Keep Climbing


Lately I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed. My little man and I both had the flu last weekend, and I spent two straight days in bed, fighting off the virus that had crept into my bones. I got down on myself because the two goals I had set for myself in January - exercise every day and write 500 words a day - both went untouched for a full forty-eight hours.

Even when I started feeling better, I felt paralyzed by the growing pile of tasks I needed to accomplish this week. Which led to stalling. And self-pity. And more procrastinating.

I am just stuck, I thought. I know there’s a way to get back on track. But how?

Not knowing whether or not it would work, but thinking it was at least worth a shot, I gave myself the day off. After dropping off my son at preschool for the afternoon, V and I had an impromptu Mommy/Daughter day.

Our first stop was the mall, where we returned a Christmas gift I had given my husband at The Gap. She had a ball hiding in the racks causing her mama anxiety, quickly indicating how much of a challenge shopping with little Miss Independent was going to be. So I decided to head back towards home to pick a different activity. But not before snapping a photo of my big girl and her new friend.

new-friend{Because this isn't the least bit creepy. That's her avocado from lunch on her sleeve.}

Every Mommy/Daughter day needs a special treat. We stopped in at Starbucks for a little coffee time. Caffeine and sugar are always good for igniting my writer’s voice. My mini-me picked a chocolate cake pop which pleased me since I know I can usually count on her to share at least one tiny bite. Her brother? Never.

From there we headed to the playground. As we drove in to the parking lot, I was relieved to find it empty, not wanting to have to make small talk with other moms I didn’t know. I just wanted to soak up the precious minutes alone with my little girl. Greedy for our one-on-one time, new territory as of recently. I've stopped fighting her on afternoon naps, reminding myself that her brother gave his up around this age.

She wanted to do everything. I watched, mostly, cheering her on from the sidelines while sipping my latte, admiring my baby’s fierce determination and squeals of joy in the little pleasures like riding the springy elephant to being pushed on the swing, her fine blonde wisps blowing in the chilly breeze.

My playground bunny asked for help scaling the rock wall. Putting my coffee down on the bench, but not wanting to give her more assistance than she actually needed, I placed a hand on her lower back so she could feel my presence. And instead of physically helping her with the climb, I used words to motivate her.

“Find your footing,” I said, as her toes tapped the ledges to find her next step forward.

“I can’t!!” she cried, ready to give up before she had even climbed a foot.

“Don’t say ‘I can’t!’” I chided gently. “You can do it. I know you can.” I reassured her. She wanted to keep going. It’s not like my little girl to give up on something that easily. I knew she was just testing me, making sure I was there to support her.

The climb was slow. She’d ascend a step, but would suddenly seem to get stuck, not knowing her next move.

Stuck. Like me.

“Keep looking ahead, Sweetie.” I reminded her. Her tiny fingers reached up to the grip above her head, legs stretched straight until she found her next step.

That’s it. That’s all my daughter needed and a few more reaches and steps and she was at the top of the mountain doing a happy little dance. Proud mama below, cheering.

We wrapped up our afternoon outing with a trip to the library before collecting her brother at preschool carline where she promptly fell asleep. In that moment I sat in the car waiting for my little boy to emerge from school, full of gratitude for a day spent hand-in-hand with my second child who reminded me how to get unstuck.

Find your footing. Don’t say ‘I can’t.’ Keep looking ahead.

My mantras for the rest of this year. Thanks for the tips, baby girl. Let's keep on climbing.


My insecurities & a birthday wish for my daughter

SAMSUNG SGH-i667_20121204_212705Z I'm struggling lately folks. And since it's on my mind, I feel the need to write about it here. My place to type things out, to figure things out, to vent things out. I hope you don't mind that it won't be all neat and pretty. Just probably my rambling and not making much sense, but I have a feeling I'll feel a whole lot better once I get it all off my chest. A blogger I follow calls it the root of blogging: uninterrupted narcissistic rambling.

So here goes. Bear with me.

My daughter turned two yesterday. Two whole years old. My precious baby girl who just recently spent eight days in the hospital fighting pneumonia and Kawasaki disease, celebrated her second birthday with a play-date party at our house where six little friends - all boys! - and her brother, spoiled her and showered affection all over her cute little blond pigtail head. (Literally. One of the little guys just couldn't get enough of her - by the end of the morning she was practically in tears when he came near her to give kisses - it was hilarious and I have the pictures for when they're older.)

I had gingerbread sleighs for the kids to decorate with icing and candy, and wooden snowmen ornaments that they colored with crayons and markers. For lunch I made them peanut butter and fluff sandwiches, cut in a triangle to make a reindeer face (my friend's idea - I'm not that creative), complete with pretzel antlers and maraschino cherries for noses. I had hastily cut up fresh veggies that morning, which I served with Ranch dip, and I had leftover fruit salad from a brunch we had been to the day before.

Leftovers. This is where it started.

I had intended to order a pizza for us moms - the four of us could have easily polished off a medium pizza. But with all the craziness of 8 kids running around, I just didn't have the energy to deal with it. And since my husband the amateur chef had baked up to gourmet-like pizzas from scratch the night before when his parents came over to celebrate baby girl's birthday, I offered that as an alternative, not even thinking how terrible it made me look as a hostess. The salad my mother-in-law had brought over to go with the pizza had gone untouched, and so I had that to go with the pizza I served heated up from the toaster oven.

We supervised the kids eating first, then we adults took our turn. After everyone had lunch, we sang Happy Birthday to the birthday princess, and the kids ate strawberry cake that I had actually thrown in the oven an hour before when I realized I had almost forgotten to bake her cake. For us moms, there were the cupcakes my in-laws had brought over the evening before - a dozen in all - so we had six remaining and I had the moms pick one of those as dessert.

The girls all brought gifts for the birthday girl, even though I had said "please no gifts" on our casual email invitation. They are my two old roommates from college and my best friend from college who is like a sister to me. I love how our boys are such good friends and my daughter loves running around with them too. Watching our kids play brings us all such joy, I know this because we always talk about it.

I am sure that all the kids had a fantastic time and I'm sure the moms probably did too. I had a fun too. But after everyone left, and I had dropped my son off at preschool, tucked my daughter in for her nap and cleaned up after the little party, I kept thinking about my crummy hostessing skills and how I wished I had put more effort into the Mommy side of the play-date menu.

I wish I would have done a better job of de-cluttering and cleaning up in general before our guests arrived. I wish I would have made some sort of special sandwich or salad for my friends who drove a half hour or more to get to our house for the party. I wish I would have made little goodie bags for the kids. I wish I wouldn't have forgotten to offer the girls drinks during lunch.

I wish, I wish, I wish. I find myself saying those words a lot lately.

I could barely sleep last night. I know it probably sounds so ridiculous. After tossing and turning for nearly two hours I finally caved in to my sleep meds and took an Ambien so that I could get some shut-eye.

I woke up today still upset about it. Embarrassed, even. I called my mom on the drive home from dropping the kids off at daycare. I was quickly in tears and she was very sympathetic. Apparently, she said, this is something she and I both suffer from. We say or do something, or forget to do something all together that we regret very soon after, and then subsequently beat ourselves up about it for several days.

"It's a hormone thing honey," my mom explained.

Definitely a trait I wish I would not have inherited.

It's not just this incident though. Lately I've been feeling so torn. Reminded me of this post I wrote back in September about balance. I've been wondering how other moms do it all. How do they do ALL THE THINGS? And they do them SO DAMN GOOD TOO.

I just feel so inadequate sometimes.

I should be writing a post about how unreal it feels to have such a smart, beautiful, funny, independent, social, happy little girl who adores her big brother and has a passion for learning and all things art. How her perfect blond curls make me smile at the sight, especially when they're tied into those cute pigtails that fit her personality so well. She has a fierce determination to do things her way most all of the time, and does the back arching thing if you're holding her and she wants to get her way so much so that you have to put her down for fear of dropping her on her head. Her eyes are an perfect blend of blue and the lightest green. They sparkle with mischief pretty much every hour of the day. She loves bedtime the most and will never protest when we say it's time to go upstairs for bath. Strangers find it incredibly adorable that she still signs - Thank You most often, but also Milk and Please a lot - even though she is talking more and more these days. The pacifier is still one of her best buds and the dentist said it is perfectly acceptable for her to continue using it until her remaining four molars come through, since it is such a comfort to her. You hardly ever see her without her pink giraffe lovie blankie held tightly in her fist, corner knots usually being poked into her baby ears as her own soothing mechanism.

I love that I keep this bipolar blog, and also my private family one with photos and videos, as an everlasting journal of my life, my family, and my journey living with mental illness. Because I hope one day my kids will grow up and learn that their mom is trying the best she can. And even though she may compare herself to others, and she may wish she could be the perfect mom who has it all together all the time, all she'll ever be is theirs.

This will never change. Just the same as how my love for them will always be as strong as our hearts beating life through our bodies.

Except unlike hearts which will eventually stop one day, my love for them will go on forever.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Baby Girl. Mommy loves you with all her heart.

And more.


Life changing

ivig When your almost-2-yr old daughter is sent to the Emergency Room for suspected pneumonia and dehydration, your entire world stops.

Nothing else matters but figuring out how to make her better. How to make her stop crying from the pain.

More screams. More tears. More kisses from Mommy who was trying to make it better.

The stabs and jabs from the phlebotomist trying to get a vein to start an IV while two nurses held her down didn't help things.

Neither did my conscience telling me I should have pushed fluids more, should have taken her temperature so that I knew exactly how high her fever was. I should have just done more.

Her cries pierced my heart. Poor baby girl didn't have much fight in her since she was so sick. She was admitted to the hospital and I practically let out an audible sigh of relief. She had already been sick for three days. By the time we were wheeled up to her room on the pediatric floor, she had fallen fast asleep and I was equipped with a bag of clothes and toiletries which my husband brought from home so that I could stay with her. There was no way I was leaving her side while she was sick.

When I washed my hands, the mere smell of the medicinal hospital soap brought back memories of the previous hospital stays I had endured.

We were there for two nights and then they decided to send us home, thinking it was viral pneumonia and it would just have to run its course. So even as the fever lingered, she was deemed fully hydrated and that was good enough to send her home.

We got to spend Thanksgiving Eve and Thanksgiving Day together as a family at home. That was the silver lining. The fact that baby girl was so obviously not getting better was the dark cloud that lingered over the yummy holiday meal. She only ate two tiny bites of apple pie. And barely drank anything, as much as I tried to encourage fluids. She was lethargic and still in a great deal of pain. We were worried, to say the least.

A call to the pediatrician was made at 7pm, as awful as I felt about disrupting a holiday evening, I was much more concerned about our daughter to think twice before dialing the number I have memorized for just these situations.

We didn't get a call back for almost 30 minutes, which is twenty-five more minutes than usual for an after-hours call. A sure sign that we most likely did interrupt our pediatrician's Thanksgiving meal.

She was sympathetic and gave us instructions for the evening, asking us to follow up first thing in the morning and get her in for her ER follow-up appointment. And if things became worse overnight, we were to immediately go back to the ER.

Luckily that didn't happen, and we were all able to get a decent night's sleep. However, at her appointment the next morning we were sent back to the Emergency Room, this time for suspected appendicitis since her abdomen seemed to be the source of the pain she was in and the doc was concerned it could have ruptured.

Another day, another ER visit. In the back of my mind I was hoping it actually was the appendix. That way, they'd act fast and remove it and within a day she would feel so much better. Simple x-ray to determine if it was, surgery to get it out. Done and done, right?


Back in the ER she was taken for an x-ray, then ultrasound, then a CT scan to triple check. Turned out it wasn't her appendix at all, but a possible constipation issue. Now, I know my daughter better than anyone in that department given the fact that I am the one who changes 97% of all of her diapers and I must tell you - she has never had a constipation issue. Ever. But having eaten so little over the previous 6 days, I had to trust the doctor and follow her direction.

She was admitted again since her fever was still persisting and because they had not yet been able to solve the issue of her abdominal pain. Again my husband had brought me an overnight bag when he and Little Man came to visit while we were still in the ER triage room. It was kindof an unspoken thing that I would be the one to stay with her. It is blatantly apparent that she favors her Mommy right now at this stage of her life and I am soaking it all up while I can. If her teenage years are anything like mine were, she and I will fight more than we get along, and so I want to enjoy every single second of these baby years when I hear, "Mommy! Mommy!" a hundred times a day coming from my toddler's mouth, head tilted back looking up at me with outstretched arms yearning for me to pick her up.

I always pick her up.

The next morning the doctor came by our room in the early afternoon to speak with us about our daughter's case. She was a different doc from the one who had seen us earlier in the week. She took the time to review our daughter's history, starting from when she became sick up until that point. She then went over her theory on what was going on, what could be the cause of the pain and how she wanted to go about treating her. She was so thorough and detailed, we were confident that our daughter was receiving the absolute best care available.

The nurses were wonderful. They were so gentle with our baby who just cried every time someone came in to check on her. The doctor prescribed a new antibiotic, so on top of the two she was already on, there was now a third sent in via IV to try to kill the infection. We would offer sips of juice, water, or milk, but she rarely drank. The IV was keeping her nourished so we didn't need to push too hard.

The doc watched her fever. They even brought in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Physician. I liked him well enough, but when her fever spiked to 103 on our fourth day and he wanted to "wait one more day" before looking outside the initial diagnosis of pneumonia, I hit my breaking point.

I wanted to scream. I couldn't believe he could possibly say "let's wait and see" while observing my little girl in such heart-wrenching pain. Weren't doctors supposed to act when their patient is sick and even getting worse? Not sit back and wait. My blood was boiling. But I managed a weak smile back at the doctor to cover my anger.

I called my best friend, a nurse for eleven years. I called my cousin, an ER doctor. And then I called my daughter's pediatrician. My question to each of them was something my dad wanted me to ask: should we have her transferred to a better hospital? Even though I knew in the back of my mind that she was at a very good hospital and she was in the hands of extremely skilled doctors and nurses who were doing what they thought was the best course of treatment for her condition.

My pediatrician offered to call the doctor at the hospital. Just knowing that I had advocate on our side was a relief. Maybe they'd put their super duper intelligent doctor brains together and figure out exactly what to do to cure our daughter. I could only hope.

The doctor on our case spoke with our daughter's pediatrician and immediately afterwards came in the room to speak with us. I had gone home to shower and get clean clothes for the next day, so she began talking with my husband about the new plan of action. She, in combination with our daughter's pediatrician, and the pediatric cardiologist on staff, thought they should go ahead and treat her for Kawasaki disease. She had mentioned Kawasaki to us back on the day when she went over our case. It is an autoimmune disorder that sometimes arises when the body has an infection. She was watching for it and now that it had been ten days of fever and baby girl also had several other symptoms of the disease but not all the classic signs. The doc explained that there is no definitive yes or no test for Kawasaki and that as a team they decided it was in her best interest to go through the treatment because if left untreated, it could hurt her heart in the long run.

I was on my way back to the hospital when she called on my cell and began explaining the treatment. It would be a 12-hour IV bag of gamma globulin, a highly purified blood product. They would basically be infusing her with antibodies so that she could effectively fight the infection which was persisting inside of her. It was started very slowly so that if she had any kind of allergic reaction, they could stop the treatment. They would give her a dose of aspirin at the beginning, in the middle, and at the completion of the procedure since it was an inflammatory process which could cause stress on the heart. One potential risk was a coronary aneurism. The whole discussion of what would take place scared the living daylights out of me. With my cell to my ear, deep into the conversation of how things would play out, I walked into the hospital room where our daughter lay sleeping and my husband and the doctor were discussing things in person. Hanging up the phone to continue the discussion face-to-face, we were given plenty of time to ask as many questions as we needed.

Then it was go time.

First they had to put in a new IV for the IVIG treatment. The original IV they had put into her right hand had started leaking a tiny bit. So yeah, after they put a new on in her left had for the new treatment, they had to put another one in her right hand (higher up from the original spot) so they had a tube to run her antibiotics and fluids through. My kid was a ROCK STAR for the phlebotomist. Lots of crying, but that was to be expected. Poor baby isn't even two yet.

The nurse had me give baby girl the first dose of aspirin since she tended to do better taking medicine from me versus one of the nurses. She went right back to sleep and her nurse hooked up the gammaglobulin bag and started the drip. They watched the clock meticulously and were in the room every 15 minutes checking blood pressure and vitals. The process was started at 9:20pm. My husband and I stayed up until 11pm at which time I walked down the hall to the "parent sleep room" so that I could get a solid stretch of sleep since the procedure was going so well. I asked him to wake up at 4am so that he could give the next dose of aspirin.

He slept through it. I woke up at 4:15am to the sound of my daughter screaming down the hall because the nurse had just given her the second dose of aspirin. Baby's got some pipes on her.

We all were able to go back to sleep until 6:30 when I woke up since she was stirring a bit. I couldn't sleep any longer. I couldn't wait to see if the treatment worked. I sat in the rocking chair beside her bed with my computer on my lap, emailing friends and family updates on how she was doing. Luckily for me, I didn't have to wait much longer.

Around 10am our baby girl was sitting up, eating breakfast and there were actually some smiles being flashed around! I was so happy to finally have my daughter back. She started talking and I felt a rush of emotion at hearing her voice again since she had been so quiet during the week she was sick. Hearing her words again was almost like hearing her talk for the very first time.

I gave her kisses. I nuzzled her neck. She let me comb the bed head out of the back of her hair with detangler spray and a soft brush. We put on a clean hospital gown and fresh socks and walked down to the playroom to play. She chose paints, my little artist. Just like her mama.

Two days later, 48 hours after her last fever, we were going home. It was the sweet taste of freedom I tasted as I drove us home to her Daddy and big brother who were eagerly awaiting our arrival. The fresh air smelled so crisp I wanted to breathe in every last whiff of it that blew through my hair. Familiar feelings to me since these were the emotions I felt when I was released from my last two hospitalizations.

Spending a week in the hospital with your toddler really does change your perspective on life. I now can appreciate what a family goes through when their child is battling a disease or even the early stages of cancer. The not knowing what is wrong, the time spent discussing options with the doctor, the tears that fall because you want so badly to be the one who can make it all go away for your child. What we went through wasn't anything close to cancer or a highly complicated childhood disease, but it was enough for me to count our blessings. Over and over again.

Life seems to stop when you or someone you love is in the hospital.

And I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. At least it wasn't for me.