Wednesday, October 21, 2009

And Furthermore...

Why does everything have all these fundraisers?

Between the actual classroom and the PTO, the school sends something home every week. See my previous post for those details.

For soccer, there was cookie dough to sell. Ten dollars for a 2 pound tub of cookie dough. No one had any idea when the cookie dough would be in so many people who might have bought some didn't. Let's not mention that 2 pound for $10 is not a deal. I can buy a 5 pound tub of cookie dough at Sam's for about $6-7. So if we have to raise money, in addition to paying registration fees, what are the fees for?

I also have to put in a dig for soccer pictures. Not only were they taken on the other side of the world from where we were parked and where the game was going to be played (and I mean it took about 10-12 minutes walking to get over there), we had to pay shipping for the pictures! Granted, they did mail the pictures to our house, but the cost of postage was less than what I was charged for shipping. Think they'll issue me a credit for the difference?

Then for dance class, we received something that can only be described as c-r-a-p. Gourmet dips and muffin mixes for $9-10. Not only were the products completely unappealing, but we were to add shipping to the orders as well! It honestly looked like someone's direct sale business who was cutting a piece of their profits in return for the sales. And I do want to support the things my girls are doing, but I could not make myself buy anything. Maybe next time I can suggest that I give everyone catalogs of my direct sale business and see if I can make a profit. I'll even eat the cost of shipping! How's that for service?

The following week at dance, we were given another brochure of things to sell which was more of the standard fundraising items like wrapping paper for $12, plastic cups of 14 gummy bears for $8, etc. Still crap, but I could tolerate buying a thing or two to support the dance school. Lest anyone misunderstand me, I do pay tuition every month for the girls to take dance. I am paying for costumes for recitals to be held in December and June. (Costumes are $55 each and my girls need a total of 6.) In fact, the last invoice had a charge of $14 for "recital tights". So, what exactly, are we fundraising for?

Monday, I got a call from The Optimist Club wanting me to buy their coupon book for $39.95. That is actually a good deal. Tons of buy 1, get 1 coupons for places in the area: Bowling, the jump house, save $10 at the vet, Sonic, the coffee place Brian and I like.

It would be so much easier on the parents especially, since truth be told, we are the ones that end up buying all this crap to support soccer and dance and school, if they just sold candy like the old days. You know, baseball candy. You can go door-to-door and someone can support you right then and there without commiting to a long term relationship. I sold candy bars in high school for my youth group to pay my way on a mission trip to Mexico ($75.00), youth camp ($275) and had spending money leftover. The candy bars were $.50 each and we got a quarter profit. Brian could have sold so much candy in the middle of this outage like he is. But no. All we have to offer is wrapping paper and snowman coasters. I understand why. The organizations have to buy the candy in advance and they don't have the cash to do that. The "ordering" thing requires no outlay of cash, no tracking down people who took a box of candy, but didn't pay for it or return it. It's easier in the short term, but I think you lose sales.

I'm beginning to understand the meaning of the phrase "tapped out".

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

PTO: A Rant

Stopping my "One Month" series for the now. It will be a work in progress as I sort through feelings and questions concerning my mother's death.

Today, though, I am feeling strongly about the PTO. In short, I am annoyed. I understand that every week I'm going to receive a notice that I need to send money (or items) for this thing or that. Since the beginning of school, I've paid for lunches, sent 10 pounds of rice for my daughter to make a rice baby she couldn't even carry, apples for a pie. I've been subject to pleas to eat at Cici's one Monday a month because it's her school's night. I've been told (by her) that she "must" dress up for Career Day. I've sent candy for the Halloween carnival and recieved my bingo board-looking thing for the Box Tops. I've prepaid 50 tickets for the Halloween carnival even though I have no idea in the world how far those tickets will go. I know that Jump Rope for Heart is going on and they'd like me to get my friends and neighbors to contribute to this worthy cause. Just this very morning, I wrote a check for school pictures. Last month, I wrote a check for soccer pictures and very soon, I'll be paying for our family pictures. How many pictures/poses must I have at this stage of her life? She's not going to look drastically different from one month to the next, is she? But that is a totally separate rant.

I have even written a check to join the PTO and bought 2 t-shirts: one for me and one for Lily. With the other 3 kids at home, it's nearly impossible for me to volunteer in the classroom on any regular basis. Believe me, they don't need volunteers that bad. I definitely want to be supportive, but my other obligations do put me in a difficult position.

I expected that PTO meetings would take place after school hours so that a maximum number of parents can attend. And do teachers attend these things? Because when I received an email this weekend with meeting information, I began to realize that perhaps this wasn't the organization for me:

Hi Volunteers,

There will be a Oak Woods Carnival meeting on Monday, October 19th at 1pm.

Thank you,
[name omitted]
PTO Volunteer Coordinator K-2

And it's not just this meeting. They are all held during school hours! What if I were a working mother, with a "real" job? Is this how it is? Stay-at-home moms run the PTO and everyone else just tags along? Hmmmm, I'm not sure I'm up for that. I would like to attend the meetings, especially since I've already paid my money, but if they're going be completely inconvenient to me, then I'll just have to read the minutes of the meeting and continue to send the candy, buy the tickets, and do the things that I can do. But I'm annoyed. Seems like just another clique that I'm not a member of....

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Month-Part 2

Just joining in? Start with Part 1.

Then all of a sudden, after days of improvement, she was in the hospital again. Doctors go on and off duty all the time and the transition is smooth. In this case, a doctor going on vacation led up to a mix-up at the pharmacy and the one medication keeping ammonia levels stable, was reduced by 2/3. Whose fault it is in actuality, I don't know, and at this point in time, it doesn't matter. One evening, Dad left the hospital, she was talking and responisve, and when he came back the next morning, she wasn't.

After consulting with another team of doctors at yet another hospital, the last resort was quickly reached: trying dialysis to see if that would "jump start" her kidneys which had not produced any urine in 2-3 days. If dialyis would work, they could try it over the next few days to remove fluid and poisons.

Except it didn't work. Her blood pressure bottomed out and dialysis was stopped 45 minutes after starting. Her doctors gave her 24-72 hours after that, and so we packed up again. Visiting my mother's bedside at this hospital was difficult. It was as if they went out of their way to make sure you were uncomfortable. The one folding chair in the room discouraged visitors as did the locked doors at the ward entrance. The only means of admittance would be by calling the nurses' station, and then they rarely answered that phone. Brian and Joshua stayed in the waiting room because small children were not allowed.

I was able to talk to her a little as she drifted in and out. She talked to me. I told her I'd had a short night because we'd stayed up too late watching TV and then the baby got up wanting to eat. She tried to laugh and said, "that happens". Then she recognized her brother standing behind me and said, "I didn't see you standing there," which is funny. He's 6'5" and built broad. He's a big dude. When she did recognize her brother, I watched her blood pressure climb higher than I'd seen it all day. He was having a healing affect on her. Oh, those Ferris women love their sons and brothers.

"You know I love you, right?" I would say. "Mama, you know I love you."

Hospice. The next check point on the list. It seemed evident to everyone she was not getting better, and would not be getting better. Dad had already been in contact with the hospice people, or at least, they had been in contact with him. It seemed the logical next step. But before we would transfer her to hospice care, the family spoke with the kidney doctor about trying dialysis one more time. She had been on medication to help elevate her blood pressure for a few days, and the hope was she would tolerate dialysis better. I guess we wanted to make sure every t had been crossed and every i dotted, to satisfy ourselves that absolutely everything had been done. My impression from the nephrologist was he believed this would be a futile effort done only to satisfy the family. He no more believed this would help her than he believed in the man in the moon. Yes, she had kidney issues, but her main problem was the liver. It was the malfunctioning of the liver that was causing the renal failure. And the problem with the liver was only going to worsen no matter what happened with the kidneys. "This is end stage liver disease."

On Friday, dialysis had failed again. There was nothing more medical science could offer. We had come to the difficult decision to either let nature take its course under hospice care or to let nature take its course at the hospital, continuing with fluid and medications. But nature was going to take its course.

So on that afternoon, Dad, Sam and I had a meeting at the house to discuss the options. Dad wanted to make sure we both understood what she would and would not be getting while under hospice care. Standing in my parent's kitchen, we discussed it. Staying in the hospital, they would continue to pump her full of fluids, which the kidneys could not and would not process out, and antibiotics, that were not doing one thing to alleviate a total blood infection. At this point, she had not passed urine in 6 days. In hospice care, we would have complete freedom to come and go with no restrictions on visitors. It would be quiet with very little medical interference. She would no longer be receiving any medication except what was needed for pain. No more central or arterial lines, IVs or antiobiotics. No food. No fluids. No more monitors. We agreed to transfer her to hospice care. Dad went on to the hospital, I fed the baby, and we picked up lunch and met him there.

Except Dad was not quite as ready to let her go as he was at the house. Hospice meant it was over. He just wanted one more day in the hospital before giving up. He knew there wasn't anything more the hospital was going to be able to do for her, and it wasn't that he really wanted to keep her in the hospital. He just didn't want her to go to hospice. I can't say I blame him. Thirty-five years is a long time. He asked the doctor for just one more day in the ICU until Saturday when he would be ready to move forward.

Mom made it through another night and greeted the world again on Saturday. After some serious jerking around, hospice personnel finally showed up to begin the paperwork to get her transferred to that service. Dad, Sam and I sat there with the hospice nurse and watched him sign papers and I thumbed through their book. It was like a manual for death. It was informative and yet, difficult to read. I couldn't focus on what banality the nurse was expressing because I was engrossed in knowing how to tell when the end is near. I became useful when I was able to recall from memory the phone number to the funeral home. The ambulance service was called and I refused to leave until I saw them take her out.

When the EMTs rolled her into the hall on their gurney, I broke down sobbing.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Month-Part 1

It's been a month since my mother died and I'm still processing through everything. One thing I can say for sure is that this has been harder than I anticipated. I'm surprised by that because our relationship from as far back as I can remember has been...strained. That's the word I use to describe it anyway. It sounds polite and doesn't convey years of feeling not good enough, unwanted and bothersome. It doesn't really convey my resentment and bitterness. It sounds neutral to my ears. As if I were just stating a fact, like the weather. Growing up, I can hardly remember a time when we weren't at odds with each other. As adults, we just ignored each other. That is, until we were forced to be together and once again, I became a young girl struggling for approval I never seemed to receive.

It's never what I wanted. I always thought she was hard on me; harder on me than other people's mothers were on them. I could wear lipstick at 13, nail polish at 15 and no make-up until I was out of the house. There were very strict rules in place during a time in my life when being a girl is already very difficult without being different. The locker room was a humiliating place.

When my parents came to visit when Reagan was born, nearly 2 years ago, my mother told me then she had non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver and she would not have a transplant because it crimp her lifestyle. She looked yellow then. I remember thinking that being dead would also affect her lifestyle. Since that time, she had been in and out of the hospital for different reasons, but really started to deteroriate this summer when she started having....spells. Spells where, as my dad would later report, "she wasn't with us". She would stare off into space, be unresponsive. As it turns out, her liver wasn't processing ammonia out of the body as is its job, and these "spells" were caused by ammonia backup in the body. Ammonia can only be exited from the body in one of two ways, so she was given high doses of laxative and fluids to speed the process. Once the ammonia levels lowered, she'd "come back".

At the end of August, I started getting daily phone calls from my dad reporting her status. The information seemed to be getting bleaker and bleaker until one call said that "things didn't look good". We packed it all up, and made the 5-6 hour drive in 9 hours with a fussy newborn. When I arrived at a major hospital in the Houston Medical Center, I saw more tubes and bags and lines connected to her than I had ever seen connected to one person in my life. She had a breathing tube and couldn't talk. She had leads connected monitoring every function, every minute. She was gaunt and yellow. Doctors of every discipline came and gave their reports. "We don't know what's causing the infection, but the antibiotics seem to be working. More invasive testing to determine the exact cause of the infection is too risky." "We don't know if the liver numbers will ever return to what they were."

Then she started getting better. A lot better. I place her improvement directly at the feet of my brother who arrived from California. He moved to California a few years ago and had not yet been back home. It's never been any secret that I am a daddy's girl (as are all little girls, I'm told), and Sam is a mama's boy. After he arrived, she improved enough to be transferred out of the ICU unit to an intermediate care unit, and then was transferred to a rehab hospital to begin preparing her to return back home. Finally, the reports were getting better.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My Dog, Pinto

I really do not like dogs. They are slobbery, messy, and smelly. The things they chew up are unrecognizable afterward. There is no love lost between me and them. I do not like dogs.

Except we have one. She's a Catahoula, a breed of dog that Brian has wanted to own for a long time. Not only is she a high-energy dog, but she's a puppy as well. A six-month old puppy who weighs over 40 pounds. A six-month old puppy who currently weighs over 40 pounds and will end weighing between 70-90 pounds. It seems like madness to have a dog this big. And to have a dog this big in the house.

She is named Pinto (Bean) after a fun song I learned in high school:

My dog Pinto likes to roam,
One day Pinto left his home.
He came back, quite unclean,
Where o where has Pinto been?
Pinto Bean, Pinto Bean
Where o where has Pinto been?

The girls actually named her Pinto because, I believe, they love that silly song where we try to think of all the beans we can.

Honestly, I don't really mind her being in the house when she's not terrorizing the girls, eating whatever she stealthily snatches from rooms or peeing on the floor. I wish she wouldn't dig up the yard and then make dog tracks all over the recently cleaned, very beige living room carpet with her muddied paws. I wish she wouldn't eat systematically destroy shoes (at least 5 pair so far). The girls are upset about the complete desecration of many of their books. Including Darcy's Bible. Nothing left but confetti. I am grossed out by her licking the table edges and booster seats. And it's not that she terrorizes the girls on purpose, but a girl that is 40 pounds of skin and bones is no match for a 40 pound dog, made up of pure muscle.

It's really not Pinto's fault. It started out okay when she first got here. She was docile, never peed on the floor and never tore up a single thing. It was only after a 10-day trip to Houston where she spent most of her time caged up that things started going awry. As soon as we all got back home, she has made a point to let us know she was not happy. Brian hasn't had much time to exercise her, which she needs about an hour a day, because of the outage. Even if I wanted to, which I don't, I cannot walk her and attend to the 3 kids that are here during the day. As my previous post reported, I am stretched thin as it is.

All of this seems like shades of Mocha, our last dog. Mocha was a Boston terrier. What in the world were we thinking? I don't like dogs, and therefore, I don't know anything about the breeds and who's hyper and who's not. I don't know what's a good dog for kids and what kind of dog might eat them. Mocha jumped on everyone who walked in through the door and if that wasn't enough, she peed on their feet, too. She would climb on my table and scratch it up with her nails. The daughter we bought the dog for, was terrified of her. I could not stand that dog. I wanted a cat. I still want a cat. Our lives seem to be too busy for a dog who needs an hour of exercise every day. I'd rather have a cat who will entertain herself, poop in a box and leave me alone. Is that too much to ask?

Once Brian gets done with the outage and isn't working 12 hours a day, he'll have more time to devote to Pinto and that will make everyone a whole lot happier, especially Mama. Because when Mama ain't happy....

Thursday, October 08, 2009

With Four Kids

Since this latest addition to the family, I've been asked what it's like to have 4 kids instead of 3. For some reason, making the jump between 3 to 4, is a leap from what's considered "acceptable" to "excessive". If that's not what people think, it certainly feels like it. Lots of people report that they couldn't do what I do, although I don't think it's that hard to ignore laundry, not clean up the kitchen or fail to cook more than one meal a week. How hard is it to stay in your pajamas all day and make excuses to your husband?

I am becoming envious of people who have one or two kids because I know how much easier their life is. I also laugh when I hear someone with 2 kids complaining about taking them "all" to the store. What all? Of course, there are those with more than 4 who are laughing at me.

Every addition to this family has come with its own set of problems. Lily was the first. 'Nuff said. Darcy came along, 15 months later, during a hurricane evacuation. She was born at an unfamiliar hospital with an unknown doctor. We had a 15-month old, just learning how to walk and talk, and a newborn. Two children in diapers. And we weren't at our home. In fact, we weren't at our home for 6 months because of damage from that hurricane. Our life was stressful and uneasy. We only had one car.

Darcy and Reagan are 26 months apart. We had a 3 year old, a 2 year old and a newborn. Going from 2 children to 3 children is a massive undertaking. Brian and I felt outmanned, outgunned and overwhelmed. We didn't go anywhere for 2 months. Reagan was 6 months old before Brian ever took the 3 of them somewhere alone. When he finally did take them somewhere, it was on a 6-hour road trip to Beaumont. Two kids still in diapers.

And now 4 kids. Reagan and Joshua are 21 months apart. We have a 5-year old, a 4-year old, a nearly 2-year old and a newborn. I thought everything about this baby was going to be easy. Not the pregnancy, but life after delivery. I thought I would recover quickly from surgery, bounce back to a person who has everything under control in the house. That hasn't been the case. I run from one task to the next, just trying to keep the screaming to a dull roar. There are some days I feel sure Joshua believes he is being raised in the violent ward.

I have never in my life felt as I do now that someone always wants something from me. Someone is always calling my name, getting into a loud altercation with their sister, needing to be fed, changed, wiped, gotten up, gotten down, dressed, hair fixed, bathed or taken somewhere. Even the dog makes demands on my time: let her in, let her out, feed her, keep her from ruining yet another pair of the girls' shoes or tearing up another book. Life with 4 kids (and the dog) is much harder than I ever thought it would be.

I am frustrated that it seems to be so difficult and I look in the mirror and see someone who is frazzled and tired and worn-looking. It's not a surprise; that's exactly the way I feel. Frazzled, tired and worn.

When I was 20, I left the good life at Sam Houston State and moved back home with my parents to live. I had 4 jobs (at the same time) making no money, working about 90 hours a week. The worst days of it were Saturday through Monday. Tuesdays were my only day off for the whole week. At about 10pm on Sunday, when I was about to start my 3rd job of the day, having already worked 13 hours at the other 2 and gearing up for another 8 hours, I would think about just making it until Tuesday when I could get some sleep.

I keep trying to look ahead to when I might have some relief and there doesn't seem to be a Tuesday in sight. I have to keep reminding myself that I am now the mother of 4 children under the age of 5, and frazzled, tired and worn is now my life. I don't remember feeling this way when I only had 3 kids, not including pregnancy. So I guess the answer to the question, what's it like to have 4 kids so close together, is this:

It's freakin' hard.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


Although I don't know why. Does anyone even read this thing anyway?

I see the last time I updated was describing Brian's eye dilemma. Since then, we've had issues with the house, a new baby, and my mom passed away.

Joshua Peter was born Monday, July 20, 2009 at 11:11am. No unusual complications for mom or baby. It's hard to believe and amazing that we are only 2 weeks away from the 3-month point. He weighs over 15#, and is a sweet, calm baby. A sweet, calm baby who is grunting and wiggling right now. A glance at the clock lets me know it's about time for him to eat. I'm grateful for my in-laws who picked up some clothes for him yesterday becasue he literally didn't have anything to wear. I never believed he would be wearing 6-9 months clothes at 2 months old. At least I don't have to worry he's not getting enough to eat. His fat rolls have fat rolls and when he smiles, he looks like Chinaman Charlie.

He still doesn't sleep through the night consistently, but under normal circumstances, I can live with it. This past weekend, Brian has been out of town helping out at another nuclear plant leaving me to manage everything alone, which generally ain't too bad.

Except this weekend we had planned a birthday party for Darcy that had already been rescheduled once, and Monday, my busy day, was busier than usual with an extra soccer game and a doctor's appointment in Fort Worth complicating matters. Luckily, the soccer game and the eye appointment was canceled making life a little less complicated.