Monday, July 8, 2013

My sweetheart is back (an update on the ear tubes)

Ear tubes are in! We were at the hospital at six am on Friday and surgery happened around 7:30. By 8:00, E was sipping apple juice in the recovery room, and we were home by 9:30. (Unfortunately, the apple juice came back up all over her and her car seat about five minutes into the ride--not pleasant for any of us!) she was a little groggy until 11 or so, but then she perked up, started smiling nonstop, and seemed back to her usual self.

Well, her usual self except that the shrieking, demanding, whiny side of her is gone. Since Friday, she's been whiny and demanding at what I'd consider a normal level. Every toddler has moments like those and I didn't expect her to transcend toddlerhood. But now, we can redirect. Now, the whining stops pretty quickly after we remind her to use her words. Before tubes, the whining turned almost immediately into shrieking and demands to be picked up and carried around.

It's early,  but I guess what I'm saying is that these tubes have done something to relieve E from pain. And without the low-grade constant pain, she's able to cope much better and recover from little challenges far more quickly than pre-tubes. We should have done this months ago. Seriously. I don't feel too bad that we waited--it's actual surgery with general anesthesia--and I think we did the best we could to follow current advice to watch and wait and see if she'd grow out of it or if summer would be better. I'm glad we finally got to this point, though, and I certainly hope that I was right and that the pain was low-grade, not excruciating. The doctor said he didn't think she was in constant pain either, but he agreed she probably was bothered by ear pain from time to time between abx rounds.

I'm recording all this in case someone else is on the fence about ear tubes. I googled ear tube experiences over and over last week so that I felt prepared and am grateful that others wrote such reassuring things about it, too. So this is our story. If it changes or if the experience sours in so e way, I'll write about it again. In fact, today is her first day back to school, and I'll be curious to see if the stress of the long day brings back the clinging and the yelling tonight. I'm betting no, but I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ear infections and "quality of life"

We have an appointment on Friday to put tubes in E's ears, and I'm both excited and terrified. I've read up on them, I've talked to other moms (all of whom said: do it!), and my DH and I have debated it from all sides. I'm scared out of my mind about the anesthesia, but I know the risks are tiny. Still, when the doctor goes through the consent form and says there's a risk of stroke, heart problems, or even death, any parent is going to hesitate.

The reason we are finally doing it is that she's had eight infections (and thus eight rounds of antibiotics!) since November. I have a great pediatric practice in a crunchy area, by which I mean that they're very much a wait-and-watch conservative-about-antibiotics group of doctors. Unfortunately, E's infections never clear up and the fluid is always bulging out and causing her to be miserable. By extension, we are miserable. The most recent ear infection cycle started last week when she got a normal toddler virus, but because of the ear involvement, she became a clingy mess and would only sleep or be semi-peaceful in my arms. I wasn't able to sleep for three nights, and so I be ame a clingy mess.

The good news is that her hearing is fine. But this all leaves us medically in a gray area. Our ENT recommends the tubes more for "quality of life" than out of medical necessity. Ugh. Do we really take these minor risks with anesthesia and ear drum perforation because the infections make us all miserable every now and then.

It's also hard to sort out how much her personality will change for the better after this surgery. I'm hoping well see more of the sweet, or at least, the more even-tempered side of her. I haven't written much about how difficult she can be because I attribute it to this long string of infections. Much of the time, E is clingy, demanding, fussy, and she spends much of our time together shrieking at us. I occasionally cry with relief when she goes to bed at night because I am just worn out. Normal toddler behavior? Sure, I imagine some of it is. But I've often wondered if her fussiness is because she has low-grade pain in her ears. I know ear pain is bad. I've read online that some parents report similar behavior issues that ear tubes solve--they say they enjoyed their child more once the ear pain resolved.

I guess we'll find out after Friday. I don't mean to portray her in a negative light. She's one of the funniest, sweetest, and dearest people I've ever known. She's my wonderful baby girl and even with all the shrieking, I wouldn't trade her for anything in the world. I just hope that we're doing the right thing with this surgery and that maybe our collective quality of life improves.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

being three

Being three must be hard. I try to imagine what's going on in my W's little brain sometimes, and I can see why Mommy's rules make no sense. Why do we have to go sit on the potty even if we don't have to pee? Why can't I yell loudly when I see an older person and it reminds me of Nana? What's wrong with taking E's blueberries if she's not eating them quickly enough? Why can't I go to the park even though you're in a hurry to go to work? A three year old's job is to test limits, go over boundaries, and watch Mommy's reaction to see what's acceptable and what's not. Since most of those limit-crossing experiences are NOT acceptable, it makes sense that W is melting down all the time and appears not to listen. Ever. I know his hearing is fine because in quiet moments, we'll marvel at the fact that we can hear the airplane flying several thousand feet above us (almost imperceptibly so). But at three, hearing Mommy's commands and listening to rules must just be impossible. Like Charles Schultz's parents: "wah wah wah wah, wah wah wah!"

Being the Mommy of a three year old is also hard. I sometimes want to throw my own temper tantrum or set down rules that are more than illogical. Today, for example, we took both kids to the grocery store. Yes, I realize that was a dumb move on our part. When W and E decided it was a good idea to run down the aisles screaming at the top of their lungs, I really just wanted to leave. Leave the cart, walk out the door, get in the car, come home, and put him in time out for several hours while I got a bottle of wine and calmed the fuck down. Obviously, I didn't do that. Hours-long time out is certainly counterproductive and it was only 8:30 a.m. And a Mommy temper tantrum wouldn't work either if I'm trying to model what a reasonable person is. So instead, we rushed through the end of the shopping trip, we came home, and since the storm had passed by the time we unloaded the grocery bags, we mostly let the aisle-screaming episode pass.

We are doing all the things other parents do--time-outs, taking away favorite toys, asking W to use words to express himself instead of randomly hitting his sister or yelling nonsense words at us at the top of his lungs. Baby E (1.5 years old) is not an instigator of these behaviors, but damn it if she's not right in the "imitate everything W does" stage. So if he screams, she screams. If he yells, she yells. If he cries, she often cries. Excellent. Our house is a whole lot of noise these days. As loud and rude as the punk clubs I used to frequent in my 20s, but without all the alcohol and tattoos.

I get that this is all normal three (and sometimes four) year old behavior. I know it's a phase and it will pass like all the other phases. It's kicking my ass, though, and some days it feels like there is not enough wine in the world to ease the stress of a three year old tantrum.

As I typed that last sentence, I heard the pitter patter of his little feet coming down the stairs. He'd just woken up from his afternoon nap. He greeted me with a huge smile and a long sweet hug. I'll keep this three year old after all (though I still want my wine, even though its' only 3:45 in the afternoon).

Friday, May 3, 2013

being a mother on the non-tenure track

I was headed to the library yesterday to do some academic research, and thought I might get a book for myself. So I searched the lib catalog on motherhood and academia because I really could use some comfort and maybe some tips on how to maintain this tricky balance of working and mommying. I found two books, both of which focus solely on the challenges of being a tenure-track mother. One of them explains that yes, there are mothers on the non-tenure track, but for the purposes of their book, they're excluding those women because the issues are different. Ugh.

My first thought: I should try to collect some experiences of full time (or part time--no need to be exclusionary here) mothers who are in academia and publish my own damn book (or edited collection of essays). We're here, too, you know, and we could use the same kind of support that the tenure track mommies need!

My second thought: why is it that non-tenure track experiences seem (especially to the tenured people) so different and alien from the tenured ones? Yes, tenure is a huge deal. I have several friends who've been through it and I see the immense stress and frustration that results from a process that demands tons of work and time and political acumen. But you know what? Being on the non-tenure track has plenty of stresses, too, but they're different ones. And at least in my department, the non-tenure track has grown exponentially (esp. the full time one) while the tenure-track has stagnated. That means that the non-tenure track stresses have essentially multiplied and the tenured ones have more or less stayed the same. Why no love?

I haven't had a chance to read those two books on (tenured) academia and motherhood, but I will. I'll see if there is anything useful to report back in case another non-tenured mommy wanders onto my blog.

I wonder if there are any writings in the medical community about different tracks and women's experiences? I ask because at my institution, it seems that the med and pharmacy schools have a much more accepting and progressive attitude toward teaching faculty. I worked on a committee with a teaching-track (non-tenure track) pharmacy professor who seemed to think that he was treated well and that his practicing pharmacy professor colleagues did not look down on him in any way. He was just seen as doing a different thing than they were doing. This is just not the case in my field, in the humanities. Teaching track (non-tenure track) professors get paid significantly less than tenure-track professors and their work is seen as far less valuable (and far more replaceable) than those on the tenure-track.  Am I mistaken about the medical academic community? Are there different castes, in a sense?

I don't mean to turn this post into a rant about tenure, which I do think is an outdated and unworkable system in many ways. I'm all for maintaining academic freedom (which is really what tenure protects, or should protect), but I would argue that there should simply be two tracks of tenured (or non-tenured) faculty at an institution like mine (R1, major urban university): teaching faculty and research faculty. We should have the same level of respect and the same pay and retirement.

And if that were the case, there would probably be many more books about academia and motherhood and they wouldn't feel so exclusionary.

Anyone want to write an essay about academia and motherhood that isn't exclusively for women on the tenure track? I'm halfway serious about approaching a publisher and seeing what we could do. I'd even include essays on tenured women or tenure-track women to be fully inclusive of the academic experience. I absolutely get that tenure-track motherhood is hard. But so is non-tenure track motherhood (and adjunct instructor motherhood, and grad student TA motherhood, and so on...).

Monday, March 18, 2013

I am (not) a runner

Or maybe I should say: I am a runner trapped in a non-runner's body.

It all started in my 20s when I discovered that I had early osteoarthritis in my knees. The right knee was worse than the left, but it was present in both knees. Ugh. I asked what I could do about it and the guy casually said, "eventually you'll need a knee replacement, but until then, just ice it occasionally and take nsaids when it gets too painful. Stay off it when it hurts." Seriously? I was probably 27 or 28 and this was a low blow. I had been pretty active and was about to test for my black belt in karate, so yes, I had been using my knees pretty heavily. But still. It sucked.

Even though I had this osteoarthritis, I figured out a way to work around it and for most of my 30s, I was an on and off again runner. I've written about it here from time to time. I was a slow runner (10, 11, sometimes 12 minute miles) and I practiced a form of running that was less interested in endurance than in just plain running. I did a walk-run sequence where I'd run for a minute or two and walk until my breath caught back up with me, then I'd run again for a minute or two.

And honestly, I loved it. I knew I wasn't "good" at running in the sense of being able to train for a race or in improving my times. I was happy when my mile speed was around 10 or 11. My body felt strong and I felt good about what my body could accomplish.

I am no longer a runner. At least, I'm not a runner right now. I know this because over the last few weeks, I had started to run again at the gym. Just two or three times a week. Slowly (not even a 13 minute mile--it was probably closer to 15 because I was just starting again after being very inconsistent with my gym walking for most of fall 2012. On monday of last week, I had what felt like a great workout. Just a little bit of running (probably 5-6 minutes max out of the entire 35 minutes), but at a nice speed. I felt invigorated.

A few hours after that workout, my left knee started to stiffen, and by the next morning, I could barely walk. I spent most of last week hobbling around instead of continuing to run a little bit here and there. In fact, I didn't get to the gym at all last week.

So for right now, for this next five or six months, I need to not run. I need to get my walking program back. Elliptical is fine (I can push myself there, I think, without aggravating the knees). Walking is fine, even relatively fast walking (like 4.0-4.5 on the treadmill). But I need to stay away from running. I am not a runner at the moment.

I did my workout this afternoon and felt a serious envy for the woman on the treadmill next to me. She was running, slowly, but she was doing it. I wanted to stop and tell her how lucky she is. Hopefully I'll get back there, back to my slow walk-run cycle. I just need to take it even slower than I've been taking it, which is so slow I've been bored out of my mind. The reason I had started running again was to keep away this boredom and to get back my love of working out. Walking just doesn't do it all that well, but until my body is used to the movements again, until this 30 minutes 3-4 times a week thing is fully part of my regular routine, and certainly until this left knee feels no twinge at all after a hard elliptical workout, I am benched from running.

It's amazing how closely connected one's intellectual sense of self is with one's body, and I sometimes marvel at this connection. I am my body but I'm not my body, you know? I see myself in the mirror when I'm out doing errands and sometimes, I don't recognize myself. Who is that middle aged woman with the beginnings of lines on her face? Who might be developing age spots from so much sun damage over the years? Other times, like this morning, I see my face and smile because it IS me. I know me and I'm there. Still. Always. I usually see myself as I was in my late 20s when I was a runner, a real one, and when my body was strong and faithful and capable. This new middle aged body is strange. This new post-two-babies body is strange. It's me, but it's not me, if that makes any sense. How do we even know who we ARE in mid-life, when so much has happened and we're on the precipice of so much change and mellowing (like a fine wine maybe? hopefully?)? And what does it mean to be a mother and have a body that reflects that equally strange identity, because sometimes I feel like a mother and then I'm shocked ("Am I really someone's mother? How the F did that happen?").

Monday, March 11, 2013

hooray for spring break!

l love spring break. It's one of the perks of an academic career. Today is the official first day of break and I have an entire week stretching out in front of me in which to relax.


I have a list a mile long of little tasks to do, including taxes (we're going to do them ourselves after using a tax professional last year--it seemed to not save us any money and we think we'll go it alone again for a couple of years until things get complicated again). Other tasks on my list:
- organize our paperwork, which is currently shoved into drawers in no particular order (pathetic)
- set up wills (we don't have them, which is ridiculous and will be remedied asap!)
- set up dentist appt for W (three years old, never been to see a dentist yet!)
- set up routine mammogram for me (side note: little lumps are gone. phew!)
- get back into gym routine
- organize books, which are randomly shelved in our den and in painfully ugly order
- go through kids' clothes and start figuring out spring wardrobes (what do I have that is hand-me-down? What do I need to fill in on my own?)
- grade papers from last week
- develop at least one new recipe that we can use in our regular dinner routine
- catch up on email correspondence with friends
- write a thank you note to outgoing day care director who left a few weeks ago (need to express how grateful I am that she was so trustworthy and reliable over the last three years)
- return earrings that my husband bought for me for Valentine's Day (cute, but not quite my style and too expensive to keep and never wear)
- visit friend who had new baby two weeks ago to bring food, do her dishes, clean her bathrooms,do whatever other tasks she'll let me do, and most importantly, meet her long-awaited last-chance IVF baby girl (I'm over the moon for her!).

So see? Spring break will soon be over and I'll hopefully have gotten some stuff done. I'm also hoping to do some blogging, too! I have lots of drafts going, but I have to finish and finally hit "post." 

Friday, January 18, 2013

In which I ramble about the state of things in my little world

It's the beginning of a new semester and I am busy, busy, busy. In the administrative part of my job, I hire all the part time instructors for my department, I cancel classes that haven't filled and add news ones that students need, I make sure all classrooms are assigned properly, I help with photocopying of syllabi, I handle last-minute crises, of which there are many, and just generally, I try to make sure that the new semester starts without a hitch. I see all the messiness behind the scenes so that other people (instructors, students, parents) only see a smoothly functioning university department. This work-related business is why I haven't posted recently.

I had a full-on mommy fail this week. E has an ear infection. Again. We finished a round of amox. a couple of weeks ago and it seems that it didn't fully kick the infection out on the right side. So we're now in the midst of a round of augmen.tin (sp?) to try to finish the job that amox. couldn't. The failure was that I didn't read the label properly and left this new antibiotic round out on the counter for the first few days. It turned brown, I called the pharmacist, and what do you know? It needed to be refrigerated. Unlike amox., this one is sensitive to temperature and goes bad quickly. Poor baby E took a couple of days of useless icky liquid that wasn't helping her ear at all.

The kicker is that my insurance company won't pay for the new 10-day round of aug. that we started yesterday because the old one wasn't finished yet, which meant that I had to shell out $75 for the new round. I swear: I always read bottles. I'm compulsive. I even read the bottle I left out on the counter, but the pharmacy had printed "Always refrigerate" on a little flap that was folded under, and I just didn't see it there.

This may sound like a funny anecdote, but when I walked out of Wal.greens, I had tears in my eyes because it just felt so, I don't know, stupid. How could I have been so stupid? What was I thinking? Now we're going to be $75 short, and we're already on a tight budget. I even felt a little bit shamed by the pharmacy staff--the same staff that could have told me when I picked up the first bottle to remember to refrigerate. They gave me sad eyes when I explained the situation and asked if there was anything we could do about the $75 charge. They said, more or less, that it was my mistake and that I should always read the literature that comes with prescriptions. The good news is that the brown icky liquid didn't hurt E at all. It just tasted gross and let her ear infection continue to fester.


In other news, I have no update about the little pellet lumps on my chest (mentioned in my previous post). They're still there, but they're smaller and less pronounced than they were when I first noticed them. I had trouble finding them at all yesterday, and I suddenly pictured going in to my Dr. and saying that I was concerned about these little lumps on my chest that I can't find to even show her. She'd think I lost my mind. So I'm waiting.  I'll give it the weekend and if I can find them again, I'll call for an appointment. Now that I've lived with them for a month or so, I think they're something skin-related and not something nefarious, but yes--I'll go in and show her my almost-invisible lumps, just in case. She probably won't think I've lost it, will she? Between the heart palpitations a few months ago (that have since disappeared and never happened when I was in the office, of course) and these invisible lumps that I even have trouble finding, I'm sure she'll think I'm a sane person. Seriously, I will not be surprised if she sends me for therapy for anxiety. And I'm actually feeling pretty good otherwise--not much free-floating anxiety at all.

Wah again.

Lastly, just to bum you out completely, there are some other, more serious, health issues going on with my mother. She recently had a chest xray because she's had pneumonia for the last two months and nothing seems to cure the shortness of breath and the general breathing issues. She's had several rounds of steroids and antibiotics, and usually, these would solve the problem. They saw a granuloma on the xray, which I think is not a big deal on its own in a healthy person (according to Dr. Google). But my mother has sarc.oidosis, an autoimmune disease in which her lungs have developed scar tissue. It's been in remission for many years and the scarring has not progressed since she was in her 30s--she's now 70 years old. Maybe it's out of remission? Or maybe something scarier is going on, like pulmonary fibrosis (again, thanks Dr. Google for scaring the shit out of me with possibilities). Or maybe she's just getting older and the existing scarring (including this granuloma) is just catching up with her?

She was a little freaked because when she left the radiologist said she'd get results in 48 hours, but the doctor called her two hours later and told her to get a CT scan within the next week. I told her if he was really worried, he'd have said to get it asap. And maybe he just looked at the xray sooner than usual because there weren't that many patients to see?

Normally, I don't worry about my mother. In fact, I have a post in my drafts folder in which I complain that I never get to see her because she works 60+ hours a week. That's a true story: my 70 year old mother works two jobs, one 40 hour a week office job and another in which she puts in at least 20, but often more like 30-35 hours, a week, too. How could someone so lively and busy be getting seriously ill? She's not working so much so that she has lots of money. She works all those hours because she LOVES what she does. She's a hospice chaplain in the first case and a church rector in the other. Both are her dream jobs and she has no interest in giving either of them up.

(Not to belabor the point about her vim and vigor, but she also has a brown belt in karate and goes to practice at the dojo twice a week...I'm lucky if I can get to the gym three times a week and I only work 40 hours a week!)

When we spoke about the xray a few days ago, she joked that she didn't want to be on oxygen when she came to E.'s fifth grade recital (which would be in approximately 9 years), and I laughed so that I didn't think about the other possibility, which is that she won't be here in 9 years. I'm sure she was thinking the same and the only possibility was to joke to keep from crying.

Wah. Wah. Wah.

Sorry to bum you all out. I realize this isn't light reading. But it's all real and it helps to write it out, hopefully to leave it here where I can't obsess about it too much. I'll keep you updated on my Mom. And on my invisible lumps that will make my Dr. think I need mental help. And on E's ear infection, which I'm not really worried about at all and am sure that the *refrigerated* augm.entin will finally cure. The semester? Well that part will be fine. I've done my job well there. Thank goodness for feeling competent at work! It's the rest of life that is unpredictable.