Wednesday, February 28, 2007

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming...

OK, no bashing me on spelling this time. I'm typing this directly into Blogger, which doesn't have spell check, and I'm too lazy to dig out the dictionary for words of which I'm unsure. So if I "party" for "partly" or "rejuvanate" for "rejuvenate", you guys are just going to have to forgive me.

No big entry tonight with continuing details about our reproductive life. It's late, I'm tired, and I didn't feel like rambling on about my lethargic ovaries this evening. Instead, I drove two hours south to have dinner with one of my BFF, Louis. (Is it ok to say "BFF" when you're talking about a guy, or is that a little lame and girly?) Louis and I have been friends since we were eleven .... since that fateful, pre-destined day in the sixth grade when he first transfered to our school, and was the shy, skinny new kid with glasses, and being the obnoxious tattletale concerned classmate I was, I let him know that Ryan Helms and Roby Mason were planning to beat the crap out of him at recess.

So pretty much, for the past thirty years, Louis has owed me his life. Which I remind him of every time I see him. However, since we live nine hundred and fifty miles apart, it doesn't happen often enough. He was in Florida on business this week, so he drove two hours up and I drove two hours down just so we could meet in the middle for dinner. AND, he offered to share his dessert with me. Is that a BFF, or what?

Normally I let him pay back his eternal debt and gratitude for saving his sixth-grade hide by letting him buy drinks, but not tonight. PartLy because I donated blood today and the technician told me no alcohol for 48 hours, and partLy because last I heard, the highway patrol frowns upon drinking and driving. And rumor has it that you can't get Diet Dr. Pepper in jail, so there is no WAY I'm going there!

So instead, I'll post and ask for positive thoughts for Blaine and me tomorrow. I think, finally, at long last, the shit has hit the fan and Blaine has reached his limit.

Remember the shoulder thing? The mass in his shoulder, and the fact that ever since his surgery in Seattle, he hasn't been able to raise his arm? And how his PCM (primary care manager) had no idea, so ordered a ultrasound, cat scan, and MRI, all of which were inconclusive? So he authorized a referral to a surgeon, who Blaine saw two weeks ago. (I'm not even sure if I posted about this part .... I was too busy getting started with the never-ending post about my fertility-drug-induced hot flashes and mood swings) Anyway, the surgeon took one look at the mass in his shoulder, said, "Yes, that's indeed bizarre. I have no idea. But, I'm not the person you should see. I'm a *general* surgeon. I think you need to see an *orthopedic* surgeon. Thank you. Good day."

So we waited two weeks for ANOTHER referral to an orthopedic surgeon, who Blaine saw today. He looked at Blaine's cat scan and MRI results, examined his shoulder, and said, "Yes, that's indeed bizarre. I have no idea. And SINCE I have no idea, we are going to go on the assumption that your head and neck cancer has mestastisized and you now have lung cancer. The bottom of your shoulder is technically the top of your lungs. I want you to have a bone scan and get pictures of your lungs immediately. Thank you. Good day." And Blaine was left standing there, thinking, "What? Did that guy just say lung cancer???? Is he freaking kidding me???"

Now, I'm sure this doctor is a go-to orthopedic surgeon, and if I ever have tennis elbow, or a nice, juicy ACL tear that needs repairing, he'll be the one I call. But it bothers me that he sort of, psuedo, unoffically diagnosed Blaine with lung cancer considering ..... a) he is not an oncologist, b) he is not a lung doctor, c) they haven't done any tests yet, and d) well, for goodness sake, even if we don't believe it to be true doesn't mean we want to hear those words said out loud!

And this was pretty much the point today where Blaine said: "I. HAVE. HAD. IT."

Currently, he has nine different doctors, treating him for all different things. His pain management specialist, his oral surgeon, his head and neck surgeon, his oncologist, his psychologist, the new pain psychologist they are sending him to, his prosthodontist, this new, orthopedic surgeon /slash/oncologist /slash/lung doctor, plus his primary care manager who is supposed to be coordinating all this. His orthopedic surgeon wants these tests done asap; he has an appointment in Seattle on Monday to meet with his head and neck surgeon to see how the surgical sites (head and arm) are healing from his surgery last Nov, and he's slated to meet with his oncologist (also in Seattle) to get another MRI done to make sure his head and sinus area is still cancer-free. He has an appointment on Thursday at Fort Gordon to meet with his oral surgeon to see how the posts and implants they just put in are healing . Blaine's excited to work with the prosthodontist because that means he'll be on his way to having teeth again. Oh, and did I mention that they're sending him for sleep study next week because he's still only sleeping a few hours each night due to pain? Cue pain psychologist.

So I think the lung cancer comment today was the final straw and Blaine decided he was tired of having thirty-seven chefs in the kitchen. Only they're in kitchens all over the country. And none of them know what the others are doing. And they just keep throwing shit in the pot and stirring. (I know, that's a lousy analogy, but its after midnight and I'm sleepy.) So he called his PCM and apparently left a very nasty voice mail for the nurse .... which, if you know Blaine, know how extremely out of character that is for him. But it must have had the desired effect, because they called back and said he has an appointment tomorrow morning at nine "to discuss things."

There's a phrase used in the military .... cluster-fuck: Definition as follows: "Miltary term for a situation caused by too many inept officers, cluster referring to the insignia worn by Majors and LT. Colonels, oak leaf clusters. 'The planning for this operation was a complete cluster fuck.' "

Not very polite, but to the point. Blaine's medical care has turned into a cluster-fuck. I truly believe he has nine competent, caring doctors (in fact, a few of them are practically saints, as far as we are concerned and we do believe we owe one or two of them Blaine's life) but we are sick and tired of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. It's time for somebody to put a stop to the cluster fuck and get this mess straightened out.

Hopefully we'll be doing that at 9am tomorrow. Wish us luck.

PS. If you really, really, badly want to tie this into the previous infertility entries, I'm pretty sure there's a joke to be made somewhere about the shoulder mass being nothing more than wear and tear on an over-developed rotator cuff from all the "deposits" Blaine had to make all those years. But I'm too lazy to find the joke.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Giving Up. But Not Really.

(You guys crack me up with how many of you are just as uptight about the spelling as I am. Of course, no-one is going to believe that I take my spelling very, very seriously, when I continue to have as many typos in these posts! Viola? What the heck?? I didn’t catch it, and my spell-check didn’t catch it, since technically, it is a correctly-spelled word. Just not the one I wanted. Thanks for keeping me honest!

Thanks, also, for humoring me through these gargantuan length entries lately. I feel like I’ve been going on for days and days, and well, technically I guess I have. Believe it or not, I’m keeping each journal entry as short as possible. It’s just difficult for someone as long-winded as me to condense years and years' worth of fertility and adoption struggles into a few paragraphs. But I promise … the end is in sight!)

OK, we started trying to get pregnant in spring of 1991. We applied to the adoption agency in February of 1994. My nephew was born the day after our first IVF attempt failed, in November of 1995. So, by my calculations (which good Lord, let’s hope they’re more accurate than my spelling!) we’d been trying for four and a half years. Although putting all our eggs in one basket (excuse the pun) with IVF hadn’t proved successful, we figured we owed it to ourselves to try again, if there was any way possible.

That’s the thing about fertility treatments. Just like “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, that journey ENDS with a single step as well. One successful step, and you’ll have placed yourself right across the finish line. And despite getting negative pregnancy tests month after month, year after year, you want so much to believe that if you give it just ONE MORE TRY, it will work. I mean, what if fate decreed that the **next** fertility treatment is the one that would have worked, and you had quit? How can you just give up, when the next one could very well be the one that was meant to be successful? You don’t want to spend the rest of your life regretting that you gave up too early, and always wondering "what if?". I’ve never been addicted to alcohol or drugs, so I’m not sure that’s a good comparison, but like an addict, I found myself scrambling for ways to justify another procedure. Just one, just one, that’s all we’ll need. And really, who were we hurting? It’s not like anyone was suffering due to our obsession with getting a baby.

Well, yes, our savings account had been wiped out several times. I mean, we started this process when we were in our mid-twenties, so it's not like our life savings was that big to begin with. My faith in the system was shaken. I no longer believed in the concept of fairness. My self-esteem had taken quite a beating. And sure, if you want to get technical, my outlook on life had deteriorated to the point I was a soul-sucking miserable hag who couldn’t find happiness in anything, and whenever friends and family saw me, they ran shrieking the other direction for fear I would release my wrath upon them …. But whatever! Let’s just keep trying! Because we’re not hurting anybody!

So we scraped every spare penny we had ---AGAIN --- and tried for a second time three months later. This time, we went with ZIFT: Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer. ZIFT is an assisted reproductive procedure similar to in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer with the difference being that the fertilized embryos are transferred into the fallopian tube instead of the uterus. So basically, I was stimulated and monitored just the same …. And the eggs were harvested just the same …. And Blaine did his part just the same ….. and a few days later I went back for the second half of the procedure just the same ….. and I continued with my progesterone injections just the same ….. and took a blood test just the same ....

And two weeks later we got a call from the IVF nurse that it was unsuccessful …. Just the same.

And can you believe that we still weren’t ready to give up? One more time, one more time … that’s all we need. You really, truly, seriously convince yourself that it’s true. So, we continued putting every spare cent away to save for another attempt. Who cared that we were nearing our 30’s and didn’t have a dime in savings? Who cared that I worked full-time, just so my entire paycheck could go into our baby fund each week? Who cared that if we ever DID get a baby, there wouldn’t be any money to send him or her to college?

Besides the fertility stuff, though, other things were happening in our life. We’d been at Tinker almost three years, and heaven forbid Uncle Sam let you stay anywhere that long. Orders came through for us to move that summer to Los Angeles. And being the optimist information-freak that I am, I had already started researching fertility clinics out there. And can you believe that I found one that offered a money-back guarantee?

I know, I know, I’m harping an awful lot about money. I’ve always considered it rude to talk about money, and crass, and normally I avoid those types of discussions at all cost … {hee hee, “cost” … get it?} But the financial strain for a couple undergoing fertility treatment can be high. Unless you’re lucky enough to have insurance coverage that considers infertility a medical disease, you’re most likely not going to get a lot of help from your provider. Fertility treatments are usually considered “elective”, like cosmetic surgery. So if you want ‘em, you pay for ‘em. And by our estimation, we had spent approximately $25,000 in the past two years. And, did I mention, just in case it wasn't clear, that we didn’t have a baby???

Then I discovered the fertility clinic in Los Angeles that offered a money-back guarantee. They charged a lot more for their services, but if you did IVF three times and none of them worked, you got 75% of your money back. Their reasoning was that the couples, for whom it DID work, by paying more, would make up the difference for the couples it DIDN’T work for. It’s actually very logical, and compassionate, and fair. It gave me hope.

So we decided to try one more time in Oklahoma, and then if it didn’t work, consider starting up again in California. Although as much as I wanted kids, I dreaded the thought of starting over, from scratch, with another clinic. Another part of me, to be honest, was starting to consider the possibility that maybe we weren’t going to have kids. And I started talking to myself about the fact that although being childless wouldn’t be my first choice, if it happened, you know what? It wouldn’t be the end of the world. In fact, there might even be some positives. Not having to replenish the college fund. Not having to consider school districts anytime we moved. Not having to plan vacations around school schedules. The ability to pick up and go, whenever and wherever we wanted.

In fact, the more I thought about it, the better it sounded. Don’t get me wrong, I still wanted kids. More than anything in the world. But the fight had just gone out of me. I was pooped.

So one night, preparing to write yet *another* check to our fertility clinic, to try yet **another** round of IVF, I looked at Blaine ---- He looked at me ---- “Fuck it” we both said. "We’ll start again in California. "

For now??

We took that money and went to England.

In front of the British Museum. *Really* cool stuff in there. Please overlook the unfortunate leather jacket with lots of belts and zippers. It was the mid-90's and I still thought the biker look was cool. Hence the ankle boots as well.

In front of 13th-century Salisbury Cathedral; the tallest spire in England. The letterman's jacket? Almost as unfortunate a choice as the biker jacket. But it was freezing-ass cold in that country!!

Took a bus trip to Scotland. Here, at the beginning of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. My only comment about Blaine's jacket is that sadly, he was still wearing it up until last year. Partly I blame the fact he wears a military uniform, complete with military jacket, to work every day, so there's no real need to buy new clothes on a regular basis. Party I blame the fact that he and I are socially-fashionably-inept.

Well-meaning friends said, “You are SO going to come back from your trip pregnant! Giving up …. relaxing … resting …. taking a break …. taking a vacation ….. works every time!”

They were right about a few things. It was a great vacation. We relaxed. We rested. We saw some amazing things, and some breathtaking country ... Stonehenge, anyone? We returned home refreshed and rejuvanated.

But not pregnant.

And now it was time to move to California. And start over at Square One with a new doctor.

Blaine: “Oh good grief, I am putting my foot down about the cup this time!”

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Never-Ending Saga

And by "never ending saga", I'm not sure if I mean our fertility and adoption struggles, or this journal entry!!! (This is the part where you all jump in and reassure me that your eyeballs are not rolling back in your head from boredom, what with all this talk of mood swings and fertility drugs and cervical {spelled correctly} mucous.)

We had gone from “Wow, we’re going to get a baby from our fertility treatments, AND we’re going to get a baby from the adoption agency, and the fun part will be seeing which way happens FIRST!!! We’re going to have babies coming out our ears!!” to, “You know, it’s looking like we won’t be getting a baby. At all. In any way. Ever. Houseplants don't count.”

The adoption agency, which had pretty much closed down, wasn’t as clueless as it appeared, because they had the good sense to put a TOTALLY-NEVER-IN-A-MILLION-YEARS-WILL-YOU-GET-YOUR-MONEY-BACK-FOR-ANY-REASON non-refundable clause in the contract we signed with them. Period. End of discussion. Actually, we knew one couple who took them to court and sued and successfully got a portion of their fees back, but to be honest, I was so dis-heartened at this point I didn’t have it in me. I figured we’d thrown away so much money in fertility treatments, what did it really matter if we threw away a bunch more with a defunct adoption agency? I was tired of being pro-active. Tired of working so hard. Tired of getting nowhere. Sitting around pouting was the best way for me to deal with it. And eating chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.

But our reproductive doctor wasn’t ready to give up yet. Yes, yes, it’s true, none of the “basic” or even “extended basic” treatments had worked for us. But that didn’t mean we should quit! There were still things to try! Options to explore! Money to spend!!!

So, according to him, it was time for the big guns, and he suggested IVF. In-vitro fertilization. What was so maddening about the whole thing is that there wasn’t anything really WRONG with me. Ovulatory dysfunction? Clomid should have taken care of that. Crappy mucous? The decongestant should have worked, at the very least, and the inseminations certainly should have bypassed that problem. None of my doctors could figure out why nothing was working, and yet month after month, year after year, we still weren’t pregnant.

IVF was a logical step, but huge for us to consider. Our insurance didn’t pay for any fertility treatments and the military base where we lived didn’t offer any. We had already spent thousands, and now they were asking us to consider IVF, at eight to ten thousand a pop. And what’s so depressing is that if it doesn’t work --- You sure as heck don’t get your money back.

The entire thing was discouraging and maddening and frustrating. I had never been in a situation like this before, where I had a total lack of control over the outcome. I couldn’t MAKE this happen, no matter how hard I tried.

When I was in school, if I wanted a good grade, I studied. Viola, a good grade. If Blaine and I wanted to buy something, we simply needed to save up the money and buy it. If we wanted to travel somewhere, we researched it, then went. My entire life, my experience had been that if you want something {within reason} badly enough, you just need to work for it and you can get it. And, if you buy something, and it doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to, you return it and get your money back, or exchange it. Can you imagine a store where you pay ten thousand dollars for a TV, and you bring it home, and it doesn’t work? There’s no picture at all? And you call the store to complain and they say, “Too bad, so sad …. But if you want to spend another ten thousand, we can sell you another TV and try again! Of course, there’s no guarantee that TV will work, either.” While having a baby is a normal sort of adventure for most people, we just couldn’t make it happen; we were going broke, and it was making me crazy. Crazy with a capital K.

Women all around me were getting pregnant at the drop of a hat. Many of my co-workers were pregnant and after awhile, it was extremely difficult to feel happy for them without feeling sorry for myself. And angry. And bitter. And did I mention angry? Why did they deserve babies and I didn’t? It didn’t help matters any that I worked at a family practice clinic and the doctor also delivered babies. Not a lot, but enough. Every time an unwed teenager came in and got a positive pregnancy test, it was all I could do not to stand up in my chair and shout ---- HOW IS THIS FAIR????? One young girl got her positive results, said out loud, “Good, now I can get on welfare!” and I swear, I had to turn around and walk out of the room. There I was, married, stable, in my late-20s, and couldn’t get pregnant to save my life, but we had one patient who was on her sixth (welfare) kid and refused birth control of any kind. I was really having a hard time seeing the justice in the situation. Empathy for those people, who truly needed empathy, was long-gone.

I never lay around and moaned and cried about not being pregnant; it’s not like I went days and days with the bed covers pulled up over my head … but boy, was I angry with all the pregnant women of the world. I pouted and I sulked and I quickly became the person you NEVER wanted to see at a party because I pretty much sucked all the positive energy from a room. And as much as I was angry and jealous, I hated myself for being that way. It takes a lot of energy to walk around in a persistent bad mood, but I managed it most of the time.

The constant up and down from the drugs, the hope each month that it worked, the disappointment when the pregnancy test was negative … even the adolescent hope that the pregnancy test was wrong, only to be crushed again when I would start my period. The knowledge that we had gone through ALL THAT with the adoption agency, only for it to be a dead end. It became incredibly overwhelming and I started resenting every pregnant person I knew. And their husbands. And even their friends and their neighbors and their pets and anyone who *knew* anyone who was pregnant and even pregnant people on TV. They were all stupid, stupid, stupid, and none of them deserved those babies.

You can imagine that it was a very serene and positive time in my life, and people all around me were clamoring to be my friend. Um, yeah. Maybe not.

But when you want a baby, and your doctor says Jump, you pretty much say ”How high?” So off we went on an IVF adventure. Back then, IVF was a top of the line fertility treatment. Nowadays, they’ve added things like sperm injection and assisted hatching and pre-genetic testing, but even now, IVF is pretty much the end of the road for fertility treatments. If IVF doesn’t work, you really don’t have a lot of options left. There’s a lot to be said for desperation, when you realize you’re running out of chances and opportunities.

I was stimulated for optimal egg production, both quality and quantity, and monitored extremely closely via blood work and ultrasound. After the trigger shot, the eggs would be harvested/aspirated with a needle/catheter, via another laparoscopy, and placed in a petri dish with Blaine’s sperm. And as much as I made fun of the guy for being on the Olympic Masturbating Team, he was a damn good sport about going through all this.

Hopefully, dozens and dozens of the eggs would fertilize and three or five days later, depending on their quality, they would transfer the best looking two or three embryos back into my uterus. Ideally one of them would implant, and I continued to give myself injections to make sure my uterine lining remained a perfect environment.

We had high hopes …. Pretty much everything was riding on this. You hear about the rare couple who can afford to do IVF dozens of time, but that wasn’t us. We had decided one shot, and if it didn’t work, it didn’t work

The procedure went smoothly, although they didn’t get as many embryos as they wanted. Ideally we would have had some left over for freezing for later attempts, but we only wound up with four total, so we put them all back in. Well-meaning friends made comments like “Four?? Are you crazy?” and “You’ll wind up with quadruplets!” When the truth was, we were simply hoping and praying for ANY of them to stick around.

You can’t take an early urine pregnancy test with IVF because the trigger shot has HCG (human chorionic gonadotripin) in it, which mimics the hormone that indicates pregnancy. And as long as you’re on the injections to keep your uterine lining fluffy, you won’t get a period. So there’s no way to “know” if an IVF worked ahead of time. You just wait for two weeks, until you can take a blood test. Then you wait that day, for the nurse to call you. Every time the phone rings, you jump. You’re so excited for her to call, because you know, you just KNOW that it worked … this time, this time, it worked.

IVF nurse. That’s got to be the best/worst job in the world. The people you get to call with good news are so overjoyed to hear from you -- can you imagine what a great feeling it is to deliver thrilling reports like that? Of course, then there are the people you have to call and give the disappointing news that it didn’t work; sorry, you’re not pregnant.

We were two of those people. Not pregnant. Again. You’d think as some point it would quit being such a crushing blow to hear those words, but nope. Pretty much like having your heart ripped out all over again. The fact that my very first nephew was born the next day, with me filming it all in the delivery room, was a bittersweet reminder of what had just failed.

And despite the fact we had promised ourselves we would only go through that once, we immediately started saving our pennies to do it again, being the optimists, idealists, dreamers, gluttons for punishment that we were.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Ongoing Baby Quest

I guess at this point in the story I should back up and fill in a few blanks, although the blanks won’t be apparent until later. And hopefully they won’t be apparent at all, if I just fill them in now. You know what I mean. I’m babbling already, aren’t I?

When Blaine got orders to Tinker, the Air Force Base in our hometown, we began our third year of TTC. As those of you who know me know, and those of you who don’t know me can probably guess, I am a control freak with a serious Need-To-Know character defect. Ignorance is not bliss, as far as I'm concerned. At this point the internet wasn’t a household item, and I had already read every book our local library had to offer. We knew if we wanted help in a social or emotional or informational capacity, from other couples going through the same thing, we were going to have to look for it in a live, face-to-face situation. So we searched out the local branch of Resolve, the National Fertility Association support group, and began attending meetings.

A couple of good things came out of this. First, we made friends with a great couple (if you’re reading this, S., “hey chickie!” :) who made walking that infertility path a lot easier, and a lot more fun. Not that it’s ever “fun”, but it was great to have another couple who had experienced the same struggles as us, and who could go out at the drop of a hat without having to hire a baby sitter, and without sitting around all night talking about their kids, and without sitting in front of us, breast feeding her child-yes-someone-actually-did-that-way-before-Blaine-and-I-were-enlightened-about-breastfeeding-and-we-freaked-out-and-totally-didn’t-know-where-to-look-and-oh-my-gosh-her-boob-is-RIGHT-THERE-so-we-just-pretended-like-it-wasn’t-happening-in-our-living-room-three-feet-from-our-shocked-faces. Seriously. Trust me, NO childless couple ever needs to see that. Ever. Second, we realized that while it was frustrating for us not to know WHY we weren’t getting pregnant, a lot of couples attending Resolve were facing the finality of knowing they would NEVER get pregnant, so maybe we should just quit our big fat whining and get over ourselves. Third, while Blaine and I had always been open to alternative ways of building our family, I think it helped us explore, and come to terms, with those ideas more quickly. I had cousins who had been adopted, and Blaine himself had been adopted by his step-dad when he was young. So we certainly weren’t hung up on the idea that children absolutely, positively, biologically, MUST spring from our own loins. But the other members attending Resolve at that time gave us a safe forum to explore and vent and learn, and I was grateful.

So, around the beginning of Infertility Year Four, after Blaine and I had our first negative IUI (insemination), we decided to apply with an adoption agency. Everyone said to us, “Oh, once you apply with an adoption agency, you’ll get pregnant. It always happens that way.” And we thought, “Wouldn’t that be great? Two babies! We should be so lucky”. Then, a few months later, we were down two negative IUI’s, and it was time to pay our adoption agency fee. And everyone said to us, “Oh, once you write that check, you’ll get pregnant. It always happens that way.” And we thought, “Oooh, yippee, two babies! We should be so lucky”. And then a month or two later, and yet another negative IUI under our belts, we received word that we had been approved by the adoption agency and our profile was available for viewing by birthmothers. And everyone said to us, “Oh, just wait. Now that you’re approved, you’ll get pregnant. It always happens that way.” And we would talk about how if that happened, we would be the luckiest people in the world. Surely, surely, one of these inseminations was going to work … and if we adopted a baby near the same time, it would be like having twins! We would be the luckiest people in the world … twice!

And by the end of that year? Six artificial inseminations, no pregnancy, and the adoption agency had gone out of business, taking our money and our hopes with them.

This is probably a pretty accurate estimation of when I entered my very unattractive “pissed at the world” phase.

OK, ok, so the adoption agency didn’t really, **technically** go out of business. But it might as well have. For the six months it took from the time we applied until we were approved, they were a fully-staffed, smooth-running operation, who, on average, prior to us applying, had placed approximately ten babies a year with waiting families. It was a smaller agency, nothing like Gladney out of Texas, but we liked that. Although there were certainly no guarantees, Blaine and I were led to believe it would take no more than year for us to get a baby, as well. We were guided through the process of filling out our applications, having our background and criminal histories run, getting friends to write us letters of reference, submitting photos of us, posed oh-so-perfectly in front of our fireplace with our pets, to submit along with a Dear Birthmother Letter that we agonized over writing. “Please, please, please, pick us to raise your baby, we don’t want to seem desperate and groveling, even though we are …..” We had our home study done, where a social worker comes to your home and interviews you to see if, in his or her opinion, the home life you would provide for a child is safe and loving.

And with every item we accomplished, with every checkmark we made on our Very Long List Of Adoption Stuff We Have to Complete, I got more and more bitter.

I’m not sure I can find the words to explain how deeply {probably irrationally} irritated I was that I had to submit myself to this sort of scrutiny … this judgment, this begging for approval, from total strangers, about whether or not Blaine and I would be deemed qualified to adopt and raise a baby. Certainly I understand the need for these sorts of criterion … DUH. But when everyone is looking at you, and the home you live in, and critiquing your job and your marriage and your education and your decisions and your LIFE, and passing judgment about whether or not you are ALLOWED to get a baby …. It was infuriating to me. Infuriating. No-one who is able to get pregnant the “normal” way has to ask anyone’s permission. None of the pregnant patients where I worked had to take time off from their jobs to sit through a three-day parenting seminar, attendance required. None of the pregnant girls I went to high school with had to pass a home study, inviting a total stranger into their home, and clean like a crazy, obsessed person for a week before, and bake fresh cookies to offer as refreshment which the woman DIDN’T EVEN EAT and sit back and answer her questions about how you would raise the baby, and what your plans are, and what your expectations are, and oh my God what do I say about spanking? What if I say no, we would never spank a child, and this woman assumes I am too lenient to be a qualified parent? But what if I say yes, I do believe in spanking, and she thinks that makes me a child abuser? The decisions we all make as parents are part of an ongoing learning process, and I wasn’t a parent, yet I was already being judged on how I would do it. None of my pregnant co-workers, or friends, or relatives, had to sit through an interview process, whereby someone who doesn’t even know you has the power to stamp “approved” or “NOT!” on your request to be a parent.

It. Made. Me. Crazy.

I abhorred it. And at the same time, as it became more and more obvious that the fertility route wasn’t working, adoption was quite possibly going to be our only avenue to becoming parents. Do you know how hard it is to despise a system, and resent everything you are required to do, and at the same time hold it up as the possible answer to your hopes and dreams?

Then, it pretty much became a moot point. This adoption agency that we applied with basically shut down after we were approved. They went from a fully-staffed agency, working out of a nice office suite, to a part-time social worker in a one-room office with an answering machine that she stopped in once a week to check. For the first year after we were approved, you know how many babies they placed with families?


Three years of temperature charts and bloodwork and ultrasounds and putting pillows under my butt after sex and fertility drugs and hot flashes and mood swings. Nothing to show for it.

A year of artificial reproductive technology. Big Fat Nothing to show for it.

A year of jumping through hoops to get approved for adoption, and waiting on their approved list. Bigger Fatter Nothing to show for it.

Yeah, my “pissed at the world” phase had officially begun. Really, really, unattractive. Almost as unattractive as ………. Oh, who am I kidding? It was the most unattractive phase yet. And can you believe it’s not the lowest point we would reach?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Laundry Watch 2007

Operation: Do Your Own Laundry officially began on Brayden’s 10th birthday, when I gave her the gift of independence by teaching her to do her own laundry. Not off to an auspicious beginning, when, despite much nagging, load #1 spoiled in the washer, as she left it there overnight, citing “too busy” to move load to dryer. Very suspicious excuse, considering that evening's activities included much laying around watching "Drake and Josh". Once load was re-washed, transferred to dryer, and hung, clothes continued to hang in utility room for two days, as apparently Brayden “still too busy” to transfer hanging clothes to bedroom closet. That said, can’t be too cranky with her, considering she was only following the slacker-ly maternal example she’s been given re. laundry.

Load #2 accomplished today with much more success. Clothes not only transferred to dryer in timely manner, but both detergent and fabric softener dispensed with casual expertise. Clothes also hung on appropriate hangers and transferred to closet expediently. Second laundry occurrence not a total success, however, as half-basket of clean underwear and socks still sitting in child’s room, not put away. Again, see: example, Maternal.

Overall grade for Brayden in the Great Laundry Experiment: B+.

Have very, very high hopes for the continued success of the program. Plot to take over the world might fall short to better plot of getting daughter to start doing mother’s laundry as well.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Infertility: The Toddler Years (3 and 4)

OK -- we now join our regularly scheduled journal entry, the ongoing one about me and my fertility woes. If you didn’t catch the previous entry, and you’re interested, you can go back two days to read about our first two years of trying to get pregnant. At this point in the story (imagine me saying that in my very best movie announcer voice) we had just moved to a new base, new city, and were hopeful things would start to happen. We were still optimistic, but starting to feel a little weathered. And annoyed. And cranky. What the hell ... I mean, we had been trying for TWO YEARS!

So, our third military move in two years (granted, the moves slowed us down every time) and once again, a new doctor …. Which meant, if you haven’t guessed by now, a new semen analysis test {Blaine: sigh}, more exams and tests for me. It seems all reproductive endocrinologists want you to gather all old records for their review, then they take new patients back to square one and just start fresh. Thoroughness = good. Starting over for the third time for an impatient anal control freak like myself = very, very frustrating.

So, more bloodwork, more ultrasounds. Again, nothing concrete was wrong, so they started looking at other tests. This was about the time of the infamous cervical mucous test. If you don’t know what this is, and you have a weak stomach, skip ahead. Otherwise, I’ll share with you what had to be the most humiliating moment of my life up until that point.

Bloodwork indicated my hormone levels were fine; although my cycle indicated I was perhaps a “sluggish and irregular” ovulator, meaning my ovaries didn’t release eggs on a regular schedule. Not knowing exactly when you are ovulating makes it hard to “peg that egg” each month. But Clomid, the fertility drug I was taking, takes care of that because you know exactly when you *should* be ovulating and when you should have sex to take advantage. We knew my tubes weren’t blocked, and my lining was good. Those had been tested several times. A laparoscopy had shown normal internal structure, and whatever else laparoscopies test for. I didn’t have poly-cystic ovarian disease, or endometriosis, we’d tested for those as well. And Blaine was fine … so what the heck was the problem?

It was actually very exasperating for test after test after test to come back with normal results. How can you fix a problem, if you can’t find it? This doctor decided it might have something to do with the quality of my cervical mucous. You’ve got an egg *here* (picture me, holding up my left hand) and the sperm *here* (now picture me holding up my right hand) and in between, is the cervical mucous the sperm has to get through. The doctor needed to determine if my mucous was “hospitable” and easy for the sperm to traverse en route to the egg. So, the way they determine that is something called a post-coital test. “Post”, meaning “after” and “coital” meaning “horizontal mambo” So, what you do is ………….. wait for it …. wait for it ……………. You and your husband have sex, then you immediately jump out of bed, into the car, drive to the doctor’s office, get up on a table, put your legs in stirrups and let him take a sample of the love potion to examine under a microscope, to see if the sperm are able to move about with relative ease.

I did not think it was possible to feel any more self-conscious than I did when I lost my 5th grade spelling bee, but laying on that table, with the doctor, a relative stranger, DOWN THERE, knowing what had just gone on IN THERE, was mortifying. And Blaine didn’t help matters any, with his, “You need me to take a long lunch and come home from the base for WHAT? And then you’re going to do WHAT!?!?!”

The results? I had cervical mucous the consistency of rubber cement.

YEAH!!!! YIPPEE!!! Rubber cement!!! At last, now, we had a problem we could focus on ….. something we could actually fix, that would then allow us to finally get pregnant! The magical, high-tech solution for this problem? Over-the-counter decongestant. By the bucket-load. By now, I was on the highest dosage of Clomid (fertility drug) allowed, so I had hot flashes and mood swings and weight gain, pretty much non-stop. "Moody" does not begin to touch it. Blaine gently suggested I was perhaps a tad overly sensitive and defensive, at which point I threw a shoe at him and told him he was a jackass who could keep his opinions to himself. Add in the bucket loads of decongestant, and I also had total insomnia and started pinging off the walls. You can imagine the calm, soothing, loving, attractive wife I had become, and how the idea of rushing home to have sex with my sweaty, bloated carcass on days 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, and 21 would certainly appeal to Blaine.

Then, something happened. I had gone back to the doctor’s office for an appointment one afternoon, to discuss some other humiliating bodily function, I don’t even remember which one at this point, and he walked in, smiled at me in my flimsy paper gown, and said, “Hi ….. sorry, I forgot your name. Oh, here it is, on your chart … hi, Kristie.”

This man had seen my nether regions on many occasions, and believe me, I don't just show those things to everybody, but couldn’t remember my first name. I actually didn’t care that he couldn’t remember my first name, but I was appalled that he couldn’t take two seconds to look at the chart before walking in the room and at least PRETEND like he knew my name!!! I was putting my entire reproductive life in his hands, and entrusting him with our dreams and hopes for the future, and that arrogant dick-weed couldn’t even PRETEND he knew my name??? (Before anyone comments about how "But OB's don't ever look at your FACE! Ha-Ha!" I just want to say that isn't the point. It would have taken him two seconds to look at my damn name on the damn chart ..... it's called bedside manner and this guy didn't have any.)

So, on to doctor #4!

Now, I had managed to keep my pre-occupation with getting pregnant pretty quiet up until this point. We didn’t really tell anyone in North Dakota, it was all so new, and we didn’t know anyone in Kansas to tell. But at this point, we had gotten orders back to our hometown in Oklahoma. Our friends and family started figuring out that something was going on. My co-workers certainly knew, because I was taking off constantly to go in for appointments and bloodwork and ultrasounds. In one way this public knowledge of your fertility struggles can be good, because friends and family can offer a lot of support and encouragement, **IF** you’re the sort of person who likes that thing. Suffice it to say, I am not. I hated people knowing that I couldn’t get pregnant. I hated having to admit something was wrong. I hated having to admit, even to myself, that we didn’t know *what* was wrong. Most of all, I hated, with every fiber of my being, all the asinine comments that were made to me. **More on this later.

Getting offended and changing to doctor #4 was actually a blessing in disguise, as we finally started making some progress. Oh, don’t get me wrong, he started at Square One, all over again, just like the others. {Blaine, “I know, I know, where’s the cup?” --even bigger sigh }*** But he brought us in for a consult and basically told us it was time to quit pussy-footing around and wasting everyone’s time with the amateur stuff. So we moved on to bigger and better things.

Stronger, injectable fertility drugs. Complete with more bloodwork, more ultrasounds, and trigger shots, so you know you will ovulate exactly eighteen hours after the trigger. So you have sex twelve hours after the shot, and thirty-six hours after. Or whatever their instructions are, because Lord knows you will follow every instruction to the letter if you think it will work. And because nothing says, “Hey, big boy, you wanna get frisky?” quite like your cranky, hormonal wife screaming at you to “Get in here, it’s 11:23 pm and you have to impregnate me NOW!” Ahhhh, romance. Hallmark can’t keep up, that’s for sure.

Then, when that didn’t work after six months or so, we moved on to the field of ART. Artificial reproductive technology. Meaning, “Damn, Sam, *nothing* is working and we need some serious help!” We did five rounds of intrauterine inseminations, also called IUI, where I took fertility shots, then the trigger shot, but instead of having sex, Blaine gave a semen sample which they inserted directly into my uterus. In theory, the sperm will have a shorter distance to travel, bypassing that pesky cervical mucous issue. Since your ovaries are being stimulated by the high-dose fertility drugs, you have to give them a rest cycle in between each month. After the first try, Blaine didn’t even bother coming to the insemination appointments with me. Believe me when I say the whole process quickly becomes very, very impersonal. I would leave work, drive across town on my lunch break, have the insemination, and go right back to work. Not exactly flowers and candlelight and boxes of chocolate, was it? But I figured if all those teenagers could get pregnant in the back seats of cars, this should be good enough for me. We also tried one ITI, intratubal insemination, which means the sperm was placed directly into my fallopian tubes, but in the end, a year had gone by and none of the six procedures had worked. The thought of actually getting pregnant laying on a table in my doctor’s office, wearing a hideous paper gown, while my cervix was clamped open with a speculum, while my husband wasn't even present, was so NOT how I ever thought we would wind up, but I didn’t even care. I just wanted this to work … YESTERDAY! At this point, we had been trying for almost four years, with nothing to show for it.

To be continued …… (Seriously, am I, like, the windiest person you have ever met? And I mean “windy” as in talkative …. NOT the other kind of “windy”)

***And for the record, you people who have signed in the comments section and talked about your husband having to do the same thing, but doing it at home and YOU having to take it to the office .... that was NEVER an option for us. Not one of our doctors would allow him to collect the sample anywhere but right there in their office. When they said "fresh", they weren't kidding. Although it certainly wasn't something he looked forward to, Blaine said it wasn't terribly horrible when the doctor's office had a nice private area with comfy couches and good porn. But, the place we wound up at the end, where he did the majority of his collections, sent him to The. Public. Restroom. Down. The. Hall. That's right. And not a single-person bathroom, either, with a lock on the door, but a four-staller. So I would stand guard outside the door and keep men from going in, in an attempt to give him a little more privacy. Like my best friend Kim said in the comments section, afterwards, I liked to joke that Blaine could have been on the Olympic Masturbating Team. Probably the only thing worse for him than actually experiencing it, is me discussing it in such public detail now. I'm sure he'll be thrilled. Um, probably not.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Conversation of the Day

Location: Arcade of our local pizza parlor; lunchtime.

Kellen: Look, I just found these four tokens sitting on the skeeball machine! Just sitting there! Woo-hoo!

Kendrie: Oooooh, that’s like stealing. You just stole somebody’s tokens. You can't do that.

Kellen:It is not! It is not stealing! Somebody just left them there and I was a finders keepers!

Kendrie: You can’t finders keepers somebody else’s tokens, that’s stealing.

Kristie, aka, The Voice Of Reason: Kellen, they probably do belong to someone else.

Kellen: Well how am I supposed to know who? There's kids all over the place. They should have taken better care of them. Now they’re mine.

Kendrie: You are a stealer! STEALER!

Kellen: Here, you want two of them?

Kendrie: Oh, ok. Thanks.

Kristie: So ..... what was that? Now it’s alright to keep them?

Kendrie: Well, duh.

And Not One Of You Even Mentioned It!

Despite all my comments in previous posts about my status as unqualified spelling and grammar snob --- NOT ONE PERSON mentioned that I mis-spelled "cervical" in the title of my last entry. I missed it, and either all of you missed it, or were too polite to point out my moron-ness in the middle of the tale of me, baring my infertile soul.

Cervial??? Is that even a word???

Good thing IQ isn't required to have a baby, or I'd still be childlesss.

When Discussing Your Cervical Mucous Quality With Total Strangers Seems Perfectly Normal ...

THAT’S when you know you’re an infertility patient, right?

Where to begin, where to begin.

I think the journey for me and Blaine into the land of TTC (trying to conceive, for you folks who aren’t into the fertility lingo) is probably pretty similar to most other couples going through fertility treatments. Of course, ours went on for six years, with four different doctors, so if I tried to share every facet, or follow a completely detailed timeline, we’d probably be here a while. And while all of you have been kind enough to indicate an interest, I seriously doubt you want to hear about every single ultrasound or temper tantrum or needle stick or negative pregnancy test. So I’ll try to keep it brief, which you know for me, means I’ll be typing until 2am.

When Blaine and I got married, we had very clear expectations for our future. The plan was for us to be married for a few years before starting our family, while he began his career in the Air Force. Get the student loans paid off before diving into the costs of diapers, and sow whatever wild oats needed sowing. We knew we didn't want kids right away, but they were without a doubt, part of the plan for the future.

Although I did go back to college during those years, it was never my goal to establish myself in any kind of professional capacity, since we knew all along that I’d stay home with our kids. Which, by the way, we would have four, spaced two years apart. First there would be a boy who we would name Matthew Dallas, then two years later a girl we would name Brayden Christine. We didn’t have names picked for the next two yet, although we tossed around some possibilities. And we didn’t care about the order, but we planned to have one more of each sex. Again, two years apart. We already had the golden retriever and SUV to complete the picture. That was our plan; it was well-thought out, and we were sticking to it. It’s so good to have plans, don’t you think? {AKA, were we naïve morons, or what?}

We had been married four years when we decided we were ready. I finished my last packet of birth control pills, winked at myself in the bathroom mirror, and sat back, ready to begin gestating as soon as we had sex. Once. Because of course, that was all it would take and I would be as knocked up as they come.

We tried for three months and nothing worked. What the heck? Blaine and I were the kind of people who got things done …. Who set a goal and accomplished it, so this kind of delay was unacceptable to us. Now, this was back before the internet became a household item, but I had gone to the library and done my research. I knew that on average, most couples conceived within six to eight months, and most doctors wouldn’t consider you “infertile” until you had been trying to conceive, unsuccessfully, for a year.

Well, excuse my French, but fuck that shit.

I wasn’t waiting a year to get pregnant! A YEAR???? Are you insane??? We had a master plan, people, and our master plan included me having our first baby at the age of 25, so if you think I was waiting a year to get pregnant, you are definitely smoking some crack.

So I did what any goal-oriented person would do. I went to the doctor and lied.

We lived on an Air Force Base in North Dakota, so I went to the Women’s Health Department of the base hospital and told them I had been trying for a year, with no luck. The first thing they wanted to do was a semen analysis on Blaine. Any doctor who knows anything, does this first. And I’m sure all of you know a man, or have heard of a man, or know someone who knows a man, who completely balked at this step. Let’s be honest, going to a medical clinic to spank the monkey isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time. {Actually, I worked at a doctor’s office for several years, and for this one really creepy guy, it was. But that’s another story for another time.}

Blaine, give the guy his due, was a good sport about it. Not thrilled, by any means, but willing to do whatever he needed to get this situation taken care of. His extremely impatient wife had been waiting three months … three MONTHS, damnit … to get pregnant. If making a deposit in the Bank O’ Love would help matters, he would swallow his pride and do it.

Naturally, he was fine.

So, I was put on a front line fertility drug called Clomid. Dutifully kept a temperature chart, and each month, I took the pills, faithfully had sex on the days I was supposed to, sat around with baby-lust in my eyes, only to start my period each and every time. Again, what the heck? That really stunk. I mean, ok, fine, my pride could take the hit of this not working the first time, or even working as quickly as I wanted it to. But darn it, I was on drugs now, and something should be happening! If we didn’t hurry up, we were going to miss our goal of the first baby by age 25!

Then, we moved.

We didn’t live on base the next place we lived, so I had to find a civilian doctor, and I made sure to find one who had experience in infertility. At this point we had been trying for that cursed year, and I meant business. It was time to get pregnant, NOW. No more joking around. This doctor explained the first thing he would want to do was a semen analysis ….. “uh, yeah, I already did that… can’t I just get you a copy of the report?” was Blaine’s reply. But no, apparently all doctors like to have their own labs do the tests, just to be sure.

After Blaine was confirmed normal, once again, the attention turned to me. This time, though, the doctor wouldn’t put me on fertility drugs until he had done a few tests …. So I had the basic tests done; bloodwork to check my hormone levels, endometrial biopsy, and hysterosalpingogram -- to make sure my uterine lining was ok (it was) and that my tubes weren’t blocked (they weren’t). At that point, he agreed the Clomid should do the trick, and even bumped me up to a higher dosage. And, started monitoring me via bloodwork and ultrasound to make sure my FSH and TSH levels were OK, and that I was producing follicles. Again, with the sex on the right days. Spontaneity was sure starting to take a hit. Always, always, with the sex on the right days.

Including, I might add, Thanksgiving Day of that year, when Blaine's parents, my parents, my sister and her boyfriend, and my grandpa, of all people, were visiting for the weekend. Do you know how difficult it is to find a place to have sex, in a small duplex, with seven other adults sleeping at your house and you are the hosts? Let’s just say any starry-eyed notions I had previously, about *this time* being *the time* and *so special* had long since been in the toilet. I’m not positive, but I think that might have been the first time my exact words were “just get it over with, for God’s sake, and don’t take too long or someone might catch us”.

See? See how infertility is so good for a marriage???

So, months of testing, and six more months of an increased Clomid dose, complete with the hot flashes and mood swings that drug gives me, to no avail, and then???

We moved again. {How I do love the military life!} be continued .... because its after midnight, for goodness sake, and I'm taking six kids to lunch and a movie tomorrow and I need my sleep and my stamina!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Man's Best Friend. AKA Why They Invented Febreze

Yesterday, I thought our dog was dying. I know, I know, I’ve thought that several times in the past, but come on, he’s sixteen years old for goodness sake, just how much longer can the old boy be expected to stick around?

From the moment we woke up at 7am until we left the house at 10 am, he never moved out of one spot. Not to eat, not to shift, not when the kids pet him, not to make himself more comfortable. I just knew he had chosen his spot and laid down to die. When the kids and I got back home from running our errands, I invented a chore for them to do in the garage so I could go in the house and check on him. He had gotten up long enough to lay down on a different pillow and was snoozing happily, most likely dreaming about young, sexy female dogs and bottomless vats of Snausages. I was so relieved … I love that dog so much.

This morning, we slept in until 8am. This week is Winter Break at school, and I had visions of today being a lazy, lazy day. Instead, by 9am, I had mopped the kitchen floor, mopped the dining room floor, vacuumed the living room floor, and febrezed every square inch of carpet and furniture in the house.

Why? You ask? Why? Is it because I was bored? Am I OCD? Is it because I’m a hyper-vigilant housekeeper? Are Tuesdays my normal mop and wash days?

No, to all of the above. It’s because the damn dog went outside this morning, managed to step in HIS OWN POOP, and track it back in all over the house. And this isn’t even the first time it’s happened! So first I had to catch him {you wouldn’t think a sixteen year old dog would be so spry, but dang, that dog can move!} and clean his stinking {and I use that term literally} paw off with wipes and soap, then I had to un-do the mess he traipsed all over the house. My hands still stink of shit.

I hate that dog.

{Not really. But he has GOT to start pooping farther away from the deck.}

Monday, February 19, 2007

Any Way I Can Get Them.

In the span of the last twenty years, I have been:

**A newly married person who freaked out the first time she missed her period --FREAKED OUT -- because I just knew we were having a baby and I wasn’t ready to have a baby!!

**A no-longer newly married person who was excited and ready to start her family and assumed that the first time I had sex after going off the pill would be the time that we conceived our baby. I even got a little misty-eyed after “The Act”, thinking about what a sacred moment it was …. The actual moment of con-cep-shu-on, and how different our lives would be nine months from now.

**Um, yeah. What a dork. An extremely naive dork. Suffice it to say, shortly after that, I was a beginner infertility patient.

**An experienced infertility patient.

**An extremely experienced infertility patient.

**A prospective adoptive parent.

**A foster parent.

**An adoptive parent.

**A pregnant, and very very very surprised person.

**A miserable cynic.

**A biological parent.


**A surrogate parent.

**Again again.

Several years ago, I decided I was going to write a book about my experiences and call it “Any Way I Can Get Them” … as in, any way your children come to you, and any way your family comes together, is a good way; the right way. No one way is better, or easier, or all-inclusive. I can speak from experience --- lots and lots of experience --- when I tell you that it doesn’t matter *how* you become a parent. Your kids, are your kids. Whether they came into your family through adoption, surrogacy, or the old-fashioned way. (You know, the storks and cabbage patches and all those scientific methods.)

Reproductive medicine and its related fields consumed my life for almost ten years. It was the most maddening, frustrating, joyful, infuriating, fantastic, blissful journey I could ever have imagined. The lows were the lowest I had ever experienced, the highs were the highest. We spent every penny we had, for years, either on fertility treatments, or legal and adoption expenses. They say people come through infertility either with a stronger marriage, or divorced. Thank goodness we fell in the former camp.

I can’t tell you about our adoption experience without telling you about our infertility experience, because one wouldn’t have happened without the other. But I’m not sure any of you want to hear about temperature charts and cervical mucous tests and Blaine and me stopping on I-35 at 10pm so he could give me a shot because it had to be done at that exact time in order for the latest egg retrieval to go off as planned. I’m pretty sure the employees at Braums that night saw the two of us going into the ladies’ room together with a needle and syringe and assumed we were drug addicts. I’m not sure you want to hear about those things, or a million other personal, messy details.

Brayden’s birth was the highlight of my first thirty years of life. But the path leading to it was long and difficult and frustrating.

For me to sit here and type “We adopted Brayden; it was great; the end” would be disrespectful to both her, and to us. To the hard-won battle we fought to get to that point. To the overwhelming elation we felt when she was placed in our arms. There are SO many things I want to say about it, I don’t think it’s possible to shrink it down to a single journal entry (even a journal entry from someone as long winded as I am!)

I want to pay my proper respects to all the parties involved, and am not sure this is the right forum. Then again, it’s my blog, what other forum could be better?

I’ll think about the best way to put the feelings into words, without boring you to tears. It’ll probably take a while, if you guys are up for it. And you might be bored to tears anyway. But we can give it a go, if you want.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Valentines Dance -- Last Dance

OK, one final nail in the “I can’t believe my baby is growing up so fast” coffin and then I’ll let it go.

When the school announced plans for it’s first annual Valentines Dance for 4th and 5th graders, I had no idea the drama that would ensue over who was going with who. Phone calls were made, feelings were hurt, tears were shed. 4th grade, people. 4th grade.

All I can say is thank goodness Brayden was asked by a lovely young man named Michael. Michael’s mother and I are friends, so that made it even nicer. And although Brayden would most likely be mortified that I told you this, she sent love notes to Michael in kindergarten, which makes this 4th grade date to the Valentines Dance even sweeter.

Getting her makeup done

Getting her hair done

Waiting (not-so) patiently while her mother makes her pose for just one more photo

What I wouldn’t give for skin this clear, unwrinkled, unlined, unwrinkled, unblemished, and most importantly, unwrinkled. Did I mention unwrinkled?

Michael arriving as the perfect date, complete with a corsage. Brayden, as evidenced by the look on her face, has no idea what this wrist corsage is about, despite my telling her what would happen beforehand.

Neither me nor Michael’s mom could get his boutonnière pinned to his chest, so my friend Jeanette, who had done Brayden’s hair and makeup, had to do it. Then, being the obnoxious scrapbookers that we are, we made Brayden pretend she was pinning it on so we could take a picture.

I’m pretty sure right about now both Michael and Brayden were wishing they had just stayed home and played video games.

But look how nice they clean up!

And here we go, with the actual dancing. Since I was the “official” photographer for the dance, I was able to covertly take a few pictures while the kids were getting their groove on. Except the only song they would dance was the Cha-Cha Slide. So they just played that one song, about twelve million times. The rest of the night the kids just ran around, chasing each other with balloons, and posing for twelve hundred formal portraits. But I was still glad to get a few photos of Brayden dancing. Look how happy these kids are, and how much fun they’re having. As long as it never, ever, ever, EVER involves dollar bills or a pole, she can keep it up as long as she wants.

And that, actually, is the reason this whole night was bittersweet to me. Not because my little girl is growing up so fast, and would be turning ten in just a few days, and was going to her first dance, but because she was actually going to her LAST dance, although she doesn’t even know it yet.

Blaine only has one year left before he is eligible for retirement from the Air Force, and at some point we will be moving back to Oklahoma. We are going to send our children to the local school where my sister and I graduated; where my mom and dad graduated; where my grandpa graduated; where my aunts and uncles and cousins graduated, where my nephews currently attend …. You get the picture. Everyone knows everyone in this little town, and has, for years. Depending on your mood, it’s either very Norman-Rockwell, or very creepy.

My home town is all about the church. It’s a long history, and I won’t bore you with the details today, but the local elementary, middle and high school, all were built together on land donated by the private, religious university next door. It’s a public school, not a private one, but since it is so closely tied to the church, there are a few guidelines the school has always followed in an attempt to adhere to the Nazarene way of thinking. Nothing extreme --- the students aren’t required to wear gunny sacks or pray for eight hours a day or plow their fields by lantern or carry around the carcass of a dead chicken or anything. There’s probably a whole post about my psuedo-Nazarene upbringing, but I won’t go into it here.

But, we don’t have dances. Ever. At all. Not even a prom. Because dancing with members of the opposite sex is the Devil’s work -- inviting temptation and not at all appropriate. Moving your body to music, especially near a boy, is sinful, lustful, and leads to nasty things. At least that is what I was told all my life, which is probably why the minute I turned twenty-one I headed for the nearest dance club and pretty much moved in for six months or so, until I had danced to every song ever recorded. Because nothing, NOTHING, makes a kid want to do something more than telling them they shouldn’t. I don’t think the authority figures at my old school are EVER going to figure that one out.

It’s this big stupid drama every year, or at least it was when my sister and I were students. Back in my mom and dad’s day, I don’t think they cared. And back in my grandpa’s day, well, I have no idea. But every year while **I** was in school, the students would always, ALWAYS, make a formal request to the school board for permission to hold a dance, and it was always, ALWAYS, denied. And yes, Footloose came out my senior year of high school, and if you think we didn’t identify with that movie and talk about how it was OUR OWN STORY, OH MY GOSH, THAT MOVIE IS ABOUT US and walk around channeling the identities of Kevin Bacon and whoever that girl was, well, you just know that we did.

Every year, discussions would go back and forth about how this is a public school, and all public schools have proms, and we’ve got pregnant chicks walking the halls already, so isn’t it a bit hypocritical to be told *dancing* is immoral??? And as students, we would be outraged that our constitutional right to wear hoop dresses and big permed hair (hey, this was the 80’s after all) and rent a limo for the night was being denied to us. And the school board would pretend to consider it, and come back every single time and say no. So, every single year, the senior class would find a student whose parents were members of the local country club, and we students would plan our own dance. To be held after the Jr. Sr. BANQUET, which was the big event the school planned for us. Because nothing says “hey, let’s spend two hundred dollars on a dress and get our hair and nails done and rent tuxedos and buy matching corsages!” quite like sitting down at a round table for ten and dining on chicken kiev and watching a magician for the evening’s entertainment. Whoo! That’s some big fun, there, for a bunch of 17 and 18 year olds!

I’m pretty sure times haven’t changed, and they still don’t have dances at my old school. Still, with the old-school Nazarene way of thinking. Still, with me rolling my eyes.

The positive aspects of this school so completely outweigh the negatives that we will be sending our children there without any hesitation. But it makes me a little sad to know that unless times and policies have updated, my kids will never get to experience a typical prom experience. Instead, they’ll eat chicken kiev in the banquet room of the local Sheraton, and clap politely when the magician is over (and possibly show up drunk and catch the centerpiece on fire, which is what one of my friends did one year) and then when the Jr. Sr. Banquet is over, they’ll shuttle on over to the country club and hold their own dance, which is exactly what we did. They’ll hire a DJ, and a caterer, and pay for it with their own money, and dance all night. Moving, shaking, and sweating with members of the opposite sex, all to the beat of music.

I’m pretty sure Jesus still loves us, and not one kid wound up pregnant that night.

Seriously. {rolly eyes} The school board REALLY needs to get with the program.

Because damn it, my daughter deserves the right to buy the perfect taffetta dress and rent a limo with her friends and do the Cha-Cha Slide again in eight years.

After all, I have photos that need taking.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Sportsmanship at its Finest

Kellen’s basketball team lost its game today. While it would be very easy for me to sit here and tell you it was because the referees didn’t call the game fairly (which they totally didn’t) I won’t, because a) I hate parents who whine like that and b) it’s supposed to be for fun, after all, and c) did I mention I hate parents who whine like that????

But just so you know the level to which this lousy bit of refereeing extended, let me tell you, it was bad. It was so bad, that a few of our kids refused to play the second half, our coach threatened to forfeit the game if they couldn’t call the fouls more fairly, and even someone as “basketball-rule-challenged” as myself noticed the discrepancies. The other team had a player that was mentally and developmentally challenged, and the referees replied that they had to be lenient because he wasn’t capable of following the rules to the letter. That’s fine, but what about the other seven boys on the team who were allowed to elbow and shove and reach over the back and kick? (Yes, Kellen was actually kicked on purpose, after which point he told the coach he didn’t want to play any more and asked to sit on the bench the rest of the game. Charles Darwin would be so proud.)

The boys on our team were frustrated, and upset, and one boy got so angry his parents had to take him out of the gym. Anyway, all that to tell you it was pretty bad.

For someone who doesn’t like parents who whine, I just did a really good job of it, didn’t I?

Anyway, after the game, the parents and coaches on our team were talking to the players about what had happened, and trying to appropriately praise the boys who had handled this situation in the calmest, most mature manner. Sometimes in life things just aren’t fair, and it’s not your fault, and there’s not a lot you can do about it but control your own reaction ….. and this was one of those times.

In the van on the way home, I wanted to re-affirm what the coach had said, and Kellen and I had the following conversation:

Me: “I agreed with the coach that you handled the game well, Kellen, and I was proud of you.”

Kellen: “What do you mean?”

Me: “Well, I understand that even more than losing, plain and simple, that game just wasn’t any fun. It’s frustrating when the other team is getting away with things and it doesn’t seem fair. But you didn’t act ugly back, right?”

Kellen: “What do you mean, act ugly?”

Me: “Well, you didn’t kick anyone back, or push, or shove, right?”

Kellen: “No.”

Me: “And you didn’t elbow anyone, or get mad and call anyone names or anything, right?”

Kellen: “No”

Me: “So see? You didn’t do anything wrong, did you?”


Kellen: “You know at the end of the game? How we have to walk down the line and slap all the hands of the other players and say 'good game' ?”

Me: “Yes…..”

Kellen: “I licked my hand first.”

Thursday, February 15, 2007

My Belated Valentines Gift to You

Part One is to tell you about this fabulous site: PostSecret Sundays. I only recently discovered it, and the nosy voyeur in me loves it. LOVES it. It’s like having permission to read someone’s diary, or innermost thoughts, and not even having to feel guilty because they put it out there voluntarily. This week, it’s all Valentines secrets. Go read, you won’t be sorry.

Part Two is to tell you about the adoption, since so many of you asked. It’s such a non-issue around here, that I forget not everyone automatically knows. So, give me a day or two to catch up, and I’ll fill you in on the whole “She wasn’t expected, she was selected!” story.

PS. Yes, eleven candles on the cake …. One to grow on, don’t you know that???

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I'm Not Quite Sure How This Happened.

I woke up yesterday to the stark realization that one of my children was turning ten years old. Ten. T.E.N. As in, double-digits. As in, 1/10th of a century. As in, she has probably lived with us for over half of the time she *will* live with us. I don’t know whether that makes me delirious with joy that I only have eight or nine more years of doing her laundry** and cleaning up after her and buying her underwear and cooking for her, or if it makes me weepy at the thought that in just a few more years she won’t need me to do those things for her.

Yes, I do know. Weepy.

Brayden, on the day she was born, Feb 13, 1997

On the day she was born, and they placed her in my arms, all those cheesy catch-phrases about my heart exploding with joy and love, and how I didn’t know I could be so devoted to someone so little and new …… they all came true. She was seven+, long-awaited pounds of pure bliss and happiness. Even now, sometimes I’ll go into her bedroom at night and watch her while she is sleeping and my heart will hurt a little bit with the delight and elation that SHE is my daughter.

Brayden, 1st birthday, 1998

Other times -- a lot of the time -- we make each other crazy. No one can push one another’s buttons like she and I can, or make one another more frustrated. Every lousy, crummy personality trait that I have, Brayden unfortunately got. Which, considering she is adopted, should tell you exactly where I stand on the nature v. nurture debate. Impatient, easily annoyed, easily frustrated, quick to anger; she and I are like identical twins, born 30 years apart. Which is probably why as a parent, I worry that I’m doing so much of it wrong.

Brayden, age 2, 1999

Then I watch her, and am reminded of all the wonderful character traits she has. She is caring, kind, generous, and compassionate. She has been going to a weekly ceramics class for six months and has given away every single thing she has made. Blaine says he’s running out of places to put his ceramic ducks at work. She is always kind to smaller children (as long as it’s not her brother or sister!) She often spends her allowance on gifts for other people, just because. She is constantly drawing pictures and writing stories for me to send to her friends and family in other states. It is those moments that make me hopeful that I am doing some of it right.

Brayden, age 3, 2000

Mostly, though, I worry that much like these first ten years have flown by, faster than a sonic boom, the next ten will as well. I told myself that her first few years were so chaotic because Kellen and Kendrie came along in pretty short order afterwards and there was only so much of me to go around.

Brayden, age 4, 2001

All parents with more than one small child in the house understand the feeling of just barely getting through the day intact, let alone carving out tender, glowing memories of patty-cake and peek-a-boo and long nature walks and chasing shadows and silly naptime rituals. Shoot, with three kids under the age of two in the house, my mantra became: As long as Blaine comes home from work each night and no one is BLEEDING or HUNGRY, then I have done my job.

Brayden, age 5, 2002

Seemed reasonable at the time.

Brayden, age 6, 2003

Now, though, I know. One kid or ten, those are just busy years. And although you think things will slow down once they are out of diapers, and can feed themselves, and insert their own DVD, and help pick up around the house …. The truth is, they don’t slow down at all. Because playdates with toddlers are replaced by playdates with school friends, and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody replaces Barney, and you add homework and soccer practice into the mix, and girl scout meetings, and basketball, and school projects, and the million and one other things that today’s hands-on family chooses to do, and well, there you go. Put simply, time flies when we’re not looking.

Brayden, age 7, 2004

I’m afraid I’ll look up and Brayden will be headed off to college.

Brayden, age 8, 2005

Slipping through my fingers. Just like the song says.

Brayden, age 9, 2006

I want her to look back on her childhood and remember a Mom who baked cookies and brought cupcakes to school for her birthday and helped with homework. I’m worried she’ll look back and remember the Mom who spent too much time on the computer and yelled really bad words when she would trip over toys in the living room. I want her to remember a Mom who always had a sympathetic ear, and good advice. I’m worried she’ll remember the Mom who threatened to “Throw that entire karaoke system in the trash if you kids don’t quit fighting over it!” I want her to remember a Mom who set a good example with her patience, and kindness, and by not getting frustrated or angry over silly things. I have no doubt she’ll instead remember the Mom who gave all three of her children permission to call the people who park in the no-parking lanes at their elementary school “Asshole!” when we drive by each day. (But they’re only allowed to say it if we are IN our car and all the windows are rolled up. Honest. They know they can’t just yell that word willy-nilly at anyone they please. But seriously, those people ARE assholes, and you would agree if you had to walk around their cars, and around the big giant NO PARKING signs every day. I like to tell myself that ultimately, I am teaching my children that it is not OK to think you are superior to everyone else, and that the rules don’t apply to you. If you park in front of a NO PARKING sign every single day, you ARE an asshole, and that’s the truth. See? Everything can be a life-lesson if you make it one.)

Brayden, age 10, 2007

Please, Lord. Help me do a better job with these next ten years. Because the first ten just flew by, and I'm really worried that I'm messing it up, what with my impatience and frustration and shouting the word "asshole" at people, and now I've only got eight or nine years to get it right.

**I told Brayden the best birthday gift I was giving her this year was a baby step towards her independence. As in, she will be given the gift of doing her own laundry from now on. At least one load a week, to commence as soon as her laundry basket is full. Wish me luck.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Proof That I'm Insane. Or a School Volunteer.

Feb 6th, Tuesday, at the school -- I’m so excited! The teachers have asked me to take the pictures for this Saturday night’s Valentines Dance at school! It’s going to be so much fun! I can’t wait!!! Lots of exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!

Feb 7th, Wednesday, school -- Hmmm. I’m not so sure I like the photo prop ideas they’re suggesting. I’d really like these pictures to be nice. Quasi-fancy. Almost like a prom picture. The kids *are* supposed to dress up, after all. Maybe I’ll just run out and pick up a few things myself.

Feb 8th, Thursday afternoon, shopping -- Wow. It didn’t look like that much in the cart. Cream sheets to use as a back drop and floor drop, pedestal, flowers and vase for the pedestal, rose petals to scatter on the floor. How did that possibly add up to sixty dollars? SIXTY dollars??? You know, that’s ok, though. It’s still going to be fun, so it's worth it.

Feb 8th, Thursday night, home -- Yes, Blaine, I said sixty dollars. But we can use that stuff, for ourselves, um, later. Sometime. In more pictures. And stuff. Just think of it as an investment in my photography future. And remember how much fun this is going to be! I'm still using exclamation points!!

Feb 8th, later Thursday night, home -- I think I’ll go to Best Buy tomorrow and "invest" a little more, just to be on the safe side. I’m worried the lights on the stage won’t be bright enough and I want to buy an external flash. I think I can get one for around a hundred dollars.

Feb 9th, Friday morning, Best Buy -- $300??!??! Are you kidding me???? Is it an external flash made of solid gold?? That will illuminate all the way to Africa??? Well, I’ll just spend a few minutes tweaking the pictures in Photoshop afterwards and brightening them up, if I need. I’m not spending that kind of money. Probably the stage lights will be enough, anyway.

Feb 10th, Saturday morning, home -- I wonder if I should have splurged for that external flash …. I really want these to turn out nice. Oh well, I’ll just toss these new sheets in dryer with a load of kids’ clothes and fluff them for the photos, to get rid of that crease the packaging always causes, so they'll hang nice as a backdrop drape.

Feb 10th, twenty minutes later on Saturday morning -- Who the SAM FREAKING HILL left a tube of Chapstick in their damn pants pocket???? My BRAND NEW CREAM SHEETS have grease stains all over them!!! ALL OVER THEM THEY ARE RUINED!!! Who did it? Who? Did? IT?!?!?!? No, no, I don’t even want to know !!! It’s too late to do anything about it now, and we’re running late. Has anybody seen my #(*$&#(* tripod?!?!? Somebody carry the vase and for God’s sake be careful, it’s glass! No, we’re not going to have time to come back here after Kellen’s basketball game; we have to go straight to the school so I can set up the photography area for the dance!!! I don’t care that you don’t want to go; you’re going! It’s going to be fun, damnit!

Feb 10th, Saturday afternoon, the school cafeteria -- Oh, for fuck’s sake, no matter which way I hang the damn sheet you can see the damn grease stains on it !!! Damn, damn damn!

Feb 10th, early Saturday evening, home -- OK. I feel much calmer now. All is right with the world again. Brayden looks beautiful; her hair and make up have been done and we’re excited for her date to get here.** The photo shoot area at the school looks really nice, now that Blaine helped me point and turn the stage lights and get the sheet to stick to the wall and arrange everything.

Who cares that it took an entire roll of duct tape? That parts not going to be in the pictures, anyway. Deep breath. I think it’s all going to be just fine.

Feb 10th, 6 pm, Saturday evening, back at the school -- Yes. See? Look at this, I'm pleased with the way it turned out, considering I'm not even close to being a real photographer.

This is going to be fun, after all. The teacher said anywhere from twenty to thirty photos, half an hour tops, then my friend Ilene and I will go to dinner. It’s all turning out OK.

6:30 pm, Saturday evening -- I’m pretty sure I’ve taken more than twenty photos, and there is still a line waiting. What’s up with this?

7:00 pm, Saturday evening --- Geez, it’s getting hot up here under these lights. I'm totally starting to sweat. I thought we were supposed to be done in half an hour … the dance is half over and there’s still no end in sight. I've got to be up over seventy or eighty photos already. Is every single kid here tonight getting their picture taken by me?

7:20 pm, Saturday evening -- What is up with this cheap piece of shit tripod, anyway? It keeps leaning to the left and all the photos are lopsided. Is someone dimming the lights? Who keeps dimming my lights?!?!? And for goodness sake, someone turn the air on, I'm dying! These pictures look underexposed ….. Just how long is that line??? This isn’t going quite like I thought it would …..

7:40 pm, Saturday evening -- Thank heavens I brought my extra battery and extra flash card …. Where the hell are all these kids coming from??? There’s not enough light …. There’s not enough light ….. I JUST KNOW THERE’S NOT ENOUGH LIGHT! THESE PICTURES ARE GOING TO TURN OUT TERRIBLE!!! THE KIDS ARE PAYING FOR THESE PICTURES AND I FEEL RESPONSIBLE AND THEY’RE ALL GOING TO SUCK BECAUSE I SUCK!!!!!


8:15 pm, Saturday evening, STILL at the school -- I can’t believe I had to stay here the entire time and take pictures and there was STILL a line waiting when the dance was over! They only planned for forty photos, tops …. I took over two hundred pictures, which I have to narrow down to just over a hundred portraits, and they only have forty of those cheesy construction paper frames pre-made! Who the hell else is going to make the other sixty frames????? Not me, I can tell you that!

1 am, Sunday morning, home -- {yawn} I’m exhausted. I’ve spent the last three hours sorting through these pictures; downloading, uploading, deleting, burning, etc. I probably shouldn’t have had that drink when I went out with Ilene because it’s making me reaaaalllllyyyyy sleeeeepppppyyyy. {bigger yawn}

8 am, Sunday morning, home -- OK, I feel refreshed! Ready to go, and face the day! The dance was fun! And exciting! And the kids looked beautiful! Sure, I got a little tired and grumpy there at the end, but that’s all right …. I’m still so glad I agreed to be the photographer. Now, I’m just going to sit here for an hour or so and tweak some of last night’s photos so they’re good for the kids … they paid for them, after all, I’d like them to look as professional as possible.

5 pm, Sunday afternoon, home, ass formed into shape of computer chair, totally bleary eyed --- Oh dear heavens. I can’t believe I had to clone and retouch that (#&$#(*&$ grease stain out of every single picture. AND lighten the photos because naturally, the stage lights weren't bright enough …. AND add a soft edged vignette and text to each picture because it just won’t do to settle for ordinary, now will it? OH, no, I’ve got to sit here in this computer chair until I can’t see straight and my eyes are falling out of my head but by golly, each and every one of these photos has had the contrast and balance leveled out and been sharpened or softened or whatever looks best with the kids clothes and I’ve printed “Valentines Dance 2007” or something or another on every one, too. PLUS crop out the stupid duct tape that is in half of the damn pictures .. I swear, I am in the bowels of photo-editing Hell. Because I’ve got nothing better to do with my time … like ….. like ….. oh, crap, we’re supposed to be celebrating Brayden’s birthday tonight and I haven’t made the cake OR wrapped the gifts … I’m never going to get these pictures finished and they want to pass them out to the kids tomorrow at school! Why on earth did I agree to this??? What was I thinking?? I should have just spent the three hundred dollars on the flash and saved myself eight hours in front of this #(*$&#(*& computer!

8:30 am, today -- Thank the stars above for one hour photo labs, is all I have to say.

9 am, today -- Are you kidding me? I really have to cut and decorate over sixty of these stinking construction paper frames??? Well, who else did I think was going to do it? Back to Michaels I go, to buy the #($*#(*& cardstock to make the #(*$&#*& frames --- oh yeah, uh-huh, this is turning out to be SUCH a fun project and I’m SO HAPPY I agreed to do it. (If you can’t “hear” the sarcasm in my voice, go back and re-read that sentence. Insert sarcasm. Sarcasm with lots and lots of #(*$&#)*$&).

Noon, today -- I’m not going to make it … not going to make it .... I’m not going to make it by the end of the school day. There are too many pictures …. Too many …… too many ……

1:30 pm, today-- Oh gosh, the clock is ticking ..... I'm running out of time .... my desk is a disaster; paper and photos and stamping supplies everywhere, but at last, the stack of completed pictures is almost done. I think, it just might be possible, maybe …………….

2:30 pm, today -- Triumphantly, pictures delivered to the teachers! I. AM. VICTORIOUS!!!!

And I’m pooped.

2:40 pm, today --- Oh, she did NOT just say there would be a 5th grade dance in May and they want me to do this all over again, did she???

No, I didn’t think so. And if she did, I'm going to need something stronger than that Sonic cup of Diet Dr. Pepper in the background.

**This warrants its own journal entry, is all I can say, but I warn you ahead of time that I will be using the phrase “how stinking adorable” about a million times.

Brayden's were the pictures I practiced on. You can tell in this one I still don't have the grease stain completely smoothed out, and there's a reflection on the photo and I was getting lazy with the text so I only put the year ... but I'll show you more good ones of Brayden and her DATE tomorrow. :)

Sunday, February 11, 2007

In Pursuit of the Perfect Picture. Or Even a Half-Way Decent One.

Some of you might have guessed, correctly, that I’m not at my most comfortable in front of a crowd. My gut-wrenching, visceral reaction to public speaking …. the fact I break out in a sweat at the thought of doing karaoke …. Obviously, performing, or even putting myself in a situation where a group of people MIGHT SEE ME, makes me twitchy. And not in a good way. If I’m with a group, it’s OK. But to be by myself, and know people are watching me, gives me hives. I have no idea why, and in fact, tell myself repeatedly that it’s silly. SILLY to feel that way. But, there it is. People watching me; the risk that I might make an ass out of myself in front of a crowd; frankly, it makes me blotchy in the chest.

We went to Kellen’s basketball game yesterday, and I was determined to get some good photos of him playing. A few things, however, were working against me. First, all the seats are on one side of the gym, and Kellen’s team was shooting in the goal at the other end for the entire game. (For some bizarre reason, they don’t switch goals at half-time in this league.) So 99 percent of the action I wanted was at the other end of the court. Plus, it’s an indoor gym, with fluorescent lighting, so there’s not really enough light to take action shots. I use my mamba-jamba telephoto lens in order to get close enough to the action, but the pics usually turn out grainy and underexposed. I try to offset these crappy photo-taking conditions by simply taking about a billion pictures. I figure if I stack the odds, eventually I’ll get lucky and get at least one or two good ones, right?

But alas, yesterday, I was having no luck whatsoever because again, all the action was on the wrong end of the court. So, despite the fact I hate to stand out in a crowd, hate to ever think I am the center of attention, I walked over to the vacant side of the gym to take pictures. So, there are the boys playing on the court. On one lonely side of the gym is me, standing by myself, valiantly peering through my lens hoping for a clear picture, and on the other side of the gym, directly across from me, are all the parents and grandparents and siblings and concession stand workers and anyone else who came to watch the game.

I’m not so sure my strategy worked. I’ve seen some beautiful photography on the blogs I follow, and love when people share their wonderful photos. But these? Not so wonderful.

I got some blurry photos:

I got quite a few of the back of his head:

Sometimes the pole was in focus, that's always lovely:

A few times, I was almost sure it would be a good shot, only to have some other kid step in front of Kellen at the exact moment I clicked the shutter button:

Some more blurry shots:

And probably the best blurry shot of the day:

Now, a normal person would start to get discouraged. A normal person would simply accept the cold hard truth that indoor action photography is better left to those professional photographers with their professional photography equipment. A normal person would just admit defeat, and sit down with her family to enjoy the game.

But I’m not a normal persona, am I? No, by golly, I’m a M.O.M. ! Which means, despite the fact all my pictures are turning out crappy, and I feel completely self-conscious standing by myself on the other side of the gym, I persevere.

I continue to peer through my lens, zooming, un-zooming, focusing, clicking ….. always, always following Kellen with my eyes, through my camera lens, hopeful, confident that eventually I will get just One. Good. Shot. I’m so single-minded ….. so dedicated ….. so focused on my goal …..

There goes a holler from the crowd!

I’m so busy looking through my lens I don’t see what has happened ….. what action did I miss?? Did Kellen do something amazing??? Why the sudden intake of breath from the crowd????

Sam, one of the boys on our team, had thrown a perfect arc, towards the basket, but unfortunately overshot the goal ………………… and the ball came down…………..

And landed right on the top of my head.


Bounced. Right. Off. The. Top. Of. My. Head. Like you see in cartoons, people!

One of those “he couldn’t do that again in a million years” kind of shots!

And I realized, a nano-second too late, that the collective noises I heard from the crowd, the gasps, the intake of breath …. Was the fact that every one of them had a direct view of me getting hit in the head with the ball.

Yes, well, that’s inconspicuous, isn’t it?

It’s a little hard to blend in, when the referee blows his whistle to stop the game and rushes over to make sure you’re ok.

And everyone is watching, certain that you’ve just gotten a concussion.

The only thing that made it better? That really, truly helped me shake it off and get everyone to forget it had happened? When approximately 82 people after the game rushed over to offer me aspirin, and an ice pack. Because for somebody who just wants to pretend that it never happened, that made me feel even BETTER!

So I just perfected my bright smile, and laughed, and said, repeatedly, “No, I’m not hurt as much as I am embarrassed!” And just kept cringing inside.

And you know what’s really pathetic? Here are the first three thoughts that went through my head … in order:

1. Thank you Jesus that ball hit me on top of the head and not my camera because if it had broken my camera and my mamba-jamba telephoto lens I would have thrown myself on the ground crying and it would have been an ugly, ugly scene.

2. Please, please don’t let anyone have been taping that because I really don’t want to wind up on America’s Funniest Videos.

3. That actually didn’t hurt at all. Just how hard is my head, anyway????

Sadly, my best photo of the entire day was of Kellen sitting on the bench. I think I’ll leave the indoor action photography to the pros from now on.