About Me

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I am a below knee amputee. More importantly, I am also Mommy to two boys, a very active 10 year old (Robby) and an mischievous toddler (Timmy). I have learned that being a parent with a disability can create some unusual and sometimes humorous situations. This blogger is available for hire! Let's talk and learn how a blog can expand your business.

Friday, December 31, 2010

My Resolution

I know that I mentioned this yesterday, but it bears repeating. I detest New Years! I wish that I could go to bed on December 30th and wake up on January 2.

It seems that every other television commercial is touting a gym, a diet pill or Jenny Craig. Watching the Maxwell House coffee, Toll House cookies and Pillsbury Crescent Roll commercials were certainly more fun. Just last week I would watch TV and feel happy and hungry, but now I watch a commercial and feel fat and inadequate.

New Year-New You themes are everywhere. I suppose I understand the concept and the reason behind the marketing, but I heard that 80% of all weight loss resolutions have been abandoned by Valentine's Day. That actually makes sense--that is when ads for chocolate are ramped up!

Instead of resolving to lose weight, to clean more or to recycle more, I am going to focus on acceptance. I realized that I am more lenient in accepting other people's flaws than I am with my own. I have become my harshest critic, and I am too hard on myself.

I used to feel confident- at least I think I did. Now I find myself doubting everything from my parenting skills to my looks. I've been told that I have a normal gait pattern, yet I am constantly doubting how I walk. When we are at the park I hate that my amputation keeps me from utilizing some of the play equipment. At the same time, I realize that every other parent is sitting down and isn't even near the play structures. I am tired of never feeling good enough!

Confiding in a friend yesterday, I realized that I am not alone with my self-deprecating thoughts. I suppose that women are particularly vulnerable to engaging in this thought pattern. We try so hard to be everything to everybody that we leave nothing for ourselves. In a strange way I feel like I am left with the very worst parts of myself because I've given the best to everybody else!

One of my favorite television shows has become "The Biggest Loser." I particularly like the theme song which asks the question, "What have you done today to make you feel proud?" I decided to start my transformation by answering that question.

Every night I am going to ask myself what I did to make me feel proud. I am hoping that asking the question will force me to focus on more positive achievements. I know that this simple step isn't going to change my negative thought patterns completely, but it is a start. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them!

I'll keep you posted on my "eliminating the anti-Peggy mindset" resolution as my journey progresses. In the meantime, I want to wish everybody a happy and safe New Year celebration. We plan on ringing in 2011 by watching a giant pizza be lowered to the ground at 8:00 pm at our local pizza shop (they ring in the new year early for kids). After a toast of milk, we will be going home.

I plan on being tucked into bed and watching a movie by 9:00. I'd say that I was boring, but in the spirit of my resolution I'll congratulate myself for conserving my energy and staying home on what my father refers to as "amateur night." Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

An Incredible Year

I have always disliked the entire New Year holiday. Not only did the date mark herald the return to school the following day, but also it has always proved anti climatic. Television shows, movies and magazines portray the holiday as time to attend elaborate parties or to celebrate with hoards of revelers while sharing the best kiss with your true love of your life at the stroke of midnight .

In reality, I think most people mark the turning of the calendar like me. I can be found watching a movie while munching on potato chips and cake. Chances are I will fall asleep on the couch. Scott will wake me at about 11:00 so that I can go to bed. I try to stay up to watch the ball drop, but I quickly become both bored and tired.

However, I am a sucker for the retrospective "Year in Review" that are plentiful during this time. Tying up the past 365 days into a tidy 90 second video clip provides me with an odd sense of closure. As the video stops playing, I inevitably feel a sense of excitement and optimism about the year to come. What is the video for next year going to show? What adventures lie ahead in 2011? The possibilities are endless, which is perhaps the only beautiful thing about New Years!

2010 has been a remarkable year for me. Professionally speaking, I was able to travel to Houston, Chicago, Columbus, California (twice), Missouri, Florida, Atlanta and New York. Robby and I were part of a photo and video shoot and we are now featured in advertisements. On December 31, 2009 I never would have guessed that Robby and I would be models! (The video is on the "In the News" page on this blog.)

I started 2010 confused about where I was headed professionally. Twelve months later I find myself a Spokesperson for Ossur and the Director of Social Media for OPC. I am being paid to write a blog (www.opcnews.blogspot.com), thus achieving my dream of being a professional writer!

My blog has taken directions that I never fathomed. I spoke out about TSA, and, partly because of my story, changes are being implemented. AmputeeMommy went viral, eliciting both praise and sordid hate mail from around the world. I've received kind emails from readers who have been touched and helped in some way through my writings.

Perhaps the greatest honor I received this year was from a new friend in Australia. (I am sharing this story with her permission.) A new amputee with an infant daughter, she was distraught about dealing with her new life. Prepared to commit suicide, she typed and sent her husband a good-bye letter. She explained that something made her search "amputee mom" and she found my blog. Reading my blog, she started to laugh. Her husband rushed to her side and she sought help. She and her husband credit my blog for thwarting her suicide attempt, a compliment which continues to bring me to tears.

This has been an amazing year! I'm facing 2011 with a sense of excitement and enthusiasm that I haven't felt in a long time. I'm sure I'll be making a resolution (or two or three) but for now I just want to focus on the positive. What was your greatest accomplishment in 2010? What made you the most proud?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Happy Day...

Yesterday was a fantastic day! We accomplished a lot of small errands that when done in isolation don't take long, but collectively they seem to monopolize hours. The "vagina bag" was returned, a new bag was ordered and we decided to buy sneakers instead of boots.

In addition to tackling and conquering my To Do list, yesterday was "new liner day." Monday a large tear formed in where the silicone liner meets the inside edge of my socket. I took off my leg to discover that the liner was no longer protecting my skin. Now I have a large purple bruise and some mild skin breakdown on the inside of my knee because of the friction.

I was trying to wait until New Year's Day to wear my new liner, but I changed my mind after I saw the hole and the subsequent bruise. I love slipping on a new liner. It feels cool and smooth and provides a comforting compression. Unfortunately, all of those attributes fade as the liner wears out. Donning a new liner always leaves me with a spring in my step.

For the second day in a row, we spent several hours at the mall. Not that I don't love shopping with my boys, but the pair certainly does slow me down. If I wasn't pulling Robby away from toys I was trying to corral Scott away from the electronics and game stores. I finally surrendered and decided just to order from Amazon.com (through the blog of course).

After shopping we decided to take Robby somewhere to release some pent up energy. Robby Rotten has been making loud and unwelcome appearances daily! We were hoping that running around with other kids would temper his behavior at night. At this point, I was willing to try anything!

We found a new Bouncing utopia called Jump n' Jimmy's. It is closer to my house (only five minutes away) and offers all day bouncing. Jump n' also offers a monthly membership which provides access to the inflatables from 9 am to 8 pm daily, free coffee and free Internet. I was one happy Momom!

Robby ran and bounced yesterday for hours. I sat on the couch with Scott watching Robby run, play and laugh. I began to imagine taking him here daily during the winter to let him bounce. I'll be able to sip on coffee- that is still hot- and work on my computer. I never thought I would be this excited about finding an inflatable playground!

The hours of shopping and bouncing combined to tucker out my little buddy. Robby was well behaved last night, sparing me from the toy confiscation and time-outs that have become our pattern. I was able to cuddle up and watch The Backyardigans with him before putting him to bed. I am not sure that today could have been better!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Shopping Trip.

I hate shoe shopping. Actually, hate is probably not strong enough a description when it comes to my feelings about this chore. I detest it. For me. the task is on par with picking out a swimsuit.

Scott, knowing that I am trying to reinvent my image, wanted to buy me a "trendy" garment for Christmas. After talking with the women at his work and looking at what the teenagers were wearing, he decided to buy me a pair of boots. A sweater or shirt would have been easier--shoes are difficult for me to choose. He certainly set a lofty goal for himself!

I try to avoid taking Robby to shoe stores at all costs. Something about the endless rows of boxes and the stools with mirrors interspersed throughout the aisles brings out the imp in him. I find it nearly impossible to shop and to keep Robby from constructing a fort made out of shoes and boxes. Scott was unaware that entering a shoe store would immediately unleash Robby Rotten.

Trying to restrain Robby while selecting a pair of shoes for me frustrated my sweet husband. He knew that I needed a boot that would open up completely allow for my prosthetic. He also knew that I liked dark brown and soft fabrics. That is where his shoe knowledge stopped. He forgot to ask my shoe size.

Needless to say, he guessed the wrong size. Yesterday we returned the three sizes too small boots. (Unfortunately I have now returned 2/3 of my Christmas gifts this year. The vagina bag goes in the mail to be returned today.) Determined to buy me a pair of trendy boots, we shopped all afternoon, leaving small shoebox forts and disheveled salesclerks in our wake.

Despite our efforts, we failed to find any boots. To be honest, I knew that we were not going to find anything. I spent numerous hours last year trying to find boots without success. Finding a cute boot with a zipper all the way to the bottom to allow for my foot shell, that isn't confining around my Proprio ankle and that will fit over my apparently fat calf is impossible.

We left the mall frazzled and frustrated. I was upset and saddened that my amputation was interfering with my fashion desires. (Admittedly this was ironic since I was never a shoe fanatic when I had both feet!) Scott was deflated because he couldn't find a trendy boot for me. Robby Rotten was whining about the time we spent shoe shopping. Although we never found a pair of boots, something positive did come from the quest. We spent the day together and discovered that we all hate shoe shopping!

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Professional Christmas

This is the first Christmas that I did not receive a cooking appliance from Scott. Without coordinating their efforts, both my Mom and Scott chose gifts with a professional theme this year. I think that they are expecting me to travel, or they are both excited that I finally have a job (albeit non-traditional)!

Scott surprised me with an HTML reference book to learn how to make improvements on the AmputeeMommy.com. I am overwhelmed by the jargon used by the authors but I am determined to become competent coding in the coming year. It's been a long time since I have had to study anything, but I'm looking forward to the challenge.

I also received a beautiful leather briefcase. I have been concerned about being perceived as a "boring housewife" when I attend conferences and trainings. I had to carry all of my items in a giant Mom purse simply because I didn't own anything professional.

Scott heard me voice my insecurities. Having decided to get me a briefcase, he was shocked at the number of styles that are available. He bought the briefcase knowing that I would probably exchange it, but he wanted to give me something to unwrap. I thought that was sweet!

To be honest, the thought behind the gift is more beautiful than the bag itself. It is all black but I probably would have preferred brown. The style is nice with the exception of the embellishment on the corner. The design is....er... odd.

The design is supposed to be a lily flower. I inferred this because the bag is called "The Lily." Perhaps I've seen too many Georgia O'Keeffe photographs, or maybe my mind borders slightly above the gutter. In either case, I don't see a lily in the design. All I see is a.... vagina.

I have tried to see the design as a lily, but my mind can't get past the genital image. Every time I look at the bag I blush and then giggle like a 6th grader. While I appreciate the gesture, I am going to have to exchange the "vagina bag."

In spite of the Criss Cross Crash snafu, we had a wonderful Christmas. After the presents were ripped open in record time and the Santa and Snowman pancakes had been eaten, we packed the car and headed to my mom's house. Robby slept in the car nearly the entire trip which was not surprising. After all, he was up extremely early in anticipation of Santa!

Originally we had planned on returning to Virginia on Christmas night. Our quest for a replacement crash track forced us to stay in Pennsylvania. The Toys R Us near my Mom's house had the toy in stock whereas the stores near us did not. The decision to stay was easy.

I am happy to report that Robby is happily playing with his coveted toy. He and his Daddy seem to love watching the cars zoom around the track, and both boys become excited when a crash occurs. Obviously it is a "boy thing" because I don't understand the appeal!


We are treading through a mine field of toys and boxes in my living room. HotWheels cars, Legos and Lincoln Logs are littering the hallway and sofa cushions. Robby's spin art machine malfunctioned so now my hardwood floor in the dining room is tye-dyed. My house is a wreck, but I don't care right now. I can clean later. Right now, I want to continue celebrating the holidays!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

By 6:15 this morning, all of the presents were unwrapped and my living room looked like a paper tornado had landed! Robby was excited about all of his gifts, but squealed when the coveted "Criss Cross Crash" was opened. He immediately asked his Daddy to help him put it together.

As Robby was happily skipping through the living room, looking at his new treasures, Scott set out to assemble the HotWheels toy. One look at the parts that were included in the box and we both knew that something was wrong.

Despite the box being factory sealed, Robby did not receive Criss Cross Crash. He now has the box for Criss Cross Crash filled with a few pieces of another HotWheels set. Unfortunately all of the pieces for the incorrect set are not included either, so he basically received a few pieces of useless plastic.

Robby handled the disappointment better than his parents. Scott and I are both sad for him and upset. There is nothing that we can do to rectify the situation today so we put the box out of sight.

He loves his other toys and is happily engrossed playing. There is a gentle snow falling outside, and everything looks beautiful. Despite the Criss Cross mix-up, it has been a wonderful morning.

Snowman and Santa shaped pancakes are being requested by both boys, so I to work my culinary magic.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Toys!

Merry Christmas Eve! It is hard to believe that tonight Santa loads up his sleigh and travels the world delivering toys and treats to all the good boys and girls. Robby is convinced that Santa will be stopping at his house and is giddy with excitement. (I suspect he is playing the odds that the Jolly Elf has been too busy to check his list twice!)

I am an expert sale shopper. If I could parlay that skill into a profession, I would be wealthy. I stayed well within budget this year by shopping sales and Craigslist during the summer months. All of Robby's Christmas presents have been riding in the trunk of Scott's car waiting to be wrapped. Yesterday morning I sent Scott to buy wrapping paper at the Dollar store.

He returned from the quick errand nearly four hours later. It seems that a new toy store opened up next to the Dollar Store. Scott, unsupervised in a toy store, is a recipe for a budget disaster.

He decided to stop in and pick up a few stocking stuffers. Apparently Scott anticipated Robby hanging Andre the Giant's stocking! Three toy stores later my happy toy shopper returned. The seats in his car are now piled to the roof with "must have" toys. When I asked about the price, I was reminded that Robby is only this age once and told that the toys he picked were "super cool and fun." So much for my budget!

Tonight will be spent munching on cookies, sipping cocoa and assembling presents. Everything will be Norman Rockwell perfect when Robby wakes up tomorrow morning. The tranquility will last approximately 5 minutes as he eagerly tears through his haul.

Merry Christmas Eve. I'll post pictures tomorrow, as well as Robby's reaction to receiving the coveted "Criss Cross Crash" toy, a much wished for set by many, many little boys. It's a good thing that Santa has had it in the trunk of his sleigh for a few months!

I couldn't find all of the stockings this year. We decided to improvise!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Rude Rude Rude

Today Christmas came early for Robby and his cousins. Robby has missed his Candy Papaw since he took a new job and moved. My Dad and his wife are visiting her family for the holidays, and they have decided to create a special visit for the grandchildren as they travel through the area.

Hotel rooms have been reserved for my family, my sister's family and my Dad and Phara, his wife. All of the kids are excited about swimming in an indoor pool and seeing their beloved Candy Papaw. My sister's children have never been to a hotel room which adds to the excitement for my niece and nephews!

Since the birth of his first grandchild, it has become a tradition that I do the toy shopping for my Dad. At first it started because he was busy with work and traveling between DC and Texas weekly. Not to brag, but I pick out excellent gifts on behalf of my Dad. I believe I am partly responsible for his "hero status" among the kids!

Armed with his credit card and my shopping list, I set out on my mission. I have spoken with Santa's main distribution officer to confirm what each child will be receiving on Christmas to avoid duplication. With my reindeer antlers proudly on top of my head and my jingle bell shirt singing with each step, I set out to conquer Target.

Because of my back injury I am forced to walk gingerly. My gait has been compromised and I have given up worrying about the aesthetics of my walk until I am healed. Right now I am more concerned with ambulating without pain versus looking graceful and natural. Apparently my walk was more awkward than I realized.

I wasn't in the store five minutes before I was approached by a middle aged woman with mismatched clothes and unruly hair. With a booming voice, she nudged me on the shoulder and said, "Well, don't you look like Tiny Tim!" I responded with an eloquent "Huh?"

She went on to repeat that I looked like Tiny Tim. In an attempt to prove her point she proceeded to mimicked my gait as she circled my cart. Only the facts that my back hurt and that I didn't want to be arrested for assault kept me from running this ignorant, bad breathed, bed-head haired woman down with my cart full of toys.

Imagine the headlines had I not demonstrated such Olympic restraint. "One-legged Reindeer Impersonator Goes Wild" or "Attacked by Rudolph, Shopper Visits Proctologist to Remove Jingle Bell." Once the facts were revealed, though, I am fairly confident that I would have been acquitted by a jury!

Instead of responding or starting a full blown throw down at the Target, I simply smiled. I curtly told her that I am an amputee and my back hurts. I wished her a Merry Christmas, put the Lego's in my cart and continued with my shopping. I briefly considered ramming into her with my cart as I walked away. Instead I held my head high and just hummed "Grandma got run over by a reindeer."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bad Bad Back

This has not been unfolding into the carefree, memory-creating Christmas week that I had envisioned. I imagined Christmas music wafting through my house as we sugared our treats and glittered our crafts. I planned on working up the enthusiasm for Santa to a fevered pitch. This was going to be the best Christmas season ever.

Monday night I went to sleep with thoughts of baking cookies with Robby. I was looking forward to waking up in the morning and turning my kitchen into a cookie factory. Instead, I woke up in the middle of the night in excruciating pain.

I consider myself as a heavy weight when it comes to pain tolerance. I've survived an amputation and chemotherapy treatments. It takes a big blow to knock me down.

I woke up with a painful back. After lying in bed for nearly an hour, contemplating whether or not the pain would subside, I finally conceded and knew that I needed ibuprofen. After another 20 minutes of moving gingerly and contorting, I finally managed to get my leg on. Putting on the liner was torturous because every movement released another sharp stabbing pain in my back. I was miserable!

After managing to don my liner and prosthetic, I walked towards the closet to retrieve my housecoat. I was hoping that sitting in my rocking chair would alleviate some of the pain while I waited for the medicine to take effect. I reached to take the robe off of the hook on the closet door.

Time seemed to freeze in that moment. I was standing in the closet with my arm extended, and I could no longer move. It was as if I the intensity of the pain had turned me into a statue. I felt as if everything was becoming darker as the ringing in my ears became louder. I screamed for Scott to help me.

I remember Scott standing over me as I was lying on the closet floor. Apparently he had arrived in time to watch me pass out. I have no memory of my falling or hitting the ground. I was terrified.

I stayed on the closet floor for nearly an hour, partly because I couldn't move because of the pain but also because I was scared. I have never felt pain so intensely debilitating.

A visit to my doctor Tuesday morning confirmed that I had an "intense muscle spasm." I could have saved myself the $15 copay with that diagnosis! My doctor also confirmed that I fainted because of the intensity of the pain. If I wasn't hurting so badly I am sure I would have said something witty about his medical deducing powers. I held my tongue primarily because he held the power- which in this situation was in the form of his prescription pad.

After a day of rest and medication, I am feeling better. My back continues to feel tender but the pain is not nearly as strong. Instead of enveloping ourselves in the sights, smells and sounds of the season, I found myself sitting in a physician's waiting room and listening to the jingle of pills in a bottle instead of bells.

My Christmas baking plans have been hijacked, but I will not surrender. I'm sure everybody will welcome a box of cookies for President's Day instead of Christmas. And while I'm at it, maybe I can substitute family Valentine's Day cards in lieu of Christmas cards?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Christmas Wish... A Radio Essay

Several weeks ago I heard a commercial for a contest on my local radio station. Listeners were asked to write an essay detailing their Christmas wish. Throughout the month of December, until Christmas Eve, deserving essays are chosen and the wish is granted.

About a week after I submitted my essay I received a telephone call informing me that I was a finalist. It was difficult for me to temper my excitement, but I am glad that I was able to hold my secret. Since it is almost Christmas Eve and I have received no further contact, I can only assume that my essay was not chosen. Despite not winning the contest, I wanted to share my essay.

My Christmas wish is not for myself, but rather for the members of one of the strongest families I know. My sister Sheri, along with her three young children and husband, have been through hell during the past two years. Despite the obstacles, they have remained a loving, optimistic and cohesive team. My wish for them is a vacation, to rejuvenate as a family and to create positive memories.

In the summer of 2009 the Baker family was looking forward to a Disney vacation. Unfortunately Sheri was diagnosed with breast cancer that spring. The summer months were spent undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. She lost her hair but not her spirit. The family, already struggling financially, nearly broke under the weight of the medical bills.

Wade, my brother in law, took a second job to provide his wife with the best medical care possible. Working nearly 16 hours a day left him on the brink of exhaustion. Because of his long hours, he spent little time with his children, at the time ages five, three and two.

My sister, sick from the treatments, struggled to care for her children. It was a difficult summer, but our families rallied and my sister was pronounced cancer free. She has remained cancer free and ran the Komen Race with me in May on the one year anniversary of the date she started chemotherapy.

Finally, after several tumultuous months, all seemed to be returning to normal. Wade was able to give up his second job and my niece was settling into kindergarten. Happiness and normalcy were slowly beginning to replace the stress that had been residing in the home since the cancer diagnosis.

On November 12, 2009 the family suffered another devastating blow. My nephew Jacob, at the time only 3 years old, was struck by a car in Hanover, Pennsylvania. He was flown by helicopter to Children's Hospital in Hershey. My little nephew's seizure disorder complicated his case, leaving him medically fragile.

Miraculously, Jacob survived his injuries. He suffered a broken pelvis and leg, lacerations and a head injury. By all accounts, his injuries should have been much worse. Physical therapy was added to the growing list of therapies that Jake was already receiving because of his seizure disorder and resulting disabilities.

In the midst of this tragedy, the family focused upon the miracle of little Jakey's survival. My sister tackled Jake's rehabilitation with the same tenacity that she battled cancer. I remain in awe of my sister's strength and resilience during this trying time.

Wade, a truck driver, had his hours reduced during the winter because of the harsh weather. The reduced pay check combined with mounting therapy costs and hospital bills left the family frazzled and financially uncertain. It took months for the uninhibited laughter of childhood to return to the home because of the financial and the emotional strain.

Every day after school my six year old niece puts her extra lunch money in a jar to save for vacation. The medical bills are still being paid, leaving "fun money" in short supply. My sister and her family have been through so much, yet they continue to consider themselves blessed.

I would like my niece and two nephews to have happy memories to help temper the turmoil from the past two years. My wish is that I could make the family's dream vacation of going to Disney World a reality.

I'm bummed out that we didn't win. I was looking forward to giving my niece and nephews Mouse ears for Christmas. At least I tried...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Croup

It's beginning to sound a lot like---barking? Yes, my poor little guy has come down with croup. He became sick so quickly that initially I suspected that he was trying to manipulate us into letting him watch cartoons!

I feel bad for not believing his complaints. We were at a Christmas party on Saturday and he was fine. He was happily playing with his little friends and protested when it was time for us to leave. Somewhere during the walk back home, which was only two houses, he became ill.

When I started to hear the high-pitched seal cough I knew immediately that it was going to be a long night. I had several episodes of croup when I was a child and I vividly remember waking up in the middle of the night trying to gasp for air. My Mom would scoop me up and usher me to the bathroom which she would quickly fill with steam. What I most remember is being absolutely terrified.

I wanted to spare Robby as much of the terror that I felt when I had croup. I pulled out the sofa bed next to him and settled in for a long night. His cough was becoming worse, and I knew that the seal bark from my childhood nightmares returned to terrorize my child.

I suspect that there is little about of being an amputee that I detest more than my delayed response time when Robby needs me in the middle of the night. I heard my little boy bark with croup and my first instinct was to pop out of bed and grab him. I acted on instinct and forgot that I am an amputee.

My middle of the night the Mommy rescue went something like this: "Bark cough, bark cough, step, thud, oh sh*#!" (Thankfully the other expletives were masked by the loud barking cough. Luckily I was sleeping in his room, so my fall was broken by the side of his race car bed.

My little boy was in a full croup attack, and I had to stop and put on my stupid liner and leg. I am fairly confident that I donned my liner and leg with record speed. It wasn't until Robby's cough had calmed and I was getting him a cup of water that I realized my leg, and hence my foot, was on sideways. I was mildly impressed with my ability to walk on such an askew device.

He had several croup attacks during the night, but I am a quick study. I slept the rest of the night with my liner in place. It certainly wasn't the most comfortable but it increased my response time.

Robby woke up Sunday morning and was no worse for wear. His croup left as quickly as it arrived and spent the day making glitter art, specifically a variety of happy faces. I spent part of the day stewing. I resent that I have the slightest delay when caring for Robby when he is in trouble! And now I have laryngitis... Sheeeeshh!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Winter Wonderland

There is little that is more magical than the first snowfall of the year (unless, of course, you are forced to drive in it). But for a child, the first falling flakes are nothing sort of miraculous. Yesterday we had our first snowfall in Virginia, and Robby could not have been happier.

The pleas began with the first falling flakes. After checking the weather forecast and concluding that the snowfall would be measurable, I quickly drank my coffee and began the task of dressing Robby. About fifteen minutes later--after putting on his snow pants, boots, coat, gloves, hat and scarf--my little snow bug was ready to go.

It took me slightly less time to get dressed. I remembered that I needed to remove my leg before slipping on my snow pants only after I couldn't fit my prosthesis through the opening. After looking for nearly 10 minutes I finally found my swim leg in the back of Robby's ride-on firetruck. I could find only one boot, but I quickly realized that it wasn't a problem. I put the boot on my foot and a sneaker on my prosthetic. After all, I don't need to care about those toes getting cold!

With both of us bundled up, we headed outside. Robby immediately grabbed his shovel and took off through the yard. He was shoveling out Mr. Bill's walkway by the time I gingerly made my way up the slippery driveway. By the end of the winter last year I had become adept at walking in the snow. I think it is going to take a few days for me to regain my "snow legs."

Robby had a blast shoveling out Mr. Bill's walkway. After all, he loves little more than digging! He was ecstatic when Mr. Bill gave him money (unsolicited) for a job well done. He began jumping up and down cheering that he had been given "paper money." We continued up the street shoveling out all of our neighbors' walkways. After several hours Robby had a small ball of "paper money" stuffed into his coat pockets.

After shoveling out the neighbors and taking time to sled with some little friends, I finally managed to convince Robby to come home. He didn't seem cold, but I was freezing! Mr. Bill called him over to the door one last time as we walked home.

The two spoke, and then Robby went sprinting home. Scott met him at the door, stripped him out of his snow wardrobe and ushered him inside. By the time I took off my layers and switched legs, Robby was standing in the kitchen gulping down water.

At first I didn't think anything of his drinking. After all, we had been playing outside for nearly three hours. I stopped his chugging after his third glass and asked him what was wrong.

With an excited smile he told me a secret that Mr. Bill told him. "Momom, Mr. Bill told me that when I pee pee in the snow I can practice writing my letters. I need to drink a lot because Robby has a lot of letters. R O B B Y will take a lot of pee pee and I want to write it in the snow. That's a good idea!"

Hmm... So much for the pretty snow. It must be a boy thing!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

An Open Letter To Santa

Dear Santa Claus,

I have tried to be good this year. Sometimes I become frustrated and cry (and occasionally yell), but my pouting has been kept to a minimum. Although I am now 36 years old, I still believe in you!

I know that this time of year you are inundated with wish lists from around the world. Your sleigh is being loaded and space is probably at a minimum. This year, in lieu of presents, I would like to make a deal with you. In return for all the cookies you can eat, I would like to borrow your team of handy and talented elves for a few days. You see Santa, this year all I want for Christmas is for things around my house to be fixed.

Santa, you of all people know that I love to bake. Robby and I have spent numerous hours toiling in the kitchen, whipping up a variety of tasty concoctions. We always share what we create. Robby is particularly fond of giving cookies to Mr. Bill and the firemen at the firehouse.

It's a good thing that the firemen know us now, because if my oven doesn't get fixed soon I predict that they will be visiting us soon. In order to turn my oven on and off, I now have to slide the heavy appliance away from the wall, crawl behind it and plug it in. I dread having to change the temperature on the oven because I must again crawl behind it, unplug it and then plug it back into the outlet after waiting no fewer than 15 seconds.

I am not an acrobat, and the contortions I must assume to reach the plug are difficult with one leg. I worry about being electrocuted. I don't expect a new stove, but perhaps you could ask your elves to bring their tools to fix the broken control panel on my oven.

I'm assuming that, somewhere in your army of toy builders, you have an elf that is good with drywall. I have several holes in my ceiling that need to be patched. I know that you are busy this time of year, so I can paint the ceiling myself after they are repaired. Please Santa, the cold air is rushing through the holes despite the plastic barrier I put in place.

Santa, I try to keep the house clean but it is difficult. None of my cleaning tools seem to be functioning properly. My vacuum constantly becomes clogged and I have to hold the cord over my shoulder for it to turn on. My carpet cleaner is held together with duct tape, and Robby broke the handle on my broom. My back hurts from stooping over to sweep the floor with my pint sized broom!

The light switch needs to be pushed down and to the left in order for the light to stay off in the hallway. We can't reach the light bulbs in the kitchen ceiling so the room is becoming darker with each one that burns out. My built in microwave oven has been converted into a breadbox because it hasn't worked in nearly two years! If you have an electrician elf and one who is comfortable on a ladder, you might want to bring them along.

Right now it feels like everything is either broken or falling apart around me, and I am feeling overwhelmed. Santa, I would be grateful if you would talk with your elves about coming to help me. This is the chance for your elves to emerge from behind the scenes into the limelight!

Thank you, Santa!
Love, Peggy

P.S. I would offer to pick up any materials you need, but my car battery is unreliable, forcing me to drive with a battery charger in the trunk.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My cousin sent this to me. I thought it was cute...

Passing Judgment

Yesterday morning I decided that I needed to reinstate the Christmas spirit in my house. I checked the kitchen for ingredients, went through my cookbooks and made a list. I got Robby bundled up and we headed to the grocery store. It wasn't hard to convince Robby to come along because he knew that we were going to be spending the afternoon baking cookies!

It has become so cold that it is painful to be outside. The wind was whipping around, causing the cold air to push straight through the thickest layers. Pulling into the grocery store parking lot, I didn't even need to consider my options. I instinctively pulled into a handicapped parking space.

I have had a handicapped parking placard for several years. Although I don't always utilize the spaces, I do consider myself entitled. I have a disability that affects my mobility and, at times, the convenience of the spaces is helpful. Yesterday was bone chilling cold and I wanted to minimize my time outside.

It is not unusual for me to receive glares of disapproval from my fellow shoppers. At times I thoroughly enjoy watching the "parking police," as I have come to call them, stare at me as I pull out my handicapped placard. It is almost as if I can see their mind turning as "guess the disability" scenarios run through their minds.

As soon as I disembark my car and my prosthetic is visible, I receive the knowing nod of approval as they quickly look away. When my leg is covered, I often receive judgmental stares as I walk into the store. I have, on occasion, turned and pulled up my pant leg to show the judgmental parking police my disability.

Yesterday I was too cold to appease the spectators. I pulled into the space, grabbed Robby and raced into the store. It wasn't until after we were inside and shopping that I realized that I had been watched. Pushing the cart through an aisle, I "overheard" an elderly couple talking about people abusing their parent's handicapped tags. I knew that their comments were directed at me.

Trying to revitalize my sense of Christmas spirit, I held my tongue. I even stopped to adjust my prosthetic, which was fitting fine, to provide proof of my disability. The sight of them scurrying away as soon as I removed my leg was fun to witness!

I encountered a similar situation flying home from Columbus on Monday. We were flying on Southwest which does not assign seats to passengers. Basically a long line forms as herds of anxious passengers vie for a good seat. Because I have a disability I am afforded the benefit of "pre-board" status enabling me to board before others.

As we handed the attendant our pre-board access card, Scott and I both felt the disdain from the gaggle of not so jolly passengers waiting to board. I was wearing jeans so my prosthetic was not visible. Scott remarked that the other passengers are probably wondering why we get to go first and that they probably angry. I think he was right. I began to limp as an attempt to demonstrate my disability.

As cookies were being baked, decorated and cooled throughout the afternoon, I kept thinking about these two experiences. Is it human nature to pass judgment? When my disability isn't visible, it is often assumed that I am somehow being dishonest. I regret that I felt the need to prove my handicap, but at the time it just seemed easier. Hopefully this couple, along with my fellow passengers on the plane, will hesitate before doubting or judging another person using a handicapped "privileges."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mr. Bill

We are lucky to have Mr. Bill, an elderly gentleman who lives across the street, as a neighbor. He and Robby have become fast friends. Robby adores and idolizes his friend, eager to mimic everything that he sees. In many ways Mr. Bill has assumed the role of adopted Grandfather.

Mr. Bill allows Robby to help him with most of his outdoor projects. The pair spends hours painting fences, shoveling dirt out of the back of a pick up truck and laying sod. Bill is patient with his little assistant, offering encouragement and never becoming frustrated. Robby was delighted when he received a pair of work boots that matched Mr. Bill's. It turns out Bill was almost as excited as Robby!Robby loves baking his friend cookies and treats. He proudly presents Mr. Bill with various glitter laden art projects which are always displayed prominently throughout his home. In turn, Mr. Bill is trying to teach Robby Greek phrases and how to identify trees. Their interactions are a joy to watch.

In addition to nurturing Robby, Mr. Bill has become one of my biggest cheerleaders. He loves hearing about my adventures with Ossur. He was proud as could be when Robby and my photos were featured in the brochure and print campaign. When the National Geographic crew was at my home a few months ago, Mr. Bill sat in his yard and watched the entire interview, enthralled by the process and impressed with my role.

Robby and I are both lucky to have Mr. Bill as a neighbor and friend. I enjoy our conversations and the respite that visiting with him affords me. Robby is learning how to work with his hands, about nature and the Civil War. The lady down the street might keep trying to get Robby and me arrested with her delusional stories, but I have no doubt that Mr. Bill would bail us out.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Anxious Traveler

Greetings from cold and snowy Ohio! We arrived safely Friday afternoon after what I am pleased to report was an uneventful and easy TSA screening. I like to give credit where it is due. I was impressed that the agent in Baltimore was both professional and respectful, and I'm hoping that I have a similar screening today as I leave Columbus.

Of course, at this point I am hoping to be able to leave Ohio today. The roads are snow covered and icy, and we are experiencing high winds and low visibility. I'm clicking my heels, but I'm not confident that we'll be transported back to Virginia today.

Robby had a wonderful time visiting with several sets of cousins during this visit. We went into Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon to visit some local attractions. The little ones, Robby included, were mesmerized by a toy train exhibit. (The adults enthusiasm was dampened by the 40 minute wait in a crowded room which afforded us a 90 second gander at some trains.) Nevertheless, the kids were impressed and that was the goal.

I love watching Robby playing with his cousins. He doesn't visit with his young playmates often, but when they are together they immediately fall into a comfortable friendship. Robby has two cousins who are close to his age as well as two older (pre-teen) cousins. They all love, accept and make an effort to incorporate Robby into their family dynamic whenever we visit. Watching them interact and play together is one of the best parts of my Ohio visits.

Sunday was monopolized by Robby's first snowfall of the season. He was anxious to go outside and play before we could even change him out of his nighttime gear. We managed to convince him that he needed to eat his breakfast before heading into the snow. I've never seen him drink a cup of milk so fast!

Unfortunately, we didn't have enough snow to make a snowman, but from the looks of it this morning we could probably roll a snowman village! We will be heading to the airport in a few hours but I'm not overly optimistic of my chances of making it home today. Flights are already being delayed and canceled, but I am hoping that we will be spared the fate of a stranded holiday traveler.

In addition to being concerned that our flight will be canceled, I'm apprehensive about the Columbus airport TSA agents. I have not had positive experiences with these overzealous and unprofessional screeners in the past. I am anxious this morning, and I hate that feeling!

Here's hoping that today the stars will align so I will be cleared in a timely and appropriate manner and that my flight will leave Ohio on schedule. Hopefully my next blog will be published from cozy Virginia and not from the corner of an airport terminal that we have declared squatters rights for the night. Fingers crossed!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ohio Bound

The laundry has been done, the house has been cleaned and our pet sitter has been oriented. The fridge has been purged, the tree has been watered and our tickets have been confirmed. Our bags are packed and our ID's and cash have been secured. Today we are leaving for Grandma's house in Ohio.

I am not sure why, but it is always a lot of work for me whenever we get ready to go visit Scott's family. It takes about three days of work to get prepared for a four day trip. Our little family of three sure requires a lot of preparation!

Robby is anxiously awaiting our "super big adventure." He is looking forward to getting on the airplane and going "high high up" above the clouds. My goal is a little more short sighted. I'm looking forward to hearing the TSA agent tell me that I'm "good to go" so I no longer have to worry about what I might encounter!

This is the first time that Robby is flying since our California TSA horror. He still refers to the "mean man in the uniform who yelled at him" when he talks about our trip. I am hoping that this trip yields less trauma for us both.

Flying with a preschooler is always stressful. My previous experiences have served to increase my anxiety exponentially. Thankfully, Scott will be present and able to watch Robby during my obligatory molestation, er I mean pat down. I know that the departure airport has a Cast Scope machine. I'm hoping that they have learned how to use their equipment since the last time I flew.

Once I'm cleared through security, I know that I will feel more comfortable. I resent that I feel this much anxiety about dealing with an agency that is established to protect us! Wish me luck with TSA and wrangling my husband and Robby through the airport, and hopefully we'll all make it to Ohio safe and sound. Deep breath, okay. Ready, set... fly!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Winter Liner Woes

I know that I've written this before but, with the recent temperature plunge it bears repeating- I despise being cold. I love crawling into bed at night after the electric blanket has been preheating for about an hour. On a cold night nothing feels better than lying down on warm sheets.

On frigid mornings, little feels worse than having to pull on an icy cold liner. Not only must my leg leave the cozy heated sheets, but I must immediately don a silicone liner that has gotten chilly through the night. The silicone feels like ice sliding up my previously warm leg. Talk about a shock to my system!

Putting on a cold liner is so uncomfortable (albeit it fleeting) that I have begun to dread mornings more than usual. I have actually laid in bed the past few mornings, without my leg, contemplating whether or not I wanted my coffee enough for me to put on the icy liner. So far my desire for coffee has won out, but it is becoming a bitter battle.

I have tried slipping a hand warmer into my liner before I go to bed, hoping that the heat would last until morning. The cold shock I experienced slipping on the liner let me know that my plan didn't work. The hand warmers might not work, but I have another idea. I am fairly confident I know what will keep my liner warm, and it is now on the top of my wish list.

A spa towel warmer, basically a heated box, could warm up my liner before I put it on. I figure that I can turn on the warmer about 10 minutes before I plan on getting out of bed and my liner will be toasty warm by the time I am ready to put on my leg. Right now the prospect of a preheated liner sounds luxurious!

I realize that the shock of the freezing liner is temporary and does not justify the price tag of a towel warmer, but I have an inkling that towel warmers will undergo steep price reductions in the January post-holiday sales. I figure I have only another month of shockingly cold liner mornings before I nab a bargain and my winter liner woes will be history!

True, I could just deal with the cold liner and save my money. I could also try keeping the liner under the covers with me, which would probably work. But a girl is entitled to a gadget or two, right? I will let you know if it works.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Emotional puddle

I hate admitting that I'm an emotional wreck, but since I'm writing this between sobs, I suspect that I can't deny it any longer. My raw emotions are probably due to the pituitary tumors (that's my excuse, anyway), but knowing the cause certainly doesn't make the feelings any less intense. I hate feeling this way!

During the past few weeks I have been in the process of clearing our house of unneeded clutter. Between Craigslist and Ebay we've been able to pad our bank account and gain more space in our house. I've sold underused yard equipment, appliances which were duplicates or unneeded, and a variety of toys that Robby has outgrown.

Last night I sold the Thomas the Train battery powered ride-on toy that Robby got from Santa for his second Christmas. He adored that train. It feels like yesterday that he was sitting on Thomas, going around in circles on the track constructed through our living room. He was such a happy little engineer.

Somehow several years have passed and I'm not sure where the time went because Robby is going to kindergarten next year. I can't believe that he is old enough to go to school. I'm just not ready to let him go.

I miss hearing his Thomas the Train horn and the peels of laughter as he circled the living room. He outgrew the train and it has been in our garage for at least a year. I know that another child will enjoy it. Still, for some reason it is hard letting this one go.

I feel silly crying over a train that I willingly agreed to sell. I should be happy for the money and for the space that will be created in our garage. I recognize that he is growing up and changing, and I love watching him grow up and discover new things. At the same time I miss the little baby that I used to hold and the toddler who adored his train.

Someday soon I will no longer be his best buddy. I'm glad that today I still am. I'm going to wipe my tears, take a deep breathe and put the future out of my mind. To avoid a complete meltdown, I need to focus on today. I'm going to sip a cup of coffee and watch Little Bear with my little guy. This afternoon, I think we'll decorate our gingerbread houses.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

On Top of Spaghetti-O's

I hate my pituitary tumors. Although I know that they are benign, they have become a nuisance, seeming to become "active" at the most inopportune times. The holiday season is not hospitable to fatigue, mood swings and balance issues.

Typically the reemergence of symptoms is an indication that I need to adjust the medication. Although I hate being reliant upon a pharmaceutical, I have come to appreciate the little pill I swallow every morning. Until I finally have the tumors removed, the medication has helped to restore order and health. I called my doctor last week and went for a blood test which is required before any dose adjustments are made.

I can deal with the fatigue and the moodiness, but the impact on my balance has proven to be problematic. I had enough trouble maintaining my balance when I had two feet. Now that I am using a prosthetic foot, my clumsiness is amplified.

The past few days I have been bumping into walls. My laundry is piling up because I no longer feel safe carrying the basket up and down the stairs. (I figure Scott will take the subtle hint that I need help when he is out of clean underwear in a few days.) Despite seeing obstacles on the floor (having a four year old, there are plenty) I seem to keep tripping and stumbling.

Yesterday I was carrying a full bowl of Spaghetti-O's to the living room for Robby. (Yes, I was a "bad Mommy" and allowing him to eat his lunch in front of the television. In my defense I was rushed for time and needed to be uninterrupted so I could finish some work before a meeting--but I digress.) I tripped and began to fall. Before I could stop myself I was lunging towards our misshapen, strange looking Christmas tree. The bowl of sticky little pasta O's, with meatballs, flew out of my hand and into our precariously perched tree.

After cleaning up the shards of ceramic that used to be my favorite Christmas bowl, I spent the next 45 minutes picking up small O's and beige meatballs from the sharp needles on the tree. I learned that a can of Spaghetti-O's has a lot of O's! With the clean-up complete, I went back to the bedroom to change my clothes.

"Momom, Momom, hurry. Emergency." These are not words that I want to hear from Robby's mouth, especially after the Spaghetti-O shower I had just cleaned up.

I arrived in the living room in time to see Charlie, Robby's beloved kitten, scaling the center of our tree with a small meatball in his mouth. Apparently my clean-up was not nearly as thorough as I had thought! The tree, which was being held erect with the support of rocks from our yard and a thin line of dental floss (green, to be festive) attached to the top, began to sway. Before I could grab the cat, the tree toppled over spilling all of Robby's pretty yellow stars, more spaghetti-O's and a lot of needles all over the living room.

After several deep breaths and a cup of coffee, I started to reconstruct our Christmas tree. I was interrupted when I received a phone call with my blood test results. As I suspected, my medication needs to be increased. (I restrained myself from responding with a witty "D'uh!) Hopefully, with my medication increased, my dopiness will go away. I can't wait to return to my slightly more graceful self. In the meantime, Robby had a blast decorating the tree for a second time!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Our Perfectly Strange Looking Tree

I decided that this year we are going to create an old-fashioned Christmas for Robby. Part of my motivation is financial- it is a lot cheaper to make the ornaments and decorations than to buy them. But that is not my only reason for opting for homemade this year.

I am not sure why, but I've been feeling nostalgic for my childhood and I want Robby to feel some of the "magic" that is often lost by all of the ready-made, holiday-in-a-box decorations. The season will seem more meaningful if he had a hand in the creation. Right after Thanksgiving I found my craft books and got to work.

Last week Robby and I spent several hours, over three days, making his tree ornaments. I offered him a variety of cookie cutters, but he seemed drawn to the star. That's okay, I figured--we can have a lot of stars on the tree.

After the ornaments were dried, I went into my craft drawer and pulled out every color of paint. After all, a Christmas tree needs an array of bright and vibrant colors! Armed with the full color spectrum and a handful of brushes, I let my little artist create. He proceeded to paint every ornament yellow as he told me, "Yellow is my favorite color."

After all of his yellow stars were dried, we moved onto the glitter stage. I knew that it was going to be messy, but I wasn't deterred. Messes can be cleaned up, but the memories will last forever. With ten colorful glitter jars available, Robby used only one. He glittered every yellow star ornament with yellow glitter, again reminding me, "Yellow is my favorite color."

Determined to create old-fashioned memories, we bundled up Saturday morning in search of the perfect Christmas tree. I'm not sure if it was the cold wind or Robby's eagerness to get a tree, but he found the tree he wanted within 10 minutes. We cut it down, bailed it up and strapped it to the roof. I even convinced the family to sing Jingle Bells on the drive home.

I suppose that no old-fashioned Christmas would be complete without witnessing a parental fight while putting up the tree. Despite our "easy to use" stand, the tree kept falling. Frustrated, Scott and I began to snap at each other as we struggled to keep the tree from falling into the fireplace or onto Robby. The fact that the kitten seemed enthralled by the tree and kept trying to climb to the top wasn't helping our predicament.

I have vivid memories of putting our Christmas tree in the stand when I was growing up. After a torrent of curses from my Dad, we children were sent outside. Our job was to scour the yard for bricks and large rocks to wedge against the tree trunk to keep it in the stand. I had to smile when we were in the yard picking up rocks for the same purpose on Saturday afternoon, reflecting on how some family traditions will probably never die.
With the tree quasi-secured in its stand, we stepped back to admire our centerpiece. Despite our best efforts, it is extremely crooked. We also realized that we were a tad overzealous when lopping off the bottom branches. Our tree now has a bare two foot trunk. On the positive side, Robby thinks it is a fantastic "Christmas fort!"

Looking at the tree now I'm not sure why I didn't notice all of the bare spots in the tree. I suspect that the holes were camouflaged by the pounds of needles and debris that fell from the branches onto my floor. I have concluded that we may have found the ugliest tree in the field.

We let Robby have complete control over decorating the tree. He carefully hung each homemade yellow star with precision. Of course, he is only 3 feet tall. All of the branches above his reach are bare.

With the decorating completed, Robby told me that we have the perfect tree. I have to agree with him. Somehow, our crooked tree with a naked trunk and bare branches, positioned precariously between rocks and decorated with only yellow stars seems appropriate for our family this year. It is perfect, and Robby thinks it's nothing short of magical.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Up on The Rooftop...

Most years I throw myself into decorating the house and our yard for the Christmas season. Typically I have lit candy canes bordering the driveway and colorful and bright lighted trees creating an illuminated forest with 7 foot inflatable snowmen interspersed for a jolly flair. I spend hours stringing lights and fumbling with cords, justifying my efforts because Robby loves the lights. In reality, I probably enjoy the decorations as much as he does.

Three years ago Scott surprised me by putting illuminated reindeer on the roof. I stood in the yard and watched him precariously perch the wire figures on the pitch of the roof. It took him almost two hours. I was so proud!

When the reindeer were secured, he began to beat his chest Tarzan style and proceeded to shout, "I have put reindeer on the roof. Tonight I may get lucky." He was surprised and embarrassed when he realized that a small group of neighbors had congregated to watch him on the roof.

I thoroughly loved the reindeer on my roof that year. Every time I saw them I would smile. The novelty began to fade when they were still up on the Fourth of July.

It has been three years, and the reindeer are still there. Actually, the heads flew away in a wind storm two years ago, and I'm fairly certain that the lead deer is now an amputee. Birds have picked apart the bright red bows for their nests and the squirrels have eaten the electric cord. I am now left with two headless, three legged reindeer on my roof that can't be lit.

Finally, after years of asking (although he would claim nagging) him to remove the reindeer, Scott revealed why the carcasses must stay. Zealous to make sure that his installation would last through the Christmas season, he added an extra security measure. Apparently he pounded their little hooves through the shingles and into the roof. Removing the reindeer now would essentially uncork the holes that he created. He has been banned from decorating.

This year I have decided to keep some of my decorations in storage. I just don't have the time or the energy to create my winter wonderland. I have strung lights between the trees and Frosty is proudly making his annual appearance. My yard is not nearly as festive as it has been in the past, but I am pleased with the minimalistic result. However, if you look closely-- and only during the day--you can still see reindeer bodies perched on the peak of my roof.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

I Tried.

Robby has a diverse religious heritage. His maternal grandfather is Jewish while his maternal grandmother is Lutheran turned Unitarian. His paternal grandmother is Methodist. I was not raised in the church, but Scott attended services regularly until high school.

Neither of us is religious, but we both acknowledge the importance of Robby knowing and honoring his roots. Since he was born we have done our best to expose him to all of his religious and cultural traditions. The Christian religions are relatively easy to explain and celebrate because of our familiarity with the traditions.

Unfortunately my knowledge of Jewish traditions is limited so I rely heavily upon the internet and my "Judaism for Dummies" book. I figure at his young age exposure is more important than protocol.

This is Robby's first Hanukkah without my Dad leading the Menorah lighting. I spent the day listening to a youtube video on a loop in an attempt to learn the Hebrew prayer. After constant practice I finally had the prayer memorized. I was ready to "Wow" Scott!

As the sun was setting I began to talk with Robby about the story behind Hanukkah. We read the book "Biscuit's First Hanukkah" and talked about the candles. His perseverating on the apparently humorous fact that oil can burn hindered his ability to grasp the bigger picture.

Undeterred and eager to pass on a family tradition, I brought out my menorah. He was excited to help me light the first candle. After the wick was lit, he looked at me as if he was expecting me to say something. I took a deep breathe and readied to repeat the Hebrew prayer. I was finally ready to impart the tradition without relying upon my Dad.

I froze. I couldn't remember a word. Scott and Robby were both looking at me and I felt the need to fill the void. In an attempt to fake it, I told Robby to make a wish. He wished for a new Hot Wheels toy.

It wasn't exactly the family tradition I had hoped to create. Robby did enjoy lighting the candle and making a wish, but he did seem confused when the ceremony wasn't followed by a cake. Oh well. I have another seven nights to get it right! Happy Hanukkah.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Ready for Cold Weather...

Wow! It is hard to believe it is already December. Suddenly the air is cold and the winds are busy whipping our previously neatly raked leaves. There is no doubt that winter is approaching.

Every season creates unique issues for me. In the winter I struggle to keep my residual limb warm. Many nights my leg becomes so cold that it is painful and frequently begins to cramp. The tip of my stump often develops a purple hue during cold weather. Through trial and error I've developed a small arsenal of "stump warming tools" that I rely upon to get me through the cold months.

When I take off my leg and liner at night, I immediately slip on a large tube sock. I have found that the socks that tout an absorbent liner feel softer. I prefer to use tube socks because they tend to stay on throughout the night and don't roll off.

Sometimes the sock doesn't provide enough warmth. Frustrated with a heating pad wrapped around my leg and tired of being tethered to a single position, I decided to experiment. Searching through a sporting goods store, I stumbled upon disposable hand warmers.

I have come to love disposable hand warmers. Once activated, they stay warm for up to eight hours. Now when it is extremely cold, I pull on a tube sock, hold a warmer on the tip of my covered limb and then slip another sock on top to hold it in place.

I learned the versatility of hand warmers during my first winter as an amputee. The packets are thin enough to sit in the bottom of my socket so my leg is kept toasty warm for hours after I don my leg. When playing in the snow for hours on end with Robby, I have come to appreciate keeping at least part of my body warm!

A word of caution: it is imperative that the hand warmer never be placed directly on the skin. Because the residual limb has nerve damage (a natural result of the surgery) the skin may not react normally to burning heat. When using heat or cold therapy, always utilize a barrier.

I despise being cold. Because of the decreased circulation, my residual limb is the first to feel the effects of the chill in the air. I am now ready for the frigid temperatures. I have a pile of soft tube socks by my bed and, thanks to Ebay, I am now fully stocked with a case of hand warmers. Bring on the snow. I'm ready!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Not Exactly Restful

Despite tugging at my heartstrings, I have been reluctant to reach out to help my elderly neighbor. I would be willing to help her, drive her to the store, prepare meals and visit with her if I didn't fear the ramifications of my good deeds. Unfortunately, she has the police department on her speed dial.

She is delusional, paranoid and has a nasty disposition. She calls the police several times a week, throwing a variety of accusations against everybody in the neighborhood. Law enforcement is on our small street so often that we are probably the safest neighborhood in the state of Virginia!

Yesterday I was not feeling well. Robby was thrilled to have access to the much coveted glitter box and I was content resting on the couch. Armed with a mug of hot tea and a box of tissues with lotion, I was ready to relax. Unfortunately my convalescence was interrupted on three separate police visits.

At 8 in the morning, three patrol cars pulled into my driveway. Although I suspected that their visit was a result of "the old lady," my anxiety always rises when the police arrive at my door. Trembling, I answered the door.

It turns out that my suspicions were correct. In a formal tone, the Officers asked to speak with my son. I invited them inside and called for Robby.

After protests about having to turn off The Backyardigans and a promise of cookie dough after came into the living room, he emerged. The look on their faces, when they saw my four year old, covered in glitter and still in his sleeper pajamas, standing before them was priceless.

Apparently Robby was accused of breaking into her house and trying to assault her. While the police suspected that the accusation was unfounded, they were obliged to investigate. This is the third time Robby has had the cops called on him, and he is only four!

The police returned in the afternoon after she called and accused me of beating Robby in the middle of the street. Again, the officer apologized for his visit. I admit to being angry at this horrific accusation.

The third visit came right before dinner. A police officer stopped by, simply to introduce himself to the neighbors since he was new to this territory. Even the police are anticipating her accusations. Robby gave him a picture of a glitter smile face, a hug and told him the officer that he would see him tomorrow.

Robby took the frequent interruptions as an opportunity to expand his artistic horizons. In addition to having glitter all over my table, he mixed the colorful mess makers with glue and "painted" the floor- with his hand. My day of respite was spent dealing with the police and cleaning up my sparkle-laden little mischief maker.
Despite the frequent visits from uniformed officers, I feel badly for the lady. I have rarely seen her children although I know that they live in the area. It goes against my instincts not to reach out to her, but I have been cautioned by the officers to avoid interacting with her.

I will continue to be polite when we see her outside, but I won't engage her in conversation. We still still shovel out her driveway when there is snow--I wouldn't be able to rest if her house was inaccessible should she need an ambulance. In reality, the shoveling will probably only serve to make it easier for the police to drive to the door to take her complaint against me. I suppose no good deed goes unpunished.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Since it is Cyber Monday I thought this would be a timely reminder. If you are shopping through amazon.com, please consider using the link on this blog. It generates revenue for the blog and website. Thank you, and happy shopping!

I Want a Nanny

Another successful Thanksgiving is in the books. All of the stores and malls are decked out with colorful tinsel and lights and just like the Christmas sales, my post-Thanksgiving cold has arrived with a vengeance.

Everything, including walking, seems more laborious when I am fighting a cold. My prosthetic feels heavy and awkward. Pulling on my liner and stepping into my socket simply annoyed and frustrated me this morning. Perhaps it is the effects of the DayQuil, but I am acutely aware of my amputation today.

I'm not so ill that I need to stay in bed all day, which is a good thing because being a Mom means that sick days are few and far between. Unfortunately, I feel drained, and every movement feels like a monumental effort. I wish I could just lie on the couch and watch trashy talk shows all day. I'm fairly certain that Robby has a different agenda.

I am hoping that my little cherub will cooperate and that Robby Rotten will stay away. Armed with glitter, paper and glue he should be content crafting ornaments and "art" for the day. I am sure that I will be cursing this decision, but right now the prospect of my sitting still is enticing.

Luckily I am prepared for "Mommy sick days." In anticipation of crafting, and zealous to save money by buying in bulk, I ordered several pounds of glitter when I was pregnant with Robby. Several days later very large, albeit light, boxes were delivered. In case you are wondering, glitter is extremely light but a pound takes up a considerable amount of room.

I have no doubt that soon my dining room will be covered with little sparkly metallic bits of glitter which will be impossible to clean and will probably be sticking to our clothes until Easter. Robby will be covered with glue and paint. He'll be easier to clean than Charlie Cat, whom I fear will be "decorated" with glitter glue and stickers if I doze off. It is days like this I wish I had a nanny so that I could take a nap!

Hopefully I will be able to rest today, and I will feel better tomorrow. Robby loves using the art supplies, so I think he will be busy and happy to stay inside. Until I feel better, I'm going to try not to stress about the mess that is being created. I'm just going to view the glitter deposited over every surface as a jump start on my holiday decorating. With over 3 pounds of glitter, we will certainly be sparkly!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ready to Shop!

This week I've changed my fitness routine. Typically I concentrate on aerobic activity, but that is not meeting my impending needs. Instead of worrying about calorie expenditure, I've been focusing on stretching. I need to be limber today, with stealth-like reflexes and the agility of a cat.

Yes, Black Friday is finally here. Thanksgiving evening the newspaper was strewn around the living room floor as we devise our plan of attack. Scott and I are now armed with local maps and the layouts of our favorite stores. Black Friday shopping has become a family sport as we search and body block our way to securing the deal of the year.The Friday after Thanksgiving is the one day of the year where I relish my disabled parking status. As all of my able bodied shopping competitors circle the lots to find a place to park, Scott and I ease into the handicapped spot in front of the door. Easy to get in but, if you are an expert Black Friday shopper like me, you appreciate how quickly I can exit and dash to the next store.

Our competition is steep as hoards of early birds converge to scavenge for their deals. Because of my prosthetic, I am often underestimated. I am not expected to be fast and swift, and I have learned to use this misperception to my advantage. After I race the shoppers through the store, ducking and weaving, people are surprised when they are out maneuvered by an amputee!

For me, Black Friday is as much about the thrill of the chase as it is saving money. Usually, we buy very little, but there is something special about standing in a long line before dawn with hundreds of other bargain hunters as we each vie for position. For my husband and me, the Christmas season hasn't officially begun until we've thrown a few elbows and grabbed a DVD just as someone else is reaching for it. Great sport! I hope you will enjoy your day as much as I will enjoy mine.

On your mark, get set, SHOP!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Blessings

The following paragraph is meant to be sung to the tune "Over the River" (from Snoopy's Thanksgiving)
"Over the river and through the woods, to Nana's house we go. Momom knows the way, to drive the SUV but the traffic is so slow. Over the river and through the woods oh how the leaves do blow. They fall all around as the season abounds so who cares if we have to drive slow."

I love Thanksgiving. Not only do I get to eat a gluttonous meal without guilt (calories don't count on holidays) but I get to spend time with my family. I may be biased, but I believe that I have the best family in the universe! Not only do we all get along, but we all genuinely like each other.

Scott and I have been talking with Robby about the holiday. We've read him books about the first Thanksgiving dinner and have been talking to him about counting his blessings. We decided that, this year, we would each list the top five things for which we are thankful.

This year, I am thankful for:
1. My family
2. the love and support of my friends
3. the health of my loved ones
4. exciting professional adventures
5. the ability to stay home with Robby


Scott is thankful for:
1. His family
2. that everybody is healthy
3. a job that he likes
4. hugs from Robby when he comes home from work
5. his wife's good cooking

Robby is still learning to master how to count. I think the concept of "five" alluded him. This year, Robby is thankful for:
1. Mommy and Daddy
2. Charlie (his cat) and Sophie (my cat)
3. Nana, Candy Papaw and Grandma
4. Mr. Bill
5. cookie dough
6. vanilla ice cream
7. Momom's running leg
8. sticks
9. dirt
10. worms and bugs
11. glow in the dark light sticks at night
12. bubbles
13. burping and "tooting" at the table with Daddy

I hope that everybody has a fantastic Thanksgiving. If you are driving, please be safe. If you are flying, good luck with TSA! Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

On My Soapbox About TSA

I have written about TSA numerous times, but I feel compelled to discuss this topic and to offer my opinion on the current state of the agency. Pardon me as I crawl up on my soapbox.

I have had my own horror story with TSA when my leg and liner were removed and my four year old son was intimidated and frightened. I admit that I am guarded in my interactions with TSA. Although my encounter was not the norm, I often detect an unsettling level of uncertainty from my screeners.

All too often the agents appear disorganized and confused by my prosthetic. There are vast differences among the screening process between airports and between agents. As an amputee traveler, I never know what to expect.

The disabled community deserves to be respected by TSA. In my opinion, the lack of education and training on how to deal with the handicapped community is appalling and insulting. We are missing limbs, may be reliant upon wheelchairs and may have medical issues, but we deserve to be screened in a reliable, compassionate and quick manner.

Do not ask me what other airports do during the screening process. Don't expect me to accept insensitive remarks that are overheard being made to your coworkers about my limb. I am not at the airport to serve as your training visual aid. Please don't practice on me. I am not a dress rehearsal!

Despite the myriad of complaints I hold about the agency, many might find it ironic to learn that I am not anti-TSA. I am concerned about the quality and the consistency of the screenings I undergo. I don't feel safe when inadequate training is demonstrated through blundering and inept practices.

I don't now, nor have I ever, contested the need for extra scrutiny for those with a prosthesis. I accept the extra screening as I have accepted many nuisances that I have encountered since I lost my leg. I just know that we can do better.

Common sense has been lost. Asking a woman, a flight attendant, to remove her prosthetic breast serves only to harass, not to promote security. Asking the passengers to interpret their own Cast Scope images, which has happened to me on numerous occasions, is illogical and deems the technology irrelevant. The new pat down procedures seem to be carried out in an effort to demonstrate the power of the TSA rather than to secure the skies.

As the holidays approach, we are going to be hearing more stories about TSA blunders and abuses. Until the agency is willing to take a look at their hiring requisites and training practices, improvement seems unlikely. In the meantime, ACA has asked to be informed of any inconsistencies or abuses that are encountered by the amputee traveler. If you have a problem or question, please contact them. Perhaps we will have more strength in numbers.

On a lighter note, sometimes a little humor helps.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Senseless Tragedy

My days in New York City were filled with desk-side briefings. I was simply asked to tell my story, to talk with the writers in the hopes that Ossur (and AmputeeMommy.com) might be referenced in a future article. My meetings were not expected to generate immediate results; I was told that it often takes 6-8 months for a written piece to materialize.

It was a huge surprise when Friday afternoon I received an exciting email. Popular Mechanics magazine promptly had written and published on-line an article discussing high tech prosthetics and TSA. It is rare that a desk-side briefing results in a full article within 48 hours.

Saturday morning, still feeling elated from the publication of the story in record time, I believed it was going to be a wonderful day. I grabbed a mug of gingerbread coffee and settled in to watch the morning news. I was numbed by the first story.

A 15 year-old boy from Scott's school was stabbed on the way home from school on Friday afternoon. He sustained a stab wound to the heart and, despite being air-lifted to a trauma center, he passed away. I began to cry when I thought about the grief stricken parents of this boy. Calling the incident "tragic" doesn't seem strong enough.

I woke up Scott and relayed the news story. The look on my husband's face when I repeated the boys name let me know that my fear had been realized. The boy that was murdered was one of Scott's students.

Miguel (Mickey) was, by most accounts, a good kid. He was a special education student who was liked by his classmates and teachers. He worked hard and was respectful. Scott worked with him a mere two hours before the attack.

Friday afternoon, Mickey was on his way from school to attend an after-school program. He was in a public area, walking with a group of friends. News reports indicate that he was somehow pre-selected for this attack. He was approached by at least two men and systematically stabbed in the heart.

The attack is being investigated as a gang initiation, although this has not been confirmed. For whatever the reason, it was a senseless act of barbaric violence that stole a good kid from his parents, family, friends and the community.

Self-contained special education classes are unique. Many of the students have been in the same classes together since elementary school. Tight bonds are formed among the students as they have grown up together. The loss of their classmate and friend will forever and fundamentally change this group of students and their teachers.

How do you explain the murder of a friend in a way that a special education student will understand? How do you help them cope with the empty chair in the classroom and the fear that this type of attack may happen again? This will become my husband's, along with the other self-contained teachers, job in the coming days and weeks.

This week, as you prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, please take a moment to think about Mickey. He was a sweet kid who is loved and will be missed. Rest in peace, Mickey.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Riding the Rails

There is no better feeling in the world than Robby wrapping his arms and legs around me after I return from a trip. I was only away for two nights, but I missed my little buddy. Although he had fun with his Nana, it's nice to know that he missed me.

When I was asked to travel to New York City I began to compare traveling by train versus plane. Looking at my options it became clear that the total travel time would be less if I went by Amtrak. When I realized that my hotel was directly across from Penn Station, my travel plans were sealed.

I haven't been on an Amtrak train since I was in elementary school. Before this trip I tried to find information about the passenger security screening procedures. I couldn't find any information. I now know why my queries yielded no results: there is no screening for the train.

When I was leaving New York City out of Penn Station I saw no fewer than a dozen fatigued military personnel armed with stun guns. They were certainly an imposing presence. While they were intimidating, I did not witness any passengers being screened, patted down or searched. If it occurred, the general public was not involved. Traveling by train, at least for this amputee, was a breeze! It appears that traveling by train is not as much of a perceived security risk, and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience without scanners, scopes, and molestation--whoops, I mean pat downs.

Although the travel time was 3.5 hours, I enjoyed the quiet that the train afforded me. Many times, when I am traveling by plane, my residual limb is sore by the time I disembark. On the train I was provided more leg room and wasn't cramped into a space designed for a malnourished Pygmy. I was able to stretch out, kick off my leg and put my foot up. It was a relaxing trip, and I felt refreshed by the time I reached my destination. The electric outlets by each seat were another unexpected perk!

I had a wonderful time exploring the city and meeting with various publication representatives. Sometimes it's nice to be in a professional environment for awhile. As an unexpected bonus perk of my trip, Robby now thinks that I am "super duper cool" because I went on a train! I have to admit, however, that I am thrilled to be back in my pink flannel pajamas, watching Billy the Exterminator with Robby.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New Horizons

This has been my first trip to New York City in nearly 15 years. It is hard to believe that it has been that long, and I was immediately struck by how much younger the residents seem. As much as I fight it, I suspect that I am just older.

Exploring cities is not as much fun as it was in my youth. I am more cautious now, aware of potential dangers. When I was younger I would think nothing of walking around Time Square at midnight. Last night my hand was cramped from clutching the cell phone as I tried to make it back to my room before dark.

Part of my anxiety stemmed from my sense of vulnerability. Since I lost my leg I feel as if I have become an ideal target for crime. I can't run as fast, and, if I fall, it takes me longer to stand up. If I were a criminal, I would choose me. I despise and resent feeling weak!

Yesterday was spent shuffling between meetings throughout the city. I recounted my story to various outlets, varying the focus depending upon the audience. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I am still trying to process.

I was nervous but tried to exude confidence to the best of my ability. (I do know that I looked assured in my new outfit.) I spoke with the reporters as if I were talking to a friend. When questions were posed, I answered them as if I were talking with somebody who reads this blog or with a novice amputee. I didn't say or do anything offensive, so I'm considering the meetings a success.

I did realize that I have come a long way since I was injured in 1998. I don't think that I really took stock of my accomplishments until I was forced to recount them. During those meetings it occurred to me that I am a lot stronger than I credit myself.

I have gone from feeling apprehensive to feeling strong within 24 hours. This has certainly been a roller coaster. That being said, I'm loving this ride.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mommy On The Go

I am currently in New York City trying to gear up to meet with reporters. I was told to wear clothes indicative of "Mommy on the Go," but I was immediately confused because my "Mommy on the Go" wardrobe means that I put on sweatpants in lieu of pajama bottoms when I go to the grocery store. I knew I was going to need help.

This past weekend I called my friend Vicki who, in addition to having an impeccable sense of style, is an avid fan of the Style Network. I knew that I was in good hands with her as my stylist! Despite being confident in her abilities, it become glaringly clear that I am lacking any sense of design or style in my wardrobe.

Her criteria for a nice outfit are more discriminating. I classify any garment as being "nice" if it is cute, pink, and lacks tears and obvious stains. After being a stay-at-home Mommy for the past four years, it has become clear that I have an extremely limited selection of "nice" clothes. I now have two trendy outfits, although uncomfortable, sure to make me the envy of trendy and modern "Mommies on the go" everywhere!

Last night I arrived in New York City. Thankfully my hotel is across the street from the train station because I became disoriented by the noises and commotion almost as soon as I walked off the train.

I found my way to the hotel and checked in. Feeling brave and determined not to be a recluse and hide, (my immediate tendency) I set out to explore. Observing a Michael Jackson impersonator moonwalk down the street for seemingly no reason was certainly unexpected and caught me off guard. I wanted to take a picture but I didn't know if it would cost me or offend him, so I decided to keep walking, quietly humming "Thriller."

After 15 minutes of walking with my best cosmopolitan strut and trying to feign urban sophistication, I became pathetically lost. I spent so much mental energy trying to fit in and look natural that I ended up just following a hoard of people instead of paying attention to where I was going. Somehow I had walked through Time Square without noticing.

I hate becoming lost especially when I am alone in a large city. Unfortunately, it is a rather common occurrence for me. Despite being trained to teach blind people how to use canes and travel, I have the personal orienteering skills of a drunk hamster. The irony has not been lost on me.

I was thrilled to get back to my hotel room, shed my "Mommy on the Go" clothes and crawl into my pajamas. While I love traveling, I've come to the conclusion it just isn't as much fun when I am by myself. The honking horns from the taxi cabs below my hotel window make me miss my drafty, leaky home in Virginia!

In all honesty, I am nervous about today. I'm decked out in my new clothes preparing for this adventure. Since I'm a horrible actress, I think it is best if I'm just myself. That will have to be enough! I am just hopeful that somebody will escort me between appointments and I won't have to rely upon my pathetic sense of direction. If the latter is the case I may end up somewhere in New Jersey, but I'll look great!