Library update later.
Library update later.
April is National Donate Life month to promote awareness of organ and tissue donation. Naturally, this is a cause dear to my heart and I've volunteered to help out at a few events. When I found out that one of our local libraries would have a display in their front case for the month, I offered to contact them to see if I could put together a story hour for older kids on the topic of transplants. Of course I realized that this is perhaps not a topic best broached by a stranger with very young children, but I do assume that by 10 or 12 most kids are mentally equipped to deal with a matter-of-fact and non-gory talk about organ donation and transplants. And if they aren't, I suppose that their parents would simply not bring them. I even have several books written on the subject and aimed at kids as young as 7 or 8 (one written by a kindergarten teacher who received a heart transplant and one by a 12-year-old who received a liver transplant). Along with the story, I told the librarian that I had some songs written and performed by a girl waiting for a transplant (Haley, again), and also some bookmarks and balloons for the kids. I wondered about the type of questions I might get, but thought I would be able to handle them in a reassuring fashion.
After a long wait to hear back from the library, they finally called me to tell me that they could not do it. The official reason given was that they could not justify staff time put into an event that might have such low turnout. When I assured her that I would be happy to do the work putting it together, she pointed out that advertising it would still require staff hours. Ahem. I thought of offering to take the 5 minutes it might take to zip off a letter or email to the paper to get it publicized, but I was beginning to realize that the staffing hours probably weren't the issue. The problem was that they didn't really want to talk about this issue, at least not with kids, even older kids. Don't get me wrong on this. I don't think that the library staff are anti-organ-donation. But it seems that, while it's OK to throw up a few signs about it, actually talking about it is imagined to be like negotiating a minefield.
Maybe they're right, and it was a crazy idea to think that you could talk to kids about this stuff. But my daughter is going to be going to school with kids like these in a few years. I don't think it will take very long for a classmate to ask about her swollen belly or her scars dotting both arms, her neck, and outlining the strange and shifted topography of an abdomen opened and contents rearranged 5 times. And I can't help but feel that the idea of transplant still has the aura of the unnatural and taboo. Some sort of witchcraft that is miraculous in its results, but best not mentioned in friendly conversation. I would so love it if I felt like we could talk to kids about stuff like this because I fear not talking about it will leave my little girl feeling strange and excluded someday in the not so distant future.
I'll call the other library tomorrow.
Having written this post (and linking to it on the sidebar for all eternity) saves me from having to go back through and rewrite all those earlier entries to make this blog more cohesive. At least now I've given an explanation.
I'll post with pictures soon, for those without a high-speed connection.
Here is my big big list of things I wanted to get done while she was here:
I'll post a special Easter update tonight, complete with pictures (consider yourself warned!)
I won a Gold Medal over at Phantom Scribbler for throwing out a bunch of funny place names. This is the first time I've won something since the exciting evening 15 years ago that I won the soundtrack to Louis Malle's May Fools, which served as my introduction to the rolling-along-geniality of Stephane Grappelli. But I guess maybe that one doesn't count since the only thing I did for that prize was buy a movie ticket, and still have it in my pocket during the drawing.
Of course, the 35 pounds is not the whole story. There is also the 20 pounds I gained when I quit smoking with my lupus diagnosis 8 years ago (and which was mild enough to go into complete remission with a few years of drugs and lifestyle changes and so is a non-issue nowadays). And then there were the 15 hospital pounds that seems to come to all long-term hospital stay caregivers. There is no more sedentary lifestyle than that of the hospital parent, plus CMH in Chicago has the most glorious, huge chocolate chip cookies in the world--source of much blissful escapism on bad days. Joerg, lucky bastard, actually resumed smoking to deal with the stress of those days, but breastfeeding mommy did not have that option. Especially not breastfeeding mommy to a little girl with a fragile liver and generally precarious health. All those gains are all looking pretty big, now that I see them there in front of me, but I'm sticking with the assertion that I'm only 35 pounds above where I actually think of myself. I mean, who really goes back to 115 pounds after having two kids and passing 30? That's just crazy.
Anyway, on the way home I began reminiscing about the way I used to dress, which was 100% thrift store chic. Heavy on the thrift store and light on the chic. Let's just say that I was not afraid of color. All of which reminded me of my very favorite sartorial compliment I have ever received. When I was a senior in college I got a job as a preceptor for a teaching tour of Kenya. I had written an independent study on African philosophy and literature (huge category, I know, but that's what those undergraduate independent studies are for, right?), and also had some experience in travelling off the beaten path, and thus stumbled into the best job, ever. The semester before we were to leave, I made friends with a Kenyan exchange student, who gave me a few pointers on the upcoming trip. One day in Wal-mart, I spotted this shirt--polyester, I think, although it felt like the cheap silk some pajamas are made of--which was covered in some sort of farmer's market theme. Vegetables, fruits, hand-lettered signs. It was one BUSY piece of business. But it was only $2 (I wonder why?) and I knew I could make it work. In fact, I had been looking for something to wear over my super-comfortable black leggings, which I could not wear without a very large shirt to cover my thighs. Remember, I was a whopping 115 pounds at that time. I wore that shirt, with leggings, on the day we loaded the bus to head to the airport. My Kenyan friend was there to see us off. He took one look at me, up and down, gave me a huge smile and said, "They are going to love you over there!"
I bought lots of stuff on that trip, even bartering my tennis shoes for some soapstone statues I liked, but the stuff I loved the most was the fabric. It was cotton, with sayings written in Swahili at the bottom that said things like, "Step off, now! We both know you're not all that." And I actually wore that fabric when I returned, wrapped around me in all sorts of creative fashions that I had learned there.
So that's where my mind wandered as I returned home with my shopping bag, Khaki pants inside. That's where I am now. But, Annika and Frankie, I want you girls to know that your mama was once a Kanga-wearing woman.
And there was more... We are great believers in the power of yogurt around here, with all its lovely, wiggly live cultures. "See?" I said to my mom this morning, "Frankie's already a yogurt girl like Annika!" "Yes," Annika added solemnly, "She's Yoguriffic." Naturally, after mom and I laughed a good laugh at that, we were treated to all its endless variations for the rest of the morning. Frankie needs a clean diaper? "She's diaperiffic!" Frankie's grumpy? "She's grumperiffic!" And so on...
Today Annika had her very first swimming lesson. Mind you, she's only been in a "big pool" 3 times in her life before today. At the end of the 30-minute lesson, the teacher asked them to jump into the pool by themselves (with her standing there obviously). Annika did it, with gusto, and went all the way under. She came up wide-eyed, sputtering, and slightly shocked, but proud. My girl's got guts.
Our poop and puke extravaganza is over. May it ever be forgotten. At least I can rest assured that Rota will never again be as violent for Frankie, as a normal immune system develops antibodies that are useful against any future reinfection. Annika has no such luck, but, still, this bout lasted about one week less than her first bout a few years ago.
But, now, on to that title. Grandma is here, as Joerg is off for a few days to give a talk at Indiana University, our graduate alma mater. He's staying for a few days after that to work on some articles with his former advisor. I hate being at home alone with the two girls, as we never know when Annika will hit a bad patch and need to be hospitalized. Now that we have another little one to care for, getting Anni to the hospital when she's sick has become that much more complicated, given that she usually has to go all the way to Chicago for her care, complicated little medical wonder that she is. With my mom here, I know that I have someone to take care of Frankie at a moment's notice, although I know that some kind-hearted soul somewhere would surely take her in for me. It's not the same as Grandma, though. Of course not.
Annika has been in Super Duper Hyper Overdrive Excited Mode ever since Grandma's impending visit was made known. She couldn't go to sleep the night before she was to arrive on the train, and kept herself awake listing all the great things she and Grandma were going to do together. The next morning she came downstairs at 6 a.m. with her crazy bed-hair and that beautiful puffy-faced, wide-eyed look of the barely awake preschooler. Her first words, in her scratchy morning voice, were, "Are we ready to go to the station?" We had a brief talk about time, and I attempted to teach her some shortcut time-telling skills to avoid hearing that question all day long, but you all know that that was an exercise in futility.
Grandma did finally arrive, to great fanfare and lots of hugs and exclamations. This morning Annika watched as Joerg packed his suitcase into the car.
"Is Daddy leaving now?"
"Yes, in a few minutes."
"Are you going, too, mommy?"
(With a big hug from me) "No, sweetie. I'm going to stay here with you and Frankie and Grandma."
(Anni wiggles out of the hug and fixes me with a bright look) "Hey! I have an idea! Why don't YOU go with Daddy? And grandma can stay here with us alone?" (big dreamy smile at that glorious thought)
So I guess we have passed some crucial point in Annika's maturity process. That point at which she's having fantasies of being completely parent-free. Yes, a bittersweet moment.
Frankie, on the other hand, has become a clingy mess since her bout with Rota. My attempts to wean the child have crashed into a fiery disaster (a milky disaster?). I've had to bring the sling back out into regular use just to accomplish the smallest tasks without a constant soundtrack of toddler wails. And sleeping through the night? That, evidently, is for the weak-willed, who aren't prepared to cry beyond their parent's breaking point.
So that's it here for now. I'm a bit sad watching one pull away from me with such enthusiasm, and (what in the world is wrong with me?) also frustrated as the other throws herself back toward me with the unrelenting single-mindedness of the newborn. Ah, the endless contradictions of motherhood.
She lay on her back
for a few seconds,
at the textured ceiling
with the mysterious
spaghetti sauce stain.
flapping her arms and legs
there on the floor, as if to swish
the imaginary snow
into a snow angel.
"Falling down is also a gift!" says she.