Saturday, September 18, 2004

Baby Weight. Yeah, that's it.

I've been clinging to the excuse, admittedly, longer than necessary. While technically, my current excess poundage was gained in the course of a pregnancy, said pregnancy was three years ago. I had a pretty good excuse for a while. You know those gals who lose 20 pounds a day by nursing? I'm not one of them. In fact, I didn't lose an ounce while nursing, no matter how little I ate or how many times I paced the floor each day, soothing my fussy infant. I weaned Maya at about 15 months, though, so even that excuse has fallen by the wayside. So I need to step up my efforts. I've lost a few pounds here and there in the last few months. My challenge to myself, during the next 5 weeks, is this: eat sensibly and make a solid effort to exercise each day. I want to see how many pounds I can safely lose in that time. No weird gritty faux food shakes. No fancy carb counting or points watching. Just old fashioned food pryamid and common sense. Maybe when I'm done I'll write a book about it and make millions as the next diet genius.

As part of my quest, I bought a new bike. I have a fine bike already. It's in the barn, where it currently is cobwebbed to the side of an old dresser. My reasons for buying a new bike were twofold. One - My old bike has skinny tires made for city streets, and out here there's not a paved road for miles. Two - Gaylon is gone and you know damn well I'm not touching those cobwebs on my own.

So the new bike is way cool. It has 21 gears. I actually don't know what that means, or how to use the many gears, but isn't it cool? It has fat tires that should handle the gravel roads near our house. It's red and shiny. My nephews think it's a sweet ride. They thought I was ultra-cool for buying such an amazing sports machine. That is, until they saw me ride it. You know the old saying "it's like riding a bicycle," that people use to describe something that you just don't forget? That saying is hooey. Lies!

My new bike made its debut on the railroad trail in town. My nephews and I got all set to go, them on their elementary schooler sized bikes, and me on "Big Red." Maya and her cousin, Lizzie, were in a trailer behind me. Maybe that had something to do with the mayhem that ensued, I don't know. We took off. I was a bit wobbly at the start, but did OK for the first few feet. Then it started.

My hyperactive nephews, fresh from a day spent sitting in their classrooms, were ready to blow off steam, which they did by pedaling furiously along the trail, criss-crossing in front of me in a serpentine fashion. I was trying to pedal and decide how to change gears and watch the boys and not pull the girls in their trailer over a curb, etc. The first incident took place as Timmy, the younger of the boys, made a classic mistake, Trying to imitate older brother Ian, Timmy attempted to spin his bike pedals backwards. Problem: Timmy's bike has pedal brakes. As he came to a screeching halt in front of me, my life flashed before my eyes. The good news is that Timmy thinks my bike is ever so much cooler now that he can tell his friends he's been run over by it. Apparently, it didn't hurt, because while I was stopped in the middle of the trail hyperventilating and wondering how I would explain to my sister-in-law that the lazy afternoon bike ride turned into a bloodbath, Timmy was off again on his bike, his maniacal laughter echoing off the trees.

I was spurred into action again by two small voices from the trailer behind me. Lizzie's contribution was this: Aunt Heather, it's naughty to run over my brother. Maya's: Mommy, GOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Go faster. No stopping!

I took off once again, slightly relieved that the boys were farther ahead now, doing their voodoo bike dance for some other unsuspecting trail user. By now, I was getting tired. Remember those days as a kid when you'd take off on your bike and ride for hours, all around the neighborhood? Well, the only way that's going to happen for me right now is if my neighborhood only spanned a distance of say, three feet. My butt was starting to hurt, despite the fancy gel-cushioned seat I had purchased mere hours earlier. My quads were on fire. I was thirsty. For a moment, I contemplated the ramifications of stopping at the local bar for a cold beer, but thought the trailer full of toddlers might look somewhat suspicious parked in front of such an establishment.

After what seemed like an eternity, I located my nephews and convinced them to turn back so that we could go home. As we began the ride back to my truck, I prayed that I wouldn't faint from exertion and slide down the edge of the trail into the trees. While my nephews surely would have thought it was cool, and Maya certainly would have liked the momentary speed increase, I think Lizzie, the motherly one of the group, would have chastised me for such behavior. After all, it's not nice to run one's bike into a tree.

Back at the truck, I managed to get off my bike without alerting the boys to the fact that my legs now felt like rubber bands. I convinced Maya and Lizzie that attaching the trailer to the back of the truck was a bad idea, and got them in their respective car seats. Timmy, being the wild child that he is, wandered off in search of excitement while Ian and I loaded the seemingly endless supply of bicycles into the truck bed. When we got home, Timmy and Ian regaled their parents with stories of the bike ride. I noticed, but chose to ignore, the quizzical look in their eyes when Timmy mentioned that he had been run over.

It's been a few days since the fateful bike ride. While my muscles don't hurt as much as I imagined, my rear end is still kind of sore. I don't remember having a sore butt after riding a bike when I was a kid. I wonder if they make those banana seats for adult bikes?

Friday, September 17, 2004

Happy Birthday, Sweet Baby!

Today my little girl turned 3 years old. Though some of the details are beginning to fade from my mind, for the most part, I can remember the day she was born like it was yesterday.

It was a dark and stormy night. Really, it was. Rain everywhere. I awoke a little after 1 am as my water broke. Ladies and gentlemen, I was freaking out. I thought I was 37.5 weeks along. I awoke Gaylon, who was groggy until the words registered "MY WATER BROKE, WE NEED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL." Then, he was out of bed like a man on fire.

We had started packing the hospital bag that week, so we were slightly prepared. For some reason, my nesting instinct told me to go to Sam's Club and buy a case of Gatorade and 867 different types of snacks. So we fired up the forklift and hauled our bounty to my 2-door sports car and jammed my "hospital necessity" collection into the trunk. The tires looked a little compressed by the time we finished, but what did we care? Our new bundle of joy would soon arrive!

During this time, I kept waiting for contractions, which never arrived. I was waiting, wondering what they would feel like and if I'd back out of my natural birth plan at the first sign of pain. We got to the hospital, got checked in, got assigned the the stereotypical mean nurse and began our wait. At our childbirth prep classes, we were told that we could make requests and do things our own way when we arrived at the hospital. Well, this nurse didn't give a crap what you heard in that class. You were going to do things her way or you could just go birth in a puddle on the street for all she cared. Under her command, I was unable to leave my bed. Not even for the rocking chair. Now I was pissed. She wasn't following my manifesto, I mean, my birth plan.

A few hours passed and the mean nurse was off shift. In came the nurse who all other nurses of the world should study under. She was a goddess in a white uniform. She freed me from my prison, otherwise known as the bed, and allowed me to try moving around to see if that would get Maya started on her exit. It didn't. The clock was ticking, thanks to my GBS+ test, so we started talking about drugs to get things going. Two hours after the meds, those contractions I had waited for were in high gear. I spent a good three hours after that in the jacuzzi in my room. I didn't want to get out, but eventually they made me. I rocked in a rocking chair, spent time on my knees using a birth ball and walked the halls a bit. Finally, I could move no more. I wanted to curl up in bed, so that's what I did. About an hour after that, Maya was born.

She was tiny. 5 pounds 14 ounces. I cringed when they first laid her on my chest because, let's face it, a newborn is kind of slimy, and I wasn't sure I wanted to hold her until after she'd had her spa treatment. I held her anyway. I remember thinking that it was awkward to hold a baby in the position I was laying, so I passed her to Gaylon, and later we let my sisters-in-law hold her, too. About that time, maybe an hour after she was born, a new nurse came in to check Maya over and admit her to the hospital. She noticed right away that Maya was bluer than she should be, and started giving her some oxygen. It didn't help, so she carted Maya off to the nursery for further observation.

The next time I held Maya, it was only for a few minutes, and she had to have the oxygen under her nose all the time. When I was done, they put her under an oxygen dome, which is really bizarre if you haven't seen one. It looked like her head was in Tupperware. I cried most of the night, worried about my baby, but was confident that all would work out well. As the night wore on, the doctors ran tests trying to see if she had an infection. She continued to decline in her ability to breathe. Monitors made seemingly endless high-pitched alerts. Just as one was shut off, another eeped out a new warning. They determined by morning that she was earlier than we thought and that her lungs were not fully developed. By this time, Maya's breathing was very labored. Her little chest heaved up and down with every breath. Sometime late that morning, as she struggled to breathe, one of her lungs collapsed. Her doctors were very concerned for her life. In between sobs, I begged God not to take this baby that I barely knew yet.

So, on the second day of her little life, she had emergency surgery, right there in the NICU, to insert a chest tube to reinflate her lung. I couldn't watch. Gaylon stayed with her. He says now that he will never forget just how strong our little girl is, because he saw the force used on her that day, and he knows if she can take that, she can take anything. I couldn't sit still and wait for the surgery to be done. I hovered near the NICU door. At one point I peeked inside, hoping they'd be done. They weren't. They were inserting an umbilical line, and I saw a stream of blood shoot out from Maya's tummy and land on the floor. The doctor noticed me standing there and tried to shuffle a towel over the blood with his foot. I'll always remember that image of him trying to minimize my trauma in that way. After the surgery, Maya got a surfactant treatment to unstick her lung surfaces. She began improving fairly shortly after that.

She'd been on this Earth for two days and I had only held her twice. Oh, but I knew her face by heart. I sat by her crib and watched her. She was so small, surrounded by equipment that sounded out a rhythmic, oddly reassuring lullaby. All of those hours looking down at her, I memorized every curve in her cheeks, the color of her mouth, the way her hair curled on top of her head.

She graduated from the ventilator to an oxygen tube under the nose about a week later. She hated that tube. In fact, she ripped it off of her face so many times that the nurses gave up on her with it. She was grateful enough to be free of the tube that she breathed remarkably well on her own at that point. She's been stubborn like her daddy right from the start. I think if she could have reached the bow the nurses glued to the top of her head, that would have been gone in an instant, too.

She was in the NICU for two weeks. I was there every day, going home only for a few hours sleep, a shower or a quick bite to eat. The funny thing about having a baby in NICU is that even though you know that baby is yours, it seems like she belongs to the nurses and doctors, too. I couldn't wait to take her home where she could really be mine. My heart broke when I saw other new moms carrying their new babies proudly to their cars, headed home with flowers and balloons and well wishes. Maya's flowers were long dead and the balloons sadly drooping by the time she came home. I bought her a new balloon, because I thought she deserved the fanfare.

Maya is still a tiny little thing. A chest tube scar on her chest and a barrage of tiny scars on her heels from the many blood tests are now the only outward reminders of her rough beginning. She runs and laughs and amazes me every day. I still long to hold her, only now it's because she won't sit still long enough for cuddling, unless she's desperately tired. So, happy birthday, my sweet baby. Your momma will never forget those first few days. The strangest things bring the memories flooding back: the smell of antibacterial handwash, the beeping of my computer, a doorbell that sounds like the door chime at the NICU. But that's OK, I don't intend to forget that time entirely. Those days taught me that you're precious and tough all at the same time, and I'll never take you for granted.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Typhoid Juli

I was just discussing with some friends the "lip curl of disgust." You know, the face you make when something horrifies or offends you so greatly that you just don't know what to say? That's it. The look. The LCD, as it is now known (thanks Janet). I originally gave a name to this look of supreme snarkiness in honor of my friend Nessa, and in her case it's the NLCD (copyright Heather 2002). Now that we've got that out of the way, I need to tell you a story. A story so horrifying, so full of ignorance and lack of tact, that it causes me to affect my own version of the LCD at the mere mention of the name Juli.

Allow me to introduce my coworker, Juli. On the first day of work, my boss warned me about her. How bad is that? When your boss warns you about someone on the first day? OMG. Things started out well enough, and the only things I noticed about Juli that were out of the ordinary were her obnoxious laugh, which sounds suspiciously like a wookie from Star Wars, and the fact that she falls down a lot. And I mean really a lot. When she falls down, even if it's just on a carpet in the middle of the room, somehow she manages to make a hell of a lot of noise, like in the cartoons when a character crashes into a stack of garbage cans and there's a period of loud noise followed by the can lids rolling about on pavement for a while. That's what it sounds like. How does she do that?

After a while, there were other things. She stands impossibly close when she talks to me. This is a problem, because I'm a gal who likes her space. She often stands over me while I work, causing me to have to fight back snarky words and take a deep breath and ask, "Can I help you?" She wears chopsticks in her hair and a weird feather and bone choker necklace and granny boots and capris - all on the same day. I kid you not, this girl is so weird that another coworker had to quit because of the supreme weirdness.

I refer to her as Typhoid Juli when relaying the stories of truly bizarre behavior to my friends. This is because, while she often calls in sick to work, when she is actually sick, she comes in to the office. Not only does she sit in the office with all of her germy goodness, she continues to hang over me, cough on me, sneeze on the papers that she's handing to me and make disgusting phlegm sounds that very nearly make me run screaming from the office in agony. My boss follows her around with a can of Lysol.

All of this is weird, mind you, but not the weirdest. Juli has an odd affinity for trying to sell me her lunch. Seriously. She does. The first time, we were on a short deadline, and I wasn't sure I'd have time to grab anything, and we'd be working late. Juli pipes up. "I have two Hot Pockets in the freezer, and I'm only going to eat one of them." Wow. She who has no social sense has just offered me part of her lunch? How kind! My heart was beginning to swell with happiness when the rest of her sentence came out. "You could buy the other Hot Pocket from me for $4 or so." Stop the presses. $4? The whole package of two Hot Pockets costs, what, $3.50? I decided I'd rather starve than play into Juli's black market Hot Pocket scheme. Plus, those packages are marked "not for individual resale," and if I'm going down for something in this life, it will not be Hot Pockets.

Other lunch-purchasing schemes have included the sale of coupons, which, as you know, say right on them that they have no monetary value, and more horrifying, the offer to use a "buy one get one free" coupon from Sonic so long as I bought the one and she got the free. Apparently while I'm thinking that Juli is pretty damn stupid, she is thinking the same of me.

The most recent lunchtime incident was two weeks ago. I had some time on my hands and was going to go out for a leisurely lunch. I thought maybe I'd head to the local cafe for some of their delicious fried chicken and mashed potatoes. I mentioned this to another coworker. Juli, who is always listening to every other office convo, piped up once again. "Hey, you know, I have a gift certificate for a free lunch buffet at the cafe. I hardly go there, and when I do, I never get the buffet. You could take the certificate if you want to." I should have known better, but once again I got that feeling of hope in my heart. And then it happened. "You could pay me $7 for it, or something like that," she said, with her usual blank look in her eye. The lunch buffet costs, with drink, a whopping $4.95. I opted for Subway instead.

Stay tuned for more installments of Typhoid Juli weirdness. You know they won't stop. We'll see how long I can go before I just *have* to say something. I'll admit, I'm itching to ask about that feather and bone necklace...

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Mass Confusion

I really feel like that's the perfect description of my adult life so far. Mass confusion. I do believe that there is some plan for me in this big ole universe, but I wish the universe would quit confusing me about it already. As you know, we're trying to build a house of some sort on the farm, so that we can move out of the shack of impossibly small proportions. Sounds like any easy enough task, right? Oh, no. Not so.

First, there's the money issue. I'll cut right to the chase and tell you that we're fairly young, and we're farmers, so while we grow a great many things, money ain't one of them. What kind of house can we afford? It has basically come down to this: anything that we can build completely by ourselves. Now, I'll give you a minute to stop laughing about me wielding any tool more powerful than a hammer. But really, that's what it boils down to. I'm exhausted at the prospect of doing *any* of the work myself, let alone a whole house. We thought we'd build a garage and live over it for a while. Do you know what that would mean? We would have to build two houses. So you can see why that idea is dying an agonizing death by the wayside.

Since the chance of me figuring any of this out while Gaylon is in Kazakhstan is minimal, I'll solicit help from any kind strangers who are willing to give it. Floorplans, prefab designs, log cabins, I'm willing to look at all of them. Maybe I'll post some of my favorites here. My friend Kalah sent me this link a while back, which I think is intriguing for a start. I dig the container houses, but I'm not sure that our banker would approve. ;) This company has a great idea, too, with traditional house plans and inexpensive kits. If only we could come up with a suitable floorplan.

Meanwhile I'm thinking of investing in a nice wall tent. Can I put one of those on a basement?

Monday, September 13, 2004

Bye, bye love.

I married Gaylon right out of college. That was four years ago, and I still feel like hitching up with him was a good move. One of the results of marrying young was that I went right from relying on my parents to having a legally documented partner in crime with whom I've shared my "growing up after college" phase. We've learned some lessons, some fun, some notsomuch. The underlying theme, though, is that Gaylon is my rock. Where he is grounded and level-headed, I'm impulsive and prone to letting my emotions take the lead.

So maybe you're wondering where I'm going with this. Gaylon is gone for 6 weeks, and I actually have no clue how to take care of myself, my kid, my house, the bills, the garbage (how many times do I have to empty it a day, anyway?), the feeding of the animals (a dog will eat catfood if it's all you have, btw) and everything else that is happening around here. Usually, I pretty much take care of the kid and I make quilts. This other stuff is new and I'm not sure I'm doing a very good job of it, hence feeding kitten chow to the hound dog.

We're trying to build a house, a project that we started before we ever knew Gaylon would be going to Kazakhstan. I am filled with panic about handling any official house business alone. Today, the banker tells me that we have to demolish the old house on our property before we can get a mortgage for our new house. The fact that the old house is not near the new house site matters not. Its mere existence is a major problem in the banking world. And yeah, my journalism degree prepared me for a great many things, but I assure you, demolishing a house is not one of them.

So, after I get to a point where I stop crying every five minutes because Gaylon is gone, I have to learn how to do a few things. I think I've got the garbage system worked out, but the house demolition, that may take a while.