Thursday, January 26, 2006

FYI: Amniotic fluid is neutral to mildly basic.


My baby is one year old today. A year ago last night, I was wandering around the bookstore looking for a baby name book, pretty certain I'd be needing it sooner than I had expected. The baby had been christened Tomato in utero by N many months earlier, and I just couldn't see that put on her application to college. Something else had to be chosen - NOW!

I'm going to post the birth story because I'm still excited over it a year later. I'll admit that *part* of the draw to having a third child was having the birth experience I had tried for two times earlier. N was sideways, A was, well, I was afraid I was going to go through the same thing with her, and I had the worst nurse in the world for an unmedicated birth. Fear is not a good partner in birth. Both labors were very long, and although I spent over twenty hours in hard labor with both before I had the epidural, and I got the ultimate reward of a healthy baby and mom, I didn't get the complete birth experience I wanted. Which was important to me - the complete experience of that primal, visceral, utterly feminine human event of birthing a baby. I'm not critical of anyone going straight for the drugs when in labor - that's what they want. I wanted something different, and it was purely for my own sapien reasons. Birthing a child is an experience Life, if you're so blessed, gives you only a few times, I needed to take advantage of it. I also wanted to know I could do it, that I could count myself among the billions of women who have done this for millions of years with no medicated pain management.

S's birth was amazing. I loved it, I fondly reminisce about it often, today most of all. I don't often read of wonderful, unmedicated hospital births, so to help mitigate the posting of a narcissistic novel of birth, I'll help justify it by saying it's for all those moms-to-be thinking of doing such a thing. Yah, that's it, help THEM out, not because I'm damned happy with it.

So, if you're so inclined, get some coffee or beverage of choice, sit back, and enjoy.

Short version: S born at 9:01 am PST, January 27th, 2005, weighing 8 pounds 15 ounces and 20 inches long. Completely unmedicated birth on my knees.

Long version: Wednesday morning (January 26th), I woke up feeling a gush, and wondered if my water had broken, or at least I had developed a small tear in the amniotic sac. There were no contractions, but I was really ancy. I called my friend J, who happens to work in a chemistry lab, to see if she had any litmus paper so I could test the fluid to see if it was amniotic fluid. She brought over some pH strips, and we found it to be too acidic, false alarm.

So, I went to work. The usual story, tough to concentrate on work, finding other things to think about, lots of surfing the net for baby names. A visit to the restroom revealed a very small portion of the mucous plug. Cool! But wait, this is January 26th, she’s due February 2nd, and she isn’t supposed to arrive until at least a week after that (N was a week "late," S was two weeks "late")!

I had an OB appointment that afternoon. Dr. C told me I’m at 2 cm and things look like they are progressing. That's the most I've ever been before labor. He did a fern test to see if the fluid was amniotic or not, and it wasn’t. As he walked out the door, thinking I may go soon, I asked if he was on call the rest of the week, and he was. I love this doctor, I've been through over 25 OBs and perinatologists finding him, I really wanted him there.

I had things to get for the baby shower (yah, we cut it close), so stopped by a party store, and then a bookstore for a baby name book. I knew we didn’t have much more time to decide on one! I was feeling rather uncomfortable at the bookstore, with some contractions, but nothing consistent or very intense. But I knew I didn’t have to wait for her due date for her to arrive.

I got home around 7:30, and by 8 pm I was having real contractions, uncomfortable (especially with two kids climbing over me excited to have me home), but manageable. By midnight, as Hubby and I discussed names, they were three to four minutes apart, and I told him I thought I was in labor - get some sleep while you can. The kids were already asleep, and I tried to sleep with them, but the contractions were more uncomfortable laying down than standing up. So, I took a hot shower and then a bath when the hot water ran out, which seemed to slow down the contractions a bit, but I don’t know how much. I read the first few chapters of “What’s the Matter With Kansas?”, which is now a bit water-sogged but still readable. Out of the shower, puttered around a bit, then went back in for another hot shower. I started to feel the effects of not having dinner, feeling really light-headed and shaky-weak. I got out of the shower, had a large glass of orange juice to try to give me some energy, and by 1:30 decided I needed to call my doula, Kim, to warn her I may need her later on. I took another shower after that. By 3:30, I had called Kim to come over, and then called chemist-friend J to ask if she would come mind the kids while we labored a bit more and then headed to the hospital. I “woke” Hubby up to tell him to get dressed, we’re having company and we’ll be leaving for the hospital at some point. No need to wake him up, all that showering and puttering had kept him awake. Kim and Friend J were both there by 4, maybe earlier. Big sis N woke up soon after they arrived. By now the contractions were pretty strong and I had the urge to throw up. Which I did. I moaned through some, leaned on Kim or Hubby through some, and eventually ended up on the futon, whose mattress was slanted enough to allow my belly to fall forward a bit and be somewhat comfortable. I had noticed earlier on in the evening that the pain was mitigated by me caressing my belly and thinking about how they were getting me closer to meeting Tomato. I managed to snooze through some breaks between the contractions. I was getting a lot of pressure on my rectum, and Kim suggested it may be time to head to the hospital. I was reluctant to go - I was uncomfortable enough, I didn’t want to be checked, and poked with an IV, and laid flat on my back while they did a strip to monitor the baby, like they always did. But, eventually, I knew I was going to have to do that, so I grabbed a few things to pack in a bag, asked Jon to get a few things as well, and out the door we went. Friend J stayed to watch Biggest Sis N and Next-Biggest Sis A, and would bring them to the hospital when it was time for me to push.

Traffic was awful! What were all these people doing on the road at 5:30 in the morning? There was also a lot of construction work going on at a major interchange we had to go through, so that made things even worse. I had maybe five or eight or something contractions while on the road. We were at the hospital’s maternity ward at 5:55, where I told them I was heavily into labor. I thought all was lost when the first thing out of the nurse’s mouth was, “What are your complaints?” Uhhhhh, I’m in LABOR? The triage unit proclaimed me at 6 cm, and I was crestfallen. Surely I was in transition by now???? But Kim kept me going, telling me how good 6 cm was, and Hubby was cheering me on telling me how much farther I had gotten with Tomato than I had with the other kids. Luckily, I was assigned an incredible nurse, Mary Beth, who had six kids, five of whom were natural births. She did not make me lie on my back for the strips, I sat up instead. They were going to put an iv in me, but listened when I said I’m just having a hep-lock, and at some point read the birth plan and followed it very well. I sat up for I think at least an hour. Changing positions was excruciating, so once I was in one spot I was reluctant to try another. At some point along the line, though, we realized my old nemesis was back - posterior baby. I was having two contractions close together, then a break, two contractions, a break, etc. - just like with A and N. So I got on my knees and leaned against the raised back of the bed, and I got some much-needed counter-pressure on my back from Kim and Hubby. That first contraction after the change in positions was awful, but Kim and Hubby helped me through it, insisting that it would get better, which it did. They took the strips off of me at some point, maybe when I got on my knees, and put the sensor on my belly when needed to check the baby. Can I tell you how much I loved my nurse??? A nursing student and her instructor asked if she could watch, and I said sure. Turns out I was her very first birth! I found that pushing during the really strong contractions helped a lot - for one thing, it was the opposite of fighting them with kegels like I did with N. I wondered about how smart that was to push when I wasn’t fully dilated, but I didn’t care at that point. Besides, they weren’t the bearing down pushes like when the baby is coming.

While on my knees, they checked me again, and I was at 8 cm. Another disappointment to me, thinking I had hours and hours left of this, and I still had to go through transition. I was surprised when they called the doctor, and told Hubby to call Friend J to bring the kids. No way, I thought, these people are crazy! Considering how long I waited to dilate from 6 to ten with N and A, and then the hours I had to wait for them to drop before I could start pushing (and Tomato was still very high at this point), I thought we still had hours to go. I think this was around 8 in the morning. I was on my knees facing the wall, not the clock, so I really don’t know, and my eyes were closed during most of the time at the hospital anyways. (I remember being a little disoriented at one point, opening my eyes and seeing the room from the perspective of being in the bed instead of being in the bathroom like when I first entered and disrobed. I must have had my eyes closed most of the time there). I had more of the contractions that required pushing to get through, and harder pushes at that, but still without the “I have to push” urge. The doctor called during this saying he was on his way. I still thought this was silly. They discussed having the doc break my water, which I agreed to because I thought I still had hours to go. By 8:30 he was there (I remember because I asked when his office hours started, and he told me at 9) . He checked me, I was at 10! No way! Transition was nothing like I thought it would be - it was much easier than my imagination led me to believe. I gave a high five to Kim and Hubby - the hard part was over! Tomato was still high, though. I got back to a sitting position so he could try to break my water, but during a contraction I told him that was way too uncomfortable, so he pulled out his hand and never bothered again. He totally surprised me and won my heart even more by saying he didn't think it was necessary to break the waters, I was doing just fine. I didn’t feel like I was making any progress, and I was very uncomfortable in a sitting position, so back to my knees I went. By now I knew the first contraction after a change in position was the worst, so I bore through that and soon started feeling the real urge to push.

Hubby later told me that three other nursing students came in while I was pushing, pulled in by their instructor. Apparently, unmedicated births on knees are uncommon nowadays in a hospital setting. Imagine that, LOL. The nurses later told me the doctor gave them a look like, “What are you letting her do?” when I got on my knees, but he still was incredibly supportive of it all. I do remember someone asking me if I could get on my back at one point, and I said something to the point of, “WHY?!” and that was the last I heard of that! I had a series of hard pushes for about five minutes During one of the bearing-down pushes, my water broke. I asked about meconium, and was told it looked clear. About three pushes later, S was born!

I never did get to see her born, as I was facing the wall, but Hubby did. Three minutes later, Friend J arrived with N and A. Although they missed the birth, they did get to see her get weighed and stuff. On entering the room and seeing me in all my post-birth glory, A asked me, “Mommy, are you ok?” and I told her the honest truth - I felt great! I did have a small tear, fixed with one suture. But I felt like I could do anything now. None of the soreness from laboring on my back with the other girls. And just the incredible feeling of having gone through something so primal, and prevailing, was inspiring to the point of near-insanity, I believe. I was ready to jump out of that bed, pick up my oldest kids in my arms, and twirl about the floor a bit. At some point I realized I had yet to hear her cry, but they assured me she was ok - they had to suction her out quite a bit. So, it was a few minutes before I got to hold her, not until after the placenta was delivered, I think.

A, at two, was interested in her at the hospital, although all the gadgets and people there were distracting, so in a few minutes she was off exploring the hospital room. N, at four, was enthralled from the minute she saw her, and told the nurses all about how mommy said there would be blood but that she would be ok, and instructed them on what the placenta does. One of the nurses showed us the placenta and did a little biology lesson for the girls, and N soaked it all up.

She had apgars of 8 and 9, as she was a bit blue when born. She was also bruised a bit. Because she was over 8.5 pounds, they checked her blood sugar levels, which were a bit low. So, we did have to feed her a bottle of formula to check on her sugar levels later. N did the honors, and S ate all two ounces very quickly.

Her birth day was beautiful. Bright and sunny when she was born, cloudier towards the evening. I so wanted to go outside with her and enjoy the day, the sun, the fresh air. This hospital won't let you outside until you check out, so that had to wait until I returned home the next day.

Happy birthday, S! May your life be long and happy, filled with wonder, joy, and love.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Will work for Gucci

Hmmmm, what's up in the Yahoo news today....

More dead in Iraq. Something about Bin Laden on tape. Bickering between White House and Congress. Look, I don't have much time, give me something I can use...

What? Bonuses, Salaries for New MBAs Hit Record Damn! Get me some of that action! Too bad my MBA is close to eight years old. Signing bonuses? Starting salaries twice my current? Yah, I might consider wearing pantyhose for a $40,000 sign-on check. I could buy some reeeealllllly nice hose with that. Maybe even some stylin' shoes that are also comfortable.

The catch is threefold: First, mainly consulting and investment firms are hiring. So NOT family-friendly, although things are slowly changing from the top on that in some firms. Still, I bet financial consulting is better than biological consulting, though - less toxic waste to wade around in (thank you, Dames and Moore for sending me on THAT slice of Heaven... bastards), nicer places than on the roadside of Interstate 15 to work in, and, oh yeah, over five times the salary for the same 100 hours a week of work. Second, I'm old, a mom, and don't own a suit. No one would hire me. Third, where in the hell do you find these jobs? I can never find them.

If you're looking to hire an old, matronly, fashion-impaired, bitter, rabidly protective of her time MBA, I'm your woman. Drop me a line, and we'll do lunch.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Girls' Weekend

What makes a girls' weekend? Friends of mine head to some city of ill-repute, drink it up, make up names perhaps, and maybe "enjoy" a night of ,Thunder Down Under.

In a past life, well over a decade ago, I saw Thunder Down Under once. That was one time too many. A bunch of buff, yeah, but sleazy men in speedos getting partial erections while dancing with each other. Then, they head out into the crowd to dance with the ladies, picking the least attractive and most desperate women out there as their partners, with a distinctive pointy way that only sweaty, scantily clad, aroused men are capable of. The rest of the evening is spent in a torturous silent entreaty to not attract the attention of anything fleshy and failing any test of flacidness.

But the promise of sexually confused erotica is not the only thing that may define a girls' night out. I remember chocolate was definately a part of any estrogenic gathering. A rousing conversation about custom-made Sherman traps was a sure-bet if I had enough Rum 151 in me. If we were out in public, there was always a good chance of a man attempting to woo us into his waiting limosine as he plied us with a doctored photo of a baby with a gorilla's head pasted above its shoulders (for the record, it didn't work, but did make him memorable).

Honestly, though, I haven't had many girls' nights out. It may have something to do with my inebriated affection for Sherman traps, I admit. So when Hubby left on Saturday morning for Elko to watch Stardust return to Earth, the four of us girls had to make up our own rituals for an all-ovarian weekend.

Thunder Down Under was definately not an option. Nor was alcohol, or lecherous species-confused men. That left chocolate.

Hubby can't eat chocolate, or a lot of protein, so we took advantage of his absence and ate a large Mexican bean-and-meat-filled lunch and baked a chocolate devils food cake, with chocolate fudge icing, and chocolate sprinkles. I let the little girls design the confection, which included a Valentine heart Peep on top. Of course, a cake that decadent needs candles to lick the icing off of, so we added four birthday candles to blow out while singing "Happy Girls' Weekend To Us."

It was a wonderful day, and is the custom when tucking in for the night, I asked the girls who can talk what they wanted to dream of. N said "this day." One of those rare perfect days worthy of dreams.

This morning, we had a small hike out in the desert, where I was able to talk for a brief moment about Sherman traps while checking out a kangaroo rat warren. Girls' night continued, without the need of rum.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Working Mom: Volume 1; Issue 2: Travel

A year is nearly gone, my negotiated hiatus from travel for working purposes after the birth of my baby is nearly over, and I am faced with the prospect of going to Blythe, California.


If it were Paris, Caracas, heck, even St. Louis, I may be a bit less depressed by the idea of leaving my nursing baby behind. But Blythe? As I once mentioned,, Blythe is in the suburbs of Hell. Maybe closer to the inner city of Hades. The only thing going for it is, ummm, well, there’s.... howabout....... Oh!..... no, frankly, I can’t think of a single thing going for it. The river in that area has a foul odor, the smell of cow dung overpowers the stench of the river, the stink of pesticides overpowers the putrid cow paddies, and you can’t quite wash off all that malodorous essence of Blythe because the water coming out of the pipes is orange. I’ve spent nights in Blythe where it didn’t go below 112 F. There’s one passable restaurant, a hole-in-the-wall Mexican grotto that only has my exiguous adoration because it’s a shade better than the Popeye’s off the highway. It might help if I liked chile rellino, but I don’t.

My dislike of Blythe goes way back to the early ‘90's, where I spent a goodly portion of a summer there while doing tortoise work. Really, I have a resume FILLED with intimate work on desert tortoises. I can also flip my tongue upside down, and sex immature rodents (oh, goodness, I wonder what kind of Google searches THAT phrase will get me?). I am a woman of many talents. I lived in flophouse motels that aren’t there anymore. At least now my company puts me in rooms with towels. The telling thing about my experiences in Blythe is that I learned to love Needles in comparison, which has little more going for it other than simply not being Blythe.


Compared to Blythe, Yuma, my other destination, is Nirvana.


At least Yuma has Chretin’s for good Mexican gnosh. The river is hidden away, partly because there isn’t much water in it anymore by the time it reaches the Mexican border, so the smell isn’t as obvious. The crops are more interesting, too. Not as much alfalfa, and more lettuce and peaches. And, you’ve just gotta respect (or fear, or both) a town whose high school students are Criminals.

Crops, not tortoises, are what now bring me to the river, what pay the bills, and what take me away from the beginning of this post - my nursing baby. Sorry, sniff! Blythe just brings out the emotions in me, and I sniff! have to let them out.***hooonk*** But emotional rhapsodies aside, the two callings have a place in my Mommy travels ennui. Field biology, my past life, is a Man’s world. Forget about Dianne Fossey and Jane Goodall - rubes, I tell you. Most field biologists are men, and the ones I worked with won’t let you forget that. Any womanly trait from not having the upper body strength to buck hay, to pregnancy, won’t be left uncommented on with disdain if they perceived you unable to do twice a man’s workload. Again, maybe it was just all the men I worked with, all those damned mountain-man Quayle-lovin' Texans (what the hell were they doing in conservation biology?), there could be some biology-type Y’s out there who aren’t so fearful of consent decrees and affirmative action. But, my experience has made me essentially deny my feminine needs and desires when it comes to work. Sadly, even over seven years since I’ve hung up my field monkey gear and gone office rat, that means Motherhood gets the short shrift too often.

I’ve worked up to my due dates, worked over my short maternity leaves, flown all day in helicopters while pregnant, gone to Blythe and Mexico while nine months pregnant, express milk in office bathroom stalls, work weekends and long hours while somehow simultaneously caring for a sick household including me, and do this stuff because I expect there to be whining from my coworkers if I don’t. For this trip coming up, I’ve volunteered to do both weeks in fabulous Yuma and glorious Blythe , when in reality I could bow out of one, as many of the men do. I still feel the need to prove that I can be a productive and dependable worker even if I am a woman. Or, perhaps, I try to be a productive and dependable man, even if I am a woman. I secretly hope they let me stay home, but bite my nails worrying that they may, then how would I make up for that bit of weakness.

It’s not that I am ashamed of being a woman, or ashamed of being a mother. Frankly, I like being a woman and don’t see the appeal to being a man, especially since men can’t be Mommies, a title and experience I love. As my five year old daughter said, when asking about penises, “I don’t want a penis. That has to be uncomfortable hanging between your legs.” I just haven’t gotten over either my own perceived sexual inequalities in the workplace, or actual gender biases in the office and field.

So, I travel away from home, away from a baby who still doesn’t sleep through the night, who cries when I don’t come home when she expects me to, nurses throughout the day, and can get Mommy-hungry enough to sometimes drive Daddy batty so he calls me to come home early to calm her down and give him some relief.

I travel because I have to. But I wonder if I travel because I just think I have to. What would happen if I said no? Forget that my performance rating is based in part on my travelling - other men I work with don’t travel nearly as much as I did before this latest hiatus. No other woman in my office, Mommy or no, travels as much as I do. I doubt I’ll dare to find out, though.

Damned he-man Texans. It’s all their fault.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Brief administrative notes

First, the search engine traffic I get the most is from folks looking for information on pregnancy losses. So, I added a sidebar of posts I've made on that subject for these visitors, and offer my empathy.

Second, the next-most popular search bringing people here is, oddly enough, this picture:

Barbie vs Sleeping Beauty
from my October Barbie vs Sleeping Beauty post. What's even more odd is they find me with a Google image search, and nearly all of the searches originate from Iran, Iraq and Italy, some from a few other countries, none from the US. I don't really know what to think about that bit of data. My heightened sense of yellow-level-security has me thinking there's an international trade in white slavery of dolls, but I'm probably just picking that up from Pat Robertson. I also don't know how they find that image, the Statcounter info looks something like this:

Referring Link
Host Name
IP Address
Country Iran, Islamic Republic Of
Region Tehran
City Tehran
ISP Telecommunication Company Of Iran (tci)

Are they finding it on a Google gallery, or is someone passing that url around? hmmmm. Any one care to enlighten me?

That is all.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Chasing sunsets

There's a crepuscular game I play while driving west in the early evening. I can't help myself, it's become more than habit - it's an obsession - since I landed in the west in the late 1970's from mostly-flat Ohio. The basin-range geography 'round these parts allows me to chase sunsets.


The idea is you can see several sunsets over the hills as you pass from valley to valley if you time it right, and drive fast enough (or mentally urging on the parent driving, back when I was too young to drive, but too embarrassed to suggest such an idea to my mom or dad).

I did this over the last weekend while driving through the Mojave Desert while driving to coastal California, and succeeded!


I also got to the World's Largest Thermometer quicker than usual.

Yah, fine, I drove a tad over the speed limit (really - I didn't have to drive all that much faster), I'm a danger to myself and others. But it kept me thinking and alert on one of the most boring stretches of I-15 this side of Beaver,Utah.

Oh, I had all sorts of deep thoughts about the metaphor of chasing sunsets and what I was going to write about that here. That kept me awake through Barstow, and then I promptly forgot that wit and insight in the smog that hit me halfway through Cajon Pass. Just believe that it was deep. And insightful. And really really witty. It would have made nuns weep and the comatose laugh. Really. Blame ozone and carbon monoxide on why you're bored stiff with this commentary right now. I'd be reaching for the delete key right now, except that I've already committed some bandwidth in my Flicker account to this.

Anyways, it was a good trip, the girls danced on the beach, friends were visited, family hugged, and sunsets caught.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Working Mom: Vol 1; Issue 1: Flying in the Face of Martha Stewart and Alpha Mom

I got the idea for this while getting my car’s oil changed*. I almost wrote getting my oil changed, but realized that even though that may have given me the energy and power I need to keep at this Life as a Working Mom, alas, the lube and oil shop didn’t offer transfusions. Thus, it was just my car that got the needed pep that day.

As I was saying, I got the idea for this issue while getting my car’s oil changed. In the waiting room was an eclectic mix of magazines from Family Circle to Sports Illustrated. I don’t have time for scorecards. I don’t have time for Family Circle, either, but it was there, I was captive, and on the cover was billed an article promising to tell me how to de-stress the Holidays**.

I had just survived a particularly stressful Christmas Eve, replete with vomit, head wounds, and crying kids from a very over-stressed Mommy who resorted to yelling because she had no other outlet. “I should have gotten my oil changed earlier, just so I could have read this article!” I thought, with beads of sweaty excitement on my upper lip. I eagerly hoped they’d take their sweet time gooping out the car’s engine so I could savor the tips.

Oh, the heart was willing, the article was not.

Listed as tips to taking the stress out of the Time of Giving and Gnashing were suggestions that only served to stress me even more. Exactly like suggestions on how to economize by only going to the beauty parlor once a month instead of every two weeks, these holiday tips were just as unhelpful:

Bake only two kind of cookies instead of six. Ummmmm, yeah. Was I supposed to be trying to make six different kinds of cookies? Am I supposed to be trying to make TWO kinds of cookies? I managed to bake one kind of cookie this year, and most of them went undecorated. It was fun, the kids enjoyed it, that’s what counted. Last year, cookies were from a pre-made cookie dough from the refrigerated section at the grocery store, baked in haste on Christmas Eve so Santa could have a treat. But wait, according to Family Circle there is hope, I could ask friends to do the same, and then we could swap cookies at a festive cookie swap party. Yet, crumbs, that assumes I have friends who have the time I don’t, have the desire to bake, and we could actually find a time we could all meet and have this jolly get-together.

For Christmas dinner, pare down the fare by cooking fewer than five courses. Spend the saved time for a walk in the snow or a chat by the fire with friends. Ignore the fact that I have no snow, or fireplace, or friends with time to visit on a day already packed with their own stress bunnies. What got me was that I was to cut my five-course dinner to something smaller. Dinner at our house is one course, maybe two if I manage a dessert. I’d like to say the reason is I don’t have plates enough for anything more, which is true, but in reality I simply don’t have the time to prepare and then, very important point here, SERVE separate courses. If I get to sit down at dinner while everyone else is still eating, I’m winning the game. I was feeling pretty good that I managed a rib roast with some veggies this year. So the rolls were pre-made, I’ll live with it. So I forgot to put the (frozen) pies in the oven and we didn’t have dessert. Hey, no one seemed to miss them. Life was good, even if I did sit down to a half-cold meal by the time the kids’ meat was cut, drinks were poured, bowls found, spilled drinks cleaned up, drinks refilled, salt cellar filled, paper towels folded quickly for forgotten napkins, dropped forks picked up and dusted off, and more meat cut because two of the kids don’t want to eat their veggies but were still hungry.

Wrapping got you down? Try just wrapping with just two different types of paper and two different types of ribbon. It will be simple, yet elegant. Geesh, I’m supposed to be using RIBBON, too? There’s supposed to be some sort of decorative essence to the wrapping? For presents we send out to family, I wrap them in plain white paper, and have the kids color on them. For presents at home, it’s simple holiday wrapping paper. I have taken to putting simple curling ribbon on the presents, one color assigned for each person, so the non-readers of the family can tell who can open what present. Presents to me are easy to find and don’t need this complicated ribbon scheme, as there usually are none as I’m the only one who manages to shop or make presents. I was up until 4:30 one morning wrapping presents with whatever I could get my hands on. As long as it’s obscured in some way to hide the contents, isn’t that good enough? (The answer, by the way, is YES.)

Trim my to-do list. Write down all I do to prepare for the holidays, and cross off those tasks that weigh me down. This assumes I have fluff in what I do. Here’s my list of what I do:

Shop (on-line).
Help the kids make something for Daddy.
Get a tree. Decorate said tree if we get a chance.
Futilely ask friends if they want to come over either for Solstice, Christmas Eve, Christmas, or some other day for a bit of camaraderie.
Wrap presents.
Take the day off for Solstice for fun and relaxation and try to manage a nice dinner that day even if Life, as it always does, schedules must-attend things then.
Make a warm cozy breakfast Christmas morning.
Open presents.
Make dinner Christmas evening.
Let breakfast, dinner and present carnage sit for several days as I find time and energy to clean up.

That’s pretty much it. Remember, cookies and festive wrapping are optional. Carols? Only impromptu. Wreath making? Yah, right. Scrapbooking? You’ve got to be kidding. Christmas cards? Yah, they’re on their way out, along with the last two babies’ birth announcements. If I cut out anything from that list, well, it’s too bad I can’t count on Santa to help out.

So, dear Working Moms and Working Dads, here are my two suggestions to you for de-stressing the holidays.

First and foremost, ignore what everyone else is supposedly doing (really, how many of you working parents out there actually make six kinds of cookies and a cook a five course holiday dinner?). Do what you want, and need, to do to celebrate the Season. If that means no cookies, haphazard wrapping, and a simple dinner, then whoopie! That’s YOUR celebration.

Then, take a walk. A friend of mine suggested this after I told my Christmas Eve of Doom this year. When adults can’t behave like adults anymore, get out of the house, away from it all, and take a walk. So you get to bed at 5 am instead of 4:30 in the morning. You’ll feel better, and you won’t have an anxious pit in your stomach for the next year, where you’ll be hoping you don’t make the same mistakes because, hey, you took a walk instead and didn’t have a chance to yell at a toddler on the night Santa is to arrive.

Realize, of course, that I don’t do any of these, but I plan to next year.

* Having someone else change my oil instead of myself or my husband caused me a certain amount of cringing. Really, now, I should be able to change my own oil, it’s not all that hard, and I have rebuilt carburetors after all. But, there comes a time in one’s life, while working full-time and raising three young daughters, when you realize you would rather be doing something else other than be under a car getting slick and grimy. I mediated my shirk by refusing to pay $20 for them to change my air filter and did it myself (and fill up the windshield wiper fluid reservoir to boot) for $11 in parts.

** Sorry, I was unable to find a link to the actual article, you’ll just have to go to your local library and look for the early December, 2005 Family Circle for further humility. Like you have the time to do something like that. Just another example of what The Woman says you should do, and what Reality says you can. Instead, just take my word for it.

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