Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Mother's Vow, A Guest Post from Jennifer Steuer

Up today is the second guest post in our new series. This is a beautiful testament to what parenting is really like, brought to you today by Jennifer. She can also be found writing over at CD Parent Pages.


To get married you need a license. To own a dog (legally) you need
a license. When you get married you make vows and promises 
to one another...for example, in sickness and in health. To have 
a child most people can just get pregnant and have a baby. This 
child that is brought in to the world is not promised anything. Some
pet owners have their pets lo-jacked so that if the pet gets lost the 
owners can find them. A child is told to hold your hand.

Harlan and I chose to have children. It was a process because 
we knew that the ‘old fashioned’ way just wasn’t possible due to 
having a tubal ligation many years ago. To get pregnant we had to 
have tests, go through procedures and submit to the possibility that 
we may never be able to have children. Because we wanted the 
child(ren) and were really looking forward to being a family we had 
to pay quite a bit of money. 

A parent doesn’t need to make promises and vows to their child. A 
parent doesn’t need to cater to the needs of the child. Children just 
come to some families whether they are really wanted or not. When 
you have a child you don’t even have to keep the baby. You don’t 
have to take care of the baby in a way that would put you on the 
cover of Parents magazine. 

I have a child whose needs are more intense than other children. 
I have a child who has needs that are not visible physically. 
Benjamin’s neurological needs can make any day stressful and some 
days everything is fine. Benjamin has epilepsy, sensory integration 
disorder, ADHD and has recently been diagnosed with depression 
and anxiety. Because his disabilities are not apparent, caring for him 
and showing everyone how he suffers is difficult. You can’t see the 
part of his body that is betraying him.

Even though a vow is not necessarily made when a child is born I 
have made vows to each of my children. I have vowed to take care 
of them when times are good and when times just plain suck. My 
children know (I hope) that I don’t get mad when they are sick or 
hurt. I hope they know that I will do everything in my power to 
make sure that life is fair to them. I will do what ever I can to heal 
them, to create a sense of well being that they will remember for the 
rest of their lives. 

Benjamin is a child. He cannot care for himself. I am his mother. 
I carried him for 31 weeks inside me, praying every single day that 
he would be healthy and happy. Right now he is not happy. He is 
healthy...physically...mentally? Not so much. He is in need of help 
that I cannot give him. Ben needs to be able to express himself 
without fear of hurting someone or reprisal. Benjamin needs help. 

As his mom I vow to get it for him.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the all things Halloween edition (well, mostly all things...)

It's Halloween week, or basically the best week of the year. I've explained my deep and long standing love of this holiday before, mostly stemming from the fact that there isn't any emotional bullshit baggage that comes with it. Unlike most of the other major holidays, there are almost no expectations about Halloween. No dinners, no gifts, no you-have-to-be-here-at-this-times, none of that.

It's just fun.

Plus, every year I think that the kids are going to be done humoring their mother with the family themed costumes that we do. I am waiting for the rebellion, for them to refuse to go along with it, for them to stop agreeing on what we should be. I know that I am living on borrowed time with it all, and I'm enjoying every second we have left with them this way.

This year, we are the characters from Harry Potter.
Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall

Hermione and Hagrid

Harry

Hedwig

Ginny
Anyway, since it is Halloween week and all, I'm in a pretty good mood. I love Halloween.

It's also Mr. Hive's birthday and I'm taking him out to lunch in a little while since his evening will be filled with a cub scout meeting and a school presentation. The joys of parenting.

What do you want for your birthday, Daddy???

I want to sit on the floor of the gym and watch squaredancing! (said no parent ever)

Now that I've written a very long winded intro, let's get to the things that are pissing me off this week. I'm only talking about the Halloween related stuff for a few reasons, not the least of which is that I haven't really watched or read the news in weeks. I know. I KNOW.

Off we go. Finally.

NIMFY
You know how NIMBY stands for not in my backyard and refers to people who don't want objectionable things to be done in their neighborhoods for whatever reason? Usually, it refers to zoning issues and where sewage treatment facilities and dumps are placed.

Well, there's a new thing now, and I'm calling it NIMFY. Not in my front yard. I like this acronym better because it sounds kinda dirty (I'm really a 14 year old boy, I tell you).

If you haven't heard about this story, I'm sure that you'll understand why it chaps my ass. Basically, some well-to-do woman wrote a note to Prudence whining about how she just can't stand it when poor kids trick or treat in her neighborhood. It's not her job to hand out welfare candy.

The funny part is that in her letter she clearly knows that she is just being an asshole, because "obviously this makes me feel like a terrible person."

Well, duh.

Because you are a terrible person.

Either buy candy and hand it out or don't. No one is forcing you to hand out candy. No one is burdening the poor downtrodden rich homeowners here. Jesus.

Stop for a hot second and think about the fact that the kids coming in to your neighborhood from other, less wealthy areas might actually be doing it because it's safe to go door to door in your neighborhood but isn't in theirs. Nah, in her head those kids are clearly just there for the full sized candy bars.

Seriously. What the fuck is wrong with people???

Scandalous Costumes
Hi. What I'm about to say will probably ruffle some feathers. Ready?

There is a time and place for sexy costumes. At adult parties. Or at the afterparty. (clears throat) There is a market for them, though it used to be that you had to go to an adult bookstore (ahem, you know...for the books) to find them. Now, the racks of the regular Halloween stores are full of costumes that barely cover anything and try to turn things that clearly aren't sexy into sexy costumes. It's almost comical.

Like the sexy Ebola nurse.

Too soon?

Maybe.

And sexy Ebola nurse? Really? Just no. LOL

I hear parents complain more and more every year about how hard it is to find appropriate costumes for their daughters, particularly the tween and teen ones. And it is true that the vast majority of the ready-to-buy costumes are questionable at best when it comes to whether they are appropriate or not.

Here's the thing, parents. You don't have to buy them. Just like the whiny rich lady no one is forcing to hand out candy, no one is forcing you to buy skirts that barely cover your daughter's ass. Just don't buy them. If you can't find a costume that you feel is age appropriate, then get creative. Make one. Hit thrift stores and put something together. Grab a cardboard box and some markers. Raid closets at home.

Tell the costume manufacturers that no one is going to buy this shit and you know what??? They'll stop making it.

Supply and demand, baby.

Hey, maybe your kid could dress up as an economics professor. Heh heh.

Seriously though, I get that looking for costumes sucks with tween girls especially, but as parents the best way we can fight this trend is with our wallets. Just don't buy them. Figure something else out.

Speaking of Inappropriate...
Don't dress your kid up as Ray Rice. I feel like this should be obvious, but apparently it isn't.

Monday, October 27, 2014

"Some days it's just not worth chewing through the restraints", A Guest Post from mome

Welcome to the newest guest post series here in the Hive. I've invited some people to share stories with you all, and I sincerely hope that you enjoy this journey.

Up first, a post that makes so much sense to me. I could explain, but you really just need to read it...so I'll get out of the way.

Thank you, mome. xoxo



"You better stop, look around
Here it comes, here it comes, here it comes, here it comes
Here comes your nineteenth nervous breakdown"
~Rolling Stones

This is my favorite time of year. I love pretty much everything from the day school starts (also known as the beginning of mommy vacation) through New Year's Day.

I love Fall.
leaves. crisp air. smoke from bonfires and fireplaces in the air.
I LOVE Halloween.
creepy. spooky. costumes. candy.
My birthday comes right after that.
not always my favorite topic, but the little kid in me still gets excited.
Then Thanksgiving, which I love.
food. family. trivial pursuit. pie. biscuits and gravy the next morning. did I mention food?
I love Christmas.
too commercial, I know. but again, the little kid and romantic in me win out.

Then why, Why, WHY??? does my emotional self seem to head into a tailspin this time of year.

EVERY YEAR.

This seems to have started after I moved north, from CA to WA. I noticed that first Summer how it was light noticeably earlier and later in the day than what I was used to. I found it intriguing that the change in latitude was so noticeable. Then that first Fall the days got noticeably shorter SO much faster than I remembered. I had a really rough Fall. I chalked it up to such a big move to a place where I knew no one. Had no support system. Had 2 active boys to try to keep occupied inside when weather was not cooperative (about 9 months of the year - I mentioned we were in WA, right?).

My temper seemed shorter. My patience shorter. I could tell when I was getting angry for silly reasons - like an observer from the outside looking in. I could see it, but didn't feel in control.

First conclusion: I assumed I was experiencing "Prozac poop-out". I had been taking Prozac for a few years and my doc said it was common for the drug to lose its efficacy after taking it a few years. So... let's switch to a new anti-depressant.

First year continues to be rough. Understandable. A fellow mom and I had a candid discussion about "the big D" and she suggested a new diagnosis. Anxiety.

Second conclusion: maybe it's anxiety more than depression. Let's switch drugs and dosages again.

By Spring/Summer things seemed better. My folks moved north to be near us. I had support. The boys were a year older and a little easier. I think I may be okay.

Year 2 -- Fall. Same downward spiral takes place. Change dosages again. Try not to hate Christmas. I love Christmas, how can I be so cranky and angry?

Year 3 -- Fall. Same. Hmm...I'm starting to see a pattern now.

Years 4-5 - This is going to be hard.
Yep. It sucked.
Diagnose self as both an Introvert and an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person). I can only recharge myself with "me" time and as I get older certain noises bother me more and more.
It CAN'T be normal to feel like this.

Year 6 - Hear about "blue light" as a response to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
Heck, Costco carries them here.
It seems to help a bit.

Year 7 (this year) - Have been evaluated for and diagnosed with ADD.
I would have never thought of this. But after continuing to search for something that might help me feel "normal" the descriptions that I read other adult women write -- it sounds all too familiar.

Often ADD is the undiagnosed 3rd leg of the Depression/Anxiety/ADD triangle. When left untreated, the other 2 legs may not be treated as successfully as they can be.

My symptoms: Feelings of being completely overwhelmed, not being able to finish things, not being able to start things because of the chain reaction my brain goes into even thinking about it.
It is not ADHD - I am not hyper. I WISH I were hyper sometimes.
I do not have trouble focusing. I have trouble focusing on only ONE thing.

When driving (I drive 2-3 hours a day), the lists start:
What do I need to get done today?
What do my boys need to get done today?
Who has to be where today?
Tomorrow?
What do we need from the grocery store?
What chores of mine need to be done?
How long has it been since I talked to my dad?
How long has it been since I've talked to my friends?
The Halloween decorations aren't up yet.
I can't do that AND manage an 11 week old puppy at the same time.
The boys will be disappointed if I don't.

Guilt. Anxiety.
D..o..w..n..w..a..r..d    s..p..i..r..a..l
Here we go again.
Not my 19th nervous breakdown, but it sure feels like it.

Throw in PMS, migraines, hot flash-ish things.

My favorite saying, "Some days it's just not worth chewing through the restraints."

Some days it's not.

Some days it is.

I have two wonderful, happy, healthy, beautiful, smart, loving boys. I have a wonderful husband whose hard work ethic has given me the ability to be the "non-working" mom I never thought I would want to be and that I LOVE being.  I get to spend hours with these 2 intelligent boys who make me think about things in ways I never dreamed of and see things in from a point of view I never imagined.
I still watch cartoons. I still read comic books. I still color and glue. I still play in the rain.
I am lucky. I am grateful. I am blessed.

...aaand...the pendulum swings back the other way...

What does "normal" feel like?
What does "grown up" feel like?
When do I get to be the "crazy cat lady" who wears purple?

I don't know if this all exactly has a point -- other than to allow me to pour it all out on paper. Maybe someone else goes through this. If so, you are not alone.
If not... then I'm dragging out the purple.
It'll go nicely with my 20th nervous breakdown. (wink)

mome (pronounced mom-my) is an ex-teacher and software project manager living in WA with 3 cats, 2 boys, 1 dog, 1 husband and 1 hamster.

currently she herds cats and boys, tries to keep herself healthy and coach others do the same.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Voicemail Time Travel

Last week, I was chatting with a friend online about voicemail of all things. Sharing a date full of memories, her and I, we talked about how voicemail can hold reminders of the past. In our particular cases, we were talking about the messages left by those who aren't here any more.

For me, it was the outgoing message on my Dad's cell phone. 

I have to admit that I called it more than a few times in the first weeks and months after he passed. I just wanted to hear his voice again and I knew that once the service was disconnected, that message would be gone. 

There aren't many recordings of my father's voice. I have a few home movies that we took when our kids were young, but Dad wasn't really a talker. He was more of the sit on the couch in the corner and observe kind of guy. 

I come by that part of my personality honestly. 

These days, years after his death now, I have to go looking for his voice. Fortunately, I know exactly where to find it. 

He recorded some books for the kids. I know that he hated doing it at the time, that my Mom totally made him do it, but I am ever so grateful that he did. I keep them on a particular shelf in a particular cabinet and the kids all know that they are special books. 

Whenever one of them wants to listen/read those ones, hearing his voice stops me in my tracks. It's like he was just here all over again. 

We take pictures, us humans, believing that they are the best way to capture memories. Those of us who've lost the ones we love though, we know that pictures aren't the best medium to conserve those memories, just the easiest. Smell and sound, now that's where the good stuff is. 

I've smelled my Dad's scent exactly once since he died. I was in a grocery store a few months later when a man walked past me with the same combination of aerosol hair spray, Brut aftershave and Stetson cologne that he wore. Damn near brought me to my knees. I don't even know how long I was standing there, unmoved in the same spot, when this man passed by me. A store employee had come over to ask if I was okay, bringing me back to reality again. 

For that moment though, it was like my father was just here again. 

Pictures are good. 

Smells are better.

And voices. Oh, the voices.

It's funny that my friend and I were just talking about this issue so recently, though we were doing so in a reflective place of grief. It's funny because only a few days later, I had occasion to revisit the past again thanks to voicemail, albeit in a different way.

Earlier this week, on an afternoon that ended up not going according to plan, I was trying to get a hold of my older kids after school. They all have cell phones, so this shouldn't be so difficult, at least in theory. Of course that would require them to charge their phones, remember to turn them back on after the bell rings at the end of the day and actually answer them...a series of events that clearly is impossible to expect. 

Anyway, I had called each of them more than once, never reaching any of them. I called Mini-Me's phone again. Usually she is the most likely to answer. 

She still didn't answer and it went to voicemail. The outgoing message played and something registered in my head. 

She said her brother's name. 


Why would she say her brother's name?

It didn't make sense, so I called it back, this time out of curiosity about the message as much as out of the need to talk to her. 

The line rang and rang, then the voicemail picked up. I listened intently this time.

The message wasn't one she had recorded at all.

It was him, The Oldest. It was the message he had recorded years ago when that number was still his. It was his voice. His 10 year old, pre-pubescent voice. His tiny little boy voice.

I don't even really remember him sounding like that.

These days, his voice is low and booming. The squeaks lessen with each passing day as his transition from boy to young man progresses. He's over a foot taller than he was when he recorded that message. 

I have pictures of what he looked like, certainly. I can recall the subtle changes in his face as he's aged. 

His voice, though, I'd forgotten. 

When my husband came home from work, I told him he needed to hear something. He asked what. I told him just to listen as I dialed his youngest daughter's phone number and handed him my phone, the dial tone running in the earpiece. He was confused.

Then he heard it and the smile spread across his face, the smile that told me that he'd recognized whose voice that really was and what it really said. 

We can't keep our children young, we can't stop them from growing up, and we certainly can't go back in time, but sometimes moments like this one come along unexpectedly and remind us of who they used to be. Sometimes the past can be revisited just for a little while.

When she realized what was going on, Mini Me asked if she should change the outgoing message. 

Not yet, honey...not yet. Let me listen a few more times first.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The False Promises of Frozen Eggs

Last week, the news broke that Apple and Facebook are both offering a new benefit to female employees. Both companies will now cover up to $20,000 of the cost for women to extract and freeze their eggs as an elective procedure, a sizable financial commitment on their part.

It is easy to see that number and be impressed. It's easy to think that these companies are investing soundly in the individuals in their workforce, that they are making a huge leap forward here. It's easy to believe that they are doing this to benefit the women who work for them, for their futures, for the families they plan to someday create.

It's easy, but it's misleading.

The truth is that this policy of covering these procedures isn't really being extended for the benefit of the female employees nearly as much as it is being done for the benefit of the companies.

In encouraging women to delay motherhood, the companies are hoping to keep a solid workforce, one that isn't marked by women leaving either temporarily or permanently to have children. They want to keep their most productive employees in the building and are willing to pay a little extra this way to keep them there. This is not much different than the firms that entice workers with on-site gyms and other amenities.

"You have no reason to leave work!", the recruiters say with a subtle mischievous grin.

Wait. This is work. This isn't life.

You're supposed to leave work. 

These companies are banking on the idea that freezing eggs will be enough of a security blanket for the women climbing the workplace ladder. They are telling their female employees this: We value you, but we value you more if you choose to delay having a family. In fact, we value you without a family so much that we'll pay for you to not have children now.

Doesn't seem like such a generous benefit anymore, does it?

Egg freezing isn't a guarantee of future pregnancies. The idea that it exists as a guarantee is false, and feeds into this bizarre societal insistence that we should be in control of things that we can't control. The pregnancy success rate using frozen, unfertilized eggs isn't nearly as high as most people believe it to be. Current studies put that number at somewhere around 3 in 10, though those studies involve women using the process because of diagnosed infertility, not because of the election to delay motherhood.

The science of freezing eggs is something that developed only within the last few decades. Originally for women undergoing cancer treatments or who had some other compelling medical reason to extract and freeze eggs, the process is now looked at as just another way to put off parenthood, even though it was never intended for that use. ACOG and the American Society of Reproductive Medicine both discourage egg retrieval and freezing for elective reasons. 

Why?

Egg retrieval can be dangerous. They recommend against elective retrieval and freezing because it isn't a simple process. To extract eggs, a women must undergo a fairly involved process of hormone injections and procedures, all of which carry some health risks, not the least of which is the potential for fatal blood clots.

The hormones involved in extraction are administered in high dosages, which can lead to all kinds of side effects including emotional disturbances.

Who pays for the IVF down the line? The egg retrievals are covered, but what about ten or fifteen years from now when these female employees decide it is time to have a child? Assuming they need to tap into the frozen egg vault for whatever reason, that they cannot become pregnant without using those eggs, who is going to pay for the fertilization and implantation, for all the additional hormone regimens and procedures later on down the road to attempt to create successful pregnancies with these long-ago frozen eggs? None of that is cheap, and unless the companies are also willing to pay for the rest of the process down the road, what is the point other than to just give women hope that they can have it all - the wildly successful career now, the family later?
These companies are asking their female employees to put their trust in a medical process that isn't a guarantee, to delay motherhood in order to focus on their careers alone, and they are doing it for their own purposes. Rolling it out to seem like it is just for the benefit of the employees is misleading at best.

There are many who say that companies have done this for decades, and it's true. Women have had to face choices in their lives about this issue for a long time. Do they focus on their career, put off the family and hope for the best? Do they choose to start their families when they are younger, potentially derailing their careers? Do they attempt to have it all - the career and the family?

Some come to the defense of the companies in this respect because at least now they are providing women with a tangible option to help make that decision to delay childbearing for their career. Freezing eggs gives women a marginally better chance to be able to have children later on, this is true, but is this really being done for the benefit of those future families?

Even more important, what does it say about work/life issues for everyone?

If these companies really wanted to demonstrate their commitment to the choices of their employees when it comes to a work/life balance, perhaps they should be thinking about extending other benefits. They should be talking about the kind of benefits that could help employees in every position achieve a better work/life balance - whether they are male or female, parents or not.

- Paid maternity leaves. Most women save up time off, then tack on an unpaid FMLA leave for 6 weeks. Apple and Facebook both have generous leave policies as compared to national averages, but this is a larger issue that needs to be addressed.

- Add paid paternity leaves.

- Give employees more time off generally.

- Allow employees to take time off or work from home when their children are ill.

- In-house daycare.

- Flexible work schedules.

- Job sharing.

- Telecommuting.

- Salary equality among men and women in the same positions.

The way the world works these days, we are all connected 24/7 it seems, tethered to the internet with the phones and tablets we carry everywhere we go. Why then do we need to still feel confined by the traditional 8 hour work day, housed in an office when we do everything on a computer anyway?

Simple. We don't. These companies could acknowledge that truth, extend more flexibility to all their employees, and make a much more salient point about wanting their workers to have a good work/life balance.

Instead, what they have done here is the exact opposite. Under the guise of providing women options, they are instead dangling a carrot in front of the faces of women who are already being pressured to delay motherhood. Except that this carrot, as much as it looks perfect now is a carrot that they may never reach, a carrot that might be useless when they need it.

Telling women they can freeze their eggs and trick the clock is just another way to manipulate us into believing that we can have it all, that we can control every single aspect of our lives, that we can put our lives into tiny boxes, separate ourselves into decades of production, delay something that biology tells us we shouldn't.

As humans, we are kidding ourselves if we think we can fool time.

Now, some of us are just getting paid for it.

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