Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mommy Makeover

I promised myself that I would write more often once Cayton went off to kindergarten. I figured that I would have a bit more time on my hands since Vivi is going to preschool two days a week as well. So far, I haven't really held up my end of the deal. The excuses are endless, I can't think of anything to write, I am busy/sleepy/hungry, I need to call my mom. Basically, I haven't wanted to sit still and think. Given that my brain often turns against me and tries to make me miserable, I haven't wanted to give it the chance. Stay busy, always busy.

I have kept this up for about a month now. Cayton is finally getting settled in school. Vivi is becoming more skilled at entertaining herself and the baby takes two naps a day. So, the excuses are getting pretty thin. But the thing that finally pushed me over the edge was a spot I heard on the radio this morning. It was an overly chipper lady going on about plastic surgery and specifically about "Mommy Makeovers". I was intrigued. No, not that I wanted such a thing but that such a thing had been dreamed up, packaged and marketed. Evil!

This particular product seems to be a combination of plastic surgery procedures bundled into what they term a "Mommy Makeover". The idea being that after pregnancy and childbirth, women need to get an overhaul. "Come on in ladies and talk to our doctors about the Mommy Makeover so that you can be your best!" Oddly, I didn't hear the related promo about a Daddy Makeover, but that's maybe another rant.

I've been chewing on this for a bit to figure out what really irritates me about this makeover thing. I don't have a problem with anyone having plastic surgery (as long as it's not that weird lip thing that celebs do. Eeeek!). I imagine that there are all sorts of healthy reasons for men and women to choose plastic surgery. But that's the thing. If a person has a body part that offends them and they choose to correct that, then fine. I mean, I personally have had all sorts of procedures done to straighten my teeth. The lovely grill you see today is thanks to a really dedicated and skilled orthodontist and at least one oral surgeon. So no, I don't have a problem with people availing themselves of surgical options for improving their looks.

What I have a problem with is the marketing that says, "Hey Ladies, have you had a baby? Yes? Well then, since your body is undoubtedly completely FUBAR, then let us fix you right up. You don't want to be hideous and undesirable do you? You want someone to find you attractive don't you? Well, it's not going to happen with that wreck of a body that you currently inhabit. We have an array of options at our disposal to turn you from a monster into a hottie. Because it's all about how you look and who wants to have sex with you!" Maybe that's just how I hear it, but what is deeply offensive to me is how something like this preys on a group of people who are understandably vulnerable.

Anyone who has had a baby has looked and themselves in the mirror at some point after giving birth and has wondered just who that lady is looking back at them. No one gets through that experience unscathed, emotionally or physically. The good news is that with time, the physical damage can be mostly repaired. But, speaking for myself here, the emotional fallout of having a baby takes a while longer to regulate. Add to that all of the pressure for women to be beautiful, thin and perfect and you can see just how easy it is for the really excited pitch woman to really make Mommy Makeovers seem like the solution!

That brings me to the other reason why my vision goes all dark and spotty when I hear this plastic surgery commercial. The woman who pitches the idea is the disembodied voice of that girl from high school who made it her job to find each and every insecurity and exploit it. Whether it was for her personal enjoyment or just pure evil, I don't know. But, every girl out there knows just what I'm talking about. I think I had a bit of a Mary Hart reaction to hearing the lady go on and on about how new moms need an overhaul. It wasn't a seizure, but the voice took me back to high school and all the times that some girl said, "Oh, you'd be really cute if you changed this" or "No, you aren't big you just have a muscular build" and the list goes on.

I don't know. It could be that I'm just sensitive since a year later, I'm still fighting to lose all the baby weight from Baby #3 or it could be that this really is a bitchy way to repackage and market services that already exist. But I do think that I am a little tired of the constant message that no woman, no matter what is good enough unless she's painfully thin and has a freakish sized rack (it goes without saying that these two physical qualities rarely go together in nature). I have three daughters and when I think of the future, I wonder just how tough the teen years will be for them. The pressure to be "hot" starts now for girls about age 7 and it never lets up. This completely terrifies me!

So, I think I will say "NO" to the Mommy Makeover and to all the messages out there that I am not enough as I am now. Sure, there are improvements that can be made. Despite my current fabulousness, I concede that I could always do better, be better. But, given the limited number of hours in the day and the difficulty I already have maintaining my humble attitude, I think I'll go easy on myself. The only Mommy Makeover I need can be achieved pretty adequately with a tasty bottle of wine!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

On the Road Again

It's time again for the yearly essay about what I did on my summer vacation and I think I can sum this one up by saying that Blake and I did a lot of heavy lifting in the full force of the summer heat. That's right, we loaded all three kids (ages 5 and under) into the car and headed for Chicago.

Borrowing from a favorite movie quote (and perhaps mangling it), Tulsa is a geographic oddity. It's two days from everywhere. Well, two days from everywhere you would want to go. Of course, with three kids, everything over 5 hours away qualifies as a two day trip. But, anyway... We got a bit of a late start on day one, but ended up in St. Louis, Mo. We stayed at the Drury Inn at the Arch, which I have to say was pretty nice. There were free snacks and drinks (yes!) from 5:30 to 7ish every night and free breakfast as well. I'm sure all of Missouri is thankful that I did not have to drag the kiddos out to an actual restaurant. I was pretty relieved as well. Here are some pics from the great city of St. Louis. Check out the view from our room.

Having survived the night, we loaded up and set our sights on Springfield, Il. Besides being the capital of Illinois, it is the last city that Lincoln and his family lived in before going to the White House. It is also the final resting spot of Lincoln, his wife and three of his children. I had visited Lincoln's home as a child and thought it would be great to see it again. I did wonder though if it would turn out that the site was as impressive as I remembered it. As an adult, I have revisited many places that I saw first as a child and I have found some of them to either be in various states of disrepair or completely different from how I remembered them. But, in this case, I can say that the Home of Lincoln was more impressive that when I first saw it. The park includes a visitor center, Lincoln's Home and the homes of many of his immediate neighbors. Everything in that particular neighborhood has been kept as it would have looked in the year 1860, the last year that Lincoln lived in the home. Here are a few pics and I highly recommend this park!

Lincoln's Home

Springfield is only about 3 hours outside of Chicago, so we thought we would have an easy drive on in to town. Wrong. I can't say what happened exactly, but that three hour drive stretched into much more than that! We didn't end up in Chicago until about 6 o' clock that evening! The good news is that along the way, the rental agent for our apartment in Chicago called and informed us that there had been a bit of a mixup in the rental and we had been upgraded to an apartment with a much better location. So, it worked out well for us and we were excited to get to town!

It turned out that the rental agent knew what she was about. Our apartment was located in the Gold Coast neighborhood and was about a half of a block from the beach and the same distance from the Magnificent Mile. We didn't really even need to use the El to get around since most things were within walking distance from our place. This was a good thing too because we had Penny (and sometimes Vivi) in the stroller and stairs and strollers are bitter enemies. Despite our three little handicaps, we did manage to see a good bit of the town and we even got a little bit of rest. But, on our way home, Blake and I came to the conclusion that maybe next year we could look into some kind of all-inclusive beach vacation!

Penny B.

Girls at a Navy Pier Restaurant

Thursday, July 08, 2010

No Thank You, I'm Full

First, let me say, I love to cook. I love everything about cooking, the equipment, the recipes, the wine that I drink while I assemble dishes. Besides being a better, more nutritious way to eat, it's a bit of a stress reliever to be in the kitchen, alone. Most of the time, I turn on the radio, sing along with whatever happens to be playing and I let the sauteing and mixing take me away.

As I'm sure you've figured out, this is going somewhere. Specifically, this is all leading up to what I DON'T love about cooking and that is the clean up. Somewhere between raw inputs and final product, I manage to completely destroy my kitchen. Cabinet doors are flung open, every dish is streaked with sauce or juice from freshly chopped vegetables. Forks and spoons stand at attention in jars of minced garlic or pesto. Mixing bowls are stacked in the sink, the topmost bowl stuffed with measuring spoons, knives and spatulas. The floor is sticky and stained black in places (I have not figured out where this brownish-black stain comes from). By the time I serve dinner, my kitchen looks as if I prepared supper under heavy artillery fire.

Most nights, Blake cleans the kitchen and I don't have to deal with the entire mess myself. I try to at least get the the dishes scraped and I usually sweep and mop. But still... It's hard to believe that a meal with only a few ingredients can cause such complete destruction. Often, after we finish a meal, Blake and I will stand in amazement and wonder at just how thoroughly gargantuan the mess is.

So, my completely logical conclusion is that it makes no sense whatsoever for Americans (OK, just the Doerr family) to eat three meals a day. Really, why three? Just feeding myself and my kids takes up most of my day and energy. If I'm not cooking a meal, I'm cleaning up the remnants of one. If I'm not doing either of these things, I'm probably working up a grocery list or on my way to the grocery store to buy food. When I look at my credit card bill at the end of the month, I just can't believe that Wal-Mart takes such a big bite out of our monthly income. I'm so over it!!

I'm not sure what I'm going to do about this issue, but I can say that something has to change. For one, I'm not exactly the skinniest person I know. So, I could probably knock off one meal a day and save myself some prep/clean-up time and get on down to my fighting weight. Further, I think I am going to establish a open/closed schedule for the kitchen to cut down on mess. Every time I look up, the kids are trying to get in the pantry for snacks (I say trying because I installed a child proof doorknob cover to keep the wee beasties out of there). Beyond that, I guess I will just have to come up with some new ideas and do some experiments to figure out what works for us. Actually, whatever I come up with really only needs to work for ME, unless of course someone else in this house wants to take over meal prep...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Conversation with a Friend

About a month ago, I attended the Jimmy Buffett concert in Frisco, TX. I went with my sister and her husband and we made a day of it. We tail-gated all day and then headed over for the concert that evening. I couldn't believe how easy it was to move around without the girls. I missed them, but I was surprisingly clear headed for the first time in a long, long time.

Sitting at the concert, I reacquainted myself with the Jimmy's music. I've always identified with it, though probably not for the reasons one would suspect. I'm no beach bum. While I like the idea of a low key, sitting around kind of lifestyle, I can't do it. My brain just doesn't know how to process down time. It usually turns on me and conjures up all sorts of things to worry about or lament. But, besides Jimmy's obvious "I like the beach and mixed drinks" type of songs, there are so many that make a point that resonates with me. When the Coast is Clear is such a song. This lyric in particular:

That's when it always happens
The same time every year
I come down to talk to me
When the coast is clear

Hello mister other me
It's been a long long time
We hardly get to have these chats
That in itself's a crime

So tell me all your troubles
I'll surely tell you mine
We'll laugh and smoke and cuss and joke and
Have a glass of wine

This is a song that, when I heard it, I instantly recognized and appreciated. I am a person who spends a significant amount of time in my own head, thinking, pondering, working through problems. So, I completely understood the sentiment expressed in this song. But, and this may be the brilliance of Jimmy, I hadn't thought of it in the same metaphorical terms. It's such a pleasant idea, sitting down with oneself and taking stock of life, problems, triumphs. Surely, aside from possibly my mother, there is no other person to whom I can truly reveal myself without fear of judgement. I can actually tell myself the truth, the complete unedited, not-for-kids version of it. Conversations with myself are free, easy and without social boundaries.

Of course, no good thing is without a few drawbacks. In my case, if I have too much free time to let my mind wander, I tend to get moody and withdrawn. This could either be a side effect from "unedited" truth or it could be that any discussion with myself inevitably becomes a brainstorming session on how to solve issues in my life. In any case, it can get a bit heavy after a while and I don't think Jimmy would want that.

So self, same time next year?

Me, my sister and my bro-in-law at the Buffett concert

Friday, April 16, 2010

Personal Victory

It's funny how things work out sometimes. Recently, I was talking on the phone with my mother, no doubt treating her to another one of my endless lists of "Things That Went Wrong Today". After I had exhausted myself, my list and my mother, I mentioned to her how I was desperately in need of a personal victory; something just for me that I could be proud of. I think I went on to say something about how I used to be smart and I used to "do" things and blah, blah, blah. You know, the kind of sniveling that usually makes you want to snatch the sniveler baldheaded. I should have been ashamed of myself, but I wasn't. I felt down and done wrong and I wanted to wallow in it (or waller in it, depending on where you're from).

I guess the Good Lord was listening, or maybe I was just due some good fortune. But, in any case, I do have to report that I recently entered the the Tulsa Library Adult Creative Writing Contest and won second place in the Informal Essay category. I was completely floored to find out that I had placed. In fact, it never entered my mind that I might win. My objective in entering the contest was simply to prove that I could set my mind to do something and then actually follow through. So, the exciting thing for me was to finish the essay and submit it. That was a battle won. To place second in the category was, well, the proverbial icing on the cake.

I'm not sure what this experience means for me, but in the short run, I intend to spend some more time (how???) writing. I hear that there are many publications that take submissions and, if I can get my head straight, maybe I can set some goals and actually pursue writing as either a hobby or maybe even a profession. It would certainly beat the hell out of preparing tax returns!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hello 2010!

Another year huh? It seems I barely get used to a new year and it's over. I probably just shouldn't get too comfortable when a new year rolls around because it's always the same. It arrives with much fanfare, but bit by bit, it slips by me in a blur. Or maybe, and I'm not sure I'm wrong, 2009 was just one of those years that makes your head spin.

I think it (2009) started out pretty well. All my loved ones made it safely into the new year, everyone here and accounted for. I think maybe some of them rang in the new year in far flung places, but that's not so unusual. January was uneventful and not really too memorable. At least that must be true since I can't remember anything big happening around that time. Likewise, February started out pretty well. What I can remember is my sister and me phoning back and forth, planning our ski trip. We were so excited. It had been so long since we had traveled anywhere together and probably even longer since we had skied together. Yeah, it was going to be great.

What started out as a perfect getaway ended up as one of the major turning points of my life. Yeah, I know. It was just a ski trip, but it kicked off a year long karmic ass whooping that I'm not embarrassed to say really rung my bells. To start off, the mountain chewed me up and spit me out. Granted, I am no daredevil skier, but I'm also not one of those skiers that jumps on a black and snowplows all the way down. I can ski, I just don't tear ass down the mountain like some people I know. Anyway, for some reason, I was using every skill I ever had to get down the blue run from the top. It was so steep and my vertigo (crippling fear of heights) was really kicking in. I made it down the run several times, but a little after lunch, I called for a ride back to the condo. As an aside, my skiing buddies were having some issues too. Erin bit it a couple of times and Michael ended up in the creek. But, luckily, no one was hurt (in Michael's defense, he was snowboarding and that bridge was really narrow).

That night, for some mysterious reason (this is foreshadowing), I was a bit nauseous and didn't much feel like eating. This nice little affliction carried on through the night and I really did not feel like skiing that next day. OK, no worries. I had a three day pass, so the next day would be great for skiing. Uh, no. I was much sicker the next day. If I weren't such a lifelong devotee of biscuits, I do not think I could even look at one now. I just remember eating a tasty, flaky pile of heaven and then running full speed into the bathroom to surrender it to the porcelain god.

Yikes, I thought. I must be getting so old that I can't deal with the altitude anymore. In retrospect, it is so funny to me that I would have been willing to diagnose myself with Ebola before pregnancy ever even crossed my mind. I was so sure that it was impossible for me to get pregnant (damn your sweet lies Mirena) that my mind didn't even go there. My sister even flippantly said something like, "Maybe you're working on baby number three, hooker" (this is how we talk to each other. It's all in good fun). No, I said, it's not possible. According to Mirena, I have about a .001% chance of getting pregnant. Ha, ha, not an issue.


So, February closed with me expecting my third baby. This would not have been a really big deal if I hadn't just had my second baby. I mean, I have my pride and it definitely took a beating when people would see my large self, my four year old and my infant around town. To me, it seemed that everyone was judging. Is that lady crazy? Doesn't she know how this happens? As an aside, has that particular "joke" ever been funny? Maybe if you are not the pregnant one... I admit, not happily, that I actually at times arranged outings so that I only had one of my kids with me. I guess I thought maybe people could be happy for me if I only had one other small child. Add another baby and all I got were inquisitive stares and curious onlookers. The same looks usually reserved for fat ladies in terry cloth tube tops and goth kids with face piercings. Or, maybe I exaggerate. But, that's how it felt to me.

The rest of the year was a blur. There were trips to Austin, Ft. Worth and Gulf Shores. We had a great time visiting friends and family. The girls had a wonderful time on the beach in Alabama and Blake and I sat in the sand and took in the view. I'm fairly sure that there is very little in life that can compare to watching your children, happy and fearless, running headlong into the surf. Sitting there, I think I was a bit jealous of their unencumbered joy.

In my memory, the summer days passed quickly. But, I suspect that at the time I felt that the heat would never end. I know that being pregnant during the hottest part of the year was difficult for me. Remember, I was still carrying Vivian around for much of the time since she only started walking in April or May. So, she preferred being carried. If you are keeping score, that would mean my old bones were lugging around at least forty extra pounds between the baby and Vivian. And, not that you need reminding, it was at least 95 degrees most days!

Once September hit, the year skipped a few beats. If I think about it, I feel like I was tooling around at a normal speed and then Whoosh! I hit warp speed. Before I knew it, I was told to go to the hospital because Penny was on her way. I was ready, but then maybe not. We dropped the older girls off with a friend and headed for St. Francis. This time though, I was playing it smart. Determined not to languish in the hospital begging for scraps, I demanded to be taken somewhere to eat. All you first timers out there beware. No one will feed you once you go to the maternity ward. So, be sure to hit Taco Bell before you check in. My particular poison was Popeye's. I had a tasty chicken strip meal complete with mashed potatoes and a biscuit (this biscuit thing seems to be a theme).

I think I checked in some time after lunch and Penny arrived at 10:37pm. Most of you know that story, so I won't retell it. But, I guess it was a fit ending to a pregnancy that started out all drama. I'm finally alright with the ordeal, but I wasn't for quite a while. I will boldly admit that I often discounted new moms' feelings of inadequacy or disappointment when their pregnancies ended with C- sections. Oh how I hate it when life chooses to correct my assumptions and destroy my feelings of security. I can truly understand and empathize now. Yes, karma, I have been taken down a peg. You win, you temperamental little bitch.

But, all's well that ends well. If I take stock now, I can say that I started the year with a wonderful husband and two lovely girls. I end the year with that same wonderful husband, three lovely girls, a seven inch scar across my lower abdomen, a healthy fear of ever feeling like I have life figured out, and a really nervous and upset mother (her girls really wore her out this year). I look forward to the future and to an exciting 2010. Because really, if I admit it, 2009 wasn't a bad year. It was a good year disguised as a life lesson and I survived it, mostly intact.

Monday, October 19, 2009

It Went Off the Rails

I think maybe enough time has passed that I can write a bit about Penelope Blair's arrival. It took some time since nothing went the way I expected it to. Actually, the mere fact that I was expecting a third baby proves that sometimes life just does it's own thing with or WITHOUT your permission. Following that principle, Penny's birth was equally traumatic and, I can honestly say, took me completely by surprise.

When I found out about baby number three, I could not have been more shocked. Even though I had been through the process twice, it still floored me. The very idea that I could be pregnant (AGAIN!) never even occurred to me despite clear signs which pointed to the obvious conclusion. It was just that far out of my realm of possibilities. But, despite having no real desire to be pregnant (AGAIN!), I was Penny's mom from the moment it all sank in. I was instantly terrified that I would miscarry or that it would all turn out to be an ectopic pregnancy (which is a real possibility if you conceive with an IUD in place). All I wanted to hear was that the pregnancy was healthy. The sonogram showing a tiny beating heart was so gorgeous to me. There she was, despite my best efforts. And I loved her.

Coming to terms with having a new baby wasn't totally easy. I already had a baby to care for. Vivi was only 10 months old when I realized that Penny was on her way. Plus, there was Catie, my first baby love. How was I going to split my time between them all without short changing anyone, especially Vivi who would be forever in the middle? The one most likely to fall through the cracks. I felt guilty about ending her time as the "baby" so quickly.

There was one bright spot though that kept me excited and enthusiastic about the new baby. I couldn't wait for the "moment" when, amid all the chaos, time would stop and there she would be. All the effort and misery would instantly and forever be completely worth it. Waiting for that time fitted each moment until then with anticipation and impatience. So many times I played it over in my head and thought that I was actually lucky to have this chance one more time.

I should have known that counting on something renders it less likely to happen. In my case, I didn't get the moment that I had looked so forward to for so long since, as my title suggests, the whole thing went off the rails at the last minute. Despite having had a totally healthy pregnancy, it seems my body decided to go completely crazy during labor. I was a few hours into a normal labor when I suffered an abruption. This put both the baby and me in a precarious situation which called for an emergency c-section. While I wasn't really scared at that point (thanks to an incredibly competent and calm doctor), I was in enough pain to fell an elephant. So, when the doctor told me that she would have the anesthesiologist knock me out, I was totally on board with her recommendation.

With very little adieu, I was whisked away to the operating room. Blake wasn't allowed to go in with me since I was going to be completely anesthetized and, I assume, the emergency nature of the situation didn't allow for wasting time. In retrospect, I am glad that no one was in there with me. I was rolled onto the operating table, my arms were strapped to bars that folded out from the table and a drape was thrown up in front of my face all in about 20 seconds. I think anyone who loved me would have been scared completely s*!#less had they been in there. Luckily, after putting up a fairly pitiful fight against the oxygen mask (claustrophobia), I was out.

I don't know how long I was under, but it seemed as if I went out and came back instantly. The only difference between before and after was the literally gut wrenching pain from the operation. My first sight on coming out of anesthesia was my doctor telling me that "your baby is beautiful". My reaction was, "OK, go get my mama!". I was crying (my usual reaction to anesthesia is to wake up sobbing like the end of the world). She arrived so quickly, I figured that she must have been standing there the whole time. I was relieved when she said exactly what I needed to hear, "Charla Carole, you are fine. You are going to be just fine. Calm down, it's all over and you are fine". When your mama tells you that you are going to be fine, well then, you ARE going to be fine.

Blake was there with baby Penny and she was beautiful. She was just so, so beautiful and a balm to my soul since, once again, it had all been worth it and we were both totally fine. Well, I wasn't totally fine as I hurt like a sonofabitch, but still I would be fine. I did, after all, have a demerol pump to get acquainted with, so things were looking up at that point.

Since Penny arrived, I have for the most part been completely happy and at peace with having a third child. The only recurring bit of unhappiness for me has been dealing with the disappointment that I mentioned earlier. After having anticipated all of the joy and excitement of Penny's arrival, to have it turn into a bit of a mini nightmare has been difficult for me to deal with. In fact, as I write this, I see that I haven't totally dealt with it. It still upsets me. It hurts me that I missed all of her very "firsts": her first breath, her first cry, the first precious and irreplaceable moments that all mamas look forward to.

Going forward, I guess the only way I can look at the whole ordeal is that Penny is a real miracle. She wasn't even supposed to happen, but here she is all perfect, tiny and full of promise. So, I will take my miracle as it came and say thank you for it. Besides, at least I can plan on being there for all of her other firsts and, if I have anything to do with it, I will be.