Thursday, January 9, 2014

My Little Anomaly

I just happened to sit on the opposite side of Punky than I usually do at the dinner table yesterday, and couldn't help but notice the quarter-size bulge protruding from the right side of her neck.  She's had her share of illnesses, but I don't ever remember any swollen lymph nodes, especially to that degree.  In true mom fashion, I immediately pummeled her with question after question in search of its source.  

No, her throat didn't hurt, and the flashlight revealed no outstanding signs of trouble.  Nope, no fever.  No belly ache, no runny nose, no cough.  She ate her entire dinner, plus seconds, without the slightest hint of discomfort when swallowing.  No tooth pain either.  Her ears didn't hurt.  Her body wasn't achy.  She was as active and happy and playful as always.  So, I did what any mom would do: I called the pediatrician.

Given her lack of symptoms, the nurse thought it was fine to wait until morning to bring her in for a checkup. The doc virtually copied my examination the night before, then asked if Punky had been around any sick kids.  I remembered a sign posted at the daycare earlier in the week indicated they had two confirmed cases of strep, so she decided to do the test even though no other symptoms were present.  

Seven minutes later, we had a positive diagnosis.  I immediately reminded the doctor that Punky had strep throat last spring, and it came with the same lack of symptoms.  The only indication that something was wrong that time was a slight rash on her stomach.  This time it was only one swollen lymph node.  How could she have strep throat twice...with no sore throat?  And no fever?

"Your daughter is an anomaly," she commented casually.  "It's not common at all, but it does happen.  Chances are, strep will always present itself in an unusual manner in her body, so be on the lookout if you know she has been exposed down the road."

I have to admit, it does concern me that she could have a fairly serious infection like strep without her body reacting with what should be its first defense: a high fever.  For almost an entire year, almost three years ago now, she ran an extremely high fever for no apparent reason every few weeks on the nose.  Doctors searched for the source but came up with nothing.  When the fevers stopped as abruptly as they started, they shrugged it off as possible exposure to different viruses and the case was dropped. Now, when her body should have a high fever, there is none whatsoever. Go figure.

Is her thermostat broken?  Did that year of high fevers alter something in her immune system?  Why is her body working backwards?

Then it hit me... Medically, my body works backwards much of the time.  A heating pad for cramps?  No way, an ice pack for me.  Heat would intensify the pain to an unbearable level, but ice would numb it right out of me.  Yelling and screaming from horrific pain?  Nope, my body says screw it and passes out cold. Any medicine containing ingredients that may cause drowsiness makes me so jittery I can crawl out of my skin.  Non-drowsy formula?  I can't keep my eyes open twenty minutes later.  Even alcohol revs me up instead of relaxing me and lulling me to sleep.  It clear my body's concept of stimulants is completely backwards.  And pain killers?  The stronger they claim to be, the less they seem to affect me.  I've had enough toothaches to prove that theory over and over again.

So, maybe the anomaly didn't fall far from the tree?  To the best of my knowledge, I've never had strep.  Or have I?  Maybe it went undetected, which is scary as hell since strep can have some serious long-term consequences if left untreated.  

At any rate, Punky is looking at ten days of medicine but can return to school tomorrow.  Twenty-four hours on antibiotics and no painful symptoms?  Yes, she's definitely going to school.

On a side note, the highlight of her sick day was coming to work with me for a few hours today.  After the doctor, and a quick run to the drugstore, I absolutely had to stop at the office.  A sudden death in the family of a colleague left no one available to cover my job, so I needed to put out any fires and let everyone know how to contact me if needed.

Punky was well-behaved for the most part.  She sat in a chair and drew pictures with my pens and highlighters, and soaked up all the attention she got from everyone who passed by my office and noticed her there.  Some complimented her drawings, some asked how she was feeling, and others brought her treats, like candy bars and Hershey kisses.  

But at one point, I had my door closed while I sorted paperwork to distribute. After about ten minutes of silence while I worked and she drew, she calmly approached my desk.  "Mommy?" she inquired in her sweet little voice.

"Yes, honey?"

"Is this what you do ALL day?" she asked in a tone that implied I have the most boring job on the planet  and she seemed really disappointed by the lack of action in my office.  

While my job has it's fair share of hectic moments and high stress situations, she wasn't exactly wrong.  Most days I feel like I have the most boring job on the planet.  I have no clue what she thought I did all day, but maybe I should ask her and make it happen.  I truly need a career change and I see it on the horizon for this year.  At this point, I'm open to almost anything.  How sad is that?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sleepless

One of the biggest struggles I've faced in past six months is sleeping. 

I simply don't, and I'm so tired of being tired. 

I've suffered with insomnia for years, so trouble sleeping is not a new concept for me, but it changed its pattern and caught me off guard. And I think I like the old problem better. 

My issue with insomnia always involved initially falling asleep, not staying asleep. I would lie awake for hours on end, but once I fell asleep I would be out cold until I absolutely had to get up. Once I finally managed to drift off, I would sleep through almost anything. There were plenty of nights where I only ended up with two or three hours of sleep total, but my insomnia would typically go in cycles. I'd suffer for a few weeks, then I'd sleep fairly normally for a few weeks. Looking back now on all the years I've dealt with insomnia, I'd say its likely that most of my issues stemmed from thyroid hormone fluctuations, with a slight layer of stress and worry layered on top. 

Now the game has changed.  I find myself purely exhausted at bedtime and I have no problem whatsoever falling asleep in the seven-minute window that doctors consider normal.  As soon as my head hits the pillow, my eyelids feel like lead weights and I struggle to stay awake to catch even a few minutes of TV.  Sounds great, right?  For whatever reason, every night...and I mean every single night...I wake up anywhere from 2.5 to 3 hours later, and then I'm usually up till the sun rises.  Maybe two nights a week I actually do fall back to sleep but not until around five a.m. which gives me roughly one additional hour of sleep before getting up for work.

I'm tired.  Did I say I'm tired?  I'm actually beyond tired.  I'm at the point where I would give almost anything to sleep a solid eight hours without interruption.  I can't think clearly.  I get frustrated so easily.  I'm anxious, and cranky, and not much fun to be around most evenings because by then my eyes burn, my mind can't focus on anything, and my body feels physically run down.  No wonder I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow, eh?

Yes, I've tried the usual things like melatonin tablets, red wine, Tylenol PM, even some Unisom, but nothing worked beyond the first night I used it.  And yes, just like I have all the years I've faced insomnia, I refuse to try any type of prescription sleep aid.  I know I need to fix the root of the problem, not mask it with drugs. Unlike the past, I can guarantee that my current sleep struggles are being fueled entirely by incredibly high stress levels and there is no end in sight.  

Normally I stay in bed, tossing and turning and praying my mind will shut off so I can grab that additional hour or so, but with the dawning of the new year I've decided I may as well use the time wisely and get something accomplished.  I'm still in bed, but writing this post on my iPhone.  If I do this every night, I'll have no trouble catching up on the last six months I've neglected.  Maybe then you'll understand exactly why I can't sleep.  And maybe once I get it all out, I finally will.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Another New Year

It's unbelievable to think that another entire year has gone by in what seems like the blink of an eye. For every good thing I can say about 2013, I can say two completely shitty things. 

I really can't explain why my writing took such a hard hit this past year. There were some minor bumps in the road the first half, but come June things got ugly quick. And that's when I stopped writing. 

One of the main reasons I started this blog in the first place was to vent about life's frustrations the best way I know how. But when life hit rock after rock on its way down the steep side of the mountain this year, writing was the first aspect of my life to suffer.  I quit, just when I needed it most. 

Needless to say, returning to real-time blogging tops my list if goals for the new year, closely followed by the goal to catch up on the last six months I completely neglected. I won't get every detail down, but I at least hope to cover the big stuff. I mean, the other reason I started writing was for Punky and I can't leave such big holes in her story. She deserves better than that. 

So, here's to 2014. For me this year is all about reorganization.  It's time to restructure, reformat, and reboot. I need to start at the very core of my being and move through all aspects of my life. Last year was too much of a jumbled mess and I can't function that way any longer.  It's just not an option.  

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Ballet

I'm full of bright ideas.  Really, I am.  I like to think I do a good job of exposing Punky to different things to encourage her imagination, broaden her horizons, and inspire her dreams.  But once in a while, things don't go off exactly how I had previously envisioned.  And today, unfortunately, was one of those times.

We were up and out early this morning because my company was hosting its annual children's Christmas party at ten.  To my delight, in fact to everyone's delight, the usual puppet lady entertainment was nixed this year and replaced by a funny magician with lots of experience amusing kids and grown-ups alike. His show was a breath of fresh air and Punky absolutely loved him.  He made her a balloon poodle and then pulled her up on stage during his act to retrieve a long, white scarf from her ear (it must have snuck in there with the popcorn kernel almost two years ago).  After singing some carols, Santa made a grand appearance and all the kids had a chance to sit on his lap and get a gift. Punky was thrilled with the Hello Kitty Diary she received and she couldn't wait to get home to play with it, but I threw a wrench in her plan.

See, the bright idea had been bouncing around my head for a full twenty four hours at that point and I was fully ready to commit.  When Punky's dad picked us up after the party, we made a quick stop at the store, had a nice lunch at a restaurant, and then headed to the theater to surprise Punky with something I thought we'd all really enjoy: The Nutcracker.

Despite the fact that I love its music and insist on listening to it every year while we decorate the tree, I somehow managed to make it to forty without ever actually seeing the ballet.  Even though they play it a gazillion times on TV around the holidays, I've never watched more than a minute or two.  In fact, I've never watched more than a minute or two of any ballet.  But, Punky loves ballerinas.  The Nutcracker is a classic.  And we all love live shows, period.  Maybe this will be the start of a new family tradition every Christmas?

Punky could hardly contain her excitement as we waited for the curtain to rise and I'll never forget how her eyes lit up the instant she saw that first ballerina twirling around the stage.  We were all mesmerized by the lights, the costumes, the spins, and the music, but by intermission I think we had all seen enough.  

Punky was bored and getting rambunctious by that point, her dad admittedly dozed off twice near the end of the act, and I was honestly very disappointed in myself for feeling, well, less than entertained, I suppose.

Okay, bored.  I was bored, too.  The music of the Nutcracker always sucks me in, I feel it resonate through my entire body, it's one of my absolute favorite things about Christmas... But the actual ballet part?  Yawn.

Yes, I do really feel bad for saying that.  I obviously know very little about ballet, but I was still able to see just how hard the ballerinas worked to reach that performance and how incredibly talented they all are.  The little kids in the show really blew my mind; I had no idea any child could ever be so graceful at such a young age.  Because it was a local theater group, the audience was filled with proud parents, grandparents, siblings, and so on, all intensely watching the entire show with bouquets of flowers on their laps. How could I not appreciate such a beautiful, magical, classic ballet?

When it resumed after intermission I tried so hard to love it, I swear I did, but I still had no clue what the hell was going on and it seemed like the ballerinas kept doing the same three or four steps, over and over and over again, to every single song, in every single scene.  Punky lost interest entirely and found the contents of my purse more amusing than the show, and I think I heard her dad snoring once.  Alright, twice.  After what seemed like an hour of bows, applause, and bouquet presentations, I hung my head in shame as we quietly left the theater and walked to the truck in silence.

If nothing else, the afternoon was a learning experience.  We now know to read the story behind the ballet before actually going to see one (not that we ever will again) because we obviously aren't intelligent enough to figure it out while watching.  On the drive home, the three of us discussed what we thought the story of the Nutcracker was really about and we didn't agree on anything.  We were all proved wrong as I consulted Wikipedia and read the story aloud over dinner that evening. 

Punky's dad sees it as three hours he can never get back, but I don't feel that way.  I can now say I've seen a live ballet.  I can now say I've seen the Nutcracker.  I can now attempt to sway Punky toward jazz or tap dance lessons and not feel a bit guilty for doing so.  I love my daughter with all my heart but I just can't even imagine sitting through ballet recital after ballet recital.  The poor girl is stuck with old parents and we need something far more exciting than a plie to keep us awake and alert in the audience.  

And, I can also say I did manage to start a family Christmas tradition of sorts. I bought Punky a ballerina ornament during intermission to commemorate the occasion and I can say without a doubt that each year, as it's discovered in the box and hung on the tree, we will relive our afternoon at the ballet and the realization that we are just about as uncultured as it gets.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Laughter in the Rain

Nearly four months in, I don't even need a full hand to count the number of positive things I have to say about being forty.  I still hate the very thought of it. 

I hate the fine lines on my face that somehow appear more noticeable since my birthday. 

I hate the white strands of hair that seem to be spreading all too quickly now.  It might not be so bad if they at least attempted to blend in, but the obnoxious little shits have a mind of their own, sticking straight up and out like the bristles of a wire brush. 

I hate that I've recently noticed a few small spider veins developing in my legs.

I hate that I consciously pay attention to ads for things like leaky bladder medicine because my over-the-hill body might break at any minute and leave me Tena-twisting all over the place.

I hate terms like 'middle age', 'seasoned', and 'mature'.  And, so help me, I will slap the next person who says, "Forty is the new twenty."

No, it isn't.  It's nowhere even remotely close to twenty.  In fact, it's twenty away from twenty.  In no other case would anyone even consider those numbers as equals.  Next time you're out shopping, find an item priced at $40 and offer the cashier $20.  See how that goes.

But if there is one gem I've discovered about this whole over-forty racket, it's the fact that I truly care less what other people think of me.  I spent the majority of my life being self-conscious about, well, everything.  I'm sad to say I missed out on a lot of things I may have loved if I just had the courage to take a chance without worrying what others would think.

I'm not sure if it's a "with age, comes wisdom" type of thing, or if it simply took me this long to get over my insecurities.  Maybe I'm truly a slow learner in the life-lesson department.  At any rate, I've found a whole new type of freedom with this revelation and it's led to mornings like this one:

The sound of the rain pelting the air conditioner woke me from a dead sleep.  I barely poured a cup of coffee when Punky stumbled out of her room, no doubt also awakened by the downpour passing through the neighborhood.

We chatted a bit while she ate her cereal and I told her we were likely to be stuck in the house most of the day.  The weather forecast called for rain, rain, and more rain. Blah.

"Can we go outside and play in the rain?" Her eyes lit up just asking the question.

"Oh honey, I don't know if that's a good idea."  I mumbled. 

"You said we could sometime."  Her matter-of-fact tone isn't so cute when she's right.

"I know, Punky, but it really has to be a nice, warm day with a nice, warm rain, and no thunder or whipping wind."

"I don't hear any thunder, Mommy."

"I haven't either but it's a really heavy rain.  And I doubt it's very warm.  And it's only 8:15 in the morning.  And Mommy really doesn't feel like getting soaked right now.  Maybe later in the day if it warms up.  Besides, I just poured a cup of coffee."  I was seriously fighting the urge to crawl back under the covers for a few more hours.

Just then Punky's dad came in from playing outside in the shed, or whatever it is he does for hours in that tiny shack of tools, grease, and broken stuff.

"Boy, that's really a warm rain this morning.  Now they're saying it should be over by noon and we will see some sunny skies after all today." He bent down to kiss Punky's head without realizing he just sealed my fate.

"Daddy said it's warm, Mommy!  And it's not going to rain later!  Please, Mommy!  Please, please, please can we play in the rain?" she hopped of the stool and bounced around the kitchen.

I admitted defeat with a long sigh as I shot a sarcastic thank-you look to her dad.

"Yes, Punky, yes.  Finish your breakfast and we'll play in the rain."

So, we kicked off our Sunday by running up and down the street in a total downpour, jumping and splashing in every puddle we found, giggling hysterically, and dancing in the rain like no one was watching. No doubt the neighbors think I'm a lunatic (did I mention we were still in our pajamas?) but to my four year old I'm clearly the coolest mom ever.  And that's worth every drop of mud and water I had to clean off the kitchen floor once we finally came inside to hit the showers.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day Jewels

Last year for Mother's Day, Punky made me a bracelet at school. Despite its brightly colored rainbow beads and overly snug elastic, I've worn it faithfully every day (except a handful of times when I forgot it entirely or chose to skip it for fear of losing it - like on amusement park days).

As you'd expect, I absolutely love it. I love that she made it herself, I love the little block beads that spell her beautiful name, I love that she still checks my wrist a whole year later to make sure I'm wearing it, but most of all I love it because of how proud she was to give it to me as a Mother's Day gift. I'll never forget how she beamed from ear to ear as I unwrapped it and tried it on for the first time. She seemed so grown up in that moment and I relive it each time I wear the bracelet.

The company I work for has a very formal office environment and professional attire is expected at all times. The men wear suit jackets and ties every day, business casual is frowned upon, and there are no dress down Fridays for us. I think the walls would burst into flames if everyone showed up in jeans.  Anyway, my childlike multi-color bead bracelet doesn't exact match my work wardrobe, but I've worn it religiously nonetheless and answered many questions about its origin when I remove my suit jacket or let it slip out from under a long-sleeve shirt.  It's small and easy to conceal if needed, and most people think it's adorable when they hear the story behind why I wear it.

When I got home from work on Friday, Punky was waiting with a red, tissue paper package in hand.  I knew instantly that it was this year's Mother's Day project at school.

"Is that for me?" I asked, pretending to be surprised.

"Yes, Mommy! Open it! It's for Mother's Day!" she could hardly contain her excitement.

"Well, Mother's Day isn't until Sunday.  I think maybe I should wait to open it then." I flashed her a smile and a wink.

"No, Mommy! You have to open it now! I want you to wear it!" she screeched.

Wear it?  I was a bit nervous.  Surely the package was too big to be another bracelet.  What if it was some kind of hand-sewn hat or something?  What if she expects me to wear it every day?  How could I possible love another hand-made gift as much as I love my bracelet?

I stalled for time but ultimately lost and ended up opening the package.  As I carefully peeled the tape and opened the tissue paper, that familiar look of pride swept across Punky's beautiful, little face.

A necklace.  Big.  Long.  A seemingly endless string of random beads in multiple shapes, colors, and sizes.  She'll want me to wear it to work every day.  It will stick out like a sore thumb.  The bracelet is one thing, but the necklace just can't be hidden as easily.  I love it and all but I just can't...

"Do you like it, Mommy! I worked on it a long time and just finished it in music class today!  I put lots of heart beads on there 'cause I love you so much.  And see the little square ones?  They have the letter 'M' on them for 'Mommy'.  And I made sure to use lots of different green ones because green is your favorite color! Let me put it on for you, Mommy!"

My eyes filled with tears as I leaned forward so she could slip the necklace over my head.

"I love it, sweetie," I managed to whisper, "I really, really love it.  It's absolutely beautiful, just like you."  

Looks like I have a new necklace for work tomorrow.  And I couldn't be more proud to wear it.   

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bravery, Pint-Sized

After our trip to the movies a few weeks ago, we topped off our day of fun with a visit to Toys R Us so Punky could pick out her new big girl bike. Technically she could still ride her tricycle this year because it's really high and meant for kids up to age five, but it just isn't an option for the rocky, muddy, bumpy campground roads she will face most of the summer.  And she really wants to keep up with her crazy cousin but the tiny, solid rubber wheels on her tricycle are no match for a seven year old boy with a kick-ass two-wheeler sans training wheels.

Santa almost brought her a new bike this year, but we advised him against it in the end.  We thought it would be more fun for her to pick out exactly the kind she wants, plus it would give her a special treat to look forward to through the long, cold, snowy, shitty winter.  Oh, come on, I've hardly written at all for months.  You didn't think I'd pass up the opportunity to bitch about Mother Nature's bullshit antics this year, did you? She needs a throat punch.

Anyway, it didn't take Punky long to decide on a sparkly purple Hawaiian-themed bike which truly surprised me.  I fully anticipated something Disney Princess-y or Barbie-ish, all pink and good-girly like, not something cool and funky with iridescent glitter, stylin' palm trees, and white tires with knobby tread to tackle the worst terrain her little legs can handle.  Of course, the bike she chose was out-of-stock at the store and I thought for sure she'd change her mind and settle for something else.  But, ultimately she liked the purple one enough to wait the whole three days it took them to ship one to our house.  The three days were easy compared to the two hours it took her dad to assemble it once it arrived.  

True to their ritual, Punky danced around him in circles, touched things she shouldn't, moved pieces and tools out of his reach, and asked seven hundred forty two questions about the purpose of each part strewn about the floor and if he would be done putting it together soon.  I was grateful that all but the last fifteen minutes of assembly took place before I got home from work.


It wasn't even forty degrees that day, and the sun was less than a half hour away from disappearing for the night, but Punky insisted on taking her first ride on her new wheels.  We bundled her up and headed out for a quick trip around the neighborhood just to make her happy and see how she handled her new toy.

I have to say her dad and I were both impressed. Getting her to pedal and steer her tricycle seemed to take forever, so I guess we just expected a similar learning curve with the new bike, but there was no curve whatsoever. She hopped on and took off, much faster and farther than we anticipated for her first attempt at riding a two-wheeler with training wheels.  Based on that initial ride alone, I think the training wheels will bite the dust before summer's end.

Over the past few weeks she's had several opportunities to practice riding, steering, coasting, and stopping on her new bike.  She caught on fast, but we knew the first dump was inevitable.  We tried to prepare her by telling her, and even demonstrating, how to put her feet down if she feels the bike tipping and how to let go of the handlebars and just fall instead of trying to hang on and save it.  It was an ugly waiting game, I tell you, and it finally ended this afternoon when her beautiful, little face met the road in a bloody scene.  

I was walking behind her as she made her way around the loop in the neighborhood, but she got a bit too far ahead of me when I saw a van backing out of a driveway.  I yelled for her to stop, and then she saw the van about ten feet ahead of her and panicked.  She tried to turn and stop at the same time on a patch of gravel and it didn't end well, mainly because she forgot everything we said and kept her feet firmly planted on the pedals and her hands gripped to the handlebars.  Her face broke her fall.

I watched the bike tip over in slow motion as my own panic mode kicked in, and my heart jumped into my throat when I saw the blood running from her nose and mouth.  Her dad heard her cries and quickly ran to help me out.  He carried the bike home; I carried my crying baby girl.  

While she sat sobbing on the bathroom counter, I cleaned up her boo-boos, examined her teeth, kissed her incredibly fat upper lip, and told her the story of how she had the exact same busted lip injury right before Easter three years ago.  She said her lip was throbbing so I offered her a small dose of Tylenol and a Popsicle to help with the swelling.  As soon as she finished it, she did something I never expected.

"Come on, Mommy, let's go!"

"Where are we going?" I asked.

"Back outside for another bike ride! I can do it, Mommy, I'm not scared! Please!"

Well, how could I say no to that?  I am so proud of my brave little peanut. I've said many times that Punky favors my sister a lot, and when my sister had a bad bike wreck one year, she didn't ride again for the rest of that entire summer.  I didn't think Punky would be that extreme, but I expected her to hesitate a bit.  I thought it would take at least a day or so to regain her confidence, not twenty minutes.

I managed to log 21,139 steps (nearly nine miles) today, most of which occurred while I walked/jogged behind her as she pedaled around the neighborhood.  Looks like I should have no trouble staying in shape this summer, but I better invest in a new pair of running shoes.  And more bandaids and Popsicles.