier!

Saturday, October 11, 2003 at 10:34 am Eleanor Paul was born. She was 6 pounds, 9 ounces and 20 inches long. Her 1 and 5 minute apgar scores were 7 and 9, respectively. She's got blond hair and blue eyes (surprise!). She is absolutely perfect and I am smitten.

Although labor and delivery were not what I imagined, I wouldn't change a thing. I was working late on Friday night, and I intended to work even later, but when I stood up at 6:00, I wet myself (I thought). I cleaned up, finished what I was working on, and headed home. Paul and I had dinner, and the contractions I'd been having for weeks were becoming more painful and regular. About 9:00 we went to Borders, where I was crabby and in pain. We headed home around 10:00, and I called my parents and told them that I thought I was in "false" labor and that the contractions would stop soon and restart in a few days (I was still 5 days before my due date and really thought I'd go past.)

We watched some TV but I was having a hard time concentrating through contractions. Around 12:30 we went to bed. I couldn't sleep. Paul was fighting a cold and slept on and off. When he was awake he rubbed my back and played with my hair. I felt OK. The best way to weather each contraction was lying on my side. Standing was OK too, as long as I had something to lean on. The yoga ball was unappealing. The relaxation music I'd just purchased at Borders was nice. In the middle of the night, I realized that this was for real and the contractions weren't going to stop.

Around 5:30 I got up and took a shower. I made lots of noise and left the lights on to wake Paul up. I'd been having trouble keeping track of how far apart the contractions were, so I asked him to time me. They were 3-5 minutes apart. Paul thought we should wait for my 12:00 OB appointment, but I wasn't so sure so I called the doctor around 7:30. She suggested we head to the hospital right away. (I should note that it was not Paul's fault that he couldn't tell how bad the contractions were. The nurses at the hospital couldn't tell when I was having them either. Apparently my pain face looks much like my regular face.) We called our folks, pulled some things together, and left for the hospital around 8:30. By that time, I was no longer excited about moving.

I got to the hospital around 9:00 and learned that I was dilated to 7 cm. They admitted me, and the doctor arrived quickly. She asked me how I was doing and I told her that it was hard not to push. She checked me out and told me that I was indeed ready to go! At this point I was more medically involved that I had hoped. On my right hand I had an IV. On my left hand/arm I had a pulse oximeter and blood pressure cuff. They were worried about the baby's heart, so I was hooked up to the internal fetal monitor. And at some point they added an oxygen mask. But I didn't care. I was at the pushing stage, so I didn't need to move around much.

As soon as I started pushing, I felt burning. She was in the birth canal immediately. It did not feel good, so I pushed really hard and fast. Plus, I was worried about her heart decels during contractions and wanted her to be OK. I pushed for about 20 minutes and she was there. Beautiful and perfect. The whole experience was surreal. For those who were counting, labor was about 15 hours.

And now I just can't stop looking at her and kissing her. I can't believe they let me take her home! I feel so lucky. Paul is likewise enthralled and loves wearing Ellie in a sling. Ellie has an exceptionally strong suck, according to the lactation nurse, and she's nursing like a champ and gaining weight nicely.

We look so happy.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

No, Not Yet

I don't think I've ever posted Ellie's birth story; I'll do that later this week. It was a fantastic labor and delivery experience, all things considered. As Paul and I were studying recently, in preparation for our second experience with childbirth, we read about the emotional signposts of labor. The first one is supposed to be "elation." We joke that, for me, the first signpost was "denial," and it was pretty strong. In retrospect, it's pretty humorous that 4 hours after my water broke, when I was laboring hard enough that I was really uncomfortable and wanted to be home in bed, I called my parents from the car on the way home from Borders and told them that I was in "false labor" and would definitely be having the baby the following weekend - a full week away.

It was a Friday, and I'd spent the entire day at work. I'd had a meeting way down the hall from my office that morning, and I remember running back and forth (literally running!) with huge stacks of textbooks that I was using as samples. When my water broke - still at work, later that evening after my colleagues had gone home - I just convinced myself that I'd wet myself. I cleaned up and finished what I was working on before packing up my computer and some projects to work on over the weekend and heading home.

This time I hope denial doesn't last quite as long; I hear that labors often go more quickly the second time around.

So, I'm not in labor yet (I hope!) but I think I'm doing everything I can to try to start early. I'm 36 weeks along, so it's not a disaster if I do go into labor, though I'd rather not do so yet.

Sunday we hosted an open house. There was a lot of prep work: cleaning, decorating, baking, and then we had a house full of people all afternoon. I loved it. I was also exhausted afterward. And then I worked more than 13 hours yesterday, barely pausing for meals. This morning I've already taken Ellie to school and had a visit from the door installer (they gouged the floor in the master bathroom when they installed my beautiful new doors last week). I'm headed off to a prenatal appointment in a few minutes, then to pick up Ellie from school, and, after lunch, I'm going into work to give a presentation to our new - and notoriously critical - vice president. My boss suggested that I wear my protective armor. So that should be fun.

Anyway, here's hoping that the pace slows down a bit later this week. I think I'm supposed to be "taking it easy" at this point, right?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Baby Update

Yesterday, I passed a new pregnancy milestone. With fewer than 5 weeks to go until my estimated due date, I had my first weekly internal exam. And let me just say that, while I really like my doctor, I don't love his freakishly huge hands.

I've gained 24 pounds so far this pregnancy (not bad). My blood pressure was 104 over 72 (I rock). I'm 0 cm dilated and 0% effaced, with "some softening of the cervix." In other words, I'm in perfect shape for being 35 weeks pregnant.

My left ankle has started to swell just very slightly at the end of the day, and I'm not exercising as much - standing up feels like exercise these days - but otherwise I'm just me, carrying a large bundle on my belly. And I do mean large bundle. I'm still measuring ahead of dates, as my mother did with her three pregnancies and as my younger sister is also currently doing. We'll call that genetics.

In other news, we're having a Christmas open house on Sunday (late) afternoon, so if you're friendly and mean me no harm, you're welcome to stop by. And, also, I'm still married. Nearly 10 years of habit makes it surprisingly easy to continue on (mostly) as normal, in the most surreal circumstances.

Monday, November 27, 2006


As you can see, Thanksgiving at my parents' house was very filling this year.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Littlest Therapist

In the early days of this crisis, when Paul and I were confronting some ugly truths about our marriage and what it's become, I was nauseous all the time. I worked out constantly (I'm still working out a lot, but I no longer get panicky if I skip a day). I couldn't eat for a few days. I've been losing a little weight, something of an oddity in the third trimester, especially as this New Baby continues to grow at a rather precocious rate. One morning, after not having eaten for a couple of days, I suddenly found myself bent over the kitchen sink, vomiting and vomiting until not even green bile was left. Everytime Paul touched me or told me he loved me, I'd burst into tears.

Ellie was very perceptive about all of this. She has only recently turned three, and in a lot of ways - especially in her language skills - she's still younger than that, but she's always been very tuned in to the moods of those around her. Even if Paul and I were sitting in the same room or walking on the same path, talking, she'd try to form a bridge between us, holding both his hand and mine, often trying to force us closer together.

My precious daughter is still always excited to see me when I arrive to pick her up from school, but in those first days - very unusually - she didn't want to leave with me. "No," she'd say, after greeting me with a hug and grin. "More!" she'd say to the teacher who was reading books or singing songs with her. When I suggested that we could read and sing together at home, she'd sit down on the floor and cry. Home was where things were not right. At school, at anywhere else, things were still normal. She seemed completely unconcerned when we spent several days leaving her with friends, often for extended periods, while we talked and cried or visited with our new therapist.

Even now, when things are - not better, but at least not as shocking, and regaining a veneer of normalcy - Ellie is still working on trying to physically hold her parents' marriage together.

At dinner time (and breakfast time, and anytime we sit down together at the table) she suggests that we "Pray!" holding out her hands expectantly, waiting for Paul and me to each take one of her hands and then each others'. We do this several times each meal.

Ellie remains a wonderful sleeper, flowing through the bedtime routine and going to sleep without complaint in the evenings, then sleeping through the night. When she wakes too early, she often will play alone in her room until close to 6:30, an acceptable time to come find Mama and Daddy.

Yesterday was a better day for me, though Friday and Saturday were bad days. But this morning, Ellie awoke at 4:45 and came into our room in the dark. "Up!" she said, then snuggled in between us on the bed and went back to sleep. In her sleep, she reached out her hands and placed one on Paul's face, one on my own.

Thank you all for the kind comments and emails. I appreciate them - and the thoughts and prayers that come with them - very much.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Broken, Not Shattered

This morning, thanks to wonderful friends keeping her up late for us last night, Ellie slept in a little. She didn't come into our room until nearly 6:30, the latest since the time change. She climbed up into our bed (with assistance) and pulled up my satiny pajama shirt, exposing my big, round belly. I showed her where the baby's head (or butt) was pushing out right then, and she leaned over and gave my tummy/the baby a flerbert! I didn't know she knew how to do that. She she did it over and over, laughing and laughing.

Paul and I are going through a very rough patch. It's not OK. It's not going to be OK. But things are starting to look a bit brighter today, and we are both working really really hard. We're also seeing a therapist.

The problems stemmed from a lot of things, but I think that important among them was the fact that we've been underestimating how stressful it really is for us to raise a child with special needs. We tend to focus so much on her successes and abilities, and that's great for parents to do, but we also need to focus on ourselves, acknowledging when things are hard.

We also are strained by not having family nearby to help shoulder the burdens. We have so many dear friends who offer to help us out, to watch Ellie sometimes. We almost never take them up on that, and we need to do better. We need to go out together, alone. We need to send Ellie out and spend time at home together, alone.

What's broken needs a lot of fixing. Understanding some of the underlying stresses doesn't make things right. But having this sort of acute crisis is refocusing us, getting me out of my head-down-and-push-through mentality, getting Paul out of his 18-hour-workdays mentality, and forcing us to reprioritize. Right now, working on us comes before everything else.

Blogging openly about a marriage's struggles is just not done much, especially in a mama blog like this one, where Paul and I know so many of the people who read it. But I don't think that silence helps anything; I don't think that hiding the fact that we're struggling helps anything. Honesty and transparency are how we're trying to put the pieces back together. I'm not going to write here about every step of the process, but I think it's important to acknowledge openly that even people like us, people with a marriage we always thought was unshakably solid, can have real problems that require real work to fix.

Fortunately, Paul and I are both the sort of people who like homework.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


I have a great support system. Even those who don't know what's wrong know that I'm hurting. And they all want me to sit down and have tea and talk with them; they all want to help me, to make things better.

And I too want that, more than almost anything else. But there's nothing they can do, nothing that that can help.

The only person I really want to talk to about all this is Paul. The only person I really want to hold me and hug me and comfort me is Paul. The person I want to be able to have make things feel better is Paul. And he wants that too, more than anything, he says.

But he can't fix it either.

It's broken, it's broken, it's broken.

Everytime I see the unmussed side of my bed, I cry. Everytime I see the futon in the nursery, I cry. Everytime I try to talk to someone, I cry. Everytime I think about what's happening, I cry. I wake up, remember, and cry. If I sleep long enough to dream, I'm sure that I'm crying in my dreams.

It's Halloween. The wind is brisk and the colorful leaves are falling fast and hard. I've always felt like fall is the best time for melancholy. What a gluttonous feast I'm having this season.

Monday, October 30, 2006


Ellie's birthday party this weekend was a lot of fun, for all the girls. Everything went swimmingly.

Her new favorite sentences (yes! sentences!) are "I nice," or "I not nice," depending on her mood, in response to compliments that she's being very nice (to her doll, or holding my hand across the parking lot without complaint, etc.).

Paul found her earlier today holding a salt shaker and trying valiantly to open a container of leftover chocolate frosting. Salty plus sweet, that's my girl! And a chocolate lover, that's her daddy.

We're all fine, physically.

Otherwise, things are not fine. Not fine.

I think I might not be here for a while.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Those People, Me

I think we are going to become Those People, with That Relationship and Those Issues. I never thought it could happen to us. I see it happening. I don't know how to stop it.

I'm not keeping up my end, mind you. Especially while I'm pregnant (but let's face it, that's not the only excuse) I'm not getting up with Ellie in the morning or putting her to bed every night by myself. I don't keep a spotless house. And I'm not always on top of everything else domestically-related, either. I don't do yard work at all. And laundry . . .

But yesterday was Paul's mom's birthday. I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago, and again several days ago, but I didn't think about it yesterday and I'm pretty certain that we didn't send anything, not even a card. Usually at least I buy a card, though it doesn't always get sent. Lately I've been backing off actually purchasing birthday presents for Paul's family, but this means that, well . . .

And the kitchen. Cleaning the kitchen and the floors (and, lately, the laundry) are Paul's things. None of them are done the way I'd like them to be done, or as often. Do I take them over? After all, he's working so much. All the time. His job is so important, providing most of our money and all of our benefits. And I'm only working part time. And Ellie's more self-sufficienct these days. (I am pregnant. And trying to study for the GRE. And write. And apply to grad school. And be a damn subdivision trustee. But he works all the time: days, nights, weekdays, weekends . . . I'm just lucky he can do so much of it from home.)

So. I have evenings out with friends. I have one planned for next week, in fact. Paul was out last night and tonight, for a work-people dinner at Morton's and for an hour-long massage that turned into a multi-hour event somehow. Neither of us used to go out much on our own, and we still don't do that much of it. I think it's more of a timing issue right now.

I'm stressed because Ellie's birthday party is this weekend. We have a lot to get done around the house first. None of it is new stuff, but it's stuff that's not getting done nearly as quickly as I would like. I don't want to leave it all until the last possible moment, because,
  • There's too much to do at the last possible moment
  • I know that I just don't have that kind of energy right now
  • Dammit, it stresses me out
So two nights of no helping out around the house right before the birthday party, well, I'm not all that gracious.

So, Paul, who came home tonight fighting a cold and looking like he was half asleep on his feet, washed some dishes, started a load of laundry, and put together an indoor wooden slide. I'm appreciative. And resentful. Because I don't think that I should have to be the one to keep the tally of what needs to be done and ask for help accomplishing each thing. That's not the way our partnership was set up. Is it inevitable that it becomes that way? Perhaps. I hope not.

In happier news, YAY, CARDINALS!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Politics, Schmolitics - Go Vote!

My glucose results came back totally normal! I was so expecting to be on a diabetic diet after failing this test that I binged a little. I can almost say that I'm regretting last night's pumpkin spice doughnut(s) Krispie Kreme run. Almost.

Today I'm ranting about political signs. I hate them. I hate them hate them hate them, and I hate that my favorite time of year is marred by them, more often than not.

I do a lot of driving around town. Starting today, I'm making a strong effort to keep my eyes up, on the beautiful treetops and amazingly blue autumn skies. This driving practice has a couple of downsides. First, of course, it keeps my eyes well off the roadway. Second, it also keeps me from seeing (and pointing out to Ellie) all the cool decorations outside people's houses, and seeing all the fantasy-worthy For Sale signs outside dream homes.

Seeing all these political signs just makes me so mad. This is, in part, because of the way the upcoming midterm election has become a one-issue election in Missouri, and it's an issue that I have very strong feelings about, as an American, as an educated person who's taken a lot of science classes, and as the mother of a child with a disability (who will very likely have Alzheimer’s someday).

Stem Cell Research

And the other side is being incredibly disingenuous.

I won't link to their sites, but they keep claiming, on every yard sign, mailing, political ad, and website, that what they oppose is human cloning. When the bill in question specifically prohibits the cloning of human embryos, this is incredibly disingenuous, extremely frustrating, and terribly effective. Dammit. I can't help wondering how many of them understand that what they're saying doesn't make sense, but it convinces voters to vote the way they'd like.

The Dems aren't without fault, though. A very common sign around these parts is, "Had Enough? Vote Democratic." Which is about the lamest campaign slogan imaginable. It's slightly more catchy than: "We might not know who we are, but we aren't them. So vote for us." I won't vote third party in this election; it's too important. But I can understand the temptation.

On the other hand, at least the pro-stem cell research lobby is staying out of the churches. Two weeks ago, our (awesome interim) minister stood in front of the congregation and invited us all to a panel discussion at another local church, which would involve speakers from a local (conservative) seminary and local university departments discussing the facts and ethical implications of the actual amendment. I thought that was appropriate. He didn't tell us how to vote, he just suggested that we go somewhere to learn the facts and make an informed decision.

Sadly, the other side hasn't shown much restraint. Not only do several local churches have large signs out front telling members how to vote (No!) but even in my own, moderate church, we have members who are disrespecting proper boundaries.

I got a large packet in the mail yesterday, chock full of printed propaganda from "pro-life" websites about the "cloning amendment," along with a letter from a fellow church member explaining why she's against the bill (as a person with disabilities). Since the church didn't authorize the mailing or provide her with the labels, perhaps this is OK, though annoying.

The professionally printed propaganda packets she leafleted the Sunday School classrooms with, however, are way beyond the pale. I had a fit of pique, and tore ours up in front of the class.

I am so burned out on all the political negativity and campaign lies, I really don't want to see it in church on Sunday morning.

My Space, Your Space

So, I have a MySpace page now. I set it up a week or two ago, for "networking" (according to my profile). I've gotten some very cool "friends" already, including extended family and friends I knew in jr. high, high school, college, and after that. I don't plan to do any more with it, other than to check my page once in a while to read messages and check up on MySpace "friends," but it was worthwhile to set up.

Anyway, I got a friend request recently from someone who, according to her profile, likes to read, but isn't much of a book person, and prefers to read magazines, actually. That's two readers who don't read books I've encountered in under two weeks! This must be a new fad.

Next time someone asks me what I like to do, maybe I'll answer that I write. But I don't like sentences. I'm mainly writing lists these days. To do lists, specifically.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Autumn in the Air

"You're not allowed to make any more soups for a while," Paul said tonight. "I'm tired of washing these big pots!"

I have made stew, broccoli cheese noodle soup, and chili in the past week. It's fall here! I love autumn. Paul and Ellie carved jack-o-lanterns yesterday, and Paul made some good headway on Ellie's new closet system today. (I found plans online that promised to show Paul how to build a professional-looking closet system for under $100. He spent $60 and it's going to look great. Plus, he loves this sort of project.)

We took a walk around the block tonight to look at the decorations. We used to do this nightly, and I forgot how fun it can be. But we really needed hats and mittens! Already!

Ellie has discovered a new game to make mommy flinch. "Bee!" she'll yell, pointing behind me, then laugh uproariously. Hah hah hah. Really, I love it.

I was nervous about my OB appointment on Friday, but it went well. I'll get my glucose results early this week (fingers crossed) but all the other news was good. Clean urine test (I assume they're checking for protein, not pot, but whatever). Better weight gain this month (last month I gained a ridiculous amount, due to lack of exercise coupled with too much travel). LARGE uterus. "Wow, it really shot up there this month!" Also good. And nice blood pressure, too: 100/70. My exercise-induced sciatica is normal and non-harmful, just "uncomfortable." Whatever. And my many contractions aren't a concern, unless I can't get them to stop by lying down and drinking water. All systems go!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Bug Me Not

A few years ago, my sister lived in an apartment that was attractive to large, flying roaches. In her opinion, which I share, it was actually attractive to just one large, flying roach. She was too creeped out to touch the thing, and her then-boyfriend (now, husband) doesn't kill bugs. He humanely releases them into the wild, where they're free to return to the nice warm apartment with the easy food.

Lilsis has written humorously in the past about her partner's experiences with "helping" spiders, but this story needs to be told in his own words.

So, today, without permission, I'm totally plagiarizing an email my sister's new husband wrote to his family a couple of years ago, after the first roach sighting. Here's hoping it doesn't bring a plague of roaches (or spiders) upon my house.

Lilsis does not like roaches. More specifically, roaches in her house; it's the "in the house part" that is the key. Anyway, while I was out errand-ing yesterday she called and had been "surprised" by a visiting member of the roach family. She quickly hurled a book at it, but it eluded her death strike and went missing for the remainder of the day.

When I got to her place after work, we resumed cleaning her room (which is what she had been working on earlier in the day). I was assigned to the "dangerous area"- under the bed--and Lilsis was folding clothes on the opposite side of her bedroom. Well, we cleaned for a while, made some headway, and no roach was to be seen. That is, until I saw that it was sitting on her back. Now, my view was that the roach was trying to apologize for his intrusion in her abode by giving her a warm embrace . . . Lilsis felt differently about the matter.

As soon as I saw it, I calmly rolled up whatever piece of paper I had in my hand and slowly and stealthily walked over behind her. My first swing at the roach failed to knock it off, but it did alert Lilsis, and she immediately knew what was happening. At that moment Lilsis immediately sprang into a convulsion of screams, jumping and swatting, while either I, with my second swing, or she with her hand—there's still debate—knocked the roach off of her. She had rocketed to her bed where she continued to get the heebie-jeebies and scream, and Orion (the enormous dog) not knowing what to do with himself, ran laps over the bed and on the floor until he realized that our major concern at the moment was not with him being on the bed and so he sat on my pillow and cleaned himself.

The roach being either stunned or crafty sat on the floor motionless—undoubtedly trying to camouflage its brown self on the orange carpet: not a very effective tactical decision. I found a glass and a piece of paper and contained the intruder. He was freed outside and the apartment is, for now, roach-free. All in a day's work.

Good job, Lilsis. Laughter is important in a marriage.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Applications Suck

I am in the process of applying to some grad school programs for next fall. (More on this later. Much later.) And I have a quick rant.

I went to college many years ago. I am a very different student today than I was at 18. And at 18 I went to a science/research-oriented university and took a lot of very diverse courses.

I took more semesters of Chemistry and Biology (including labs) than I've ever bothered to count. I took a fair amount of Calculus. I took Physics and Psychology. I flirted with several different majors before I decided on English, which I chose because it's where I was getting the best grades.

So my major GPA looks pretty decent, but my overall GPA is pretty lousy. I very quickly grew frustrated with a university experience where I was one of 450 students in a lecture hall, the professor maybe didn't care too much about teaching anyway (let alone had any notion of who I was), and the "mean" score on an exam - earning the student a low B - was 33 out of 100. End result: I had a lot of fun in college. Once I decided not to compete in the rigorous science courses I continued to take, I enjoyed myself a lot more.

Now I want to go to grad school. I am willing to take the GRE, to submit samples of my current/recent work, to write wonderful letters of explanation. But so many grad programs have a ridiculous clause about what a student's undergraduate GPA must be in order to apply.
  1. This is stupid for students returning to school after a break - the sort of student I was 13 years ago is hardly relevant to the student I am today, and
  2. What I want to study doesn't have a lot to do with Organic Chemistry. I shouldn't be penalized for taking courses that I found challenging - I could have stuck to "Science for Musicians" and bolstered my GPA artificially.
Stupid applications.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A Life of Its Own

I went to wash inside my belly button in the shower the other day, and realized that this is no longer possible. I no longer have a belly button.

"Yeah, I noticed that earlier today," Paul admitted when I mentioned it.

This would be because of the fact that I can't see my own belly button very easily anymore, but it's all too easy for him to see it as I've taken to walking around the house looking like baby Huey. Note to self: buy maternity pajamas. Wearing regular flannel pants and non-maternity t-shirts around the house is simply not flattering in your current state.

I have noticed that the skin at the top of my navel, which I can both see and feel, is becoming quite tight. Thankfully, I have never pierced my navel, or I would certainly be exceedingly uncomfortable right now. I'm simply not the navel-piercing type, though I admit that I faked it briefly.

Lo these many years ago, when I was trying to attract Paul's attention, I did purchase a fake belly button ring and wear it around him. This was not as easy as it sounds, since it was December in the mid-1990's, when it was still fashionable for women to wear clothing in the winter.

Anyway, in addition to my tightly stretched belly button, I have also been feeling a sharp tug in the skin on the upper right part of my abdomen. I know all too well what this means: a new stretch mark will soon appear. I already look like the victim of a violent crime - I have the worst stretch marks I've ever seen from my first pregnancy - so I acknowledge the appearance of a new one with resignation and a little resentment.

No new stranger belly touches to report today, and the usual whispers of "when is she due?" have been following me around wherever I go, but I did have an interesting experience yesterday when another writer in my writer's group told me that I look very good, then asked if I am still pregnant. Really!

A few days earlier, wearing a non-maternity Walt Disney World t-shirt with a slightly distorted Mickey Mouse stretching across my mid-section, I had to announce my pregnancy to Ellie's Parents As Teachers parent educator, as an explanation for why I wanted to schedule another visit in a few months, when clearly Ellie has aged out of the program. She honestly didn't notice! So perhaps my shape changes on an hourly basis.

I nearly ended the whole thing last night, inadvertently. I have an obnoxious cold (I'm not blaming you, Jessica!) so I made myself a cup of herbal tea before bed. I just grabbed the first tea bag in the basket, without paying too much attention to what it was, and lay down to rest. Suddenly, the baby started doing back flips and trying to force its way out of my belly through the skin rather than a more conventional route. Raspberry leaf tea. Apparently a uterine stimulant. Used homeopathically by some women to calm Braxton-Hicks contractions, but more often used to stimulate labor and/or induce miscarriage. So. Now we know that my uterus reacts strongly to raspberry tea; time to put that box away for another 12 weeks or so.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Intruder Alert

My younger sister - not LilSis, who just returned from her eco-tour honeymoon in Costa Rica; MiddleSis, the one who had her Costa Rican eco-tour honeymoon a few years ago - had the strangest experience recently.

MiddleSis was upstairs getting ready for work when she heard a clinking noise. She just knew that it was her dog downstairs in the kitchen licking out the breakfast cereal bowls, so she hollered, "LUCY!" and was surprised to hear the dog jump down from the bed in the next room.

A moment later, she heard the water downstairs turning on and off. !!!

Lucy, the apparently fairly useless guard Beagle-mix, finally went downstairs to investigate, and MiddleSis, heading stealthily down the back stairs herself, heard an older woman's voice address the dog.

"Oh, good," thought my 6 months pregnant sister, "I can take her."

It turns out that it was a woman from some agency who was supposed to be picking up someone for a court date. (Apparently, she had the wrong address.) Her instructions were to go around the back, and to go inside if no one answered the door. She'd been waiting in the living room for a while (!) but then decided to wash up the breakfast dishes.

That's exactly the sort of thing that would happen to MiddleSis. Someone broke into her house to wash her dishes. Classic.

And this is why I worry about giving Ellie a younger sister.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Treading Lightly

I met someone new today, at a place where I go on Wednesdays. It was the sort of setting where people sit around a table and discuss things in an orderly fashion. I'll post the following conversation without comment.

A leader-type person asked the newcomer to introduce herself with something we didn't already know about her. Like, for example, her favorite hobby.


"Oh, you went way out on a limb there! Very creative," replied a male-type person sitting next to me.

"Oh, I also love to read. And work out."

The leader-type person jumped on this promising tidbit. "What do you like to read?"

"Well, I've been a student for so long that I haven't had time to read actual books. That was my goal on my recent vacation; to start an actual book. But since I got engaged on vacation, I obviously didn't start a book. But I've always read my magazines. And lately I've been reading Bride Magazine."

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Mama Honey

When Ellie's listing the members of her family, or calling for me in a public space (with her hand almost cupped up near her mouth and usually when she can see me within a few feet of her, so purely for humorous effect) Ellie still calls me Mama. I've heard her say "Mommy" a time or two, but she definitely prefers Mama.

Lately, though, around the house, she's taken to calling me "Honey." Which, really, is too too funny.

This afternoon, we were outside getting the mail and she was trying to get into the car. "Go! Go!" she said. To her dismay, I carried her inside (after pushing her on the swingset until the mosquitoes came out).

After dinner, she came up to me as I was sitting on the couch.

"Car. Go. Bye bye."

Since she was clearly asking for ice cream (projecting? me? never!) and it is, after all, her Birthday Eve, we all loaded up in the car and went bye bye. To everyone's satisfaction.

Three years old tomorrow! Three! In her last week at her current preschool. Having the last of her visits with the therapy team she's seen practically since birth. Today we had our last music class and last visit with Parents as Teachers, and without noticing it we already had our last library story time weeks ago. Everything is changing! Amazing. Go bye bye indeed.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Crimson Petal and the White

by Michael Faber.

One of my book clubs is reading this 900 page tome this month. Because of the length of the book, and to adjust our schedule for the upcoming holiday season, we're giving ourselves an extra week to read it.

It's extra strange, then, that I'm already done with the book, more than 4 weeks early. It took me 4 days to read.

We can thank my employer for some of that. I just got back from an incredibly useless (for me) business meeting, at which I spent a fair amount of time waiting around for packages to arrive and so got a lot of reading done. There was also a full (part-time) work week of time spent in airports and airplanes, prime reading opportunities.

But since I can't talk to my book club for nearly a month, I must vent here.

How unfair of Faber to introduce these characters, share with us intimate details of their lives and thoughts (and I do mean intimate; the book is narrated from a second person POV) and then drop us when he's "done."

What happens to these characters? Are they dead or alive? If they survive the 900th page, what happens to them next? Few clues in the text, few clues. And while I don't need everything wrapped up neatly with a bow, it doesn't seem too much to ask to know if the various POV characters are living or dead, and, if living, healthily and safely at the end of a novel. Too much to ask? Surely not.

I was thinking that the ending looked pretty grim. But reading the interview with the author (link above) it seems that there's hope. Good.

The New Count

26 (or 27, depending on which ultrasound you're reading) weeks pregnant:
  • Spontaneous belly touches: 3, not counting family or friends
  • Comments about how freakishly large I am already: innumerable, at least 3 just today
  • Follow-up queries as to whether or not I'm "sure," or if I might be carrying twins: see above
Also, since I often write about Ellie's sleep when I have complaints, I want to share some love here too. We've been having some challenges with Ellie's nap, it's true. She doesn't quite make it through the afternoon without one - oh, she can hold her eyes open until after dinner, but it's not pleasant for anyone. And she's been getting up a little too early in the morning. Paul might say it's a lot too early, since he's usually the one getting up with her. But bedtime? Bedtime rocks.

Ellie has been doing great with going to sleep at night. We do the whole night time routine: potty, bath or face/hand washing, tooth brushing, pajama application, climb up into bed, read stories, lights off, say prayers, kiss goodnight. And she rolls onto her side, snugs the covers up to her chin, and goes to sleep on her own. Wonder child! Blessings upon her soul.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

No, Not the Catheter

If I had been blogging on Wednesday, instead of spending the day in transit: rushing to the dentist, rushing to the office, having lunch, rushing to the airport, flying to California, and checking into a lovely hotel sans internet cafe; I would have blogged about Mark Foley.

I would not have blogged about the emails to pages. I would not have blogged about how fortunate this timing seems for the Democrats. I would not have blogged about how this further demoralizes the Republicans, who've held themselves up as the standard bearers of decency.

Rather, I would have blogged about Representative Foley coming out, in the midst of the mess, as gay. And a survivor of clergy sexual abuse. But mainly the gay part, that came first and has gotten a lot more attention.

I was sickened by this, this excuse. Even at this late date, this man - full of a truly impressive amount of self-loathing - is helping further his party's crusade against gays, by suggesting, however indirectly, that what he did was unavoidable because of his sexual orientation.

As Michael Albetta, president of the Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus, said, "A pedophile is a pedophile whether you're gay or straight. So he's gay. So what?"

We're looking a lot at the age issue, and that's certainly important. But while we're discussing that imbalance of power, let's not forget that it doesn't stop with adult vs. teen, there's also U.S. Congressman vs. Page. Which is kind of like President vs. Intern.

And now conservative groups are blaming the inaction of those within the "GOP" who knew about Foley's "indiscretions" but failed to act on political correctness and fear of appearing homophobic. Brava! Well done! A Republican congressman does a Bad Thing. Other Republicans seems to have known about it and covered it up. And it's still the fault of the liberals! Excellent!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Big Read

I haven't entirely fallen off the face of the earth. I had a meeting over here for one of my book clubs tonight, which was fun. And I baked (Sara Lee prepared, but I physically baked, so I get the credit) pumpkin and apple pies, so the house looks clean and smells delicious.

I have a business meeting in San Diego this week, which should be fun, but I'll be away from the computer for a couple of days. I'll get to have dinner at my cousin's house, and I'm really looking forward to that. I saw my cousin recently, but I haven't seen her husband since they moved out west, or older son (a few months younger than Ellie) in at least a year and a half. I haven't met his little brother at all, and that little guy's one already! And my cousin's pregnant again. So brave! Also a pediatrician, so she surely knows what she's doing.

If you're looking for something to do on Saturday, you should go to The Big Read. I plan to be there! After nap, of course. I love nap.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Fan Girl

Paul has started feeding Ellie All Bran in the morning, which I think is hilarious. But since he's usually the one who takes care of what comes out of the other end when he's home, I figure, well, he'll figure this one out on his own. "She likes it!" he says.

I think she "likes" it because once she saw him eating a bowl and wanted to have what he was having instead of the Multigrain Cheerios in her own bowl. I doubt the All Bran (even the flakes with yogurt bits) would win in a toddler taste test, even if the only test subject was my daughter.

So, this weekend!

Saturday morning, we went to Forest Park for Arthur's Picnic in the Park Character Breakfast. Arthur and his PBS friends come visit St. Louis kids one Saturday each fall, and Ellie's school co-sponsors a breakfast for kids with special needs, so that they can meet the characters ahead of time in a more accessible setting.

Last year, Ellie was excited by the affair but a little afraid of the characters. This year, well, two PBS character breakfasts and two trips to Disney World before she turns 3 . . . we've created a character junkie. Unlike most of the toddlers, she had no fear of the larger-than-life muppets. Everytime she saw Elmo across the room (and she doesn't watch Sesame Street; she knows Elmo from books and stuffed animals) she ran over to fiercely hug his knees. Since Elmo has somewhat poor vision, and can't necessarily see his own knees (I would imagine) this was rather dangerous. I am relieved to report that we did not cause Elmo to do a Humpty Dumpty, and he should be appearing on PBS this week as usual.

Last night, Alison Bechdel did a reading at Left Bank Books. Hey, look! She already blogged it.

I went down to the reading with a few friends from one of my book clubs. And because I am a lucky, lucky girl, a wonderful local author (and amazing reader), Kathleen Finneran, invited us to tag along with a group of people (including Kathleen and Alison) when they went down to The City Museum for a drink afterwards.

The most humorous part of the evening, for me, was my slightly late arrival at the bookstore. Now, that part wasn't a shock (there was construction on Olive! I swear!) but I'd spent a little time in front of the mirror before I left the house. I was wearing a maternity top, but cut in a currently fashionable style, not obviously maternity. And black velvet stretch jeans, two sizes too large but not maternity. And tall, kicky black books. And lipstick! I was convinced that you couldn't really tell that I am pregnant, unless perhaps you caught me in profile in the right light. So imagine my chagrin when there was a flurry of activity and people insisting that some poor man give up his stool when I arrived so that I didn't have to actually stand for the reading, in my delicate state.

Alas, alack. I got a great seat up front, because at some point it became more of a spectacle to keep protesting that I was fine standing than to just accept the stool as graciously as possible. And my friends had to stand in the back and around the corner, unable to see the screen well. My view of the screen was partially obscured too, but that's just because I was sitting on a low stool in a side aisle about 5 feet in front of Alison herself. Obviously, I didn't mind a bit.

And I did go a bit Fangirl, but I managed to keep silent. I figure that was better than sounding obnoxious. I just came off as totally boring, a dud at one of the of the table drinking diet soda, which isn't too far off base. Anyway, it was great to see Kathleen again, and I found Alison to be utterly charming at the reading. If I ever publish something myself, and do a reading or two, I wonder if I'll lose my sense of awe at being around real authors.

I'm thinking no. I'm thinking that I'll always feel this way around amazing writers whose work I admire. And that's just fine with me.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Glowing in My Natural State

Doubtless, I'm still recovering from our busy September schedule, but I think that I'm also entering the more tired part of pregnancy. I never had much of that fabled second trimester energy burst, anyway. I often say that the second trimester is only high energy when compared to the first and third trimesters. (I'm in my 25th or 26th week of 40, so I'm still in the second trimester)

Anyway, late Tuesday morning, Ellie and I were driving home from visiting preschool classrooms, and I was so tired that I had a few moments of wondering if I was going to be able to make it all the way home. Fortunately, she crashed a couple of minutes before we pulled into our driveway, so I got a nap in my own bed.

Later that afternoon, there were a few things I really wanted to get done around the house, like moving her bookcase into her new bedroom and reorganizing the books, and I was so uncomfortable.

First, I was hot. I traded my pants for shorts but was still "glowing" vigorously so I ended up in nothing but my shorts and a bra for several hours. I'm sure this was a real treat for any unfortunate neighbors who happened to be about. (Ellie's room has no window treatments yet, and the front door was open as I strode about the house.)

And my belly kept getting in the way. The 511th time I bent over for a stack of books, I found myself wishing that I could just disengage the cumbersome thing and set it aside for a few minutes to get some things done.

It's times like these that I don't think my company is quite so ridiculous for treating childbirth as a "short term disability" like any other. My mobility is restricted. I can no longer regulate my own body systems the way I'm used to doing. Sometimes sharp pains shoot down my back/hip every time I take a step with my right foot. (I've tried just hopping along on my left foot, but that exacerbates the next two symptoms I'm about to complain about.)

Sometimes, when I have the audacity to sneeze, cough, roll over, or stand up imperfectly, I'm crippled by the most amazingly piercing pain as my distended uterus strains to break free from the weak ligaments tethering it to my body.

And then there are the contractions. I am annoyed by the term Braxton-Hicks (as if the contractions didn't exist before the one male doctor wrote about them 130-odd years ago). I am also annoyed by the suggestion that these contractions are "painless" or somehow different from the contractions of actual labor.

I've been through actual labor. The natural kind. And I can tell you that - for me - the contractions I feel from 20 weeks through the end of my pregnancies feel exactly like the contractions I felt during labor. They increase in intensity as labor progresses, of course, and become much more painful after my water has broken, but it's the same sensation.

Right. So now you know that being tired makes me a little grumpy.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

IEP Elation

Ellie's IEP meeting was this morning, and it was wonderful. Really!

First, all the stars aligned. Even though my mother lives in Chicagoland and my sister got married over the weekend in Kentucky, my mom took a train down to St. Louis last night so that she could be here to support me this morning (she's already back home and planning to go to work tomorrow). Ellie's Regional Center case coordinator, her developmental therapist, and the director of her current school also attended to look out for Ellie's best interests.

I was prepared, showered, nicely and comfortably dressed, fed, and on time. Just early enough to be well settled and not bored before we started, actually. With a fresh bottle of cold water.

We discussed the evaluation results, only touching on the cognition score for the briefest of moments. And before I could say anything about it, the special ed teacher who was leading the meeting (and with whom I've had several phone conversations, and who's met and observed Ellie at school) added that the parents (that's us!) felt that this was a "very minimal assessment of Ellie's abilities in this area," and we moved right along.

We spent most of our time discussing Ellie's strengths, specific needs, and goals to meet those needs. Her new PT couldn't make the meeting, but she sent detailed notes and called us last night to go over them on the phone and make sure we agreed with her assessments (again). We loved her new OT. Her new Speech Path seems like she'll be excellent. The teacher seemed nice.

The preparatory literature we were given told us that our most important role in the IEP meeting was to remind the team that they were talking about a real person, our beloved little girl. This hardly seemed necessary - the meeting was perfectly cordial, considerate, and comfortable - but I passed around an adorable picture of Ellie at the beginning during the introductions part.

Ellie will be at a very convenient location, four mornings a week, with lots and lots of therapy, but all of it "push in" where the therapists work in "circle time" and "centers" where all classroom children are included in the therapy activities and she will not be singled out unless it becomes necessary.

She will be in a small class, more than half of the students without IEPs, currently only one other student with an IEP (though the balance is likely to end up closer to 50/50 by the end of the year). There are two other little girls starting around the same time, also just turning 3.

In short, it's perfect, it's perfect, it's perfect. And it's done. And Ellie is getting some phenomenal services in an environment with which we're very comfortable. The evaluation process was horrible, and I have been given an evaluation form that I intend to make the most of, but in the end I think it will be well worth it. Especially since at this age Ellie was spared the pain and will reap the benefits.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Bathroom Fouls

In high school and college, we had lists of "Party Fouls," which detailed specific guidelines for where it was and was not OK to puke. As an adult, I think it's high time for a non-binding list of bathroom faux pas, for general use in public restrooms.
  1. Do not bring your food into the bathroom
  2. If there are other empty stalls, do not select the one right next to an occupied stall
  3. If you sprinkle when you tinkle - clean up after your own damn self!
  4. Before leaving the stall, take a quick inventory. Is it at least as clean as you found it? Did your toilet paper actually make it into the toilet and down the pipes? Are there unsightly smears? Be aware that a second flush might be necessary. No blood. No visible feminine hygiene products or wrappings. Be neat!
  5. Don't talk on the phone while you're on the pot.
  6. If you plan to primp at the mirrors, be considerate. Don't block the only available sink or paper towel dispenser, and make sure that everyone at least has a chance to take a glance in the mirror without waiting in line behind you and your lipliner.
Anything to add? Contest?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sister of the Bride

Saturday was my last time (I hope!) as the sister of the bride. When my parents introduce themselves to people now, they can officially say that they have three adult daughters, all married, all home-owners, and (nearly) 3 grandchildren. Wow!

My youngest sister made a beautiful bride. People say that about every bride, of course, but here's my proof:

Ellie made an adorable fairy flower girl, seriously:

And my middle sister and I are pregnant!

That was going to be a great matching bellies shot, but we don't really have one on our camera. Hopefully one of the ones others shot came out. I can't wait to see the professional photos!

Amazing. Married! Pregnant! We're all grown up.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise

I'm taking a night off. Hopefully I'll be back for Monday morning, refreshed and rejunvenated.

My friend who's been on bedrest (and for whom I've been arranging childcare) has had her baby! Paul's home! My sister's getting married on Saturday! Wahoo!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Weepy's World

I'm beginning to feel like a broken record. Perhaps I need to start blogging at a different time of day, like, say, right after the pumpkin spice latte I've been buying at Starbuck's this week. Yes, this baby gets caffeine and the last one didn't. This one had 1/2 a glass of wine before I knew that I was pregnant, too. She'll be fine. Or, at least, she won't be harmed by caffeine or alcohol.

So, more on Disney. After checking into our resort, we headed over to Disney-MGM Studios for the Playhouse Disney brunch. Ellie totally loved it, especially the dance numbers. She enjoyed Leo from the Little Einsteins, went nuts over his friend June (who she thought was Dora) and was thrilled to see JoJo and Goliath. My attention was elsewhere, and, for some reason, I couldn't stop crying.

Our little section of the restaurant had about 4 tables, seating a total of about 10 kids and their parents. 4 of the kids (at 3 of the tables) had Trisomy 21.

I had perfectly lovely conversations with both parents. All three other kids were adorable, wonderful, apparently healthy. I don't understand my emotional reaction at all, so I'll chalk it up to pregnancy.

Then we left and went to the Ralph's World show. Ellie was crazy for this show, even though she was nearly passing out from exhaustion. We skipped the autographs and pictures portion of the show to go back to the hotel for naps afterwards. But early in the show, Ralph invited all the kids down front to the "nosh pit," ("We often have snacks," hardy har har har) where they danced away for the rest of the show. Ellie loved this. And I felt like maybe Ralph and his guitarist were taking special note of our special little girl. I was still a little teary.

The next afternoon, we were at MGM again and had a little free time so we saw the show again (they played a different set each time, and the concert was only about 30 minutes long). Ellie loved the nosh pit even more this time, and this time I was sure of the personal attention; it was obvious.

As soon as he bopped out on stage, Ralph saw Ellie in the front row and acknowledged her. He jammed on over to his guitarist and nodded to Ellie, and the guitarist came down to the front of the stage to play for her. Several times.

Afterwards, we stuck around to meet the band, because we're groupies like that. As they were signing Ellie's new Ralph's World t-shirt (which she wouldn't let anyone else hold for the next several hours) and posing for a picture, Ralph told us that his younger sister has Down syndrome. Ah-hah! Not my imagination at all then.

Ralph's Work: Music For The Kids - They've released two childrens' CDs for charity, "For the Kids" and "For the Kids Too", benefitting people with Williams Syndrome, Down Syndrome and Autism. The song "At the Bottom of the Sea" appears on "For the Kids Too."

More: Order your cool Movers "Eight Feet" ringer T-shirt today. A portion of proceeds will benefit the Down Syndrome Association of Greater New Orleans and the Conductive Learning Center. Also stock up on Movers original music, video and apparel while you still can! Shop now

Napping after Noshing

Totally Noshing

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Disney Rants and Raves

Have I mentioned that I'm so tired? Yeah? OK, well then I'll proceed with an analytical post, involving very little thought. Even less than copying from my travel journal to post about our vacation would require. This week I'm working full time and single parenting. I don't know how people do this for longer than a few days at a time. Seriously, this is hard. (And I have a cold. And I'm pregnant. Thanks for both conditions, Paul!)

So, on to what Disney does right. And wrong.

What Disney does right:
  1. They make it easy. They're happy to send you a free vacation planning DVD (or 3) and their website has more than you could ever need to know to plan a vacation.
  2. Plus, you can book your whole trip (airfare, park tickets, hotel, dining plan, add-ons) from the website or with a phone call, if you prefer the human contact.
  3. If you go the phone route, you can add on all your entertainment and meal reservations too.
  4. When you check in at the airport, relax. Disney will pick you up at the Orlando airport and take you by bus to your resort. When you check in at your resort, you'll get a room key that's also your "Key to the World" (theme park pass) so you can go out and start enjoying life immediately. When you return to your room, your checked luggage (which Disney picked up for you at the airport while you were busy relaxing) will be waiting in your room.
  5. Free and easy transportation to everywhere in "The World" during your stay.
  6. Your room key is all you need: to get into your hotel, to get into the theme parks, to use your meal plan, to buy food, to shop for souvenirs and have them sent back to your hotel room, etc. Just one card. And the fingerprint scanner thing at the park entrances is pretty cool.
  7. When it's time to leave, it couldn't be easier. You can check in with your airline right at your resort, including checking your bags. Then go enjoy your last day at Disney, and a bus will pick you up to take you back to the airport before your flight. You go straight to security and your luggage will magically arrive with you at your destination.
  8. After you book your package, Disney will send you little pieces of mail before your trip. They send mailings separately, so that you can have a pleasant surprise when you open your mailbox from time to time. (Oh look! Our luggage tags are here!).
  9. Plus, each mailing comes with a reminder of the great goods and services you've purchased, so by the time your trip rolls around, you're feeling like the smartest gal on the planet for buying the trip.
  10. The theming is amazing. No one does theming like Disney. Some of the resorts and attractions are just unbelievably cool. I've waited in a line without realizing it before, because the line part was so neat.

But as a frequent Disney traveler, I must say that they're not doing everything right lately, and I'm not talking politics here.
  1. What the heck is up with Fantasyland? I know it's the original part of the park and all, but please! It needs some serious updates. Like more stroller parking or more space between attractions and some serious line redesign. How is it possible that the only lines boringly styled like 6 Flags or carnival lines are at the rides intended for very young children? Lame.
  2. Service has gone downhill. When I went to Disney as a kid, I'd never seen a place so clean in all my life. Everytime someone dropped a piece of trash (bad, people!) a Disney "cast member" was there to pick it up almost before it hit the ground. No so anymore!
  3. Also, the level of investment from the "cast members" has fallen off steeply. I don't know how Disney managed to get and keep such satisfied employees for so long, but they've apparently lost the knack. This trip, most of the cast members we encountered were just like employees anywhere else. For the first time ever at Disney, I got, "I don't know," as a answer, and more than once.
OK, enough of that. I'm trying to post some funny pictures, but Blogger is being hateful.

Disney 2005

Disney 2006, with proof that I'm pregnant and Ellie grows like a weed.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Rain in Dallas

I have a bone to pick with American Airlines. They don't offer any sort of compensation or financial assistance in the event of a flight delay or cancellation due to weather. On the surface, this makes sense. For example, if they had to give out meal vouchers whenever a plane is delayed 2 hours because of snow in Chicago, that would bankrupt the company even faster than its own business strategies.

But, on the other hand, if I'm traveling from a location with no weather delays to another location with no weather delays, and my flight is significantly delayed or cancelled because of a weather delay in an American hub city, well, that's an American Airlines problem, not a weather problem.

It seems to me that it would be a very good business practice to keep a plane and on-call flight crew available in at a least one accessible location so that when such a situation arises, a fresh plane and crew can step in to fill the gap.

Here's what happened yesterday and today. Ellie and I got to the Orlando Airport at 5:00 pm for our 7:10 pm flight to St. Louis on Sunday. (More on the rest of our trip later!) After clearing security - no small feat for a pregnant woman traveling alone with a toddler under the new security regulations and heightened threat level (Orange! As we were frequently reminded!) - we made our way to the gate, only to learn, eventually, that our flight was going to be very late or cancelled.

I didn't ask for $2 million to compensate for my heightened stress level. All I wanted at this point was cab fare back to the hotel where Paul was still staying (he's presenting at a convention this week, and spent the time Ellie and I were at the airport at Disney-MGM Studios, out to dinner/drinks with friends, and sleeping in an actual bed). I figured that we could spend a quiet evening at the pool, then try again with a morning flight. No deal.

Our plane was stuck in Austin, waiting to go to Dallas, where it was storming and there was a full ground stop in effect, then on to Orlando, at least in theory. So we waited and waited and waited as the chances for any flight at all diminished. Pregnant mama, exhausted from vacation, alone in the airport with a two-year-old, also exhausted from vacation. All restaurants and services closed, no vending machines. We were a pretty picture, I'm sure. Luckily, I was fully stocked with snacks and Ellie's willing to drink nasty Orlando not-so-soft tap water.

Our plane finally arrived in Orlando at 11:30 pm. But the crew wasn't legal! No worries; this had been taken into account. A pilot was called in, and a legal flight crew would arrive on a flight from . . . you guessed it! Dallas. They arrived after 1:00 am.

Did I mention that it was just Ellie and me at the airport all this time? With a lot of other cranky people? And no hand lotion in sight because of the new security regulations. (I get very anxious when I can't put lotion on my hands.)

Fortunately, our flight left Orlando for St. Louis by 1:45 am, with the pilots and flight crew reminding us throughout the flight that they were all doing us a huge favor; none of them wanted to be on this flight either.

We got home shortly before 4:00 am.

I was really late for my 8:00 am meeting, and Ellie was really late for school. But that's a whole 'nother frustration and best left out of this rant. There's a great picture of my angelic daughter (she did so well throughout this ordeal!) asleep in her first class seat earlier this morning. But, alas, I have no way to get it off the camera right now. I should also post a picture of the lovely flowers Paul sent me at work today.

But I need nothing more than to get some sleep; I have another early meeting tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Ellie only woke up twice last night! Here's hoping that it was a step in the right direction and not just a fluke. I've been running around like a chicken with my head cut off lately. A sleepless chicken. I'm way over-committed and I don't see things improving until sometime in October. Hopefully.

I'll be back next week, but in the meantime I'll leave you with another quote from the awesome Changed by a Child: Companion Notes for Parents of a Child with a Disability by Barbara Gill. This one's from the essay on compromise.

Two things tempt us as parents to put the needs of the child with the disability ahead of our own or those of other family members. One is the anxiety and guilt that push us to do everything possible for this kid. The other is that the
things we do for our child are prescribed and are often monitored by professionals. Each time the physical therapist comes, she asks whether we've been doing the range of motion exercises, but no one comes by to check whether Mom and Dad have been out to dinner lately, or whether our three-year-old is getting her bedtime story every night.

8 Sentences

First: Tonight is Ellie's first night in her brand new big girl bed in her brand new big girl room. It's so high! There are no rails! (I did put a lot of cushions on the floor beside the bed, though.) She went to bed more easily than she has in weeks. She came to the door once and knocked, we ignored it briefly, and she climbed back up into bed (with the help of a two step stool!) pulled the blanket over her, and went straight to sleep! We'll see how the rest of the night goes.

Second, my homework for this week. I'm taking a fiction workshop this semester, and last week we read the most incredible short story in class. It was wonderfully crafted, intriguing, and perfectly complete all by itself. It was also 8 sentences long. Our instructor challenged us to follow a similar format for a short story to turn in this week. She did acknowledge that to do this well, we'd need lots and lots of revision time, which we obviously don't have. So presumably a mediocre effort will suffice. Here's my first draft; I borrowed the characters from an old NaNoWriMo fragment.

Clara was storing a box of newborn clothes and diapers in the basement when she stubbed her toe on a slightly dusty cardboard bin that turned out, upon inspection, to contain plaques from the wall of her old office.

She was still sitting on the floor, reading her old notes and commendations, when her husband came back from walking their daughter around and around the block until baby Cate fell asleep. After putting the infant in her crib, he stepped up behind Clara and rested his hands on her shoulders.

"I miss it," she said, "It doesn't have to be this, but it has to be something."

She couldn't see her husband's face, but his hands clenched her shoulders slightly as he said, "But what about Cate?"

Clara stood and walked outside, away from her husband, away from her child. She didn't stop walking until she found herself in the middle of a crowded cafe, twenty pounds lighter than usual without the weight of her child and its baggage. It was not enough.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

JoJo and Goliath and Leo and June and . . .

My child is spending a lot of time in front of the TV lately. I don't like this, of course. In fact, I was "late" by some standards to let her start watching TV in the first place, and I limited her time in front of the tube pretty well, until lately.

She doesn't sleep anymore. Her naps have become shorter: 1 to 1-1/2 hours is all she needs now, but she does still need the nap. Especially since she doesn't sleep at night.

Going down to sleep takes a few tries, alternating turns between Paul and I, but it's not a major battle. (This is notable because for a while she was going down like a charm, soothing herself to sleep, then for a little while it became a huge screamfest, and now we're at an uneasy medium.)

Over the last 3 weeks or so, Ellie has established a new nighttime pattern. Her old pattern was: go to sleep (eventually) and sleep all night until 6:30 am. We didn't love the 6:30 part, but we were fine with the rest of it! Now we put her to bed, then she's up a couple of hours later, then a couple of hours after that, and then with increasing frequency for the rest of the night until by 4:00 or so Paul and I are taking turns with her because she's refusing to sleep at all.

She wants up into our bed, and in the interest of getting some sleep, I'm willing to allow that. But some nights she doesn't want to sleep. She wants to turn sideways and kick me ferociously. If I take her to the nursery and rock her, she'll yawn and relax on me for a while, then it's like someone flips a switch and she's full of energy, wide awake. Ditto if I put her in her bed and rock beside her in the chair.

If I explain that she needs to sleep until it gets light outside, then shut her in her room and leave, she is quiet for a little while then begins knocking at her door and crying. Presumably some parents can sleep through that. I can't.

So some mornings I just put out a bowl of dry cereal and a cup of milk, and turn on the Disney channel at 5:00 am. I'm not getting quality sleep while I know she's up and about, but I just don't have the energy for anything else, after yet another sleep-lacking night.

To be fair, Paul's taking the lion's share of the morning duties, but he's not in much better shape than I am.

Why? Why?! I hope this is a case of Ellie wanting her new bedroom and will resolve itself after she moves, but it will be at least another 2 weeks before her new bedroom is completely ready, and I'm sure there will be a transition time to the new arrangements after that.

Perhaps there's some obvious explanation or option that I'm missing because I'm so tired?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering, a Midwestern Version

Those of us who weren't in New York or D.C. on September 11, 2001 had a very different experience of the events that day and in the months that followed. We didn't live there, continuously and unavoidably reminded of the trauma and the continuing fear.

But we were affected nonetheless, and many of us like to share our stories. I think this is because so many people were so profoundly impacted; whether or not we were actually there, we all experienced the events in our own ways and were changed by them. My father can tell you exactly where he was sitting and how many times his shirt sleeves were rolled when he learned of President Kennedy's assassination. I can tell you a confused rendition of my memory of the events of September 11, 2006, as a way of coping with what happened, with the forceful assertion that we, here, are not invincible.

In 2001, Paul and I were relative newlyweds. We were also new dog and house owners. I had a new job, which was keeping me busy, often for 12 hour days with a couple of business trips a month. Paul was working on a 10-month project in Kalamazoo, Michigan, home only on weekends. It was a stressful year, and we were arguing a lot.

Fortunately, his company didn't care where he flew domestically on the weekends, it didn't have to be back to St. Louis. So when I had a weekend business trip, he'd often fly to meet me and we'd have a little 1 or 2 day mini-vacation wherever my convention was being held.

In early September, I had a convention in Buffalo. I flew out a couple of days early and met Paul. We had a lovely weekend together in Niagara Falls, Canada, and spent a day in Toronto. On September 8th, were up in the CN Tower, the world's tallest target building. It was a lovely visit, then Paul flew back to Kalamazoo and I finished up my convention.

My flight back to St. Louis from Buffalo was scheduled to arrive around midnight Monday night, so I told my family and coworkers that I was getting back early Tuesday morning, so that I'd have a chance to sleep in a little and shower before heading into the office.

Tuesday morning, September 11, I was awakened by the phone. Paul called and told me to turn on the TV.

"What channel?" I asked groggily.

"It doesn't matter," he replied.

I saw the taped footage of the first plane hitting the tower over Katie's shoulder, and I saw the second plane hitting too. I was stunned and sat silently on my sofa thinking, ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod.

In those early hours, no one seemed to know what was going on, and this effect was compounded by the way we were all glued to TVs listening to newscasters tell us repeatedly that no one knew what was going on.

We didn't immediately know where the planes took off from, except that it was from somewhere out East. We didn't know how many there were, how long this would continue, what was going to happen next.

I called my (then) boss, who was in the office and wanted me to come in too. I stayed on my couch for a bit, and soon she called me back to tell me that the office was closing for the day, though she didn't know why, and I didn't have to come in. She, and her boss, were concerned with the work that wasn't getting done. I couldn't bring myself to think about that, let alone care.

I called a good friend and coworker who lived alone, and she drove over my house so that we could watch BBC America together. I went out to McDonald's to get us some food, and she answered a concerned call from my father, who was wondering if I had arrived home from upstate New York. (Remember, everyone thought I was on an early morning flight.)

Then I started worrying about my father, who was working in downtown Chicago, not far from the Sears tower. No one knew how many targets there were, how long this attack would last, who would be next.

I called Paul occasionally, but he couldn't talk much. He was a contractor on a project, being paid by the hour and expected to keep working. Apparently there was a TV on in a conference room, and someone would call periodic updates to the guys typing away in cubicles. I didn't understand how he could focus on what he was doing.

A day or two later, I still wasn't up for grocery shopping or cooking, so I was in line at Boston Market to get myself some dinner after work. I felt like I was living in a surreal little bubble. The women behind me had brought in their children after a soccer game, and were happily gossiping about something - anything - it seemed utterly unimportant and I wanted to turn around and angrily ask them how they could just keep going on like everything hadn't just changed.

Planes weren't flying yet by Thursday night, so Paul rented a car and drove home from Michigan, but he was on one of the first flights back out after the airports reopened. My first flight after 9/11 was a couple of weeks later, on a business trip to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The airport and my flight were rather quiet and deserted, and I felt comfortable flying on a small plane to a place where the tallest structures seemed to be grain elevators and the stench of livestock met me as soon as I walked outside.

I never felt unsafe flying after 9/11, though I was certainly hyperaware of my surroundings and the other passengers for a while. I am still much more concerned with human error and mechanical failure when it comes to travel in a tin can in the sky.

Like most other people, I complained about the inconvenience of the new security regulations (mostly because people frustratingly seem unprepared when they reach security, rather than having their stuff ready to slip into bins on the belt) and having National airport closed.

But when I was on a sales call in Arlington in early 2002, I got a taste of what it must feel like to live somewhere less remote from the immediate danger. We were in a tall office building from which we could look over the Potomac and see the Pentagon. Throughout our meeting, planes regularly flew overhead, so close to the building would shake with each one. How could people work like this? Live like this? Surely blood pressure must be a major local medical concern? I could understand why so many people were moving further out into the 'burbs, or across the country.

I was never in any personal danger, but I was strongly affected too.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Sleep Diet, Reprised

  • Number of times Ellie got up last night: We lost count. More than 5 that I can remember.
  • How this compares to other nights over the past week or two: Par for the course.
  • Time she woke up this morning for good: I'm not sure. Really early. Paul? Paul?! [SNORE]
  • Length of Ellie's nap this afternoon: I don't know. It was in Paul's car on the way to pick up my car from the garage, just late enough in the afternoon to make bedtime tonight a challenge.*

I am so tired. And, also, very very pregnant. I think the two are probably related, but today I feel like a whale.

We had a weird experience last night. First, Ellie got her new orthotics, and they ROCK. I mean, they're just like mine, but cuter and much smaller! They're little inserts that fit into shoes. Regular shoes. So we went to Laurie's afterwards, to pick up some new Stride Rites. Some in her actual size, that aren't Extra Wide high tops to accommodate bulky AFOs. Wahoo!

We spent $100 on a pair of sneakers and a pair of black patent mary janes. Ack! But that wasn't the weird experience.

We were hungry after all that spending, Cici's Pizza was right across the street, and I'd heard that it's a good place to take kids. So we went.

After getting our drinks, Paul asked me if I'd noticed the young woman with Down syndrome at the table near the front. I had. But had he noticed that one of her dining companions had T21 as well? He had not.

Then I noticed that an elementary school aged girl two booths over had T21. And that the young woman and her dining companion were in fact part of a rather large party of young adults with Down syndrome all celebrating a birthday party (along with some chaperone-types).

And there was a woman making the rounds of all the tables, very chatty, who clearly had some sort of developmental disability.

And a couple on a date stopped me on my way back from refilling my soda to ask me some very intense questions about my pregnancy; I strongly suspected that they both had developmental delays too.

The restaurant isn't very big; it was dinner rush and the above mentioned customers comprised about half of the dining crowd. I was wondering if I'd stepped into some sort of Candid Camera situation, or if it was a special event that I didn't know about. Regardless, we fit right in!

* Oh, you caught that? Yes, my car's been in the shop this week. When my mom asked me what was wrong with it, I replied that it was getting 7 beautiful new 6-panel interior doors. Yes. My big fall home improvement dream "budget" went into my car for some obscure problem that I'm not sure really exists except as a phantom "check engine" light.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

What a Weekend!

We'll consider this one prep work for our upcoming Disney trip. And in the prep weekend, I determined that although I'm still quite a bit lighter than I was last year at this time, I tire more quickly and am far more sensitive to heat. So Orlando will be interesting! I'm not hoping for a hurricane, but perhaps the spent aftermath of a mild tropical storm would be nice. You know, gentle showers and a slight breeze. Lovely! And keeps the lines short.

On Saturday we went to Meramec Caverns. I thought Ellie might be too young, but she seemed to enjoy the trip. She wanted to touch the coolest formations (strictly forbidden, of course) and Daddy carried her for the whole hour and 20 minute tour, because the guard rails weren't very effective.

On Sunday, we went to see the Cardinals game with friends, then had dinner with other friends. It was hot at the game, despite the lovely weather, so we bailed halfway through. We got a good show, though. Pujols came up to bat twice and knocked the first pitch over the back wall both times. Worth the trip!

On Monday, we went to the zoo along with the rest of St. Louis. Ellie was very into the animals, especially the brand new baby elephant, and wasn't freaked out by the monkeys this time. I think her favorite place, other than the pizza stand, was the herpatarium. Awesome kid.

Oh, also, I thought that it was way too early for Daddy to feel the baby moving. Turns out that it's not! So that's cool.

I'll leave you with a wonderful quote, then a picture of Ellie playing in the rain last weekend. The quote is from a book called Changed by a Child: Companion Notes for Parents of a Child with a Disability by Barbara McGill, excerpted from an essay about how a psychologist, upon getting to know a patient who tested horribly, was surprised to learn that she was actually "full of promise and potential."
Often what others perceive in us as denial or false hope is really our experience of our child's powers, which are not seen by those who are looking for deficits and think they are the whole story. Living with our children every day, seeing them "conduct themselves naturally in their own spontaneous way," we see how they are people according to the capacities they have. We see their souls.

Let us hold, always, this picture of our child in her completeness, even - especially - in the face of those who see her as decomposed, a collection of deficits.
I highly recommend the book.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Tabula Rasa

I'm doing OK, just still depressed.

Not the weepy kind of depressed, more the everything's heavier than it should be and takes a lot more effort, especially going to bed at night and getting out the door to work in the morning kind of depressed.

But it's turning into fall, which is both my favorite season of the year and a season that almost requires a bit of melancholy. Also, there's a three day weekend this weekend, I have a birthday coming up, we're going to Disney World soon, and my sister's wedding is only a few weeks away.

Plus, Ellie's birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are right around the corner. Visits from family, lots of holiday festivities, and then - before you know it! - New Baby arrives!

On another positive note, those of you who've been to our house would not recognize the Chinese guest room. For one thing, it has no furniture except for a tiny desk and computer in the center of the room. For another thing, there are no window treatments and nothing hanging on the walls. Without all the gold fabric and reed/bamboo accents, that small room is a little echo-y. Last but not least, the walls are no longer red! They're a lovely shade of 3-coats-of-primer-white. The Big Girl Room is coming along! (All thanks to Paul, of course.)

Pictures soon. Downloading from the camera seems like a lot of work right now. Happy Labor Day weekend, Americans!

Honesty, then a little more anger

Another thought on the whole evaluation process.

There are main two reasons why this label thing bugs me so much, a "good" reason and a "bad" reason.

The "bad" reason is because intelligence is important to me and I attach more importance than I should to "measures" like IQ and labels like "smart." I've always known this about myself; it's something I struggle with daily and have for the past 3+ years.

The "good" reason became clear to me earlier this evening when I was talking to my youngest sister, the social worker/family therapist. Although she has to use similar tests and labels all the time at work, she hates them and makes a point to devalue the results to the kids and families she works with, for obvious reasons.

She pointed out to me how dangerous these labels can be, for people who take them too seriously. Part of the reason that Ellie is doing so well is because we expect so much from her. And if we (as a society) start dramatically lowering parents' expectations of their kids, that can have a profoundly negative effect on what the kids achieve.

That's not an issue with us and Ellie, but I am concerned that it will be an issue for Ellie with her new teachers and therapists. Imagine that you're a teacher and you're getting a new student diagnosed with a developmental delay.

Imagine how you might treat this child, if you're told, "This student should be able to keep up in your class. Please let us know if any difficulties arise."


"This student is severely cognitively delayed. She will have an aide in here with her full-time to help her keep up, and she will be pulled out of class for an hour each day for special instruction and therapies."

Sure, the teacher might know that the tests are skewed at this age, but her expectations can't help but be different depending on what she's told about the student. We all know about the importance of first impressions.

I've heard far too many stories of kids with special needs not being held to the same behavioral standards as their peers (when appropriate, of course) and consequently not achieving everything that they're capable of achieving.

This is why I will reject any such labels being in the IEP report, and will insist that Ellie's given more appropriate labels or none at all, if the services she's offered seem inappropriate. I don't want the system to hurt her development; I want it to help her!

So far, most of the people involved with the evaluation process seem to be of the mindset that "the more therapies she qualifies for, the better!" I disagree. More is not always better; sometimes more is just more. Like the extra square of pizza I ate after dinner tonight.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Evaluate This

I'm not going to mince words. Today sucked ass.

Fortunately, I've moved beyond tears into anger, which is a far superior place to be.

Yesterday was Ellie's Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) 6-month review. Twice a year, the program director at Ellie's school, each of Ellie's therapists, her state early intervention service coordinator, Paul, and I all get together. We go over Ellie's progress over the past 6 months toward achieving the goals we set last time, then we set new goals for the next 6 months.

Yesterday's meeting was our last IFSP, because Ellie is in the process of transferring out of the early childhood program and into the school district. From her third birthday on, Ellie will receive preschool and therapy services through her school district rather than through the First Steps program. This transition involves a lot of meetings, a lot of paperwork, and a LOT of evaluations.

I expected it to be painful.

I didn't expect it to be this bad.

Yesterday's meeting went very well. Ellie has made incredible progress in all areas (speech and language, gross and fine motor, adaptive/self-help skills, and cognition) recently, and it was, frankly, fun going over her progress with her team. We have a good team. Things are going well. Time to upset the apple cart.

We were at the Special School District preschool evaluations office for 4 hours today, and Ellie did fantastic. She was in a good mood and she was compliant, but she also showed all sides of her typical personality so that the evaluators could see this is what she's like when she's frustrated, etc. She was amazing and the evaluations process seemed to go very well, though Paul and I couldn't watch most of it. We were in the room next door being interviewed, one at a time, by each of the 5 members of the evaluation team. That wasn't totally fun.

The team went aside to talk for a bit, then came in to go over their report with us. (We'll be receiving a copy in the mail in a couple of weeks). In reverse order, we heard from the speech pathologist, the PT, the OT, and the school psychologist. The evaluations of Ellie's speech/language and motor skills were perfectly aligned with what we're seeing at home and what Ellie's current therapists are seeing. The delays found were unsurprising, and we were pleased that she qualifies for speech, OT, and PT through the school district. We were also pleased with how positive the evaluators were about how Ellie's doing, how far she's come recently, and how she's likely to progress in the months to come.

But first we heard from the school psych about Ellie's social, behavioral, adaptive, and cognition scores.

It's worth noting, at this point, that Ellie's current preschool teachers tell us how well she keeps up in the classroom, mostly full of typical kids (there's one other little girl with Down syndrome). Her Developmental Therapist, who sees Ellie at home and at school and is a former special ed teacher and school diagnostician, tells us that the only thing that keeps Ellie from participating fully in class is her occasional stubborn/defiant behavior. We haven't had any real "cognitive" goals recently because she met the big one: plays appropriately for her age and with other children in the classroom.

So this school psych evaluator woman tells us that Ellie has moderate delays in adaptive behaviors/motor. Yeah, we know that she's nearly 3 and isn't fully potty trained yet; can't dress herself, and still sticks out her tongue when she drinks from a straw, etc. No surprise.

Social Interaction and Communication: high score.

No behavioral delay.

As far as cognition, here's what she can do (all according to the school psych):
  • match colors
  • label pictures
  • age-appropriate puzzles - though a little slow
  • put pegs into a pegboard
  • understands pronouns
  • discriminating between objects
  • interest in listening to a story, pointing out pictures that go with the text, making animal sounds, etc.
Now for the verdict. Ready?

Severe Delay in Cognition.


I'm a bit flummoxed, of course, so I incoherently press for more details. Well, she can stack 5 tiny blocks. She should be able to stack 6-8 of them.

Um, OK. That's more fine motor than anything else. And a one block deficit is so totally not SEVERE. WTF?!!!

She gave Ellie a developmental age of 21 months, which is also totally hogwash. I know 21 month olds. I see how they play. They are more into pushing a car and throwing a ball then they're into ordering, phase 2 in imaginative play. For example, Ellie loves to give her doll something to drink, then undress her and put her on the potty, clap for her, wipe her, then put on a diaper. This, for the curious, is very age-appropriate play for a 34 month old.

I know there are delays. I am not hiding my head in the sand here.

Still. I also know that there are lots and lots and lots of kids who are much much worse off than Ellie. And I know that "severe" doesn't come close to describing this kid who can play Hi Ho! Cherry-O and talk to the baby she can't see but knows is growing in mommy's tummy.

So. I don't note a severe delay in Ellie's cognition. Ellie's current developmental therapist doesn't note such a delay, nor do her classroom teachers, nor her grandmother, who's also an elementary school psychologist who does this evaluation stuff for a living. Ellie's pediatrician, who specializes in kids with Down syndrome and has one of her own, is convinced that Ellie does not have severe (or even moderate) cognitive delays.

This is how I've moved from the tears to the anger. The eval was wrong. Flat wrong. Worse, the scale was off (Mom explained the scales to me, and I suspect this particular interpretation has a lot more to do with the Special School District drumming up business for itself by qualifying kids for more services). And the instrument was faulty.

My mom's school district only uses this particular test with kids who are totally non-verbal and there's no other way to test them. (Note: the ceiling on Ellie's single-word vocabulary was 3 years and 11 months; not quite "non-verbal" but rather a whole year older than she is.) My youngest sister was evaluated with this tool when she was 6 months old.

So I'm even working through my fury.

But I'm still a bit sad and mad and depressed that it looks like I'm going to go into Ellie's experience with the school district having to fight for my daughter, when I was hoping against hope that we could all just get along.

And at the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting in a few weeks, if they come back with ugly words like "severe cognitive delay" and want a ridiculous amount of apart-from-typical-kids time for Ellie, I'll be ready to go to bat, threatening a lawyer and demanding that she have a new eval by a new evaluator, and refusing to sign the IEP until it accurately reflects the needs of the daughter I know and love so well.

Monday, August 28, 2006

He Just Makes Me Uncomfortable

There's danger in "I feel" statements, especially when we don't examine them closely enough.

Our culture has taught us that our feelings are valid, that we should pay attention to how we feel, and that we should honor our concerns. Gone are the days of suck-it-up-and-deal. We no longer feel obligated to spend Thanksgiving sitting quietly next to the great-uncle who molested us; we can speak out and refuse to attend the family celebration if he's going to be there.

At least, that's the way it's supposed to work.

But there's a big potential downside here, too, and I noticed it at work several years ago when my company started hiring security guards to walk the office halls after hours.

These men are there, ostensibly to make the employees - mostly women at my company - who work late feel safer. They have the opposite effect for me.

For one thing, the constant presence of the security guards reminds me that there is something to fear. More importantly, the guards themselves are sometimes quite creepy.

One guard had few teeth, incredibly offensive body odor, and a really bad habit of standing too close to me, while effectively blocking the only way out of my office, and talking to me for far too long. Dude, I'm not at work at midnight because I feel like chatting. I'm here because I'm on a major deadline and I'd really like to just finish up and get home to bed as soon as possible.

He creeped me out so much that I took to carrying a metal letter opener with me when I left my office to walk to the bathroom at night and on weekends, and I kept it within easy reach at my desk when I thought he might be stopping by. I also asked Paul to come by occasionally to bring me dinner. I called home to check in regularly too.

This guard was white, and as far as I know he was never fired. (When I came back from my year off, this particular guard was gone but he'd been there quite a while and might simply have left the job for another one.)

Another guard, who started around the same time, put out a completely different vibe. He was incredibly nice. He too would talk to me when I worked late at night, and I wished he would just let me work in peace, but his air was far less threatening. He never blocked my office doorway, and he never talked about violence or danger.

He was black, and he got fired after a few months. Some of my coworkers complained (anonymously, of course) that he made them "uncomfortable." When pressed, no one could provide an example of exactly what this guy had done wrong, but just being alone in the office with him at night was "uncomfortable" for some of my suburban, white, female coworkers.

Maybe he stood in the hallway and chatted with another male employee (also black, also fired) where they had a clear view of the women's restroom. Of course, there's a clear view of the women's restroom from just about anywhere in the main hallway. But that was enough.

A weekend janitor was recently fired for a similar reason, and, in fact, it turns out that an awful lot of the black men in maintenance, janitorial services, and security are fired because of employee complaints of "discomfort." The official reason given is usually something about chatting in the hallways at work, though we all do that, or no reason at all for the sub-contractors like the security guards and janitors.

This is insidious and hard to prove, but it's racism all the same. Why does this particular security guard bug you? Does he stand too close? Spend too much time gleefully reminding you of how vulnerable you are? Regale you with tales of strange cars parked near yours in the parking lot? Remind you of how he knows your license plate number, and point out that you two are the only ones in the office this late? No? Hmm.

I wish I knew how to fight this. I wish I knew what to do other than to get futilely furious.