Monday, February 4, 2013

Church Life


It feels so good to say this - we have a new priest. Not that we didn't like our former one, he's been good to us personally, but there comes a time when change is better. Our parish is multi-ethnic, being as how we're the only game in town. If you're Orthodox here, it's our church or a drive of 45 minutes, minimum - and that's just to another Greek parish, the nearest Russian church is farther, and if you're Coptic, you have to drive to St. Louis. Or, you show up here, Sunday after Sunday, in spite of the fact that the service is largely in Greek, and your first language is, oh say, Amarhec. Which our Africans do!!! We have at least two families each and every Sunday, often three, sometimes as many as five families from Ethiopia and Eritrea, none of whom understand a word of Greek, English is VERY second-language, and one older woman speaks almost NO English, and they come to worship with us regardless of that fact, because the Church is the Church. It's inspiring; I don't know if I'd be as steadfast if the only options for church in a three-hour radius were in a language COMPLETELY foreign to me. We have a lovely Egyptian couple, some Russians, Serbs, add all that to the American-mutt converts and the Greeks were easily outnumbered many Sundays. And yet our services remained largely in Greek, and our now-retired father's English wasn't good (or even all that understandable) either.
I was nervous, when Father's retirement was announced, about the cohesiveness of our diverse community under a new priest. We desperately needed ENERGY - and English - but I was wary of getting a young man who had not been in full command of a parish before. We didn't need someone making all his first-time-managing mistakes with us, it needed to be someone old enough to exude an automatic air of authority. But in any case, we were hemorrhaging non-Greeks. Not the Africans, but the converts were staying away in droves. There were even fewer Greeks. Our parish was not large to begin with.
I think I can say, after our third Liturgy with him yesterday, that Fr. G is what we need in about every way. He's middle aged, used to command, has energy and charisma, and likes to have the Lord's Prayer in EVERY LANGUAGE THERE IS. His first Sunday here he asked, after we said it in Greek, whether anyone spoke Amarhec. We had it in Amarhec. We had it in the other language of Ethiopia that begins with a T, the name of which I don't recall. We had it in Russian. And as he said, "Anyone who speaks...?" the response was not shy or self-conscious. Hands went up eagerly. That went over VERY well. He's planning on organizing people to bake our bread for the Eucharist fresh, not bought frozen from Chicago. He wants to organize a church library, and set up a bookstore. He wants the congregation to sing along with the choir, and leads by example. He uses a LOT of English. He has ideas, and I think he will be able to win people over to them.
I'm used to being IT for the hymns that change with the day, which means that if Honeybee starts fussing minutes before the Small Entrance, I have to move heaven and earth to keep her happy just a few minutes longer, and entertain her while shuffling books and finding hymns. I'm resigned to being indispensable. I have sung half from memory, with a fussy baby sitting on my diaphragm. Fr. G prints out copies of the hymns of the day, in English, and encourages everyone to sing, and this week I got to find out how VERY nice it is to be... dispensable! If Honeybee needs to nurse five minutes before the Small Entrance, noooo problem. I can totally just up and leave, no disruption to the service, no awkward pause while someone else hunts up what hymn comes next. It's so relaxing. I can just "be" in church, for the first time in YEARS.
On the language front, just to be clear - I have no problem with Greek. I, personally, know what's going on, I know the hymns, and I am in favor of keeping a certain amount for the sake of longstanding (2,000 years...) tradition. But when it's far more Greek than English - and the English may as well be Greek, for all that an outsider could understand of it - and our parish is simply not as Greek as the service would lead you to think...? We need English, we need enthusiasm, we need a congregation that sings along. I know it all because I'm the pseudo-chanter. The people in the pews need to know it too. We also need to celebrate the fact that HEY, we are THE Orthodox community in our state's capital, Greek or not.
I feel really, really good about this. I'm really excited, for the first time in a long while. It's so refreshing to really look forward to church again.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Life Changes


Life has changed a bunch since I last wrote back in early September. In December, I was asked by a friend at church whether I would want to babysit her daughter. I had actually been going to babysit for her when her maternity leave ran out back in fall of '11, and then my own pregnancy took a bad turn and bedrest put a stop to that idea. Well, a year later, here I am a nanny after all! Her little girl is half a year older than Honeybee, a whole bunch bigger, and very much a toddler. The first week, or week in a half, "Ladybug" cried every morning. Every morning she cried, every morning we rocked with animal crackers and milk in the big rocking armchair while Kittyboy and I sang the alphabet. I think that was about a week and a half. Then the last two days, she's cried when her dad picked her up in the afternoon! She doesn't want to leave! I must be doing something right!
Ladybug and Honeybee have become great friends. Honeybee is bound and determined to catch up six months worth! She went from cruising to taking a couple steps between handholds to taking up to six steps at a time, in two weeks. She now wants very much to drink from a cup. She wants to do everything Ladybug does. Unfortunately for Ladybug, Honeybee is an alpha dog, and WILL run roughshod over her if she gets the chance. She takes Ladybug's cup, her snacks, her place in front of the coveted toy, etc. And for the first four weeks, I spent a LOT of my day following Honeybee around and giving Ladybug back her stuff. And Ladybug would just stand there. Just this week, Ladybug has started taking stuff back (GOOD GIRL!). Now I have to follow them around to break up the tugs-of-war!
They're very different personalities. Honeybee knows no fear, while Ladybug is afraid of Kittyboy's toy T-Rex, his huge Perry the Platypus balloon, and the sound the dryer makes when it's finished. She has to wake up just so, or she is very fragile for some time afterward. Went through THAT with Kittyboy, his first year or so, the bad wakeups, so it's old hat to me. Just leave her the heck alone when she wakes up, let her get up at her own pace. Nothing loud, nothing sudden, don't touch her unless she's already upset, etc. And then the poor girl wakes to Kittyboy on one side of the playpen, reaching in for her, saying, "Do you want to get up? Do you want to come out?" over and over, while Honeybee stands at the other side, gleefully clawing the mesh and shrieking like a baby pterodactyl. "I FOUND HER! HERE SHE IS! MOMMY, MY FRIEND IS HERE! GET HER OUT TO PLAY WITH ME!" is my rough translation. Poor, poor Ladybug. I rocked her for an hour one afternoon, after waking too early from her nap, while Honeybee (who HAS to be on my lap if Ladybug is) sat opposite her, trying to be helpful and cheer her up. And by "cheer her up" I mean "alternate between trying to pat her head, and cheerfully shrieking like a baby pterodactyl." New napping procedure - everyone stays the heck out of the living room while Ladybug sleeps, with the exception of Kittyboy reading quietly, and once she is awake, NO ONE MOVE. Not until she does. This means I spend the last half hour to hour of her nap redirecting Honeybee, who will come happily charging down the hall on all fours, squeaking with each stride in a determined manner, to seek out her friend, who has BEEN SLEEPING A WHOLE HOUR OR SO, OH MY GOSH, WHO DOES THAT?? (not Honeybee! She may sleep only half an hour all day!)
Feeding the two is like feeding two dogs, trying to keep the food separate and ensure that each gets to eat, and remember Honeybee is ALPHA. She also loves to eat. She will clear her plate, and once released from her chair, try to go over to Ladybug with the intention of clearing hers as well.  "You're not eating it anyway, I'll help you! Mommy, why are you moving me over here? SHE'S NOT EATING IT ANYWAY!"
I'm also tutoring the boy next door. Because... I'm not busy enough? And because his mom wants him to pass kindergarten. He's six months younger than Kittyboy and hates reading with a passion. He CAN sound out short words, which Kittyboy didn't do, KB just memorized them to start with, which gives me hope that I can do this. Problem is, his mom doesn't read or write English. So it's the teacher and me, which puts him at a disadvantage even with the best of attitudes, and then there's the fact that he reeeeeaaaaaaally doesn't want to. Yeah, NOT the best of attitudes. And I know enough Spanish to know that his mother, poor woman, is nagging him, "Listen to her, pay attention, listen, listen, pay attention, pay attention, pay attention." She's serious. Serious enough to pay the homeschooling neighbor to teach him. Which makes me want to scream when he says "but I caaaaan't!" and then laughs. A couple days ago, I got him through half of "Hop on Pop!" one letter at a time, before he became so uncooperative I called it a day, so I've made flash cards with words from the book, plus a few more -op, -all, -ing, -ed, etc words. Time to DRILL. "A-Y says long-A. Always, every time. So D-A-Y says?" Until he's got the endings down pat. Dr. Suess was a genius, I swear. Who else could make as unphonetic a language as English seem simple to teach? If I can get him through Suess, I can get him to first grade, is my mantra.
So yeah. I'm busy. But I want to get back to blogging!

Honeybee is one year old! (doo dah, doo dah)


Darn it, I AM GOING to blog.
The Honeybee is A WHOLE YEAR OLD now, and just grew fully into 6-month clothing. HA. She is tiny. But DETERMINED. Absolutely 100% determined that she WILL catch up to her brother, and from there, conquer the known universe. She is pushing a milk crate around the kitchen, pulling up on everything there is, and just a few days ago, took SIX STEPS in a row, holding onto nothing.
We joke she's on a seafood diet, she sees food, she wants it. I've been rather sloppy this time around with introducing things one at a time and slowly. "Yes, this is pretty pasta salad. Not for you... oh what the heck." She likes everything. She likes rices, pastas, vegetables, meats, everything. If you can dice it small enough, she will eat it. She enjoyed shreds of my pickled ginger at a sushi buffet. Her birthday meal was tilapia with ginger mayonnaise sauce, and sweet potato hash browns. She emptied her plate by the fistful. I can't eat in front of her if I'm not willing to share. No teeth yet - drooling and chewing on stuff since Mother's Day, but no teeth yet.
It is so much fun to WATCH a baby's development this time around - just sit back and watch, and not do a thing about it. With Kittyboy, we were teaching him stuff, with Honeybee it's "Holy cow! You're doing THAT!... Okay then..." And it forces us to be creative sometimes, like with having her push a milk crate, because when she started doing that, she was still in 3-month clothes. They did NOT make walking toys for babies her size. I expected that by the time her legs were long enough for a walker, she'd BE walking, and I was basically right.
Her heart murmur, praise God, has shrank a bit, and her cardiologist had the honor of being the one to discover her extreme anemia. He asked, when he saw her at the end of September, whether he could check her levels, juuuust to be sure. Maybe she really was "that" pale naturally - and maybe she was naturally SO pale that even her sinus membranes were lighter than normal - but he'd like to just be sure. I asked if it was a heel stick or blood draw, because I gave my already tiny daughter my tiny, tiny veins, and he said just a heel stick, so I said sure. I didn't really think anything of it, because my mother and grandfather and great-grandmother are all very fair-skinned, and she's always been very fair. Well, I forgot to turn my phone's ringer back on when I left, and at 4:30, I realized I had three missed calls, from two different numbers, and an ominous voicemail that mentioned following up with our family doctor the next morning. I called back. The office was closed. Then the cardiologist himself called, after hours. Her "number", hemocrit I think, was supposed to be at least 10.5. It was 6. "I'm so glad I saw her just this morning, so I know she's stable." "Children with anemia of this level are at risk for heart failure," was one of the oh-so-comforting sentences I remember.
Started her on lots of iron. Found out she didn't tolerate that well, and after taking a shower with her, fully clothed, because I knew no other way to deal with the Explosive Iron Barf covering her clothes, my clothes, and in my hair, we started soaking bits of toast with it. Infuse a large enough portion of empty carbs with it, and she would take it and keep it down. Thank God, we are over that. Our second health hurdle, out of the way. I'm told babies can turn anemic around six months, because that's when the mom's iron in their blood runs out and they have to make all their own, and I was thinking "but she only just had her six-month checkup, how could she be THAT anemic, THAT quickly?" and then I remembered this is one thing where adjusted age doesn't mean anything - it's how long the baby's been out of the womb. And she was actually six months in July, not September. So she'd actually been quietly going anemic for the past two months when the cardiologist caught it!
The Honeybee, enjoying her birthday feast!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Story of My Second C-Section

Just putting this out there, because I wanted to get something posted and my brain went blank, 

I really, really hate being awake for a surgery. Really, really hate it. Knock me out. I thought I'd be cool with it, I've had one before (Kittyboy, under general), I have no problems with needles or blood or anything, and Dr. Z had said that he was going to recheck my platelets right before, make sure we could do it with an epidural, because it's so much better for everyone, so I was aware there are really good reasons to not be out completely if you don't have to be. Among other things, if you're conscious, your uterus starts contracting afterward, which helps stop the bleeding. It's also better for the baby, the baby comes out more awake and so assessments of health are easier and quicker.
So I knew this already. Then they wheeled me into the OR, and I started freaking out. I think they had one nurse whose main job was "keep this mom from going psycho" because I don't think she did much other than rub my arms and tell me exactly what everyone was doing and try to get me talking about other things, and remind me about every five minutes that it really, really, really is better to have an epidural than general anesthetic when possible. Any time anyone asked if I wanted a hot towel or something (because I was shaking so hard), I told them to put me out, and they would say the same thing again about how much better it is for baby and mom to have them conscious. And then they'd put a hot towel on somewhere. It was really kind of funny, thinking back on it - "honey, you're shaking a lot, are you cold?" "Knock me out!!" "No, it really is better this way, and you can even see her afterward. You're doing fine. Here, have a hot towel!" The nurse rubbing my arms would say, "Okay, now she (the nurse behind me) is going to clean the site for the injection. So how old is your other child?" And I would think what the heck, why does it matter? "Uh, he's five, WHAT-IS-SHE-DOING-NOW?" I calmed down a little after they put up the big drape and I couldn't see much except blue - like blindfolding a horse, I suppose - and it was cool hearing her cry when she came out, and then the freakout-prevention nurse said since B was out, she COULD give me something small to make me a little calmer, I said YES!!! And being a drug wuss and sensitive to everything, I then passed out completely until I was being transferred back into my bed (but hey, I was certainly MUCH calmer). I don't know what my problem was, but between the idea of getting a shot in my back where I couldn't see it, and being awake for A SURGERY, I was a wreck. Husband was there and everything, I just couldn't stop shaking for some reason. BP while they were prepping was the highest it had ever gotten. Husband said later, after I told him about Freakout-Prevention Nurse and the shaking (which someone pointed out could have been me going into shock), that that must have been why it took them so long to bring him in. The nurse who gave him scrubs had said they'd be in for him in 15-20 minutes, after I was prepped. He says it was 45 and he was starting to think something was going wrong!
So there's the story!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Kittyboy playing at the mall


I had a homeschooling revelation today. There ARE social skills that are learned in school. But before you think I'm defending schools as necessary for social development, those skills are not exclusive to school. They're not learned in a classroom, hallway, or cafeteria. They are learned only in completely unstructured playtime - good old-fashioned recess. Yes, the part of school that is the first to get cut is the only place IN school where vital peer-to-peer social skills are really learned.
Kittyboy's social skills have been a tremendous concern of mine - mainly, I think, because mine were lacking (or, to be honest, nonexistent) until sometime in college. The older kids are, the more demanding, subtle, and instrutable they are, or such was my experience. To use a swimming analogy, I doggie-paddled along tolerably well until I changed schools in third grade, and sank like a stone. It was in college that I had friends solidly and consistently enough to suss out how that was supposed to work. I am living proof that just going to school does not teach social skills, or make you "normal".
And yet, you know that's everyone's first concern when you say you're homeschooling. And I would look at Kittyboy, who seemed to me to be immature for his age and just plain weird next to other kids, and I felt like I was showing off the stereotype of the weird, unsocialized homeschool kid who doesn't know how to play with others. I know he's only five, but I guess I just REALLY wanted to head off the socialization concerns at the pass. I know a family at church with five kids, homeschooling, and their kids are just the most well-socialized creatures on the face of the planet. It's an intimidating comparison.
So, we were at the Play Place in the mall today. It's a small area, ringed with benches, a playhouse, bridge, boat, car, and ambulance (it's sponsored by St. John's Children's Hospital), all made out of very dense foam, and with a wonderful springy foam floor. I have started TELLING Kittyboy things I would have expected him to intuit that he hasn't - such as, "And if someone tells you THEIR name, what do YOU say?" And the whole way to the bus today, I quizzed him. Exchanging names, asking someone to play, ideas for games to play, what to do when someone DOESN'T want to play with you... And, NOT to bring up imaginary friends when you are playing with real children. What is in your head, cannot be easily shared with others. It doesn't work. He and my five-year-old self both have rich and extensive imaginations. We play in our heads, and in our heads are contained whole universes requiring no one else. When I invited other girls to a birthday party - I think my seventh - my mother tells me I kept quietly asking her when they could leave, because I didn't know what to do with them. I only knew how to entertain myself, and that was all in my head. It was important to me that he not be trying to explain his "imaginary volcano friends", for example, to some kid who's never heard of Stromboli, at their first meeting. There's a time, and there's a place, you know?
To begin with, he ran about with his friend "Squeak", who is a year and a half, and then two moms with boys came. They were, I'm guessing, a year younger and some pounds lighter, and they were playing something that involved hitting and kicking - not hard, but Kittyboy is sturdy and strong and doesn't know when to quit, and I kept having to explain repeatedly that different mommies have different rules. THEIR mommies, who looked like sisters and I'm guessing the boys were cousins, were fine with that. I was not. And that is a really, really hard concept to grasp at the age of five. It's also a different thing, to me at least, cousins or very old friends playing, versus a stranger playing with them like that. I was SO relieved when they left.
Then Squeak's mom watched them while I went to nurse Bee, and when I came back, he was playing with some boys and girls, around his age, all playing hide and seek! And I actually got to watch MY KITTYBOY speaking intelligibly with the boys, taking turns in conversation, cooperating, negotiating, compromising! I was completely floored! THIS is what I was wanting. Holy cow, oh my gosh, he was DOING IT. I swear, I had never ever before seen him play like THAT. I usually feel like I'm directing a very large toddler! "Stop pulling - no, don't touch - play nicely - stop telling them what to do -" (In my head, pleading, "Stop making weird noises. Get out of their faces. No one else is playing whatever you are. You're just making them uncomfortable. Please, don't be That Weird Kid...") And only a few times from there on, did I have to call him over and explain that when someone is walking away from you, you leave them alone, when someone says stop, it means STOP, that kind of thing. We had a WONDERFUL DAY.
He got along especially well with the two boys - one redhead, one shaggy brunette whose mane reminded me of when Kittyboy refused haircuts. Eventually the redhead left, and Kittyboy played something with the shaggy one, it might have been tag. Kids came, kids left, we were there a total of five hours. At one point, Shaggy came back, and he and Kittyboy were DELIGHTED to see each other. Thus began a hilarious game of tag - at one point, they ran laps around the playhouse, six or seven laps or more, and then stopped and looked at each other, as if they'd forgotten who was supposed to be It. It was absolutely adorable. They were both energetic, running, laughing, crashing boys, and it was wonderful to see. Shaggy's parents and I were both enjoying it! I couldn't stop laughing! I yelled, to be heard over the ruckus, "You have a really awesome kid!" And it made my WEEK when Shaggy's mom yelled back, "Your boy is really great too!" The mother of another five-year-old LIKES MY KID PLAYING WITH HER KID. I will be on Cloud Nine for some time to come...
I think we'll be going to the mall about as often as we can! It's the perfect place to practice social skills. It's a small area, the kids will pretty much be 6 or 7 and younger, it's all close enough that I can keep close tabs on him without having to move, and call him over if I have a suggestion, but let it be HIM playing, and him learning how to play with the other kids.
And yeah, I know I worry WAY too much. I just don't want him to be ME, and I see so much of me IN him.
He'll be fine.
More tomorrow on his marvelous big-brother skills! But I spent a mindboggling amount of time being PEOPLE-Y today, not thinking about the fact that tomorrow and Sunday, I have signed up for the Ethnic Festival, and must go be people-y once more for mindboggling amounts of time. I must needs go to bed. Come Monday, I will be in DESPERATE need of solitude...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Deepest apologies for disappearing again...

Well, let me start off by apologizing for disappearing AGAIN, and saying how lovely it is to have bloggy stalkers! :) It really is so cool to know anyone was still checking my blog, when I'd fallen off the face of the Earth! I felt a duty to get back to it, but figured no one was still reading...
So, I've now learned how to read my last few posts in Bloggeroid, and wow, was I slacking off. To recap, we were told I had 2-4 weeks in late November - four weeks would have been Christmas, and another 28-week preemie. And those don't all fare as well as did Kittyboy.
From the day we were told "2-4 weeks", we got almost EIGHT.
The beginning of the end, in retrospect, was the morning I fell in the bathroom - according to e-mail records, 12/6. YES, high risk pregnancy, fell in the bathroom, I felt like SUCH an idiot. Hit a wet spot, skidded, and fell on my hip. The only thing bruised was my pride. Baby moved, I was fine. This was at 3 a.m. At 3 p.m., I had a nagging pain that would not go away, upper right quadrant of my stomach (liver area, and with Kittyboy, the only discernible symptom I got of HELLP Syndrome was liver pain). Husband came home from work to take me to the hospital, but when I got there, the pain was almost entirely in my back, and as tests were fine, we concluded that I had twisted or pulled something while trying to catch myself, 12 hours earlier. It just happened to not hurt until later, and hurt first in a way that put everyone on red alert.
The next evening, it hurt again - area of my liver. Tylenol made it better. I started alternating hot and cold rice-socks. The back/rib pain became a recurring theme. I eventually bought a heating pad, and strung rope through the foot-board of the bed so that I didn't have to twist at all to sit up. Christmas, and the 28-week mark, came and went with no changes. Every week that nothing changed, we had another 2-4 weeks from then. Baby kept plugging along, holding steady at her lower growth curve.
January 17th was my first non-stress test. I think it was a week or two before that, that Dr. Z said how wonderful it was that she was still gaining weight. I asked eagerly if this meant she was catching up?? - and he said no, she was still two weeks behind, but in the time from, say, 24-28 weeks, she had still grown four weeks worth. I said, a little confused, that of course she had grown...it was four weeks, after all. He said, "Oh, but sometimes they don't! Sometimes when we see this [the problem with the placenta blood flow], the baby doesn't grow." So, well, apparently Dr. T was not Chicken Little after all. It's not paranoia if they're really out to get you - and it's not overreacting if the sky really could fall. Unbeknownst to us, the sky could really have fallen!! Baby COULD have simply quit growing at some point!! Yeah, didn't realize "actually not growing" was an option...
So, blithely forging ahead. 30 weeks came and went. The week of the 17th, my first non-stress test, the pain was enough worse that it would make me shake when I first woke in the morning. I would stumble to the bathroom around 4 a.m., take my first extra-strength Tylenol of the day, stumble back to bed, turn on the heating pad, and wait for the shaking to stop. The Tylenol/pad combination always knocked it down. I was SO mad at myself that I had messed up my back so badly and now had to deal with all this as a result...
The NST on the 17th went great, and at the ultrasound afterward, Dr. A bounced into the room - "so what are we doing??? This is incredible! You're like a miracle up here! Really! This is not at ALL what we look for!" Yes, the specialist said the M word - miracle.
My next NST was the 20th - less great. Baby took 35 minutes to move as many times as they wanted, when it should have taken 15-20. I thought, afterward, that perhaps she was stressed from the amount of pain I'd had that morning - more than usual, and I had thought "this is it, has to be my liver," but once again it let up with Tylenol. See, the thing we were all dreading was HELLP Syndrome, and with Kittyboy, the only symptoms I had were severe liver pain and vomiting. And when the pain I had always responded to Tylenol, I assumed it couldn't be that.
The next NST was January 23rd. This time I mentioned the pain as possibly not ligaments, it was holding steady in the same spot, and NOT apparently related to movement. Dr. Z said I was due for a blood panel anyhow. Baby took 45 minutes to move that morning, earning herself a nice loooong ultrasound afterward. She was fine - just disinclined to move. I had my blood test, went home and went to bed. Kittyboy was staying with Husband's parents that week.
At around 3, I think it was, I got a text from Husband - Dr. Z's office had called his cell, CALL BACK NOW. In moments, I also had calls on the home phone and my cell. They don't call every number on file to tell you all's well. The test results were "abnormal", and Dr. Z was booking the OR. How fast could I get there? I said as soon as my husband could get here.
So Husband and I were texting back and forth, I was packing extra stuff in the hospital bag, brushing my hair, brushing my teeth, leaned over the toilet to spit out mouthwash - and emptied my stomach. No nausea, no cramping, just up and out. Yup. It was time. HELLP was officially happening.
January 23, I think 6:30 pm, we had a baby Bee.

And later - not months later this time, I promise - I will write more!

If the image shows up, it's the Bee after her baptism. We chose St. Joanna (Myrrhbearer and wife of Chuza) for her saint, so today is her nameday!

posted from Bloggeroid

Wednesday, March 21, 2012