Friday, May 31, 2013

A Thousand Square Feet

One thousand square feet. That is how much land you are required to have per chicken if you want to begin an urban chicken coop. The minimum is 2 thousand square feet and a thousand per chicken after that. That is quite a bit of land for one little bird. And listening to Ira Flatow discuss those space regulations on NPR's Science Friday program made me feel better about leaving the new spray park in Oakland today. (wait for it...the two points are connected)

Mellon Park is one of our favorite city parks. Right off of Fifth Ave, two seperate play grounds for older and younger babes, completely fenced in, mostly shaded, and kept very clean. A perfectly lovely morning for us is giving Grant a ride to work then stopping at a local coffee shop for second breakfast and walking over to Mellon Park for an hour or two of free range play. Sweaty, happy babes means a quick lunch and naps. And maybe a quiet spell for this Mama who is growing more accustomed to not having much alone time.

Are there any other stay at home Mamas out there who have been caught off guard at how much they think about a little time away from the people they love the most? I used to feel intense guilt about this and now think it is not only normal but a sign of perfect mental health.

Back to the chicken coop and Mellon Park. This week, the only thing missing from our fabulous park made it's debut- the spray park. Right next to the playground, surrounded by a fence and covered by beautiful shady trees, there are now fountains, splash buckets, red noodl-ey things spraying mist... a glorious brand new spray park. And spray parks are this Mama's (who has severe phobias about public pools) fantasy land. Water play with no submersion. Un-potty trained youngsters keeping their business in their diapers. And I keep a watchful eye, but can carry on a conversation with a girlfriend without the constant distraction of how close your child is to the deep end. (to fly my crazy flag a little higher here, we are going on a family vacation to Hawaii next month and I am so excited to swim with Pursy and Knox in the ocean. This is not scary to me. I am also a very strong swimmer thanks to years of swim team and have never had a bad water experience. There is also the whale issue which is it's own special thing...)

Because of the maiden voyage of the spray park, the last two days have been unbelievably crowded. Children everywhere, play groups, preschool field trips, Mamas just like me who are so ready for Summer and nothing says Summer like babes in swim suits. But it was so crowded that we left after an hour the first day and 30 minutes today. It was like those pictures of Venice Beach where the beach umbrellas are literally touching and you wonder how relaxing it is to lay on the sand with a practically naked stranger an arms length away.

So as I was listening to the land space requirements for urban chicken coops, I thought how nice it would be if there were those same standards for spray parks and children. And just for the record, I am not the only Mama who thinks so. A quick Google search of "free range kids" resulted 12 pages of books, websites, blogs, etc. that center around the concept of letting children run free and with lots of space. Also, there is a new style of parenting called Slow Parenting which is a backlash to the now receiving lots of negative press Attachment Parenting. You can learn more about it when you have time to fall down the rabbit hole of the Google machine....

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Short List

I have been emptying the dishwasher for over 4 hours today. The same set of dishes. And it still isn't done. Why does it take me all day to do this simple chore? Because here is the list of activities that both of my children can do by themselves.

1. Napping
2. Watching TV

These are officially the only things that can consume their attention and/or curb their fantastically creative minds long enough for me to do something of semi-lasting value. Like change a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer, sweep the kitchen floor, address and stamp bills, bake a cake, or empty the dishwasher.

Anything that turns my head away from my 3 year old and 18 month old for longer than 9 seconds results in what I can only assume is a desperate plea for my attention. I can come up with no other reason for why Knox would want to grab handfuls of dirt from the front porch planter and transport it to the bathroom floor. Or why Pursy would think that taking the egg shells FROM the garbage and putting them BACK in the egg carton of whole eggs in the fridge is helpful.

Both of these desperate pleas for my attention occurred today.

Thus the dishwasher is half emptied. The rest of the dishes are waiting in the sink, however the bathroom floor is freshly swept and the egg shells are back in the garbage. And right now, they are running around the backyard "doing yard work Mama!" with the sprinkler and two brooms. Grant will be so relieved that he has one less chore to do when he gets home tonight...

More Juicewater good woman!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Who Has It Worse? You or Me

Grant and I had yet another disagreement this morning about who has more God given right to be tired at the end of the day. Of course the main points of the discussion were bigger then that, but the heart of the issue is: Whose Job Is Harder? We value and respect what the other person does with the 14 hours of their work day, but when we are tired or stressed out or dealing with other issues we tend to end up accusing the other person of not being grateful for the career they have.

In my imagination, Grant should be less tired because his work day is easy like Sunday morning. He gets a shower (by himself) EVERY MORNING, has a professional wardrobe to chose his daily attire from, jumps on the bus and has 20 minutes to listen to a podcast or read a book (by himself), gets to his office and spends the next 8-10 hours in an office (by himself) where he is in charge of his day (he schedules his meetings, has conference calls, collaborates with colleagues on research he is interested in, and can help himself to a fully stocked coffee cart any time he wants), he can go to the bathroom (by himself), have a lunch date with a friend, and when he feels like leaving for the day there is no one telling him he cannot. If he chooses to work from home or a coffee shop (by himself), he is free to do that as well. His work day does not end when he leaves the office (hence the aforementioned 14 hour schedule) because when he walks in the door, he has two gorgeous children running to meet him and he must play with them. He does have to make his own gin and tonic because I am usually elbows deep in a nutritious and homemade dinner that will be ready in a few minutes. (I am a little behind because I wanted to freshen up a bit before you came home, honey! Do you like my new lipstick?) The most strenuous part of his day is wrestling with post-bath Knox who loves being nude and resists a diaper with all the strength of his wriggling little body. After the babes are tucked in bed, his work day is officially over. He gets to do so much great stuff and so much of it on his terms and in his time. And by himself. Alone with his thoughts.

If you didn't catch the running theme of my interpretation of his day, it is my envy of all the things he gets to do by himself. I know every Mama jokes about this, but I really cannot remember the last time I went to the bathroom or ate a bowl of cereal without multi-tasking. (Why does Olivia Goes to Venice need to be read at this exact moment? I am going to the bathr.....Oh, just bring it here.)

I'm sure his interpretation of my days would look similar with as much mystical rainbow and puppy dog bliss. And my days are pretty good, no joke. I can go to the Science Center, the Children's Museum, the Library, Highland Park, the Children's Institute, the Carnegie Museums, I can have a second cup of coffee while the babes play in the sprinkler, I can snuggle for hours while we read books or watch Gabba together, we can go for bike rides and walks or play at a different city park every day. We are free to do so much and our days are beautifully unscheduled in these few years before school for them and full time work for me.

But what I can't do is: have a bad day, not do laundry, be too tired to do something, skip a grocery store trip, take a break, pursue a new interest or hobby that would take me away from the babes or cost money we don't have, ever lose control of my emotions, or miss opportunities to teach Pursy and Knox something about life. I can't DO those things. Or I have to recognize that taking a few minutes to do something for myself usually comes at a price. Blow drying my hair in the morning is all the10 minutes that Pursy needs to empty the drawers in her dresser and jump in them like a leaf pile. Writing an email while both babes are awake is 3 minutes in which they have no one telling them not to use their markers on the hardwood floor. As a Mama, I have to be ON at all times. Because someone is always watching me. And if the conversation I overheard between Pursy and her baby doll "Blue Baby" yesterday is any indication, someone is always listening as well. And imitating. (if you have read my blog before you know I don't have any false ideas about being perfect so I won't quality these statements with my philosophy on grace and forgiveness- giving and receiving it)

But what he can't do is: not go to work or not work in particular jobs that would not provide for our family. Not have enough energy reserved after a day at work to play hard with Pursy and Knox. Not be constantly thinking about the direction our family is going in, where we will go to church, how we fit into our community, if our priorities are in order for our little family to flourish. He can't sleep in or work late without sacrificing something on the other end of the day. He doesn't get to see first hand most of the super cool milestones of the babes growing up (although I was at work for BOTH of their first steps, so he got to witness that biggie) He can't neglect me and our relationship, which means planning date nights and making sure there are enough hours where just the two of us are together. He can't NOT do those things.

So at the end of the day, he is exhausted from all the things he has to do while no one is watching and I am worn out from all the things I have to do while the two most important little people in my life are watching. No wonder both of us are so tired. A good tired- the best kind of tired. But tired nonetheless. And I'm sorry, honey, for yelling at you this morning because you didn't have the mental energy to take care of yourself holistically after working until midnight. I am a jerk and sent you off to work without a kiss. Or lunch, I think. This season of life is tough, but we are doing alright.

(Just admit that my life is a little harder than yours and I will be content. I mean...that was a joke, just kidding... I love you...)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

On Which We Reclaim Our Bedroom

I think it is natural for the parental bedroom to become a second family room. Since both babes wake up before we are ready to get out of bed, usually all four of us start our day together in our (!!) Full sized bed. It is quite cozy, but Grant and I have ruined two sets of mattresses by our habit of sleeping curled up together so we aren't surprised that P and K are fond of close quarters. We actually started our married life on a twin mattress that VERY unbeknownst to me was Grants from college. That he found in his apartment when he moved in. It has been almost 10 years so the horror isn't quite as close to my heart. But a mattress set was my first big purchase of our married life that I made without consulting him. It would not have mattered if he would have said no. What happens in college should definitely stay in college.

But that is a different story. Before we had children, we were firm believers in the "your bed/our bed" philosophy of family sleeping arrangements. But as babes are wont to do, our children taught us that there are seasons of infant and toddlerhood where they just need to be close. And we could have stuck to our original plan but with two babes 18 months apart there were times when we just chose sleep over the 74th trip down the hallway to put a sleeping Pursy back in her own bed. Or chose to sleep together in our bed with a Knox in the middle rather than one of us going to the guest room to rock him back to sleep. And we might have been right or we may have been wrong, but it doesn't matter now and our babes seem very well adjusted and independent. Our marriage and sex life survived that season as well, despite the warnings that letting children into your bed is equivalent to a cold shower. I love the wisdom that comes from age and experience. Thinking of myself four years ago clearing out the shelf at Barnes and Noble with every book on parenting I could find, convinced that there was one RIGHT way to do this gig... oh, silly girl. But again, that is a different story.

Coming into our bed in the morning is only the start of their slow and probably not hostile take over of our bedroom. Goodnight Moon, The Carrot Seed, Stellaluna, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, My First Dinosaur Book, Brown Bear...all these pillars of children's literature and favorite bed time stories have worked their way in to the stack of books on our bedside tables. Sippy cups from midnight drinks of water fall under the bed. Plastic bracelets and headbands and glasses with mustaches attached from spontaneous dress up parties get stuffed in to our dresser drawers. Paper overnight diapers drop beside the toilet while the first poop of the day goes down in our bathroom. Usually announced by a proud Pursy who has developed a very weird habit of combining academics with bodily functions. "Mama, look! My poop made an R! Come see!" And every few weeks, we do a purge of everything child that has migrated to our bedroom. And we look around our now adult bedroom and think that it looks really good. Until the next parade of kid stuff comes in, and we decide to just close the door until it's time to go to bed.

A few weeks ago, I was reading one of my favorite blogs Sometimes Sweet and she posted a link to a really cool woodworking artist. (The author, Danielle, does this recurring post on Fridays called Weekend Links where she puts up links to everything beautiful or interesting she discovered that week- these posts are one of my favorite things about Fridays. Her style is fantastic and I love finding a concentration of lovely things in one place that I didn't have to spend my time searching around for. I bought this cute piece of art for friends of ours getting ready to have twins. Sorry for the spoiler, Anna! But now you can look forward to getting it once I get it framed and ready for you.) The piece of art she linked to was a beautiful wood ampersand that was displayed in a bedroom. I loved the subtle intimacy and the gorgeous wood symbol, but not the price. Then I was browsing through the Clearance shelf at Target and found a pretty piece of art with the same ampersand on a square piece of linen. Same idea, definitely not as cool, but at a price I could be okay with making a spontaneous purchase.

The art has been leaning against the wall in our bedroom for almost a month, waiting for a place to hang. The way our bedroom was arranged, there was no good place for it to find a home. We hadn't really put much thought into our bedroom when we moved in because it seemed like there was only one way for the furniture to be laid out, but we inherited a fantastic high back chair when Grant's great aunt passed away and our vision was always a sitting area somewhere in our bedroom. As these things go, the chair was shoved into an empty corner and was my nursing chair for a few months and then just another flat surface for clean clothes. It was hard to get motivated to rearrange things when moving the bed meant dealing with the dead bodies hiding under there feeding on stale cheerios and the other half of pairs of baby socks with trains on them.

This weekend was my chance. In order to cover up some nail holes that had been punched in the wall by my inability to find the level while hanging pictures, I decided to make an accent wall. There is a small piece of wall in between two windows where it looks like the chimney used to run up the back of the house, and they drywalled over it. Easy to tape off, easy to paint, and a perfect place to hang my ampersand. THEN I decided we needed more than just some paint- we needed to rearrange the room. It is a bedroom, why shouldn't the bed be the central focus? I am also obsessed with minimalism right now, and have been going on rampant purgings of different areas of our home that I feel are being overrun with THINGS. This makes Grant nervous, and if it takes him longer than 5 seconds to find his shoes, he accuses me of throwing them out. I tell him he needs to start putting things away and out of sight or it is a distinct possibility.

Here is the result. A new bedroom, all because of a $15 piece of art from Target. And today will probably be the only day where there are no sippy cups under the bed.

Our Wedding Photo and the Ampersand

Our Cozy Reading Area. Japanese art, courtesy of my brother Daniel. Chair with tolerable slip cover, courtesy of Aunt Jean. Mirror, mirror on the wall, a $6 Goodwill find.

This large empty wall makes my minimalistic heart leap for joy.

My stack of bedside reading material. No children's literature but pretty mono-themed. We are in a Anglican Order that includes reading and study in the tradition of monastic rhythms of life. Am reading quite a bit of theology and community focused literature right now. Not sure where Rob Bell fits in, but am going to find out.

Grant's bedside reading material, which puts my little pile to shame. It is not an abnormal thing for me to look over and find him leafing through Louis Berkhof's Systematic Theology (large purple book on the bottom right) to clarify a point from another theology text he is reading. Am I alone thinking that is really sexy??

Monday, May 27, 2013

This Guy

I feel like I got pretty lucky in the husband department. Grant is a good friend, a fantastic partner and really, really loving. But I didn't know when I married him that he was going to be a marvelous Dad. He loves Purslane and Knox with a devotion that is often very inconvenient for him. His new job keeps him working most evenings, but with very few exceptions he can be found here for a few sweet minutes. He read Goodnight Moon to Pursy every night from the time she was a few weeks old. It is a book he remembers from his childhood, but he is determined not to make the Old Woman in the rocking chair as creepy as his Mom did. Not sure how my mother in law accomplished that, but both Grant and his sister LeeAnn have negative feelings about this book in regards to the hush-whispering lady rabbit. So funny. So far, no phobias but lots of  'Gain! 'Gain! from Knox-man. And Pursy enjoys "reading" Moon to her boys as well.

Yesterday after church I was desperate for a bike ride and run, so took off while the babes were napping and Grant was picking up the house. (I know, right? He is a really good friend) When I came home I found this on the couch. I have never been happier to find another woman in my husband's arms.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

It Can't Get Worse

Every time I think that humankind cannot sink any lower and treat each other with any less kindness, a soldier gets brutally hacked to death on a public street. And as I watch one of the attackers give a passionate cry for attention on a bystanders iPhone, cleaver still clutched in his bloody hands, I realize it just got worse.

I heard his rationale. Women in his country are being killed by white soldiers. He demands attention. He wants things to change. He is so desperate for the world to notice that he choose to take a life in order for us to turn our heads and look. It worked. We are looking.

And the one person with enough courage to make sure the victim count stayed at one, was a middle age woman whom CBS news made sure to identify as a Mother. This woman walked directly up to one of the men and asked him what she could do to make him put down his knife.

That woman is being lauded as a hero, and so she should be. She deserves that title and much more for her courage. And for restoring my faith in humankind just a little bit.

Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Springtime in Pittsburgh

The change in weather did everything to improve my grumpy, winter is lingering too long, why is our house so small, have our children always been this irritating, if I have to wear this fleece one more time, stop leaving your underwear on the bathroom floor or I will divorce you, shitty old mood.

But now it is SPRING!!! The sun is shining, the windows are open, babes running free in the backyard, something on the grill every night for dinner, and porch drinks with my honey after babes in bed. I didn't realize how much my attitude about life is dictated by the weather, but I apologize to anyone who lost a little faith in humankind during a conversation with me over the winter...

Pursy's first letter!!!!

One of the coolest thing about being the Mom of a 3 year old is the fireworks display of new stuff they master every day. One minute Pursy is trying to figure out how to keep her thumb AND index finger up to make a "2" with her hand and the next thing I know, she is writing letters. I didn't know she was working on that skill- it just showed up. We decided to wait until she is four to put her in pre-school and even though I am very comfortable with our decision, I have wondered if I am keeping her from learning super cool stuff around other kids her age. Then I watch her casually write a letter with markers during a Thank You card drawing session at our kitchen table and realize that she will be just fine. And I get one more year with both Pursy and Knox at home, free to visit the Children's Museum, the Zoo, the Science Center, the city parks, etc. I feel lucky to have the flexibility in my job to work whenever and however I want, and want to take advantage of the short time I have to be home with them so much. Even though I'm sure there will be days when Erin or Mari or Betsy are grocery shopping alone because their babes are in pre-school that I will feel a twinge of jealous regret. :) Oh well, the employees at Trader Joes seem nonplussed by the chaos I introduce to their lovely store an hour a week.

Me taking a picture of Allie taking a picture of Ian petting the goats.
The Children's Festival last year took up about 27 minutes of our life, 20 of them was sitting on the grass eating a Rita's. Pursy was just old enough to want to run away from us as often as possible, and Knox was small enough that he just slept or cried. It was hot, too crowded, and Pursy didn't get to ride the animal she wanted on the carousal. It was not great. This year, we came two days in a row and stayed for hours. Everything was the perfect size for both of them and it's all free! Except for the Waffalonia waffles with strawberries and whipped cream we had for lunch... but some things are just worth the price. We hung out with our buddies Allie and Ian, and the babes ran and ran and ran...passed out in the car on the way home and took epic naps.

This kid loves animals. (please, someone get my joke)

This is what Pursy looks like when I ask her to smile when zebras and camels are around.
 Ladyfriend is not a fan of petting zoos.
I also learned that Pursy has not gotten over her strange and intense fear of petting zoos. She isn't a big fan of animals anyway, but exotic animals really wig her out. Ian on the other hand, was running free range with the baby goats and lambs. Pursy spider monkied her way up my leg and stayed perched on my hip until we got far enough away from the zebra that there was no way he could jump the fence and...what? Not even sure what they are capable of. It is a mysterious phobia, especially because she walked right up to the huge brachiosaurus in front of the Museum of Natural History and chatted her up about looking out for the T-Rex (she is very nervous about "Sharp tooth" after seeing Land Before Time).

Tent where noisy things are hanging for kids
to bang on them with wooden spoons.

Tiny hipsters.

More Banging
Air Banging

Knox is working on feeding himself. He does not want any help and seems okay to make a complete mess of his face and clothes, something that will always amaze me about kids. Their capacity to tolerate sticky and wet and just gross sensations when it comes to food. Knox loves to get food substances on his hands and rub them through his hair, usually leaving him looking like David Bowie in Labyrinth after a meal.

Blowing on a hot bite
Direct Hit

Do I have something on my face?

Good to the last drop

Is this a natural smile Mama??

"Pursy, everything you do is SO COOL!"
I have a very irrational and very paralyzing fear of public pools. It started with a picture in my 4th grade science textbook of a humpback whale jumping in an indoor pool, gray hazy water and all very shadowy and mysterious. I remember having dreams when I was little of BIG things. Random big things, one of the most reoccurring was of a ball of yarn chasing me down a hill, but I have always been very tender about really large things. I'm not sure what that phobia is and every time I talk about it public Grant makes an off color joke about his man parts. So I don't talk about my whale phobia or my fear of big things in public anymore. I even tried to find the picture of the jumping whale of death last summer when I confessed to my in-laws the true reason why I hate swimming pools and couldn't find it on the internet anywhere. If anyone else used the same science book in elementary school and remembers the whale picture (it was on the bottom right corner of the page) please get my back on this one. It was scary.

Oh. My. Goodness.
Of course I would never throw out that t-shirt baby,
 it still has YEARS of wear left in it...

Pure Bliss

All that to say, I don't take my kids to swimming pools. I don't deprive them of water play- I am the cool Mama that lets them get SOAKED at the water tables on the third floor of the Children's Museum, we frequent the Water Steps, sundry spray parks around the city, and have a killer sprinkler in our backyard. They just don't get submerged in any body of water in which I can't see the bottom. Yes, in case of whales.

The garden also got did. My honey laid out four raised beds for my garden artistry and I now have a very lovely herb bed, a tomato and marigold bed, a viney vegetable bed (cucs, zucchini and squash) and a everything else we like vegetable bed (peppers, peas, kale). I also planted flowers in all my stone pots and in summary created an urban oasis.

Marigold pre- overnight rabbit beheading

Red Bell Pepper

Portulaca (Purslane)

Post Radio Flyer car crash off the back steps
Love these guys. And they are going to be our neighbors!!
My lovely friend Caryn (photog for our most recent photo shoot) and her fiancĂ© Chris came over for dinner last evening. She graciously suggested a barter of cooking lessons for the photographs, and I definitely got the best part of that deal. We whipped up a few yummy dishes in our kitchen while the boys took the babes to the park, then we all sat around a few bottles of wine and ate our delicious food. These two are going to be married in a few months and rehabbing a fantastic house right around the corner from us. Pursy has a huge crush on Mr Chris and I think keeps a close eye on Caryn... we will break the news to Pursy when she is older.

Caryn ignoring Chris mouth-breathing.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mothers Day

My man did good.

Nothing sexier than a man in the kitchen making dinner for his lady.

Bubble Bug


 Two Happy Mamas. A few weeks until sweet baby boy #2!!

Pursy picked them out herself

Making sure they were what she had in mind...

Saturday, May 11, 2013


Six months ago I left my beloved cardiac unit at Presbyterian Hospital and went to work in the resource pool at Shadyside. In nurse speak, that means I went from knowing quite a lot about one specialty to knowing a little about a lot of specialties. In one week I could be a neurology nurse, an orthopedics nurse, a cardiothoracic nurse, a general family medicine nurse, a pulmonary nurse, or an oncology nurse. It was intimidating at first, but I have come to appreciate the mystery of not knowing which unit I will be working on when I walk through the hospital doors. After walking across the street to get a coffee. I am a huge fan of imagining what theme song is playing as I do certain things, and the cliche image of a nurse clad in blue scrubs with a stethescope around my neck and coffee in hand crossing a street while cars stop in both directions to let me pass is just perfect for the Low Anthem. The Skylines on Fire, usually, as I air drum in my head. Part of loving what I do is my intense pride that I am part of a group that research shows is the second most trusted profession, right behind firefighters.

I am a great cardiac nurse. I have been known to grab the plastic anatomical heart model and show patients the blood flow and how their dilated ventricle affects the afterload. Or where their prolapsed mitral valve is located. Or stick my stethescope in the hands of a new nursing student and watch his face as he hears the loudest heart murmur EVER. I get real nerdy about it because I love it so much. The heart is amazing and even when it is damaged, it strives for hemodynamic stability. I will end up back in cardiology some day but right now this job offers the kind of flexibility our family needs in order for me to stay home with Purslane and Knox while they are babes.

The most difficult floor by far has been oncology. Not only is it highly specialized and oncology doctors are crazy particular about their orders being followed to the letter, cancer patients are very sick and need the best kind of holistic care. It isn't just making sure their meds are on time and correct and effective. These are people who were healthy and strong and living life just fine thank you very much and cancer showed up one day and knocked everything on its head. Shadyside Hospital has a state of the art cancer center attached to it, so the patients on our oncology floors are often relatively young, newly diagnosed. Mothers with young children. Small business owners who just started really getting going. International grad students at Pitt who don't speak much English, except in their field of academic study. Grandparents and teachers and artists and convicts. All walking around with a diagnosis on their chart and in their heads.

Not much reminds me that the world is broken like cancer. The randomness, the all consuming fight for remission, the central lines and the mouth ulcers and the radiation neuropathies. The teams of doctors and nurses coming through your hospital room door talking about options for treatment as if they were reading you the breakfast menu. It is part of our workday. For you, the patient, it is your life being summed up in language you don't understand yet. One of the older oncology nurses I work with has a button on her badge that says "Cancer Sucks". When I first saw it, I was a little shocked at the cavalier, almost sarcastic phrase. Now when I see the red words, I understand that it is as simple and direct as it gets. Cancer does suck.

I struggle with cancer patients because unlike most other patients I take care of, the results of their treatments are invisible until the day another scan is done. Or blood work is resulted. Or symptoms resolve or unfortunately, get worse. I can't offer them what is "probably" happening or even what I "expect" will happen. Every body reacts to chemotherapy differently. So as a result, much of their inpatient time is sitting around and waiting. Receiving chemo or radiation. Treating secondary problems that arose from the cancer or radiation. And because I know so little about oncology, I can't give them much in the way of experienced information. These patients need everything I have to offer as much as I can possibly offer it. They have questions, want reassurance, need to talk, have a story.

And I, as a 33 year old nurse who is only assigned to them for 8 short hours, feel amazingly ill equipped. I know what happens with heart disease. I used to joke with Grant that I would take a heart attack over a broken arm any day. But cancer is...cancer. And it sucks. But oncology nurses are AMAZING. They have special skills that allow them to give and give and come back the next day ready to fight cancer alongside their patients. I was having a particularly hard shift a few weeks ago and was in the med room fighting back tears. I just felt EMPTY. I had given everything I had and no longer felt cheerful or optimistic or caring or therapeutic. Cancer kicked the shit out of me. I was angry at God and the universe.

And in walked this sweet young nurse named Jackie. She saw me leaning against the med fridge obviously not doing a whole lot of anything and said "You alright?". That's all it took. I let the filter come down and told her and the rows of IL2 sitting on the counter exactly how I felt. She listened for a minute and then said "The way I think about it, is that when I leave here I still won't have cancer. I can go home and have a drink, make dinner, go for a run, watch a movie- whatever I want. I can make whatever decisions I want without thinking about drug side effects or whether something will mess with my treatment course or if my body is even strong enough to handle it. So I guess for a few hours the best way I can take care of these people that don't have that option...

I can give them everything I have."

I have not walked onto the oncology unit the same way since that short, life changing conversation in the med room. When I see my assignment and realize that I am on 7W, I go get a coffee (or a bigger one), check my hair in the bathroom mirror, make sure I have a Burts Bees in my pocket, and then forget about myself for the next 8 hours. That sweet Jackie gave me permission to give totally of myself- to the point of exhaustion and complete emptying. I often come home after a shift on the oncology unit so tired that I just fall into bed with Grant without a word.

I am so lucky to be a nurse.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Choose Your Own Adventure

I have been editing this blog post for two days now. The problem is, there are three different directions I could take the opening paragraphs. So I decided to write all three of them and you can choose whichever one resonates with you. I blog to please.

If you spend any amount of time with us, you will likely hear one of the following three things:

1. "Mommy, a diver is gonna take me!! Can you save me from the diver?"
2. "T REX!!! Mommy, hold me before the T Rex comes!"
3. "That bear is so angry, because he has red eyes. Will you save me from that angry bear?"

Choice 1 My children have the typical childhood fears. Dinosaurs, divers and bears. They are also not big fans of blimps, poachers, boa constrictors and french speaking cats. This is because my children watch movies. Mostly Disney cartoons but we recently ventured into the world of 1960's classics like Swiss Family Robinson (hence the boa constrictor fear). I like movies and I like that my children like them. I actually think they are great tools for teaching patience, interaction with different ideas and exposure to marvelous character traits. Have you ever REALLY watched a Disney movie with your babes and noticed how much good stuff there is to talk about?

For better or worse, Pursy put together that Nemo disobeyed his father and a diver took him away. I debated how much to encourage that extreme idea, but she isn't wrong in her assessment. That's what happened and she knows it wasn't cool. She taught herself that bad things can happen if she doesn't listen and that Mama and Daddy's job is to keep her safe. She also learned that Daddies will fight sharks to find their babies, just like Marlin did. This is good stuff. Media is a great parenting tool if you are willing to engage with your babes. I am very pro-television and very anti-guilt about the fact that I am pro-television.

Choice 2 I also like that when watching movies both babes come running to me when scary things come. I dive onto the couch and they pile on top of me while the T Rex chases Littlefoot and Sarah across the cartoon Jurassic landscape. They don't cover their eyes or hide in the other room. They come get me and I protect them. When I am with them, they aren't afraid of the bear with the red eyes or the big blimp on UP. In their mind, Mama is stronger then a tiger or a snake and is certainly unafraid of the diver with the yellow mask and flippers.

I know this won't last forever. They will lose their fear of cartoon animals and recognize that things on the TV screen can't hurt them. But right now, I am their champion. Their safe place. It is also fantastic to go down the rabbit hole of imaginative play where Pursy and I very seriously discuss whether a karate kick would be better than a water balloon if we came across a tiger. She has thoughts about this and "logic" to back it up.

Choice 3 As a parent who is deeply committed to culture and actually wants my children to experience and wrestle with the world around them, my job is terrifying some days. It would be much easier to form my own Swiss Family Robinson on some deserted island and control every outside influence. I could get rid of the television or just continue to let Pursy believe that Yo Gabba Gabba is the only show that exists. (we don't have cable and Gabba is on Netflix) Right now the lessons she is learning have been good- I can't count the number of times Toodee has been referenced during our talks about why we should always tell the truth. And Muno wasn't careful when he was throwing things and hit Plex on the head with a snowball (a bigger deal then it sounds...Plex is a robot and didn't deal well with snow) I don't count on DJ Lance Rock to teach my children all they need to know about morality, but when teaching complex ideas like honesty and sensitivity to a three year old, I will take all the assistance I can.

But I think I often underestimate the lessons we are teaching Pursy and Knox just by the way we live. We are comfortable with the reality that we screw up on a regular basis (we often joke that if anyone ever called us the Perfect Family we would know we were doing something wrong..) but Grant and I have discussed at length what it means to have a family worldview that governs all the decisions we make. From how we eat, to where we play (Grant refuses to cross bridges out of the city to go to a park), to how we speak to each other, to where we go to church, to family dinners, to regular date nights without the babes, to how often I work, etc. We decided before Pursy and Knox ever came along what was important to us as a family. That has evolved over the years but the basic tenets are the same. We love God, we love each other and we love the world around us.

Every once in a while, we get a small glimpse of how we are doing as parents. A tiny report card, as it were. About a week ago Pursy began praying this prayer before every meal.

"Oh gracious God, help us keep us safe. Thank you for this um...breakfast (or whatever meal we are sitting in front of). Thank you for Mommy and Daddy and Pursy and Knox. Thank you for the world and everyone in the world. Amen."

The grace of God is bigger than all our parenting mistakes. Our children are learning what we want so much to teach them. God is important. Family is important. The world and the people in the world are important. Enough to thank God for three times a day.

Oh, that face.

Pursy' New Bike

The "Perfect" Family