Monday, October 25, 2010


It doesn't take much to make me happy, really.

This morning, Brian handed me this pillbox.

He must've found it while he was putting away the dishes.
So I opened it.
A note! What does it say?
"Please turn over."

I love you, mom!
Love, Brian

From a 14-year-old! See this is where the "it's all worth it" comes in. 

Totally. Worth. It.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Parenthood: it gets easier. Or does it?

That mound is one week's worth of laundry in 1996
when we had four children, age newborn to 8.
Oh, do I remember those harried days of parenting babies and young children. The exhaustion of several-time-per-night feedings, the worry of crying babies with fevers, and the constant anxiety about their safety. And just the sheer physical labour: the laundry (oh, my Lord, the laundry!), the putting away, the dressing, diapering, toileting, carrying, and buckling.

I won't claim that I enjoyed every minute of it (you wouldn't believe me anyway). In fact, I clearly remember crying one afternoon (during the kids' naptime) and deciding that I had better "get a job" and put the kids in daycare because I clearly was not cut out for this motherhood crap. I felt like a complete failure.

You KNOW I'm going to tell you that it was worth it, right? Well, as facile as that sounds, it really was. The benefits definitely outweighed the costs. Those grubby hugs, snuggles, kisses ... I miss them. The weight of an infant sleeping on my shoulder. The trust. Knowing how central you are to this person's world.

And it did get easier.

They started taking care of themselves. Suddenly, I was no longer on-call to tie all the shoes, zip all the jackets, and buckle all the seatbelts. They could wipe their own noses and bottoms. Then they were actually able to contribute to the running of the household: making their own lunches, doing dishes, laundry and yard work.

But then I realized that things had only shifted ...

Sure, they were tying their own shoes, but in exchange they had homework. Homework meant, at the very least, ensuring there was time and space to do said work, or, worse, a trip to the office-supply store to buy Bristol board, paint, ink for the printer, and construction paper. Having the kids in school, in our case, also meant confronting the reality of ADHD, though with each of our kids, I left them to struggle for years before I accepted the diagnosis and treatment. You'd think I would've learned after the first one, but, no. It was as if I forced each one to prove it.

Playdates in sandboxes shifted to complicated mean-girl friendships, boyfriends and girlfriends, and broken hearts. Instead of visits to the pediatrician for vaccinations and banana-flavoured antibiotics, we saw psychiatrists and therapists.

I used to worry about scraped knees; now I worry about them behind the wheel of a car. Safety shifted from safety plugs on sockets and locked cabinets to THE WHOLE FREAKING INTERNET!

Discipline shifted from saying no to sugary cereal to saying no to drugs, alcohol, and dangerous relationships. You haven't seen a tantrum until you've seen a young adult thwarted. [Read that twice.]

And, unlike when they were youngsters, they aren't supervised all the time. And at the very same time as we have less control, the stakes are even higher. They have the freedom and opportunity to get into some really, really serious trouble. Life-altering or life-ending trouble. Pregnancy, AIDS, Internet predators ...

I am often nostalgic for those days when I could solve all the problems in my little one's world by lifting him or her to my breast.

As in my previous post, where I talked about guardian angels and trusting my gut instincts, there really is a lot of faith involved, all the way through. And I do realize that, with four kids aged 14 to 22, we are really in the thick of it right now. But I'm willing to bet that, even after they've all left home and started families of their own, I'll still be awake at night worrying about them.

As with the laundry, the wiping, and the inconsolable infants, it will be worth it. I no longer expect it to get easier. (And I will stop reassuring new, frazzled, sleep-deprived mothers that it will. It's a false promise. Sorry, Diane.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Living vicariously.

Since I am currently employed as a domestic goddess, I get to live vicariously through Steve's incredible travel opportunities related to his current job. He just got back from a trip to Iqaluit, Nunavut, and brought back some stunning pictures. Sure makes me want to visit the High North!

You should be able to click on these pictures to enlarge them. 
Fjords on Baffin Island

Satellite ground terminals on Brevoort Island

Long-range radar
My honey, keeping warm.

At the very, very top of this photo, you will see the landing strip.
Steve says it felt like the plane was going to crash into the cliff.
Taken from the airplane.
Wow. Sure wish I could've stowed away in his luggage. Though I suspect the cargo area was a little on the chilly side.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I've come a long way, baby.

Our bedroom all dressed for winter.
As a child, I don't think I ever made my bed. Not even once. Not even for company.

So it's a bit of a miracle that I have reached the point in my life, at age 48, that I am now making my bed every single day. Once I finished work in June, I figured I had no excuse for leaving my bed looking like a swamp all day, every day, so I made a resolution to keep it tidy, and - astounding to me - I've actually kept that resolution.

I also resolved to - gasp! - put away my clothes each day! I've been a little spotty on that one, but for the most part, I've been good.

And it's a big deal to me.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Leftovers are GREAT!

I LOVE turkey dinner with all the trimmings. I even love turkey leftovers for an entire week running. So far we've had
  • Monday: turkey dinner with stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc.
  • Tuesday: turkey quesadillas
  • Wednesday: turkey pot pie
Doesn't the pot pie look cute?

Brian and Emily both liked the heart!
For my turkey pot pie, I just use leftover turkey, leftover gravy and some frozen veggies and any stray vegetables that may have been left over from the big day. In this case: broccoli. Quick & easy. Not even a recipe, really.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Change of plans

This past weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. The original plan was for all of us to drive down to Oakville for a big family get-together. I was really looking forward to seeing as many of these people as I could. This picture - the last time I had been with my siblings and spouses, mom and aunts - was taken more than a year ago, at my late Aunt Betty's burial.
Ignore the date-stamp on the photo.
It was taken in September 2009.
I am kneeling front, left.

I hadn't seen much of them while we were living in Colorado, and I've missed them. I was also REALLY looking forward to meeting my very first great-nephew, Drew! He's only 3 months old and is ADORABLE. And it's been so long since I nom-nommed a little baby neck, and I really do have a thing for babies.

Diane and Drew

Unfortunately ... Emily caught mono and I caught a cold. We were both contagious. So I called off the trip. The last thing I wanted to do was infect an infant or his mom, who happens to have Cystic Fibrosis and for whom respiratory illnesses are no laughing matter.

So, I approached the weekend glumly. No surprise, by Friday, I was feeling much better, but I still didn't want to expose Drew and Diane to the bugs, so we still stayed home. But... Steve's sister came over on Friday and we decided to get together here and have a turkey dinner after all, on Monday.

Logistical challenge: how to seat up to 11 people around a 60-inch-diameter table that comfortably seats five, but can squeeze in seven? Steve's solution? Create a new tabletop to change this:
to this:

That's 60" x 120" and should seat up to 12.
Not too elegant, is it? But then I went SHOPPING! And this:
contributed to this:
An elegant table. (Not autumn colours, mind you, but I've been coveting some of that beautiful blue-grey for months!)

The weather was exquisite, so we got to enjoy our patio - its first party!

While outdoors, Brian and then Katie each accepted dares to jump into the frigid waters of the pool.

And he's in!

Next up: Hello Katie!

Brian jumped again, to give Katie some moral support.

Yup. It was COLD!

And the winners congratulated each other with a cold, wet hug.
I forgot to take pictures once we went inside for dinner, of course. Too busy gorging. But, as one would expect, there was plenty of yummy turkey, stuffing, homemade orange-cranberry sauce, multigrain pilaf, veggies, salad, two pies ...

So, yeah, the diet starts today.

Anyway, it wasn't the weekend I'd been waiting months for, but it was another memorable family gathering just the same. Now I just need to figure out when we WILL head down to Oakville and how I'll get to see baby Drew before he graduates from college and will likely not react well to his great-aunt nom-nomming his neck. Yeah. Not a good idea, creepy aunt.

Friday, October 8, 2010

It's a beautiful day in the neighbourhood!

The fall colours have definitely arrived here - and may, in fact, be waning. And I am falling in love with our neighbourhood all over again. Let's go for a walk together!
The view from our front porch, if you look up.

 And the wonderful climbing tree across the street ...
 And into the forest.
 Then out of the forest and ...
 back into another part of it!
 A grand old maple. (If I had Photoshop - and knew how to use it - I'd totally remove those hydro lines.)
 An intersection on the way to Brian's school.

The garden in one neighbour's front yard. I don't know what those purple flowers are ...
they're like miniature purple daisies.
I don't know if I want my front yard to be quite this meadow-like,
but it sure is pretty!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

For shame!

Many of you know that I have a particular interest in mental-health issues. Today, in the Ottawa Citizen, there is a story about Rachel Scott-Mignon who shared her long struggle with bipolar disorder. She says, "Having a mental illness is a lonely place." Part of why it is a lonely place is because there is still a stigma around mental illness and reaching out for help.

Isn't it interesting that, even in this age of over-sharing, where young people will readily post Facebook statuses that declare their intentions to drink to oblivion or perform sexual acts with strangers, the one thing we are reluctant to share is our struggles with mental health? (Not that I'm suggesting that people post their clinical status on Facebook!)

Isn't it interesting that I am willing, here on my blog, to share my gastric struggles, and my humiliating Biology test answer, and even my disaster of ripping down my neighbour's fence without permission, but remain mum about my decades-long struggle with depression?

In part, I don't talk about it because, thanks to modern antidepressants and good therapy, it really isn't an issue for me any longer. It's kind of a no-news story. [Nothing to see here. Move along.]

But. Does my silence reinforce the perception that there is no hope? Am I reinforcing the stigma?

I can't tell you how many whispered conversations I've had with friends and colleagues who confess that they've felt overwhelmed, cried for nights on end, have despaired that life would never be worth living, that they would always be alone. Always with a certain amount of shame, and a definite call to secrecy. This, even from people who readily talk about physical ailments.

And I know that taking antidepressants can be a black mark on your personnel record - getting in the way of promotions, career opportunities, and security clearances.

Ironically, that means people who would benefit from these medications and therapies are, instead, struggling along without them and are therefore at greater risk of harming themselves or others, or of using the skewed judgment of someone whose inner world is coated in darkness.

How many people are self-medicating with street drugs or alcohol, rather than taking the appropriate medications to treat their neurochemical imbalances?

Frankly, it makes me angry.

I'm angry that I struggled for 20 years to beat this beast on my own before I finally saw a doctor and started taking antidepressants.

I'm angry that I then felt I should "go off" meds as soon as possible and, again, cope on my own, only to relapse into self-loathing.

I'm angry at the cost my family paid for my feelings of shame about my illness.

But even more than anger, I feel gratitude.

I am grateful for loved ones who endured my mood swings and my abuse and who still love me.

I am grateful that such a simple thing as a pill allows me to find joy in the everyday, and give my dear ones the love they deserve.

Why should there be any shame in that?

I'm not suggesting that everyone should broadcast their mental-health struggles, but I do encourage those of you who ARE depressed to get help and not feel ashamed about it, and I encourage those of you who have been successfully treated to be open to sharing your story with others who may be feeling like lepers, trapped in their own private, hopeless hells.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Is there a doctor in the house?

Following our trials with Emily (and I do wish she had let me take a picture of her hives; they were totally awesome), I can wholeheartedly say that I have had it up to here with ad-hoc medical care at walk-in clinics and ERs.

Aside from the misery of not being able to make an appointment and therefore having to wait 45 minutes to two hours to be seen by a doctor, there is the complete lack of follow-up or longer-term care for chronic conditions. And maybe I'm being unfair, but I really question the quality of care one receives at walk-in clinics. A few examples:
  • Doctor at walk-in clinic took one look at Emily's throat and immediately -- and I do mean immediately - it was less than 10 seconds -- concluded that she had tonsilitis, and prescribed antibiotics. No swabs to confirm whether it was bacterial or viral or even if it was something else (as it turned out to be).
  • Same doctor, a week later, after Emily breaks out in monstrous hives: again takes a 30-second look at Emily and concludes she is allergic to Amoxicillin. No consideration of alternative causes for the hives or questioning of his original diagnosis.
  • Doctor at walk-in clinic failed to advise that the Benadryl needs to be given around the clock or the reaction will come back even worse than before. (Emily was so exhausted that we let her sleep for 14 hours. She woke up with a swollen face and lips, which prompted the visit to the ER.)
  • Doctor at ER failed to advise that Emily should not be involved in any contact sports for at least three months.
  • Twice now we have had to go from one clinic to another because of unplanned/unposted office closures.
  • At one clinic, the office staff were 45 minutes late opening the office.
  • At one clinic, the doctor on duty took a break mid-shift, to go run some errands. The desk staff weren't sure when he'd be back. (We left.)
  • The nurse at Telehealth Ontario spent about 30 minutes on the phone with me and asked a lot of questions, but did not second-guess the original diagnosis of tonsilitis or ask me if the diagnosis was backed up with any lab tests.
All in all, it's just shoddy care, and I don't have faith that it will be enough for our family, given that we have some chronic conditions (mental health concerns, diabetes, hypertension). We arrived here in July with three months' worth of prescriptions; those are about to run out.

So, with all this misery, why don't I just go to a family doctor, you ask? I would love to! But the doctor we had before we moved to Colorado has since moved to Toronto, and there don't seem to be any doctors accepting new patients in the Ottawa area.

Actually, that's not entirely correct. There is at least one practice accepting new patients, but the online reviews, which I do take with a grain of salt, for that doctor sound awful -- and alarmingly similar to our walk-in clinic experiences. (Incidentally, our previous doctor gets very favourable reviews. Sigh.) In the best of all possible worlds, I would be able to interview potential family doctors, to get a feel for their views and how well they jive with my own. Evidently that is not going to be the case!

I am aware that Canada is suffering a shortage of doctors (and of nurses). Many of our homegrown medical professionals are drawn to the U.S. where they can earn significantly higher incomes. The dearth is becoming more severe as the population ages and requires more intensive and frequent medical attention for chronic ailments.

Does anyone in the Ottawa area know of any GOOD family doctors who are accepting patients -- or would make an exception for us?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Why I hoard.

This, THIS is why I never get rid of stuff:
les 3 suisses cape coat
Anyone who has been watching the style pages has probably already noticed that capes are back in style.

See, I had a cape, a lovely red cape, 3/4 length, suitable for autumn weather. It was perfect back in 1987-88 when I was pregnant with Katie and had an expanding belly. And it was warm enough for Alabama's winter.

And then it went out of style and malingered in the basement closet for a few years and several moves. And then I felt guilty for dragging it around and not allowing some needier person to buy it at Goodwill and give it a new life. So I donated it.

And now? Now I want a CAAAAAPE!

Pout. I'm not getting rid of anything in my basement. I may even rent a storage locker.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Taking the plunge!

My dear, brave hubby officially inaugurated the pool today, by taking a full-immersion plunge into the frigid waters. Here's evidence of the event:

And here's a picture of him grimacing (before the plunge) as, er, shall we say "shrinkage" occurred. Looks kinda painful.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Holy hives, Batman!

Emily without hives.
Poor Emily. She's had the worst spate of bad health in the past two weeks.

First, she started complaining of a sore throat a little over a week ago. After a few days she came to me and said, "Um, Mom? Can you look at my throat?" I took one glance and said, "Okay, let's go to the doctor," and immediately grabbed my purse. She was a little shocked because usually, I take a little time to get in gear. But this is what I saw when she opened her mouth:
Sorry about the picture quality. It's HARD to take a picture of tonsils!
See those tonsils? They're almost touching! I was afraid they would enlarge so much that she wouldn't be able to breathe.

The doctor (when we finally found one - it took three clinics and a couple of hours!) took one glance and said, "Wow! She'll need antibiotics. Is she allergic to any?"

A couple of days later, her throat was feeling better and the swelling was oh, so gradually going down. Yay, antibiotics!

Then, on Friday, she texted me to say that she was itchy all over. When she got home after co-op, she noted that she had a slight rash. Okay, hives. They were worst on her trunk and chest, but they were spreading everywhere.

So we made another trip to the doctor to confirm that she is, in fact, allergic to Amoxicillin and that this wasn't something like Scarlet Fever. It was an allergic reaction; bring on the Benadryl!

She went to bed early and slept late today, not getting up until after noon.

And overnight, she had gotten worse! The hives were pretty severely all over her body, and her lips were quite swollen, and she said the inside of her mouth also felt swollen, which alarmed me. I kind of panicked (inside the mouth is pretty close to the throat and anaphylactic shock).

I called Telehealth Ontario and eventually spoke with a nurse. I was reassured to hear that the hives can take up to three days to disappear, but that, unless Emily actually experiences trouble breathing, we can stick with treating the symptoms with Benadryl and cold compresses. I'm so glad I was able to speak with a nurse. Otherwise, I would probably have gone to a walk-in clinic or emergency room - I was that  worried.

So now we watch and wait. Keep the Benadryl on board, and hope Emily feels better by Monday because she does not want to leave the house with spots all over her.

(BTW, Emily knows I'm writing this post, and was okay with my including a picture of her tonsils, but not one of her hives.)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Patio Progress

Woo hoo! The patio isn't finished yet, but it is looking really, really good!

But they look great!
I'm in luuurv!

Meanwhile, our side yard has been completely trashed.

Not to worry; we'll be turning it into an extra parking space anyway.

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