Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mom Jeans

The decision to have a child is a big one.  Several questions need to be addressed.

Am I ready to be a parent? 

Am I able to financially support a child?

Am I ok with my body never being the same ever again?  Maybe I should adopt so I can keep my smoking hot body.

Are parents really serious when they say newborns make you sleep deprived?  If so, am I ready for that?  I like sleep!

What if there is something medically wrong with my child?

And the list could go on.  Once all these questions are answered in the affirmative the next question a woman needs to ask herself is

Am I ready to give all my attention to a self centered and demanding little person? 

Am I ok with “mom furniture?”  (This is furniture that has been antiqued with love by one’s own offspring.)

The most important question of all is:

Am I ready for mom jeans?

I know what you’re thinking.  Mom jeans are not part of the baby package.  Oh yes they are.  Every mom has something equivalent to mom jeans. 

My mom jeans started out as ponytails.  I had long hair after my first was born.  Long hair only looks good when it is styled in some way.  There are only a select few women who can wash and go with long hair and have it look sensational.  I am not one of those women. 

I swore I would never be the mom who had a baby and then got a haircut.  Despite my best efforts not to I resorted to ponytails on the days when I had nowhere to go.  I thought it was ok because I put myself together most of the time I went out.  I held onto my long hair for three months.  Then I had it cut into a stylishly short bob.  The bob forced me to do my hair every day.  Mom jean danger averted.

My long hair has come back several times since then.  I have it chopped off every time I go back to daily ponytails.  Mom jean danger still averted.

What I didn’t realize was that I was still holding onto mom jeans.

After conquering ponytails, glasses became my mom jeans.  It was too much effort to put in my gas permeable (hard) contact lenses every day.  I had a baby.  Who was I trying to impress by sticking a thick piece of uncomfortable plastic into my eyes every day? 

My glasses were cute and stylish.  About nine years ago.  Three kids later the anti glare film has nearly scratched off completely.  The wire frames have been adjusted and bent back into some semblance of normalcy countless times from Costco, where I purchased the glasses. 

Tristan's Glasses 013





There is a small crack in the top of one lens.  The purple paint has worn off on the temple pieces.  The nose guards are full of green gunk I cannot clean out.  The prescription isn’t even accurate.  I don’t remember how this happened but the prescription for my glasses and contacts are slightly different. 

Somehow I could not give up the ease and convenience of slipping on a pair of glasses every morning rather than taking an extra five minutes to put in contacts.  Every time I thought I needed to quit wearing my glasses like a security blanket I would pull out the contacts.  The second they were in my eyes were screaming like I had just inserted a piece of sandpaper rather than a contact lens. 

I complained to my ophthalmologist.  He suggested I have them polished.  This was done but I still couldn’t keep them in my eyes for more than an uncomfortable hour. 


This is one of my favorite pictures of me with my husband.  Luckily it’s not obvious that my eyes were bloodshot and watery with offensively irritating contacts in.  I put the lenses in five minutes before leaving the house for the portrait appointment.  An hour or so later we were finished.  I beelined for the bathroom to relieve my war ravished eyes that I’m surprised weren’t bleeding they hurt so badly.  I could barely keep my eyes opened enough to blink out the lenses which felt like they were glued to my eyeballs at that point.  The sigh of relief from my eyes was audible. 

There was never a defining moment when I knew I was ready to peel off the mom jean glasses.  Last weekend my husband told me he wanted me to have soft contacts and before I could come up with a lame excuse about being afraid to stick my finger in my eye (GP lenses jump on the eye to get in and easily blink out.  The finger doesn’t really even come close to being in the eye.) he had made an appointment for me with an optometrist since ophthalmologists don’t do anything as mundane as fitting patients for soft contacts. 

I have been loving the soft lenses ever since. 

I had no trouble getting the lenses in my eyes like Nia Vardalos’ character did in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  But I sure thought of that scene every night when I couldn’t get the stupid things out.  Try shoving your fingers in your eye to pinch off a soft contact lens without blinking in self defense! 

The glasses have been ditched.  Ok, I still wear them at night but it’s difficult to see out of scratched glasses when I have been able to see clearly all day.  New glasses will be purchased soon.  Every night is a Flowers for Algernon feeling. 

My eyes are visible again.  The bags under my eyes have disappeared simply by taking off beat up glasses that gave the appearance of sleep deprivation.  My wedding ring has been repaired after a prong bent and I lost a baguette.  The ring sparkles on my finger announcing that I am off the market and I look good.  Geek to chic has never looked better!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Educational Accountability

Overparenting and underthinking can be a deadly combination.  Yet these philosophies have been plaguing the school system for years. 

As a former educator I am outraged by all the cuts to education across the nation.  I am even more outraged by the prospect of more cuts.  It makes me think of the Teacher’s Creed

We, the willing, led by the unqualified, have been doing the unbelievable for so long with so little, we now attempt the impossible with nothing.

All parents are upset by these budget cuts.  But what really gets me is the parents who can’t think for themselves.  The parents who blindly donate every time the schools ask for it.  The parents who participate in every fund raiser.  Bill Engvall nailed it when he said that schools “turn kids into little Amway people.” 

There is nothing wrong with fundraisers per se but I want to know where that money is going to.  My son’s school boasts raising tens of thousands of dollars on one fundraiser alone.  There are many others that are also quite successful.  The school congratulates themselves on the thousands of dollars they have saved by making the school newsletter a blog.  I see no accountability for this money.  What I do see is parents losing their minds trying to pressure every parent to fill out an anonymous survey concerning “possible” budget cuts in addition to the millions of dollars already cut. 

I filled out the survey because a friend of mine, whose children attend a different school within the same district, said the survey has space for comments.  The survey was ridiculous.  How will cutting different programs affect my one student who attends the school.  He’s in first grade and is not old enough to even qualify for many of the programs they were considering cutting.  How can I answer?  My other son will enter kindergarten next year.  How do I know how these cuts may or may not affect him?  It felt like I was being tricked.  That the district had set up the survey in such a way to get the responses they wanted. 

Some of the proposed cuts were difficult for me only because I taught Elementary school in Utah.  Utah is one of the lowest states in the nation when it comes to funding.  As a product of Utah public education myself, I remember when PE teachers were cut.  I don’t remember school nurses, music teachers or science teachers etc.  When I taught these resources of course were not in place.  The year before I started my teaching career we lost librarians, the last resource not expected to be handled by regular classroom teachers.  Survey questions asking about the severity of impact cutting these resources has on my student makes me want to scream It can be done!  I’ve done it!  With no less than 30 students in my classroom too.  Classroom ratios in my son’s school rose from 1:20 to 1:25.  They want to increase more because they want to pink slip more teachers to save money. 

But in reality, why are these educators being cut at all?  Couldn’t we possibly cut administrators instead?  Last year we had a difficult year with a teacher who was well past her prime.  The principal was amazing in dealing with the situation.  I am saddened to see him burned out and retiring a good 10-15 years early at the end of this school year.  Dynamic principals like him are few and far between.  Trust me, I started working in schools when I was in high school.  The situation last year was hell to put it mildly.  While the principal was an incredible advocate for our son, my husband made the point that we never saw anyone from the district.  The district administrators should be making the principals’ jobs easier so they have the time to do what he did for us last year. 

The survey question regarding cutting reading specialists was also a difficult one to answer.  My son is not in need of a reading specialist.  Since my 4 year old is already starting to read, I doubt he will need this resource either.  What made it hard was I also have a mild/moderate Special Education degree.  The year I taught Resource I was so grateful for the reading specialist who was able to take a few of my students and teach them more than I was capable of given my time constraints.  I had to pull small groups of children out of class all day.  These students saw me for 30 minutes at a time.  There was no other way to do it.  I was teaching K-4th grade and the IEP’s (individual education plans) for these students were such that I could not group any other way or have the time to teach a class for longer than 30 minutes.  So I had to comment on possibly cutting essential educators like reading specialists. 

I have heard that my son’s school is the site for students with severe disabilities.  These students come, not only from this school district, but also surrounding cities.  There are no buses in this district.  Parent volunteers drive for field trips.  But when I heard that the students with severe disabilities are not bused in I was shocked.  That is illegal.  At least in Utah it is.  Those students have the right to transportation provided by the school district.  Special Education law was put into place to ensure every student, regardless of ability, has the right to a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.  But parents carpool these students to school.  Most likely they were told the district had to make more devastating budget cuts and they agreed to carpooling. 

A friend of mine has a daughter with Type 1 diabetes.  Her school district is going through similar budget cuts.  School nurses are on the chopping block.  My friend is overwhelmed dealing with two children recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.  She said she would be willing to go into the school three times a day to test her 5 year old daughter’s blood sugar.  Another one of her friends suggested that she work with other mothers of diabetics in the school and they could all take turns checking the kids’ blood sugar.  No!  I told her to put her foot down and demand that the district provide someone for her daughter.  They are legally obligated to do so.  I haven’t heard back about what is happening. 

Parents have got to stop doing the school’s job.  Parents have also got to stop accepting the garbage the district is feeding us regarding budget cuts.  I heard a teacher on the news this morning from another city in California, say that the administrators need to show accountability for funds.  He said they need to show everywhere they have cut back that has nothing to do with the classroom and then he would be willing to “talk turkey” as he put it.  I was shaking my fist and yelling Yes!  I filled out this survey last night and all these emotions have been boiling up ever since.  Finally a news story on education that involves some actual thinking!  

One of the last questions on the survey asked about donating money.  List the five programs you would be willing to donate money to support.  How much would you be willing to donate?  In other I wrote No accountability for funds.  At the end of the survey I commented that administrators should be cut before teachers.  Administrators have virtually no impact on my child’s educational experience compared to the significant impact teachers have.  I also suggested that if administrators could not pare down to what is feasible they should consider taking a pay cut before cutting teachers.  What I should have also said was that teachers shouldn’t have to take pay cuts by cutting hours and school days before the administration makes some sacrifices.  I also said that I knew many parents would be interested in some accountability for funds raised and money saved. 

A friend of mine in the district said that her school is constantly soliciting money from parents.  Yet they throw these lavishly expensive luncheons to celebrate teachers.  Where is the accountability? 

My husband and I agree that schools would be more effective if they were run like a business.  We blame schools for not teaching this! 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Trip to the Endocrinologist

Have you ever looked in the mirror and really saw yourself? I don’t know if I have.

Mirrors can be deceiving. In some lights I think I look great. That great feeling gets squashed pretty easily when I have to see my endocrinologist. After that my mirror shows me every negative thing he projected on me. Eleanor Roosevelt said that nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent. No offense to her, but some people really take advantage of people whose bodies are less than perfect while they themselves ride their superior power trip.

Knowing how visiting my endo can crush my self esteem, I overcompensate with the way I look. Vanity has been my blessing and curse my whole life. When I’m nervous I spend as much time as possible glamming it up. The hair, the makeup, the clothes all have to be perfect because if someone is going to dig at the holes in my armor I want to at least feel like I look good.

I was feeling good after my scale showed me a number I haven’t seen in nearly three years. My weight keeps coming down which is making my self esteem slowly come up. I know it’s not noticeable yet but going down a full dress size and having my new clothes fit rather loosely can do wonders for a girl’s mental well being.

Until the endo called me fat again! Thanks doc. Do you think I don’t know what I look like? Do you think I’m oblivious to the extra pounds I have carried around since my second baby was born? Stop pushing Symlin by telling me it will make me lose weight!

Good heavens! Do you know how I lost the weight? I have evened out my morning blood sugars enough that I’m not having as many lows so I’m not eating as much to bring my blood sugar back to normal. And I have significantly decreased the amount of insulin I take in a day. I can’t consistently exercise because of my morning hypoglycemia. The weight loss is a direct result of less insulin. Why in the world would I inject Symlin for the side effects of less insulin overall and weight loss when I’M ALREADY DOING IT ON MY OWN?

But no love from the doctor in the weight loss department.

We butted heads some more over how to deal with my basal rates on my pump. I tried, and failed, to explain that the more I pump insulin into my body to try and correct highs the longer it takes for my blood sugar to come down. I proposed decreasing my basal rates for the 12 hours a day I am consistently high and increasing my basal rates for the 12 hours I am consistently low. My thought process is if I even out my basal rates maybe my blood sugars will follow suit. Right now my basal rates are like a teeter totter; heavily tipped to one side.

I know it sounds completely insane but I really believe it may work. In fact, I had a doctor do that for me and it worked then so why not now? The doctor I see now is not an arguer. Maybe that’s a good thing because I would give him a run for his money. He noticed my passionate position and simply said, “You can try it to prove it to yourself . . .” Thank you I will!

It’s me against all the naysayers again. How many times have I fought the world in an effort to prove myself? I will do it again and again. As much as it takes. Nobody tells me what to do. I write my own ending to life. I will contact my former doctor if I have to. Telepatienting never sounded so good! I will find out why I’m hypoglycemic for 12 hours and hyperglycemic the next 12. I will solve this problem. Alone if needs be. And I will do it without Symlin. My weight will come down too. Watch me.

My A1c was 7.2. Not as bad as I was expecting but it still stung when he said, “You know where it should be.” Yes, genius, I do. And two points off isn’t the end of the world you are making it out to be. Yell at me, sugar coat it in this way, whatever it’s all the same. How about we realize we’re all adults and you just tell me the numbers. Let me crucify myself over it later if I choose to.

My mirror now shows a fat girl. Sad but true. It does not, however, show a failure. It shows a powerful woman not ready to give up. There may be anger in my words but there is also determination. A determination that comes when one is pushed down over and over in an attempt to make one feel like a failure. I won’t believe it. Nobody tells me what to do and certainly nobody tells me what to think.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

An Unconventional Love Story

"She looks like she's checked out doesn't she?" a mother in the throws of a Mother Bear moment said.

I wasn't so sure. The mom she was referring to doesn't have a vacant, checked out look on her face. What I see is fear in her eyes. She looks like the stress of every aspect of her life has taken a toll on her. Besides an aged appearance from stress and the fear in her eyes, I see a woman who has tried everything and doesn't know what else to do.

I saw her today. It was out of the corner of my eye as I interracted with her son. The realization that she was there made my heart skip a beat. I had to remind myself I was kind with her son when I explained he couldn't cut in line and I took him by the shoulders pointing him to the back of the line. She didn't say anything. I have seen the silent desperation in her face enough times to know she probably never would.

My heart goes out to her. Seeing her makes me think of Judas Iscariot's mother. No mother cradles her newborn son, looks deeply into his eyes, and imagines he will be a troublemaker. My heart aches for her. Today more than ever I wanted to hug her. I wanted to hold her while she sobbed out her story. I know nothing of her circumstances. All I know is her son is the token black sheep. That one student every class seems to have. The one who has a chip on his shoulder and is always in trouble.

Of all the students I student taught I felt the strongest bond with my "behavior boys" as I called them. One of those boys had a probation officer. He was 11 years old and in the 6th grade. I will never forget the day my mom came in to teach the class about the human heart.

She had heard my stories but didn't know which faces matched my stories. He volunteered and she chose him. A miracle in and of itself since he had been labeled early on and his only interraction since was of a negative nature. She hooked him up to the leads on the monitor. The class witnessed his normal heart rhythms. The heart rate was projected on the screen while she talked some more. Suddenly, without any warning, she kissed his cheek. His face turned purple and his heart raced. The class whooped and hollered as their own reaction to the surprise. The teachers looked confused. Should they get angry? Then their looks softened as they realized no harm was done. My mom didn't know any better and she definitely illustrated her point. They chose to laugh with the rest of the students.

I thanked my mom later for making a young juvenile delinquent's day. That was the first she realized who he was.

The other day my son was acting strangely. His behavior was so similar to last year on the days he had been singled out in front of the class. His teacher didn't like him for some reason and severely dented his self esteem as a result. I asked him what was going on. No response. I asked if he got in trouble.
No, he answered quietly.
Did anyone get in trouble? (It was a shot in the dark but he is very sensitive, often reacting to situations beyond his maturity.)
Yes, was the response.

Did your class get in trouble?
Not all of them.
Who? (Now why did I ask that?)
The boy's name I was expecting to hear. I hated myself for knowing it was him. Then the words just spilled out of my mouth. I didn't even know they were in my head.
He has a hard time making good choices doesn't he? He's still a good boy. No matter what anyone says he is a good boy. Are you his friend?
Good. He needs good friends to help him make good choices. You keep being his friend.

This little boy has the odds of the world stacked against him. He has already been suspended this year. He's in first grade. Parents misjudge him. The teachers are frustrated by his actions. The principal has even spoken coldly to him with a tone I have never seen used by this principal with any other student.

All I can do is kindly correct him when my child is involved and teach my child to love him. This is a family parched for love. He is a good boy. He just hasn't had a fair shake at life. His mom doesn't know what to do and she is scared.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Housekeeping Myth Busted

Several months ago a parenting magazine had an article about cleaning the house. The article (which unfortunately I have no referring information for) said that cleaning while your children are asleep is the most soul crushing thing one can do!

Soul crushing.

Makes you stop and think doesn’t it? I imagine what the article was getting at was that nap time equals mom time. Kids are asleep, do something for yourself. Don’t do mundane or soul crushing tasks like housework! Paint your toenails. Eat bon bons so you can at least feel like some aspects of being a stay at home mom are what you imagined.

I happen to love housework. Nothing is more peaceful than a clean house. Nothing is more satisfying than being the one to make dirty things clean again. If my life were a sitcom I would be the token obsessive compulsive neat freak. Over the years I have cleaned my house before, during, and after nap time. Not always in the same day! From my own experience I can safely say that cleaning during nap time is anything but soul crushing.

My kids are old enough now that I can’t lock them in a room full of toys with a baby gate while I attack the germs in the house. I’ve done the TV as a babysitter thing and that doesn’t hold their attention anymore because they want to help.

Oh happy day! I have finally reached the stage where I can teach my kids to pull their own weight around here.

Enter soul crushing.

Being an obsessive compulsive neat freak suffering from a severe case of perfectionism comes at a price. Have you ever watched a four year old wipe down the bathroom? While your two year old screeches because he/she/it wants to help and you’ve asked them to get out of the bathroom because it’s getting crowded? Even if you’ve managed to hold your tongue while your child “helps” how often do you go back later, possibly during nap time, to re do the job? That is soul crushing.