Saturday, April 12, 2014

Easter Egg Coloring Public Service Announcement

This week, the kids went to a friend's house with T to dye Easter Eggs.  The parents all thought that they were using washable egg dye, and let the kids happily dunk their hands in the egg dye.  Miss M, for example, had two completely bright red hands from dying her eggs reddish pink.  When they tried to clean the kids up at the end, however, they discovered that the parent who had created the egg dye had used regular old food coloring.  Whoops!

By the time I got home from work, despite numerous scrubbings, Miss M still had two bright red hands.  I mean, like PRIMARY red hands.  Yuck.

There are lots of options online regarding how to remove food dye from skin (white vinegar, baking soda. . .bleach, gasoline!!!), but I just did a quick scrub of her hands with white vinegar.  That started to take the color off, and then I doused her hands in Dawn liquid (green apple. . .yum!).  The dye all came off in absolutely no time, and she had fun playing in the suds, to boot.  I'm not sure if the Dawn would have worked as well if I hadn't used the vinegar quickly first, but in any case, it was an easy and painless process for both of us.  Hurray for that!!!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

4 Week Fitness Plan

I've never been able to stick to an exercise plan.  I know how important it is for good long-term health, and I walk everywhere, so I get a fair amount of exercise, but I don't actually work out in a way that tones.  We're going on a two week vacation in just under a month, and I'd really like to firm up a bit.  I'm hoping that if I can just commit myself to the one month of exercise, I'll be hooked enough by the end of the month that I will keep on doing it.  A month seems manageable.  I can do a month, right?  It's just four little weeks.  Hrmph.  We'll see.

I've been looking online for a good one month plan.  Some seem ridiculously hard.  I don't want to hurt myself.  Some also focus on "fat blasting," which I don't really need.  I want to tone, but don't really want to lose any more weight.  Others, I want to like, but they just look kind of boring, and I know I won't stick with it.  It has to be something that is appealing, will give me results, and which I won't get bored by.

So, I came up with my own plan.  It involves 25 minutes of cardio 5 days a week, which is going to be walking.  It's going to be walking because I can either do it at lunchtime at work without breaking a sweat (if I have to re-shower during the day, it's just not going to happen), or I can do it with the kids in the stroller.  Plus, I already walk a lot, so it's not like it is a big change.

Then, twice a week I'm going to do this arm workout.  It looks manageable, and it looks like it will deliver results in a relatively short amount of time.  That's just eight workouts in a month.  I can do 8 workouts.  Can't I?

I'm going to throw this one in just once a week.  It looks hard, but appeals to me for some reason.  Why not try it?  It's just 4 workouts.  I can definitely do something four times.  And four times in a month--no problem!

And then, I'm going to do this twice a week.   I normally don't go in for "celebrity" stuff, but it looks doable.  I hate crunches.

It may not get me totally firm, but it should get me firmer, and maybe it will take enough to stick beyond my vacation.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Up Next

My contract here was initially for two years.  The first year has flown by and is almost up, which means we have to start thinking about what we will do at the end of those two years.  International moves are so exhausting. . .there is so much preplanning and preparing that must be done.  And, there is that small matter of the work thing, and where I will have the ability to transfer to.  So, we've started talking about it, and thinking about what we will do when our time here is up.

One option would be to try to stay here for another 2-3 years.  We like it here.  We have Miss M in a great school, and SB can start there next winter.  The kids would build a stronger base in Spanish.  OUR Spanish would be rock solid if we stayed a few more years.  The local people are lovely.  We have an awesome housekeeper whom the girls adore, and who makes our lives immeasurably easier.  The money is good.  Our apartment is gorgeous.  We live in a great neighborhood.

The downside is that I have itchy feet.  I want to experience someplace new.  I took this job because it offered the opportunity to move frequently.  I hate saying goodbye, but I loooove saying hello.  A new place would be exciting.  

So, I've been looking around at our options.  We could go back to the U.S., but that's definitely not our first choice.  We love traveling and living abroad.  There will come a time, I'm sure, when we are ready for the stability and predictability of the U.S., but right now, we love this life.  So, I've been trying to sort out what the options might be for us abroad.

There is a pretty amazing position in Laos that I would LOVE to go after, but T isn't so sure he wants to live in Asia.  For him, the issue is aging parents and distance from the U.S.  I can't disagree that it's far from the U.S., and after our crazy emergency trip back this past Christmas for my surgery, I have to admit that a part of me is reluctant to be so far from  home.  But, I'm totally intrigued by Southeast Asia.  And when are we going to have the chance again?  

There are a couple of jobs in Europe.  T thinks we should head back there.  There are so many amazing places to travel to that we still haven't managed to hit.  There's really no downside to Europe--it's safe, the schools are good, there are no weird diseases (well, far fewer, anyway).  Well, aside from expense.  It's pretty easy to spend your entire salary on travel in Europe.   

Then, there are a couple of other jobs in Latin America.  I would really love to stay in a Spanish speaking country until the girls have a firm base.  But, the crime rate is kind of tough in some places, or there is substantial civil unrest, or. . .there are poisonous things.  T has a weird hangup about living someplace where there are poisonous snakes and/or scorpions in your yard and/or house.   Go figure. :)  

The problem, at the end of the day, is that there is no "perfect" place.  Every option will inevitably involve some sort of trade-off.   Or maybe I am wrong, and the "perfect" job will just fall into my lap in the next few months.  I can only hope.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Leaning In, and Double Standards

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton spoke at Tina Brown's Women in the World summit, alongside IMF chief Christine Lagarde.  The moderator asked each to reflect on whether there was still "a double standard in the media about how we talk about women in public life."   Clinton responded that There is a double standard, obviously.  We have all either experienced it or at the very least seen it. And there  is a deep set of cultural psychological views that are manifest through this double standard.”  She went on to talk about the differences she's seen in male and female responses in the workplace--how young women always say "do you think I'm ready?" when given new responsibilities, while young men simply say "when do I start?"  She talked about the self-doubt women inevitably carry with them, something men don't do.  She talked about the criticism that women also inevitably face.  During the discussion, as she often has of late, she invoked the words of Eleanor Roosevelt:  "Every woman in public life needs to develop skin as tough as rhinoceros hide."  

I've been thinking a lot lately about that double standard, so her words particularly resonated with me.  I've long worked in male-dominated fields.  I've often been the only woman at the table.  I've "leaned in" for so long that I don't know any other way.  I know just what Sheryl Sandberg means when she talks about women pulling themselves out of the game before it's even started.  But even when you lean in, you work hard, you excel at your job, you are qualitatively and quantitatively better than the men by any measurable standard--by EVERY measurable standard, you still have to deal with that double standard. . .the one that says that, despite all of the evidence, you really aren't equal, because you are just a woman. 

My current boss is a woman, and she's also good at her job.  And she reinforces that double standard regularly.   I've watched as men are offered business trips traveling to interesting places. . .while I and other women have been offered only assignments in town.  I suspect that she thinks she is being kind, because she knows I have young kids.  But shouldn't women get offered the assignments?  Shouldn't we be allowed a say in whether we want to travel?  She has told multiple women in my office that we need to work on our "tone" in our emails--that we are too direct.  I have to wonder if she's ever given that advice to a man.   I recently heard her refer to me as a "no nonsense" person.  What does that mean, exactly. . .and would anyone ever say that about a man?  

Of course, I play the game.  I take the assignments I get, without complaint, and try to do them well.  I take the criticism graciously, and promise to try to do better.  I let the description roll of my shoulders.  Because really, what else is there to do?  I once had a very successful female politician tell me, "Look, does sexism exist out there?  You bet.  But does talking about it help?  Not really.  You just have to go out there and do your job."   And I think that's right.  Jumping up and down about it doesn't help.  

It sure would be nice, though, if I didn't have to be gracious and navigate around these issues.  It sure would be nice if I didn't need rhinoceros hide.  It sure would be nice to just be able to go to work, do my job well, and be recognized for it. . .like a man.  And I hope and pray that we can create a more enlightened and equal workplace for these wonderful daughters I am raising, because they deserve so much better than this.   We may have come a long way, baby, but it's not nearly far enough.



Thursday, April 3, 2014

Two Stories

One of the things I love about Facebook is that I'm "friends" with a pile of women I went to high school with.  They aren't people I talk to in "real life," but it's been nice to reconnect virtually, to see where they are and what they are up to.  I went to high school in a rural area, where some girls were married and already had kids by the time graduation rolled around, so it was to my great surprise that I discovered a large number of women had very young children, the same ages of my children.  I often feel like such a late bloomer, but it turns out that many of us were.

I was heartbroken to see a few weeks ago that one woman had lost her 5 year old daughter to a virus.    One day she was there, and the next she was not--it happened ridiculously fast.  I can't even imagine what she is going through.  She's been posting gorgeous pictures of herself and her daughter, in happier times.  I haven't seen this woman since we were 17, 18 years old, haven't kept in touch with her.  We're in our 40's now.  Seeing these pictures of her, as an adult, makes me feel in some way like I'm looking at her mother.  She's the girl I knew, but so much older.  In my head, she's still the giggly cheerleader who drinks too much and fools around with boys she shouldn't.  She is carefree.  On my screen, she is middle-aged, heavy with responsibility, and she is so very sad.  I think often about the girl she was back then, with not a care in the world.   That girl couldn't have imagined this was where life would take her.  And that little girl in the photos--a mighty sprite, full of laughter and energy. . .it's so hard to imagine that she's been ripped from her mother, her family.  My heart just breaks.  I wrap my arms tightly around Miss M when I think of this poor woman, and don't even want to think of such a possibility.

Then this week, another awful story.  An acquaintance here had a c-section to deliver her first child.  The baby is healthy and home.  The mother, however, developed a coagulation problem during the surgery.  She's in critical condition, and they are having trouble getting things problem under control.  This is supposed to be a happy time for this new family, and instead she's in the hospital fighting for her life.  I so very much hope for them that this story has a happy ending, that a scary beginning is quickly left behind in a pile of dirty diapers and teething and cheerful morning feedings.

Life feels so fragile to me right now.  Everything you wish for and hope for and wait for can come, only to disappear again in an instant.  It's such a reminder to hold tight and love while you can.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

601. . .And SB's Tests

I just opened Blogger, and it informed me that I have drafted 600 posts.  It's hard to believe I started blogging so many years ago.  Time really has been flying by since we started trying to have kids.

But that's not what I wanted to blog about.  I want to note the milestone, but I really came here to talk about potential neural tube defects.

When we went for SB's 2nd year checkup, I pointed out a few things that have been bothering her/me.  One is a bump on her upper back, just between her shoulders on her spine.  There is one vertebrae that sticks out more than the others.  It's always been this way, but it's become more noticeable lately.  Since she was born, the doctors have said it was normal.  But this time, the doctor referred us out for consultation.

The second thing was that she plays with her belly button a lot, and complains that it hurts.  It's a bit of an outie, and I was worried about a hernia.

T. took her to the referral appointment with a pediatric surgeon about two weeks ago, just before the plague struck us.  That doctor recommended that we do ultrasounds of her back and abdomen, to determine if there were a neural tube defect.  At which point, I nearly lost my shit.

I took my vitamins regularly.  We had level 4 zillion ultrasounds at a fancy private European hospital.  And a handful of doctors have seen her across two continents over the last two years, and assured us that everything looked normal.  So, neural tube defect?  Really?  Also, after the crazy shitstorm of the last six months, we really didn't need that.

It took us forever to get the tests scheduled.  They finally said they could do them, the day she was diagnosed with Coxsackie.  We instead scheduled them for yesterday, instead, figuring no one wanted a contagious kid in their space.   They booked them for 2:30 and 2:50pm, and instructed me to keep her from eating for 6 hours beforehand (great!).

We arrived promptly yesterday, only to discover that the hospital had moved our appointment back by an hour.  Let me tell you, that extra hour we spent waiting, with a hungry 2 year old, was something special that the entire waiting room enjoyed immensely.  But for the tests, she was a doll.  She let them put the ultrasound goo on her, and she played with it herself.  She even got so into it that she asked the doctor if she could use the ultrasound wand on herself.  He let her do it with him, and I think he was really tickled that she was so into it.  He kept telling me how nice she was, and told her that she was going to be a doctor when she grew up.  She fussed a bit here and there, but let him do everything he needed.

Anyway, the end result, after all of the drama, was that she is completely normal, and they didn't see anything wrong at all.  The back is just the way she's formed, and the stomach is normal.  Now I just have to keep her from playing with it and irritating it.

I am WIPED, physically from all of the night waking with two sick kids, and mentally from. . .well, everything.  Hopefully, the rotten stuff is behind us, and we can have a nice, long, happy, safe, positive stretch of living.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

And. . .A Plague Is Upon Us

Adults aren't supposed to get the Coxsackie virus.  So on Thursday afternoon, when my head felt like it was going to split in half and my brain felt warm and mushy and my skin felt like it was going to jump out of itself, or at least out of my shirt, and my throat hurt, and my glands were swollen, and I had a suspicious spot on my right hand, I was PRETTTTTY sure I had it.  But yesterday morning when I saw the nurse practitioner, she laughed at me and said she thought I was "just the mother of two sick kids."  I was kind of offended, actually.  Did she think I was sympathy sick?

She's not my usual doctor, but rather filling in for someone on maternity leave.  She was nice enough, but I don't event think she seriously considered that I might have it.  Because, adults don't get it.  That's what she told me.

And yet, somehow I still woke up with little tiny sore spots on my feet and hands.  There aren't that many of them, and they aren't very big.  But they are very sore.  It feels like I burned my hand (and feet!) on a hot pan by accident. . .in a bunch of spots.  Sigh.  Suckage.

Miss M is hacking up a storm, but seems better. She never really got the full on rash.  SB got a massive rash (face, hands, feet, arms, legs, and diaper area), but it's starting to clear (we are 5 days out from when the rash appeared).  She's been acting normal.  Actually, they both have.  In fact, a little too normal.  They are super hyper and bouncing off the walls, because they have not been outside in 5 days.  We didn't want them to infect anyone else, though.  Boy, do they need to play in the park!

I'm letting them watch a movie right now on Netflix because I just can't take the utter chaos of quarantined children any longer.  The Incredibles is okay for toddlers, right???