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A Need To Vent: My Opinion on The Penn State Scandal

In Uncategorized on September 2, 2012 at 11:55 pm

Feeling the need to get my thoughts and frustrations written out on this whole Penn State tragedy. I did not attend the school, but know many who proudly did. In writing this I’m sure I will deeply offend some, if not many. That certainly is not my intention, but judging by the evidence of their opinions on the matter, it unfortunately seems inevitable.

This is purely my own opinion, which I have tried to keep to myself with the exception of close family. But, with all of the increasing articles and outrage, I find myself in a state of anxiety, frustration, and yes, anger. Every time I see another article, or opinion, I tell myself not to read it. I know it will only upset me. But then I can’t resist. I’m searching, waiting to read something that reflects my feelings on the matter…and it never happens. So now, I gotta let it out!

As I stated, I did not attend Penn State, so for some, that would be the first strike against me. I write this as a citizen, and mother. My thoughts on this are black and white, right and wrong. I know there is a huge “gray area”, as with any complicated situation. I don’t deny that, but here it goes.

What I do not understand is the constant complaining, and feelings of being persecuted, by many of the alumni. For me, here are the black and white facts; boys were RAPED, people either knew or suspected and they covered it up. I keep hearing that yes, hind-sight is twenty twenty, but it seems pretty clear to me that in this instance it was obvious there was more than one reason to be suspicious or concerned. The powers that be at that university dropped the ball, big time. And yes, unfortunately it seems that Joe Paterno did as well. I also keep hearing that “enough is enough”. And I say, yes enough is enough, with institutions, churches, and people in powerful positions trying to sweep these things under the rug. It happens all the time, not just at Penn State, and it is absolutely abhorrent. I’m not picking on Penn State just because it’s Penn State, I’m saying this because it HAPPENED. I feel the exact same way about the Catholic church, into which I was born and raised. There are no reasons that could be presented to me that would make me think what they did,is in any way, ok. There should be severe consequences for sexual abuse and cover up.

I feel nauseous when I see things like, “Chins up Penn Staters, we’ll survive!” To them I say, why do you feel these consequences are directed at you personally? Why are you so angry at the system trying to give some sort of justice? Be angry at the people who failed your university, and failed the real victims. How would you feel hearing a statement like that if you were one of those boys? Every time someone whines that statement, the victims are being minimized once again. They are the true survivors. There is no “back to normal” for victims of a crime such as this. They are forever changed. They were forced to look in the face of evil, and that type of wound on such an innocent soul will never heal completely.

Now, if you really think about that and let it sink in, how can you possibly say that the punishment handed out to the University is harsh. It’s like saying, “Yeah, I’m really sorry that happened to you, but this is football. This hurts school pride.”
And this is where I’d like go on a rant full of expletives…but I think you get the idea.

To those who defend Mr. Paterno to the end I say this, when it comes to football there is no doubt the man was a true genius, but I’m sorry, the man made a mistake. A huge one. Passing the buck, and saying that you reported something like this to your superiors just doesn’t cut it for me. I would like to think that in that situation, in his position ,if reporting to your superiors did not result in any action or investigation by authorities, you have the “moral obligation” to call 911. That’s it, end of story for me. Anything short of that is unacceptable. Do I feel bad for his family? Absolutely. There is no doubt that the good he did for the University is great, and I’m sure that is an understatement, but this is too serious. It is very sad that his legacy is tarnished forever by this, but it was his choice and actions, or I guess inaction in this case.

Let me be clear that I do not in any way think that the alumni are condoning pedophilia. I don’t. I know they are horrified by that just as I am. But please, stop acting the victim!
My son is very close to the age of some of those poor boys. I look at him and I can’t describe the feeling I get if I imagine it was him. I feel physically ill. Tears instantly well, my throat tightens, my heart literally aches. There really aren’t words. I feel angry, and want to scream! How many boys suffered unecessarily, during this cover up? They still suffer. And I ask, as a mother, if it was your child, would you be complaining that the punishment of the University is too harsh?! If your son was raped after the date that Paterno reported to his superiors, would you say the statue should remain? Would you be able to say that what he contributed to the school out weighs his negligence? I hope not. And if so, then the problem here is way bigger than the community of Penn State.

Society seems to have a backward view of priorities, placing the game of football and the reputations of “important people” and schools ahead of protecting our most innocent and defenseless.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I need to try and move on from this. I pray that out of this whole series of events, important lessons are learned. And that the powers that be, feel a little less “untouchable” after our legal system attempted to serve justice in this case.

To current Penn State students I say, be proud to be a Penn Stater in this new phase, carry on and do what all of the students before you have done in the past to make your University what it is…a great University. After all, “YOU are…Penn State!”

~I originally wrote this piece in July. I shared it first with family and friends, and truly appreciate their suggestions and input. I have to give a special thank you to my friend and very talented writer, Nicole Monaghan for her excellent advice. You can read her work right here on WordPress at, Writenic.wordpress.com~

Black Bean Brownies with Peanut Butter Cookie Topping

In Uncategorized on April 1, 2012 at 11:01 pm

These are two separate recipes that I’ve combined and tweaked to my liking. I’m posting this here due to the amount of request I have from friends for the recipe. They are dairy free if you follow the recipe exactly. I tend to “eyeball” some of the ingredients, but last time I made it, I tried to write down what I used. They can each be made and enjoyed separately, but I really only like the brownies with the peanut butter topping. The peanut butter cookies however, are divine on their own. Good luck and I hope you enjoy them as much as my family does! I would love if you let me know how you like them, or if you have any suggestions.

Peanut butter cookie

1 c. Creamy peanut butter

1/2 c. Sugar

1/2 c. Brown sugar

1 egg white

1tsp. Baking soda

Dash of vanilla extract

Cream peanut butter, and sugar. Add egg , vanilla and then baking soda. Mix until well combined.

Set aside for brownies. (this recipe makes approx. 2 dozen cookies if you want use it for just cookies. Bake in 350 oven for about 10 minutes. They are delicious!!!)

Black Bean Brownies

Non stick cooking spray

1 (15 oz) can of unseasoned black beans, rinsed and drained

5 egg whites

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate ( it’s worth it to get a good quality chocolate, I used Ghirardelli)

1 TBS. Butter ( I used Earth Balance dairy free butter)

Appprox. 3/4 cup sugar, plus approx 1/2 cup Agave (original recipe called for 2 cups sugar)

1/3 c. All purpose flour

1/2 tsp. instant espresso powder

Pre-heat oven to 350. Coat 9×13 inch baking pan with non stick cooking spray.

Blend drained beans and 2 egg whites in a food processor until very smooth. Set aside.

Place chopped chocolate and butter in a microwaveable bowl and heat for 60-90 seconds, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth. Set aside.

Combine bean purée, sugar, flour, espresso powder, and remaining egg whites in a mixing bowl and beat until well combined. Blend in the melted chocolate. Pour mixture into pan( it will be a lot thinner than regular brownie batter). Finally, crumble peanut butter cookie mixture evenly over top of the brownie batter. Then use a knife or spatula to gently swirl cookie dough into the batter.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until brownie pulls away from sides, and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool completely before cutting….if you can wait;-)

20120401-225335.jpg

“Sensory Snapshot”

In Uncategorized on February 1, 2012 at 2:33 pm

It was an extremely rare, warm day in January.  Fifty-eight degrees warm to be exact.  I decided to keep my little girl home from school, not to play warm weather hookie, she had a cold.  It certainly wasn’t keeping her down though.  She came with me to work for a bit, and patiently waited while I did my usual chores.  My last chore was to rid the yard of puppy land mines, which with the weather being so nice was not near as much of a chore as usual.  Of course I was on a timer, as most mothers are.  Squeezing the most out of every single second of the day.  This time the timer was set for about thirty minutes, before we had to make our way to the bus stop to pick up my other precious one.

She was so happy to play outside, and once again anxiously waiting for me to be finished this one last thing.  “Mama, will you play with me?  Let’s fly on the airplane!” I responded with my usual reply, “Just one more second, and I’ll be all done.  Then I can play.”  I sensed her disappointment and frustration, and as I was scooping another pile into the bag, I was struck by the realization that I was wasting precious time.  This pile of $&!#, didn’t matter!  It didn’t matter if I picked it up right then, or next week, it was $&!# after all!  I put down that scooper and said, “You know what? I’m done!  Where are we going on that airplane?”

I hopped on the seesaw airplane, and we flew.  “Mama, you be the driver, and I’ll tell you where to go.”  So, we flew to Hawaii.  I’ve always wanted to go there.  The flight was surprisingly short.  When we arrived, she instructed me that we needed to get on a boat (the swing set) for the next part of the trip.  So, we sat on the swings and started swinging to power the boat.  She giggled at the dog when he nervously barked at us,  “Why is he barking Mama?”    “Well, I guess because he’s never seen us swinging on a boat before!”  More giggling.  We were going pretty high, “Wow, I’m getting dizzy!”, I said. “Why are you dizzy Mama, that’s silly!”  “I guess ’cause I’m old”, I replied.  More giggling.

Then it happened.  I looked over at her as she was chatting away to me, and realized that we were swinging at the exact same pace.  We used to say we were “chained together” if that happened when I was kid.  And as I looked and told her this, she smiled the most beautiful smile I had ever seen.  It was one of those moments.  You know the ones where your brain takes a snapshot.  You will never forget a single detail of that very  moment.  It was mid-afternoon sun, and it hit the side of her face.  It made her glow. I wasn’t just seeing her beauty, I was feeling it.  I was feeling her purity, innocence, her joy.  I was feeling her heart.  I was warm from the inside out, from my head to my toes,  and I have a feeling the freakish weather had nothing to do with it.  I would have felt that warmth on the coldest of cold days.  I didn’t just have a visual snapshot, I had a sensory snapshot.  I have an imprint of what the air smelled like, hearing the squeaking swing chains and her tiny giggling voice, the warm sun on my face,  the tiny butterfly in my stomach from swinging so high, and the joy of having that simple moment. That is what spirituality is for me.  I saw her soul.  I took in my surroundings on every level.  Call it God, call it whatever you like.  That’s what it all about for me.  It’s now filed away in my heart.

(Of course I don’t have an actual photo of that moment, but this one evokes the same feelings!)

(Photo property of M. Fani.  Not to be used or copied without permission)

“My Life Turned Upside Down”, cont’d

In Uncategorized on April 27, 2011 at 11:21 am

So back to the hospital we went, not ever knowing what to expect when we got there.  A constant state of unknown.  Not a good place for a control type person like myself.  By the time we arrived, they had finished an array of testing including the spinal tap.  They explained to us that they were ruling out some possible causes for my daughter’s decline, internal bleeding, meningitis, and so many more that I can’t even remember.  What they did know at this point was that after carefully examining smears of her blood, she had distorted and irregular shaped red blood cells causing the anemia.  Without getting too technical, basically the spleen acts as a “filter”, treating these cells as abnormal or old and breaks them down, causing the red blood cell count to drop.  Since red blood cells carry oxygen through the body it also drops oxygen saturation.  Frightning.

They explained that they would have to keep monitoring her counts closely, and that a blood transfusion may be needed.  There were two possible causes of this condition;  Infantile Pyknocytosis which is a rare form of hemolytic anemia in newborns.  The cause of this condition is unknown, and usually resolves on it’s own around 4-6 months of age.  Or, Spherocytosis, a more serious  life-long disease of the blood, in which red blood cells are shaped like spheres causing anemia, and at times requiring transfusions.  It would take a year for us to get the final diagnosis of Infantile Pyknocytosis.  A very long year.

In the meantime, my husband and I underwent genetic testing, and keeping vigil at the hospital.  After a few days, she did indeed need to have a blood transfusion.  Of course my worries multiplied with this news, even though I knew she needed it to survive.  What if she contracted something from the blood?  We’ve all seen the sad stories on T.V.  My head was a constant tornado of scenarios and “what if’s?”.  I again had to place my trust, and my daughter, in the hands of her re-assuring team of doctors.  That’s right, I said team.  This condition brought so many doctors to look at her case, not to mention the crowd of students and interns that usually followed them.  All asking questions, wanting to learn.

She received the transfusion, and started to improve dramatically.  She “pinked” up, and was getting stronger.  Now we had to wait and see if her new batch of red blood cells level would stabilize.  After a week, we were headed home.  I was elated and almost paralized with fear at the same time.  Even though I hated leaving her in the hospital every day, at least I knew if anything happened, she was there, with the best nurses and doctors at her side the second she needed anything.  She was hooked to monitors telling you at a glance what her heart rate, and oxygen levels were.  How would I know all of this at home?  How would I be able to sleep without worrying that something would happen while she was sleeping.  Fear, fear fear.  The symptoms that I was told to look out for didn’t help ease my fear at all.  I had to watch her to see if she started to seem lethargic and sleepy.  Aren’t all newborns sleepy?!?!  Check the whites of her eyes for yellowing, again, not easy on a newborn.  Check fingernails and palms of the hand for pinkness.  So tricky with a baby that isn’t able to communicate.  How was I going to do this?

We also had to go get her blood drawn regularly.  For the first few days, everyday.  Then every other, then once a week, etc.  Her little tiny heels had so many cuts in them.  You can still see the scars today.  I’m so grateful to one technician at the lab we went to.  Drawing blood from an infant is somewhat of an art, and she was the best.  So calm, and quick.  When she would see me coming, exhausted with my daughter and toddler son, she would drop what she was doing and help me.  If someone else working started to take us to the back, she would say, “It’s o.k., I got this one.”  And I would thank God every time I saw her face.  Then I would go back home and wait on pins and needles for the Doctor to call with the results.  Every day.

After only a few days at home, things seemed to be going o.k.  I was starting to get into the routine of it all.  Then, I got the call.  “We have your daughter’s blood count for today, and it seems she’s going to need a little more “hand-holding” than we thought.  She needs another transfusion right away.  Come back to the hospital and go to the emergency room.  We’ll work on getting her admitted.  Hopefully this will be the last one.”  All I could say was o.k.  I felt like I’d been hit by a truck again.  My son was calling for my attention, and the doctor was still on the line.  He was trying to keep me calm even though I wasn’t saying anything.  “Everything will be fine”  he kept saying.  Fine?!  How is everything going to be fine?  How did this happen without me noticing?  She didn’t seem to show any of the signs I was told to look out for.    We are headed back to the hospital.

I hung up the phone, and tried to concentrate, all the while my son is pulling at me, “Mommy, Mommy!”  My throat was hard, swallowing back tears as I called my husband at work.  He was on his way home immediatley.  My next call, my Mom of course.  She was at work as well.  Now the tears can’t be held back anymore, and all I remember saying to her was ” Mom, I’m so scared!  I’m so scared! We have to go back.  I’m so scared.”  I can’t even remember who came to take care of my son while we left.

The ride to the hospital was silent.  I sat in the back with my daughter, staring and quietly crying…again.  We arrived and went to the emergency room as directed.  Even though they knew we were coming, we wound up having to wait for 7 1/2 hours until they had a place for us. They were all very kind, but all I kept thinking is, my baby needs blood and we’re just sitting here!!  They finally put us back in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, for which I was grateful.  We knew all of the staff there already.  They were all surprised to see us again.  We stayed while she received the transfusion, it was very late at night and we didn’t leave until the early morning hours.  It was hard to leave her again, but we had to get home to my son.

Once she stabilized again, she was discharged.  Home again, and more of the same.  Blood draws, waiting for results, obsessive checking of her skin color, fingernails, eyes.  I would go into a silent panic anytime she seemed to sleep a little longer than her usual routine.  One morning, I couldn’t wake her up.  I tried to remain calm as I did everything I could think of to get her awake, diaper change, clothing change, everything.  I couldn’t get her to become alert, and she had even skipped a feeding.  We called the doctor right away and they sent us to our local hospital for blood work.  Her levels came back slightly low, but they weren’t concerned.  Turns out she was just having one of those sleepy infant days.   Day in and day out this was my life.  I don’t think I slept soundly at all in that first year of her life.  I spent many nights laying in bed staring into her bassinette.  I would reach in an touch her, just because.  I lived in a kind of daze most of the time.  My mind never really 100 % in the moment.  When the blood draws slowed down to once a month, and longer we would have to go back to C.H.O.P. to have it done.  They would take a little more than when her heel would be pricked, because they would also look at it under the microscope for abnormal cells.  I dreaded it.  Everytime we went, it took me right back to the time we spent there.  All the worries were fresh on the surface again.  Not to mention, they would draw from her arm now.  The technicians were wonderful, gifted people.  But, that doesn’t make it any easier to hold your screaming child still in your lap while they find a vein.  My husband was amazingly strong and positive through everything, but he came in the room with me the first time they did that, and he had to leave.  He never came in the room with me again.  It was too hard, especially the older she got.  She would be smiling and happy one minute, and then look at me screaming with an expression of “why Mommy?” on her little face.  She would try to turn and put her arms around my neck, but I had to hold her down to keep her arm still.  I would try to hum “You Are My Sunshine” in her ear to calm her.

I also have to mention that the Hematology department shared a floor with the Cancer department.  I can’t tell you how my heart ached seeing the other families there for blood tests, whose situations were so much more grave than ours.  What results would they be getting from their child’s blood work?  Heartbreaking.  My husband and I would come home completely wiped out.

As time went on it was looking more and more like it was resolving on it’s own.  A few weeks before her first birthday we finally got the official diagnosis of Infantile Pyknocytosis.  Hard to express what that day felt like.  Of course complete joy, but I have to say it was a cautious joy.  I wanted to hear that this would never re-occur, but I quickly learned that never is a word that doctors rarely use.  Since the cause of this condition is unknown, they won’t say that it will never happen again, believe me I tried to get them to say it.  What they did say is that they would be completely shocked to see a re-occurance, and that they hoped to never have to see her again.  But of course if we ever noticed any symptoms, we should have her checked.  There’s those pesky, vague symptoms again!  If you know me, you might still catch me looking at her fingers and eyes closely.  Whether this is just habit or something else, I don’t know, but I catch myself doing it.

The most important thing about this story is that my daughter is now a healthy, active little girl.  She’ll be five years old in two weeks.  Time seems to have gone by in the blink of an eye.  She is beautiful in every way.  She’s shy, but don’t let that fool you!  She is stronger and smarter than I’ll ever be, which I believe is what got her through that whole ordeal.  She was sent to me for a reason…many reasons, and she makes me a better person every day.  I am eternally grateful.

My hope is that by my sharing this, I may be able to help someone else who may be experiencing a similar situation.  Even if it’s only by acknowledging the multitude of emotions that one may experience in these types of situations, thereby validating them in some small way.  Sometimes you can only process them all after it’s  over.  I hope they are able to find their own peace.

I also have to mention how grateful I am to the amazing people in the nursing and medical field.  I don’t know how they do it on a daily basis, and I have the greatest respect and admiration for them all.  They are angels to me.  I made a promise to myself that someday when my children are a little older, I will go back to the hospital to volunteer.  It is a promise I am determined to keep.

This series of posts was difficult for me to write, but I’m so glad that I did.  I’ve given it all it’s own place.  Now, it’s time to move on, clear away the rest of the daze that was remaining and become truly present again.  Back to living, and soaking in every moment with my “little sunshine”!

“Plain Jane Goes Glam?”

In Uncategorized on March 30, 2011 at 8:55 pm

I consider myself to be somewhat of a “Plain Jane”.  Not really a risk taker when it comes to fashion (although I’d like to be), and an outfit “saver”.  You know, I’ll “save” certain outfits or jewelry for a night out or a special occasion.  It’s funny because I have these grand images of myself (in another life perhaps), where I’m dressed in the most stylish outfits with killer shoes and jewelry.  I’m oozing confidence, kicking ass & taking names.  I’m just another Angelina Jolie, looking fabulous, taking care of my babies, saving the world, and heading home to my hot hubby (I do actually have the hot hubby part, I must say;) ).  All in a day’s work.  Ha! Ha!

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt at the Deauville ...

Image via Wikipedia

Now in REALITY, my daily wardrobe consists of sweat pants, more sweat pants, jeans, sweaters, t-shirts, tanks, sneakers, imitation Uggs, silver hoop earrings, & my wedding rings.  You get the picture…boring!  My idea of mixing-it-up is to wear my oval hoops instead of round, because  you know, I’m “saving” my other stuff for a special occasion.  Yikes!  I recently read a quote somewhere (can’t recall where) that said, “Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie.  Don’t save it for a special occasion.  Today is special”.

I totally agree with, and “get” this idea and I’ve expanded it for myself into even everyday clothes, to try to get myself out of the sweats & jeans rut.  I do struggle with the practicality of it though.  I’d just feel silly at the bus stop, or grocery store in heels all glammed-out with jewelry.  Or better yet while scrubbing toilets at home!  So I’ll start small, after all, baby steps are the way I operate.  Maybe some more color in my wardrobe, or dress-up Fridays (no matter what’s on the daily agenda), or maybe some pretty unmentionables under those sweat pants on a not so special day…I know, too much information, but you get the idea!

So if you see a crazy looking gal at the grocery store wearing sweats and lots of bling, you won’t have to wonder, “What was she thinking when she got dressed this morning?” because…I just told you:)

“My World Turned Upside-Down”

In Uncategorized on March 22, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Part 2:  continued from my previous post about my, now healthy, daughter’s illness.  This is how it all began.

After three months of being on restricted activity, my daughter was born without complication.  Everything was fine, and she seemed perfectly normal and healthy. The day we were discharged from the hospital, I noticed she started to look a little yellow, jaundiced.  This is common in newborns, and the doctors nor myself were too alarmed. This had happened with my son as well, and it was no big deal.  I knew she was most likely going to need light therapy at home, just like my son did, and in a few days she’d be just peachy.

So, we were sent home and were scheduled to have the light therapy blanket delivered, and a visiting nurse to come daily to check on me (due to my c-section) and my daughter.   We were all adjusting, and my 2 and a half year old son was doing surprisingly well.  He loved his baby sister immediately.  We had also just moved into our new house only two months prior, so he had so many changes thrown at him.  He was such a trooper!

The first few days went by just fine.  The nurse came daily to check my daughter’s bilirubin levels to see if the light therapy was working.  Things were going slowly.  She seemed to be hovering around the same number for days.  Up a point one day, down a point another.  It was taking longer than it did with  my son, but I still wasn’t too worried.

Then one night, she seemed a little more sleepy than usual.  Even a little too tired to feed.  I started to feel a little uneasy, but made it through the night.  By morning, I had a gut feeling that something was wrong.  I called my pediatrician and they had us take her to our local hospital to have an immediate test of her bilirubin level, since the nurse wasn’t due to come until late afternoon.  Now I’m trying not to worry too much and remain calm.

We got back home, and within an hour my pediatrician called with the results and to tell us that we had to take her to the hospital immediately. Her levels had spiked to a dangerous level, a level that could potentially cause brain damage.  They had called ahead, and the hospital would be waiting for us.  What?!  Now I’m feeling dazed, and nauseous, and panicked.  They re-assure us that things will be o.k. and she just needs stronger, more constant light.  But my motherly instinct has been telling me something different since the night before.

We quickly make arrangements for my son to go to my brother’s house.  I feel awful, and anxious for him.  Before our recent move, we lived over an hour away from family, so to my son, my brother and his family are still strangers to him.  And here I am just sending him off so quickly with no time to soothe, or explain it all to him.  My brother arrives in minutes to pick him up, and I’m throwing things in the diaper bag to take to the hospital.  At this point, my husband and I are moving in silence.  Worry and stress are starting to smother us, and now I’m in tears as I hand my son to my brother, and put my daughter who seems to be glowing yellow now into the car seat.  My brother tries his best to comfort me, but all I can hear are the doctor’s words; hospital, emergency, brain damage.

On the ride to the hospital, I barely manage to pull myself together.  The doctor is very nice and she helps to put me at ease a little.  She’s a mom too.  Although she does remark that she doesn’t think she’s seen a baby so yellow before.  She assures me that everything will be o.k., but that my baby will have to stay for at least one night.  My husband and I decide that I will stay with her, and he will go back to my son.  This makes me feel better that at least he will be o.k. with his Daddy.  We say our goodbyes, and the nurses bring me something to eat.  Meanwhile, they keep popping in to check vitals, etc. on my baby.  At some point, I get an uneasy feeling after the fourth or fifth time within minutes that a different nurse comes in to check the same things.  Now the doctor comes in again, and explains that they need to run a more detailed test on my daughter’s oxygen levels, and she has a more businesslike tone to her voice.  Now I’m starting to panic again, but trying to remain calm.  As I watch them hook her up to more wires and place a clear plastic looking box over her head to test her oxygen levels, I start to lose it a little and start to quietly cry.  What is happening?  Within minutes the doctor returns to tell me, and I feel like I’m on the top of a roller coaster ride on its way down.

“Your daughter’s oxygen saturation level is low.  For reasons that are unclear at this moment, it seems that her red blood cell count is low causing her oxygen level to drop.  We feel we’re not equipped to handle her case at this hospital, so I’ve called Children’s Hospital and made arrangements for her to be transferred there, in order to receive the best possible care.  They are sending a specially equipped ambulance.  You need to call your husband to come back.  You can follow the ambulance there.”

I almost feel like I’m out of my body.  This can’t be happening.  I know this is serious if the only place able to care for her is the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP  for short).  It’s the best in the country. This is serious.  I call my husband, and have to tell him twice.  He is shocked and confused, just like I am.  He had just arrived at my brother’s and now has to tell my son he’s leaving again.  After he arrives at the hospital, we have to wait a few hours for the ambulance to arrive.  By the time it does and they hook her up and place her in the special incubator, it’s 3 a.m.  We are literally exhausted, and on the hour-long ride behind the ambulance, we have to open the windows all the way help keep alert. Am I dreaming?  No, this is all happening.  And through it all I keep worrying about my poor son too.  He’s never spent the night away from us before, I hope he’s o.k.   I cry the whole way.

We arrive at CHOP, and she is admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  Doctors and nurses are all around my daughter.  They are all extremely nice, and the nurses are concerned about me as well since I’m recovering from a c-section.  The doctors do their best to try to explain what they think might be going on, but they really don’t know at this point.  They of course will have to do some testing, and assure us that they will figure it all out.  They ask if I want to try to nurse, and help me get comfortable with all of the wires attached to my baby girl.  It seems she’s too exhausted,  and doesn’t have the strength.  So they get me set up on a pump.  They insist that my husband and I try to rest and set us up in a small meeting room since all of their parent rooms are full at that time.  We are reluctant, but they insist they will get us right away if needed.  We both get a recliner, and I think we literally passed out for a couple of hours.  I woke first.  It wasn’t all a dream, this nightmare is really happening.  As we made our way closer to our daughter’s crib, I could see the doctor there, and the nurses alerted him to our approaching.  He started talking as soon as we walked up but I couldn’t hear him right away.  All I could see was my baby, with a tube in her throat and a huge black mouth piece over her face that looked like scuba gear.  What is happening?  This feels worse by the second.  He explains that they needed to give her some extra help getting enough oxygen and breathing.  She went into distress, but they have her stabilized.  They had to work quickly, so there was no time to wake us.  They don’t say it directly, but I know what this means, my baby girl almost died.  I am again in tears trying to listen to the kind doctor.  We stay and answer more questions about family history, etc.  and ask more questions of our own.  None of which can be answered at this time.  They will continue with more tests, and insist that we go home for a few hours to our son, and try to get refreshed.  They keep re-assuring us that she is stable now, and they will call immediately if there are any changes.

My son, we go pick him up from my brother.  Poor thing.  He didn’t sleep much either, and neither did my brother.  It does my heart good to see him.  He’s so good, and so confused about what is going on.  I’m already dreading having to leave him again in a few hours to head back to the hospital.  I now know what it feels like to have your heart truly split in two.  I ache to leave my daughter, and I ache to leave my son.  When we get home I lay on the couch with my son, and he almost instantly falls asleep in my arms, and I doze off for a little while too.  I needed to hold him, and I needed the sleep.  Then the phone rings.  It’s the hospital. They have done multiple tests, including brain scans, but now would like our permission to do a spinal tap.  Oh my God, I can’t take this.  My poor baby girl.  I’m aching for her poor teeny tiny body, and what it has been through in the past 24 hours.   I try to remain calm on the outside for my son’s sake, but on the inside I’m literally in pieces.  I get myself in the shower before we head back to the hospital that we just left a few hours ago.  I stand there sobbing, but no tears come out.  Just painful sobbing from my gut.  I’ve never had emotion like that before.  I am completely consumed by fear.  A fear that cannot be described with words.  My body and soul are saturated with it down to the core.  What if I lose my baby?  This is my reality.  My world has been turned upside-down.

“A Deafening Silence”

In Uncategorized on March 12, 2011 at 4:29 pm

I have been wanting/needing to write about one of the most difficult times in my life for the past 5 years.  The time during which my daughter was seriously ill.  It feels like what I’ve heard described as post traumatic stress disorder.  For anyone that may read this and doesn’t know me, I’m so happy and grateful to report that my daughter is now a normal healthy 5-year-old, but the scars left behind for me are deep and in some ways not fully healed.  I’m hoping that purging these memories from my head and heart onto this blog will help to clear them away.  By giving them a place of their own, out of my head, I can then let them go and move on.  Needless to say, it’s been difficult to figure out where to begin.  So I’m just going to start.  These post will come in parts and pieces.  And maybe, just maybe my words will be a comfort to someone who may be going through something similar.

It’s 3 am, and my alarm is blaring.  I was already awake, not much sleeping going on these days.  I lay propped up on my couch and feel the burn of my c-section incision as I try to turn and get up.  The house is quiet, as my husband and 2-year-old son sleep soundly on the second floor.   The alarm was set you see, because my baby girl is not here to wake me for a feeding, and I need to pump.  She is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and I’m alone.  The silence is deafening.

I had her home with me for one short week before she became so ill and we had to take her to the hospital.  That is a post for another day.  But for one week I had her with me in my family room at 3 am, making those tiny sounds that an infant makes.  All of her things are around me.  Pink gingham blankets, diapers, nightgowns, binkies.  But she’s not here and the silence is deafening.

I gather up all of the gear for my pump.  I’m determined to keep up my production for when she’s well enough to nurse again.  The hospital is so supportive, and they feed her with my milk that I bring daily.  I believe so strongly in the health benefit of breast milk, and her doctors encourage me and help to make that belief even stronger.  I have never felt more helpless in my entire life, and this one thing gives me my only sense of contributing to her wellbeing.  I’ve been able to get through these pumping sessions most of the time without crying, but tonight it seems impossible.  I sit there with only the sound of the  rhythmic, moaning pump, and the tears begin to flow, and it seems that with the flow of tears comes the flow of milk.  I would gladly give my own life to make her better, and it seems there’s a strange symbiotic relationship between my sorrow and my abundant milk production.  It’s as if the more I give, the better her chances may be.  It’s what I hang on to anyway.   The sound of the pump is deafening.

I finish up and carefully prepare and label the bottles to take to the hospital.  And as I do after every pumping, I call the hospital just to check on her.  The nurses are so kind, and will speak to me as long as I need.  There are no changes.  I’m so grateful that she is in such good hands.  But they are not my hands.  I hang up the phone.  The silence is deafening.

I make it back to the couch and try to get comfortable to sleep.  It most likely will not happen, but I try.  The alarm is set again for the next session.  I lay there and remind myself that I am fortunate to be surrounded by my extremely supportive family and friends, and my ever-loving husband, and my darling son.  They would all do anything for me.  But they can’t give me what I need.

I need to hold my baby girl.  I need someone to tell me that she’s going to be o.k.  I need to know that I will have her home, in my arms again waking me at 3 am.  I need the doctors to tell me that they know what is wrong with her, and that they can help her.  But they can’t, they don’t know that yet.  They won’t say it.  And when I ask, the silence is deafening.

So I’m alone with the heavy thoughts in my head.  And tomorrow, I’ll spend the day at the hospital.  And I’ll pray that it will be the day that she is well enough for me to hold her.  And I’ll wake again to pump, alone, in silence.  It’s the only thing I can do.

“Make A Bank”

In Uncategorized on March 1, 2011 at 12:06 pm

No Video Games

Image via Wikipedia

L:  “Mom, can I watch a show?”

Me:  “Not right now.”

L:  “Can I play video games?”

Me:  “Sorry, you’ve already played your limit for the day.”

L:  “Can I have a snack?”

Me:  “You just ate 15 minutes ago!”

L:  “I’m bored, I don’t know what to do.” (said with a whine of course!)

Does this conversation sound familiar to you?  I’ve had nightmares where I hear it over and over again…no wait, that was real!  My dear son is obsessed with video games, or anything electronic for that matter, and it drives me nuts.  I’ve said many times that if I had it my way, we wouldn’t have any in the house, but it’s one of those things in which  my husband and I had to compromise.  We of course set limits for their use, but it’s still often an issue for my son.  He’s never been a kid who like to play with toys, ever.  They just never interest him for more than a day or two.  We’ve tried, believe me, to find something else that would spark a lasting interest and have been unsuccessful every time.  He is just fascinated by video games.  Everything about them.  He wants to create them, and learn how to code which is great, but most of the time it’s about playing them.  I have however been able to get him to draw and write out his ideas for games which gives him good writing and imagination practice.

Recently I think we have come up with a pretty good solution for the constant asking for more than his allotted play time.  He has to earn it.  Not by doing chores, but with reading.  Reading is not his favorite thing, and he really needs more practice.  He would often give a hard time when it came time to read and I was getting worn thin.  My husband and I created a “Reading Bank” for him in a notebook.  Here’s how it works.  For every time he wants to play a video game, or watch a show, he has to read for 10 minutes first and write it into his reading bank.  It’s a win-win for us.  He will most likely never go a day without wanting to play at least one game, or watch one show, so we’re guaranteed that he will have read at least once a day without us forcing him.  We explained that if we ever catch him “cheating” and not paying from his reading bank, he will lose all game privileges for a whole day without exception.  Our daily video game time limit still applies, but if he happens to read more, he can put it in his bank for another day.  Now, how much or how little he plays is in his hands.  It’s his responsibility.

To my surprise, he is doing great with this system!  I have not had to nag him once.  He seems to like recording in his special bank notebook.  And this morning, I actually found him reading in his room before he went downstairs, because it’s a Saturday and he wanted to play a game right after breakfast!  I’m already hearing improvement in his reading too.  I can’t believe it.  I just hope it last for a while.  And now I have another tool in my tool box for next issue that comes up…make a bank!

“Good Life Lessons, #1”

In Uncategorized on February 22, 2011 at 3:29 pm

A few months ago, my sister shared with me an email that contained 45 life lessons written by Regina Brett.  She is a 90 year old columnist for “The Plain Dealer” in Cleveland, Ohio.  This became her most requested column.  All 45 are great, some funny and some serious, but I’ve chosen to share and write about a few that struck a chord with me starting with this one:

“If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back”

What a great way to try and keep things in perspective.  We all have problems, some bigger than others.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I tend to get so immersed in my own problems, even tiny ones, and in many cases that winds up just making them worse.  I often envy others who seem to have it all “together”, but in reality they have problems too. Their problems may often be bigger than mine.  The person that seems financially well off, may actually have huge debt, or may be poor in meaningful relationships.  The person who seems so happy without a care in the world, my be secretly concealing depression, or an unhappy marriage.

I’ll try to think of this when dealing with strangers too.  The next time I’m confronted with a nasty, or grumpy, or just plain unpleasant person, I will try to think about what their pile of problems my contain.  Are they unable to pay their mortgage?  Do they have a child with an illness?  Are they taking care of an aging parent?  Did they lose their job?  All possibilities, and all reasons that I would rather deal with my own pile. After all, there will in turn, be a lesson learned from dealing with each one.

Stay tuned for future posts containing more life lessons from Regina, and I hope you enjoy!

“I’m Not Ready!”

In Uncategorized on February 15, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Yesterday I registered my baby girl for kindergarten.  I actually got teary eyed and felt nauseous on the way there.  I know, I’m a little nuts but I really couldn’t help it!  She’s my last one, not to mention my shadow.  In fact she is a “mini me”.  It’s actually fascinating.  She is so much like me even in tiny details that it makes my husband just shake his head and laugh.  She wants to be an artist, a teacher, a mommy, and a chef with her own restaurant.  She loves to read books and the library, and I’m just waiting for when she begins to read and write for her to blurt out that she wants to be a writer too.  All the things I want to be when I “grow up”!  Her favorite color is yellow, which was my favorite color all through childhood, seriously, and I never told her that.  She’s very shy and observant, and smarter than I’ll ever be.  Most of all, she’s my little partner.  Already at the tender age of 4 1/2, she’s already my friend.

I guess my sadness comes from the fact that I know this will someday change, and she may not “like” me for a little while, and probably rebel against every part of herself that is like me.  I dread the day.  The growing up is beginning, and this is the first of many times that I will have to let go.  I’m just not ready, and I’m sure it’s safe to say that I’ll probably never be.

I am truly happy for her though.  She couldn’t be more excited about going, and I know she’s ready for it.  I can also comfort myself with the fact that she has her big brother(and best friend) to look out for her.

I never experienced such heartache and joy simultaneously until I became a Mother.  My niece told me to listen to a song by Taylor Swift called “Never Grow Up”.  I did…with a box of tissues!!  It says it all.