Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A day in the life of Josh

Once upon a time, there was a little boy.
His name was Josh.
Josh had more energy than six little boys all put together, and he loved to play in the toilet, climb in the dishwasher, and ride on the kitty--all when his Mommy wasn't looking, of course.  Josh made his Mommy very tired.
Josh had the blondest hair you've ever seen, and dark, dark blue eyes.  He was very beautiful, even if his Daddy says that boys are handsome, not beautiful.
His Mommy knew the truth--that her little boy was beautiful.
 Josh loved his Mommy, and his Daddy, and his Poppies and his Mimis, and he always wanted to go see his Mimis, because they read him stories and gave him cookies and didn't tell him "no" all the time like his Mommy did.
Josh also
loved his blankie.  Sometimes he would even put his
thumb in his mouth and hold onto his blankie and pretend to sleep.  Once he convinced his Mommy he was asleep and that she could sleep, too, Josh would wake up and go on the greatest adventures with the kitty.  Mostly they went out to the kitchen and checked out the fridge, and Josh would try to get a drink of milk. Mostly it ended up on his clothes.  Then they would climb into the shower and try to turn the water on to clean up, but that never worked really well, either.  If Mommy hadn't discovered him by then, Josh and the kitty would go into the bathroom where the coolest toy ever--the toilet--lived.  And Josh would find everything he could and try to flush it down the toilet, because that was really, really cool.
And usually by then, Mommy would wake up and find him, and she would sigh and say, "Who told you that you could play in here?"  And Josh would look at the kitty and say, "Kitty did!"
And then Josh would have to get his clothes changed and his hands and face washed, all of which he hated, and then Mommy would clean up the milk in the kitchen and give him a drink.

The End.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


There are certain non-negotiables when it comes to my children.
You may not feed them sugar before bedtime, unless you are willing for them to spend the night at your house.
You may not allow Josh to watch all the Thomas the Tank Engine he wants.
You must be an appropriate adult role model, exhibiting appropriate adult behavior, at all times, regardless of your relationship to my children or how you are related to them.  I'm not saying you can't lose your temper once in a while, but you need to show how to get it back under control, and then explain that it was wrong of you do so.

We do not yell in my house.  We do not throw things. We do not swear(well, at least usually).  We do not kick things when we get mad.  We do not hit.  
These are not just my expectations for Joshua and my other future children, but my expectations for anyone who comes through the door.
These are my expectations for Josh's father and I.

Fortunately, it's rarely been an issue.  Only once have I told someone that they were acting inappropriately in front my child, and there was the door until they could learn to act like a responsible adult.

Yes. I am kind of a nasty person sometimes.  When it comes to my kids, I really, really do not care.(Okay. Honestly. I don't care anyway.)

I think...I hope...this will, over time, teach certain things to my children.
Such as, I expect them to be kind, considerate, and respectful of others at all times.
Such as, you can be all of that, and firm at the same time.  You can draw the line.  You can stand up for yourself, and your family, and say, "This is not acceptable behavior.  You are choosing to not be a part of our lives by acting this way. You know where we are when you make different choices."  I hope this teaches them that excusing someone else's bad behavior isn't acceptable.  That if that bad behavior just continues, that they need to simply walk away.
I hope that teaches my children that walking away is perfectly fine. 

Is that rude?  I don't know.  I honestly, frankly, just really don't care.  Eventually my children will be old enough that we can discuss why people choose to act the way that they do, and that there is no justification, ever, to treat someone else badly.  But my children aren't there yet, and until then, I consider it my job to simply say, No. This is not how you are allowed to act in front of my kids.
And I stick to it.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


I went to see Peter Pan tonight, an off Broadway traveling professional group.  It was good and I enjoyed it, but I spent the evening thinking how much fun I will have when my kids are old enough for plays.  And I realized--this is why I want to homeschool.  So I can fill their childhood with music, art, theater.  So we can snuggle on the couch and read good, classic children's literature on snowy mornings.  So we can do science experiments and I can watch their eyes when they finally understand a mathematical concept.  So we can go to a Spanish immersion class, and swim lessons, and professional quality plays in the afternoon.

I want to homeschool so my little boys can run and jump and play in mud and catch frogs.  I don't want them worrying about meeting state standards or chained to a desk at too young an age.  I actually don't want them to know what desk is for a long, long time.  I want to read fairytales and do puzzles and make music and do crafts.  I want to allow for my son's need for movement and spontaneity.   I want to instill a love for learning, real learning.  I'm not interested in textbooks, but learning through doing.  I don't want them to be isolated, but a valuable part of a community.  I want them to know the world beyond our home and family, but not be dependent on a peer group.  There are exhibits and lessons and sports and places to explore, and I think homeschooling will give us the chance to do all that.

Academics, of course, are a huge part of my life.  My children, most assuredly, will not suffer academically.  Standards, though, can be high without overly focusing on tests and textbooks.  There is a time and a place for that, and my children will be well prepared for college, and expected to go.  But there is an individual path there, and it will be different for every family.  I look forward to finding ours.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Last week, my husband and I finally got around to seeing "Courageous."  Having an afternoon off together is enough of a reason to celebrate by seeing a movie, so Josh went to Grandma's and off we went.
I have to put a disclaimer here: I was fully prepared to not like this movie.  "Fireproof" was so badly acted and the fire and rescue scenes so ridiculous that I can't watch it for more than a few minutes(Kirk Cameron, admittedly, can act. The actress who played his wife made me want to throw things at the screen.).  I'm not a big fan of the other movies the Kendrick brothers have made for the same reasons--poor acting, silly dialogue, and, really, what is their obsession with stereotypically manly men(firefighters, police officers, football players)?  Especially since some of the finest firefighters and police officers I know happen to be women.  But I knew my husband would want to see "Courageous," so I agreed. After all, he's sat through enough of my foreign art films.

To sum up the story, it centers around four police officers and a construction worker.  It's worth pointing out that the police officers are three middle class white guys and an African American, who, unsuprisingly, never knew his father and has father issues.  The construction worker is Latino, clearly living in poverty level, and can't find or keep a job.  Racial stereotypes, much?  In any case, the four police officers are good cops, busy dad.  I don't think they are "bad dads" or "uninvolved dads" as some reviewers have said; I think they are just busy in a stressful job, keeping things up around the house, and making their wives happy(more on their wives later).  Their kids fall by the wayside, until one of the children is killed in a car accident.  This is a wake up call and they all vow to be better fathers, signing a resolution in a ceremony reminiscent of a wedding.  There are a number of tangents and plotlines, but this is the basic story.

The acting in this film was much better and the dialogue sharper and more realistic.  The plotline is still a little silly, and, honestly, I've never seen a group of cops sitting around a backyard barbecue drinking soda. But the Kendrick brothers are clearly advacing in their writing and producing skills, and I give them kudos for that.  There were several genuinely funny moments and some touching moments.  As for the overall message, I can't disagree with the fact that many men need to step up and be fathers, being an active participant in their children's life and not just checking in with Mom at night.  If this movie is a wakeup call to the fathers in the audience to be a part of their child's life, then I think it will have served it's purpose.

I still walked out of this movie feeling very squeamish.  One part of me genuinely enjoyed it.  One part of me was trying to imagine how I would explain it to my teenage son in the future.
The racial stereotypes bothered me on some level, but on another level, they are accurate.  African American men, statistically, are less likely to grow up in a home with their father than are caucasian men.  Latino/Mexican immigrants in this country do often hover near poverty levels and struggle to find work. 
Much more than this, though, is the portrayal of and attitude towards women in this film.  The women are little more than walk on characters who sometimes gently chide their husbands to spend more time with their kids.  The one character who is drawn out a little more, Carmen, is still shown doing nothing more than keeping house and homeschooling their children and making tortillas while her husband struggles to find work(begging one question: if they can't buy food and make the mortgage, why don't they put the kids in school and she finds a job? Never answered.).  It is insinuated that all the other wives in this movie are stay at home moms who do nothing but devote their lives to their children--all well and good, but not realistic.  The wives stand beside their husband in the vow ceremony, as the men promise to "provide for and protect our wives and children."  Children, I can see, but providing for and protecting our wives?  Really?  Why, Kendrick brothers, do you feel the need to infantilize women so much?  Do you really believe that women need to be protected and provided for?  Because if you do, I can introduce you to many, many women who do not, and would most definately not appreciate our husbands coming up with a vow to do so.  I shifted uncomfortably in my seat during the entire vow scene, because--while I totally appreciate calling men out to do their jobs as fathers--it ignored the very vital and important role women do in raising children, and made it seem that women need men in their lives as much as children do. 

In another scene, one of the police officers takes his 15-year-old daughter out on a "date."  Besides the plain ickiness of fathers "dating" their teenage daughters, he gives her a beautiful ring and asks her to pledge him her virginity, and to allow him to approve of any boyfriends before she establishes a relationship with them.  At fifteen, I expect to have some say in my children's dating activities, but he doesn't put a time limit on it.  When my daughter is 23, I have no desire to be involved in her dating life more than quick advice here and there.  Why?  Because I strongly desire to raise my children to make good decisions, and I hope I can completely trust their judgement when they are in their twenties.  No, I can most assuredly say, my husband and I will not be asking to approve our children's boyfriends/girlfriends when they are adults. 
My other concern with the whole scene is the idea of a purity ring.  If my sixteen year old comes to me and tells me that he or she has decided that they want to remain a virgin until marriage, and would like a purity ring, I would be willing to buy one.  But that is their decision, their pledge--not mine.  I am not ever going to ask my child to promise me their virginity; sexual decisions are theirs to make.  Again, I hope I raise my children in such a way that they have good judgement and make wise decisions, but I want those important decisions to be theirs alone.

So should you see this movie?  I actually would go see it again.  The dialogue was sharp and many of the cop scenes were fairly realistic.  The interplay between the police officers was often spot on.  And, overall, I do think it had a good message--that fathers need to be a part of their children's lives, whatever the cost.  I just wish that message hadn't been buried under stereotyped characters, cardboard cutout women, and an icky, icky father-daughter scene.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fire safety

It's national fire prevention week.  I had originally planned to do a week long series on it, but then my husband talked me into picking up some overtime, so I am working 54 hours this week.  So no week long series.

Instead, we'll hit the highlights.

According to FEMA, 3,500 people die a year in house fires, and over 18,000 are injured.  Surviving is not a matter of luck; it's a matter of planning.

To start with, the most important factor in surviving a house fire are working smoke detectors.  You can buy them pretty cheaply at most stores, or if you truly can't afford one, contact your local fire department. They often have programs to get working smoke detectors into homes.  After that, check the batteries twice a year.  In order to remember, do it on the days we change the clocks.  A good rule of thumb is to have one smoke detector in each bedroom, and at least one more on each floor.  Also, have you considered checking with family members and friends that your children spend the night with?  Yes, this may be paranoid, and yes, your children's friend's parents might think you're a little weird, but consider this: a few years ago, there was a house fire in our district.  It burned down the entire house.  The pre-teen girl that lived there was having a slumber party, and they lit a candle on the kitchen table before falling asleep.  Something fell on the candle, it tipped over and ignited the papers on the table.
There was only one smoke detector in the house. It did not have  a working battery.  The occupants were alerted by a passerbyer on his way to an early morning job, and everyone got out with only a little smoke inhalation.  The house burned to the ground.  Had they had working smoke detectors, they would have gone off as soon as the candle ignited the papers.  I thought about the girls staying over--how would their parents have felt if they had all been injured or died while at a friend's house, because no one thought to make sure the smoke detectors were working?

Speaking of candles, firefighters in general are not big fans.  For starters, they cause an awful lot of house fires--around 15,600 a year.  The majority are lit too close to combustible material, and are not properly encased.  If you must light a candle, be sure it is not anywhere near something that can burn, such as paper, wood, or plastic.  Carefully supervise children around it, and only use candles that are in sturdy metal, ceramic or glass containers, and cannot be easily knocked over.

Do you have an exit plan?  Do you know how you're going to get out of the house, and have you set a designated location outside where your family is to meet?  Do your children know to stay low to the floor, where the air is the best, and to never, ever open a hot door?  Plan escape routes from every room in your home, and practice them with your children.
Exit plans are not just for the kids, either.  If you have more than one small child, have you and your spouse discussed who is getting whom?  You don't want to be deciding at 2 a.m. when your house is on fire, talk about it now.  For instance, I only have one child now, so it isn't an issue.  But when there are two, and my husband is home, we know that I will get the new baby and he will go get Joshua.  Plan now who is getting which child, so there is no confusion and someone gets left inside.

Do you keep a cell phone by your bed?  We do, because in the case of a fire, I can grab the cell phone on my way out.  Don't ever go back inside or veer out of your escape route for something, but it is wise to keep things next to your bed in case of an emergency.  For us, that is my contacts, since I'm legally blind without them, and our cell phone.  We also have a spare set of car keys hidden outside.  If your house burns down with your car keys in it, what are you going to do?

Teach your children that fire is a tool, not a toy.  Develop and enforce whatever guidelines are appropriate for your family.  For ours, it is that our children are never, ever to play with the stove or fire.  They are not to touch it, ever, until they are teenagers, and then we can discuss it again.  These may be stricter guidelines than what your family wants or needs, so decide for yourselves what rules you are going to have concerning fire, and make sure your children know them.

Fires are not always preventable.  But they are survivable, with some planning and discussion with your children.  Talk to your kids, practice with your kids, and be safe this winter season.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Birth and marriage

My best friend had a baby this week. She had to be induced, as even at 42 weeks her body wasn't showing any signs of preparing for labor.  After a grueling fifteen hours of disorganized contractions but no other response to the drugs, heart decelerations during contractions, and the baby still not engaging, she finally had a c-section.  The baby was 9 lbs 3 oz, with fat chubby cheeks and fingernails so long they had to be trimmed shortly after birth.  He was, you could say, overcooked.

But it wasn't the birth she had planned or hoped for.

Admittedly, I was also disappointed.  Not in the baby's birth, but she delivered at the hospital I will have this next child at.  I was disappointed looking at the maternity rooms, which are nothing more than a plain hospital room, converted for one patient.  A lone picture on the wall with a mother and a baby are the one suggestion that this is more than a plain old med-surg hospital room.  There's a chair that pulls into a bed for Dad, a card table, and a tiny 12 inch TV stuck on an arm that the patient can pull in front of her to watch.  I've been an inpatient at this hospital before, and I can vouch that this room is indistinguishable from the medical patient rooms.  Not only that, but this hospital discourages the dad from staying more than one night, has a nursery--something most hospitals no longer have, except for very sick infants--that they encourage you to send your baby to, and isn't very welcoming to anything but flat-on-your-back-deliveries.  The baby is stuck in a normal isolette with no cover.

In contrast, the hospital where I had Joshua had large, airy rooms.  If I had delivered naturally, I would have checked into my room, delivered there(unless I chose the large birthing tub down the hall), and stayed there throughout my whole stay.  There was a large recliner that pulled down into a comfy bed for my husband, a wooden, round dining room table by the window, a large plush rocking chair, and a cradle for the baby.  There was a flat screen television on the wall and the whole room was tastefully decorated.  It was far more like a hotel room than a hospital bedroom.  Dads are encouraged to stay with mom and baby the entire time, and not only does the hospital encourage rooming-in, they actually no longer have a nursery.  There is a room with special equipment set aside if your baby needs extra care, but other than that, they don't put the babies in there.  If Mom is exhausted and there are no support people, the nurses were glad to take care of the baby while she slept, but the babies usually never left mom's side.  While the room wasn't huge, it was large enough to easily accomodate several visitors.

Of course, that hospital is an hour and ten minutes away, and we made the decision long ago that it was too much of a drive.  We talked, briefly, today about my absolute dislike of these maternity rooms at the hospital I'll be delivering at, but decided that anyplace else is really too far of a drive to be considered.

And, honestly, it doesn't matter. 
Here me out on this.

There are a lot of women I have known who think the birth is the be-all-and-end-all.  They want their babies born their way, with minimal interventions(or maybe a lot of interventions), a certain way with certain things going on.  I know labor and delivery nurses that laugh at birth plans, because so many of them are so detailed that it's impossible to follow.  You might get the birth you want. You might not.
If you have a healthy baby, who cares?

Births, I think, are an awful lot like weddings.  A lot of preparation and thought is put into a wedding.  The dresses have to be just right, the lighting, the music.  There is nothing wrong with planning for a birth or a wedding, but so often that planning takes our attention off of what is really important--that it really isn't the event.  It's the marriage. It's the baby.  Those are the important things.  How they happen? Not so much.  You can have the most beautiful, romantic, fairy tale wedding in the world, but if you don't follow your marriage vows--not just fidelity, but love, honor, and respect--your wedding was nothing more than a joke.  You can have the most natural, calm, peaceful birth in the world where nothing went wrong, but if you're a failure as a parent, the birth was meaningless.  (And, honestly, the baby doesn't care how or where it was born. Really. They don't.)

Now I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with a fairytale wedding or a romanticized birth.  There isn't.  But placing all your focus on an event, instead of on the marriage or the baby, is wrong.  It's a recipe for disaster.  This was the main reason my husband and I chose to have a small, simple wedding--because it wasn't about the wedding.  It was all about the promises we were making to each 0ther before God and witnesses; audacious promises that we have vowed to keep.  We didn't spend a lot of time planning our wedding; we did spend a lot of time planning our marriage.  Our wedding itself was not the main event.  The vows we were making to love, cherish, honor and respect each othere were.

So in the end, I'm not that concerned with where or how I give birth.  Yeah, this hospital is definately not my ideal--but if I have a healthy baby, who cares if I'm in a cramped hospital room for three days?  What does it matter?
It doesn't.

The baby matters.
Our marriage matters.
Nothing else really does.

Monday, October 3, 2011


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Vaccinations again

There is some essential biology you have to understand before really delving deep into vaccines.  Our immune system is complex, but I'll try to make it easy to understand.

The body's immune system works by first identifying something as a pathogen--a disease causing agent.  Every pathogen is covered with tiny molecules called antigens, and it is those antigens that trigger a specific immune response.  Our bodies don't recognize something just generally as a pathogen; those specific antigens are identified as their own unique pathogens, and the appropriate antibodies are released from the lymph nodes.  We have specific antibodies to fight off specific antigens.   To develop those specific antibodies, though, our bodies have to first be exposed to that disease's antigens.  Some pathogens, specifically viruses, are constantly mutating and having different antigens--this is why when you get a cold, then someone else in your family catches the cold, they don't pass it back to you.  You've been exposed to that specific antigen and have the proper antibodies to fight it off when it gets back in your system.  However, if you are exposed to another cold virus, one that has mutated and has antigens that your body doesn't have the antibodies for yet, you will probably catch it and have symptoms until those antibodies are made and can fight it off.  

This is the science behind vaccinations.  Vaccinations contain dead or greatly weakened pathogens.  Even though they can't cause a child to get sick because they cannot reproduce due to their dead or weakened state, the body still recognizes them as a pathogen.  The body then studies their specific antigens and creates the antibodies specific to those diseases.  If that child is ever exposed to those antigens again, the antibodies will activate and fight off that disease before it gets a chance to reproduce in the body.

(For a much more detailed, yet still easy to understand explanation, check out http://www.howvaccineswork.org/)

Okay, you say.  But I know a lot of people who have been vaccinated who still got the disease, particularly pertussis, or whooping cough.  So how does that work?

This I understand. My parents are both firm believers in vaccinations, and myself and all of my younger sisters have been fully vaccinated.  Yet, several years ago, many of my sisters caught a case of whooping cough.

Whooping cough is, if you want to get technical, caused by B. Pertussis,  fastidious gram-negative coccobacillus.  In real life terms, it is a pathogen that produces toxins that damage the epithelial cells of respiratory tract and causes severe coughing.  This doesn't sound that bad, but, especially in infants and children under 2, that coughing causes a lack of oxygen to the brain, which in turn causes the brain cells to die, causing brain damage.   In classic pertussis, the coughing lasts longer than three weeks, and residual coughing can last for months.   In 2000-2004, there were 6,114 children under twelve months old hospitalized with clinically confirmed pertussis.  Out of that number, 5, 454 had apnea--periods where they stopped breathing.  1,063 had pneumonia, 146 had seizures, and 92 babies died of whooping cough.
             The greatest complications in adults, who usually don't see brain damage, is 5% suffer pneumonia and 4% have rib fractures from the coughing. (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5517a1.htm#tab2)   The biggest issue with adults having pertussis, though, is that it can be passed on to infants. 

There are two reasons for the pertussis comeback: number one, researchers have found that the efficacy of the pertussis vaccine begins to wear off after around 10 years.  Basically, the body begins to forget those antigens.  This is why you may see commercials on the adult pertussis booster--it isn't a real issue for adults, other than an inconvenience, but it can be deadly when transmitted to an infant.  This is why I got my pertussis booster last year; it isn't something I am overly concerned about dealing with myself, but I would be horrified if I passed it onto my son. 

The other reason there are more pertussis cases is simply because there are fewer people getting vaccinated, something that we'll look at later this week. 
Now why did my family get whooping cough?  Especially when some of my sisters had vaccines that shouldn't have started to wear off yet?
Most likely, they didn't have actual pertussis.  At least not B. Pertussis.  There are other diseases that are in the pertussis family, but that the vaccine does not cover.  These are usually less severe and do not lead to the major complications that the actual B. Pertussis does.  Especially one pathogen called B. Parapertussis presents clinically similar to the deadly pertussis pathogen, but the symptoms are less severe.

Later on this week we'll look at the beginnings of the anti-vaccine movement, which actually began with the pertussis vaccine.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


We are too busy.
It isn't activities or hobbies, neither of which we have anymore. Its my husband working an average of 75  hours a week. I seem to always get scheduled to work on his days off, so we never see each other.
We took the boat out four times last summer. We couldnt find the time for anything more. We never did take Josh to the zoo, or put up a swing in the backyard. More and more, my husband comes home sleep, and its time to go back to work when he wakes up.

It is mostly just the simple fact that this is what firefighters and paramedics do. Everyone I know who works these kind of jobs does what we do...working forty or fifty hours of overtime or two jobs or, like Rob, both.

In the middle of the craziness, its easy to imagine what-if.  What if we didn't have to do this?
In the field across from my parents, there is a camper. The people who live there keep to themselves. They have a garden and a clothesline. Sometimes we think-yeah! We should just sell everything and go live in a camper and raise our own food and be totally self sufficient and live off the land! Except the good folks at CPS would probably (rightly) assume that I was setting my children up for all kinds of security and food issues, and give my parents custody.

If there is a middle ground, I haven't found it. Are there mothers who don't come home exhausted, toss a frozen pizza in for dinner, and who occasionally see their husbands? Are there really fathers who have time to put a swing up for their kids, build the upstairs bathroom, and are willing to occasionally take a day off work to take the toddler to the zoo?

I assume there are families like this, but I suspect they have made intentional choices to create a simple and less stressful lifestyle.  Those are not our choices, valid though they may be. We have debt to pay down and jobs that demand time more than anything else.

But the truth is, my son is never going to wish that Daddy came home every night or that we spent a week a year camping, because that isn't going to be anything he ever knows. This is his status quo, even if it isn't for his parents.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Vaccinations part 1

Vaccines have recently hit the local news for two reasons: first, there has been a small outbreak of measles in an adjacent county. All the children affected were unvaccinated. Secondly, nationally there are some pediatricians who are refusing to see children whose parents are not vaccinating them. The theory is that they don't want the immunocompromised children and babies in their waiting room exposed to these illnesses. Personally? If there was a pediatrician locally that was doing this, I would immediately switch to their practice.
I understand that my choice to not only vaccinate but to keep my child away from unvaccinated children-I actually will not allow him to be in a day care or church nursery if an unvaccinated child was present until he is old enough to have all of his own vaccines-is not popular. And that is fine. I would rather be un popular than deal with encephalitis from measels, brain damage from pertussis, paralysis from polio, seizures and death from Hib. All of these diseases, even polio, are making a comeback, primarily because the vaccination rate in many places is too low to provide group immunity. Parents, misled or not understanding the studies, have chosen not to vaccinate.
Why is that? To understand, we need to look at the history of vaccines,  the studies and propaganda ,and one vaccination in particular-- pertussis.

This week I will be exploring the  history and controversy surrounding the pertussis vaccine and explaining how the accusations against it have since been discredited. Check out these sites if you want to do your own research



Whooping cough and Unrecognized postperinatal mortality , archives of disease in Childhood 63(1988):41-47

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I haven't seen my husband in days.  This week, I think, he is working 77 hours.  He comes home long enough to sleep and go back to work.  Partly, I was supposed to be gone to a class for three days(Advanced Medical Life Support, in case you are wondering) that got canceled because of the flooding.  Figuring I wasn't going to be home anyway, he picked up overnight shifts on the nights I was going to be gone.
That backfired.

But I can't complain.  I have a warm house, I have plenty of food, I have enough money to go buy my son the fall and winter wardrobe he needs, I have gas in my car, and we're able to pay cash for just about everything and have money left over to save.  Why? Because he's willing to work 80 hours a week and I'm willing to continue working part time(though anymore, I really just want to quit and find a different job).

But I do sometimes miss the family togetherness we had before he took this job.

Monday, August 29, 2011


I'm a little late.
Josh is 15 months and still hasn't gotten his 12-month vaccinations.  So Wednesday we'll go and get them.
Honestly, I forgot.  I've thought about it off and on, but just hadn't called and made an appointment.  But then August is immunization awareness month, and I talked to my sister, who has a 19-month-old son. They live on an army base, and baby Nate missed his 18-month shots.  Even though he's only a few weeks late, he can't even attend Sunday school at the base church.  He can't go to base day care or the child care center at the gym.  Basically, my sister said, baby Nate isn't allowed anywhere on base around other children because he's a few weeks late on his vaccinations.  They don't care if you have a religious exemption, that's fine, don't vaccinate your kids, the military says--but they can't be around the rest of our kids.

So I called and made an appointment.

I've steered away from talking about vaccinations because it seems everyone is talking about vaccinations, some rationally, some not-so-rationally.  And I didn't want to get into the controversy. But honestly, what's another person talking about shots? And after thinking about it, I don't feel there is a controversy.  Vaccinations have been repeatedly proven safe, serious childhood illness has become rare since the advent of immunizations, and there are serious flaws in the arguments against immunizations. 

So the next few weeks, I'm going to talk about it. Wade through the science and hopefully explain it in easy-to-understand, yet accurate, terms.  Discuss the arguments against vaccination and why they don't hold up.  Look at actual scientific studies and discuss what makes them solid and reliable. 

And in case you're wondering, yes, I will talk about the very real side effects that vaccinations can come with.  I am pro-vaccination; I also had a seizure after my own twelve month shots and a serious reaction to the chicken pox vaccine at age 16.  But frankly, I would rather deal with my child having a febrile seizure than the side effects of measles, mumps, and rubella.
And you should, too.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Too many children, not enough car

There was a discussion on one of the forums that I frequent about what to do when you have more children than room in the car.  I blanched reading some of the responses, which included (a) double buckling or (b) sitting a child or adult on the floor in between the front seats.
And this was considered good advice.

It is not good advice.
It is very, very, very bad advice, and will get you traffic tickets and fined at best, and at worst, will kill someone in your family.

Here is why:
People in car accidents get hurt when their bodies strike something else, such as the dashboard, steering wheel, seat in front of them, door, or another person.  Double buckling puts two children far too close together and constrains them.  Their bodies are trying to occupy the same space.  In a crash, those children are going to go into each other at a high rate of speed, most likely hitting their heads together.  This can and does cause serious injury, including brain damage and death.  This was tested in crash tests, and the two child size dummies buckled together in a relatively low speed impact struck each other hard enough to cause severe injuries. 

 A child should never be buckled onto an adult's lap as well, because the child could be crushed by the magnified force of the adult in an accident.  I'm not kidding--at a mere 30 mph, the force of a 150-lb adult in a crash is over one ton.  You may be thinking that there is nothing for your child to be crushed into, especially if you are sitting in a row seat in a minivan or in the back seat of a car.  Crash tests, however, have proven that the massive force of an adult or older child pushing the small child on the lap into the seat belt is enough to cause death.  To put it otherwise, the force alone of the adult pushing the smaller child against the seatbelt is enough to crush that child's internal organs and cause death.

The same reasoning goes for why unrestrained passengers should never be allowed to ride in a car, whether it is in a seat or on the floor.  The magnified force and the speed at which that person will travel in an accident is great.  A child sitting on the floor up front between the seats risks flying into the dashboard, out of the car through the winshield, or into the side doors in something like a minivan.   Some of the likely injuries?  Brain injuries, broken ribs, punctured lungs, spinal cord injuries, lacerated internal organs.  And those are just the likely injuries.  A unrestrained passenger is also likely to fly into someone else in an accident, particularly a restrained passenger, causing them injuries as well.

So what do you do?  Preferably, you take two vehicles or upgrade to a vehicle large enough to accomodate all the children.  I understand those larger vehicles are more expensive, but I am pretty blunt, and if you can't afford a larger car to ensure your children's safety, you need to stop having children.  If worse comes to worse and you find yourself in a situation where y0u must travel and don't have enough room in the back, the largest child should be placed up front and the seat moved back as far as possible.  If you can turn off the front passenger airbags, do so.  In no case should a child in a safety seat ever be placed in a front seat. 

For more information, check out these sites:

Safety research
Car seat safety

Monday, August 1, 2011

A rant

So we've been trying--unsuccesfully--to have another baby.
Today I discovered that maybe it's fortunate that we've been unsuccesful, because the local hospital I had planned to give birth at is, as of November 1st, no longer delivering babies.  They are trying to arrange for their one OB doctor, my doctor, to practice at another hospital.  I suspect it will be the large hospital 40 minutes away, where I have had horrible experiences in the past and absolutely refuse to give birth.
Except I refuse to give birth at any of the other 3 hospitals in the area; one because it isn't a good hospital, one because they won't do a C-section just because I've had one previously and have no medical need, plus it is a 50 minute drive, and the hospital where I had Josh, because, again, it is just too far away.

I know it's silly to be upset about this, but I had really looked forward to having our future children at the local hospital, where our families would have easy access and I wouldn't be driving an hour for OB appointments.   I hated being so far away from home when I had Josh, not only because it made it harder for our families, but an hour long drive home after giving birth with an upset newborn in the back is hell on earth.

This upsets me to the point where we are not going to continue trying to conceive.  I honestly would rather not have any more children than be left with these minimal, and to me unacceptable, birthing choices.

Once again, I really wish we could just move closer to decent medical care.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Car seat safety part 1: Why rear-facing?

Last week, I actually started toying with the idea of turning Josh forward-facing in the car.  He's about 22 pounds, I reasoned.  And, basically, he hates the car seat, hates not being able to see Mom, and the whole thing is really a struggle.
And then I was rear-ended by a truck.

In a rear end collision, the force of the impact travels through the car.  Newton's first law of motion, An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an external force, comes into play here.  Most rear end collisions happen when vehicle one is stopped, whether at  red light, stop signing, turning, or what have you. So you have vehicle 1, at rest, with its passengers inside, also at rest.  Vehicle 2 comes along, strikes vehicle 1(vehicle 2 is your external force here), causing it to move forward.  A properly seatbelted passenger's hips and torso will move forward to the vehicle, but the unrestrained head and neck stay where they are, and are pushed back into the headrest(and you thought headrests were just for comfort).  The neck muscles, however, hold the head to the torso, suddenly "whipping" the head forward.  The head keeps moving until it is ahead of the torso, and those same neck muscles will then catch and stop the head from moving, bringing it back level with the torso.
Thus your poor, unfortunate occupant now has whiplash.

What does this have to do with car seats?

Babies are born with weak neck muscles.  Though they generally strengthen greatly by 6 months, the sheer mass of the head in proportion to a baby or todder's body is still much greater.  To put it in perspective, the mass of a baby's head is 25% of the body, compared to 6% of an adults.  A forward-facing car seat puts an extreme strain on the baby's neck, which has to hold that large head back in the event of a crash.  Those neck muscles are doing everyting the adult's neck muscle are doing in the scenario I described, but are responsible for a much, much larger mass proportionally.  A baby or toddler's neck sustains an incredible amount of force in a crash, stretching, stressing, and possible even fracturing the spinal cord.  In a forward facing car seat, the child's body, restrained by the straps, is held in place while the head is thrown forward. A rear-facing car seat, however, keeps the head, neck and spine fully aligned while in a crash.  The head is not thrown forward, but is held firmly in place.  The child is able to "ride down" the crash, as the car seat itself takes the brunt of the force(this is why you must get a new car seat after an accident, and do not ever use a used car seat unless you are sure it has never been in a car crash). 

  (University of Michigan Child Passenger Protection)

See the difference?  Same seat, same car seat, same size child dummy, same force applied--the only difference is how the car seat is located.

And this is why Joshua will remain rear-facing in the car for quite some time.

This is part 1 of my summer series on safety while traveling with children. Next week I will be talking about making sure your car seat is safe and properly installed, as well as some hints on choosing a good car seat.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


We have a large music festival heading our way.  Of course it can't be something cool, like a country music festival, but instead is a Phish music festival.  No, I'd never heard of them either, but apparently they are huge with the hippie/peaceloving/ecstasy and LSD doing crowd.   Oh, and glow sticks.  Apparently one of the big things at these festivals is to use a whole lot of ecstasy(which super heightens your senses) and then, with 40,000 of your friends, wave a lot of glow sticks and somehow this is "cool."

And of course I'm working up there, 12 hours on, 12 hours off, for the next 4 days. 
Lucky me.

We needed our  new udpated IDs for the fire department(both my fire department and 
the ambulance agency I work for are providing EMS coverage at the concert. I couldn't be luckier, I'm tellin ya) in order to be up there.  Rob and I hadn't picked up ours yet, so he texted the assistant chief and asked if we could get them.  Instead the chief said he had to go grocery shopping anyway and would drop them off.
After I signed for them and remarked on how terrible my picture was, I flipped them over and noticed a mistake.  On the back of mine, it had Rob's name, phone number and our address.  On the back of Rob's, it listed my name, phone number and address.  I pointed this out, that whoever made the IDs switched the backs.
The chief looked at me strangely.  "That's your emergency contact," he said.


So if something happened to Rob, all they would need to do is flip it over his photo ID, which should be hanging on the accountability board at any fire.  There is my name and my cell phone for them to call.  There is my house number and street name, in case it is really bad, and notification needs to be made in person. Right there, easy to see, no looking up papers or numbers in case of emergency.

The truth is that it probably wouldn't happen that way.  If I wasn't at the fire, I would hear a firefighter down call on the scanner or my pager long before anyone called me.  Firefighter down activates all sorts of procedures, the first being all unnecessary radio traffic stops.  All firefighting operations cease and everything turns into a rescue scenario.
I would hear all of this, and because I also have our private, F2 channels in my pager, I would be able to switch over and listen to the radio traffic.  It would probably involve his name, because we're not the best at keeping secrets.
And I would know.

The other truth is that it doesn't matter who it is.  Whether it was my husband or not, if I heard a firefighter down called, Josh is going to my cousin's and I am going to the scene.  It might be my husband, but it would definately be one of my brothers(or sisters, since we do have several female interior qualified firefighters).  It would be someone I know. Someone I love, even if I don't always like them.
Because that is the way we are.   Even if it isn't my husband, it would be someone in my family.  Whoever's ID tag was being flipped over, it would be someone I care very deeply about and trust with my life. 
And I would be there.

And maybe that is why I don't dread the midnight phone call or the knock at the door.  If something goes wrong on a fire ground, I will probably be there or be there shortly after.  And I would never, ever be alone.
There is comfort in that.

But I am not thinking that way tonight.  Tonight, my husband is at work at his full time medic job, and since I have to be at the fire house at 0530 for my 12 hour shift at the festival, Josh is spending the night at Grandma's.  So tonight, I'm putting on a movie, going to bed early, and thanking God for all of the extra family I have in my life.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Risky love

I have a secret fear. It's a fear that everyone in emergency medicine, fire, police, 911 dispatchers shares with me.  The fear that the call comes in and its your own home.  Your own family.  Your own child.

I fear sitting at the table at the work one weekend day, when I'm the only medic around, and hearing our tones on the scanner.  In my mind, I hear, Watkins Glen rescue, Schuyler Ambulance, respond to(my parents address, my address, wherever), 13-month-old male, unresponsive, not breathing, CPR in progress.
In my mind, I am calm, professional, and deal with the situation, falling apart later.
In reality, I would stumble over to the radio, and in between ragged gasps, ask the 911 dispatcher to please tone out for another paramedic to respond to the scene.  And then, I am convinced, I would die.
(Yes, I believe that if something happened to my child, I would die. This is a serious belief; please do not laugh at me.)

Every paramedic, EMT, firefighter, 911 dispatcher I have talked to shares my fears.  That someday, what we do will come home.

But here is the truth.  No matter how paranoid and careful I am, something could still happen.  A car jump the curb while we're out walking, Josh choke on a penny that I overlooked, a genetic disease could strike.  Just because I know the dangers out there and I know how to treat them, not everything is preventable.  Just because I want to wrap my child in bubble wrap and never let him out of my sight doesn't mean that I can do that, or that is what is best for him.  I'm a mom, and in the end, I have to choose what is best for my child, even if it is not what is safest.  Life is risk. Marriage is risk.  Motherhood is extreme amounts of risk.  And yet we do it.  We choose to fall in love.  We choose to trust someone enough that we pledge our lives to him(or her), to live together.  We promise to love each other, even when you don't like your spouse.
And then we start thinking about having a baby. Conceiving a child is the biggest leap of faith ever--that your child will be okay, and if not, that you will find the strength to go on. 
Motherhood, quite honestly, is like ripping your heart out of your chest and letting it walk around on its own, vulnerable and unprotected.

Why do we do it?  Why take this unbearable risk of babies?  Why risk so much pain and grief and worry?
The love of a mother, looking into her baby's eyes--even if that baby is only here for a few moments or hours or days--that is unfathomable, unquenchable love.  That is the love that surpasses miles, and time, and death.  That is the love that knows the risks of the future, and doesn't care.  It is a love so powerful it can shatter a heart, and put it back together again.

That is the love that chooses to give a child the best, even if it is sometimes unsafe, and sometimes scary, because it is the best thing for that child.

It's risky love, this parenting stuff.
But that, I think, is the best kind.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

furniture safety walk

I am a paranoid mom.

I think we've covered this before in detail, but I worry about: pools, open toilets, open second story windows, speeding cars, and ill-fitting car seats.    As a paramedic, my first thought has always been, how could this accident have been avoided?
That said, I try very hard to be a relaxed mom. I try not to project my paranoia onto my son, since I don't want him to grow up afraid of everything.  So sometimes I let him play in his room by himself while I am in my bedroom, right next door and in clear view, while I clean up.

Yesterday, however, I realized my mistake.  Josh was standing up, holding onto his dresser, and rocking it back and forth.  It was a big, wooden dresser that I would never have imagined he could tip over.
(Paranoid mom alert: I immediately flashed back to the call I ran where a two-year-old had pulled a dresser down on top of him, causing life threatning injuries)
So that ended playing in the bedroom unless Mom is right there or Josh is playing in his crib, until we can nail the dressers to the wall.  And this sent me on a safety walk around my house, pen and paper in hand.

The results weren't pretty.
In the den, where a young man is staying with us, he's set his old, heavy television up on a card table.
There is a heavy lamp on a nightstand doubling as an end table in the living room.
A table set up in the dining room has a whole bunch of odds and ends on it, some rather heavy.

These are all things that are easily taken care of.  The television either gets placed somewhere else in the den, or we put a lock on the door and mandate that it is always shut.
The heavy lamp gets moved to a decorative shelf in the dining room.
And the table in the dining room gets cleaned off, and then folded back up and put away(it's one that we pull out when we have a lot of guests over)

This week, grab a pen and paper and walk around your house.  What do you have absentmindedly sitting on top of furniture?  Is there a large television on a dresser?  Remove it, or tuck the cords behind the dresser and then screw it to the wall.  Is the furniture in your children's bedrooms solid enough that you are comfortable, or does it need to be screwed to the wall?  What about the objects on those dressers--could they be pulled down or fall?  What is in the drawers of your nightstand and end tables--are there things that could hurt little hands or weigh it down enough to tip over on your toddlers?  Walk around with a critical eye; even if something is questionable, right it down.  You can go back to check later.  
Just because something is unsafe doesn't mean it needs to be removed.  What can you do to secure it?

Not all of us are as paranoid as I am.  I understand that. But sometimes, a little minor adjustments to the objects in your house is not just paranoid, but smart.

in memory of Matthias

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


My husband and I are water people.  Our relationships was started going out on his boat, and we spent many lazy summer afternoons our first year of marriage on the lake.  I had Josh in a pool at 4 months old, and hope to start swim lessons here in another month with him.  I expect that, as he grows, I'm going to spend many afternoons on the beach or the pool watching him swim, like so many other moms.

But if you're a mom who has a child in the water, do you know what you're looking for? 

Unintentional drowning is the sixth leading cause of accidental death for all ages, and the
second leading cause of death for children ages 1-14. (The first is car accidents)  Won't happen, you say. My kids don't get near water without an adult.  We don't have a pool.  They only go wading.  Or swimming at a neighbor's while I sit on the deck at watch them.  Or the lake when we take the boat out, and two adults are sitting there watching.  Or a motel pool.  Whatever the case, you tell me, our kids are never around water without an adult watching.

Yes, I answer, nodding.
But this year approximately 750 hildren are going to die from drowning.
And 375 of those children will drown while being actively supervised by an adult within 20 yards.

Got your attention now?

Here's why.  Most of us have seen the drowning victims on television--the woman bobbing up and down, thrashing in the water, screaming for help as she thrusts her head above water.  That is what we're culturally conditioned to look for, and it couldn't be further from the truth. 
Drowning is quiet.  Very quiet.  There is no thrashing, no clawing above the surface, no screaming, no yelling.  Drowning people are physiologically unable to call for help; if they do manage to get above the water for a few seconds, their bodies will instinctively breathe, and they won't be able to talk.   They exhale and inhale very quickly before they start to sink again.   Drowing people do not have control of their arms and are not able to wave or thrash around--the body instinctively takes over, and their arms will push laterally down into the water.  This allows the body to maybe be able to get the nose above the water for a few brief seconds.  Bodies generally remain upright, and if there is a struggle on the surface, it will only last from 20-60 seconds befor the body gives up and the person sinks.
It is quick, quiet, and deadly.  You may be watching your child and not even realize there is a problem.

(One thing to point out:  a person thrashing and yelling in the water is probably experiencing some form of distress and rescue should be attempted by trained personnel, or a life jacket or ring thrown to this person.)

So what does drowning look like?  What should you be watching for?
  • head low in the water, with mouth open at water level
  • eyes closed or glassed-over and empty
  • wet hair over forehead and eyes
  • gasping and hyperventilation
  • a ladder climb, something you will particularly see in a pool where you can see below the water.  the person will be under water, with arms stretched above head, looking as if the person is trying to climb a ladder.
  • trying to roll over on back and not able to

If you have any doubts if a person is okay, ask.  If someone can answer, they probably are.  If you are watching children, and they get quiet--something is probably wrong.  You need to take a closer look to see what's going on.
If a person returns a blank stare when you talk to them, they are in serious trouble, and you need to get help now.  Call 911 before you get in the water, or have someone else call. 

And, please, do not make rescue attempts if it puts your life in danger or you are untrained to do so safely.  A backyard pool is probably okay,  but a few yards out into a lake is not.  Even if you are a strong swimmer, a limp body is very difficult to get back to shore, and there may be currents that you are not prepared for. For this reason, it's best not to swim in a lake or other body of water unless a lifeguard is present.

Nothing is 100 percent preventable, but with a little education and a whole lot of vigilance, you can make this summer's swim time fun and safe.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Taco soup


     My husband is a meat-and-potatoes guy.  Well, beef, chicken, potatoes, and pasta kind of guy.   He's not too interested in experimenting with lentils and eggplant, two staples I grew up with.  He believes rice is for rice pudding, and he buys soft, spreadable margarine in the little tub, no matter how many conversations about chemically altered butter substitutions we have.

My qualifications for a good meal are simple:  he has to want to eat it(goodbye, honey rice lentil casserole), and I have to be able to make it quickly with staples I'm able to have right on hand.  

Thus soon after we were married and I discovered he has no interest in trying beautiful, purple eggplant, I stumbled across taco soup somewhere. Yes, it sounds weird.  But  it is quick, easy, filling, and I can throw it into the crockpot in the morning and it will be ready by afternoon or evening, whichever I prefer.  It stores well for leftovers, and is good on both a cold winter evening or a hot summer dinner out on the boat.  
Taco soup has quickly become our extended family's favorite dish.  In fact, it's requested at every family potluck we have, and since I make it so often, it's not unusual for one of my sisters to call me and ask if we have any leftover that she could take to work or school.  

While I put it in the crockpot, we've also simmered it on the stove until warm.  You can try chicken instead of ground beef, pinto beans or white beans instead of baked beans, and variations on the spices if you prefer.

Taco Soup

1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
1 packet taco seasoning or your favorite spices
1 12 ounce can whole corn, drained
1 12 ounce can red kidney beans, drained
1 12 ounce can baked beans(we prefer maple or brown sugar)

Throw all this into your crockpot and cook until warm.  I generally put it on the low setting for 6-8 hours.

Serve with plain nacho chips crumbled on top, shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Promises and contracts and jobs...

#1: I apologize for the lack of photos of the most beautiful little boy in the world.  My computer is on the fritz and we're going to have to buy another one; till then it's my sister's laptop that I'm using, and there's no pictures of the baby on here.
Except he's not a baby, he really is a full fledged toddler now.  Sigh.

#2:  Some people have asked why I don't just quit my job altogether, instead of trying to cut back on hours and rearrange schedules that never seem to work, and no matter what I do, I wind up working 40+ hours a week.  The answer is simple: I have a contract.  This contract states that I will work for the ambulance agency for a certain amount of time.  I signed this contract and it's notarized.  If I break it, I have to repay the several thousand dollars they paid for my critical care paramedic class.  And they sent me for specialized schooling under the assumption that I would work for them for x amount of time after getting those credentials.

And, no, I really have no say it how or when I'm scheduled.  In jobs like ours, the needs of the agency come long before our needs as individuals or families.  In fact, um, our needs really don't fit into the equation at all.  If they need 92 hours this week, 92 hours this week is what they get.  And I don't have a lot of say in that.

Could I look for something else?   Yeah, I've sent out resumes.  Gotten a few phone calls.
But at the end of the day, there is a piece of paper in my safe at home with my name on it and a promise I made in good faith.
It's only another year, and if all goes according to plan, my contract will be up about the time we have another baby, and then it will be time to ease out of my job completely.  I may stay on as a volunteer for 6 or 12 hours a month, but I have complete control over my schedule then.

So that is why I don't just quit.  Not because it's not an option--I could break it, after all--but because I made a promise to stay.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Long distance husbands

Rob is in the middle of an 87 hour week.  He was home a few hours last night, then left for another 24 hour shift at 8 am this morning.  He gets done at 8am tomorrow morning and has to be back at 5pm for another 24 hour shift.  He gets done at 5pm Friday night and goes back Saturday morning.

Plus I'm working 40+ hours this week plus taking human biology at the community college--one more class down towards my RN degree.
You can imagine how my house looks.

It is hard, sometimes, not to be jealous of the wives who get to be, well, wives.  Their husbands come home at night, and they can pass the fussy baby off to him for a few minutes.  When their toilet backs up or their car won't start, their husband can either run home or will be home that evening to take care of it.  They get to cook dinner because someone other than themselves will be there to eat it.  They roll over in the night and feel someone else's body next to theirs. 
This isn't my life.  My husband comes home for a few hours or even a night and then leaves again for another 24 hours.  When something breaks, I fix it or hire someone to fix it.  When the baby is fussy, there is no one to hand him off to for a few minutes.  I don't even bother cooking, because I hate wasting food and I cannot get the hang of cooking for one.  And we have a double bed, not even a queen size, because we can't justify the expense when most nights there is only one person in the bed.  When I need grocery shopping done or the electric bill paid, I can't wait for a day when my husband is home to do it.  It has to be done, and it all falls on me.

Add a pretty-much-full-time(though it wasn't supposed to be) job into this, and, yes, it's hard.
It's hard to work all day and come home to a messy house and no food(or our highly processed staples: frozen pizza and Hamburger Helper) and no other adult there to help.
I won't dare to speak for single mothers, but for a quasi-single-mom: It's all on me.  All the time.  With no vacations.

So if you know a mom whose husband isn't around a lot, pray for her.  It's harder than you can imagine.   Don't judge them--they may not be working a lot because they want the boats and the big televisions, but maybe the husband makes a pitiful hourly wage and needs all the overtime, or, like my husband, works in a profession(like long-distance trucking and equities trading and corrections) where eighty hours a week is simply what the job requires.   My husband is mandated overtime; he rarely chooses to pick up that many hours a week.    Yes, your husband may have a lovely home business where he is home every day, or have an 8-5 p.m. job where he walks in the door every night at 5:30 on the dot.  You may even be of the persuasion that the only way to properly raise a family is a lot of fatherly involvement, which you believe is best done by having dad at home in a family business.  Those are lovely goals(though when my dad, an engineer, owned his own company, we saw a lot less of him, and we had no health insurance, so though he made loads of money, the home business idea didn't make a lot of sense and he dissolved it to go work a 9-5 job), but they aren't for everyone.

(And, yes, I say this because I have had those ideals quoted to me and been told that my family will simply fall apart because we work a lot of hours.  This is generally followed by the recommendation that my husband go back to contracting, despite that it would be a $25,000 pay cut and lose our health insurance)

But, practically, what can you do?

Offer to take the kids every now and then.  I only have one child, and I can't imagine having three or four or five and trying to drag them through Wal-Mart.  Offer to watch the kids for an hour or two so Mom can run errands.  Remember, Dad isn't coming home that evening to play with the kids while Mom decompresses.  So step in and offer to give Mom a little bit of time to just get some basic grocery shopping done.

Invite them over for dinner.  Especially with a baby, I have a hard time cooking for myself.  Usually I don't; and since Rob has taken this job, our fast food bills have skyrocketed.  Honestly, it's super easy to swing through Burger King on the way home from work or toss a frozen pizza in the oven, rather than coming home with no energy and trying to find something to cook for just one person.  Even on the days I'm not working, I just really have a hard time spending the time and energy on dinner when I'm the only person home.  And a Mom by herself with a lot of kids...trust me, she'd love dinner and some adult company.

Offer up your husband.  There is nothing more frustrating than having something break and my husband being gone for 36 hours.  I am fortunate; when something happens that I don't know how to fix, I have a lot of guys in my fire department and a Dad who are all only a phone call away.  And trust me, I've had to ask for help.  And especially if she has sons who want to do manly stuff--if your husband is taking your boys fishing or hiking or even just teaching them how change the oil in the car, call her up and see if her boys would like to participate.  Nobody will be offended, trust me.  There is probably a little boy sitting at home wishing his Dad was there to play basketball, because, at least in our house, Mom isn't going to do that.

Call her just to see how she's doing.  I am fortunate in that I can usually talk to my husband when I need to.  Unless he's with a patient or sleeping, he's available to talk to me.  I understand not all men have jobs like that, so we count our blessings that I can always call or text him.  However, I don't have a lot(read that: any) female friends to talk to.  And my husband and I are simply on different wavelengths a lot of the time, and I would love a girlfriend to chat with.  Who won't be clueless when I'm sobbing on the phone because I just got home from work and am exhausted, the dog needs to be walked, the baby is fussy and clingy, there is laundry to do and a dishwasher to run, and groceries to buy, and Dad isn't due home for another two days.  And yes, that was tonight, and when I called my husband crying, his (mostly unhelpful) response was that if I couldn't do everything to eliminate something--even though I pointed out that the big four things were our son, work, housekeeping and trying to cook decent meals, none of which could really be succesfully eliminated from our agenda.  He then told me to stop thinking and just do what he suggested, which I am very sure a best girlfriend would never say.  In all seriousness, though, a five minute how-are-you-doing phone call to help a stressed out and overwhelmed Mom decompress could make all the difference in the world.

And if you are a Mom whose husband is gone a lot?
It's okay to be overwhelmed.
It's okay to not serve gourmet, from scratch meals and it's okay not to scrub the bathroom every two days.
It's okay to sometimes cry.
It's okay to ask for help when you need it.
It's okay to even be a teensy bit jealous sometimes when you see picture perfect families having picnics, and all you really want is just to see your husband for five minutes.

What's not okay?
Criticizing your husband.
Wishing you were married to someone else.
Fantasizing about how much better life would be if only your husband would listen to you and find another job.
Comparing your family to what you think everybody else has.

It's okay to acknowledge that sometimes this is a tough road to walk.  It's not okay to spend all your time dwelling on how hard it is.  If you're a Mom who is alone a lot, you're couragous, and strong, and can do more than you think you can.

In the end, we all have to do what is best for our family.
It's hard.  Being married to a firefighter-paramedic is not for the faint of heart, but I'm proud of my husband and what he does.
And tonight, now that the baby has finally gone to sleep, I can go run the dishwasher and feed the dog and pick up the living room and fold the laundry.  And I will go to bed, alone, and wake up tomorrow and do it all over again.

And, really, I wouldn't have it an other way.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Off air

You may not hear from me too much the next few weeks, if for no other reason that my internet at home doesn't work and nobody is around much to fix it.
Besides that, we've:

--Been really, super busy with work.  Rob is working 80 plus hours a week and I'm clocking in next week with 50.  We're hoping it's an anomaly and things will slow down soon, but we're so short paramedics at work right now that I'm not holding my breath.

--Cleaning up after a 125-guest birthday party for Josh over the weekend.  Yeah, if we're going to do it, we do it big. (Pictures will eventually come, but I'm typing this at the library where I can't put pictures on)

--Had a young man who had no place else to go move in with us, and I've been busy playing social worker coordinator, hooking him up with community services through Catholic Charities and the county who can help him out.  Our goal is to get him into his own apartment in the next few months, but till then, he's living in the downstairs bedroom.

--Interviewed for a new job today.  It would be 2 days a week, 16/hours a week 8-4pm.  The plus side is that I would love working there, it is 911 paramedic service only, and the schedule would be wonderful.  The downside is that I would be working Sunday and Thursday, and those are Rob's days off.  But I would be home in the evenings, so we could still see each other(I would leave my current job or at least cut back to 8 hours a week)

--Remodeling.  Always, always, remodeling.

So that is what we've been up to.  We keep praying that life will slow down, but until we figure out exactly how to do that...you may not hear from me much right now.