Holidays, Our Way

I am so glad that the holidays aren't as painful as they used to be. I do think one reason for that is the way that we do them. 

It started with celebrating my mom's birthday, which we were originally going to do on Thursday (her actual birthday). They were coming over, and I was getting pizza and we'd have birthday and then family Christmas at our house by the tree. Then I'd give them the presents for my sister's family and they'd deliver them as they go up north to their house to celebrate the actual holiday. 

But, then this monster storm approached, and I thought maybe we should last-minute switch to Wednesday night so my mom and stepdad didn't have to drive Friday, when a flash freeze and snow and wind was supposed to whip across the Northeast, especially the Great Lakes region. So we did that, and while it was a little more harried getting everything together, it was a lovely evening. 

Thursday we got notice that we had a SNOW DAY on Friday, at noon no less! Snow days are the best. It's a truly free day -- unscheduled, no sub plans required, no appointments scheduled -- just pure freedom. And to know ahead of time! Literally you heard whoops and people running out into the hall when the email and text came through (not gonna lie, it was during my lunch and I was one of those people running out in the hall, cheering and hugging anyone who was nearby and generally causing a very distracting ruckus). It did pretty much kill any hope of getting anything remotely resembling work done, since it was officially "the day before break." The energy level was bananas after the kids found out, and frankly the adults were all crazed as well. I did manage to get students to play actual board games, which was nice ("Can we go on our computers or phones?" "NO! You can INTERACT with REAL LIVE HUMANS, and HAVE FUN without a SCREEN! BWAHAHAHA"). We'd already had our celebration during English, since it's the only time my group is all together, undiluted. We had donuts and hot chocolate and a Spongebob holiday special. I had to do it Thursday because the holiday hoe down was supposed to be Friday during English, so that turned out to be great timing. (My students are sad they rescheduled the hoe down for the Tuesday we get back, they were downright protesting having to square dance with each other.)

Friday was sweet, sweet pajama time. And a fair amount of stress over the winds. If you've seen the news out of Buffalo, it was absolutely apocalyptic there, only an hour west of us. We had high winds (sustained 50 mph, gusts up to 70) and a sudden drop in temperature that turned the roads into sheets of ice, but the blowing snow didn't accumulate hardly at all. I hate the wind. It is insanely stressful. Just pure chaos shrieking in the chimney and literally bowing in the windows. I actually hit the floor at one point because I was certain the windows in our living room were going to blow in. They didn't, but it did not make for a restful sleep later! 

Bryce made a request to change our routine for Christmas. In the past, I've been pretty tied to the following routine: 
1) open one present on Christmas Eve
2) have stockings with coffee but before breakfast
3) breakfast is pancakes and bacon and a citrus salad
4) then we open presents, one at a time, and take time to write down what we got from who so thank you notes are easily done. 

Well, what happens every year is that our family is all over the country, so we end up doing tons of phone calls and zooms, and everyone else is done with presents far before we are, so we feel like we are constantly in a state of interruption and stress and feel the weight of calls we should be making and then we get irritated. 

So, Bryce wisely suggested we do our Christmas on Saturday. Have a leisurely Christmas on the Eve, and then do our calls on Sunday without feeling stressed on either day. BRILLIANT. I don't know why we didn't do this before! (Well, I do... I hate change and can be a little, um, rigid...) It was glorious. We saved stockings for Christmas Day and presents that people wanted us to open with them, and I decided to scrap the citrus salad and sleep in a bit more. 

It's funny, because for a while towards the end of our family building journey, we preferred to go away for Christmas, to do it in Vermont where it was something different and less painful. That was in the house that we thought we'd be pregnant in, that we thought we'd bring a baby home to. The thought of coming down the stairs to a tree with presents and having no children, no extra stockings, none of that was too painful. 

Then, when we moved to our new house, we didn't want to go to Vermont for Christmas anymore. After, sure. But we wanted to celebrate the holiday our way, in our new house that fit our new life. Just us and the cats. 

This may seem strange. Why don't we get together with family on Christmas? Isn't it sad and lonely, just us two? Wouldn't it be in a way easier than all those phone calls and zooms? 

No. We enjoy celebrating around the holiday with people who are here, and having zooms or phone calls with those who aren't. To have a big family Christmas is pretty impossible, given that our family is so spread out and there would be no way to see everyone (both our parents are divorced, so there are 4 parental locations, not 2). It would also be a reminder of the family Christmas we wanted to have ourselves but don't. My extended family is even more spread out than my parents/inlaw situation, so there's no big family holiday with tons of little kids running around. Bryce does have a stepbrother with a young son, 4 or 5 (who we've met once). I think my mother-in-law would love for us to have a big family holiday all together, which is probably more of a fantasy thing than a reality thing, as the situation is complicated. And, frankly, I don't think we could do a tiny child's Christmas. We are well-adjusted(ish) in part because of the boundaries we set, the situations we simply do not put ourselves in. Grief is funny because there's no expiration date, and while sometimes it can sneak attack you unexpectedly, it's also good to know what you know will be triggering. No thank you, not for us. I am glad that they can have new traditions with a small human though. I'm also kind of glad I don't have to witness it too much. 

I love our quiet Christmas. I love our traditions and that we can mix it up if we want to. I love that we have established that we are a family, and we can connect with the greater family while preserving our own celebration and sanity. I hope the same for you -- balanced holidays and extra care for your hearts. 

Christmas Eve

Cozy Eggi

Cozy Lucky

Magic Pinecones make the fire all Harry Potter-y

2022 Holiday Card

In Defense of Fake Trees

I never thought we would be Fake Tree People.

I grew up going out and picking out a tree from a lot, tying it to the roof or in the trunk of the car. 

Bryce grew up in Maine, and real trees were everything. 

But when we resolved without children, we eventually got a fake tree. A 7 foot tall prelit beauty. At first it felt weird.

But then, it was...AWESOME. 

We could put it up and take it down with ease. There was no handling sap (it gives me hives). No vacuuming a neverending parade of pine needles. No worrying that the cats would drink the water and get sick. No worrying that it was a fire hazard. No dragging it out to the woods in January. 

And also, no picking out a tree out among families. No feeling like we're doing something we would have done with our children. 

It's nice to break with tradition and make new ones when you remake your life. This tree fits us and our life now. And it's beautiful.

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How To Respond When Someone Says They Don't Have Kids: Medical Edition

Infertile Phoenix wrote recently about an experience at her mammogram that included a lovely response to the "no" when asked "do you have kids?"  It was refreshing to have someone say "I'm sorry" and end it there. In that case, the medical professional said she also didn't have kids, which was an additional bonus. It's lovely when you're not a total outlier. 

It reminded me that although unfortunately, I've had multiple experiences with medical professionals lately, they have all been positive on the no-kids front. 

Colonoscopy Nurse

When I got my colonoscopy last month, the office was in the same complex as the primary fertility clinic we spent time at to no avail. It was around back of it (ba dum-bump) and I could see it from the parking lot. It came up when they absolutely could not get my IV in a vein easily, and I said, "it's probably all the time I spent at Strong Fertility getting poked, my veins haven't really recovered from that." She said, "Oh, how long were you there?" and when I answered she said, "Did it work?" and I said "No." And steeled myself for a litany of things I could "still" do or should have done. 

But it didn't come! She just said, "oh, I'm really sorry." And I said, "Thank you, it was really awful when we were going through that but we have a beautiful life now." AND THAT WAS IT. There was no invasive magnifying glass into my personal life or choices. There was no overselling of having children in the first place. The subject got changed and we talked about teaching instead. It was glorious. 

X-Ray Technician at Urgent Care

When I left school to go to Urgent Care because my knee blew up, they did an x-ray. And you could have blown me over with a feather because THEY NEVER ASKED ME IF I WAS OR COULD BE PREGNANT. Before concerns about that come up, here's what happened: 

Bryce had met me there and was in the exam room, so as they got me on the x-ray table, the technician said, "Is that your husband?" and I said "Sure is!" She said, "he is very nice, do you have kids?" 

"No, that didn't work out for us." 

She looked at my chart before starting the x-ray and said, "You are not too old...maybe..." and I said "I don't have a uterus," and she said, "oh, okay." And then, she launched into a personal story.

"Oh, that happened to my sister! She got married at 35 and then found out she had the endometriosis, and went through the IVF but then was told she would never have a pregnancy. I was very sad for her, but she seemed like she just went in a different direction and she is very happy, so I am very happy." 

This led to a rare and wonderful conversation about how IVF fails ALL THE TIME but if we don't talk about it nobody knows and just sees the stories where it does work out, and clinics are certainly not going to highlight failures. That more people are talking about it and making it clearer that IVF sure does fail and you can end up without kids AND have a happy life. She told me about another person she knew who doesn't have kids and tried IVF. IT WAS SO REFRESHING! She ended by saying, "Well, he takes care of you and you take care of him, it's good you have a happy life." Amen. 

Not once did she ask me if I adopted or why I didn't. And she didn't make me feel like I was a sad sap. And, she made the inference that I'm not pregnant and didn't have to ask me explicitly! 

Orthopedic Visit

This is less a story about handling it well, and more about NOT ASKING AT ALL. When dealing with my knee, the aspiration, the cortisone shot, the fitting for a new jointed brace, and discussions about what I can do from a non-surgical standpoint at this time to mitigate the INSANE AMOUNT OF ARTHRITIS I have in that knee (pretty much bone-on-bone), no one asked me about kids at all. You know why? IT WASN'T RELEVANT. No one asked if I had them, there was no need to go into my medical history. I never even had to think about it. 

I do think one reason is because all of the appointments (minus colonoscopy) were through the same hospital system, and they have all my records there. Like, why ask me to fill out my long and sordid history if you don't look at it? It seemed like they actually did in all these appointments. Also, interestingly, the orthopedic appointment was with a younger doctor, and I feel like (generalizing of course) younger people are far less likely to ask about kids in part because they are generationally less likely to have them. 

So what do these experiences all have in common? 

  • No one pried into my personal business. If it came up, it was because I brought it up. 
  • No one offered me pity. 
  • No one offered me "solutions," they accepted my reality.
  • No one responded in judgment or examined my choices.
  • When it wasn't relevant, no one asked. 

I wish all medical appointments were like these. I am increasingly appreciative of when I don't have lay out all my trauma, or feel judged, or have to explain why I didn't do this or that, or... it's assumed that I have kids. That used to happen a few years ago, where the assumption was that I was a certain age and married and so doctors would be like, "oh, you're running after your kids, that's why!" or "you grind your teeth like all mamas do!" Ugh. Glad that's not a thing anymore. 

I hope this is a trend, and people are realizing that a) not everyone has kids, b) not everyone wants to talk about why or how, c) we don't want your pity or suggestions, and d) it's not necessary to ask in every context. 

Pronatalism in Dirty Jokes

I have very...rambunctious students this year. Lots of immaturity combined with dirty jokes, and I am being tested in my ability to keep a straight face while cracking up inside. 

Today, I worked with three of my students while doing a lab on boiling point. I think they thought the tubing that ran from the test tube that boiled with the thermometer in the stopper to the empty test tube in cold water (for collecting condensation) looked somehow sexual. Which is strange as it didn't look remotely sexual. 

Anyway, they kept making veiled jokes about "D" this and "D" that, and I said, "okay, enough with the Ds. No more Ds."

And one of my spicier students muttered, "Well, then how did you get your kids?" 

I said "what?" and pretended not to have heard, and he said, "well don't you have kids?" I guess insinuating that I then needed a D to accomplish that and so could not ban the jokes about it without hypocrisy. 

"Oh, I don't have kids." 

He just stared at me. His mouth silently opened and closed a few times, but nothing came out. 

"Kinda takes the steam out of your joke, huh?" I said, laughed, and walked away. 

It made me laugh, in part because I think he thought he could shame me into being like, "yes, my children came from sex, sex with a D." But instead he ended up uncomfortable because I don't have kids, and so no "utilitarian" use for sex. With a "D,*." And I hid the fact that that made me cackle insanely inside, behind my straight face.

*In case you didn't figure it out, D = dick.

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Rambling 3 am Updates

Ugh, ugh, ugh. It's 2:30 am and I am wide freaking awake because... Prednisone. WTF? Why is this the year of steroids??? 

Let me back up a bit. 

The weekend after my fun published essay excitement was my extended prep for my screening colonoscopy. So I celebrated with mugs of chicken broth, Gatorade, and jello. Mmmm. There procedure was 3:30 on Monday, so I had almost three days of no real food. I went in, and big surprise... the IV process was a nightmare. I swear my veins were never great, but it feels like IVF just blew them all. The first attempt went right through.

The second, after at least 15 minutes, many open-and-closed fists, and heat packs, ended up in my left bicep. With a pediatric catheter because tiny veins. This proved problematic as the sedation then didn't work well and was delayed, but I think because I was the last procedure of the day, and IV prep delayed things, they just full steamed ahead. So I FELT EVERYTHING. It was a bit traumatic. Also they removed a large polyp which was thankfully benign. What sucked was I woke up in terrible pain the next day and had to call in. I couldn't bend over. I spent the day in bed.  I was convinced I was bleeding out and something was horribly wrong, but when I called they said, "that can happen with extended prep" which filled me with fury because had I known I would have taken two days and actually had a sub. I ended up out for THREE. WTF.

So that sucked. 

Then, fun thing... Colored my hair vibrantly:

I am a sugar plum fairy, dammit

Then I got sick with a cold over the Thanksgiving break. 

Then, visit with my former student from the year the world shut down and she was in foster care, we had a day of fun to celebrate her 16th birthday of bookshop, food, and animal rescues. 

And finally, this past week my knee blew up. 

I left school on Friday in a wheelchair, for what is embarrassingly the umpteenth time. I'm going to put a bumper sticker on it. My left knee and ankle swelled up like mad and my knee was very unstable and painful, and I had shooting pain down my leg from the back of my hip. It started Wednesday when I had weird weakness in my left leg at Pilates, then continued into Thursday with swelling and pain that increased into the evening and then went positively catastrophic Friday. Could not stand on it. Was swelling visibly at an alarming rate. Thank goodness for jeans with stretch.

The science teacher I coteach with drove me to urgent care and Bryce met me there, a friend drive my car home, people covered for me. My new principal kept checking to make sure I was actually leaving. Most of my students were offering to get me ice or call the nurse or making bids to push be in the wheelchair. I felt very supported and loved. 

But, x-rays showed significant degeneration in the arthritis in my knee (I had a catastrophic knee injury when I was 16 that resulted in a horrible surgery at 17 that has haunted me ever since). They were like, you have sciatica, but also there's a lot going on here and we're giving you pain meds, an immobilizer, crutches, Prednisone, and a referral to an orthopedic surgeon. YAY. My appointment is Tuesday. My knee is still swollen (thankfully not my ankle anymore, and a blood clot was ruled out) and painful and the Prednisone has me all riddled with insomnia. Good times. 

They saved us an extra long booth at our favorite Mexican restaurant yesterday so we could still go.

MAGNET. Of MISFORTUNE. Wish me luck, I am afraid this is going to be a doozy. Also, I really hope I can sleep at some point. I really, really hate Prednisone.