Sunday, June 29, 2008

The next level

So, always before, my kids have played in the sort of sports leagues where you show up, pay a registration fee, and the kids are randomly assigned to a team, which is almost always coached by a volunteer dad or two. A little fresh air, a little exercise, snacks (which are the most important part of all, don’t you know that?) and if things go well, they learn a few things about whatever sport it is they’re playing.

For now, the sport of choice for my kids is soccer. This makes me a little bit sad, because soccer did not become immensely popular until AFTER I was young, which means I know nothing about the sport. I don’t know a sweeper from a keeper from a stopper from a striker, and I have no clue about the rules or regulations. I have no suggestions about how to help my kids get any better, and the one and only time I tried to practice outside with them I tripped while dribbling and fell flat on my face, in a style reminiscent of an America’s Funniest Home Videos moment. So pretty much, comic relief is all I’m good for.

I felt even more frustrated when we moved here and had to learn our way around a new soccer league. When Kellen wanted to sign up for spring soccer, I had no clue about the difference between a recreational team, traveling rec, academy, or competitive. I just sent in a registration form, and he wound up on a rec team with really great kids. We had casual, laid-back fun … just like we liked it. Except, they only won one game the entire season and he didn’t really learn anything or improve. But hey, snacks were good, so he was happy.

However, for this fall, I was told that he is too old to continue in that division and would have to move up. The coach I talked to at soccer camp a few weeks ago suggested he try out for a competitive team, simply because those teams are put together after a tryout, and he wouldn’t need to “find” a team to play on. As the mom of a “new” kid in the league, the prospect of cold-calling a bunch of volunteer dads and asking if they have a spot on their already put-together team for my son pretty much made me break out in hives …. So I suggested trying out for a competitive team to Kellen. Much to my relief, he agreed.

According to the league website, there would be two competitive tryouts. The first was last Thursday night, and we planned to go, but things just got hectic. We had been busy all week, and Kellen was tired, and he had piano and we barely had time to get across town, and we were meeting friends for dinner …… blah blah. Since there was a second tryout listed for Saturday morning, we decided to wait and go to that one instead.

Imagine my disappointment when I showed up with him Saturday morning, and found out that the tryout was actually two parts: Thursday evening AND Saturday morning. We had missed it. The coach suggested Kellen could try out just the one day, but unfortunately it was raining. As long as the lightening sensor rod-light-thingy at the complex center was blinking, which it was, no one would be allowed on the field. The coach told me both teams (Team A and Team B) had been pretty much put together on Thursday night, and the Saturday practice was just to put the finishing touches on the teams. He offered to take our name and number and let us come back to the first practice, so they could at least take a look at Kellen and see if they had any spots still left open.

I was bummed. Really bummed, on Kellen’s behalf. And a little annoyed, to be honest, that the two-part tryout wasn’t better explained on the website. Not that Kellen is some outstanding, shining star player … he’s not. Nobody points and laughs, either, but I’ll admit I was excited at the thought he might get selected for a competitive team, one with a paid coach, and trainer, and really start to improve in his skills. Now, he already had one strike against him by missing the first tryout, and it looked like thanks to the weather, he wouldn’t even get a chance.

Suddenly, the sun came out. The blink-y lightening rod thing stopped blinking, and the boys, most of who had already been placed on one of the two teams, took the field. And as I sat in my van and watched the boys, I knew we had blown our chance by missing the first day of tryouts. These boys were already comfortable together, and already knew what the coaches wanted them to do. And I got more and more upset, and discouraged, and annoyed, the longer I sat there. “It’s not fair!” I wanted to say. How are new league members supposed to know the ins and outs of how teams are formed? I can even admit that at that point, I was basically pouting. I could tell by watching that Kellen wasn’t as good as some of the other boys … better than several, but not all. And the other boys had a definite advantage in that they all seemed to know one another, and would shout a team-mates name before making a pass. And I sat there and just got crankier and crankier that we had missed out due to our “newbie” status. (still pouting at that point.)

Just then, a dad walked over to his son, who was playing goalie. And in front of all the other parents, he started berating his son for not doing his goal kicks properly, and not having a good form. And the dad was sort of gesturing with his arms, and getting upset, and finally said, really loudly, “You just need to remember how important these tryouts are if you want to get picked for a team!” And the boy took a defensive stance and sounded exasperated and frustrated when he said, “I know, Dad!”

And in that instant I realized how ugly I was acting, and stopped pouting. Who gives a shit if Kellen gets picked for a team? This is supposed to be FUN, no matter what age the kids are. Even if yes, the skill level is getting a little more competitive, I refuse to be one of those parents who wants it more than my kid does. More specifically, I don’t ever want to be *that* dad, and take it personally. If Kellen didn’t get picked, so be it. He could play for a church league, or we’d find some other recreational league. But in that instant, my attitude did a complete reversal. Whatever happened, would happen, and we were going to Sonic afterwards to buy a chocolate shake and celebrate the fact he tried out at all.

A few minutes later, the team assistant walked over to my van, smiling. “Coach wants to offer your son a spot on the “B” team”, she said. “You can think about it, because it’s a pretty big commitment. Fall soccer, spring soccer, indoor arena soccer in the winter, and trainer fees every month. That’s in addition to registration fees, practice uniforms, and game uniforms.”

“No need to think about it,” I said, smiling from ear to ear, “We’re in.”

“Good,” she replied, her voice dropping to a conspiratorial whisper, “My son’s on the B team too, and we’ve got all the fun, laid back parents. It’s going to be a great year.” And I filled out the registration form, wrote her a check, and she walked off.

A few minutes later the tryouts ended. Kellen came to the van, noticeably dejected. He managed to wait until he got inside before starting to cry. Not big, puffy crybaby tears, but the kind of 10-year old boy tears that squeeze out from under tightly clenched eyelids … the “I’m trying really hard not to cry” kind of crying.

“What’s the matter, buddy? What’s wrong? Didn’t you have fun?” I asked.

“I didn’t get picked,” he said in a small voice, “Coach didn’t ask me to be on the team. He called me over to the bleachers, and asked if I wanted to be on his team, but then he never said anything else to me, so that means I didn’t get picked.”

“Kellen,” I said, barely able to contain my excitement, “You DID get picked! They came over and talked to me … you’re on one of the teams!”

Instead of being pleased, or surprised, he was still upset. “I don’t think I want to play with those boys,” he said, “they’re too rough, and they take it too seriously. They want to win no matter what.”

And I sat there for a second, and realized how very much alike my son and I are. He is not an aggressive, no-holds-barred, leave-it-all-on-the-field kind of kid. He likes the sport; he enjoys playing. And he'll be the first to tell you it's a lot more fun when you win. But if he accidentally knocks a competitor down, he wants to extend a hand to help them back up. If he accidentally falls down himself, he wants to be able to laugh about it before getting back up. He still wants the snacks after the game. Yes, there’s something to be admired about kids who are committed, determined, and competitive. But I also think there’s something to be admired about kids who still think having fun is a top priority.

And I took a few moments to explain to my son what it means to be on a “B” team --- how the boys are still good, and want to get better, and will work really hard to improve, but don’t have a win-at-all-costs mentality. And Kellen smiled, and seemed very relieved.

I think it’s going to be a perfect fit for our family. And I couldn’t be happier.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Be careful or you might get what you wish for

So, the sun came out, just like I hoped. Which was good, considering I had six bored kids in the living room. So we went to the water park. And played. And had fun. And all was well.

Well, let’s back up. Remember when I talked about my hatred for shopping for swimsuits? And how I only owned two suits, and they were both about seven years old, but I just kept wearing them over and over because they both still fit, even if not well? Well, um, I guess I spoke too soon because the last time we went to the lake, I ripped the seam out of one of them. Most definitely because of the friction caused from the innertube. NOT because of the size of my love handles.

So anyway, I took the cowards way out and bought two new suits online. And they arrived this week, and surprisingly, fit fairly well. So I wore one to the water park today.

And I wasn’t even too embarrassed as I walked around, because for once, neither my rear end nor my boobs were hanging out. And the neckline was fairly flattering. And the tummy control panel might have even worked a little bit. And while Sports Illustrated, Swimsuit Edition, wasn’t exactly beating a path to my door, I was able to feel decent about the way I looked.

As I walked around the park, all over the park, I continued to feel ok. When I went back to the locker to get my nephew’s shorts, when he ripped the seat out of his swimsuit, bless his little blonde head --- felt ok. And when I walked to the gift shop to buy him a new swimsuit when we realized his shorts were white. And when I walked Brayden out to the curb so her dad could take her to the doctor’s office (Oh, outer ear infection, why must you make your appearance on a pool day???) And when I walked my other nephew to the soda kiosk. And when I walked our small cooler back to our locker after lunch. And when I walked Kendrie to the bathroom. Etc. Etc. You get the picture.

So why is it, when I returned home late this afternoon --- hot, sweaty, and disheveled, and hopped into the shower ….. and felt something weird while showering ….. I realized that the “hygienic panty liner” that they put in all new swimsuits had been hanging out of my right butt cheek the entire day, and NOT ONE OF THOSE UNGRATEFUL KIDS COULD BE BOTHERED TO TELL ME!?!?!?!

Help me, please

Currently in my living room: Six children, ages 7 - 12, hopped up on sugar from the dozen donuts I foolishly purchased this morning

Plans for today: Local water park

Outside: Raining

Sweet baby Jesus, please let the sun come out.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

A thousand words .....

Cute little sandals:

Precious little sequins:

An adorable little bow:

An 8-yr old tomboy, HORRIFIED that someone might actually see her in a dress at a wedding:

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Not as anonymous as I think


Guess who I got an e-mail from yesterday!!!

Can you guess? Can you? Hmmmmmmmmm?????????

Yep, Steve Vaughan himself. I’m not sure who exactly out there somehow got a link to my blog sent to him, or when or where or why, but it happened fast. Obviously, the internet is not near as anonymous as I thought it was. Thankfully, he was an extremely good sport about it and has agreed not to sue me for defamation. Or libel. Or slander. Or whatever else he could possibly sue me for, including posting that horrid picture of us from high school. Where, did many of you even notice, I had the exact same haircut as my date ... a fact that I think is even sadder than that dress.

In all honesty, he was good natured about it, and not only had kind, friendly, long-lost-things to say, but even suggested that he and I and my BFF Louis (who was *his* BFF in high school --- wait, did boys actually HAVE BFF’s in high school in the 80’s???) get together for lunch some time.

All I have to say is, after all the fun I poked at him, I think it would be polite and prudent for me to pay for lunch. Sonic or not.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Whew! I'm Exhausted!

OK, now, those of you who have read this blog for a while know that I don't like to brag on myself. I mean, sure, it's common knowledge that I'm a complete health nut, and that I exercise all the time, and I'm so fit and buff and in great shape, and have a totally killer body, blah blah blah, but I try not to be too vocal about it. Just seems sort of rude and show-off-y, if you know what I mean. It's hard enough being the perfect specimen that I am ... no need to rub people's noses in it.

But, I'm so thrilled about what happened this weekend that I just can't keep from sharing it with all of you. I have no doubt you'll be just as thrilled for me, and happy to see the photos.

Although I work out -- LIKE A DOG -- all the time (how else do you think I keep this figure???) I've never really pushed myself like I did yesterday. Pushed myself to my physical and mental limits ... and if I say so myself, proved what an AWESOME example of true physical fitness I am.

I competed in my very first -- but not my last, rest assured -- triathlon this weekend --- and I kicked butt! First place for my age group -- woohoo!!!

Here's proof:

Here I am waiting in line for the first portion of the triathlon, the 100 yard freestyle swim. I'll admit, I was feeling a little nervous since I'd never done anything like this before, but I just kept telling myself how awesome I am and that everything would be ok:

And this is me in the water, completing the third lane. Sure, swimming might not be my forte, but since they didn't have to throw me any floaties, I felt pretty good about it:

After the swim portion of the event, we had to run outside and head to our bikes, for the 3-mile bike ride. Please pay no attention to the fact I am running topless --- there is less wind resistance that way and I can go faster:

Safety being the utmost concern, of course, I took the time to put on my bike helmet before taking off. All the race participants took off from the swim start in 15-second intervals, so at this point we were still pretty evenly spaced:

I was a little nervous when I saw some of the kids wearing hundred-dollar aerodynamic helmets, riding atop fifteen-hundred dollar bikes (so the adult triathlon participant standing next to her said to my Aunt Kristie. Er, I mean, said to ME) This was the part of the race that was hardest for the bystanders, because the 3-mile course was all completed away from the complex, so they had no idea if I would be in last place, or first place, or anywhere in between, until I showed up:

Well, the kids with the fancy-schmancy bikes *did* have a bit of an advantage, and I had maybe fallen a bit behind in the bike race. Or maybe not. It's difficult to tell, with the staggered starts like that. But here is where I got off my bike and started the one-mile run. You can see my mom, I mean, my SISTER .... pointing direction and helping me find the race course. (Somebody parked his white truck right at the entrance to the foot path, so all the contestants were sort of confused about where the run should begin):

Here, though, is where I shone. Shone like the star I am. I might be chubby, but I can run like a gazelle, and I made up ALL the time in the run, passing kids left and right. Again, you don't really know where you are finishing because the kid who finishes in front of you could have started out way in front of you, or way behind you. Likewise for the kids who finish behind you. Maybe they started WAY behind you and made up lots of time. Although I think that would be difficult, because let me repeat -- I am a running ROCK STAR!!!:

Whew! I gotta admit, even someone in as fine of physical condition as ME is winded at the end! 100 yard swim, 3 mile bike ride, and 1 mile run --- my time was 22 minutes. Now we just had to stand around, wait for the other kids to finish, and see how my overall time compared to everyone else's:


Wait, what do you mean you guys aren't falling for any of this? What's not believable? The part about how fit I am? Or how fast I am? Or what an awesome swimmer and bicycler I am???

OK --- fine. I'll confess.

It was my nephew Dalton.

*HE* totally rocks --- *HE* is the awesome athlete --- *HE* is the one who won his first ever triathlon yesterday:

But you know what? I am a proud Aunt, and I ran around that course taking pictures and yelling encouragement like a crazy person. It was really hot and sunny and I TOTALLY starting sweating a little bit, and I think I deserve a medal for that, too.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

More About Steve Vaughan

So, since I’ve already violated about ninety-nine privacy rules by posting his name and occupation, I figured I’d go ahead and tell you a story about my school mate Steve.

In the eighth grade (Eighth grade? Maybe ninth? I can’t remember, for goodness sake, that was about a bazillion years ago before I killed all my brain cells with alcohol) it was a well-known fact that you had to dissect a frog in Biology class. I’m not a vegetarian, or any kind of animal-rights activist, so while I had no problem with dissecting a frog in theory, it still wasn’t something I was particularly looking forward to doing. I mean …. just kind of ….. ewww, gross.

So on the very first day of eighth grade (Eighth? Ninth? We’ll go with eighth, for the sake of the story) I approached Steve, who I had known for years, and who was not only a really great guy, but who was also one of the smartest boys in our class. Approached him with an offer he couldn’t refuse: If he would agree to be my lab partner for the frog dissection, and do all of the actual dissecting himself, I would agree to write and type the entire report and he wouldn’t have to do any of it, and then we’d split the credit for both.

Steve thought that was a good idea, so we agreed to work together when the time came. And because I am a paranoid freak very organized, I would remind him of our arrangement on occasion throughout the year. Each time, he would affirm that yes, HE would do all the dissecting, and I would do all the writing and typing. It was a fool-proof plan, no?

Um, no.

The day of the dissection arrived, and I showed up to school confident and happy with my genius plan. I mean, my gosh, with Steve Vaughan, one of the smartest boys in eighth grade as my lab partner, how could I go wrong?

Well, I’ll tell you how. A little thing called the stomach flu got in the way.

Steve showed up to Biology that day looking, well, a little peaked, to be honest. He smiled gamely, if weakly, at me … picked up the scalpel …. made one incision into that little formaldehyde Kermit ….. and threw up all over the table.

OK, that’s an exaggeration. There was a door from the biology room to the attached outdoor courtyard, and he at least made it outside before throwing up. But still ---- major chunk blowing, coming out of my lab partner, who was now completely worthless. So much for my fool proof plan.

Can you guess who got stuck dissecting the entire damn frog by herself??? Yep, yours truly, while dainty, delicate, I-feel-a-little-queasy-Steve had to lie-down for the rest of class.

(Ironically, it wasn’t near as bad as I thought. And I went on to dissect two cats in college without trauma, so I guess I wasn’t horrifically scarred after all.)

Anyway, fast forward to our 10-year high school reunion. The reunion committee sent out surveys beforehand for people to fill out, then complied the surveys into a memory book for the reunion. Not anything snooty about how much money do you make, or name three significant ways you’ve made the world a better place ….. more like, “Where could we find you on a Friday night?” and “Name one thing you refuse to eat.” (In fact, I helped with the survey and some of the answers we got were hysterical …. But, another post for another day.)

One of the questions was “Name your three favorite school memories” and I briefly re-capped the Steve-Vaughan-throwing-up-on-frog-dissection-day-tale, much to Steve’s chagrin. In fact, I believe his exact words to me afterwards were, “You’re never going to let that go, are you? It was the stomach flu, I’m telling you, the FLU!” And I although I believe him completely, what kind of eighth grade lab partner would I be if I didn’t take every opportunity to re-tell the story and embarrass him?

Including telling it now, to all you peoples of the Internet.

And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is why I will never receive free gift cards from Steve, despite the fact he is now Chief Financial Officer of Sonic Corporation. Because he couldn’t hold his cookies on dissection day, and I will never let him forget it. That's just the kind of friend I am.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Sonic. And I don’t mean the Hedgehog.

I am both saddened and dismayed to realize there are those of you out there without easy access to Sonic, or (gasp!) those of you who don’t even know what it is. I’ll tell you what it is … it’s what God created on the eighth day when he looked down and had “invent fast food” on his list. And behold, there is Sonic. {cue angel music}

OK, so maybe it’s not that fabulous, but it is pretty darn good food. And amazingly good drinks. And convenience and cheerfulness, served in a cup by a carhop.

In a nutshell, Sonic is a drive-in fast food restaurant (America’s Drive In!) and I’m proud to say it originated here in Oklahoma, and that their corporate headquarters are based right here in Oklahoma City. I’m sure that has something to do with the fact there is one every few miles around here. And yes, to answer those of you who have asked, I do have one very close to my house. Close enough that if push came to shove, I could walk there. (Not happily, I might add, because the only place I walk happily is to the front of the buffet line, but you know what I mean.) In fact, it’s the same Sonic that we used to walk to in high school for lunch, and the same Sonic we used to park at on Friday and Saturday nights when we were teenagers. Nostalgia AND Diet Dr Pepper with soft ice in a Styrofoam cup --- do you SEE why it is the perfect place for me????

According to Wikipedia: Sonic Corporation is an American fast food restaurant chain based in OKC that recreates the drive-in diner feel of the 1950’s, complete with carhops who often wear roller skates. There were 3,290 restaurants in 34 states, plus one in Mexico, as of May 31,2007. The first one opened in Shawnee, OK, in 1953, so to answer the question of the person who wondered if it is a fad, I’d have to say no. Fifty-five years in business means they must be doing something right.

Sonic has always featured unique menu items like hand-made Onion Rings and flavored drinks like Cherry Limeades and Vanilla Cokes, as well as such drive-in staples as hamburgers, Coneys (hot dogs covered with chili and shredded cheese) and corn dogs, shakes and malts. Many different flavors such as vanilla, chocolate, cherry, strawberry, cranberry, apple, etc are available and can be added to drinks. Sonic boasts an impressive 168,894 possible drink combinations, stating that you could have a new drink every day for the next 462 years, a claim that backs up their slogan as "Your Ultimate Drink Stop". All locations also feature "happy hour" every day from 2-4 pm, in which the customer may buy soft drinks, slushes, limeades and iced tea for half price.

Personally, my favorites are the breakfast burritos, onion rings, and tater tots, although Happy Hour is reason enough to get out of bed most mornings.

It’s convenient, it’s fast, and best of all, you don’t even have to get out of your car to eat if you don’t want to. Although I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Sonic with indoor seating (not counting the ones located in malls) most have patio or picnic tables outside. Many days after school we see lots of other moms and kids from our school, because where else can me and all three kids get a soda for under $3 total? So it’s not only the pure joy and happiness of carbonation in a cup, it’s social-hour as well.

Do I think the food is good enough to wait in line for an hour? No, probably not. But that’s because I’m spoiled and have four Sonics within five minutes of my house. When we lived in Ohio, the nearest Sonic was an hour away and although I never made a special trip, believe me, if we were driving past, we stopped. Now, it’s such a staple of my life that at any given time I have Sonic cups in my office, my car, and the kitchen. I am quite possibly the happiest Sonic customer in the world.

{/end commercial}

OK, but HERE is my burning Sonic mystery --- the question that has plagued me for years and years and years … (ok, really, only for a few months since I found out)

See this boy?

This boy right here, standing next to me in this God-Awful picture from my Jr-Prom-that-wasn’t-really-a-prom-because-we-weren’t-allowed-to-dance-at-our-school?**

Although I haven’t talked to him in years, and don’t have his permission, and am probably breaking every internetiquette rule known to mankind, I’m going to tell you a little bit about him (besides the fact he was obviously a genius for taking me to prom ….. no, I’m kidding, he totally didn’t want to take me, I bullied him into it. But that’s another story for another day.)

His name is Steve Vaughan and we went to high school together (duh.) After high school graduation, Steve got an accounting degree, or a finance degree, or something, I’m really not sure. Then, he became a CPA. (He was always a pretty smart cookie.)

Do you want to know what he does for a living now? What is his current job????


WTF??? Somebody *I* know, somebody *I* went to high school with, is CHIEF FREAKING FINANCIAL OFFICER FOR SONIC, and he’s never so much as tossed me a free gift card???? What is up with that? Doesn’t he know I’m the biggest Sonic fan that ever lived? Hasn’t he heard about all the times I’ve plugged his employer on my blog, and all the free publicity I’ve given them? Doesn’t he know that I single-handedly raise company profits every quarter with my Diet Dr Pepper in a styrofoam cup with soft ice obsession????

Um, no, he probably doesn’t. Because I have’t talked to him in like fifteen years.

But you better believe at next year’s reunion there had better be some cards passed from him to me, is all I’m saying!

Ooooh, or maybe I’ll get lucky and Steve will google himself in the next few days and find this journal entry and read about how much I love Sonic and be nice and send me some gift cards.

Oh, shoot, except maybe he’s not over the fact I bullied him into taking me to the prom.

Dang, Mom always said not to be pushy; looks like she was right.

**No comments about the dress, please. Remember, it was the early 1980's, and I was actually quite stylish. (shudder)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Fun Is ......

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, fun is .....

Watching a kid, determined to get up on a U-ski ....

Especially when he succeeds!

And then seeing the same thing happen to the one and only kid who couldn't manage the U-ski two summers ago, but got up her first try this time! (Well, the first try after the initial first try when she flopped around in the water pitching a holy fit like a dying fish when she couldn't fit her feet into the ski the first time around the WORLD was coming to an end .... not that she's dramatic or anything I have no idea where she gets that .... )

Watching kids splash ....

Watching kids contort their bodies like dolphins, and knowing darn good and well that if that were YOU, you wouldn't be able to get out of bed the next morning ...

Watching my nephew ride his kneeboard ...

Watching the boys innertube ...

More specifically, watching my son squeal like a girl ...

OK, if I'm being honest, letting everyone on the boat watch ME squeal like a girl. Only honestly, I wasn't squealing, I was cracking up. With hysterical laughter. And then about two seconds after this picture was taken, I fell off the innertube because I have the upper body strength of a gnat and couldn't hold on and laugh at the same time. You know that 90 pound weakling who used to get sand kicked in his face at the beach? Yeah, *THAT* kid could beat me in an arm wrestling contest. As big as my arms are, there is deceptively little muscle in them.

Being grateful for water-proof casts ...

Watching one of my other nephews wakeboard ...

Watching my oldest nephew flash the peace sign to his friends on the shore ...

Watching him do tricks, and accepting the fact that not even in your younger, more agile days could you do this spin-around trick and not do a face plant right in the lake .... have you ever HAD lake water go right up your sinus cavity and into your brain? No? It's not the most pleasant sensation in the world, let me tell you.

Catching your very own fish with your very own bare hands ..... (don't even ask)

Having Aunt Kelly teach you to ski ...

I SAID ... having Aunt Kelly ....

.... teach you .....

.... to ski ......

... or .....


But hey, he gets an "E" for effort, right?

Today's Fun included playing with the cousins, swimming at Grandma's pool, piano lessons, and a baseball game this evening. I swear, not only is all this fun seriously cutting into my blogging time, but it's exhausting as well.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Lessons Learned Today

1. A ratio of six kids to one adult at the local amusement park is actually not that bad, assuming all of them are willing to listen.

2. No matter how brave your nephew says he is, watching the people in front of him get stuck upside down on a ride will make him a tad nervous.

3. When paying six dollars for a personal pizza, Mom thinks you are being wasteful if you don’t eat the crust. So especially don’t ask for a five dollar sucker afterwards.

4. Just because your ten-year old son has the courage to ride all the “big” rides, doesn’t mean he has the stomach to ride the twirly, spinny ones.

5. When letting your pale, nauseous, sweaty, shaky, son cool off in the pizza parlor with a Sprite, it is perhaps not a good idea to let your 8-yr old daughter ride the Pirate Ship eight times in a row.

6. And then the teacups three times in a row.

7. Kids, when you tell your mom you think you might throw up, listen to her when she says to throw up in the bushes or on the grass. Don’t argue that it’s disgusting and you should be looking for a trash can. The trash cans at this park have non-removable covers on them and trust me, you’re not talented enough to throw up at that angle.

8. When you actually do throw up in the bushes, don’t feel embarrassed that other people are watching. Even if they do point and say “Ewwww” really loud.

9. Because a few minutes later you will see a teenage boy attempting to throw up in a trashcan.

10. A trash can with a lid on it.

11. And he will miss the angle, and spew vomit all down the front of the trashcan and all over his own feet and legs.

12. And you will point and say “Ewww” really loudly, even though you know it’s not polite.

13. And you will realize your mom is a freaking GENIUS about throwing up in the bushes.

14. All done!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Always better with friends

Swimming? Check.

Eating out? (a lot) Check.

Local parks? Check.

Nintendo battles? Check.

Watching re-runs of Home Improvement? (I have no idea about this one) Check.

A day at the lake, spent inner-tubing, wake-boarding, knee-boarding, swimming, U-skiing, boating, and sunburning ourselves pink as lobsters? Check.

But it's always better with friends.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Puppies for Sale

Oh, wait. Not puppies. Children.

So this is how my day went today:

7 am until 8 am: Typical morning insanity routine, as experienced by all mothers everywhere, during which time you try to dress and feed yourself, drag three uncooperative children out of bed, feed kids, make them get dressed, referee argument about who didn't really brush for two minutes, try to fix headband that was just purchased yesterday but which daughter says already won't stay in her hair, make water bottles for everyone, make sure you have cash for the concession stand, pack piano books in car, search for missing cleats how on God’s green earth can they be missing you just wore them yesterday for pete’s sake???

8:30 until noon: Sit in the blazing sun while all three kids are at soccer camp and try to explain to them why m&ms and Dr. Pepper from the concession stand during break time is perhaps not the healthiest choice. And yes, I understand that running for three hours makes your legs tired and your feet hurt but you are young and you will get over it. Leave soccer camp long enough to buy yourself a Diet Dr. Pepper from the nearby Sonic.

Drive kids to Chick-Fil-A for lunch. Specifically ask for one menu item for yourself, only to get half a mile down the road and discover *your* lunch item is incorrect, but the nugget order is perfect, which the children don’t even appreciate because they are too busy fighting over which box belongs to who. Diet Dr. Pepper is only thing that saves lunch for you and makes fighting in car bearable.

1pm until 3 pm: Take kids to see Kung Fu Panda. Misunderstand Kendrie when she asks for a “pack” (meaning kids snack pack) from the concession stand and think she says “Sack” so buy her a sack of popcorn then watch her puff up like a blowfish and pout when she realizes you have bought the wrong thing. Offer to pay for an empty kids pack so you can pour your kid’s popcorn into it (because Lord knows it tastes better in this cardboard bucket as opposed to that cardboard bucket) only for the pimply-faced teenager behind the counter to tell you that an empty kids pack is not available for sale.

3 pm until 4 pm: Drive kids to piano lessons, stopping at Sonic along the way for yet another Diet Dr. Pepper because if your kidneys haven’t begun to shut down yet then there’s still time to pour some Jack Daniels into the cup and just try to make it to the end of the day.

4 pm until 5 pm: Piano lessons, which I am required to sit and observe. (The teacher’s rules.)

5:30 until 8 pm: Attend nephew’s baseball game, allowing children to purchase hot dogs and ice pops for dinner. Then have cousins come over afterwards for brief playdate while Aunt Kelly picks up a few things for 6-yr old nephew who broke his leg last week in a pillow fight.

9 pm: Get into argument with both daughters who don’t want to return to soccer camp in the morning because “their feet hurt and their legs hurt and if they had known they were going to have to RUN so much they would never have agreed to go.” Who would have guessed there would be running involved in soccer camp??? Get into argument with son who announces he is not going to bed but is going to sleep in the recliner so he can watch more TV. When you tell him he *is* going to sleep in his closet bedroom, have him angrily comment about “how come he never gets to do anything HE wants to do?!?!?!”

Pour stiff drink. Inhale. Repeat.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

More Q & A

Lizinsumner asks: My only question - is there an "average total cost" that the IPs spend on the "average" surrogacy (knowing full well that there's no such thing as an "average" surrogacy, I'm sure)....I know people who have spent in excess of $30,000 for a single adoption; wondering if surrogacy costs more.....

Liz, I can honestly say that I have no idea what the average cost would be, although I imagine much higher than $30,000. However, I doubt there *is* an average cost, since so many variables take place. For example, how many IVF attempts does it take to get pregnant? When Blaine and I were doing IVF for ourselves many years ago, each attempt was approximately $12,000. No money-back-guarantee if it doesn’t work ….. Do the IP’s have medical insurance that will pay for part of the process, or is it all out-of-pocket, and how many are they willing to try? How far apart are the couple and the surrogate, and therefore how much is involved regarding travel expenses? I know couples and surrogates who live in the same town, therefore no travel is involved. I, however, had to fly numerous times for every couple, stay in hotels, rent cars, etc. Did the couple and the surrogate already know one another, or somehow find each other, or are they paying an agency for matching services? What if the surrogate is put on bedrest and the couple has to reimburse her for lost wages for months and months? Is it a “compassionate” surrogacy, meaning the surrogate is doing this for no compensation? Most surrogacies are not.

I’m sure there is a wide range of “average”, and like anything in the world of fertility treatment, it’s unfortunately not fiscally available to everyone who would benefit.

Anonymous asks: This is a very nosy question and I'll totally understand if you never answer it (I probably wouldn't) but, do surrogates still receive some sort of personal compensation for carrying a baby to term- aside from the covering of medical costs? You always hear stories about women being paid tens of thousands of dollars for doing this and I wondered if that's actually true or if it's just a tall tale. (Of course I don't mean this to be offensive- I don't mean to say women would be in this as a business for the money. I'm just genuinely curious.)

Also, I know your husband is military- I recently read an article claiming that infertile couples specifically seek out military wives now to become their potential surrogate because the military insurance covers 100% of the cost. Is this true?

Nosy, nosy, nosy aren't I?

Anonymous, I’ve discussed the compensation issue here. Hopefully that will answer that part of your question. As far as the recent Newsweek article, highlighting the large number of military wives who choose to be surrogates, I think many people have been mis-lead by the article.

“Military insurance covers 100% of the cost” ---- First of all, let me remind people that military insurance is not “free”. Blaine has premiums taken out of his paycheck just like anyone else in the working world does. So to imply that our healthcare is “free”, and that our medical/pregnancy treatment is “free”, is a misconception.

Also, to clarify, military insurance covers NONE of the cost for the fertility treatments to get the surrogate pregnant. Military insurance provides very little in the form of fertility treatment to being with, and they pay for none of it regarding IVF attempts for a surrogate pregnancy. All of it … the cost of medications, ultrasounds, blood work, the IVF itself, and then the monitoring that goes on immediately afterwards, is non-covered and must be paid by the Intended Parents.

Yes, once an active-duty military person, or military dependent, is pregnant, our insurance provides medical care for the pregnancy and delivery. However, so do most private health care companies, something that most people don’t seem to realize. Therefore, what makes the military insurance any different than Blue Cross/Blue Shield, or Aetna? Recently, both Tricare (the military insurance) and various private health care companies have been grumbling about surrogate pregnancies, and tentative steps are being made to stop the benefits, which I think is a real shame. That will do nothing more than require Intended Parents to take out private health care policies for their surrogate and pay the premiums out of their own pocket... like this isn't expensive enough already?

Personally, I think the reason military wives are so often willing to serve as surrogates has less to do with our insurance (many women in this country have medical insurance, but you don't see the vast majority of them lining up to be surrogates, either) and more because we have a tendency to be married to service-minded people, and see this as something we can do to help others …. Many in the military, and military periphery, simply have that mind-set of wanting to help. Also, (ok, this is where my opinion comes in, and nothing more) military wives are often kept from successful careers because we move every few years with our husbands to new military bases. It’s hard to climb the corporate ladder, or build up any kind of seniority, when you’re starting a new job every two years. This is just my personal opinion, but being a surrogate is something *I* can do, no matter where we are living (to a point) and it allows me to feel like I’m making a contribution.

Ryley asks: okay.. i have questions for you if you even want to do a question and answer day..

after having the babies.. when you went home from the hospital and laid on the couch or in your bed.. we're you ever sad for a second?
I know we've talked about the shrivled raisin heart thing.. :)
but did you ever miss having them in your tummy?

are any or all of your families open with their children? Like do they still send you pictures and letters and stuff?

do you talk to kids before you start another pregnancy? are they aware when you are doing it? and do they ever ask you to have another baby for your family? :)

okay.. i know weird questions.. but the internet is nosey! :)

Ryley, not too nosy, no. :)

First of all, was I ever sad after returning home from the hospital? Yes, but probably not for the reason people might expect. I wasn’t sad like a woman who had just lost a child, and I never suffered from any baby-blues. I was simply sad because it was over. Yes, I missed being pregnant, and yes, I missed the excitement and anticipation of knowing what was happening. But no, I never felt depressed about it. I read a quote somewhere: “Don’t be sad because it’s over …. Be happy that it happened.” I try very hard to apply that thought process to my surrogate pregnancies, and it always works!

All three of the families I’ve done this for are wonderful, and extremely generous with sending photos and updates of the kids. I’ve gone for visits, and we send birthday gifts, and talk on the phone, and e-mail, etc. In fact, the third couple I carried for just sent pictures of Nicolas’ on his second birthday --- wow, does time fly! I don’t live close enough to see any of them often, so I’m grateful we keep in touch in other ways. Personally, I would never agree to be a surrogate for a couple who wanted to keep it a secret, and I don’t think many do.

I made scrapbooks for all three families, and I loved the last time I went to visit the twins, we sat in the floor and the boys and I looked at the book together, and they could make the connection between the photos, and the real-live-me that was sitting there. How special is that? Do I think I'll still be in contact with these families in ten years? Twenty years? Invited to the childrens' weddings to stand in the back and sniffle and weep my way through the ceremony? Um, I don't know. While that would be nice, and I'm certainly open to it, it's not necessary. I've been able to stay relatively close for a few years with each of them, and as people's lives get busier, mine included, I understand this sort of contact will enevitably become less. But for now, it's perfect.

The first three times that I did this I didn’t tell my children because they were so young it wasn’t really necessary. This most recent time, however, they were aware I was going to be gone overnight, and noticed the needles and Sharps container in my bathroom, so obviously they knew *something* was going on. Although they are comfortable with the process, I wish I could have kept it from them because the two miscarriages were hard for them to understand. First there was a baby, then there wasn’t …. Why? And yes, Kendrie asks on pretty much a daily basis when am I going to have another baby for our family? Because she doesn’t want to be the youngest so she needs a little brother or sister. I hate to tell her, but the Vasectomy Ship sailed about eight years ago.

Lisa in Texas asks: I have a question that probably sounds like a made-for-TV movie, but what would happen if the IP's divorce or God-forbid die during the pregnancy? Also, what if you found out the baby had something wrong, like Tay-Sachs, spinabifida, or some other life-threatening disorder, who makes the decision about continuing the pregnancy? What if your life were in danger if a pregnancy continued?

Lisa, as far as the baby having a medical issue, those are all situations that need to be discussed thoroughly before any surrogate and couple agree to work together, and then should be addressed clearly in the legal contract. Some surrogates refuse to consider a termination for any reason at all …. So it’s important they be matched with a couple who feels the same way. If not a termination, what about reducing a triplet or quadruplet pregnancy (not that those happen often, thank goodness) down to twins? Some couples would want to, for the health of the babies, and the health of the surrogate. Other couples would not. Again, that’s why it matters so, so much that everyone be on the same page, and that those decisions be made in agreement beforehand and stated in the contract.

Ultimately, no one can FORCE a surrogate to have a reduction or termination, nor can they FORBID her from having one. But my personal opinion is that the decision should be carefully weighed by all involved; that the couple and the surrogate and the surrogates’ husband be in complete agreement …. And that the doctor’s recommendation should weigh most heavily of all.

It also states clearly in the contract what provisions have been made, regarding legal guardianship of the baby, in the event both Intended Parents were to die during the pregnancy.

The divorce situation is a bit stickier, although it still states clearly in the contract that the babies are the legal, financial, and physical responsibility of the Intended Parents, no matter what. I know one surrogate whose Intended Parents divorced during her pregnancy …. Definitely unfortunate, although they were both present at the delivery and must have, I assumed, worked out some kind of custody agreement in their divorce proceedings. Another situation occurred when a couple used donor egg and the father’s sperm, and the surrogate got pregnant with twins. During the pregnancy the couple divorced. The dad said he didn’t want the babies, and the Intended Mom said since they weren’t her biological children, she didn’t want them either. And there sat the pregnant surrogate. Although legally still the responsibility of the Intended Parents, would you really want to place babies with people who don’t want them?? In that situation, the agency they were using helped the surrogate choose adoptive parents for the babies. A happy ending, yes, but stressful for everyone involved. And what if that surrogate had been matched independently with her couple and not had the legal and emotional support of her agency? Thankfully, these types of situations are few and far between --- but since they *can* happen, it’s important that everything be spelled out crystal clear in the contract beforehand.

So, anything else anyone wants to ask? Surrogacy related, or what I had for dinner last night, or most embarrassing moment? Anything?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Birth Plan

Having determined that my ideal couple was “anyone who wouldn’t stand between me and the anesthesiologist”, I thought it was nice that my IM wound up being a nurse herself. (Ironically, the very first couple that the counselor tried to match me with …. The couple that turned me down …. He WAS an anesthesiologist. That’s ok, that match still wouldn’t have worked out, no matter how many wonderful drugs he could have smuggled me during delivery. **PS KIDDING!) In addition to working in the medical field herself, my IM had almost died when she lost their second child. So her appreciation for modern medicine was both professional AND personal. Obviously, a traditional, hospital-birth setting, with plenty of medical staff hovering nearby, was something they were all in favor of, so we were good to go.

At this point, with about two months to go until delivery, it was time for my counselor and me to discuss my Birth Plan. A Birth Plan is a written (or just thought-out, I suppose) idea of how you would ideally like the birth to go. It’s something that is recommended for anyone giving birth, but the agency especially recommends them for surrogate deliveries, since sometimes in the chaos that is “delivery”, you can lose focus on what is (or WAS) important to you. The birth plan is simply a way to make sure everyone – doctor, nurses, surrogate, surrogate’s husband, and the Intended Parents, are all on the same page, and have the same goals and expectations.

When my counselor called me to discuss it, she asked, “So, basically, what is your birth plan?” And I replied, “You know my birth plan. To have as many drugs as I need to be comfortable. And at the end, it would be nice if perhaps, maybe, hopefully, a real live baby could come out of my body.”

Somehow, I think she thought my expectations were a little low.

There were actually lots of things for me to consider, and she offered up other suggestions that had been important to other surrogates, for me to think about.

Was I comfortable having my couple in the room with me while I was in labor? While I was actually pushing? What if the hospital put a limit on the number of people who could be in the room? Who would I want then? Assuming I was comfortable having the couple in the room (I was) then where did I want them to stand? At the head of the bead? At the foot of the bed, so they could see their daughter being born? And see lots of other naughty bits? Was I ok with that? (I was not, sorry to be a prude, please stand at the head of the bed.)

What did I want to happen in the moments immediately after the baby was born? Did I want the doctor to place the baby on my stomach, as is traditionally done after delivery? Some surrogates feel very strongly that they be allowed to hold the baby first, and then they can physically “present” the newborn to his/her parents. Or they want the surrogate’s husband to be allowed that privilege, as a way of respecting his support during the entire process. In fact, I know one surrogate who felt strongly that she wanted to “present” the babies (she was having twins) to their parents, and explained to her IP’s how important that was to her. She wound up having an emergency c-section and was put under general anesthesia for the surgery. Her couple not only had the stress of making sure their babies were ok, but also making sure this surrogate, who they had grown to care about like a member of their own family, was alright as well. But this couple went way beyond that. They waited, several hours, to hold their own children, until the surrogate had come out of anesthesia, and could realize her dream of physically handing the babies to their parents. That is how much they respected the wishes of their surrogate ---- how freaking awesome is that?!?

Anyway, for ourselves, we were hoping our delivery would be a little less dramatic, but I did have a preference --- I wanted the baby to be immediately handed to her mother or father. I didn’t want her coming to me first. I felt as though my privilege had been to “hold” her for the past nine months …. Her parents should be the first ones to get that privilege once she was born.

More things to consider ---

Often, if a hospital has an available extra room, the family will be given their own room with the baby. In the event there were no extra rooms, however, after the baby is born and cleaned up, did I want the couple to have the opportunity to room in with me? Did I want the baby to stay in the nursery? Did I want private time with the baby, to feed her or change her? Some surrogates, either at the request, or with the blessing of, the Intended Parents, choose to nurse the baby in the hospital, or perhaps pump their breastmilk for the parents to bottle feed to the baby. Was I interested in either of those things? Was my couple?

Hospitals usually only give two wristbands, for people to have the right to check the baby out of the nursery. Obviously, they normally go to the mother and father … did I want one of the wristbands for myself? If not, did I want my couple to bring the baby to my room for visits?

And of course, the bottom line of any Birth Plan: realize that the unexpected can always happen, and be flexible if your birth plan goes to pot. Yes, it’s important to have a general idea of what you hope will happen, but it’s equally important to realize things don’t always go as planned. In my mind, the fewer expectations I had, the less likely I would be disappointed if something didn’t go the way I planned.

Finally, bottom line, I did wind up giving my counselor a list of a few specific requests:

I wanted to be able to take as many photos and video during that time as the hospital policy would allow. Turns out my couple also hoped I would feel comfortable if *they* took lots of photos, so we were all happy.

I asked that my children be allowed to visit the baby in the hospital. My counselor said not only was this allowed, but recommended. They were still young at the time; 2, 4, and 5, and I needed for them to see what this was all about. Thankfully, my couple said they couldn’t wait to meet my kids and that they were welcome at any time.

And then lastly, this is where the weirdness that is me became apparent. I have a *THING* … and I know it’s silly, and doesn’t make any rational sense, and in the big picture what does it matter anyway …. But I have this *THING* about the “ceremony” of allowing the father to cut the umbilical cord. Basically, that I think it is the dumbest, most superfluous, most inane example of stupid-ness on the planet. It’s this totally lame task that someone thought up … to what? Make the fathers feel important? Like they’ve contributed in some way? I’m sorry, but it’s no great skill to work a pair of scissors. My kids all learned in pre-school, and more important, I don’t think the act of cutting the cord makes a man a father. And, perhaps in a more subconscious way, I resent the symbolism of it. *I* grew this baby inside of me for nine months; *I* nurtured her; *I* pushed her out of my bagina ---- now a dad gets to show up and in one second .. SNIP! He’s an important part of the birthing process? No, I’m sorry, that’s just ignorant and asinine. He was an important part of the process nine months ago … now, he can bring me ice chips and smuggle me m&ms and simply stick around during my tortoise-labor to support me --- THAT is what makes him important, not cutting a stupid cord.

(I told you it was irrational and silly. But it's how I feel.)

When I was pregnant with Kellen and Kendrie, I tried explaining this feeling to Blaine, as a way of letting him know that I didn’t want him to cut the cord on either of them. I hoped it didn’t hurt his feeling, but I found it patronizing and insulting … and stupid. Have I mentioned stupid??? Blaine, thankfully, laughed, and said he could care less about cutting some dumb cord. Whew! But now I had to tell my counselor about this weird hang-up of mine, and that I didn’t think I would be comfortable with my IF cutting the cord.

She *did* think it was weird, but she told him. And while I have no idea if my IP’s thought it was weird or not, they were perfectly respectful about it. In fact, their exact words were that they had waited so long for this baby, a little cord cutting, or NOT, really wasn’t going to make any difference right at the end.

One final thing the counselor recommended was that Blaine and I work out a secret word, or secret code, for just the two of us. Then, if at any point during the labor or delivery things became overwhelming to me, and I reached a place where I needed to be alone, I simply needed to say the word. His job would be to recognize the word, and know that at that moment, he needed to find a polite, tactful way of getting the parents out of the room. The counselor explained, sometimes the physical pain, or emotions of what is happening can reach a point where you don’t want an audience. Maybe you just need a quiet moment to gather your thoughts, and collect yourself physically. And your husband’s job, as your primary support person, is to make sure you get it if you need it.

I told my counselor that I appreciated that, and would definitely take it under consideration. Then I called my IM and told her what my counselor had said. And told her that my secret code phrase, for when I needed them to step out of my room, was: “I need you to step the hell out of my room for a minute, please.”

Thankfully, she laughed.

And with that, I think our birth plan was in place. Weirdness and all.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Summer School

I am a horrible, mean, evil mother, because I make my kids do academic worksheets in the summer. Every morning, before we leave the house to do anything fun like swimming or the movies, they have to complete about five worksheets apiece, from various workbooks that I buy over the Internet. I buy grade appropriate books for each kid, in subjects such as grammar, vocabulary, math, reading, and science. Then, after they do the worksheets I look over them, and try to help explain anything they’ve gotten wrong --- bearing in mind that I am NOT cut out to be a home-schooling mom, and really, I have the patience of a gnat. A gnat with ADHD.

Truly, I’m a summer fun-sucker if ever there was one.

Someday, when my kids are in Harvard, they’ll thank me.

Actually, I’ll just be happy if none of them drop out of high school.


Anyway, Kellen’s science worksheet on Friday was over Food Chains in the Sea, and featured a very nice circular drawing, showing the shark eating the tuna, and the tuna eating the herring, and the herring eating the copepod, and the copepod eating the phytoplankton. He had to read one paragraph of information, and then answer questions such as “What would happen if the tuna population became endangered?” and “Give an example of a land food chain.”

This was one of the questions: “What does it mean to say, ‘The death of one species in the food chain upsets the rest of the chain.’ ? “

I thought his answer was especially profound:

“Of course they would be upset and sad because they’re all a part of the same fish family.”

So, um, props for being sensitive, or should I have checked into real, live summer school???

Friday, June 06, 2008

Low Blood Sugar

So, school let out two weeks ago. Which only means one thing: summer is here. Which only means one thing: it’s getting hot. Which only means one thing: we are trying our best to stay cool. Which only means one thing: we’re spending lots of time at the pool. Which only means one thing: I have officially entered that time of year hated by most females: The Swimsuit Humiliation Era.

I have a confession to make: I only own two swimsuits, and I have been wearing them since our last summer in Ohio …. 2001. Which means these suits are seven years old. And while I suppose I should just be grateful I can still fit into them, the truth of the matter is that they don’t fit like they should, and it’s NOT because the fabric has shrunk. It’s because the rest of me has grown.

I suppose I could behave like a normal person and spend some time shopping for a new suit at the mall, cursing the swimsuit makers of America, and wondering who the hell decided full-length mirrors and fluorescent lighting in dressing rooms was a good idea. Instead, the beginning of every summer, I go on a desperation-diet in an attempt to drop at least ten (ahem, twenty) pounds so my seven-year-old swimsuits will once again cover my ass.

To that extent, I gave up sugar on Monday. Gave up breads and potatoes and pastas, and am going with a high protein, low-fat diet in an attempt to lose a few pounds quickly. Not a long-term solution, but one that will hopefully show speedy results. I didn’t realize, however, just how much I was missing my sugar until today.

We were at the water park (imagine that) and I was walking back from the concession stand with the kids. Brayden had curly fries, and Kendrie had nachos. Both of which looked delicious. And I had a Diet Coke, for which I was indeed grateful, but which wasn’t exactly curbing my carb cravings.

Then, a little girl walked in front of me, holding the most beautiful, most delicious-looking ice cream cone I’ve ever seen. I could only see the top of the cone --- a ginormous scoop of ice cream, vanilla I presume, covered in that yummy chocolate hard shell that I love so much. It was so luscious looking, so perfectly round, so decadent … for a half second, I honestly considered ripping that cone out of her hand and running. She was pretty short, I bet I could have beat her in a footrace.

I gazed at the chocolate cone, imagining it’s cold, frosty sweetness … imagining the way the hard shell chocolate would crack under my tongue …. Imagining the scrumptious vanilla ice cream underneath … imagining … wait, what? What is that????

Holy shit, that’s not ice cream. That’s a Dora doll, and the chocolate cone is Dora’s big fat plastic brown head.

I better start mainlining Hershey bars before the sugar low causes any more hallucinations, don't you think?

Kristie, the drug-addict

Back about a million years ago, when Blaine and I had our very first interview with the counselor, after I initially applied to be a surrogate, one of the questions she asked was, “What type of couple would you NOT want to work with?” She went on to explain that the agency works with all types of Intended Parents ….. same sex couples, couples of different ethnic backgrounds, even single parents. Couples who want a LOT of contact with their surrogate; couples who don’t really want much contact at all. Couples who want to be very involved with the pregnancy; couples who don’t. Couples who want to stay close after the baby is born; couples who don’t. Couples from all over the country; couples from all over the world. Was there any thing at all that was a definite NO for me and Blaine??

I thought about it for a moment, and then replied, “No tree huggers.”

The counselor had never heard that term, so I explained to her what I meant: no “crunchy” people. No couple who wanted me to take pre-natal yoga classes, and get pre-natal massages or acupuncture. No giving birth in a bathtub, or pool of water in my living room, or in my own bed. No chanting or incense or monk music playing in the background during delivery. No bouncing on a delivery ball, no hypno-birthing, no bean-bag birthing chairs, no birthing stools. Basically, I wanted a couple that was medically main-stream. I wanted to give birth in a traditional hospital setting, and most importantly, with drugs on board. Lots and lots of drugs, in fact, if I decided I needed or wanted them. At all. Even for a hangnail.

Now, that’s not to say I think all of those less-conventional birthing methods are inherently bad. But even the first time I was pregnant, and planning to deliver Kellen, the idea of a home birth or water birth was a little out of the realm of “comfortable” for me. Do I think those things work for other people? Of course. Did I think, prior to giving birth to Kellen, that *I* wanted any of them? Not really. And especially not after giving birth twice, and discovering both times, that although I do the pregnancy thing really, really well ---- well, I pretty much suck at the delivering part.

My body doesn’t seem to know how to go into labor spontaneously, and I was ten days past due with both kids. I had to be induced both times (did you know that at so many days past due, your placenta starts to fall apart like a moldy sponge, and you really have no choice but to induce labor for the health of the baby? No? Neither did I. But me and my moldy-sponge placenta learned it both times.) And once induced, I am the tortoise-woman of labor. Entire shift changes can happen in a hospital, while I struggle to dilate even one more centimeter. I hear about women who show up at the hospital already dilated to a ten, and push for ten minutes and out pops a baby. That, no doubt, would be fabulous. But, it’s not me. My body is basically crap at the delivering part.

With Kellen and Kendrie both, I labored for hours, and then pushed for literally HOURS, and then still, no baby. Kellen wound up being a c-section because I had already been at the hospital 28 hours and quite frankly, didn’t have it in me to keep going. I pushed with Kendrie for over two hours before crying Uncle and letting the doctor pull her out with forceps, something that has apparently traumatized her for life.

Whatever. My point, in talking to this counselor, is that while I loved being pregnant, and was very excited about the possibility of being a surrogate …. Not so much with the deliveries. So I needed a couple who understood, and supported, my decision to give birth in a traditional hospital setting, in case another c-section became necessary. And a couple who wouldn’t be disappointed if I used pain relief during my marathon labor session. Because while I say more power to the women who *want*, and are successful, giving birth without drugs, that’s simply not me.

The counselor assured me that the final decision about whether or not to get pain relief during labor was up to me and my doctor; that under no circumstance could a couple dictate drugs or no drugs for a surrogate. Well, ok, I suspected as much, but I wanted to be sure any couple she matched me with not only knew I most likely would want drugs, but that they would be perfectly fine with that decision ahead of time. Other than that, I didn’t really have any deal-breakers. Match me with pretty much anyone, and I’d be happy, so long as they agreed with me that “epidural” was synonymous with “heaven.”

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

And the cranky-pants hormones kick in.

As things continued to progress, and my stomach continued to get bigger and bigger, and it became more and more apparent that ,oh, I don’t know, perhaps a BABY would be coming out of it soon, the people around me started getting weirder and weirder. And naturally, being a hormonally-charged pregnant woman, I started getting crankier and crankier with them. When I wasn’t rushing to and from the bathroom all day, that is. How is it that my stomach and ankles get HUGE when I’m pregnant, but my bladder gets teeny-tiny????

I don’t get morning sickness. And since I’ve been pregnant five times (seven if you count the two miscarriages) and I’ve never had a day of it, I feel pretty confident that I’m not going to jinx myself by saying that. Actually, I’m one of those obnoxious people who LOVES being pregnant. I love to feel the baby kicking; I love to see my stomach get big. I feel healthy, and energetic, and fantastic. Sure, I waddle around, and grumble under my breath about the heartburn and carpal-tunnel-ey wrists, and about how ugly maternity swimsuits are, but overall, I love it. Love, love, love it. I don’t *think* I’m speaking an untruth when I say that I don’t complain very much during pregnancy, either, because I’m lucky, and have been fortunate never to have any complications or problems. Bottom line, during my pregnancies there isn’t really anything to complain about, so for the most part, I don’t.

In the last trimester, people --- specifically, the women in my new playgroup, who I did not know well --- started asking me “how was I feeling?” .... a lot. I assumed it was because they could tell from my, ahem, girth, that I was nearing the end, and probably not sleeping well, and getting tired and heavy. But whenever I would chirp back a cheerful, honest “I feel fine, thanks for asking!” I would often get a second, much more solicitous … “But really, how are you FEELING?” Like they were Dr. Phil, and I was some kind of mental patient who needed gentle handling with kid gloves.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that a lot of the people around me expected, and assumed, that I would be having all kinds of mental angst and second thoughts about my role as surrogate. Surely, now that I could feel the baby moving, I must be forming a close emotional bond. Surely, I must be a total basket case anticipating the delivery, and the ultimate act of returning this baby to her parents. Surely, the maternal ache deep in my gut would render me incapable of dealing with this situation in any sort of rational way. Surely, a mental breakdown over the fact I was GIVING THIS BABY AWAY was due any time.

Quite frankly, they were all pissing me off.

If I could be honest --- for surrogates, or at least for me, it felt like a lose-lose scenario. If I told people what they wanted, or expected, to hear, which was that I was worried about how I would feel after delivery, and that I was having second thoughts, and wasn’t sure I would be able to hand over the baby without feeling like I was giving away a part of myself …. Well, if I told them that, I would be a big fat liar. I felt none of those things.

Yes, I felt an attachment to the baby. For goodness’ sake, I’d been taking care of her for the past six or seven months, I would HOPE that I felt some kind of attachment! But not the attachment a mother feels for her child. Simply, the attachment I should feel as a caregiver, which is ultimately what I was. Did I want to protect this baby? And take care of her? And do the very best I could for her? Yes. Did I want to keep her? Did I love her like a child of my own? Did I feel sad, or angry, or depressed, at the thought that **I** wouldn’t be the one bringing her home from the hospital? No. Was I jealous that someone else would be handling the colic and the diaper changes and the 3am feedings??? Hell, no!!

But to say those things out loud made me sound like a cold-hearted shrew. Which I’m not. At least, I don’t think I am. I was actually excited for the delivery, and for the moment I would get to see my IP’s meet their new daughter for the first time. Why did so many people have a hard time understanding that?

Once or twice, I confess to losing my patience. Especially when someone would reply to my carefully thought-out, logical comments, with the response: “Well, I just don’t think I could do it.” Or, “There’s no way I could carry a baby for nine months and then just give it away.” I’ll admit, a few times, I actually answered with: “Well, I have a shriveled up raisin for a heart, so I guess it’s easy for me.” And then just walked away, smiling to myself.

Most of the time though, I simply did my best to state my position clearly …. I care about this baby, and care most about taking care of her until her parents can. And although I had never experienced labor and delivery as a surrogate, I was hopeful that it would be an amazing experience, and one that left me feeling fulfilled and joyful …. Not depressed or jealous or sad.

And any of the new playgroup moms who didn’t seem to understand that ….. well, I just did my best to stay away from them. Normally by excusing myself to use the restroom, since that was one excuse that never seemed suspicious. You know, what with the teeny-tiny bladder and all.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Story ... Continued ... Typing it is taking just as long as I was actually pregnant

PS. I feel compelled to mention that I had dinner with three friends from high school last night ... the first time the four of us have gotten together at the same time since I moved home. One of them (love ya, Ep!) commented on my pregnancy .... about the same time I downed a pitcher of margaritas and ripped my shirt off to dance nekkid on the table top, I suppose. Kidding. You know I don't drink tequila.

When I said to her, with what must have been a funny look on my face (winded, you know, from the dancing on the table top) that I wasn't pregnant, she said, "I thought you were." And I replied, "No, I was, but I miscarried over Spring Break."

And she said, "But I just read on your blog about the ultrasound, and how it's only one baby .... you typed that, right???"

And that's when it occurred to me that I perhaps haven't done as good a job at reminding all of you that I'm RECAPPING my original surrogate pregnancy, and not telling a current story.

We had a good chuckle about the misunderstanding, and then ordered another pitcher, and then danced nekkid on the table some more. Because there have to be *SOME* perks to not being pregnant, right?


Things continued to just roll along without any problems. {In my FIRST surrogate pregnancy, back in 2001/2002 time frame!} The amnio results had come back as normal, and confirmed that the baby was a girl. By the time I was 28 weeks along, I had taken all the requisite tests (I am one of the freaks who actually likes the flavor of the orange syrup glucose test ---- tastes just like the orange slush desserts we used to get in elementary school --- yummy!) and we began making some tentative plans regarding the delivery.

My due date was May 7th-ish, and I bought plane tickets for my mom and dad to come to Alabama a few days before and stay with my kids so Blaine could be with me at the hospital whenever the time came to deliver. There was always the chance I could deliver earlier than planned and my parents, or even the baby’s parents, might not be there in time, but Kellen and Kendrie were both ten days past their due dates, so I was hopeful this baby wouldn’t put in a surprise appearance earlier than any of us intended.

My IM and I were still talking on the phone often, and she was busy getting the nursery ready, and shopping for the items the baby would need. Her friends threw her a surprise private shower in a department store, after hours, with the salespeople serving them champagne, which I thought was about the coolest thing ever.

Despite all our excitement, and gratitude that things had gone so well, it’s still an unusual situation to find yourself in. Me, and her. Happy, but in an odd sort of limbo. She confirmed that to me on the phone one day, when she made the comment ….. “It’s just so weird to sit here, waiting for my baby to be born, and there’s nothing I can really do in the meantime. I’m not the one pregnant; I’m not the one in control; and while I’m happy, I can’t help feeling a little frustrated that it’s happening to someone else. That probably doesn’t make any sense to you, but its how I feel. Like I’m just …. Waiting around. An observer.”

I thought for a moment, and then said as gently and respectfully as possible, “I understand precisely how you feel. That’s exactly how I felt when M. was pregnant with Brayden, and I was at the mercy of someone else, and unable to be in charge of what was happening. I knew this marvelous thing was going to happen at the end, but in the meantime, I wasn’t really an active part of it, and I couldn’t help feeling like I was missing out. Yet admitting that felt ungrateful. So I think I understand just what you’re feeling.”

And she paused, and then said, “You’re exactly right …. I never thought of that. Of anyone else involved in this entire process, you know how I’m feeling probably better than anyone.”

And with that, I think our friendship, and level of respect for one another, was cemented.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Almost Half-Way

When I was at about the four-month mark in the pregnancy, my IM approached me about the possibility of me having an amniocentesis at the same time as the “big” ultrasound that is usually scheduled for the half-way mark. Not necessarily because we suspected anything was wrong, but because she was 39 when her eggs were harvested, and I think she wanted to hear an official “all-clear” on the health of the baby.

And so we decided, hey, we might as well make a party out of it. So they bought me a plane ticket to their home state, and we turned it into a three-day visit. And because I am nothing if not efficient (ie, lazy as anything) I’ll simply re-post excerpts from my original journal to tell you how things went:

Journal entry dated December 20, 2001:

“Wow, what an amazing time I had this weekend! I don’t even know if I can explain how great it was to spend time with this wonderful family and be included in their life, even if just for a few days ….

My first night in, we had dinner with her entire family, his entire family, some neighbors, and friends. Fifteen adults and nine children; with me placed firmly at the head of the table, toasts made and everything. It was definitely trial by fire, and I did feel self-conscious at first being the center of attention, but I had a very good time. They all were incredibly friendly and worked hard to make me feel at ease. This baby is obviously being welcomed by a lot of people! …..

The second day we got up and did the tour of NYC. I think I saw more in twelve hours than most people see in a week! Ground Zero, the top of the Empire State Building, Times Square (including Toys R Us), my first hot dog from a street vendor, the Plaza, horse and buggy ride around Central Park, FAO Schwartz, 5th Avenue, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Rockefeller Center, dinner, and Les Mis on Broadway … whew! I was exhausted by the time we returned home. Well, not really exhausted, I was kind of hopped up on all the sightseeing. S. had rented a car and driver for us so we didn’t have to hassle (or should I say, SHE didn’t have to hassle – like I would have been any help at all?) with traffic and parking. It was drizzling in the morning and a little on the cool side, but still a great day. And what better time to experience NYC than during the Christmas season? It is such a busy city, and she went to great lengths to make sure I had the complete tourist experience…

The next morning we all went to the doctor’s for the ultrasound and amnio. Everything went just fine and we are pretty sure they are having a girl (which is what I wanted, although it’s really not any of my business!) We’ll know for sure in a few weeks when the amnio results come in, but the tech said she was pretty sure. I think the staff was a little confused about the situation; who was who, why was my personal physician in another state, etc. The doctor was a bit gruff at the beginning, but warmed up after a few minutes. Then, during the post-op instruction portion, the nurses became quite interested in the process, asking S. and me lots of questions about surrogacy and our situation. Sometimes when that happens I am a little nervous about being a spokesperson for surrogacy in general. What if I don’t give the right answers? It was nice having S. there with me to answer their questions, and to make sure they got both perspectives….

I was supposed to be on “bed rest” for the next 24 hours, so we just went back to their house, had lunch, watched movies, and had friends come over to visit. It was very special for me to get to witness S. calling her sister on the phone, with the “it’s a girl!” announcement, and see her friends and family so obviously caring about the results. I got to look through their photo albums and just hang out, being lazy the entire day. How nice for me, but they must think I am one awful houseguest, just taking up space on their sofa! ….

I had a fantastic time and like this family even more now. I feel so lucky to have spent time with them like this and to have been welcomed in such a warm fashion. I mean, let’s be honest, I pretty much invited myself to stay in their home --- what else were they going to do, say no?? But they were kind, gracious hosts and I enjoyed myself immensely. Now, I just want the amnio results to come back and find out if it’s really a girl, and that everything is ok.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

It’s probably in Websters by now. As a verb.

Kristie: “So, what was your favorite part of being at the lake last weekend?

Kendrie: “Um, probably the you-tubing.”

Kristie: “You tubing?”

Kendrie, rolling eyes: “You know, when we hooked the tube up to the boat and Uncle Cliff pulled us around in circles??”

Kristie: “Oh! You mean INNER tubing!”

Kendrie: “Whatever.”