Loose Ends

21 02 2009

You know how when you were in university, and you skipped a few Sociology, or maybe German, or even Old English classes a few weeks in a row? And you knew you really should go back, so you promised yourself I’ll go next week? But then you got all freaked out that the prof would ask where you’ve been, or embarrass you in front of the rest of the class, or there’d be a test or an assignment due,  so you had a series of panic attacks, and the mere thought of that class made you want to yank your eyebrows out. So instead, you went out with your slacker friends, and self-medicated the anxiety about Sociology/German/Old English with cheap draft/donair subs/skunk weed. And, as your fear of walking into that class began to border on phobic, you convinced yourself that you were way too far behind and you probably couldn’t catch up so there was really no point in ever going back to that class again, so you just didn’t. Then, you ended up flunking or near flunking that class that semester and had to take it again the next year, or maybe even make it up in the summer, all because you slacked off a little bit and then psyched yourself out a whole lot. Remember doing that kind of thing? No? No. Me neither. Nope. Not one bit.

But all of that is a round about way of saying that , yes, I am keenly aware that I’ve been slacking on the ol’ blog front again. And because it feels like it has been forever since I’ve posted, I’ve been a little nervous about getting back on my proverbial high horse.

Anyhow, in order to get back into the swing of things, I feel like I need to tie up some loose ends for you, my dear readers. I’m sure you’ve been dying to know what happened at Squiggles’ pediatrician appointment, tossing and turning in your beds at night, wondering if Operation Beefcake was a success. And what about Ol’ Chomper and Lumpy? Are they still peacefully co-habitating in my mouth? Did Neener chop anybody’s arms off yet? How did the school react to the revelation that Roo is, in fact, a smarty pants? Read on…

Operation Beefcake

First, the appointment was supposed to be in late January. Then, it got moved to mid-February.

The good news: Squiggles gained a pound in two months, and she has learned to pull herself up to stand.

The bad news: That’s not enough weight, and when she stands, she stands weird.

So, Operation Beefcake continues, now with added butter, gravy and cream. We’ve also been officially referred to a neurologist, as well as the Autism clinic, and we took Squiggles in to have blood drawn for a slew of metabolic and genetic testing. Good times, good times.

Chomper and Lumpy

The mystery of Lumpy’s origin has finally been solved. After more dentist appointments, more x-rays, more drilling, more filling, more humming and hawing, and finally paying another $600 to see a specialist, it turns out that Lumpy is not just Lumpy. Lumpy is the result of the snapped-off tip of a dental file jabbed up past the root tip of my tooth, for which I’d need a procedure that involves paying $600 to have a specialist slice my gum open, gouge out the file piece along with a hunk of of my tooth root, then stitch my gum back up. Which is exactly what an un-insured, underemployed writer with a serious aversion to gum stitches wants to hear. But, piss-assed broke oral-surgery-a-phobe slacker that I am, I asked the question: What happens if I just leave it there?  The reply? Well, nothing. Ol’ Chomper will continue to feel weird, but nothing will actually happen. Except we’ll save $600 that we don’t have anyway. And there will be no slicing, gouging, or stitching. And, I’ll have to change Lumpy’s name to File-O.

Done. Welcome to the family, File-O. I look forward to having you be a constant source of minor annoyance. At least until we can afford some insurance, and I can talk myself into setting foot in a dentist’s office again.

Neener the Arm-Chopper-Offer

Ever since I convinced Ms. D to make some seating adjustments so that Neener was not sitting directly across from evil incarnate, there has been no more talk of bringing bats and/or swords to school for show and tell. There has, however, been some talk of Neener seeming suspiciously Asperger-y. So, there’s another batch of paperwork, another round of phone calls and meetings, and another referral to the Autism clinic. The clinic coordinator and I are already on first-name basis because she now has files on all three of my kids. Did I mention how much fun all that is? Good times, good times.

Roo the Smarty Pants

Since I don’t yet have the report in hand, I have not yet had the distinct pleasure of prancing it down to the school. But I did  let them know that their guesstimate of her grade one or two reading level is waaaaay off. To which they more or less responded, “Well, that’s great. So let’s work on getting her to use ‘appropriate’ body positioning and eye contact when she speaks to someone, and teach her to ask to go to the bathroom instead of shouting ‘I need to pee!’ before running out of the room. ” Which are noble goals. However, I have been bitten by the neurodiverity bug, and I’ve developed a raging case of Autism Acceptance, so I’m not exactly sure I can just go along with the “let’s-try-to-make-Autistic-kids-look-and-act-as-normal-as-possible” plans that well-meaning school teams tend to conjure up. Ahhh, but there is too much to this whole thread of our lives to start unraveling right now. That is a post for another day.

There, you are all caught up. And I’m sure you can see why I’ve been a little preoccupied these last few weeks. Why I’ve been a little irregular. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned since my university days, it’s that hiding from commitments and responsibilities – even something as casual as this little blog – rarely gets you where you really want to be. Unless where you really want to be is passed out on your slacker friends’ couch with a gut full of mystery meat and watered down draft, and bits of skunk weed in your hair. Been there, done that, got the D in ye Olde English to prove it.

But now,  as a writer, a mother, and as a mature, functional human being, I am pretty adept at putting pressure on myself to do things that I either want to do, or just know that I should do. Like writing a blog post. Or starting running again after a six month hiatus. Or shaving my legs and armpits. But it is still an incredibly delicate balance: not enough self-imposed pressure, and nothing gets done because I’ve managed to rationalize my self into inaction. Too much self-imposed pressure, and my eye starts twitching, my hands go numb, my gag reflex gets all uncontrollable, leading me to walk around looking and sounding like I’m about to barf, and I wind up paralyzed  into inaction. Or, at the very least, just hairy and out of shape, with a nasty case of  writer’s block, as the case has been of late. But when I get that self-imposed pressure level juuuust right, I can get beyond fear and insecurity and do what needs to be done. I can use that pressure to turn life’s little lumps of coal into diamonds.Or, to pull off a B in Sociology despite only going to the class twice and writing the mid-term stoned as a peach tree. Remember doing things like that? Nah, me neither.





Keep your enemies close… so you can chop off their arms during show and tell

17 01 2009

In her infinite wisdom, Neener and Roo’s teacher, Ms. D, rearranged the classroom seating after Christmas break. Let’s forget about the fact that Neener and Roo had both taken the exciting leap of making “best friends” at their respective tables. And forget about the fact that unexpected change is not always a cake walk for kids on the autism spectrum. Or for kids with high anxiety. Or both, as the case may be. But let’s, for a moment, remember a mean little imp by the name of Brandee C. And let’s remember her obvious fondness for tormenting Neener. And let’s think about the worst possible mean little imp to seat beside my sensitive little angst-meister. Thaaaat’s right. In an even grander display of her infinite wisdom, Mrs. D put Neener and Brandee side by side.

In an effort to not look like a hyper-protective hover-mother, I resisted my impulse to swoop down to the school and bite the teacher’s face off for springing this kind of thoughtless change on my children, and demand that Brandee be moved to a more appropriate location. Like a reform school for mean little imp girls. Instead, I decided to play it cool. Give it a chance. Who knows, maybe Neener and Brandee could resolve their differences and become BFFs over milk and cookies and long conversations about the Tooth Fairy, and Junie B. Jones books. Maybe they’d learn to get along, and develop a friendship of convenience if nothing else. Maybe Neener could teach Brandee to read, and Brandee could teach Neener how to…make fun of other kids and cackle like a nasty little witch. Or maybe Brandee would target Neener with a smarmy little game of  ‘Wanna play Echo?’ And go out of her way to bond with the other two girls at the table, because it’s way more fun to exclude someone than it is to just hassle them. Or maybe she would snatch things from Neener, and refuse to give them back until Neener erupts in a volcano of angry, frustrated tears, and Ms. D, in her infinite wisdom, has to go figure out what Neener is crying about. And all of a sudden, I’m sharpening my teeth and going into hover-mother swooping mode, and forging the signatures of whoever spawned that mean little imp on applications for reform schools in Mongolia. Or Texas.

When Neener finally opened up about what Brandee was saying and doing, I had no choice. I told her under no uncertain terms that Brandee was a mean little snot, and that she did not have to put up with that kind of crap. I urged her to be brave, to stick up for herself, and to tell me, and Ms. D whenever Brandee started giving her a hard time. Then, last night, in the moments before bed when Neener and I like to cuddle up and talk about what’s on her mind, this conversation happened:

Neener: Mommy, what’s Brandee’s phone number?

Me: I dunno. Why?

Neener: I want to call her and ask her what she’s afraid of. I think she’s afraid of bats.

Me: Baseball or the animal?

Neener: Hmmm. I don’t know. Maybe I can bring them both to school and see which one scares her more.

Me: Pfffffffffffttttt. (Which is the sound of me stuffing a pillow in my mouth in a shoddy effort to hide the evidence of my hysterical laughter.)

Neener (slowly and thoughtfully): I need a sword too. A real sword.

Me: Why?

Neener: To bring to school for show and tell.  Maybe I could show it to Brandee.

Me: Brandee big on swords or something?

Neener (grinning like a Cheshire cat): No. But I’d show it to her. And the next time she teased me, maybe I could chop her arm off, and she’d be all, like “Hey! Where’d my arm go?”

Me: Pppppffffffffffffffffttttttttt.

Part of me was alarmed. These were by far the most aggressive words and thoughts I’ve ever heard Neener express. For all my threats of biting off body parts, and my kickin’-ass-and-takin’- names bravado, I’ve gone out of my way to shield my kids from ideas and images of any sort of violence as much as possible. And another part of me was sad. Sad that she feels so helpless. That she’s trying to figure out how to be brave, how to defend herself, and how to push Brandee’s buttons the way Brandee pushes hers, and that the best she can come up with is flying mammals and/or sports equipment, and bringing medieval weaponry for show and tell. And still another part of me was overjoyed that at least she was not content to wallow in a mire of victimhood, that she was at least thinking of ways to fight fire with…bats. And that she was discussing it with me first.

Maybe Neener’s new found blood-lust is all my fault. Maybe I should not have expressed to her my opinion that Brandee is just not a very nice person. Or maybe I should not be encouraging Neener to talk so honestly and openly about about how she feels. Or encouraging her to stand up for herself. Or maybe, if there is any blame to be laid, it belongs squarely on whoever spawned the evil little imp who started picking on my daughter in the first place. In which case, maybe I should find out Brandee’s phone number. And ask her parents what they’re more afraid of, Mongolia or Texas? I’d hate to forge their signatures on the wrong reform school application.





Operation Beefcake

7 01 2009

I’ve got a rather ironic situation on my freakishly cold little hands these days. And not the Alanis Morissette song kind of quasi-cosmic-ironic situations that are not so much ironic as they are inconvenient piss-offs. I mean, a black fly in your Chardonnay? Pfffft. That’s not ironic. That’s just what you get for drinking Chardonnay in the woods. Me, I’ve got actual irony. Serious irony.

You may recall a few months ago that I was a tad perturbed by Baby Squiggles’ size (if you don’t recall, you can read all about it here.) Yes, Squiggy has always been a bit of a beefcake baby, just as her sisters were. As of August, at her 9 month well-baby visit, she tipped the scales at 20 pounds, and was around the 90th percentile in weight and height for her age. And I was worried that she’d outgrow the sleepers I got her for Christmas before fall even rolled around.

Enter irony.

A few weeks ago, at her one year check-up, we faced another perturbing reality: suddenly, it seems,  Squiggles is no longer a beefcake baby. In fact, she has only gained 1 pound since August, and has dropped to the 30th percentile for weight, and around the 50th for height. Which might be perfectly normal for her, as babies do tend to level off in their growth somewhere around age one. That’s what all my trusty books and websites tell me when I go hunting for some information and insight on the subject. Don’t worry, they all say. It’s probably just her growth  leveling out. As long as the rest of her development is otherwise normal, don’t worry. But what if it’s not? What if she’s not following a typical developmental trajectory? What if, at 13 months, she’s still trying to master rolling over? If she’s not crawling? Or interested in bearing much weight on her legs to stand? Or, on the odd occasions I do manage to get her to stand, she stands on her toes? And when she sits, she’s still prone to spontaneously losing her balance and falling backwards? What then? Well, the short answer is worry. And get that baby’s skinny, developmentally delayed butt to a doctor. Which is exactly what’s happening. Our family doctor referred us to a pediatrician, whom we will see at the end of January. She’ll probably order a battery of pokes and prods and diagnostic imaging studies that will test, among other things, my child’s patience, and my maternal fortitude. Again.

In the meantime, I can’t just sit around worrying and wondering about the possibilities. I already know what most of them are, and they range from no-big-deal to the stuff of parental nightmares. Stuff that makes autism and CP (which are my two if-there’s-gotta-be-a-diagnosis-please-let-it-be-one-of-these picks) look like sunshine and lollipops. I also can’t just sit around helplessly waiting for…well…help. Luckily, the OT and PT tricks I learned when Roo was a baby facing very similar development issues have come flooding back to me. I’m working on strengthening Squiggle’s muscle tone in her trunk, which is key to sitting up without falling backwards, not to mention crawling, standing and walking. I’m doing daily exercises with her to help develop  overall gross motor co-ordination. And I’m trying my damnedest to fatten that baby up.

Enter Operation Beefcake.

I will be the first to admit that Squiggle’s new skinny baby status could be all our fault. Actually, I hope it is because that is by far the least unsettling reason for the sudden change in weight-gaining pattern, and by far the easiest thing to fix. Squiggles is an incredibly picky eater when it comes to the taste, texture, temperature and timing of her food, and she rarely if ever yells at us to tell us when she is hungry. So, maybe we just haven’t been agressive enough in stuffing her little face since she started solid foods. Maybe we gave up too quickly when she started refusing her food a third of the way through the bowl. Maybe we let her get away with not finishing her bottles too many times. Maybe I should have been letting her eat cheese for breakfast, lunch and dinner. All my former parenting philosophies and ideals have been tossed out the window. Again. And they’ve been replaced with a new mantra: Do what you’ve gotta do. If that means it takes one hour, four varieties of mouth-opening tricks, and several re-heatings to feed Squiggles one jar of  ultra-pureed baby food, instead of the anticipated fifteen minutes to shovel in a bowl of homemade chicken and sweet potatoes, then so be it. If that means sitting with her and cuddling her while she drinks a bottle, instead of plunking her on the floor and leaving her to her own devices in order to get a jump on the dishes, then so be it. If that means feeding her cheese and toast with jam until they come out her ears on days when that is all she will eat, then so be it. If Operation Beefcake is a success, Squiggles should grow into that sleeper I bought her for Christmas in no time. Who knows, maybe after a month of cheese feasts and therapy exercises, by the time that ped appointment rolls around, we’ll show up with a chubby, toddling Baby Squiggles, and the doctor will laugh us out of the office. And I’ll laugh a little when she tells me I have nothing to worry about. A little too ironic? Yeah, I really do think.





Famous Last Words

16 12 2008

“Well, that’s about as easy as a root canal can get!” she chirped. “It might be a little tender for a day or two, but after that you’ll be good to go.” Right. A week later, the only place I was “good to go” was straight back down to the dentist’s office to clobber the chirpy sadistic liar who turned my mildly sensitive front tooth into a constantly throbbing, aching, bitch-inducing hunk of torture.

And that, my friends, is the underlying reason why I’ve been M.I.A from this blog for a while. It also seems that when my evil little bird of a dentist blocked up my tooth’s root with gutta percha (see, at least I learned new words – fancy dentist words – while I was away) she also blocked up my creativity. Pain has a way of doing that. As does sleep deprivation, caused by the aforementioned relentless toothache, as well as the relentless restlessness of one Baby Squiggles who is having tooth issues of her own. Add on to that, a creative crisis triggered by no less than three of my potential writing projects falling through in the span of a week, and a serious bout of hypochondria triggered by the fact that I am a serious hypochondriac. And not in the cutesy way, like “Hee hee hee, I keep forgetting to wear a bra and underwear! I must have Alzheimer’s! I’m such a hypochondriac!” No. Like, in the past two weeks I’ve convinced myself that I might have ALS, a pituitary tumour, throat cancer, a heart infection,  a heart attack, sepsis, strokes, antibiotic resistant strep, hypochondria, and an infected failed root canal that’s going to require seriously invasive surgery and a $3000 dental implant right before Christmas. Before I’ve made enough money and gotten enough published to qualify for a PWAC membership and insurance plan. That, my friends, is a whole lot of reasons to let my husband take over this blog for a while.

But pituitary tumour or not, I’m back! Before I get back to my usual rantings and ravings, here are some Blister family highlights from my hiatus, a couple of snippets that have yet to be erased from my memory by the raging case of amnesia I think I’m coming down with:

Baby Squiggles and the Sibs study

A few weeks back, I took Squiggles to the 12 month visit for the siblings autism research study. And as crazy as I might be sometimes, it’s nice to know that I’m not completely crazy all the time. It has been confirmed that Squiggles is, at the very least, weird. How weird, we do not know. But weird enough that they video taped her little leg-paddling-bum-scootching mode of transportation, did some cognitive assessments far beyond what you’d normally try with a one year-old, and brought the study’s lead doctor in to see Baby Squiggles in all her baffling developmental glory, and meet with me because I’m just so damn interesting. Apparently, we hypochondriacs are very observant, and we know a lot of medical jargon, which makes us fun for doctors to talk to.

The School Holiday Concert

I don’t know what was the most fun about Neener and Roo’s Holiday concert: Me, my mother, Neener and Roo, all dolled up standing in a massive line-up outside for 15 minutes, waiting for The School to open the doors so we could get out of the chilly night wind, drop the kids in their classroom, and claim our two-tickets-alloted-per-family seats; or the rousing performance of ‘So This Is Christmas” that opened the show. Because you know, nothing says holiday celebration like an a capella  rendition of the most depressing Christmas song ever written, sung by a bunch of tone deaf kids in the key of guilt flat; or the grade six band, who, god love them, really thought they were playing a song. In actuality, they were being used by The School administration as part of an evil plot to confuse and disorient the crowd with so much random honking and tooting that no parent would be able to hold their video camera still, and would thus be forced to shell out $25 for a dvd copy from The School. But for real, the finest moment – hands down the best part of the entire concert – came when, of all 371 kids in that school, one little angelic-faced girl on her way off the stage suddenly darted to the mic, put it three milimeters away from her mouth, and shouted “But nobody could do that!” Unbeknownst to her, Roo singled-handedly delivered a lot of people from the mind-numbing monotony of Holiday concert hell with that classicly cryptic little line.

There. Now we’re all caught up. Finally, I’d like to thank my Mr. for stepping into the blogging breech when he was needed. Like you, I have an endless appreciation for him, and his remarkable talent for melding dumbass observations with smartass wit. And thank you, readers, for giving him such a friendly yet appropriately tepid welcome. I’m sure you realize that if you’d been all giddy and swooney over every word he wrote, I might have gotten all  sulky and huffy and said “Fine! Screw you guys! Way to kick me in the sore teeth when I’m down! It’s all fun and games now, but you’ll be sorry when he starts writing about the proper way to test for oil or latex paint, or starts posting his illustrations of how to replace divots on a golf course! Drawn on a Magna-doodle!” Lucky for us all, it didn’t come to that. And as long as I can keep this potentially life-threatening case of what I suspect is carpal tunnel syndrome at bay, it never will.





An eye for an eye, and a small fortune for a incisor.

2 12 2008

Apparently, December is dental health month in the Blisterdome. Squiggles is cutting her top front teeth. Neener lost one bottom front tooth, and the other one is wiggling around like an itchy-backed puppy in a pile of stink. Roo’s will certainly follow suit. And I will be having my very first root canal on Thursday. My top front tooth. The one I chipped in my second year of university when I “slipped on the ice outside Tim Horton’s one Sunday morning,” or so the story goes. Not to be confused with the one I chipped in my second year of university, when I fell on my face and bit an icy curb while staggering home drunk as a skunk from an open-bar cast party on a Saturday night. But enough about me and my tangled web of half-tooths and fictional falls. Inquiring minds want to know: exactly how much is the Tooth Fairy shelling out these days?

When my mother asked if Neener would be getting a dollar for her very first lost tooth, we had a good laugh. When Mr.’s mother guessed a quarter, we had an even better laugh. It’s 2008, people. Times have changed. The economy may be tanking, but human teeth are at a premium on the black market, and the Tooth Fairy wound up in a nasty bidding war with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and Microsoft. In the end, she won, but she paid through the nose to get her hands on that little piece of mouth memorabilia. One can only imagine that pulling a five dollar bill from one’s nose is very, very painful. Even for a fairy.

A dangerous precedent has been set here. Now, Neener, Roo, and all the kids at school who heard Neener shouting ” The Tooth Fairy left me five dollars!” will be expecting far more than a measly piece of change for their tiny teeth, and certainly big money for molars. Well, maybe the Tooth Fairy was drunk. Or maybe she knows that Neener and Roo are depositing any and all money they get directly into their piggy banks, saving up for a couple of uber-expensive American Girl dolls. Or maybe, facing the dentist’s needle and drill herself later this week, the Tooth Fairy has come to realize how valuable teeth actually are. Maybe her payout came with strings attached: you’d better take good care of your teeth, kids. Nothing sends tooth prices spiralling down faster than plaque, tartar, and cavities. And the Tooth Fairy can’t afford any more root canals.





Domestic Blister’s Holiday Harangue

24 11 2008

T’was the month before Christmas in the ol’ Blisterdome

and the rabid consumerism was making me foam.

Each TV commercial, each Holiday flyer

Pushed me up on my soapbox a little bit higher.

The toy pile in the basement was so out of control

that I found myself wishing it would all turn to coal.

With heat so expensive, that coal’d be fantastic.

It would burn so much cleaner than cheap Chinese plastic.

With a plethora of presents from occasions before

Destroyed and discarded all over the floor,

I thought of the Christmas well-meaning gift-givers,

Making that pile grow. And it gave me the shivers!

I thought of the meaningless mass of such stuff,

And I said to myself “Enough is enough!”

Instead of just buying and fostering greed

Why not throw the money at stuff we do need?

Dance classes for Roo! Tae Kwon Do class for Neener!

Some ice packs for Mr.’s vasectomied wiener! **

Warm socks for Squiggles! New undies for me!

Sure beats mouthfuls of melamine under the tree.

We don’t need more Dora or Barbie or Tink.

How ’bout health insurance, for our trips to the shrink!

With gifts about quality, not just sheer amount

Maybe each would be precious, maybe each gift would count.

Instead of just ripping through wrapping galore,

Perhaps we’d find something not sold in a store.

The meaning of Christmas, of true appreciation,

With money left over for a sunny vacation!

And my hope of all hopes, if I had my druthers

Would be for my children to think about others.

To think of the people they love oh-so dearly,

Not the mountain of merch that stunts our growth, yearly.

And knowing they’re part of the luckiest few,

Think not “What’d I get?”, but “What can I do

To make the world brighter? Make a sad person happy?”

But I better shut up now. I’m getting all sappy.

Maybe this little Buy Less scheme will work,

Or maybe I’m being a self-righteous jerk.

But I don’t give a damn, not a fiddler’s fart.

I refuse to believe Love’s on sale at Wal-Mart.

It’s not on for a buck at the ol’ Dollarama.

It’s snuggled around us, like a cozy pajama.

Our big basement toy pile now seems out of place,

So we’ll donate that junk to someone with more space.

And focus instead on the things that have meaning,

Things that require a whole lot less cleaning.

Less stuff means more time to enjoy all our blessings

And hopefully fewer gargantuan messings.

With a few thoughtful gifts, and our spirits restored,

The Blisters can laugh at the Holiday horde

For whom Boxing Day Sales are reason to brawl.

Happy Christmas, poor suckers. Good luck at the mall!

** The vasectomied wiener depicted in this poem is fictional… for now.





Another year wiser

20 11 2008

Yesterday, I celebrated my birthday. I won’t say which birthday, since I’ve been craftily running a misinformation campaign on that for, oh, about 20 years now. The first ten years consisted of adding a few years to the real number, but in recent years, I’ve adopted a slightly different strategy. You may hear the number “32”  bandied about by such unreliable sources as my mother, whose memory is clearly failing, my husband ,who is in obvious denial about his cradle-robberdom, and my children, who are foul mouthed little liars. Anyway, my age is irrelevant. What really matters is that I’ve had some memorable birthdays, and when I reflect back on them, many have taught me a valuable lesson that I carry with me to this day. Here is a brief retrospective of birthdays-gone-by, and some of the wisdom I’ve extracted from my 18-35 odd years on this planet:

The Beginning: The day I was born, I was already 3 weeks late. My mother’s due date was Halloween. When labour induction failed and my mother and I started showing signs of distress, somebody finally realized that something was wrong. Damn placenta was blocking my exit. I was yanked out via an emergency c-section just in the nick of time. From my mother’s regular re-telling of the harrowing story of my birth and her grueling recovery, I learned two very important things: First, that I am a very, very lucky individual. And second, that a great deal of guilt can be leveraged once your child realizes that you almost died giving birth to them.

My 4th Birthday: A massive snow storm. A storm so bad that no one could make it to my party. I proclaimed that to be “The Worst Birthday Ever.” The lesson? You can’t control the weather, not even on your birthday. But you can control your definition of worst.

My 6th Birthday: My first party with my new school friends. Dozens of them. My new best friend gave me a Strawberry Shortcake doll but after all the gifts were opened, decided that she wanted to keep the cute little scented Custard the cat figurine that came with it. When her mom came to pick her up, I watched tearfully as she walked out the door with a party loot bag and the best part of a present that was supposed to be for me. That taught me that sometimes your friends do things that piss you off, but they are still your friends. She gave my Custard the cat back. Eventually.

My 16th Birthday: My then-boyfriend, a 6 foot 3, 115 pound 18 year old with a black studded leather jacket and a mega-mullet, whom I had proclaimed “The Best Boyfriend Ever”, got caught cheating on me with his ex. The lesson I gleaned was that I could not control what other people did. Not even on my birthday. But I could control my definition of the word best.

My 17th Birthday: A misunderstanding morphed into an argument with a girl I thought was my friend. She chased me out of the mall and threatened to beat me with a baseball bat. Which showed me that sometimes your friends do things that frighten the hell out of you, and those people are not really your friends at all.

My 19th Birthday: I did not set foot in a bar or a liquor store until the day I turned 19 because I was terrified of getting ID’d. On my 19th birthday, identification in hand, I did both. And no one asked me to prove how old I was. On one hand, I kicked myself. On the other hand, I was glad I never had to do the ol’ “Oh I forgot my I.D, I’ll be right back” underage booze-buyer dash. The lesson? Sometimes it’s better to be safe than sorry. And I am younger than I look.

My 21st Birthday: Well, not technically on the day of my birth, but that year, my birthday provided the excuse my friends and I needed to party recklessly for an entire week. On day three of my birthday bender, I met a guy. Six feet tall, on the skinny side, twinkling green eyes, and a black Motorolla pager. I consumed an ample amount of liquid courage, introduced myself to him, and told my friends that very night that I was going to marry that guy some day. And I did. From that I learned that sometimes it pays to take a chance. And I am smarter than I look.

My 30th Birthday: My sweet Mr. threw me a fantastic party. I was surrounded by amazing people, and surprised by the poetic abilities of my friends, who all wrote poems to commemorate the occasion. We stuffed ourselves with every flavour martini under the sun, and stuffed the kids with a heinous amount of Little Mermaid birthday cake. I woke up at 3 am with a bad case of martini-induced barfies. Roo woke up at 3:15 am with a bad case of blue-icing induced barfies, and I spent the rest of the night ignoring my own rolling stomach and pounding head to tend to my sick child. That birthday taught me to expect the unexpected. And to always keep a barfie bowl or two handy.

My 31st Birthday: Enormously pregnant with baby Squiggles, I was lucky I could walk, let alone celebrate. Eating gave me heartburn. Laughing made me pee in my pants. Sleep was a figment of my hormone-addled imagination. Desperate to get that baby on the move, I drank some castor oil. The only thing that moved was the take-out chinese food I had for my birthday dinner. I learned, yet again, how little control I have over the world. How there are some things that just can not be rushed. And how to engrave  guilt-inducing details into my mind. Details that will later be used to make my kids realize how wonderful I am because of what I went through to bring them into the world.

Now, I hold all of these little lessons in my heart and mind. Looking around at my family, my friends, my life, I know I am extraordinarily lucky, and I try to appreciate each day for what it is because tomorrow is promised to no one. The snow swirling to the ground, and the atrocities swirling through the news don’t rattle me because I know I can’t control anything beyond my own perspective. I have no time for the bullshit of people who are decitful or mean, and I have all the time in the world for the people I love. I take chances only when I know what I’m risking and what I stand to gain. Otherwise I play it safe, take my time, and make the best of what I’ve got.  And last night, as I celebrated with family and friends and food and drink, I listened to the smart little voice inside that said “Go easy on the appletinis, and take the barfie bowl upstairs and leave it on Neener’s bed.” If my age-related misinformation campaign is successful, I may not be getting any older. But I am getting wiser. At least, that’s how I felt at 3 a.m. when I awoke to the words “Mommy, I need to barf.”