Tuesday, February 26, 2013


I think one of a parent's biggest and hardest jobs is comfort: hugs, snuggles, shoulder pats, leg taps, a look from across a school parking lot.

Comfort them. Let them know they can do something scary away from you, but that you are never very far. The hard part is that we, as their parents, don't really know they are going to do it well or be okay.

You'd never know from our face: steeled and familiar, no funny creases or shadows that might alert an observant girl she could be in trouble.

Yesterday I saw a dear friend of mine wear that comfort face for her son. Her son was being wheeled down a corridor for a surgery he had to have so his heart could function properly. It was a huge deal.

I saw my friend's face and while her expression was soft and happy, her skin was blanched. She was ready to pass out.

She didn't though, and neither did her husband. These parents held themselves together for their little boy, the same age as my own, so he wouldn't be scared. So he would not know fear.

Comfort: parents digging as deep as they go to find a way to make the terrifying seem normal and serene.

Every once in a while, I'm awed by the strength of my friends who have been forced to dig deeper, work longer, and bear burdens heavier than anyone should.

My friends' character rises above their circumstance, over and over again, for their children.

This particular friend of mine knows my comfort face by heart. She saw it as she went through chemo, ate crackers with cream cheese, and drank water from a straw with her perfectly round head on a pillow. She saw my skin blanch out a few times herself as we sat together quietly with her dog between us, radiating his own sweet heat. This sister friend of mine is a warrior of epic proportions who has come back from things not many ever do.  Not quite like her.

Her stubborn and fiery spirit is bequeathed to her by her father who took her illness from her (as far as I'm concerned) so she could stay here, with her then newborn baby boy.

The same boy who today is resting, comforted in his mama's arms, with a heart now as strong and steady as hers.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


I might be late to the Emile Sande party but I'm in love with her voice.

Of course I listened to all the videos I could find of her and the grainiest one is my favorite. It took 11 seconds before the goosebumps rippled across my arms like an electric nudge. That might be a record.

This song. This song just rips my heart out or puts it back in and makes me want to play my guitar, tune my piano and keep my 5 Below headphones locked over my ears with her voice in there all day long making me...

...this song.

Just listen and try not to be spiked with goosebumps once you catch those kids looking at her.

Emile Sande sings Clown.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


I fell for it again.

My son's big brown eyes and his sad tale about an achin' belly.  He woke up at four this morning and checked in every 15 minutes to let us know that "Yep, still sick."

Somewhere between home made potato fries with bacon and a chat about Luke "Sky Walkers" he was healed.  There he bounced, healthy as a lanky horse: playing Hi-Li in the kitchen, making plans for our soccer tournament outside, and humming his own original diddy.


While gently celebrating his health, I hinted at taking him to school late.

Saucer eyes.  "Umm, could you please, ummm..." Quivery chin.  "Please just let me..." Sad mouth. "Think about it?"  Voice cracking.

"Yes, you think about it and I will shower up.  Let me know what you come up with."

After the shower, I found him fully dressed in his uniform, hands in pockets searching like mad for some missing thing.

"What are you looking for, Honey?"

"A piece of you, Mommy.  I'm looking for something you use a lot to bring with me to school."

Ka-boom went my heart.

I scanned my room along with him, right on track.  A perfumed business card?  No, too Murder She Wrote.  My Neutrogena lip balm?  No, too Tyra Banks.  A ponytail holder?

"Are these from your necklace, Mommy?" he asked holding two small silver beads in his hands.

"Yes, they are," I answered before wrapping my brain around their correct origin.

He then carefully placed the beads in his tiny silver magnetic angel box and put them in his pocket.  His face moved up and I could almost find a smile.

Abby in her blinged out pink slippers, Grayson in his SpongeBob winter hat, and I in my crispy blow-dried hair drove off to deliver our package to his school....three hours late.

Not until the trip home did it hit me, where I got those beads.

They were from my bathing suit.  Two years ago, we joined Andy on a business trip to Myrtle Beach.  Stupidly naive about caring for two non-swimmers near nothing but bodies of water,  I found myself up sh*t's creek.  For a week, I was trying in vain to entertain the kids for 10 hrs. a day at the beach, in a rickety hotel room, and at the pool.  Without fail, we all wound up in the hot tub by 3pm because I could no longer feel my shoulder blades and mama needed some kind of 2ft. deep refuge. While the three of us soaked in the questionable hotel hot tub water, my tankini spontaneously busted revealing a free (and fairly worthwhile - I was heavier then) peep show all of 30 seconds before Grayson yelled, "Mommy, we can see your bewbies!"

He was right.  All eyes were on my nekkid ladies.

In a panic, I bent over to cover up then decided it mandatory to collect my tankini beads from the bottom of the cess pool.  Only AFTER finding each one (!?!?) I wrapped us all in a towel of shame for the grueling schlep back to our kitchenette  We didn't come back out until the sun went down.

So, in the end, turns out both the brown eyed boy and his mother have been equally suckered.

Should I tell him about the beads or just show up to kindergarten pick-up with rubber gloves and bleach based hand sanitizer?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Not Morning Sickness

I write all of my posts with the knowledge that I'm writing more for me than for anyone else.  That's on purpose.  It keeps me focused and is comfortable for me to live small that way. 

This post, however, is entirely different.  I want people to read this one.  I need people to read this one.  Share it, Retweet it, copy and paste it, whatever you want, but please give it to someone you know might need it because you might be that person's salvation.  If what we do here helps one person realize they are not crazy, weak, or a medical mystery, then we have done a freaking stellar job.  Everybody wins.   
This post is long because it's important I get the details right.  Lives depend on it.   A mother's, a baby's, or both.

Since the news of Kate Middleton's difficult pregnancy broke, I can't stop thinking about her.  Not just because this lovely woman is sick but because I know how she is suffering.  I know because I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum and it was absolute torture.    

~ Not until 6 weeks in with my second pregnancy did I think something was really wrong.  I remembered feeling this awful with Grayson but now, so early on, I could not keep anything down. I was averaging 15 upchucks per morning while my friends talked of throwing up 15 times per pregnancy.  

I asked my OB if she thought this was Hyperemesis Gravidarum, what my mother had while pregnant with my little brother.  I knew about it because of what my mom endured (without proper diagnoses or treatment) and because I researched words like "hyper hormonal," and “more than morning sickness," like it was my job.  It was all I could think about while the nausea amped up and the vomiting responded to nothing, not even the Zofran.

Meanwhile, the numbers on the scale kept ticking down.

Any bite of food or sip of liquid triggered a fight response in my body.  My stomach had its own personal bouncer who ejected all contents out if its club at whatever cost. 

By 8 weeks, the cost was jaundice, debilitating nausea, extreme weakness, fainting spells, and hypersalivation.  I had a spit cup.  A disgusting addition during American Idol night with my friend.  She pretended it didn't gross her out.  I pretended I was able to concentrate on the singing.

"Yep, this is pretty standard extreme morning sickness," my doctor would say, making me feel like a huge crybaby even though I knew that was the last descriptor my friends or family would use to describe me.
I maintained something was wrong for weeks, but doctors advised “Preggo Pops” and seasick wristbands in lieu of further evaluation.   My nurses recommended nail salons.   

I did not demand more.  

Despite growing sicker by the hour, I tried it all:  pedicures, ginger candy, chewing gum, Saltines, seasick wristbandsStanding in line at CVS to pick up the Zofran that didn't work became a nightmare. I could smell everything's toxic insides.  One whiff of L'Oreal and I was hurling into my purse like I hadn't been home from Mardi Gras yet.  Most days I could hardly stand the scent of my own skinMy world was on fire and every surrounding thing burned like hell.  

When nothing alleviated my illness, I tried the unorthodox route:  pressure points, meditation, hypnotherapy, crystals, and praying to a God I wasn't sure existed.  

It was no use, I was a Failed Pregnant Superhero able to spot exit signs in the blink of an eye.  The Caped Uterus, Iron Womb-an, The Incredible Hurlk

My poor husband spent more time outside in the cold cooking his own dinners on the grill. I would watch him eat.  I would study my husband enjoying his dinner trying to figure out how he kept his down, like we were both pregnant.

My sweet friends looked at me sideways, wondering what to say.  I'm sure it appeared I'd morphed into Scarlett O'Hara overnight.  Oh my, how my poor tendah feet need a rest.  I didn't return calls, could not finish books for Book Club, and wouldn't host Silpada parties.  I felt as though I lived under a death cloud of nausea and vomiting at all times.  I was shackled to my bathroom, under house arrest.
At the 12 week mark, when doctors promised my "morning sickness" would magically disappear, things only got worse.  There was no more sleeping through the nausea.  I lost 25 lbs, and had become a disturbing shade of scallion.   Twizzlers and ice cubes were the only two things on the menu.
This didn't feel like a pregnancy.  This felt like a parasitic invasion Not sure how much longer I or the baby could make it in starvation mode, I made one last trip to my doctor. 

“Your bladder's completely empty,” she said pressing her magic wand hard onto my organs. “Your stomach is too.  How long have you been like this?” Her eyebrows as high as they could go. 

“Since the beginning,” I answered. "Like I've been telling you all along," I thought.  Within minutes I was hospitalized, hooked up to IVs and feeling like I landed in a Sandal's resort.  

 A new doctor diagnosed it It was exactly what I had suspected all along.

 Hyperemesis Gravidarum. 

"Is it serious?"  I asked from my imaginary hammock.  

"Yes, it is," said the no-shit new OB. "Hyperemesis Gravidarum is making you very sick.  It is intractable nausea, vomiting, and dehydration which gets you here because of malnutrition or other complications.   

"Other complications?  Is my baby ok?"

"Yes, but I'm glad you're here because if left without treatment, well...HG can result in maternal and fetal death.."

Whoa...I'm glad I'm here too, brother.  This mess is no joke.  
Validating news for me came when I read the pamphlet.  Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a condition so rare it affects 0.5-2.0% of the pregnant population.  It is hormonal poisoning that acts like a 24-hour stomach bug lasting 6,048 hours instead.  A nine month long siege of poisoning.

HA.  I wasn't a crybaby afterall.  And my poor mom hadn’t been a delicate one either.  Quite the opposite, really.  We could both rest on our laurels that we fought this beast off until salvation arrivedLactated ringers for Mom, and a PICC line surgically implanted into my arm for me. 

A visiting nurse walked my husband and me through what to do with my PICC line once, then she drove away.  We sat across from each other, dazed, and unsure of how legal this operation really could beI was a teacher.  He, an Aviation Logistics Officer.  We fumbled at first - with gloves, sterile needles, syringes, and flushing my line with heparin but eventually we felt like two interns on Grey's Anatomy.  Only fewer visits to the broom closet.


My PICC line was three feet long, snaked through a good vein, and rested right above my heart. This tiny tube angel allowed nutrients to directly enter through my bloodstream  


It kept me and my baby alive while correcting the chemical and metabolic damage that had already been done.  My tube angel would stay with me for the rest of the pregnancy so I could go back home to my family.

Many women with HG can't go home.  Once diagnosed, they remain in their hospital bed, attached to tubes, and illness for months on end.



We named my IV pole Ghostrider as it followed us everywhere.  Our two-year-old became an expert at lifting tubing over his head for story time.  Our kitchen looked like a hospital triage but felt like hope.  Once nutrients and fluids came through a bag, I became less frantic about the nausea.  Food was still largely a non-option but over the next five months, life began to pick up speed...and weight.

At 8 months pregnant, I finally discovered I could eat a burrito and keep it down.

So I ate them all.

25 pounds of them.

Just when I was really getting my feed bag strapped on for good, the big day arrived.  Our baby was ready to show up with gusto. 

Abigail Kate entered the scene a fast and furious three hours after my first contraction.  The nurse placed her in my arms and I was met with a penetrating gaze that drove chills to my heart.

Her little determined face and those serious eyes...how could I have not known?  All those months of nose holding, IV pole dragging, pregnancy hating, HG cursing...Abby Kate was working just as hard from the inside to stay as I was working on the outside to keep her.  We were anything but fragile.

“Thank you," I whisper to her,  "Thank you for being a warrior.  Just like your mama and your grandma.  I'm so proud of you, Baby Girl.  Now you go rest while Mommy gets a tubal."

Post Note:
Please refer anyone possibly suffering from the misnomer "extreme morning sickness" to this website:
Help HER - Hyperemesis Education Research

And if you think I might have been stretching the truth, please read this woman's account of her experience with HG.  or ask my husband. 

Hyperemesis Gravidarum:  Is NOT morning sickness.  It is intractable nausea, vomiting, and dehydration resulting in malnutrition and serious complications and imbalances.     Hyperemesis Gravidarum can result in maternal and fetal death..

The literature existing now is very clear.  Hyperemesis Gravidarum is very serious and often misdiagnosed as severe morning sickness.  If ignored, HG often results in depression or termination of fetus, as a life saving measure for the mother.  If left untreated, both mother and baby are at risk of losing their lives.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a condition so rare it affects 0.5-2.0% of the pregnant population.  But it does affect.  And 0.5-2.0%...still a person makes   

Hyperemesis Gravidarum takes a toll on your mental state as well as your physical state.  For me, Hyperemesis Gravidarum was letting my two-year-old watch an endless loop of Winnie the Pooh while I quietly pounded my fists on my thighs so he wouldn't hear me sobbing.  (I still can't hear the Pooh theme song without dry heaving.)  HG was being scared, alone, and fighting for two lives.  It was feeling crazy because nobody seems to believe any pregnant woman can be that sick.  They can't understand.  You are their 0.5%.  Comparing HG to morning sickness is like comparing anorexia to a common cold.  One could kill you, the other one just needs Gatorade.

HG is nothing new; it has been around for hundreds of years.  Author, Charlotte Bronte died in 1855 at four months pregnant with complications from Hyperemesis GravidarumHyperemesis Gravidarum is still so obscure it doesn't even show up on Word’s spell check.

While the social media iron is hot on this topic, let's bring this horrendous beast out into the open.  Only then will it lose its power.  Hyperemesis Gravidarum is treatable, often manageable, and survivable if diagnosed in time.  There are tests doctors can do to determine unhealthy hormone levels.  DEMAND them, do NOT worry about looking impolite, sensitive, or weak.  None of that matters when you start to to rapidly deteriorate from dehydration and other imbalances, when it is too late to reverse the negative slide.

Help me educate our friends, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, and children about Hyperemesis Gravidarum before one more mother or one more baby unnecessarily loses their fight.

Friday, February 15, 2013

French Fashionista

On Wednesday morning, I was popping around a new mall district looking for something nice to wear to a function this weekend.

Yes, that is code for I can't show up to this thing in hooded sweatshirts and purple Saucony's.

Only problem was the store hadn't opened yet.

So I scooted myself into a new French bakery and took a side table, near the half wall.  The place was gorgeous and very much how I envision a Parisian bistro to be. 

My server came over and before long, he softened my introvert and we were both genuinely smiling.

"You know, I gained 25 pounds my first month working here," he divulged glancing at my lightly powdered waffle.  "The food here is so good that I didn't even notice I was two sizes bigger.  And I can't have that because I'm a professional drag queen."

Of course you are.  I love you.

I explained how I was getting back on the food wagon and usually didn't really eat carbs but was making an exception because all the Ginger Ale swimming around in my belly needed some bulk.  Because, you know, it's imperative to defend your eating habits to a perfect stranger.

"Girl, you got nothing to worry about, how tall you are," Remona declared, giving me the once over with his eyes.

"Tall girls still put on the weight too, Baby," I responded like I was born in the dirty south.  "Most of mine lands in my hips," I prattled on, giving him all kinds of inappropriate TMI.

"That's ok, nobody minds some gorgeous hips.  Let me see.  Stand up, Girl."

And I did.

"Twirl, Honey.  Show me whatchyou got."

And I did!

"Yeah, Honey.  I do see some thick hips.  But you know how to work it well.  Just keep wearing those solids down the middle with some cover up on the sides.  A nice blazer won't hurt."

Thick hips.  Solid colors.  Cover up on the sides.  I made a What To Wear Because My Drag Queen Server Says So list in my head.  So guess who went shopping for solid colors, cover ups, and a nice blazer right after feeding her thick hips with the most delicious waffle confection ever?

I will show you a picture soon.

Maybe I'll even twirl.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Norovirus 2013

You guys.  I am just now recovering from the violent storm that could only be the Norovirus.  It hit me like a freight train Friday morning.  I was out of commish.  The worst of it lasted two days but the aftershock remains.  Picking up the pieces from tag team parenting (I, from my bed), I made some discoveries along the way. 

Here's what the Norovirus of 2013 brought this year:
  • Dust bunnies
  • Kids bathing in the same tub the dogs had just bathed in (before bleaching).
  • Pheasant stew
  • Sliding doors left wide open, all night long
  • Fruit strip wrappers.  Everywhere.
  • Bagel crumbs.  All over.
  • Caffeine buzz from all the Coke and Sprite
  • Nice numbers on the scale.  For one day.
  • A missed audition
  • A missed buddy's birthday celebration (although I did send Andy)
  • 48 hours of love letters from my worried little girl
  • Little check-in hugs from my not-so-worried little boy
  • Dreams so real it was a disappointment to wake up
  • Andy "making" a ballerina bun with his big man paws
  • Gatorade stains
  • Ad lib dance performances
  • Shahs of Sunset
  • The Night Circus
  • Jewel, Frank Ocean, The Lumineers, and lost dog reunions (??) on YouTube
  • Chutes & Ladders, Go-Spidey, and card games on my bed
  • Baskets of super wrinkly clean laundry
  • Window gazing:  Our red cardinal is the only one who doesn't move much when Sparrow shoots toward the backyard birds like an arrow.  This cardinal hops up on the fence, watches the mayhem of twenty birds panicking and hops down to his breakfast bar once the dust clears.
  • Glorious, healing, bountiful sleep
  • FaceTime visits with my mom
  • Marathon Project Runway viewing
  • Chance to catch Downton Abbey and see what all the buzz is about
  • New love and appreciation for an energetic, healthy, able-bodied partner
  • New love and appreciation for an energetic, healthy, able-bodied me...five days later
I'm back, you guys.  And almost ready to eat real food.

This Norovirus of '13 is a beast.  I sincerely hope it doesn't make its way to your body.  But if it does?  Sprite or Coke for the first 12 hrs, Saltines, water, and serious bed dwelling after that is the only remedy.

I wouldn't recommend the pheasant stew, right away.


Turn on some shows you've been wanting to catch and leave your blinds open for sunbathing and bird watching.  And if you're a Shah's fan?  Let me know if you think Asa's diamond water is worth a sip.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Try as I might to be patient, I am losing my mind waiting for my husband to get orders for our next move...which is to happen in less than five months.

Gah!  The control freak in me is absolutely short circuiting.

Unlike our last move from Pennsylvania, we haven't so much as had one whisper about where we're headed. 

Since we have to be out of this house before the kids' school year ends, I'm beside myself with trying to figure out schools, neighborhoods, husband commute time, etceTargeta.  Which, you know, is impossible without the actual state of residence to build into the equation..  Unless you just research ALL of the possibilities (there are four real possibilities now - two close by and two very much a plane ride) like a moron.

Hi, I'm a moron.

A moron who is trying not to drive her husband into a frenzy..

Our conversations used to go:

Him:  "Hi Honey.  How was your day?"

Me:  "Good, Grayson didn't go to the nurse today and Abby only ate half of....sooooo have you talked to the monitor today?  Do you know where we're headed?"

Him:  "Good, my day was good too, thanks for asking.  Babe, I will tell you when I hear anything.  I haven't heard one word yet.  Nobody has."

Which is true.  Very few of his fellow Marines have gotten orders yet so there are a bazillion families just like mine in limbo land, ready to seduce that monitor man with homemade lasagna, Dunkin Donuts gift cards, or inappropriate shower scrubbing.

Alas, we cannot bother the system even if the system bothers us.  Which is does.  It reallllly reeeaaallly does at this juncture.

To make sure I appear much more patient and understanding than I am, our conversations now go like this:

Him: "Hi Honey.  How was your day?"

Robot Me: "Good.  My day was good.  How was your day?"

Him:  "Ok.  I still have 2million and 4 pages to read on the Navajo..."

[Me boring holes through his soul with my anxious pressing eyes.]

Him:  "...Navajo warriors who were..."

[Me boring holes through his soul with anxious pressing eyes and pursed lips.]

Him:  "...who were...NO.  I did not hear from the monitor today.  What should we make for dinner?"

So even in character of patience, I am impatient and getting more agitated by the day.  Grayson accidentally dropped a heavy box on my ankle the other night and I reamed out the entire room of innocents for "making things so difficult," and "not understanding how hard that weight was."  Little did I know at the time, it wasn't Grayson I was talking to.

I think I was reaming out the Marine Corps.

Me:  "Sorry, Honey.  Tell me about the Navajo warriors again...  This time, I promise to listen."