Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cat Fancy and Hand-Knitted Shawls

I'm not feeling terrifically funny today.  Nor have I experienced the bubbling-over of pent up self-deprecation or snarkisms urging me to post over the past week.  I blame it whole-heartedly on the lack of oxygen to my brain because my lungs have not been functioning for the better part of a month.

I want you to know that I took the doctor's orders to take to my bed very seriously, and aside from opening the door to let the dog out (I admit I kind of let this one go to the wayside for the first 24 hours...but mopping up puppy puddles and responding to Drama's woe-is-me cries when she discovered the tootsie roll-like treasures left on her bedroom rug made me re-prioritize letting him out), I honestly stayed on the sofa, in my bed, or sitting lazily at the kitchen table for 3 full days.  Despite a drug cocktail that would rival that of an HIV-patient, loads of rest and pitchers full of water...I found myself on Monday morning feeling, well, not a whole lot better.  Not worse, but definitely not better.

I take a very pragmatic approach to illness: First, Mind Over Matter.  If you do not allow yourself to get sick, you won't get sick.  Second: If you begin to feel slightly wonky or cold-symptoms come knocking...you take a million grams of vitamin-C, echinacea, and zinc and get a solid 12 hours of sleep.  In my universe, Sleep Cures Everything.  Third: If One and Two fail, Call the Doctor...the world will certainly End if I am not here to help my family navigate the trials and tribulations of each day. (or not!?)

So, Monday, I was trying hard to evaluate if I was feeling better and decided that I couldn't tell because I hadn't done anything to tax myself at all.  True, walking up the stairs to my bedroom was sort of a challenge...but I also haven't worked out in a week (aaaaahhhhhh!!  You KNOW something is not right here).  Trouble (my sweet girl who can NOT catch a break and truly gets every known illness and lots that you've never heard of) had been up a number of times during the night on Sunday complaining that her ear hurt.  Mind you, she had an ear infection not 2 weeks earlier and only finished that antibiotic 7 days before.  Also, I HATE antibiotics.  I hate that we need them and I do NOT want to be the family that does not get well because we've taken them too liberally.  Against my better judgment I took Trouble back to see our family physician, where she was diagnosed with Walking Pneumonia.  I kind of freaked...is that like Jr. Pneumonia?  Did I give it to her?  Answer to both questions is No.  Google it.  She has mycoplasma pneumonia and just needs a "Stronger" antibiotic.  My doctor knows my feelings about antibiotics and when I raised an eyebrow at her she reassured me that it WILL work.  Trouble's little system just cannot get well at the moment.  Then, she turns to me straight-faced and says, "I'm actually more worried about You.  You look absolutely Terrible.  No offense."  I try to tell her I think I feel better.  She clearly does not believe me and as we walk out with our 5th bag of prescriptions in the past 4 weeks, she says she is calling my pulmonologist ans she'll talk to me in a while.  I shrug and wander out to pay my bill and see if I can sweet talk the receptionist into giving me my own parking space (No Go).

Hours later, I've collapsed on the sofa.  That outing took it all out of me, literally, I couldn't even get up to let out the dog.  When my phone rang and the doctor told me that they have decided to admit me to the hospital and I needed to get there ASAP, I cried.  Both because I didn't want to go and I did.  See above comment about the world ending without me (though maybe I'm just afraid it WON'T).

I gather the children, explain the situation, phone The Husband and explain so that he can re-arrange his travel and take the red-eye back to Hong Kong to be with the kids in the morning, and then desperately beg our overworked helper to work straight through until he arrives so that I can go directly to the hospital (Have I mentioned that life in Hong Kong would not work without helpers?  Case in point). Then I pack an overnight bag and kiss the girls and tell them Daddy will be there when they wake up.  Tears all 'round.

FYI: This is how hospital admissions work in Hong Kong.  I taxi over, walk in to admissions, give them my Hong Kong ID card and my insurance card, answer about 3 questions and then get met by a nurse and escorted to my (very nice, very clean, very large) private room.  10 minutes later, I have been helped into my OWN pajamas, taken for a new X-Ray, been visited by the phlebotomist and hooked up to an IV.  Here's the downside of this hospital.  It's called Adventist.  I don't know any Seventh Day Adventists in real life...apparently they are vegetarian and eschew caffeine.  Okay, I'm on board with vegetarianism.  Particularly for the ill and elderly.  Let's face it, we don't need animal fat to heal our hearts and bodies.  But caffeine?  Are they insane?  I also tried to order my Vegetarian Ham Sandwich at 7:35pm.  And the kitchen closes at 7:30pm.  Bummer.  So I ate the complimentary bag of raisins and nuts for dinner and settled into my bed with my laptop.  Because of course WiFi is complimentary at Adventist (which is was NOT at the overpriced "5-star" hotel that we stayed at in Australia for at least 4 times the cost of this hospital room...but I digress).

Eventually, my admitting physician (the pulmonologist) came by to talk about his findings.  As I mentioned earlier he is a strange combination of very excitable and very dry.  He is fascinated by the Medical Mystery that is apparently Me.  I should mention here that he didn't make it to see me until nearly 11pm...despite ordering me to the hospital at 5pm.  Why?  He had an invitation from the Medical Attache to tour the visiting US Naval Carrier that is currently docked in Hong Kong Harbour.  Or, to be more exact, Lantau Island Harbour...which is an hour away by Ferry.  He was full of fascinating stories about this boat...that he wasn't supposed to be telling me, because they were classified.  Um.  Okay.  So, could we get back to me?  My lungs?  Right!!  With a wry grin, he tells me that he was happy to see that I still have a small pneumonia in the center of my right lung. (Happy!!??)  It is responding to the treatment but the pain and difficulty I am experiencing is my asthma.  Okay.  Only I don't Have asthma.  You do now, he says.  I implore,  "You mean...like....forever?  Aren't I a little old to just Get asthma?"  He is just half smiling at me.  "Is this "environmental" by any chance?", I ask.  He half nods his head and says that he does see a high number of late onset asthma cases here.
Then, the guy with a gift for delivery drops this little bomb, "I was so glad to see that it's Just Pneumonia.  Your family doctor and I were concerned.  I'll tell you now, because it's not...we thought you might have leukemia."

Full Stop.

What?  Dude.  Enough with the Giant Black Tumor and Leukemia talk.  I get that you like the medical mysteries and all that.  But let me understand you.  I have Asthma AND Pneumonia.  And that's all.



Honestly, he's kind of grinning at me through all of this.  I ask, "So, when can I go home?"  He says, "I'd love to get you out of here.  But the last thing we want is you going home and coming back worse.  So, you get At Least 2 days of nebulizer, oxygen, IV fluids, sleep and some strong antibiotics.  I'll let you know what I think tomorrow night."

Fast Forward.  I have now been here in the hospital for nearly 24 hours.  I have (AWESOME) friends that came by with magazines, cookies, DVDs, packs of gum (eat your heart out JSE...I am WT through and through), and Starbucks Caffeinated Latte.  The Husband, who can be incredibly sweet and concerned when he wants to be, brought two cleanly dressed (if not exactly neatly brushed and presented) little girls to visit.  Trouble brought me her favorite Dou Dou (read: stuffed animal) to sleep with (yes, I made sure she took it with her when she left!), and Drama wrote me a card. I also received a lovely hand-written card from the daughter of a friend (and a friend of Drama...wow, that's kind of complicated).

So, I'm feeling the love.   What you should also know is that Nebulizer treatments work.  I actually feel better than I have in weeks.  I'm NOT coughing up a lung (or anything else for that matter).  The downside (aside from no coffee and things like vegetarian crabmeat on the menu)?  I am wearing an oxygen mask, have an IV and am wearing compression stockings.  I've requested that my friends call me Ethel and the next time they visit I want a copy of Cat Fancy magazine and some Sanka.  And I'd like a hand-knitted shawl and we should play bridge.  I would be completely unobtrusive at an old folks home.

Truthfully, I just want to get well and go home.  We have Real Coffee and Meat there.  But it will have to wait until I can breathe on my own.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How to Deliver Bad News

Well, I'm happy to report that I officially DO NOT have TB.  Having spent the last 24 hours reading Medi Wiki, WebMD, and googling X-ray photos of lungs with active and latent TB, I can say unequivocally that NOT having TB is really good news.

I also do not have to call everyone I've come in contact with over the last 6 weeks and tell them that I contaminated all of them.  And considering I have a number of friends who are expecting, and I have been with my kids (and lots of other kids!!!) at school, at Girl Scouts and in countless public situations...that is a very good thing.

I am not, at least for the moment, Typhoid Andrea.

Today I had the pleasure (like stick a fork in my eye kind of pleasure) of spending over 4 hours playing musical chairs between the pulmonologist's waiting room,  examination room, and office; the radiologist's waiting room, changing room, X-ray room, and lab; and then the same thing in reverse.  I really liked the doctor...other than that he is in such high demand that one has to wait over an hour just to see him.  He had an excellent demeanor, and managed to even be somewhat funny.  So, when I finally got back into his office after over 3 hours of what can only be described as God's waiting room full of aging Chinese people dying of various lung ailments, he delivered my diagnosis like this:

Doc: (looking at my CT scan, hung up for us to study together) "Good News!  I know what's wrong with you!"

Me: silent, waiting..

Doc: (begins with first "Slice" of the scan): See, here?  Perfectly healthy lungs.
(next slice): All Clear.
(third slice) : you can see that your organs are covering parts of the lung area, but the lungs still look good.
(fourth slice) You see that little black spot here?

Me: Um...yes.  Black isn't good, is it?

Doc: Looks like a little tumor here.

Me: (??????  mouth hanging open, speechless)

Doc:  (next slice) But here, it's Huge.

Me: I have a Huge Tumor?

Doc: No, No.  It's not a tumor!

Me: (relief washing over me)

Doc: It's just a pneumonia!  About the size of a fist, from what we can see here!  Amazing.  The placement of your pneumonia made it absolutely impossible to detect.  That's really something!
(he was kind of excited, I kid you not)  I do this every day, for thirty years...and I'm not talking about being a student.  And I didn't hear it!

Me: Um.  Okay.  Well NOT a Tumor is a good thing!!  (I'm totally doing Arnold here, for the record...which was completely lost on the Doctor)  But, pneumonia?

Doc: Yes, and that is Very Serious...you need *blahblahblahblahblahblahblah, prescription, prescription, prescription, prescription, sleep, confined to bed, NO exercise.  Your children, your husband and your helper need to do everything.  And if you are not significantly better within 48 hours call me at this (hands me his personal mobile phone number) number if not.  I will admit you to the hospital to go after this.

Me: (blinking...seriously, I was just still excited that I don't have a giant Tumor on my lung)  Okay.  I can do this. (then pausing to think about how I get to tell The Husband that he HAS to do everything)

Doc: Did you hear me say No exercise?  None.  Because if you don't take this seriously it will be much worse, and people DIE from pneumonia.

Me: Right.  Okay.

So, here's what I've taken away from my experience today:

1) Having Pneumonia kind of sucks.

2) If I don't do what he says, I'll probably get worse

3) Having pneumonia doesn't really suck all that bad when you compare it against having a giant black tumor on your lung

All things are, in fact, relative.

So, I'm flat on my back, watching DVR-ed episodes of Glee and Modern Family and trying not to laugh out loud because it hurts my lungs when I breathe too deeply.  But it's seriously still better than having a tumor.

Monday, May 16, 2011


I'm American.

That can mean or indicate a lot of things, depending on the context.

What I'm referring to in this particular instance is that Americans (and me, especially) are masters of sarcasm as a form of humor.  But, we don't really Get irony.  Seriously, I didn't even realize that Alanis Morrissette's song "Ironic" was totally off base, and that none of her stanzas were examples of Irony.

But, I think I "get" that me (the wife of a tobacco executive) coming down with a serious lung infection is Ironic.  (That IS irony, right?)

Today I made my 5th trip to the doctor, this time finally giving in and going Just for me.  Not tacking on my issues to one of the girls' appointments.  And it turns out that I really am sick.  The most ironic part?  That I've been making (bad) jokes about having TB for weeks.  And it turns out that if the medications that the doctor prescribed today don't make me feel dramatically better (and, subsequently, allow me to Breathe), I have to go get a Chest X-ray to rule out TB.

Or is that just Bad Karma?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cursewords and Lullabies

There is a rumor going around that I have a touch of the Potty Mouth.

(Grandma, now is a good time for you to decide that this simply cannot be true and stop reading.)

Everybody else is sniggering and having flashbacks to some moment in our shared past when I uttered some flagrantly inapproprate (but funny!) curseword-peppered invective under my breath...or out loud.  Depending on whether or not we may have been partaking of adult beverages at the time.

I will confess that there are times when cursing is not only cathartic...but necessary.  But I swear (no pun intended) that I am working on it.

This week, I received no fewer than six different emails/Facebook messages/forwarded book recommendations for the following:

From Amazon.com: Go the Fuck to Sleep is a bedtime book for parents who live in the real world, where a few snoozing kitties and cutesy rhymes don't always send a toddler sailing blissfully off to dreamland. Profane, affectionate, and radically honest, California Book Award-winning author Adam Mansbach's verses perfectly capture the familiar--and unspoken--tribulations of putting your little angel down for the night. In the process, they open up a conversation about parenting, granting us permission to admit our frustrations, and laugh at their absurdity.
With illustrations by Ricardo Cortes, Go the Fuck to Sleep is beautiful, subversive, and pants-wettingly funny--a book for parents new, old, and expectant. You probably should not read it to your children.

Okay.  I admit.  This is funny, funny stuff.  Completely inappropriate, but hilarious. 

Two of these forwards came from friends with tongue-in-cheek notes about how the combo of F-Bomb and Sleep Desperation was meant for me.  

I'm Horrified.

Okay, not really.  But I am a little bit embarrassed.  Because as much as The Husband jokes about Not Being Able to Take the Girl out of the Trailer...I actually like to think of myself as moderately cultivated.  Okay, maybe not.  But I'm not so bad that you couldn't introduce me to your grandmother (just don't serve me a Bloody Mary when we meet...unless she's tossing them back, too).

Backtrack about 6 years, I actually made a good friend because I was in an intensive French Study Course with her husband.  He went home and told her, "I met a woman in French Class today and you HAVE to become friends".  Her puzzled look and "Why??" was met with a frank declaration that I was the only person he'd ever met that swears as much as she does.  Who me?  The most horrifying part of that whole exhange was that I was obviously swearing up a red streak...and it was FRENCH class.  I was supposed to be speaking nothing but French.  Somehow I had tossed in a few choice cursewords.  Turns out she was a great friend.  And, in fact, she swore more than I did.  But only by a tiny bit.  And it turns out that her husband taught me some choice cursewords in French. C'est vrai.

Anyway...the point of that little digression was that I used to swear a lot (not really, Grandma.  I'm just kidding).  But I've really censored myself.  I now say things like "Jackhammer" and "Cheese & Rice", and "Dadgammit", and "Frick".  People who knew the old me would raise an eyebrow at my cleaned up self and wonder.  But truly, I'm better!

I'm putting this out there because I don't want there to be a general idea floating around my circle of frends that I might actually sing my kids dirty limmericks at night or read them stories like the one above.  Despite the well-known fact that I am desperate for some good sleep, I've even stopped short of drugging my kids to get them to sleep.  While that might sound insane to many of you...I promise you that my ex-pat circle of friends will either cop to having done it (to counter JetLag...or to survive 36-hour travel debacles) or know somebody that has.  I'm not judging....the truth is that we tried Benadryl once with Drama (not to get her to sleep, but because of an allergy) and she was up all night jumping up and down in her crib, and I have no desire to reduce the number of hours of sleep that I get.

And I'm also kind of pissed off.  Because I totally should have written that book.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Plague

Bad News.

I'm Dying.

No, seriously.  I have just received my diagnosis...and according to WebMD, it's not good.  My prognosis, accordingly, is also very poor.

I was kidding earlier when I said I had TB (at least 18 times).  But when I entered all of my symptoms into WebMD, the "Doctor" told me that I have one of the following:

  • Tuberculosis (no lie)
  • Whooping Cough
  • Mononucleosis
  • Pneumonia
  • Common Cold
Um.  Listen.  I've had a lot of colds in my lifetime.  Conservatively, I'd say I've had no fewer than one per year over my thirty-mumblemumble years.  Colds last about 10-14 days whether you take medication or not and let's face it...a Z-Pack is not magic and if you think it is, eventually when you NEED it, it won't work for you anymore.  You just really have to get some good sleep, drink your weight in water, juice and other non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic beverages (no fun!), and let it run it's course.  I'm pushing week 4 of this and this is round two.  Poor Trouble had a rumbling smokers cough for 4 weeks, and the drainage ultimately settled into her ears and she wound up with an ear infection.  I hate antibiotics as a general rule, but man...day two on antibiotics for her and after 6 weeks of what I really would have sworn was the Bubonic Plague, my little one is back to her perky, cheerful self.

I don't have a real fever...but I sound like a 3-pack a day smoker....and I cannot shake it.  Those of you that know our family well might think the Smoker's Cough is either ironic or Bad Karma...but I'm not laughing anymore.

Considering, that this is obviously not a Common Cold, I'm pretty sure I'm dying.  I found a list of old diseases and I'm actually now 100% convinced that I have Apoplexy.  Or Consumption.  Or Dropsy.  I actually laughed out loud at that one, because for a really klutzy girl like me...it would only be fitting for me to die of Dropsy.  Seriously, though.  I think I have the plague.

My real physical doctor has told me that I just have a virus.  No bird flu, no swine flu, nothing treatable.  She also told me that I'm not recovering because I have an acute respiratory ailment.  Made worse by the horrifically polluted air here in Hong Kong.  I told her it seemed to go from bad to worse when we went to Australia.  Her answer?  My body was trying to "Cough the Hong Kong out".  Yowza. 

So, now on top of all the other things I worry about messing my kids up with (for starters, I'm their mom!!), I have to add to that the fact that we moved them to Hong Kong by choice.  And my tiny little Trouble battles cold after cold, flu after flu, eczema, allergies and hives.  So, I'm thinking I'd rather have the Plague.  

When I told Circus Dad the sad news, I also told him that he'd better wait until the kids are grown before he marries again  (How's that for Drama??  Now you know where Miss Drama gets it), and that they'll all be so sad and miss me so much when I'm gone.  He told me I'd better "Suck it Up" and get well because both Elizabeth Hurley and Eva Longoria are single at the moment.  

So, I'll go ahead and make my way upstairs, pausing to hack up both lungs about 10 times during the 4-flight climb to my bedroom, and put on my most pathetic poor me face.  I figure at the very least, I can get him to take out the dog tomorrow morning, or get up with Trouble at 5am.  If not?  I'm going to use his toothbrush.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Mother's Day Top 10

It's Mother's Day, and since I recently had a big, emotional reflection on my road to Motherhood...I thought I'd take some time to pay tribute to the mother's in my life that have had profound impact on me as a person.  Of course, having changed who I am as a person, they are also all of the mothers who influence who I am as a mother.  Not a slight to my wonderful children, who let me sleep in this morning (seriously, that is the best present EVER for this mama...particularly when you take into consideration that I am back to newborn sleeping pattern with a 3-month-old puppy living in the house), showered me with lovely home-made and store bought treasures and then took me to brunch and behaved somewhat respectably.

So, here it is.  The top 10 moms in my life, David Letterman-style.

Number 10: Amy Chua, aka the Tiger Mom.  Yes, a TRULY controversial choice, but an honest one.  And what I admire about Mrs. Chua is that she has the courage, tenacity and sticktoitiveness to parent her children with conviction.  Agree with her or disagree with her, you cannot fault her commitment and resolve.  Her parenting is absolutely a force, and she does not waver in her conviction regardless of the pressure of society, friends, family or even logic.  She also clearly, passionately loves her children and stops at nothing to shape them into the people she envisions them as adults.  I read her book expecting to hate her and think she was crazy and evil and potentially abusive and I finished it having great respect for her.  While I do not subscribe to many of her parenting techniques and certainly not to her methods, I respect her wholeheartedly and hope that as I grow in my role as a mother I have the fortitude to stick by what I believe is right, no matter what.  And I also have to thank her for making me feel better about my crazy, occasionally ranty, lecture-style of parenting.  Because on my worst day, I am an absolute lamb in comparison.

Number 9: Erma Bombeck.  I remember reading her reflections, satire and poetry in newspaper articles and in dog-eared copies of Reader's Digest as a kid and laughing well before I had any idea what it would mean to be a mom.  But her words and advice have stuck with me.  And so I'm sharing a favorite here:

I would have talked less and listened more. 

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded. 

I would have eaten the popcorn in the "good" living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace. 

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather rambling about his youth. 

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed. 

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage. 

I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains. 

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television, and more while watching life. 

I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day. 

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime. 

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment, realising that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle. 

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, "Later. Now go get washed up for dinner." 

There would have been more "I love you's" and more "I'm sorry's" 

. . . but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute . . . look at it and really see it . . . and never give it back." 

Number 8: My friend Kelley (KBS), who came to motherhood almost 5 years after I did.  Kelley knows that she saved me from myself during the darkest point of my "post-partum-adjustment" to my second child.  Until she had a child of her own I don't think she had any idea that coming over with homemade salad dressing and sitting in silence watching Dancing With the Stars was an act of kindness that I will forever be working to repay.  Kelley inspires me because she actively, consciously thinks about how she parents her children day in and day out.  She parents with kindness and humor, and she has the grace to allow herself to make mistakes and not have it hollow her out completely.  I haven't had the privilege of seeing Kelley as a mom to two children, but I know that when I do, I will leave her company moved and trying harder to be a good mom and a good person.  Because that's just the kind of person She is.

Number 7: My Hong Kong Network of friends.  I can't specifically call out any one of my girlfriends here, not because they aren't all amazing moms and people, but because they've all impacted me in different but important ways.  Parenting as an ex-pat is a crazy thing, and parenting in Hong Kong is another animal altogether.  Navigating the pitfalls of overindulgence, overscheduling, Tiger-Momming, coddling, succumbing to the weird competitive nature of high-stakes parenting, and just making my way here has been possible only because I have made really great friends.  I thank my friends from different cultures who have made me consider that my way not only isn't the only way but probably isn't the right way.  I thank my academic friends for passing on studies and research and parenting books and theories that I would never have discovered on my own.  I thank my sporty friends for playing with me and encouraging me to make time for me, knowing that for me a work-out is like an antidepressant.  I thank my chatty friends for making me laugh and laughing along with me.  And most of all I thank my friends that fall into all of these categories. You make life here even better, and you all make me a better mom.

Number Six: The GKMs (Good Karma Mamas).  My network of "imaginary" friends that circled the wagons and found a way to boost each other up through many years of difficult times for one and for all.  Though I am not as involved or as present as I once was...I hope you all know that I credit you with keeping me afloat once upon a time and I am certain that I would not have made it through to today without your friendships.  So, shout-out to MMC, JTE, BHC, GKE, SFC, BGH, MTM, and SBN.  In no specific order.  Thanks for accepting me as is.

Number Five: Bossy Becky.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: I won the Mother-in-Law lottery.  I don't think it's a stretch to say that for most grown women, their relationships with their mothers-in-law are a constant source of stress and anxiety, not to mention work.  Please know that my MIL came to me with the name "Bossy Becky", and coined herself Grandma BB.  Also understand that her form of bossing is kind of funny, never insulting and always well-meaning.  I never got to meet BB's mom, she was very sick when The Husband and I first started dating and my first real introduction to his family was at her funeral.  But, I know that she will say that she is the woman and mother that she is because her mother was amazing.  So, a shout-out goes here to Maxine for shaping BB into a woman that I admire and strive to emulate.  If I could be as cheerful, unaffected and genuinely loving as you, BB, I will consider myself a success as a mother.  Thank you for being such an incredible friend to me and grandma to the kids.  And thank you for making me laugh.  Because you are really funny (but not as funny as I am, at least not intentionally).

Number Four: My friend APB, whom I'm not sure wants to be called out, and whom I am certain will not expect this.  My dear friend, you do not give yourself nearly enough credit or your fortitude, your patience, your intelligence or the depth of your love for your children.  Every time I speak to you I am reminded that a mother's love is the greatest gift you can give your child...well, second maybe to having a sense of humor in parenting.  You have made me laugh through my tears on more occasions than I can count....and not just in my own life, but in yours, and in the lives of others.  I am humbled to be a friend that you trust and confide in and I have immeasurable respect for your honesty and your resiliance as a mother.  Keep laughing, my friend.  Your smile lights up the world as a whole and without question it illuminates the universe for your children.   I know that yours is a friendship I will treasure all the days of my life.

Number Three: My mother.  I have to say thank you for the very basics of motherhood I learned from you.  Every mother and daughter has sticky periods and Lord knows we had ours.  I am grateful for my siblings, and you've taught me that even if life doesn't turn out exactly like you'd planned...it turns out exactly how it is supposed to.  I am especially grateful that you love me enough to never give up on me.  On our most recent visit you very eloqently told me that my memories aren't your memories and that was such an honest, true sentiment that I have to call it out here.  Because we will always have different perceptions of history, I am glad that you will be a part of my childrens' lives so that they can learn your history and be impacted by your love.

Number Two: My friend Kris (KDS), who shared with me her selfless parenting, her kind friendship and her family.  At times, we were like sisters, raising our kids on the same street while our husbands ran around the world.  I cannot thank you enough for telling me I am crazy when I need to be told, for standing by me when I needed a friend, for being like an aunt to my children and for laughing with me through the craziness that was life as a Swiss Local (expat).  From you I learned that it is truly okay to put your own family first and to have unwavering confidence in my parenting choices.  Your love and kindness as a person is evident in the amazing children you are raising.  I will be forever a different a better person (and MOM!!) because you've been my friend.  Thank you!!!

And lastly, Number One: My "second" mom, Mary.  Upon reflection, I have had many moments when I realized that I could not have done what she did.  Mary was my stepmom.  She came into my life when I was just a little kid, around Drama's age.  She didn't pause or hesitate for a moment at the task of shared-parenting my brother and I, despite the fact that she was only 25 years old when she married my father.  When she and my father dissolved their marriage, she didn't cut ties with us.  In fact, she continued her role in my life with commitment that taught me more about mothering than almost anything else I have experienced.  There were times in my life when her tough-love was exactly what I needed and her verbal kicks in the ass were what got me back on track.  I think the term "it takes a village" is apt here, because I know I would not be who I am or where I am today without the influence of Mary.  I am reminded in my life now, with friends taking on stepparenting roles, that Mary is an exception to the rule.  She truly loves us like we are her own children, and in turn, we love her .  Our relationship is part mother-daughter, part sisterly, part friendship....but it is genuine and it sustains us.  So, today, please know that you are in my thoughts and I am grateful for you in my life and the lives of my children.  Despite the fact that neither of us will ever forget Mother's Day 1983 when we all failed to recognise you.  I hope that you know how you have changed my life.

Lastly, I want to say thanks specifically to a few friends for being part of my life...you'd all be in the top 10 except, well...Amy Chua is a nutbag...and you KNOW I love me a nutbag.  Erma Bombeck is a genius and I have to acknowledge two "moms" in my life.  So, GVL, JSE and AHS..please know that you are acknowledged, know I am thinking of you all today and wishing you and your incredibly lucky children a Happy Mother's Day.  xxoo

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

One Wedding and No Funeral

You'll just have to forgive the fact that I've become completely sporadic about posting.  I find that in order to keep the details of my daily life organized enough to be able to stand it...I simply have to give up things I want to do.  Like, for example, unload the contents of my very disheveled brain onto you.

The past week has been a weird one. I know I'm not alone in this perception.  The world was captivated by the spectacle of a Royal Wedding.  Billions (??) of people, worldwide, sat glued to their television sets to watch the heir to the British throne marry a commoner.  An uncommonly beautiful one, but still.  On Sunday night, we had friends for dinner and discussed how the wedding really brought out the Patriotism of the British people.  It was amazing to see the throngs of people lining the streets of London to steal a glimpse of the bride or witness the first kiss in person.  I watched a bit of the lead-in and post commentary (I confess I thought it seemed a little bit like the pre-game show for the Superbowl married to the red-carpet lead-in on E!) and was both fascinated and revolted by the regalia and the excesses.  Nobody can argue that the Brits know how to throw a wedding.  I saw a pensioner wearing plastic, slotted sunnies emblazoned with the Union Jack, and a toddler wearing an enormous top hat.  My kids got bored early (they couldn't understand the accent of the vicar, and didn't know any of the hymns) and kept popping in to ask, "did they kiss, yet?".  Drama also offered her advice to the junior bridesmaids (us Americans would have called them flower girls): she said they should have tried harder to look like they weren't scared or mopy.  I confess to copping to a giant girl-crush on Pippa....and total dress-envy.  And The Husband and I were saying that we don't really have anything like a Royal Wedding to pull us together as a people. Sadly, the last time we remember a giant surge of truly unified Patriotism was in the days following September Eleventh.

The following morning, I went out to meet a friend to work out and when we arrived back at her place, we watched the breaking news on CNN and learned that the US military had found and assassinated Osama Bin Laden.  As I stood at watched our President give his speech, my first thought was that this might be the unifying event that the US needs to bring our people together.  My second thought was that I was going to have to find a way to talk to my kids about terrorism, military events and sanctioned assassinations.  Oy.

I do have a political lean.  I do get all fired up and fiesty and I definitely do have a strong sense of right and wrong.  Not everybody is going to agree with what I think or say or do...and that's okay with me.  On Monday afternoon (a public holiday here in Hong Kong), we were guests of friends for lunch and we were invited to share a bottle of champagne to toast the End of Terrorism, or at least the end of an era.  I happily raised my glass, but as the day wore on it occurred to me that celebration in the streets over the death of the Leader of a violent religious group is just exactly what the followers of said Violent Leader would encourage his followers to do.  I've gone on record with friends asserting my horror at the images of the Statue of Liberty holding the severed head of Osama Bin Laden.  I don't think it's Awesome.  I think it is sick and horrifying.  And I don't want my kids to think that murdering anyone, anywhere, ever...will ever be the Right thing to do.  This is not meant to say that what the government did is wrong or that our soldiers weren't heroic or incredible or that accomplishing the mission that was ordered of them isn't impressive.  I stole a Martin Luther King quote for my Facebook Status on Monday night, after I'd sat with sweet Drama (my very, very sensitive child) and tried to explain September Eleveth, Terrorism, Military Action and People Who Hate Each Other.  It's not easy.

I have read a number of posts and articles about why it's right to celebrate or how we can justify this action because the world is a better place without him...and I have a hard time arguing with every point.  The world probably is better without him.  But we'd all be really ignorant to believe that there aren't another 10 or 20 trained Muslim insurgents waiting to take his place.  In fact, there is probably a child Trouble's age being trained to kill in the name of Allah.  It all just makes me very, very sad.  I have a  good friend that went to enormous lengths, and deep religious thought to come up with what she said to her children.  And she was so poignant.  But I couldn't even get on board with everything she said.  I won't ever be able to make my kids feel safe in a world where I know we're not always safe.  But it won't keep me from trying.  I went with the less is more strategy, and I continue to answer questions and talk to her as she thinks about things.  Trouble, being Trouble...doesn't seem to have noticed anything going on and isn't asking.  I suspect she thinks it's a cartoon like Despicable Me.

So this week, I got to talk about wedding etiquette and sea burials with my kids.  And it was weird.  I am very, very grateful for the fact that we've had a new puppy in our house to distract us.  But that's a Whole Other Oprah.  And with that I'm going to try to coerce said puppy to do his business out of doors.

Friday, April 29, 2011


We're baaa-aaaack!  Australia was truly a once-in-a-lifetime kind of vacation.  For numerous reasons we won't ever duplicate it.  First, my girls will never again be 3 and turning-7.  Second, we'll never again make a journey like that to pick up our family pet.  After all, we've got him!  Third, while absolutely wonderful and fun and enjoyable...it was painfully expensive.  We'd have to sell one of the kids on Ebay to make it possible.  Nonetheless, it was something we'll all remember forever.  And maybe 16 years from now, my girls will return to the same place and have their own flashbacks.  A thousand years ago, when I was young and adventurous I spent some time one summer on the Gold Coast...under the guise of an internship...but really exploring and playing and having an amazing summer with my College Roommate.  It was wild and wonderful to be back there, and honestly more fun now that I wasn't flirting my way into free beers (although that might have been a good idea in light of the fact that they cost AU$11 each at our hotel) and bungee jumping.  Seeing a place though your childrens' eyes is absolutely magical.

 Drama meets a dolphin at Sea World
 Drama and a Kangaroo
 Trouble and a Kangaroo
 The girls and Baby the Koala
looking at the waves, Broadbeach

Which brings me to the next subject of my little reflection.  Last week, while hopping beach playgrounds and snapping 500+ photos of the girls with various Down Under wildlife phenoms, my lovely daughter Miss Drama celebrated the passage into her eighth year on this planet.  I honestly cannot remember what I did before I had kids.  I can remember snippets and stories and laugh at stupid things I did or said...but I sort of feel like I'm recollecting an old episode of Friends.  Like that couldn't possibly have been ME in that life. That said, there was a brief and tortorous time when I was sure I would never be a mother.  Those were dark days, and though I am so glad to have gone through them to have gained the perspective and gratitude that can only come through not getting what you want the nanosecond that you want it...reflecting on Drama's Birth Day always brings me back, momentarily, to that empty place in my soul that is now full to overflowing with the existence of my children.  (Holy Run-On Sentence Batman...fix THAT one, my English Word Nerd Friends!!)  It would be wrong to simply brush over the happy day when seven years of couplehood became a Whole New Thing.  My friend wrote a blog post recently about Game Changers.  Moments in your life that literally change everything.  For all parents, the arrival of their firstborn is a Game Changer.  But for me, particularly, the day that I held that glorious little pink bundle in my arms I became what I was actually meant to be in this life.  Years later, I had an epiphany that my Job as Her Mother was the only job in the world that I was singularly and indisputably The Most Qualified Person in the World to Do.  And Boy Howdy....how she has changed me.

The night before her birthday, we took the girls out to dinner at a lovely marina-side Italian Restaurant.  They proceeded to behave exactly as one would dream their children would at a nice restaurant for a holiday meal.  They used their polite words, they participated in family conversation, ordered for themselves, ate using thier Princess Etiquette (PaPere would have been proud), and Circus Dad and I proceeded to consume two bottles of wine.  Don't Judge.  We walked back to the hotel and all fell asleep before 9pm.  It was Party Hardy Old Folks Style.  I Digress.  During this absolutely lovely meal, Drama asked me to tell her a story about when I was young.  (Over the course of the vacation, I was telling the girls numerous stories about the last time I had been in Surfer's Paradise and showing them where I did various things).  Instead of regaling her with stories of my Australian summers....I told her about the day she joined our family.  And I thanked her for choosing me to be her mommy because she makes me a better person.  And she grinned (that rather frightening snaggle-tooth and missing teeth grin of a newly-minted 7-year-old) and said, "You're Welcome.  I think I knew you Needed Me."

Layering on the Reflection Topic, but in the same vein, last night we welcomed the first, last, and only Baby Boy into the Circus/Broccoli fold.  He's a canine baby boy...but we welcomed him just the same way we welcomed the human children in our house.  We threw a bunch of money at toys, cushiony things that we hope will make him Sleep Through The Night, and we ooohed and ahhhed at his cuteness.  This morning, he had the audacity to wake me before even Trouble had risen.  Just like the other two babies in our house...the first night you can't wait to see their adorable little cutness and I bound out of bed to carry him down the stairs (he doesn't know how to climb down, yet) and out into the pouring rain to try to coax him into making a wee wee outside.  Easier Said than done.  The point of this little tale, you ask?  Having a new baby in the house this week makes me remember the tiny baby we had in our house 7 years ago, and almost 4 years ago....and it makes me smile.  I was on Skype with my In-Laws this morning, introducing them to our (surprisingly mellow) little dude and they asked me if it was like having a new baby again.  It kind of is.  I mean, you really can't wait to see their cute little faces.  You're not completely psyched about the housebreaking/pottytraining aspect (and let me just say that if it takes the puppy even 1/10th as long as it look my children to get the hang of it, I'm sending him back).  You hope they will sleep through the night, but kind of relish those fleeting middle of the night cuddles.  All things considered, and in all honesty...the first night with Aussie was 1000 times easier than the first night at home with either of my girls.  I told MIL that if my kids had been that easygoing and laid-back, I'd have 10 children.  I also think I'm way mellower with him than I was with our first puppy or with either of the girls when I first brought them home.  I'll go ahead and chalk that up to lack of pregnancy hormones ...because we all know that I don't get as much sleep as I need...so it's not being well-rested.

 It's a Hard Life for Aussie at our house
Walking to the Bus Stop...Poor Aussie wasn't so keen on the leash 
Trouble's turn.  Aussie was getting the hang of it on the walk home!

So, here we are.  A little family of five.  Circus Dad is no longer completely outnumbered, as there is now another masculine life-form living in our home.  My kids totally impressed me with their politesse and their, well, Selves on our holiday.  So Life is Good.  I'll get back to you after I've passed through the 24 hour puppy honeymoon and after  he's had a few accidents on the carpet.  But for the moment...it's a very peaceful reflection and I am One Happy Mama.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

We're Off to See the Wizard

Tonight, Circus Dad and I are taking the kids to Australia.  It's kind of a once-in-a-lifetime type of adventure for most people...and I not completely sure the kids get how exciting it is to get to GO to Australia.  I'm also note completely sure that Trouble will even remember this trip when she gets older.

Nonetheless, the adventure is about to begin.

I have literally spent hours poring over internet travel websites and tourist advisors trying to come up with the best possible itinerary.  I need to balance the following factors:  The Husband's need for an actual holiday, complete with relaxation, waves lapping at his feet, cold beers and access to spa services; The Kids' need for entertainment, meaning actual planned activities or access to kid-oriented attractions; Proximity to the breeder, so we can meet and play with the puppy that we will be bringing home with us at the end of our holiday; Access to good restaurants, where kids are welcome...but not necessarily the target audience.  So.  Our itinerary follows:

Day One: Arrival in Brisbane, securing rental car (which might be an adventure...as I hired from a company called Andy's Autos...I fear it might be like Rocky's Autos in Colorado, and I know The Husband is just cringing at my frugality on this one), taking the "scenic" drive South along the Gold Coast to Broadbeach, checking into the hotel and relaxing for the remainder of the day at one of the pools at the resort.  Seeing how we are taking the red-eye...we are counting on the kids (and us!) sleeping on the flight, but accounting for the 3 hour time difference, we figure this might be a burger-by-the-pool kind of night.  We'll play it by ear.

Day Two: Sea World!!  It's walking distance from the hotel...tickets purchased in advance (thanks for the tip, Trip Advisor, I'd have been peeved waiting in a long line full of Aussie Autumn/Easter break revelers), and we plan on hitting every single attraction.  I just hope none of the whales, sharks, dolphins or penguins eat any other animal, spectator, or trainer.  Dinner at the Mirage.

Day Three: Beach!!  I've found a "beach walk/playground crawl" itinerary on a Australia tourism website that reccomends spots to sit and relax/play in the water/eat/drink and 7 playgrounds along the way.  I'm trying to mix dad's need to have his toes in the sand and a cold beer in his hand with the kids desire to be completely and utterly entertained.  I'm hoping this works.  And I get to read trash mags all day.  Oh yeah!  Dinner at a lively Mexican restaurant...I'll report back.  I don't have high hopes for Mexican in Australia...but it HAS to be better than the Mexican in Switzerland.

Day Four: Carrumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.  This is the day when my kids will meet live Kangaroos (just hopping around!  Feed them by hand!  No lie...I have a scar on the middle finger of my right hand from an overzealous Kangaroo who wasn't willing to wait for the handful of Kanga-treats I had back in 1994), hold a Koala (maybe...those little dudes look vicious), run from an Emu, and witness other strange Down Under wildlife like the Platypus and the Wallaby.  I'm hopeful that this will keep them more entertained than a typical zoo.  I'm excited...but if this is anything like our Thailand attempt to meet live elephants....I'm going to be the only memeber of the family that wants to participate.  So...I'm cautiously excited).

Day Five: Easter Brunch at Conrad Jupiter's.  This is my attempt to acknowledge Easter...which both girls seem keen on...feed The Husband and throw back a bunch of champagne)  This will be followed by a trip to the Dog Showgrounds just North of Brisbane where the breeder will be showing and we will get to meet for the first time our new little man, Aussie.  I've allowed the entire afternoon for this activity.  I suspect the kids will be devastated when we have to leave him again!!

Day Six: Drama's Actual 7th Birthday.  As such, she will get to choose what we do.  There are 3 other amusement parks in the area, a number of beaches, a water park and the beach.  The world is literally this little girl's oyster for a day.  Dinner will probably be something horrifying like McDonalds.

Day Seven: Beach/Check out and then commute to the airport for departure.

So, there you have it.  Hopefully a nice mix of full-on excitment with laid-back relaxation.  We'll pepper that with cocktails, kangaroo kibble and some photo ops, and I'm hoping it makes for a really nice holiday.  If not, I'm putting the kids on Ebay.  Ungrateful little turds.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Takeaways and A Prayer

Okay.  Quickly...the party was great, the takeaways are: 

  • Little Girls love Glitter
  • A Painting Class is a Great way to get a gage of your kid's personality
  • Cake Pops are delicious (and the base, while smart, wasn't actually all that fabulous...photographic evidence below)

  • No matter how hard you work on something, hearing "This was The Best Day EVER" out of the mouth of your child makes Every.  Little.  Thing.  Worth it.
  • I love those girls, because of and despite the Drama and the Trouble.  Sigh.

    Now that I've had a little sentimental moment, I offer some comic relief.  It's not mine...though I wish I were this funny.  It's an excerpt from Tina Fey's new book: Bossypants.  Enjoy:

    A Prayer for My Daughter

    First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

    May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the Beauty.

    When the Crystal Meth is offered, May she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half And stick with Beer.

    Guide her, protect her
    When crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.

    Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes And not have to wear high heels.

    What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.

    May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.

    Grant her a Rough Patch from twelve to seventeen. Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, For childhood is short - a Tiger Flower blooming Magenta for one day - And adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.

    O Lord, break the Internet forever, That she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers And the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.

    And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.

    And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back.

    “My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental Note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.


    Thursday, April 14, 2011

    Cake Pops

    I'm Running on Empty, as Jackson Browne would say.

    I have managed to pack my days so full lately that I've left no time for the little moments....like a quiet bathroom break, or, say, taking my peeling, chipped, Britney Spears-esque week-old nail polish off.  C'est la vie.

    Today I spent an hour on the floor of my office gluing construction paper to a giant sheet of Styrofoam and then plotting out a grid on which to display the Cake Pops that I ordered for Drama's birthday party.  Why, you might ask, did I not just make a cake...or like any good Tai Tai (read: Chinese Housewife) buy one and have it delivered?  Well, it was partly the fact that I'm still stinging from the cake debacle of 2010.  Wherein I ordered a fabulous ice-skate made of cupcakes 3 weeks in advance only to find out 4 days before the party that the Bakery "no longer did cakes".  I did find an amazing last-minute bakery.  Drama's cake was STUNNING and absolutely delicious.  It also cost as much as a car payment.  So, this year I priced cakes, I debated making one and then I found the most adorable new product available from the Worlds Most Expensive Bakery (which actually has a page called Xtravagant Cakes...so you can have an exact copy of an Hermes Birkin Bag made out of cake and fondant for your 4 year old daughter's birthday...for about the price of a real Birkin Bag...only don't take my word for it.  You have to fill out a special request and give a blood sample before they will quote you a price on an Xtravagant Cake).  This darling little confection is along the cupcake line: bite-sized and cute.  It's called a Cake Pop.  Little round delicious globules of cake, dipped in frosting and sprinkled.  So cute!!  And about 25% of the price of a Low-Brow, Nothing Fancy Cake from the World's Most Expensive Bakery.  Yay! Sign me up.  Only, how do you put candles in a lollipop?  More importantly, how do you display them?  Enter a large sheet of Styrofoam and my creative "genius".   Let me just say that the pops better be delicious, and the kids better love them.

    I still feel that my time is highly valuable.  My billing rate should be somewhere around US$300 per hour by my calculations.  Nevermind the fact that I have not worked in any actual financially-contributory fashion since 2005, where my billing rate was probably about 10% of that figure.  If.  So, by my calculations, this is going to be the world's most expensive Cake Pop Base.  I just have to finish outlining the giant number 7 with silver glittery pen first.  Because when little girls are the target audience, just add more bling.  Seriously.

    Which brings me to the next point:  Birthday Gifts for overpriviledged children.  Obviously, one has to give a child a gift for their birthday.  And my children, while overpriviledged (relatively, of course), are actually really Good Kids.  They pick up their toys (mostly...or to be more accurate Drama picks up the toys while Trouble finds ways to get the rest of us to do it for her), they are grateful and polite and actually seem to know that they have more than they actually "need".  So, when I asked Drama what she wanted for her birthday she quickly replied, "an iPad".  Yeah.  Me, too, kiddo.  Not. Gonna. Happen.  "An iTouch?" I didn't even reply, I just raised one eyebrow and she looked sheepish.  "Rollerskates."  I had to think about this one.  Do kids actually still rollerskate?  I spent every Friday night in 5th and 6th grade at Skate City.  "You mean rollerblades?"  I asked her.  "No, the REALLY old kind, from the olden days, mama".  Ah.  Yes, that kind.  D'oh.  So, the child will inevitably get a pair of "old fashioned" rollerskates for her birthday.  Her sister will pick some silly sparkly bauble for her from the Stanley Market, and she'll have to make room somehow for the barrage of gifts that will arrive from the Grandparents that miss our kids and send them giant packages for their birthdays.  I'm thinking of instituting a "New Item In, Old Item to Charity" policy.  It's tough with Drama, though, because Trouble is just now growing into a lot of the toys that Drama doesn't use anymore.  But, seriously.  Does any household need a sofa-sized ottoman full of Barbies?  Because we have one.  And the lid doesn't close all the way.  And they are always naked.  Which isn't pertinent but I find it puzzling.

    So, my overscheduled, chipped-polish, high from sparkly-fumed-marker self is going to go upstairs to finish trimming the Cake Base.  Check back after Saturday for photographic evidence of my genius.  Or to smile at 14 adorable first grade girls, and one grinning Trouble.