Sunday, November 8, 2015

Family Comes to Visit

In September my Auntie Katy, Uncle Don and my cousin Sam came from the West Coast to the East Coast for a Virginia wedding and decided to make a stop in Chapel Hill for a few days and pay a visit.  It was so nice to see them, and strange to think that they had never met Orion before, since it had been over three years since we had been together.   

We had cold, rainy days when they visited, but it didn't stop us from planning a really crazy trip out to Wrightsville Beach.  I had checked for rain that day but forgot that at the beach, wind speed can also be a deterrent.  After driving two hours out to the coast, we spent about twenty minutes on the beach, dodging the stinging flying sand, and then escaped to Wilmington for thrift store shopping, some walking along the river and a delicious dinner and ice cream.  The salt air is always therapeutic, but next time I'll check for wind speed before I make the 4 hour round trip to the coast.

The nice thing about having family visit is that even when there are not frenetic plans, being together is enough.  We cooked hot soups together, played a new card called Square 9 (almost every night), we gardened together in our community garden, picked scuppernong grapes at a friend's house, and went to the Emerson Waldorf School Contra Dance, which was so much fun.

All in all, a really nice time to catch up and enjoy time with our family!  Thanks for visiting!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Cookie Stand

Back in September, Gigi and our neighbor Michael finally had their big opportunity to live out their dream of running a joint venture.  Tutu was helping to organize a yard sale, and although there was already another kid lined up to do a lemonade stand, we decided to jump on board with a cookie stand so that the kids could experience a little piece of running a business together.

First up was cleaning the stand.  Michael's dad James had painted a cute stand yellow and blue but it was filthy so we put the kids to work.  

And then after baking and cleaning up the stand, the big day rolled around.  Michael and Gigi wrote the name of their bakery on the chalkboard on the front of the stand, and opened shop.  Unfortunately, business was slow and they found that running a joint venture was more complicated than they thought it would be.  Within the first hour, the partners were split and mad at each other, and Michael wanted to go home.  It was awesome teaching Gigi about welcoming customers and how to do sales though!

Oh well, first time for everything!

Peanut Gallery

The latest from the Peanut Gallery:

Gigi talking with Marcos about the time machine she is building with her friend Michael.

Gigi: I'm not really sure if I want to get that time machine working.
Marcos: Why not?
Gigi: Because I'm not used to all that success.


Gigi at the age of 5, talking about her future husband...
Gigi: I hope he'll be a democrat!


Gigi: At church it's always calm, quiet, calm, reverent.  My thing is fast, fun, loud!  That's why I don't like church.


I had read something sad and was having a sad moment, laying on the bed.  Marcos came out of the shower and lay next to me and put his arm around me.  Gigi and Orion walk in...

Gigi: Are you guys mating again?
Metta: (Stifling a laugh).
Marcos: What does that mean?
Gigi: It's when moms and dads get naked and smooch each other.
Marcos: Well, I'm the only one naked so I guess not.

Orion: You're a nice mama.  But you spank us sometimes and that's being a bad sport!


Orion: When I grow up, and I'm an adult, I can be a wonderful dad.


Orion: Mama, if you want to be a better Mama you need to fix yourself.


Metta: Orion, everything about you is just reminding me what a big boy you are!  You're holding your shi shi through the night, starting to brush your teeth and you can even take off your clothes and get dressed all by yourself!
Orion: Yeah, then I can drive a car!


Orion: Gigi, you're the best world in the girl!

First Day of School!

Maybe I'll change my mind someday, but I am definitely a mom who prefers the rhythm of the school year to the freedom of summer time.  I'm late, of course, in posting about the first days of school, but I'm glad that I waited because these two have really come into their own over the past few months and I am loving watching them in their school element - so happy and well plugged in socially!

Gigi is in her final year of Kindergarten at the Emerson Waldorf School, and although she started off the school year a little hesitantly, she is now fully in the middle of things.  She has a new little best friend named Donna Marie, and she loves some of the new boys in her class, especially Alex from Poland and Johann from Germany.  There were very few boys in her class last year and they were very high energy, and while she loved them, she couldn't match paces with them and they just didn't have much in common.  Now she has more of a spectrum of boy personalities to choose from and she has found a few very good boy friends.  

As a human being she is so different from the girl that she was last year - she is now more in her head and more thoughtful and more even-keeled socially, whereas last year she was the youngest and was such a class clown, trying to figure out social dynamics with a class of mainly older girls.  Gigi is definitely an artist with her head in the clouds, and sometimes she frustrates me because she can't follow through with two or three simple commands.  I tell her to go upstairs, get dressed and brush her hair, and I follow five minutes behind her to find herself in her pajamas, making faces at herself in the mirror, nothing accomplished.  But at other moments she directs her feet and her will, and I'll find that not only has she done what I asked, but she has prepared the toothbrushes and folded all of the blankets for both her and Orion's beds.  Her teacher Miss Robin says that at school she is no longer the little ray of sunshine that she was last year, but I'm getting used to the thoughtful, smart, powerful, joyous, and loyal friend that she is becoming.

And then there is Orion.  I was so happy that this year panned out exactly how I was hoping it would - We found a small yet lovely group of friends to do coop preschool with, so he has his "preschool" every Wednesday morning.  We rotate homes, and so every four or so weeks I teach all of the little guys at our home.  They are all boys, and there are only four, which has made life dreamy.  I remember my first year of doing coop with Gigi, there were 7 kids in the group and it was stressful.  Four is perfect.  This year my friend who is heading up the coop preschool insisted on also doing field trips, which has been such a treat.  Every month we go somewhere fun with our friends, such as the Observation Deck park at the airport to watch airplanes, the Fire Station for a tour, and in December, a care home for the elderly, to bring them some holiday music.  

I was worried that Orion would take a little while to warm up to me leaving while he is at preschool, but he didn't.  He used to be really clingy but he is growing into his independent self, and I love having a few hours each Wednesday to do something by myself in the morning.  Being a stay at home mom, it is a rarity to have those hours when my hands are liberated from having to tend to a child.  

And that is where we are!  In school, and very happy about it.  Yay!

Gigi and the ITP Episode

At the beginning of September some weird things started happening to Gigi's body - a bloody nose that wouldn't heal, big dark bruises that we couldn't explain, tiny reddish dots on her legs, and finally, sores in her mouth when I went in one night to brush her teeth.  And that was when it all came together for me - these symptoms weren't separate from one another, they were all related, and I realized that the inside of her body was bleeding.

After putting the kids to bed, I went straight to the computer and typed out her symptoms in a google search bar.  This can be a dangerous idea because being an internet MD has the power to make you certifiably crazy, but I actually found exactly what I needed, immediately.  Something called ITP ("Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura"), or... leukemia.  Fortunately, after climbing the mountain of fear, I was able to rule out leukemia because kids with cancer are extremely sick, pale and listless and in contrast, my Gigi was still bouncing off the walls.  So, it looked like the culprit was ITP.  ITP is an autoimmune disease that occurs when some type of virus goes through the body and offsets the immune system, causing it to identify platelets as enemies and then destroy them.  Luckily, the prognosis for kids is fairly good - although it can be dangerous, many kids heal without any intervention and the immune system is able to reset all on its own.  

So the following morning I made an appointment at our pediatrician's office, and then I went off to lead the Parent Organization meeting that had been planned weeks before.  Marcos took Gigi to the doctor's office and when I arrived, Dr. Goldbach had just finished making his diagnosis - it looked like ITP.  I actually was glad that Marcos was there for most of the appointment without me because he's better at stroking the male ego - he just listened patiently to Dr. Goldbach describe the symptoms and then quietly beat him to the punch - "So, you think it looks like ITP....?"  Dr. Goldbach laughed and asked, "Have you been doing your research?"  Marcos responded, "Metta has".  Good man.

After they took Gigi's blood at the pediatric office so that they could look at it under a microscope, we went out for milkshakes as a family and then headed home for a quiet afternoon.  Marcos was feeling under the weather himself, and it was relieving to have him home from work for a few days.
A few minutes into my rare afternoon nap, the phone rang and it was Dr. Goldbach.  He said that Gigi's platelet count was 5,000 and that we needed to head to the Emergency Room at UNC hospitals, where they would be expecting us.  A healthy person has a platelet count of 150,000 to 440,000 and our daughter had 5,000 with sores already in her mouth.  Since bleeding in the brain is the worst thing that could happen in this case, and she already had open sores, there was no other option but to take her in immediately to be treated.

After some rather dull hours in the Emergency Room, where I retold our story multiple times at differing levels of detail to every health care provider who came in, we were transported to our room in the Children's Hospital.  Gigi's blood had been drawn again in the ER, to confirm her platelet levels, and the result was 8,000 - definitely low enough that she needed treatment.  The treatment was called IVIG and it's basically the antibodies of thousands of healthy plasma donors.  For whatever reason, it helps to kick the immune system back into normal mode and it will often do the trick permanently, without any need for further treatment or thought about ITP.  Gigi was in good spirits in the hospital once we got to the children's floor - there was a play area, access to TV, and there was a pantry full of juice, cereals, Italian Ice and ice cream.  Walking around the floor to explore made it very clear that we were in the hospital with a jackpot emergency health crisis - although Gigi needed to be there for treatment, she was literally skipping down the halls, while very sick children lay still in their beds in the rooms we passed along the way.  We were really thankful that we weren't there for something worse.

That night we ate sushi for dinner, and Gigi received a very slow drip of the IGIV through an IV in her hand all through the night.  Marcos insisted on staying with her so that I could sleep in our comfortable bed, and I went back in the morning after a good night's rest at home.  Gigi had slept comfortably all night long, and was in good spirits, although she was mortified by having to pee in the "hat" catch in the toilet, so that the nurses could measure her output.  Around noon we were given the okay and were discharged from the hospital.  All in all, not a shabby experience.  I was slightly frustrated by the seeming lack of communication among the doctors and nurses - they all had different things to say about when we could leave, for example - but when I texted my friend Amber about my frustration, she told me to ask for the Attending Doctor if I wanted clear answers.  She spent many years as a nurse and I was grateful for the tip.  I hated to "I want to talk to your manager" the place, but when I asked for the Attending to come speak with us, he is the one who really gave us our answers.

The week after Gigi's treatment we went back to the Pediatric Hematology clinic at the Cancer Hospital (again, seeing the other kids there made me very thankful that Gigi was so healthy) and her blood was drawn again to see the treatment had made a lasting change.  From a platelet count of 5,000 one week before, she was up to 337,000 - well within the range of normal, and it was such a miracle!  I had seen her symptoms clearing over the past week and was hopeful that her platelets were back in action, but the confirmation was so relieving.  She was back on track!

So, now what?  I have been watching her body in case the platelets improved for a time but not permanently, but we are at the point where we are now in the clear.  It is very possible that we will never have to deal with this again.  We are thankful for competent health care and for this darling girl Gigi in our lives!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

It's a Boy! The Gender Reveal Party

Back in August, Marcos and I went in for the 18-week ultrasound appointment to look at our baby's anatomy and discover whether we were having a boy or girl.  When Marcos' friend and coworker Jamie found out that we were going to find out our baby's gender, she insisted on throwing us a small Gender Reveal Party at the Carolina Alehouse after work on the day following the ultrasound appointment.  She and Jeremy, Marcos' really close friend at work, are dating, and they stayed up late the night before creating a truly amazing gender reveal cake.  Since this is our third child and we already have a boy and a girl, we didn't expect anything special for this little one, and so we were tickled that they were so into the idea of a little gathering for baby #3!

Above are Jeremy and Jamie and their masterpiece.  Below is the true reason that Marcos' coworkers choose the Carolina Alehouse after work for drinks and get-togethers - the foosball table.  Yes, it's kind of a thing and there is a lot of talking smack around this "sport".  Hey, for some guys it's football, and for a bunch of computer nerds, it's... you know, foosball.  Below, Jeremy and Brantley take the game very seriously as Orion and Gigi learn from the big guys.

And then for the moment of truth.  The party was mainly for Gigi and Orion, who didn't know what we were having - we cut open the cake and inside it was....  blue!  A boy!  Blue cake and in the middle, a carved out cave stuffed with blue m&ms.  And then Gigi did the most horrifying thing - she immediately stuck her hand into the cake to grab fistfulls of the candy!  At the time I was mortified, but recently a friend was telling me about how she made a similar cake at her son's birthday party, and when the first slice was taken out two kids at the birthday party did the exact same thing.  So maybe it's a primordial kid reaction to finding themselves in front of a cake filled with m&ms...

It was so incredibly thoughtful of Jamie and Jeremy to throw us a little party in honor of our baby.  Not everyone who came made it into these photos that I included, but it was a nice group of Marcos' close friends.  Always a joy to hang out with these quality people!

Back from Sabbatical

I'm back from sabbatical.  Or, I like to think that I'm back.  My goal is to catch up on the past few months of life in Mettaland.

As I mentioned in my last post, this summer was long for me.  I am pregnant with our 3rd Prieto baby, and being sick, having low energy and managing the two kids outside of my belly was a lot of work.  Now school is back in session so Gigi is with her friends and teachers every day, Orion is in his one-day a week coop preschool, I am feeling much better physically, and I have a LOT on my plate this year.  I was invited to be on the Board of Directors of the Emerson Waldorf School this summer, so I started as a Board member in July at the turn of the fiscal year, and I am also one of the two-coordinators of the Parent Organization at the school.  Neither of these leadership roles stress me out beyond capacity, but the workload involved in each of the positions ebbs and flows.  Heading up the Parent Organization can be really demanding at times.  Luckily, we have a powerful leadership team this year (by my careful design) and my vision is that each of us end the year feeling like our commitments were worth our while, enjoyable, and that we will not feel burned out, resentful, or mad.  The group in general seems really dedicated to making leadership this year sustainable and collaborative, and they are buying into my mantra of "many hands make light work".  I have great feelings about this year!

As far as things are going on the pregnancy side, this time around has been identical to my pregnancy with Orion - low energy the first trimester, but not the nausea that I had with Gigi.  We were really hoping for a girl, but it's another boy.  Orion has totally sold us to the idea of boyhood, but this little one will be our last and I was hoping to end on a girl note.  Oh well, I'm over the mourning already.  Things unique to this pregnancy were my complete lack of interest in sweets during my first trimester (it returned when I was feeling better during my second trimester - darn!) and of course having already had two babies, my body is nice and achy in the lower back and nether regions after a long day of being on my feet.  Another unique thing about this pregnancy is that it is the first time I have gone into the pregnancy in shape (I've been steadily working out at the gym for almost 2.5 years now, which is HUGE for me) and I am continuing to exercise each week, although I'm no longer in the bootcamp classes, of course.  I feel like I look and feel better than I have during any of my other pregnancies, and I credit part of that with being in shape and being healthy.  I am due in mid-January, and I am very thankful that I can get through the holidays with my family of four before welcoming our baby boy after the New Year.  This past year I had a hard time with the long cold winter, and so I'm glad to have a sweet little person to take my attention from the depressing weather outside of my door.  Now, we just need to find a good name for him...

In other news, we have a little family garden bed now at the Emerson Waldorf School community garden.  It is only about 4 feet x 8 feet, but it was a good amount of space to do some experimenting since I have zero faith in my ability to really excel in gardening.  Gigi had been begging for months for a garden, even if it meant moving to a new house (!), so finding out that the school had family garden beds available for a menial price was very exciting.  They provide the garden bed (which was completely overgrown when we got it), the biodynamic compost, the irrigation that drips two hours a day, and a huge fence around the entire garden that keeps out the deer, etc.  My entire investment in the garden was $12.50 for the organic seeds, plus the few hours of volunteer work that I am doing in order to "pay" for the garden bed for the year.  Incredible, right?  We planted a few weeks before school started and so had to focus on late summer and fall plants, but we've already harvested beautiful lettuces, snap peas, and some turnips.  Our kale is also getting big as are the beets.  We also have carrots and some flowers.  I'm excited to put in garlic when it gets colder, and especially bulb flowers in a special place, so that we can have tulips in the spring!  We go to the garden about once a week to weed, harvest and tend the garden, and Orion is a pretty awesome gardener.  He gets out the little red kid wheelbarrow, and wheels it around taking the turnip tops to the chickens and the weeds to the composting pile.  It helps that my mom is very excited about the garden as well, and she's always up for helping and working with us to cultivate our spot of earth.

In Marcos' work life he is crushing it, as usual.  It sounds like out and out bragging to go into too much detail, but he is truly amazing.  He is providing some leadership for a small virtual device lab at work that is getting a huge amount of attention within the company, and everyone loves him.  No surprise there.  We still feel like we're playing catch up in the career path since he was a non-traditional (read: "old") student at UNC and therefore had to come into Fidelity through a training program for recent grads, but he's been told from many people that he's on the fast track to leadership, which is where he wants to be.  Not everyone in his field has the interest in managing other people and projects, but Marcos does and he will.  He's been doing technical interviews for potential employees since the beginning of the year, he has assisted in keeping his main projects moving forward with his small team, and he recently attended a conference in Boston, and presented at a NC Development conference.  He also heard about the StarWest development conference in Anaheim, CA, a few months ago and got Fidelity to send him and five other guys to attend the week-long conference in California.  So last week, as we got our first real week of cold, gray, rainy fall weather, he was doing facetime with us from SoCal and walking us around Disneyland where the conference was held.  The kids ate up every second of getting to watch him walk around sunny, warm, dazzling kid paradise.  But truthfully, in everything at work, I think what makes him stand out is that he is an extremely loyal and supportive co-worker, and from the very beginning, he decided that his MO at the office was going to be to give credit where it was due, allow others to shine, and work collaboratively with everyone.  This is in contrast to what he heard about corporate America going into the job, but his unique take has really endeared him to everyone and given him allies in the funniest places (he was out sick for a few days and the cafeteria workers kept asking his co-workers about him).  He works really hard, but often says that he feels like he is playing, and he can't believe he gets to work with such great people.  One of his best buds and co-workers, Jeremy, says that Marcos has made working fun and inspiring again.  I totally believe it.  I'm married to him.

And that's kind of where we are!  I'm going to wrap up this missive and find some cute photos to post from the past few months.  Thanks!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Summer of the Tired Mom

I wrote this over a month ago, and am just publishing it now.  This was a loooong summer for me.


This is a gross generalization, but I feel like I've talked to enough people recently to have a loose theory that parents of young children generally do not love summer vacation, and parents of older kids really do.

Well, I have young children, and I definitely do not love summer vacation.  I decided last spring that 5 years old was really young to farm Gigi out to summer camps.  Plus, we're paying for a private school tuition which includes a payment through the summer months, so the idea of paying even more for expensive camps was painful.  However, a few weeks into the summer break I was wishing that I had at least lined up a few weeks of camp.  Now I know better, and already have my plans in the works for next year.

You see, I have a 5 year old, and a 2.5 year old, and for some reason it didn't occur to me that they would fight.  All the time.  And it started approximately when my energy fell apart and disappeared, which was basically all summer until recently.  I'm 19 weeks pregnant, which meant that I was right in the middle of an exhausting first trimester when school let out and suddenly there was a need for sibling mediation approximately 400 times per day.  Gigi and Orion love each other fiercely, but they are siblings and now how to irritate each other like nobody's business.

And then recently I've been feeling better, and we've gotten into a groove that really works.  Right before school starts again, of course.  My main strategy is to have somewhere to go every morning of the week.  Park day?  Play date?  Exercise and Pool time at Tutu's house?  Gardening at our community garden?  Story time at the library?  Sure!  Just get. us. out. of. the. house...