Worst Hotel EVER

Posted on 9/29/2007 08:08:00 AM
OK - I promised tales of woe from the hospital so consider this my bitch session, which will prepare me for the letter I shall be writing about the standard of care I received while in the hospital. This is long and you should probably skip reading this if you do not enjoy the rantings and ravings of a post-partum crazy lady who is sure she is about to be charged millions of dollars for care and attention that is rivaled only by the local TravelLodge.

In my letter, here is what I will suggest they do and/or inform patients of in the future:

Front desk staff should not offer their "guesses" for what's going on upstairs when it's clear that they have no way of knowing the truth. The first thing that happened when we walked into the hospital to the visitors' desk. I said, "We need to go to Labor and Delivery" and the scared little man at the desk said,

"You can't, there's a lock down. CODE PINK."

KoH joking: "You mean someone tried to steal a baby?"

Scared man: "No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no! Someone just got too close to the door with the sensor. That's what happened."

Yeah... that's the ticket.
We knew there was no way he could possibly know that that's what happened. It was a LOCK DOWN. I heard two different stories later on for what happened and neither was even close to that. In my favorite - and now the most believable - story, the parents of a child didn't appreciate the standard of care they were getting and tried to leave AMA (against medical advice) with their child which set off the alarm.

Nurses should carry a pad of paper in their pockets. And when a patient says, "Can I have... [insert name of request here, i.e.: water, pain medication, an explanation, a doctor who gives more of a damn than you people, turn off that damn IV pole because it's been beeping loudly for more than three hours and while I'm guessing you are able to sleep through it I am not, oh and by the way shouldn't the IV be
dripping?]" they can WRITE IT DOWN and remember that when such a request is made, it would be helpful to actually DO it at some point in time. I cannot begin to count the number of things I asked for - serious things, not just 'hey man can you fluff my pillow for me' - that were never responded to, even after I hit that damn call button numerous times. At one point the person on the end of the call button admitted to me that she was just there to take the call and relay it to my nurse - she could not actually do anything for me. She might as well have been a technical support person in India.

There is no point to the chatty 'get to know your patient' requirements if it does not improve care. When the intake nurse was taking my volumes of information, she stopped at one point, rolled her eyes and said, "Now, I know this is silly but what are some things that are important to you?"

"Excuse me?" we both said to her.

"I know. The hospital wants us to (airquotes) 'get to know' the patients better and understand them, so we have to ask this question. 'What are some things that are important to you?'"

Awkward silence as we both thought,
Is this some kind of test we're about to fail?

"You know," she offered, "like friends, family, faith."

Me: "Oooooooooooh. I see. Will you accept 'not dying in surgery' and 'TV'?"

She started to put that in the computer. "No, no, no," I said... "just put family and faith."

So anyway, by the time I got to my actual room after my six hour recovery, I understood what this sign was for. But it amused me that for the first two days I was there, I liked to be called "Sally" (not my name) and I had no things that were important to me. Also, there was no marker with which to change it. I wondered how many weeks ago Sally had had her baby. Finally on day three, one of the nurses came in with a marker and tried to fill it out. She put my name at the top and asked where I was when I wasn't in the hospital. I said, "at home." (I was pretty grumpy by this time.) She didn't fill out the rest. After that the nurses came in and put their cell phone numbers down by their names each time there was a shift change, but I don't think I called one of those numbers once and actually got through to someone.

Please tell patients to BRING THEIR OWN PAIN MEDS. It will save a lot of grief. I think it's a well-known fact that the medical profession is under fire for and has a whole new philosophy about responding to patients' pain. It is no longer acceptable to simply ignore people who say they are in pain or tell them to tough it out. To this end, this sign is on the wall of every room in this hospital. But, it seems that in this facility, this is the extent of the attention they will pay to your pain after you are there. In recovery, I was told if I wanted something for the nausea to simply ask and they would bring it. I didn't experience this in my first two c-sections, but man it got to me this time. So when they moved me to a permanent room and I still could not stop throwing up, I called and asked for Reglan. This was about 4:30 pm. They finally brought it at 9:45 pm. Once they administered it, it worked like a charm, but I'm guessing not even the best placebo works until someone actually gives it to the patient.

I was on a six hour schedule of Motrin, (MOTRIN - you know, like the stuff you buy in the grocery store and take yourself all the time?) which I got approximately every nine hours and Oxycodone PRN, which basically means they don't give it to you automatically, but when you need it, a nurse could give it.

One night in the middle of the night, I woke up in the most excruciating pain I've ever felt. Let's remember, I am no stranger to c-sections... this was new. I pushed the call button for the nurse and got an immediate, "What's wrong?" over the intercom. I explained that I needed something for the pain and she said, "OK." By this time, I've gotten wise to the system though. Twenty minutes later, I pushed again. Same process. Ten minutes later, again. Five minutes later, again. Finally my nurse came in and gave me a couple of pills and berated me for waiting too long to ask for pain meds. I should "get on top" of the pain rather than "chase behind it".

"I've been calling for over an hour now," I said.

"Really? How many times did you call?"


"Oh... I only got this last request. Hmmm."

Hmmm, indeed.
So the next day, I was determined not to be put in that awful situation again. I knew that it took on average 1.5 hours to get anything I requested, so I started keeping track of my meds schedule and asking 1.5 hours early for each medication I knew I could have. That lasted until the afternoon when I told the day shift nurse that was going to need Motrin at 4:00. At 5:30 when she still had not brought the Motrin, I again reminded her and told her at 6:00 she should be ready to bring me the Oxy. She lectured me that I was not on a "schedule" for Oxy and it was PRN and did I even know what that meant? I told her yes, it meant that I could have it when I needed it and since I was in pain now because my Motrin was now almost two hours late so she should just count on my needing the Oxy when the time came. Needless to say, she never came back with either. So I had the KingOfHearts smuggle in his own Motrin for me. I just took that for the remaining day.

If you're going to require that patients be responsible for obtaining their own meals, you should tell them. The first day I was on a liquid diet so appropriate meals were brought to me. The second day, my IV became infiltrated and my hand blew up like a Mickey Mouse glove. This has happened to me before so I knew the signs and had a nurse take it out quickly. But then she didn't want to put the IV back in because she thought I'd be off the IV by noon anyway. She said, "Why don't you see if you can tolerate some solid foods for lunch and then if not, I'll put it back in. That's pretty much what your doctor ordered anyway."

So noon comes by. No lunch. One o'clock. No lunch. Finally at 1:30 the nurse came in and said, "How was lunch?"

"Beats me, it hasn't come yet."

"Well, didn't you order it?"

"Order it? You mean I have to order my own lunch?"

"Yeah, you choose what you want from the menu, call it in and they bring it."

"Well, seeing as how no one told me this, I don't have a menu, and I don't know what number to call, I guess I haven't done that yet. That would probably be helpful information to tell someone ahead of time." Next time, I'll just order a pizza.

Having lactation consultants in the hospital does no one any good if they refuse to come to your room. I had a very (VERY) difficult time breastfeeding The Dormouse, so, determined to avoid some of those issues this time, I asked to see a lactation consultant when I was in the intake process, about twenty minutes after I was wheeled into recovery, and about thirty times once I got into my room. When The Caterpillar came out of the NICU, they had had to give her formula to help her transition and later when I tried to feed her myself, I couldn't get her to latch on. It looked like I was going to go through all the drama of a child who wouldn't eat again. I asked every nurse who entered when I would see the LC because I really didn't want to start her on formula immediately, but also didn't want her to get dehydrated and/or to go through months of weight gain fears like I did with The Dormouse so I was unsure what to do. And I knew the minute I gave that baby a bottle, the lactation person would come in and yell at me for it - but what are you supposed to do in the absence of any help whatsoever? The nurses sure weren't offering. They all claimed the person would be around. Finally, on day two, a person came into my room and introduced herself as the lactation person. I started rapid-firing questions at her and she stopped me mid-sentence. "Oh, I'm not the in-hospital person. I'm just here to tell you about the outside hospital services." She threw a few pamphlets and clich
és at me and promised to send the in-hospital person, who didn't come until six hours later and then got impatient because the pediatrician was there too. I asked her to wait because I'd been waiting to talk to her for more than 24 hours by then and she said she'd come back in five minutes. Five minutes later a nurse came in to tell me she decided not to come back and would send the evening person by so I'd have to wait another few hours to even see that person, making it now about a day and a half after The Caterpillar was born. And yes, when she finally showed up, she did yell at us for giving her formula. Gee, I wonder why people give up on breast-feeding so easily?

Post-partum, hormonal women who are having post-operative pain and nursing a child should have 'climate-controlled rooms', not 'rooms controlled by the climate'. I should have known right away that something was up when every single nurse who came into my room said, "Whew! It's hot in here!" accompanied by a dramatic wave with the chart across their faces. You can't see it here but this thermostat for the room I was staying in shows a current temperature of 80. Add to that, hormones, post-operative pain, nursing a new baby with a core temperature of 100, and no air circulation you get an approximate room temperature of 900 million degrees Fahrenheit.

Here is the individually controlled AC system for the room: Here is the system that replaced that system: And here is the system that replaced that system: Here is the plastic pillow they gave me to lie on in the 900 million degrees Fahrenheit room: Here is the plastic bed they gave me to sleep on on the 900 million degrees Fahrenheit room: Here is Jesus, sweating: Seeing a pattern here? Finally on Friday night, it got so unbearable that we asked for another room and threatened to move my bed into the hallway until a maintenance guy finally showed up. He came in, fiddled with the controls (like we hadn't tried that already) and then went out mumbling that there was something wrong with the main frame coil thingy bob and if he could fix that it'd get more comfortable, otherwise he'd come back with a new window unit. Over the course of my stay he proved the only person who actually kept to his word and did, in fact, come back with a new unit... five, count them, FIVE MINUTES before they released me the next morning.

Rooms with plumbing problems are probably not the most sterile or useful. Here is the oh, so sanitary sink where water wouldn't drain out in under thirty minutes:

On the first day a nurse noticed this and said, "I'll put a work order in for that." I never saw her again. If I had, I would have asked her to add to her imaginary list of things she intended to do but never would, the fact that in both the sink and the shower, when you turned on the hot water control, hot water came out. And when you turned on the cold water control, hot water came out. Made for a lovely shower and pericare, because don't think for a minute that the nurses let the water cool down before using it, let me just exist to be a witness to THAT.

I'm not saying that sink is what caused the post-op infection that I'm currently dealing with; I'm just saying it probably didn't help.

Don't send patient advocates around to ask how the care is going if they are going to be completely blindsided by the honest answers they're given. I have to say my favorite part of the week was when Monica, KoH, and I were sitting in my room and a woman came in and explained that she was from Patient Advocate Services and was just checking in to see if everything was going well and I felt like I was getting good care here.
She looked like a deer in headlights when the three of us together said, "Uh... you might want to have a seat."

Oh and by the way, there's a spot on the drywall. I'll bet KoH could have fixed that while we were there if you'd asked him.
We are not amused.

My thoughts: 

Impromtu Lullaby

Posted on 9/28/2007 08:26:00 AM
I was going through the photos from the hospital this morning and found this little video clip of The Dormouse singing to the baby. I was so groggy, I can't even remember if I took the video or KoH did. Regardless, I think I will keep it in my back pocket arsenal for when they are teenagers and fighting over bathroom time or who stole who's sweater - then force them to watch it together while holding hands.

My thoughts: 

I Appear to Have Given Birth to a Frog

Posted on 9/28/2007 08:17:00 AM

My thoughts: 

You'll Never Find Us On A Hallmark Card

Posted on 9/28/2007 12:46:00 AM
"Momma, baby cheers me up so much."

"Aw, that's sweet to say. How does she cheer you up?"

"I like how she goes poopy in her diaper."

My thoughts: 

Actually, They're Called Nursing Pads - We're Both Idiots

Posted on 9/27/2007 06:15:00 AM
"What do we need at Target, again?"

"Hmmm... return the car seat, milk, kitty litter.... oh and I need some dress shields."

"Dress shields? What are those?"

"You know, pads to put in my bra so I don't leak breast milk all over every single shirt I own."

"Oh." *silence, then:* Those are called 'dress shields'?"

"I guess. I don't really know what they're called. I just know what they do."

"Well, I guess better to call them 'Dress Shields' than 'Weepy Tit Covers'."

"I hear they tried marketing them as 'Weepy Tit Covers' but it didn't really catch on."

"I can see why. Eeew. No one would buy them."

My thoughts: 

We Call This the 4th Trimester

Posted on 9/26/2007 06:47:00 AM
The problem with emailed pregnancy newsletters, is you can't figure out how to get them to stop when you don't need them anymore:
You are now in week 38 of your pregnancy.

For those of you still in the race, you've got a baby that is just about its birth size (weighing between 6 to 8 pounds and measuring between 19 and 20 inches long). They're ready to go (more or less), with fully developed organ systems and plenty of baby fat to ensure they're warm enough. It's important that you're not getting too stressed out as labor approaches, and that means trying to get some decent sleep. We've got some good tips in our week 38 article to help you catch a few zzz's.
Oh well. In three more weeks, I'll probably be getting breast-feeding advice. So that'll be good.

My thoughts: 

This is Why Some Animals Eat Their Young

Posted on 9/26/2007 06:05:00 AM

Just so you know?

Breastfeeding and I are no better friends now than we were the first time around.

My thoughts: 

Halloween Crafts Anyone?

Posted on 9/25/2007 03:53:00 PM In:

I realize that this may be considered in poor taste to some, but it is the most hilarious/disturbing thing I've found on the Interweb since I located the Museum of Menstruation and learned it was within driving distance of my home. (Don't get excited, it's closed - I tried.)

My thoughts: 

My Favorite Card So Far

Posted on 9/25/2007 05:45:00 AM
Some people are just too sentimental for words.

My thoughts: 

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Posted on 9/24/2007 11:11:00 AM
Welcome back from non-blogger land. For those of you who've missed my presence in the Internets lately, let me just say, Hi Mom, see you soon. The rest of you, I'm sure, hardly noticed the great, gaping, black hole my absence on the Interweb caused because Britney Spears and her bodyguard filled in the space nicely while I was away.

News from this neck of the woods if you haven't been following my recommendations for summer reading?

I had a baby ya'll!

And not just on any day, but on Talk Like a Pirate Day. (Just so you know, the surgeon did not call me "me hearty" or say "yaaar" to me once... a fact for which I am extremely grateful. But all the nurses did, inexplicably go around wearing Hawaiian leis all day.)

All in all, things went very well.

We had about three hours of intake and preparation where I was required to fill out a form and list every symptom of every disease I've had since birth... then the nurse totally ignored the forms I painstakingly filled out and verbally asked me every question again and entered it into the computer. I also had to give them permission to discuss my medical issues with my husband and list any exceptions to that I wished him not to know. (I offered "don't tell him if the baby is Chinese." He offered "don't tell him I'm pregnant." The charge nurse was unamused.)

Ultimately, the entire surgery took less time than it did to check in; I went in for the spinal block at 10:45 and the baby was delivered at 11:22 at a whopping 7 pounds, 13 ounces, which may not seem like much to you, but I just kept thinking, "What would she have been in another three weeks?!?"

One of those pictures I will later use to blackmail her on her Prom night.

It took me a long time to get out of recovery this time (note to self: third subsequent c-section does not get any easier to recover from... consider this for a fourth) and we had a small scare with fluid in the lungs and the baby had to spend a few hours in the NICU. This affected me more than anyone else since it was my decision not do an amniocentesis for lung maturity immediately before the birth. I had an anterior placenta and we discussed pros and cons of attempting an amnio that late in pregnancy. Basically, the choices were: a) don't do it and we don't really know if your three week preemie's lungs are fully developed enough to breathe oxygen on their own or b) do do it and worry about the risk of infection and placental abruption when you poke a needle through the placenta. With The Dormouse, we did the amnio, but weren't able to get a good enough sample for the amnio anyway, so I opted to not go through that procedure again. So when I heard "lung problems" all the fears that I developed when I was pregnant with The Dormouse and working on a book about premature babies in the NICU, came back to rear their ugly heads.

But they ended up watching the baby for several hours, calling it a "slow transition", and then returning her to me, untreated. Wonder what that portion of the hospital bill will look like.

I have much to say about my adventures in the hospital and the level of care I received while there. I enjoyed my stay so much that I bribed the doctor to let me go home on Saturday even though they wanted (and insurance would pay for) me to stay one more day and be monitored. But that's a post for another day. Anyone know where I can find a fool proof tutorial on taking blood pressure?

Brain... mush... here... look... pretty... pictures... instead.

I present, for your approval: The Caterpillar:

We finally did come up with a name for her, by the way. One that, surprisingly, even my mother kind of likes - or at least she's keeping mum about it if she doesn't. And it didn't even take the doctor threatening us with "All unnamed babies after four days go home with me" like he did with The Dormouse. Yay for our side! Unfortunately, it's fairly unusual and I will not be sharing it on the blog due to its Googleability. Sorry, folks; but think of it as an investment in my child's "No stalkers" bullet on her resume when she applies for her first job.

The hospital kindly installs a lojack device on each child, which promptly falls off thirty times in the first day and sets off alarms, requiring a lock down of the entire hospital. More on that later as well.

The Dormouse could not be more pleased with her baby sister and, as I predicted, the hardest thing about dealing with her is wrestling the baby out of her hands... or getting her to stop hanging on the bassinet. Seriously, she was a trooper with all the driving back and forth and alternate plans for day care we worked out when pre-school wasn't in session or we thought someone else might have to pick her up. We did not realize how hard this all had been on her until she and The KingofHearts were in line at the hospital cafeteria on Friday to get dinner before coming up to my room and the lunch lady looked at KoH and said, "Why is she crying?" He looked down to see her suddenly sobbing, "I wanna go see Mommy!" Apparently, she didn't realize that the dinner stop was to get food to bring upstairs and thought she'd been hoodwinked into getting food and sustenance instead.

Oh my goodness, how am I ever going to loose all that pregnancy weight? Why is this not a 60 pound baby?

No more pictures, PLEASE!

My thoughts: 

Psychic Powers at the Hospital

Posted on 9/19/2007 05:35:00 AM
Yesterday, I had to head by the hospital to have blood work done before my big c-section.

The way it works is you just show up anytime between 8:00 am and 3:00 pm at the main lobby - there's no appointment. They direct you to the registration desk, where you prove you can and promise you will... pay for any- and every-thing they decide to do to you including the "mucus recovery system" you didn't ask for or need. Also, they make you sign a document saying you have read and understood the Patient Rights Pamphlet, however, no one will give you a copy of the Patient Rights Pamphlet until you are actually admitted a day later. In the document
that says you read and understood it (the one that you can't be admitted to the hospital without signing), it also says you will get the Patient Rights Pamphlet once you get to your hospital room. Yeah, that makes sense.

When you walk up to the registration area, there's a woman with a clipboard standing there who wants to take down your name and tells you to sit far away from other patients. She will call you when an admittance clerk is ready so you can't listen in on those who are currently discussing their medical conditions and insurance status. You are not allowed to stand too close to them, HIPAA regulations and all, lest you overhear that the guy in front of you who has a pulmonary condition and is planning surgery to correct it but he's had to wait until his wife was well enough to care for herself while he was in the hospital with his pulmonary condition and he doesn't know if his insurance will cover all the cost for this surgery for his pulmonary condition but his doctor says it doesn't matter because he really needs this operation for his pulmonary condition and can he get lunch in the hospital cafeteria after this even though he has this pulmonary condition? But if that guy simply lacks the ability to modulate the decibel level of his voice, you will hear anyway... along with about 100 of your closest friends in the waiting room. I'm not sure what HIPAA has to say about that.

When I walked up to the woman with the clipboard, I started with my explanation, "I'm here to..."

She took a look at me and interrupted, "You're having a c-section tomorrow and you're here today to do the type and cross and meet with the anesthesiologist?"

Me: "Um... yeah." (??!!)

She looked down once at The Dormouse, who was standing next to me, and said, "You had her here too, didn't you? Upstairs right?" *points to the area of the hospital where the maternity wing used to be*

Me: "Um... yeah again." (
am now just a little creeped out - do I have a sign on my forehead or something?)

"OK, what's your name?"

Me: "You mean you don't know that already?"

She claimed she remembered me from four years ago, but I really think she only recognized me from the
RhoGAM shot I went in for a few weeks ago. And she probably got the c-section thing because the place was lousy with 9-month pregnant women waddling around. Why else would I be there? If I was in labor, I'd be at the emergency entrance. Right? Right?

Once I was "in the system", they sent me down to ambulatory care to wait for the lab folks to become available. The KingofHearts had arranged to be off work so that we'd have child care for The Dormouse in case this took a long time. I settled in for a long winters' nap, given my experience waiting before.

Immediately upon sitting down, the Dormouse announced that she had to go to the bathroom, so KoH took her hand and led her off while I waited for my name to be called, not believing that it ever would in a million years.
They weren't gone three seconds when the nurse stood at the door and hollered "Mrs. Alice?" into the crowded lobby. I walked in and she had me sit down. In the process of two minutes, she had drawn blood, checked off all the information she needed for her chart, given me instructions to follow for the surgery and shooed me out. Except for one quick moment where she was moving so fast, I thought she might stab the needle in my eye, it was uneventful. I was back to my seat in the lobby before The Dormouse got out of the bathroom.

Would that my surgery goes as quickly.

I'm anxious to meet this baby. Anxious to see her greet the world. Anxious for her to meet her big sister.
Anxious for her to tell us what her name is going to be (they do tell you right? Because we are no closer to a chosen name than we were eight months ago. This baby has a very real chance of being named "Three".) Anxious to find out if she's healthy. And - ok, I'll just say it even though the superstitious little old man part of my brain feels I'll jinx the last statement by writing this out loud - anxious for an end to all the pre-ecclampsia, big feet, round ligament pain, numb and tingling fingers, heartburn, shortness of breath, crackling in my ears, mobility problems, and cramping toes that delivery is pretty much a cure for. You'd think after three pregnancies, I'd get used to this "sharing my body with another human being", or at least my body would get better at it, but it seems, much like getting an advance copy of the Patient's Right Pamphlet, no such luck.

Today is the big day... so I'm guessing it'll be at least awhile before I get back to the regular blogging... Unless, of course, I figure out how to break into the hospital's email system and get some work done from my hospital bed. thereby prolonging my maternity leave. (You laugh, but it wouldn't be the first time.) In the meantime, check here for updates and possible "live blogging" the event as it unfolds minute by minute. Or at least live blogging how it might go in my friend's imaginations. That'll probably be more entertaining anyway.

My thoughts: 

Not... Helping!

Posted on 9/19/2007 05:27:00 AM
Up until now, suggestions from The Dormouse for naming this child have been theoretical, at best: Cinderella, Pig, Allyssera, Sclyssera, Plyrissera, Ellalara, Ellalella, Ellalora, Vanilla...

This morning we received this one. Sure, the first suggestion for a real, honest-to-goodness name ends up being a cultural icon for nuclear holocaust:

"Momma and Daddy, I know what to name the new baby!"



My thoughts: 

Ideas for Increasing Your Customer Base

Posted on 9/19/2007 05:20:00 AM
Transcript of discussion with my obstetrician, Dr. NeitherOneOfThoseGuys, on Monday:

"OK - so you should know that with each successive section, it takes a little longer. This is what number for you?"


"Right. So while the baby will be delivered very quickly, it'll probably take more time to finish and close you up. There's a lot more scar tissue to deal with and we have to do our best to cut that all out so you'll heal evenly and cleanly."

"Maybe you could throw in a little tummy tuck - I mean... as long as you're in there anyway?" (yeah, I'm sure she's never heard that one before)

"Ha ha ha. You know, a lot of people ask me that. But you probably wouldn't want me to do it for you. Unfortunately, I lack the training for that procedure."

"Well, you should get it... because it'd be a really nice service to offer."

My thoughts: 

Who Took My Mother & Replaced Her with This Cranky Fat Woman?

Posted on 9/18/2007 05:40:00 AM
While driving The Dormouse to preschool today, we passed the local neighborhood park. (Because the county has screwed up the roads around our neighborhood so badly that I have to go two miles out of my way in an easterly direction in order to go west these days. Don't get me started.) The Dormouse made this observation:

"I remember when I went to that park with daddy and Jennie and Janey [neighborhood kids] and I was in the stroller and you didn't come with us because you were having a baby in your tummy and you were pregnant and you couldn't chase around after me."

I actually remember this incident. It was about five months ago. I think it was the KingOfHearts who used the phrase 'chase around after' as an excuse for why I did not go with them. I'm sure that the real reason I did not go with them was that the park is not a short walk away and I was busy lying comatose on the couch. I'm afraid she's going to turn out like my brother and remember every insignificant or significant incident that ever happened to her from birth on and I will not be able to count on selective memory when she's an adult to convince her that she had a wonderful childhood and terrific parents.

So I said, "Yeah, honey. I'm sorry about that. In a few weeks after your baby sister comes, I will start to feel a whole lot better. Then maybe I'll be able to do some more fun things with my girl."

"You'll be able to go to the park?"

"Yes, hon. It might take me a few weeks after the baby is born to feel better after my surgery, but eventually."

"And you'll go for a walk with me?"


"And sit on the floor?"

"Uh huh."

"And do projects?"


"And play games with me?"

"You bet."

"And you'll have enough breath to read me a story and sing me a goodnight song?"

"Yes, honey, I'll definitely do that."

"I will be veeeerrry glad. When that happens."

I hadn't realized how much of her mother she'd lost as of late. Or how patient, mature and understanding she'd been throughout this entire pregnancy. And the guilt? It burns.

I think, caught up in my own fears and misery, I've failed to appreciate what a sweet, compassionate child I have in The Dormouse. I've not paid enough notice as I'm wincing in pain, trying shift positions on the couch, as she looks up from what she was doing with concern in her eyes and says, "Is the baby kicking you, momma?"

...neglected to take mental note of how she tried to hand me tissues while I was vomiting on the side of the road last week.

...failed to count how many times she spontaneously came to sit by me and tried to rub my back. Sure it lasted for about thirty seconds, but that's about as much attention span as she has for anything.

...yelled as her once too often for stepping on my swollen, puffy, hideously deformed feet by accident.

A few months ago my mother sent us this book to prepare her for the new baby. It addresses the typical stuff kids might worry about or behaviors they exhibit: sibling rivalry, regression, sharing, etc. As we read it to her, I was amazed to find that The Dormouse's head wasn't anywhere close to being in that space. To the question: Will the baby take away from the love I get from mom and dad? The Dormouse assured me that of course mommy and daddy will still love her and we'll all love the baby.

When I got to the section designed to attest to her that she wouldn't have to give the new baby all her toys she said, "But I want to give my baby sister my toys. I will share with her." Then she ran to her room and came back with a handful of toys from her toy chest that she wanted to immediately put aside for the baby.

When we discussed where the new baby would sleep, she insisted that the baby share her room. (Good thing too, because we only have two bedrooms upstairs and otherwise we might have to hang the baby on a hook.)

She came with me to my sonogram appointment last week and couldn't have been more excited to hear the baby's heartbeat and see the baby's picture on the monitor. Even though the "picture of the baby's foot" that the sono-tech pointed out was about as recognizable as a Picasso painting, she was more into it than I. Oh sure, I expect some of that may change when the baby's actually here and reality sets in. But puleeze, could we have any better start on those issues now?

I'm constantly amazed at how much The Dormouse can handle and how great a kid she is. And disappointed with myself for failing to acknowledge that and be grateful. I wish I could believe that I will be at least a little less likely to use the new baby as an excuse for my failures to be a good mother as I have been to use this pregnancy.

My thoughts: 

IKEA: You Are Dead to Me Now

Posted on 9/17/2007 05:54:00 AM
When IKEA came to the Washington, D.C. area, I was less than impressed. The quick availability of cheap, crappy northern European furniture did not make up for the underhanded business practices they used to get their building permits, not to mention the fact that they wiped out an aging historical landmark, promised to build back a memorial on its site once construction was done, did so, but then as soon as it was completed, immediately tore that up and sold the land to developers, never to rebuild again.

So I boycotted for the first year or so and refused to go in, no matter how much I needed inexpensive, breakable furniture that had names I could not pronounce bestowed upon it.

I honestly can't remember what great temptation finally led me away from the Iron Rod and in through IKEA's friendly "Hej" doors, but it happened about a year after the store opened. I might even have been on maternity leave with The Dormouse and desperate for Stuff To Entertain Me. What I do know is that I had her in tow and she was pretty small at the time. I went in, dubious about what to expect and quickly overwhelmed by the theme park-like quality they had tried to impose upon the shopping experience.

I was incensed that they had drawn lines on the floor, giving each shopper a suggested route through the store that ensured they could feast their eyes on literally every item in stock. What if I wanted to see kitchen furniture before office furniture??? Or - dare I say it - start my shopping experience on floor one instead of floor two and head straight to the checkout after that? What then, IKEA???? Still, I only walked through the one time and never actually made any purchases.

My first softening-of-the-heart experience was when we were looking for some braces to attach our existing furniture to the wall and keep The Dormouse from pulling bookshelves down on her head when she started using them as leverage to pull up to a stand. I hadn't been able to find any such animal at baby paraphernalia stores and I had no idea where to get them. Then one day thought, "Well, hell... IKEA = furniture store. Maybe they sell them." So I ventured in one day and asked one of the workers there where I could find such a thing. She looked me up and down, then went to a cabinet behind the cash register, reached in, and retrieved a handful of hardware.

"Here you go." and dropped half a dozen small packages on the counter.

"How much are they?" I asked.

"Oh we don't sell them - they come with the furniture you purchase."

"But I haven't purchased any furniture from this store."

"Just take them. It's no big deal."

I rubbed my eyes like a Chuck Jones character and stammered, "Whaaaaa?" Then grabbed the packages and high-tailed it out of the store in case anyone stopped me before I got to the door. But on the way, I started to look around and notice all the great stuff the store provided for shoppers with kids.

First of all, there was a large children's furniture section with samples of items laid out for easy viewing and testing. No one seemed to care that parents brought their children, sat down on a tiny chair not guaranteed to hold their weight, and just let them play with the stuff as much as they wanted. The furniture was set out in mock rooms with all the accessories and there was a slide going into the area. Kids would run from one thing to the next, crawl into and out of the beds, sit at kid sized desks, slide down a kid sized slide... It was like a tiny mosh pit for toddlers.

Other things finally won me over:
  • They had a family restroom with an alcove and soft comfy chair in which to sit in a private area and nurse.
  • The sinks in all the bathrooms had small step stools next to them so children did not have to be lifted up to wash their hands.
  • The changing table in the family restroom was stocked with baby wipes and free diapers in case you ran out.
  • In the cafeteria, they not only had kids' dinners available for 99 cents, but also baby food.
  • Signs in the elevator advertised free cookies and milk each day during a two hour period in the afternoon.
  • They started hosting Music Together and Gymboree demonstration classes for free.
  • Throughout the entire store are little yellow playhouses, each stocked with different playthings from the kids section.
  • In the cafeteria area was another sectioned off play area where kids could play with toys and watch videos on television while parents sat at tables around and observed while they ate.
  • And the be all and end all: a ball pit on the showroom floor that was designed for only kids under three who couldn't go into their supervised play area/fake day care. This was, by far, the hit of the store for parents and kids, alike.

You had me at Hej, IKEA. You had me at Hej.

We started going to IKEA in the morning, just to play in the "blueberry pond" as The Dormouse dubbed the little ball pit which was stocked with only blue balls. (I'm biting my tongue right now to keep from making the obvious Beavis and Butthead reference here. Not because I'm not thinking of it, but only because it isn't germane to the story. I'm really a fourteen year old by at heart.) Then little by little, IKEA won us over. We'd add to that, an inexpensive breakfast from the cafeteria. Then we started coming for dinner with The KingOfHearts for delicious, inexpensive Swedish meatballs. Then I purchased kids' plastic plates and cups. And a blue bear chair. And small tables and chairs. And some kitchen utensils. And... and... and.

Suddenly, I was spending as much time there as I was spending at church each week and completely used it as a fall back when I needed something to do with a baby that involved going out of the house. I learned the layout of the store and no longer had to follow the arrows on the floor simply to get to the exit. I could head straight for the housewares and knew all the shortcuts to getting there. IKEA was my playgroup and unlike others, I was completely happy with that relationship.

About a year of this went by and we lived in harmony, IKEA and I. But slowly, surely, the benefits that drew us in began to diminish. First, the milk and cookies completely disappeared. Sure the sign was still there saying it was available, but you now had to ask for them and the surly cafeteria attendant would sigh loudly and stomp off to find you a cookie and a warm container of milk, after which you didn't really have enough faith in humanity to eat it.

Then, the free diapers were replaced with a sign that said they were still available but if you wanted one, you needed to ask for them (with, of course, no indication of whom or where to ask). Once I got stuck without my own diapers (I actually used theirs quite seldom because I always had my own, but I always appreciated that they were available) and had to ask for them. I consulted three employees who had no idea where to find them before I gave up and went home with my kid in a wet diaper. Eventually, even the sign went the Way Of The Woolly Mammoth and employees claimed not to know that there ever were diapers available.

The kids' meals got progressively less creative and smaller. Also they stopped being served on the colorful kids' plate in the big picture that advertised them (one of the only reasons The Dormouse wanted one). The television in the cafeteria play area, stopped running videos and now only exhibited a large blank screen. Then they moved the play area, made it smaller and took out many of the toys.

The comfy chair in the nursing area disappeared, leaving an empty room where nursing mothers were welcome to... sit on the floor, I guess.

I was mildly miffed by these things, but I kind of understood. I suppose these amenities were abused by some clientèle and I could see how they might have to limit access.

Then: Hit Below the Belt Number One. They raised the price of the Swedish meatball dinner. They started offering three different sizes at three different prices and counting, COUNTING!, the number of meatballs in each. The worker would sparingly ladle half a tablespoon of gravy over the meatballs and we'd always have to ask for more. "Um... could you at least put gravy on all the meatballs?" She'd roll her eyes and put on another half tablespoon, then plop your plate down in front of you with a Great Sigh of Being Inconvenienced.

Still, I tried to defend IKEA. I chalked up the surly and/or non-existent customer service to "that's just the way things are in the Washington area." Whenever a new store opens, employees are friendly and helpful for about two weeks, tops. Then their true colors show, people get bored and dissatisfied with their jobs, and the idea that an employee might actually be there to help a shopper is as distasteful as eating fried crickets.

But the latest, most significant blow, I can no longer blame on local management: THEY HAVE TAKEN OUT THE BLUEBERRY POND PEOPLE!! To make room for more inexpensive, breakable household items with names I cannot pronounce. There is now no place where the little kids can go and play in the ball pit supervised by their parents. I know that The Dormouse was nearing an age and size when she would be too big to go into the little kids' ballpit, but I have another one coming and I had plans for those blue balls! This is what the Blueberry Pond currently looks like:

And you can see Marielle's dissatisfaction:

Their Fake Day Care only allows kids over three in (and apparently, closes without notice according to the latest report). Parents may not enter with them. I know that The Dormouse is technically almost old enough to go in, but whenever I look in through the window they have kids in there from three to around fifteen. In my experience when I let her go in a play area with older kids, she gets totally trampled by the bigger ones. Call me overprotective, but I don't really trust free child care run by minimum wage workers - especially when I can't go in to observe what's going on. I don't know what kind of people they're hiring, if there's been a background check, or whether or not they conform to the minimum state day care standards (I'm guessing not)...

From the window of the Fake Day Care, it appears that their sum total effort to entertain the kids inside is a television with movies playing on a loop. They actually have a ball pit inside, but I seldom see it open when I walk by and usually the kids, young and old, are sitting like small zombies, starting at the TV. So leaving my child with strangers I know nothing about and kids I know nothing about while I wander around the giant showroom for the two to three hours that it takes to fully get through that store? Not really a solution to the woes of shopping in my book. Plus... this next child? Will not even have that option available for quite some time.

It's stupid on their part, really. The only thing that brought me into the store in the first place was the amenities they offered for kids, but in the year or two we went there, I spent a lot (and I mean a lot) of money on things I would probably have bought anyway, but definitely wouldn't have purchased there. Now? I'll be just as happy to buy my inexpensive breakable furniture at Target.

The plus is I won't have to wonder how to pronounce Barnslig Flodh
äst and Korall Haj.

Now to go here and tell "Anna" exactly how I feel about the lack of blue balls. You are welcome to do the same.

My thoughts: 

My Well Traveled Existence

Posted on 9/16/2007 01:29:00 AM
For some reason this fascinated me this morning and I wasted a lot of time thinking about this. Here is a map of all the states in the US that I've lived in or visited in my lifetime:

create your own personalized map of the USA

There seems to be a definite two regions that have thus far eluded me, but I'm impressed by how much of the United States I've seen.

Now... here is a map of all the countries in the world I've lived in or visited in my lifetime:

create your own visited country map

Slightly pathetic.

Conclusion: I need to renew my passport.

My thoughts: 

Ah, the Fine Art of 3 Year Old Manipulation

Posted on 9/15/2007 02:35:00 AM
KingofHearts: "Do you know what time it is?"

Dormouse: "Bedtime?"

KoH: "Yep. You're right! Who's going to say the good night prayer? Can you say it?"

DM: "No Daddy, you should say it."

KoH: "Why do I always have to say the good night prayer?"

DM: *wry smile* "Because, Daddy. You
always say the best prayers."

My thoughts: 

Stupid Things That Make Me Smile

Posted on 9/14/2007 06:15:00 AM
Mileage: 55555

I had to wait almost a little too long at a stop light while trying to take a picture of my odometer with my camera phone because I knew it was more than a mile before I'd get home and be able to show the KingOfHearts. Unlike the cars of the 80s, you cannot drive a Subaru home backwards and have the miles come off. And yes, I do know for a fact that certain cars made in the decade of Reagan had that feature.

My thoughts: 

Monkey See, Monkey Cut Off All Your Hair Off Too

Posted on 9/13/2007 02:43:00 PM
Ever since I cut all my hair off a few weeks back, The Dormouse has talked about getting her hair cut too. And me? Well, I've tried to discourage it.

I love her long hair. And I know that what I'm about to write goes directly back to the Shag and Pixie haircuts that my mother constantly gave me in the 60s and 70s. (Not everyone has the perfect bone structure of Allyssa Milano or Michelle Williams. Some people's faces, namely mine, are not flattered by undue exposure.) But what is parenthood for if you can't live vicariously through your children, right?

When I was seven, one of my friends had hair down to her waist and I envied that more than life itself. My hair is baby fine and stick st
raight and never, ever grew past my shoulders my entire youth. I fought with it for twenty years. It wasn't until I moved to the Washington, D.C. area and a climate that has more than 30% humidity every so often, that I realized if you didn't live in the desert, hair actually had a chance to grow past your chin before breaking off and splitting.

So for the past several weeks, I've tried to convince her to keep her hair long. Not because she loves it, but because I do. And because I have a whole drawer full of headbands, hair clips, ponytail holders and other hair accessories that would go to waste if her locks were too short to use them. But lately I've come to realize that I have neither the energy nor the time to deal with her hair and I don't anticipate that getting any better in coming weeks. It was getting to the point where after every meal she needed a thorough grooming with a curry comb to get the remainder of dinner out of her hair. More often than not, I had lost the enthusiasm to create the cute French braids and pony tails and let her go to school with scraggly, uncombed tresses that made her look like a street urchin.

Practicality finally got the better of me and I figured that by the time all our lives would settle down after the new baby is born, her hair would grow back some. In the meantime, I could save us all a lot of effort if I'd just let her cut her hair like she wanted.

So we headed out to the mall and asked them cut off her pony tail. When I told the stylist how short I wanted it cut, she looked at me like I'd just hit my child with a belt strap and she was wondering whether or not to call child protective services.

"Are you SURE?" the stylist looked at me dubiously.

"That's what she wants."

*looks at The Dormouse* "How do you want it cut?" (Like I was lying about it all and surely the child would be the voice of reason.)

Dormouse puts her hand up near her chin.

"Weelllllllll, okaaayy." She clearly thought it was a mistake.

Luckily, I am unaffected by the judgments of minimum wage work
ers in mall haircutting shops and let this slide.

Normally I cut her hair myself - haircuts at Cartoon Cuts are hit and miss at best and the few times I've taken her there, I've ended up going home and fixing it later anyway. But she desperately wanted to be a big girl and go to the "hair barber". She also wanted her hair washed by a baby elephant and that is a skill I just do not possess.

I know she looks terrified here, but she's really just clutching her chee
ks in anticipation... that and she's enthralled by the latest Scooby Doo episodes available at Cartoon Cuts. (Did you know that place has a birthday party service? How random is that? "And now for the entertainment portion of the party... Come on everybody, let's go get our bangs unstraightened!")

Once the pony tail was cut off and they headed over to the baby elephant/hair washing station she skipped and strutted like she'd been relieved of a great, horrible weight she'd been carrying her entire life. All the stylists in the place gawked after her in surprise and amazement: "She looks so... happy!"

She wanted me to keep her pony tail... although I don't quite know what to do with it. Her hair reached down the middle of her back, but it's a known fact that three year olds are rather short, and the neck -to-back length of a three year old does not approach these guy's standards, or even these guy's, so donating it is out.

Instead, it's been sitting in my purse for three days. Because that's way less creepy than putting it in a box and mailing it to Florida. I just hope I remember to take it out before the next time I have to pass through security at an airport.

"What do you think Daddy's going to say when he sees your hair?"

"He's gonna say,
'Rockin' style hair, dude!'"


awaiting suggestions for putting this to good use

My thoughts: 

September 11th... on September 12th

Posted on 9/12/2007 04:32:00 PM
I tried all day yesterday to come up with something meaningful/poignant/halfway intelligent to write about on the subject of the anniversary it marked. Finally I gave up and posted what I posted, preferring instead to appear to ignore the issue altogether rather than force something out that wasn't going to say what I wanted it to say. Later, as I was driving along under a cloud-covered sky on the Interstate with the Dormouse in tow, I happened to see this guy and managed to snap a badly exposed picture with my camera phone.

There was a lot of talk in the media yesterday about September 11th, memorials, General Petraeus' report, remembrances, plans for the future, blame... etc., etc, repeat ad nauseum. We all have mixed feelings about what's going on in this country: whether it was right, whether it was handled right, whether it should continue. I don't think I've spoken with two people who think and feel exactly the same way - there's just so much to take in and consider. There are a lot of things that I don't agree with that happen here. It's not a perfect system by any means.

But I still manage to feel like this guy about my birthplace most days:

My thoughts: 

The Bell on the Cat

Posted on 9/11/2007 07:35:00 AM In:
We have a cat. A psychotic, lazy, fat, unpredictable cat named Lizzy Borden. (Despite the fact that the real Lizzy Borden doesn't quite fit into the category, all of our pets are named after serial killers. It's a long story. Don't judge me.)

The Dormou
se and Lizzy have a strained relationship, to put it mildly. For the most, part Lizzy ignores The Dormouse. The Dormouse gives Lizzy a wide berth. And by wide berth, I mean that literally. If Lizzy is lying in the middle of the floor and The Dormouse wants to pass through the room, she will inch by her, side stepping with her back against the wall, never taking her eyes off those lethal claws, just in case the cat might decide to lash out.

The truth is, the cat seldom lashes out unprovoked (at anyone but me, that is) but every once in awhile, when The Dormouse doesn't realize she's there and runs through the room a little too close to the cat's personal space, Lizzy will reach out and scratch at her ankles. Nine times out of ten, it's just a warning and she misses, but every so often, she actually makes contact with those tiny ankles draws blood. So even the misses are traumatic events where The Dormouse is concerned. Suddenly, we'll hear a blood curdling scream from the other room and run to her aid, only to witness the cat, wide eyed and cowering under the coffee table with The Dormouse crying big, fat tears and pointing back in that general direction but with no blood having actually having been spilled.

"What's happened?" we say.


As The Dormouse has gotten older, she's developed a number of fail-safes to ensure her dominance over the cat. For example, in recent months, she's started closing her bedroom door to ensure that Lizzie does not manage to get into her room unknown and participate in a repeat performance of this incident.

Maybe it's the upcoming baby, but lately, she's taken to tattling on Lizzy like a sibling for one thing or another that she'll do:

"You're not allowed on that table, Lizzy. GET DOWN. Moooo-ooom, Lizzy's on the table."

*familiar hacking of a cat coughing up a fur ball comes from the kitchen*
"Momma, I think Lizzy's sick, we need to take her to the vet."

"Mooooommma, Lizzy's looking at me."

I think this may be a dark foreshadowing of times when the baby sister starts getting a little older and more mobile and I can't decide whether to squelch the urge now, or let it go and use it to my advantage later.

Lizzie's basically an indoor cat and we don't let her outside much. For the most part, she's okay with that. But one thing she never tires of is trying to escape out the front door when someone goes in or out... usually company who are none the wiser and aren't as quick with the Automatic Foot Block Maneuver as we have become. She never goes past the front steps and it wouldn't bother me at all if she didn't immediately run to the edge of the lawn and obsessively start chowing down on grass. Which also wouldn't bother me if she didn't immediately go back inside and throw up all the half-chewed, half-swallowed-whole pieces grass onto the floor in a puddle. So the grass eating? We've tried very hard to discourage it.

The other day, we were sitting on the front stoop talking to a neighbor and The Dormouse opened the door to come out and join us. As she came out, Lizzy escaped out the front door and made a beeline for the delicious grass carpet.

*at the top of her lungs* "DING, DING, DING, DING DING!!!! CAT'S OUTSIDE!! DING, DING, DING!!"

I guess it would be wrong to think of this as a babysitting possibility for the new child?

My thoughts: 

Me in 3 Seconds

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Washington, D.C. Metro, United States
Married, 40ish mom of two (or three, or four, depending on how you keep score) who stepped through the lookinglass and now finds herself living in curiouser and curiouser lands of Marriage, Motherhood, and the Washington, D.C. Metro Area.

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