February 28, 2013

Queens and Caped Crusaders

Making jewelry at the Purim Carnival
This past weekend was Purim, sort of the Jewish Halloween.

A few fun facts:
Like pretty much all festive Jewish holidays, Purim celebrates the same thing. Some other culture attempted to completely annihilate the Jewish people, failed, and now we remember the event by eating delicious, delicious food.

In this case, it was the Persians. A Persian minister named Haman convinced the King (Xerxes) to kill all the Jews in Persia. Unbeknownst to the King, his wife was Jewish. With the aid of her uncle, she convinced the King to spare the Jews, and instead Haman and his family were put to death.

Now we eat AWESOME cookies that look like Haman's hat.

Pretty gruesome.

But, as I said, it's sort of like Halloween. It's a time to dress up in costumes and celebrate.

Climbing around at the carnival
When I was a kid, it was my family's tradition that we dressed up as characters from the story. I was always partial to Queen Vashti.

Well, as a costumer and a lover of costume, I had desperately wanted to make my kids REAL costumes for today. I have a TON of red stretch velvet to make into Esther's gown, yards of green for Vashti's. But things got in the way.

And as the day loomed closer, and I was busied with sick kids and a sick husband and a sick self, it just didn't happen. And then I remembered the costumes I wore for Purim as a kid.

They were my parents' clothes. And they were pretty much the most exciting dress-ups in the world.

So for my two little queens, I simply opened up my closet and adorned them in my own clothes.

DD as Queen Esther and SI as Queen Vashti
They were OVER THE MOON.

This year, DD dressed and Queen Esther, SI as Vashti. And RH? Well, there might not have been any superheroes in this story... but why not?

Nananananananana BATMAN!
We went to our local Purim carnival. There were games, crafts, and of course hamentaschen.

It was a blast.

They tried to kill us, they failed, let's eat.

Happy Purim!!!

February 27, 2013

Oh Monsters, Why Did I Create You?

The monsters attacking Daddy
My children are monsters.

I don't mean that they're horrible, nasty, mean little children. No, I mean that they run around the house roaring and pretending to eat me. My children sometimes take turns being the monster and being the "Princess Knight on a horse with a sword." One lays on the floor, "asleep," while the other uses their "sword" to kill the monster (usually RH's playpen), and then kiss the "sleeping" princess and wake her up. And then it repeats, with the roles switched. Back and forth. Back and forth.

Sometimes, Daddy is the monster, and he chases them across the house. But like a roomba, when they reach a solid object (like the back door) they shift directions. The children become the monsters, and they chase Daddy until another object blocks their path.

They've been monsters for a pretty long time.

When I was still pregnant with RH, and honestly, not very pregnant at all, I started considering ways to make the transition to big sisterhood a little easier. The thing I read time and time again was that the new baby should give its new big sisters a present.

Easy enough. But I thought that it should be something big. But something fun, and distracting. Something that would keep them preoccupied.

And then I ran across this Kickstarter campaign...

It's an animal hat- but it's a monster! And it's a big, cuddly, Mr. Potato Head. I thought it was absolutely ingenious. I thought that my kids would love to play with that sort of thing. I thought that I would love to play with one. I thought about how much fun my sisters and I would have had, making puppet shows to perform ad nauseum for the adults in our lives.

That's right, a year ago, I invested in this business.

It's been a wide variety of exciting and frustrating. On the one hand, seeing all the changes, learning about all the challenges that go into producing a new product... it's a fascinating thing to have a view of. I learned all about the challenges they had finding a mass producer, how they decided to license their invention to a much bigger toy company... then it was totally weird to see the commercial on television for the final product.

...a final product that I still hadn't received. And still hadn't received. And still hadn't received.

Fun, right?
Over and over again, delay after delay. First, RH was born. The girls got dinosaurs instead. Then Channukah- no Hugalopes. Then Christmas- no Hugalopes.

And now?

Now it looks like they're coming. But I'm not going to be handing them out just yet.

Those Hugalopes are going to be fourth birthday presents.

...in October.

The thing is, as frustrating as it's been to sit around waiting, I was always a little bit nervous that they wouldn't be quite old enough. That they'd need too much help with the toggles, or they wouldn't be ready for the sort of creative play that comes with puppets.

Now I'm positive they're ready for everything but the toggles.

By their birthday, they'll be the perfect age for this sort of thing.

And so, with my Hugalopes FINALLY on the way, with a few toys stored away that were too complicated for them last year, and that didn't come in the mail before Christmas, I am almost completely done getting my twins presents for their birthday.

You know, that event more than SEVEN MONTHS AWAY.

I've even got the party favors for their Care Bears themed birthday party. Yeah, I'm that prepared.

Be jealous.

February 22, 2013

Paging Dr. Rapunzel...

DD is Rapunzel
I have a girl living in my house.

I don't just mean that she's biologically female. I mean she is girly. I don't even know what to do with them. All my girliness was directed at Little House or Anne of Green Gables or American Girls (BEFORE Mattel bought and destroyed them). I got a bit older and became obsessed with the Mists of Avalon.

I was very female oriented, sure... but girly?

And here I am, home all day with DD, the girliest girl of them all. Everything needs to be pink, and poofy, and glittery.

SI spends about a third of her time humoring DD. The rest of the time she escapes into her own, must stranger fantasies.

And that leaves me and RH to bend to DD's absurdly girly whims.

I think I've been patient. I've watched Beauty and the Beast with minimal commentary about the nature of sexually abusive relationships. I've watched hours of Angelina Ballerina with only subdued constant gagging sounds. I've watched Cinderella a million times and restrained my outbursts only to expressions of frustration that Cinderella doesn't go and find herself some paid work- she's obviously employable.

Everybody is a royal around here.
And then I stopped being able to take it any more. I stopped biting my tongue, and I let the princesses have it.

I explained to DD that the only way she can ever be a princess is to marry a prince, and mostly they're not very nice. This devastated her. She asked if she could still marry daddy, and my assurances that it was still an option calmed her significantly.

Then I told her that there are other things she could be, that being a princess isn't having a job. It's like being a girl, or a grownup, it's a state of being that you can't really alter. But even princesses have jobs.

A recent issue of Mental Floss (our favorite magazine) provided a list of princes and princesses with day jobs. I explained that there's a princess who works helping children get medicine. There's a prince who drives a rickshaw. (I think I called it a bicycle car.) There's a princess who's a doctor.

These princesses are also firemen.
That one stuck.

Suddenly, DD was running around the house wearing her frilliest tutus, her sparkly crown, and a stethoscope.

"I am Dr. Rapunzel!" she announced.

And Dr. Rapunzel has remained.

But DD's not the only one who gets to play doctor around here. She has explained to me that she still needs to marry a prince. And right now, with SI being uncooperative in her royal pretending, I must pick up the slack.

And that is how during the last few weeks, I have found myself addressed on a regular basis as, "Dr. Prince Mommy."

Two steps forward, one step back. I think I'll wait until she's five to warn her about playing doctor with boys.

Dr. Prince Mommy

February 21, 2013

Good Night, You Moonlight Ladies

Aunt Something Funny and I playing bedtime- circa 1986
It's hard to know just when we start forming truly permanent memories.

My earliest memory is, I believe, from when I was 16 months old. It's of an eye exam, I think  I can remember being strapped to a big blue table, and crying for my mother. My mother's face is young, her glasses enormous, and she seems very, very far away. She's not speaking to me, and she's not crying, but she's looking at me.

I have quite a few memories of life starting about a year later. Birthday parties, games with my sisters, babysitters, my father carrying me up to my attic bedroom. I remember watching my parents' friends paint the shed in psychedelic colors, the word "Peace" emblazoned in bold, tacky letters.

I'm sure Poppa wil LOVE that I posted this
I remember a small black and white television playing clips of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show.

But the thing I remember the most, the consistent, daily occurrences of my life when I was SI and DD's age, is my father singing to me.

Every night, he sat in the room that Aunt Something Funny and I shared, and sang us lullabyes. I remember laying in bed with my eyes closed and listening. I remember laying in Aunt Something Funny's bed (sometimes she was frightened of the top bunk) and staring at her poster of kittens in a basket, listening. I remember laying in the red tent I liked to have set up in my bed, listening.

I remember peeking at him from the top bunk especially, He is also young, his hair and glasses both big, his legs folded around each other. He looks like my father, but not as he is now. He's lithe and young, his voice maybe just a little clearer than now. In the dark, I don't know what color his t-shirt is, but he looks comfortable. Peaceful. The sight of him makes me feel happy, sleepy, and safe.

My daddy, singing songs.

I remember murmuring the names of the songs I wanted next, barely audible. Half asleep. He must have known exactly which songs I would want. No doubt they were always the same songs.

I remember being several years older. Playing with my stuffed animals on my bed in the room that Aunt Genocide and I shared in our next house. I sang the same songs to my stuffed animals.

I remember being even older. Practically a teenager. I remember trying to look cool and hide my shock when I learned that the lullabyes I had known my entire life, that seemed etched into my soul, were essentially the Best Of James Taylor. Hearing him sing those songs- his own songs- sounds disjointed and wrong to me.

Everyone told me to sleep while I could. Yeah right.
I remember my second night as a mother, laying in a hospital bed, with my two, tiny babies on my lap, propped up against a pillow. I remember staring at their tiny, sleeping faces, and being unable to sleep. Instead, I stayed up until 5am, singing them those lullabyes. The first time I sang lullabyes for my children. I will never forget it.

They're the same lullabyes I still sing.

Not all of them are the songs I listened to in my earliest memories. I sing songs from my choir days, I sing folk songs that my father never sang me, I sing Elliott Smith and Jewel and Sarah McLaughlin. A few Disney songs that didn't exist back then. A few that did. I sing a song or two from my mother's repertoire as well, But I also still sing the James Taylor songs.

And when Poppa is here, he takes his seat in the darkened room where two little girls lay, not sleeping, and sings them the same songs he sang to me.

I always knew I would be a mom. Never did I know that more than when my father was singing me lullabyes. There was something so magical about that time, I couldn't imagine there was more to adulthood that sitting in the dark, singing your children to sleep.

SI and DD playing bedtime
Now I know there is, there's much more to it. But there's nothing that makes me feel more like the grown-up I always wanted to be than sitting in the dark, singing them the same songs. Over and over and over.

Now, my children sing those songs themselves. In eerie, tiny little voices over the monitor, I hear them singing to their toys after they're supposed to be asleep.

Part of me is astounded to be part of this creation of history, this creation of tradition. Could James Taylor have known when he wrote his songs that there would be generations of families, singing them to their children as lullabyes, in their own voices?  Will my grandchildren lay in the dark, listening to the same songs that my father sang to me?

I hope so. I hope that my children feel the same closeness and love for me as I sing to them that I felt for my parents. I hope they feel as safe, as certain that all is right in the world.

I hope their children feel that as well.

These are the moments in which I feel the need to weep for my children. For their childhood that is flying past me at breakneck speeds. For every night that I'm too tired or too busy to sing every song they know.

RH, sleeping peacefully
I remember sitting in a rocking chair in my twins' darkened room, seeing my reflection in the mirror. I am singing the same songs my father sang to me, as I rock in that chair, draped in sleeping toddlers.

I remember sitting in a different rocking chair in RH's darkened room, staring at her owl mobile as I crane my neck around the bulk of her chubby head, singing the same songs as her breathing quiets and her fingers relax in their death grip on my hair.

I feel like I've always had these memories. That since my earliest childhood, listening to my father sing, they've been lying dormant. Waiting to happen.

I feel supremely blessed, living a charmed life. A life of love and of quiet music, murmured requests in the dark, peaceful sighs from sleepy children.

In these dark, musical moments, I have everything I ever wanted out of life.

Do you sing to your kids? What songs did you grow up with?

February 11, 2013


Every once in a while, you look in the mirror and you realize, "Holy crap, I need a CHANGE."

I basically hadn't changed my hair since the twins were born. That's right, I've just been VERY occasionally trimming it and cleaning it up, growing my unruly mop of curls, for about four years.

I looked in the mirror and I said... no more.

So, I ran out into the world and I gave myself a makeover.

I got a new pair of glasses- my first new script in years. I got a new haircut- cut off about eighty percent of the stuff. And, I even tried dolling myself up in a nice new dress.  The effect?

I think I look pretty darn awesome, actually.

I'd still like to lose a LOT of weight, but at least I'm getting good at hiding the lumpy parts, if you know what I'm saying.

So now that I've got this awesome new look, M and I are going to be going out for Valentine's Day and have some child-free fun. But more importantly...

My job hunt has picked up quite a bit. To the point where I am confidently arranging Interview Outfits.

I'm feeling confident. I'm feeling anxious.

But I'm also feeling excited.

I think it's time for another chapter in the SuperMommy family story.

February 10, 2013

Review: Prenatal Oxylent

As you probably remember, I suffered some really horrific PPD after RH came into the world.

I have all sorts of theories of how it got started. It could have been the full blown panic attack I had during the c-section. It could have been the insane difficulty of establishing nursing. It could have been that my recovery from that c-section was HORRIBLE in no uncertain terms. It could have been that I felt fat and awful about myself for so long after the delivery that I forgot how to not feel awful about myself. It could have been that M and I were fighting.

It could have been plain ol' hormones messing up my life.

Whatever it was, I got out of it. Thank God. But how?

Some months ago (I'm a terrible, terrible choice of spokesperson), I agreed to review a prenatal vitamin supplement. Oxylent.

And as I was doing the bare minimum to take care of myself, I didn't try it. And I didn't try it. And I didn't try it.

And then, Ani Difranco reminded me that I chose my life, and I should be happy with it, and try to just do myself a favor and chin up. (I'm paraphrasing, of course.)

So I started taking my vitamins.

And you know what? I started feeling a million times better.

Not only did I feel SO MUCH HEALTHIER with the energy that comes with healthy B vitamin absorption, not only did I feel SO MUCH HAPPIER without the constant minor health symptoms that come when you don't ingest any vitamin C or zinc, suddenly, I was a hell of a lot more hydrated.

You see, unlike most gross vitamin pills that I would never in a million years use regularly, Oxylent is is a powder that you mix into a glass of water.

You know, like Airborne or EmergenC. Only it's actually a multivitamin. A prenatal mutlivitamin, no less.

I had a hell of a time finding a prenatal multivitamin. In fact, I never did. I only used quadruple doses of gummy vitamins, because the fish oil made me so sick. But Oxylent doesn't have fish oil! And prenatal vitamins are still ideal to use when you're nursing.

And so, suddenly I was having a much better time. I was drinking at least two glasses of water a day, I was ingesting all these good vitamins, and I felt like a million bucks. Well, at least like a crisp new $20 bill.

Really, it helped me get my life back on track. I felt like a lump of a human being. A useless, hopeless, miserable lump. And with regular hydration and vitamins, I felt like a lumpy person, and then just pretty much like a person.

I'm not saying that vitamins can cure depression. But I am saying that physical health and mental health are related. If you're going to take care of your physical needs, your emotional needs will become less onerous. At least you're a healthy body containing them, right?

So I totally recommend Oxylent. It's surprisingly delicious, sugar free, and makes water easier to chug when you're chasing two preschoolers with an arm full of baby.

Prenatal Oxylent: it has the Becoming SuperMommy seal of approval.

February 5, 2013

Nobody's Fault But Mine

Cute babies make a lot of things better.
Every once in a while, you have "one of those days."

I am having "one of those days."

No, I am having One Of Those Days, entirely made worse by the fact that it is ENTIRELY my own fault.

I am a great mom. A great wife. A pretty good friend, I think. But today? I am simply terrible at being a function person operating in the confines of my own body.

Imagine, if you will, that moment when you groan awake in the dark, sure that your wonderful co-parent is awake and getting ready for work, too busy showering or shaving or what-have-you to hear that the baby is crying, awake for the day.

Adorable SI helps.
Normally, you creak upright, you shuffle across the house, and you do your parental duties.

But today... today is different. Because like a crazy person, in your utter exhaustion the previous night, you fell asleep in a weird position.

You know how when you sleep in a weird position, you typically shift out of it when you're uncomfortable? You wake up sort of sore, but you can basically stretch it out.

Unless, like yours truly, you managed to fall asleep in a position so weird you were actually incapable of rolling.

Last night, I fell asleep with my arms above my head, wedged between the pillow and the headboard.

...you ever tried that trick where you press your arms to the sides of the doorframe for thirty seconds and then your muscles just limp your limp arms to your sides?  Now try sleeping for EIGHT HOURS with your arms pressed above your head.

It was all I could do to bring them down, but they sure as hell weren't working.

And so, I rolled awkwardly in the bed for a few minutes, realizing that I was only capable of exiting my blanket if I rolled the two feet onto the floor. Instead, I lay calling for M like a pathetic idiot, and explained to him that my arms were useless. I'm pretty sure he thought I was still dreaming, but humored me and retrieved the baby.

Princess DD helps.
When he came back he discovered how utterly absurd my predicament was. He gently positioned the baby for me, unhitched my bra for me, and shoved the baby's mouth into approximate position. Then he went to work.

And then I, slowly regaining use of my arms, learned what other effects practically dangling from your arms all night will have on your body.

So of course, everything else that has gone wrong today has been entirely related to my arm-over-head-sleeping injury. From dropping a gallon of milk to pulling down the curtains to knocking a pot ONTO my head to wondering whether or not it was worth it to try to pick the bits of my knuckles out of the grated cheese.

Yeah, you don't want to eat here today.

At least the kids are being pretty easy. So far. It's only mid morning, so there's still time. I've decided to avoid knives for at least another couple of hours.

The moral of the story?

Try not to fall asleep with your arms stuck over your head. I promise you, you'll regret it.

February 1, 2013

Curtain Call

These are your options.
My pregnancy with DD and SI was no cakewalk.

There was the IVF, first of all, which sucks. Then there was the sub-chorionic hematoma, then there was the SPD, then there was the gall bladder disease, and then there was the cancer.  And then there was waking up in the middle of the night, soaked in blood, and rushing to the hospital for an emergency c-section.

And despite all that, I knew I wanted to have more kids.  I was optimistic that my next pregnancies would be easier. That not using IVF would improve things, that only gestating one baby at a time would improve things. That it would be a cakewalk.

Oh, how wrong I was. I didn't have to deal with fertility hormones, or with a sub-chorionic hematoma, but everything else was worse. Worse SPD, because I was aggravating it by chasing children. Worse gall bladder disease. Worse skin cancer.

And then there was feeling a pain in my stomach as I laid in bed in the middle of the night, and realizing that it wasn't "normal" contractions- that it was my uterus about to split open. And rushing to the hospital in the middle of the night, and another, worse emergency c-section.

And despite that, the first time I held RH in my arms, I knew that I wasn't done. I knew that I wanted to have more kids.

But M was doubtful. He was scared. He was scared of all the pain I had suffered, he was scared of the cancer. His fears were legitimate and reasonable. But I held out hope.

Until my OB sat down to give the news. Because of the condition of my uterus, if I ever got pregnant again, we would have to plan on scheduling a premature c-section. We couldn't risk my having even one real contraction- it might immediately rupture. We would plan on taking a baby out early- earlier than the twins.

When my OB left the room, M looked at me and said he thought he ought to get a vasectomy.

I dithered. I hemmed and hawed. I didn't want him to get a vasectomy. I wanted to have more babies.

But... I knew. I knew that we had to be done. Did I want to take those risks? Risk more diseased internal organs, more months of not being able to walk- this time while chasing three kids? Did I want to risk the health of that baby to bring it into the world early, in order to keep me from a potentially fatal complication?

Did I want to risk worse skin cancer?

We got so lucky last time. The mole was so visible right there on my collar bone. The intern was so enthusiastic and thorough. The mole had just become cancerous.

If we'd waited until after the pregnancy, I might still be having chemo right now. I still have half a dozen moles that are funny but without the pregnancy effects to my immune system, remaining somewhat stable.

Melanoma... it's so aggressive. It's a very, very scary cancer. Was it worth it to me to risk a near certainty that it would start growing again, that I might start the engine of my own death machine, to make another baby?

It should be a simple answer. There should be no question. There should be no hesitation.

I should have started singing a Vasectomy Song every day, dancing a Vasectomy Dance, and withholding sex until it was all said and done. Instead, I kept thinking... what if we didn't?

But finally, we had to talk about it. I had a brief pregnancy scare, and let me tell you- you do not know what the words "pregnancy scare" can mean until it involves going over your life insurance to make sure that if it killed you your husband would be able to afford the child care so that he could continue working after you died. Weeping to yourself that the baby at your breast might not have a single memory of you that could last before you passed away. That is a pregnancy scare.

And so, I scheduled the vasectomy.

I tried to be happy about it. No more fear, no more worries. No more birth control- BIG hooray to that. I told myself over and over what a good thing it was, and I wrote M a goofy card, and I stuck it in his Christmas stocking for him to open under the tree- with his family. Because that's hilarious.

And part of me was so relieved. And so happy.

And part of me... wasn't.  I kept fighting these crazy impulses. Insane urges. I kept hearing this little voice in the back of my head, saying, "You could just go off the birth control now... just let things take their course. You probably wouldn't get pregnant... probably... but it's your last chance... last chance... last chance..."

The night before the vasectomy, we talked about it again. We agreed, if it wasn't for the health risks, we wouldn't do it. We'd have more. We'd both be happy just making babies until we couldn't take it anymore. Our children are so good, and we love them so much, why wouldn't we keep a good thing going? But it just wasn't worth it anymore. It just wasn't worth the risks, if another pregnancy would let the cancer run wild in my body for most of a year. By the end of the pregnancy, it could be anywhere. And it could be too late.

One week ago today, my husband got a vasectomy. It didn't go exactly right. When you've got a few rearranged neurological pathways (thank you brain cancer!) sometimes local anesthesia doesn't work quite right.

My poor, poor husband had a pretty rough vasectomy.

But I took him home and I hugged my children and kissed them. And I cried.

My children have never been replaceable. There is only one SI in the world, only one DD, only one RH. There will never be another. But suddenly they seemed even more so. They are my children, and I will never make another.

These are all I get.

I am still certain I want to adopt. I want more kids. M wants more kids. I've always felt compelled to adopt. Honestly, even without the vasectomy, we probably would have tried to adopt before trying another pregnancy. Honestly, we'd agreed to stop producing babies on our own by the time I was thirty. It was our previous standing arrangement. We haven't really changed much of anything.

But it's still a sad sort of thing, for me. Because I know I would love any child entrusted to my care. And I love the ones I have so much, it feels almost as though all the children I ever wanted were just waiting in the wings, and now... I've ended the show, and they'll never take the stage.

This is the end of my baby making. It's over.  But hopefully, so is the story of my melanoma. But stopping now, what we're truly doing is giving ourselves more time.

This is the right thing for our family, and I'm happy about it. But I am also sad.

It's a bittersweet thing. And now, it's over.


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