Sending a Letter Through Time

Henry says, "What are you lookin at?"

Henry says, “What are you lookin at?”

It’s been a good day.  Challenging, but good.

It’s a Tuesday, which means that Adam’s at work, and this is only the second day that I’ve had to take care of Henry and myself without any help.

The morning started out rough.  Yesterday, we ran out of disposable diapers, so we started using cloth diapers from the stash that I’d put together before Henry’s birth. Fortunately, he’s now over 8 pounds, so they fit him. (If cloth diapers had the yellow-turns-blue-so-you-know-he-peed technology, that would rock my world.  Scientists, get on that, won’t you?)

Anyway – the change from velcro-like closures on the disposables to the snaps on a reuseable Best Bottom shell got the better of me this morning in a suuuuper annoying kind of way.  You know that scene in all the baby movies where one of the parents gets peed on, and the baby pees on everything around it too, in an impressive and comedic fashion where you think to yourself, “Wow, kid got a lot of height with that whiz!”  Well, that was how I started my day — but it’s not where I am now.

Somehow, today, I managed to keep the kid fed and mostly clean (He needs a bath, thanks to spit-up, but we’re waiting for Daddy for that one!), to eat breakfast and lunch (Ok, so breakfast was just a Fiber One Protein Bar and a few swigs of RC Cola, but it’s better than nothing!), pump 3.5 oz of breast milk, do 2 loads of laundry, and take the kiddo with me to the grocery store and pharmacy down the street.

I know to a regular SAHM, this is probably not such a big deal — but I’m not a regular SAHM. Today’s the first day that I’ve managed to find time to put clothes on instead of pajamas, and is the first day in 3 weeks that I haven’t had any seizures at all.  Even on a good day, prior to giving birth, I would have been proud of myself for this level of activity. Adding in diapers, bottles, and pumping for breast milk, and I feel like I need some sort of gold star on a chart somewhere… which I guess is what this blog entry really is. I’m proud of myself, my kid is napping, and I get the chance to tell the world how far I’ve come.

If I could send letters back in time, I’d write this today.

Dear early 2011 Rae (the one having so many seizures per day that she has to use a chair to shower, isn’t allowed to cook, is bankrupt and suicidal),

You know how you are worried that you have no good reason to live, and that you are nothing but a burden to your family and society? Well, in 4 years, you’re the woman walking to and from the local (non-chain) grocery store and Walgreens with a 6 week old baby that strangers can’t stop cooing over, to shop for fixings for dinner and baby supplies…and you haven’t had a single seizure today.

Thanks for not killing me! There is more to look forward to than you can allow yourself to imagine.

-2015 Rae

I doubt she’d believe it was real. I’m a cynic — always have been — and depression/suicide is a crafty demon that doesn’t let anything positive in… but if I could show up in a TARDIS and give her a pep talk, I sure as shit would do it.  I hope that sometime in the future, if I need a pep talk, I remember to look back here and see how far I’ve come, and remember that things are never really as bad as they seem.

Look what I had to look forward to!

Look what I had to look forward to!

That being said, it would be totally bitchin’ if 2019 Rae could send me a letter or show up and let me know that we’re gonna make it through this infant stage without me losing my mind or ending up in the hospital because of sleep deprivation and stress. *looks around, expectantly* Well, I guess that’s not happening, so I’m gonna have to just keep doing my best every day, and remember to do my future self as many favors as possible. 🙂

Speaking of — that means getting off my butt, putting a freshly-laundered mattress pad & sheet back on the pack n play, washing all the bottles that have collected around the apartment, putting up another load of laundry, and straightening up a little bit. Heck, I might even go for extra credit and spritz on a little bit of pretty stink.  Adam’s on his way home!

Happy Mother’s Day!

It’s my first mother’s day!

On 4/29/15, Adam and I had a beautiful boy.

Hi, cutiepie!

Hi, cutiepie!

Henry Rhys Majka was born at 5:25 p.m., weighing 6 lbs. 12.1 oz, measuring 20″ in length.

He was delivered by c-section because, despite all of my best efforts, the kiddo had gotten awful comfortable in breech position and wasn’t gonna turn.  He was sitting inside of me like he was meditating — legs crossed, butt down, hands up by his face.  Since I also have hypertension, MS, and seizures, my OB decided that delivering by c-section at week 39 was the safest thing to do for everyone involved.

We got to the hospital just before 9 a.m. and checked in at labor and delivery. I was scheduled for surgery at 11:00 a.m., but because there were so many emergencies at the hospital that day, the surgery was delayed by 6 hours.  By the time that I was taken in to be prepped and given anesthesia, I hadn’t eaten or had anything to drink for 20 hours.  They had me take an antacid that had the most foul aftertaste imaginable, but I was so grateful to have any liquid in my mouth and throat that I was actually cheerful about taking it.

The thing that boggled my mind is that during the scariest and most painful parts of the surgery (during the time they put in the spinal anesthesia and epidural), Adam was not allowed in the room. Fortunately, he was there for the important parts.  He brought in my cell phone, so I could listen to music, and that helped me an awful lot with nerves.  To say that being mostly numb from the tits down is unnerving is an understatement.

Anyway, I had made a playlist for the surgery, but Adam had pushed “shuffle play” on it, so it wasn’t in the order I was expecting… and yet, it was perfect.  No joke, I think God was picking the song order.  Right before Henry was born, the song “Relax” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood was playing. It made me smile and joke that if he was born to that song, I’d forever associate Zoolander with his birth.  Instead, he was born to “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley… the song that says, “Don’t worry about a thing — because every little thing is gonna be alright.”  It was playing when he was taken out of me, brought to me in all of his goopy, mostly-blue glory, and then taken to be weighed, measured, and cleaned.  “Don’t worry about a thing — because every little thing is gonna be alright,” was the exact message I needed to hear at the time… and one that I’ve needed to hear many times since.

I couldn't love this kid more if I tried.

I couldn’t love this kid more if I tried.

One of the things that no one tells you about, while they’re opining over the miracle of birth is the misery, difficulty, and fear that accompanies that miracle in the form of learning to breastfeed. The pervasive myth is that it’s the most natural thing in all the world, and that if you put your baby on his tummy, against your chest, he’ll find your breast, start to suckle, and be sufficiently fed. I’m sure, for some women, this myth is an accurate representation of their experience — and good for them. But it wasn’t for me. I had no idea what I was doing, and everyone at the hospital acted like I should already know how to make the magic happen.

Unfortunately, when you give birth by c-section, your body doesn’t really have the opportunity to catch up with the rest of you and start producing milk. Sure, you already have your colostrum, but it takes a while for milk to come in afterward. It takes a while to learn how to get a good latch. (Thank goodness for Deb, the lactation consultant that taught us the teacup hold – because my breasts are too big for most regular holds.) It takes even longer to realize that there are confounding factors inhibiting your child’s proper nutrition – things like tongue ties and insufficient milk supply.

I wasn’t bothered by having a c-section. I know there are mothers out there who make a big deal about natural childbirth or vaginal delivery, but I’ve never been one of them. I’d be lying, however, if I didn’t admit to having a hard time accepting that I wouldn’t be able to exclusively breastfeed. At first, the irrational voices in my brain were telling me that it was happening because I am insufficient as a mother… but that’s a load of bullcrap. I’d been through major surgery and my body was struggling to catch up to Henry’s needs. And Henry’s needs come first. Now that we’ve started to supplement with formula, his health is much improved. His jaundice is almost gone, and it’s been incredibly helpful for Adam to be able to feed him — especially in the kinds of moments that no one ever talks about (like when you’ve been breastfeeding for over a half hour and suddenly, you really have to use the bathroom… or when your nipples are cracked and they start to hurt so badly that it makes you cry, not from hormones or emotions, but from genuine pain)

Truth be told, I didn’t immediately love my son. I was too busy thinking, “This is what birth is? Is this even real?” and “Holy shit, it hurts to move.”  But within a couple of days, I definitely did.  How could you not love this face?

So handsome.

So handsome.

I’d write more, but the kiddo needs my chest… and he comes first. ❤

IT’S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN!!!!

Less than 24 hours until Henry is born!!!

It’s hard to believe, but I’m scheduled to give birth to Henry in 23 hours.  TWENTY THREE HOURS.  That is crazy to me. Crazy awesome. Crazy scary. Just crazy.

Sure, I’ve got a lot of things to do today, and I should probably get to them, but it felt like it would be wrong to finish this pregnancy without a final blog entry on it.

2 and a half weeks ago. Tonight, I'll take a final bump pic. :)

2 and a half weeks ago. Tonight, I’ll take a final bump pic. 🙂

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 39 weeks. People always say, “Pregnancy goes by so fast! Enjoy every moment! Cherish it!”

Well, along the way, I’ve said those people are nuts. Pregnancy is gross, humbling, and often ridiculous… and while you’re going through it, it feels like it will last forever.  I’m guessing, after I give birth tomorrow, the whole experience will seem like it was very short.

Right now, however, Henry is digging one of his elbows into my abdomen, and all I can think about is how glad I am that he has descended, at least enough for me to be able to take a deep breath. Sure, the little guy is still breech, which is why I’m getting a c-section, but at least breathing is easier.

Pregnancy Brain Is REAL.

So, I know that I’ve said, on many occasions now, that pregnancy brain (that wonderful condition of cognitive fog and forgetfulness — or Momnesia if you will — that occurs when you’re pregnant and your brain literally stops being reliable) is real… but it never really affected me seriously until last night.  I took morning pills instead of nighttime pills. Fortunately, I am not on much medication right now, so I still had the correct amount of Labetalol, but I missed taking my omeprazole and unwittingly took extra hydrochlorathiazide.

Translation: On my last night to possibly get good sleep, I was up every hour either peeing or because I was, quite literally, choking on vomit.  It was disgusting and depressing. It did, however, make me momentarily stop worrying about dying during childbirth, and instead think, with giddy anticipation for major surgery, “SOON THIS WILL NOT BE A PROBLEM ANYMORE.”

Yes, I’m aware that I could get good sleep tonight, but let’s be real… intensely excited and scared aren’t exactly the ideal emotions to encourage your body to get a good night’s sleep.

So, the things I’m worried about…

Honestly, I’ve had an irrational fear of dying during childbirth since I was a kid.  I’m not sure whether to blame a belief in past lives coupled with nightmares or the number of movies and TV shows I have watched where the mom dies giving birth.  It’s probably a combination of the two.

Fortunately, c-sections are pretty safe.  Sure, there’s a website or two that suggests that you have a higher likelihood of dying during c-section than with vaginal delivery, but that tends to occur more for women who are put under general anesthesia and are not conscious for their child’s birth. It’s debatable whether the surgery or the anesthesia is more to blame for those deaths.

I’m scheduled for spinal anesthesia w/ an epidural backup, and I feel really confident after meeting my anesthesiologist yesterday. I explained how Uhthoff’s syndrome with MS works and how I’m more likely to seize if I am overheated, so we made plans that involve me staying cool, and instead of 3 heating sources, we’re gonna try one at a time. Dr. J and Dr. R (my MS and seizure neurologists) are in the loop and know that I’m going in tomorrow. Both have said to have Dr. I (my OB) contact them if he needs anything at all.

Honestly, the things I’m worried about today are a lot less freaky than the idea of dying, though I cannot control either of them.  I’m worried about an MS relapse during recovery and billing issues with Humana, despite the fact that I did everything I needed to do to make sure that they would cover everything for this delivery when they spontaneously decided to not work with UCMC at the beginning of this month.

I keep reminding myself that MS relapses are gonna happen one way or another, so worrying isn’t going to be remotely helpful. If I need steroids, I need steroids.

As for dealing with insurance billing well, we can only deal with things as they come. I can’t second guess this. I did the paperwork. We were told that we were covered, and I pay for a PPO.  So, even if they act like we didn’t do our due diligence, the absolute worst case scenario is that we’ll get billed at 50% of the total (plus my daily inpatient hospital copay of $265), and then we’re approved for financial assistance for UCMC, which means we’d be paying 25% of the total balance.  So, if the cost of this is ~$20K (the average cost of a c-section is $14,000 to$25,000), it shouldn’t be more than $4000 – 5000 at the end of the day, and they’ve got extended payment programs, so we’re gonna be fine. (Thank you for helping me talk myself through that, internet.)

OK. Enough of that.

According to my “Shit that’s gotta get DONE” list, I need to double check that the bags are properly packed for the hospital, clean out the fridge, eat some lunch, bake some cookies, and make a surgery playlist. And now, I can check off “Blog” from the list.  That’s right, it was on the list. 🙂

I hope you all are having a good day today, and that tomorrow treats us all well.  In the extremely unlikely event that I do end up actually dying tomorrow, please do something righteously goofy and fun in my memory and know that I’m profoundly grateful to have had a part in your life, even if it was just as entertainment.

And if I don’t die, do something goofy and fun anyway. Life’s too short to take it too seriously. 🙂

truth

38 Weeks & Serendipity

Every once in a while, I’ll get a comment on this blog that is clearly spam, but that somehow defies the spam filter and ends up in my email.  When this happens, it almost always prompts me to read the entry that the spambot decided to randomly comment on.

Today, I got a spam comment on this entry. It’s from October of 2012, when I attended the vow renewal ceremony of two of my best friends. Reading part of that entry made me cry with happiness.

A child really is the embodiment of 2 becoming 1. You couldn’t help but see the beauty, joy, and femininity of Deb in her, and the strength, intellect, and attention-commanding presence of Jason all present in her at the same time. She made me think about what a child would be like if it were a mixture of Adam and me… and it made me want one all the more.

I’ve been really hung up on getting pregnant with Adam’s child and coming off of my meds in order to do so.

It made me realize that it’s been 3 full years that I’ve been actively trying to become a mother… and all the effort will have been worth it very soon. In fact, it will be happening in 6 days.

countdown

This morning, Adam and I met with Dr. I, our high-risk obstetrician.  The non-stress test went well. Henry’s been wiggling around like nobody’s business.  The ultrasound went very well. Kiddo’s measuring close to the thirtieth percentile in size… but he’s still in breech position, and my blood pressure wasn’t good like it has been this whole pregnancy.  So, we made the difficult decision to schedule a c-section for Wednesday of next week.

Of course, if Henry flips head-down in the next week, the pregnancy will continue until I end up in labor naturally, but the odds of a baby flipping after 38 weeks are so incredibly low that we’re not terribly concerned with them. Instead, we’re busy being excited and preparing for his arrival. 🙂

 

32 Weeks & Personal Growth

Hey, party people!

Yesterday, I saw my OB.  I was hoping to have a new ultrasound to show everybody, but Henry was all balled up on my left side, so we couldn’t get any good shots.  Maybe we’ll be more lucky next week.

The breech tilt -- something I'm supposed to do 3 times a day for 20 minutes a session.  Laying upside down on an ironing board... totally natural, right?

The breech tilt — something I’m supposed to do three times a day for 20 minutes at a time. Laying upside down on an ironing board is totally natural, right?  Did I mention that I don’t own a full-size ironing board yet?

Currently, the kiddo’s transverse. He’s really taken to using my left lower rib as a pillow recently. While a part of me thinks that’s sweet, the most of me is tired of the pain and wants him to flip around and get into ready position.  I’ve been reading up on how to do that and doing some of the exercises suggested on YouTube (like this video) and sites like SpinningBabies. To be totally honest, though – this site‘s my favorite, for no other reason than it’s both helpful and hilarious.

I’m 99% sure that his breech position is entirely my fault because I spend so much time sitting, either at the computer or on the couch, and I’m almost never pelvis-forward. Time to start sitting on the floor, the balance ball, or flipping chairs around backwards.

Oh, and some things I’ve learned…

One way I didn’t expect pregnancy to change me was on a personal level. I thought I was already pretty mature, and that all the personal growth would be happening after the baby came out. But, it doesn’t work that way. Here’s what I’ve learned recently.

1.) Everybody knows at least one pregnancy horror story, and they all will tell you that story, regardless of whether or not you want to hear it. People who haven’t been pregnant don’t really care if it’s going to freak you out. There’s a real feeling that if they don’t let you know what happened to their sister’s best friend’s aunt, it could happen to you too. I’m getting really good at reminding myself that being afraid isn’t going to stop anything bad from happening, so it’s not worth it. 

2.) Most people who had babies more than 30 years ago seem to believe that the science of baby-rearing stopped progressing when they had their kids.  So, when they tell you how vitally important it is to have bumpers on your crib or that the best way to calm your baby is to put it on its belly with a fluffy stuffed animal and a blanket, they’re not actively trying to kill your kid. They just can’t fathom that the parenting advice that was given to them by doctors (and that they followed) isn’t considered safe anymore.  What’s worse is that many of them feel personally attacked if you correct them… which is why I am becoming incredibly good at just saying “thank you” for advice that I have no intention of following, and acknowledging that the bad advice is just a long-winded way for them to say that they want the best for me and my kid.

3.) Speaking of opinions — everybody has one, whether it’s an opinion on how you should be raising your kid, what you should be eating and/or doing during pregnancy, or what they consider socially acceptable… except for me, now.

I honestly don’t care if you use disposable diapers or cloth, if you formula feed or breastfeed (in public or private), if you co-sleep or strictly crib it. I could care even less if both you and your spouse work full time and have a nanny or if you are so committed to attachment parenting that you’ve decided to quit your job and spend all your time and energy homeschooling your kid from birth. Don’t believe in western medicine or giving birth in a hospital?  Mazel tov! More resources available to those of us who do. The circumcision debate? Both sides have merit! I really don’t care how you choose to parent.

I have decided to believe that everybody wants to do right by their kids (unless they’re a total sociopath or narcissist), and that if their personal decisions do not personally affect me or my family, they’re not worth my emotions or energy. 

This is as true for the mommy who has decided not to treat her kid’s ear infection with antibiotics (and instead to use essential oils) as it is for the parents who have decided that once their kid hits age 6, she’s going to boarding school.  Would I personally make either of those decisions? Oh hell no.  But you’re welcome to them.

4.) Speaking of — I remember my pre-pregnancy days. I thought my opinion mattered when it came to how my friends were raising their kids. It didn’t. It still doesn’t. I remember losing a friend because I so passionately argued against the use of leashes on children, and she was committed to using a backpack harness and leash on her daughter.  That friend didn’t need the aggravation of dealing with my unwanted opinion, and she was right to unfriend me. She was working hard to raise her kid and keep her safe, and my approval of her methods was not necessary.

Do I still think the use of child leashes is a bad thing? Most of the time, for the great majority of kids, yes. But does my opinion make a damn bit of difference? Hell no. I’ve learned that there are times when I just need to keep my mouth shut. And during times when I can’t (and yes, I acknowledge that they exist), just say what I have to say, and then back the fuck off. Arguing is not helpful in any way to either of us.

5.) I am super-grateful that I have been through the emotional bullshit and therapy that I’ve been through. I’m not ashamed of it. I feel so much more prepared to parent because I have already accepted that I’m gonna fuck up along the way and that fucking up is part of doing things right in the long run.

If I can teach Henry to not fear failure but to embrace it as a step on the way to greater success, I will have saved him from a lot of pain and anxiety.  And I’ve been feeling a lot of anxiety recently about becoming a mom.  My mantra recently has been, “We’ll figure it out.” 

Am I gonna breastfeed or formula feed? Who knows?! I want to breastfeed as long as possible, but if I have an MS relapse when Henry’s born, I won’t have much of a choice — so we’re preparing for both eventualities. We’ll figure it out.

Are we going to use disposable or cloth diapers? Well, I love the look of cloth diapers and that they save money over time… but I have no idea about what my health is gonna be like or whether or not it’ll work with our lifestyle. So, we’re registered for cloth diapers, but we’re also gonna have a beer & diaper party for Adam’s birthday. When Henry’s born, we’ll see what works best for us and figure it out.

Heck, I obsessed over everything on the registries… but at the end of the day, if anything doesn’t work for us, we’ll figure out what does.  None of these things are life and death.

 

A Really For Really Real Entry.

Let’s try this again.

logoutToday, I’m trying to get back on track doing the things that make me happy. Blogging is one of those things. Singing’s another. And truth be told, I am really missing the gym, even though right now I can’t walk for more than 20 minutes without being in pain. (What can I say? 3rd trimester is no joke.)

I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time surfing Facebook and sleeping. I’ve come to recognize that when my day looks like, “Wake up, eat breakfast, check emails, surf FB, eat lunch, surf FB, nap, do some laundry, eat dinner, watch some TV (often while also surfing FB), go to bed.” that I’m doing it wrong.

That’s not to say that by sitting here and writing a blog entry that I’m breaking out of the “sit on the couch on the computer” habit very quickly — but every moment I spend doing something productive, as opposed to reading about strangers problems cloth diapering or raising their children is a moment that I feel like I’ve earned back.

That being said, I’m grateful for the truly staggering amount of knowledge I’ve gained in the last month or two about how to deal with cloth diapers and fussy babies. I have no doubt that the time I spent reading will be helpful, even if I don’t have a book to show someone.

Truth be told, that kinda pisses me off. At least when you read a published parenting book, you can be like, “I read parenting books.”  It’s like getting a gold star for having done your homework or something. Instead, every day, I’ve been reading countless posts by frustrated parents who can’t get their diapers properly clean or whose kids are having what they consider to be behavioral problems and the responses that helpful members of the parenting community have given them.

easytillyouhavekidsOf course, there were parents in these communities who I’ve very badly wanted to smack.

No, random gentleman, wearing a princess costume is not going to “turn your son gay” — and if your 2 year old son happens to grow up to be gay,  you should accept that and love him anyway for who he is. You don’t get to publicly be mad at your wife for letting him get into his sister’s toy chest without people thinking you’re an idiot. She didn’t do anything wrong. I hope his sister got into her little brother’s toys too and is happily exploring the wonderful world of Bob the Builder. I promise that being proficient with tools will not make her crave vag.

To the paleo-crossfit-full-time-career-control-freak moms (who I definitely would have become without seizures): One of your kid’s classmates is going to bring shitty snacks to some event. Probably more than one. Odds are, at school or daycare, your kid will eat something with grains and refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup. I assure you, they will survive, and you really don’t need to take the time to write a strongly worded letter to the mother of the offending classmate.  One afternoon with Goldfish crackers and apple juice isn’t going to ruin your child for life. Ain’t nobody got time for the drama that letter would create. Go lift and release that stress.  There are bigger fish to fry in natural, non-hydrogenated oils.

And every one of you parents out there who is actively complaining about feeling “poor” when you make more than $250K/year and own a house – or those of you who are frustrated and feel entitled to loudly complain and dock pay when your nanny can’t come in to work after a 20 inch snowfall when many of the streets haven’t been plowed and the windchill factor is below -30 – all y’all can seriously just go cry in the corner.  Join the parents who are publicly bemoaning the schools being closed and would rather their kids stand outside, waiting for the bus, in temperatures that cause frostbite in less than a minute.  None of y’all have my sympathy. Not one. Not even kinda.

Fortunately, more often than not, parents have valid (often interesting) questions, and are not assholes to each other. It is awesome to participate in communities of people who are willing to offer words of wisdom or actual assistance when someone needs it.

A Month? Really?

It’s hard to believe it’s been 4 weeks since my last post here. It doesn’t feel that long.

I’m not sure why, but somewhere along the way, I started to think that I should only write here when I have something meaningful to say and not just whenever I felt like writing. I’ve decided that way of thinking is crap, if for no other reason than it means that I unnecessarily self-censor and therefore do not end up entertaining myself or you by writing.

There was a week in there when I was working on an entry, but I seriously depressed myself writing it.  It was going to be 20 Ways You’re *Actually* Doing Better Than You Think You Are – which was an answer to a similarly named entry on ThoughtCatalog that primarily focused on earning enough money to be comfortable, and thus had a needless slant against disabled people. (I say this because 6 of the 20 things focused on earning/having money.)

Instead of focusing on money, I focused on things like being alive, not being trapped by human trafficking, not being in jail, being able to read, and living somewhere where you are not persecuted for your race, gender, or religion (all discussions of privilege or nationalism aside).

If I’d kept it on the shiny, happy side, y’all would have definitely seen it, and it would have stayed short — but that’s not the way my brain works. (Stupid brain!) Each one of those “good things” ended up with its own short exposé about how shitty other people have it and what you can do to help.  After “working to bring  awareness” of so much awfulness that exists in this world that I really cannot affect in any meaningful way, I managed to depress myself pretty thoroughly. Fortunately, I’m carrying a happy thought inside me.

Less than 10 weeks til I’m a Mommy.

This was taken at 28 weeks after several friends requested a baby bump shot.

This was taken at 28 weeks after several friends requested a baby bump shot. Don’t I look classy?

According to the calendar, we’ve got fewer than 70 days to go. I can’t believe that Adam and I have only 2 months left of being irresponsible. fancy-free adults a 2 person family.

The fact that our lives are about to be permanently changed is kind of a mindfuck. I don’t think it’s actually possible to be prepared for it… but at least we have the crib built, even if we don’t have the hospital bag packed yet. (I keep meaning to do it, but keep putting it off for God-only-knows-why.)

There is one thing that I did today that both made me very happy and very weepy, as I tried to sing along. I created a playlist of songs that I want to sing to him on YouTube.

 

Here are the tracks:

Heaven – Bryan Adams
Beautiful Boy – John Lennon
Here Comes The Sun – Beatles
Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel) – Billy Joel
Sweet Child O Mine – Guns N Roses
I’ll Be There – Mariah Carey
You Are The Sunshine Of My Life – Stevie Wonder
Close to You – Carpenters
We’ve Only Just Begun – Carpenters
You Are My Sunshine – Johnny Cash
A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes – from Cinderella (Sung by my favorite Berklee voice teacher, Donna McElroy)
Once Upon A Dream – from Sleeping Beauty (sung by Lana Del Rey)
Blackbird – Sarah McLachlan
Goodnite Sweetheart, Goodnite – the Spaniels
U Smile – Justin Beiber
Baby Baby – Amy Grant
Closing Time – Semisonic
Three Little Birds – Bob Marley
Beautiful – Christina Aguilera
I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston
Everything I Do, I Do It For You – Bryan Adams
Godspeed (Sweet Dreams) – Dixie Chicks
Baby Love – The Supremes
Danny’s Song – Kenny Loggins
Edelweiss – Sound of Music
Waltz – Fiona Apple
Sweet Dreams – Tori Amos

Anything you think I’m missing?  I’m always happy to add to it.

And… that’s all for now, because Adam’s home, and I’ve got to get myself off this couch for a while. Happy weekend, everybody. ❤

3 Important Things I Want My Child To Do

Earlier today, I read an article that inspired me. A father-to-be wrote out 14 things that he wants his future child(ren) to know… things that he doesn’t embody right now, but that he’ll probably strive to embody as his child grows.

I’m not so arrogant as to say that I feel prepared to be a mother.  I honestly don’t know anyone who isn’t either totally narcissistic or uniformed about the complexities of parenthood that can say they feel totally ready. Hell, I don’t even know if it’s possible to be ready.  But that’s the first thing I want my kid to know.

Try new things, especially if they scare you.

As a kid, this is gonna be easy because everything’s new. You don’t really have a say in the matter. You’re going to be presented with challenges over and over again. It’s part of growing up. But… as you get older, you’ll notice there are some things that you’re great at and other things that make you feel uncomfortable because you aren’t yet proficient. You’ll get comfortable with the idea of who you are and what you can do. That’s when you need to try something out of your comfort zone.themagic

The scary things — the things you see other people doing that make you think, “WOW, they are awesome!” Those are the things I want you to do, especially if you are afraid that you will fail or that people will laugh at you. Neither of those things are a good reason to stop yourself from growing.

When you think about doing those things, part of you will be excited and giddy… but there will also be a tiny, cowardly voice inside you saying, “Are you sure you can do that?” or “They’re so much cooler than you. There’s no way you can do that.” I want you to respond to that voice in a loud and powerful thunder inside. Respond to that voice by saying, “WATCH ME KICK SOME ASS.”  And then do whatever needs to be done. Don’t shy away from the hard work. It’s the most important work you can do.
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Embrace the suck.

I’m gonna bet that well before you’re an inevitably foul-mouthed teenager, you will have already heard the following phrases so many times that they seem reasonable to you. I say this, not because your father and I will say them frequently, but because they’re pervasive in pop culture, and real people say and think things like this all the time.

“Life sucks.” … “Work sucks.” … “I suck.” … “The Bears suck.” (Okay, that last one might be true.)

First, I apologize for cussing through your whole childhood. I’d like to pretend that becoming pregnant with you magically improved my vocabulary, but it didn’t.

Secondly, I’m gonna let you in on a secret that most people in our day and age have forgotten: Life is supposed to be hard. It’s a feature, not a bug! Sure, there will be times that are awesome and fun and happy and easy. It is my greatest hope that those times are a much bigger part of your life than the others… but you can’t have the good without the bad.

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I know, for a fact, there are going to be moments in your life that just, well, suck. You’re going to face loss. You’re going to face failure. You’re going to have your heart broken. You’ll lose hope. We all do, from time to time.

But, if your dad and I do our jobs well, you’re going to become resilient. You will know that nothing lasts forever – not sadness or happiness. You’re going to understand failure as a step towards success.  You’re going to accept loss as a natural progression that comes from having people and things in your life that you truly value, and you’re going to appreciate people and things while they’re around as best as you can. You’re going to learn that your heart is stronger and bigger than it ever feels like it is at any given moment. You will learn that time heals most pain, and that hope and happiness are things that you choose.

 

There are gonna be times when you’re building skill at something and you’ll get frustrated and think to yourself, “I suck at this!”  That’s a good thing, really! It means you have good taste, and that you should keep working.

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I can’t tell you the number of times I heard classmates at Berklee College of Music say that they sucked at their instruments. It was almost mandatory to believe that you weren’t good enough. Heck, it might as well have been an entry requirement. Truthfully, nobody who attends that school sucks at their instrument. They all are just humble and know how much better they could be. Everybody there was working hard to get better every day. I would go so far as to say at least half the folks at my college were perfectionists, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  There are folks out there who say that “perfect” is the enemy of “good”… but really, the enemy of good is quitting.  This is as true for honing your skill in any art form as it is for gaining skill and technique with bodybuilding, gardening, carpentry, or any other pursuit in life.

KMBA-Ira Glass Quote

There are also folks out there who will tell you to follow your dreams. I’m one of them!  But in all the dreamy talk, people often forget that the actual act of doing what you love is still damn hard work. It really doesn’t matter what you choose, honestly. The way you’ll know that you’re on the right path is that you will not hate the hard work or yourself for doing it. Sure, it’ll still suck. Work almost always sucks. That’s why it’s called work and not “fun.”  But if you’re doing the right kind of work, you won’t mind it so much. You’ll think to yourself, “Well, at least I’m doing this and not [insert something you truly hate here].”

One of my friends in college had a gross saying that used to make me laugh pretty hard, but it’s dead on in this regard. He would say, “Being happy is all about deciding the right flavor of shit sandwich to chow down on.”

So, embrace “the suck” in all of its forms. Doing so will make your life so much more enjoyable. Resistance to pain only makes it subsist.

Love Yourself.

For some people, this is one of the hardest lessons they will ever learn in life, if they ever learn it.  The world is full of folks who exist in a state of sadness that comes from years of untreated trauma. They have low self-esteem. They believe they somehow deserved whatever bad treatment they’ve endured. They don’t believe they deserve good things. They don’t feel like they deserve unconditional love. I know this person.  I’ve been this person, and I healed because of your father (and our family)’s unwavering and unconditional love and patience, and a lot of work with several good psychologists. It took years for me to be able to say that I love myself without feeling guilty or like a fraud.  I will do everything in my power to make sure you never have that same challenge.

I want to assure you, right now, that you are unquestionably loveable.  I can say this without hesitation because I already love you like crazy, and you’re not even born yet. Heck, you were created from love. I thought this world needed more of your father in it… and he thought the same thing about me.  If you ever find yourself wondering, “Why did my parents have me?” the answer is very simple. We loved the idea of you before you were part of our world. We wanted to hug you and love you and teach you and watch you grow. We wanted to leave a legacy of goodness and love, and the best way we could think to do that was through you.  And that goes for any siblings you might have later too.

So please, treat yourself with the same compassion you would treat anyone else. Be kind to yourself. If you ever find yourself beating yourself up over anything at all, ask yourself, “What would Mom say to me?” I promise, I’d say something nice. 🙂

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Advertisements, magazines, and many TV shows exist to make you believe that you’re not enough exactly the way you are. Companies, in an effort to sell you things, will tell you that you need to be thinner, faster, sexier, richer. Don’t believe any of it. You are the only one of you that has ever existed or will ever exist. Your existence is unique event in the history of the universe.

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Right now, you are the size of a sweet potato… and I know there are many more important things that I want to teach you.  Those lessons will have to wait for another day because I desperately need a nap.

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Apples & Oranges

Week 15!

week15-2I’m currently very amused by the fact that some websites say our baby is the size of an apple and others say s/he is the size of an orange. There’s something poetic and hilarious about it because it means that you really can compare apples an oranges, at least as far as size is concerned. 🙂

week15 For all interested parties, I am now showing!  Most of my clothes, though, are loose, so unless you felt my belly, you still wouldn’t know.  One of the perks of losing ~20 pounds before conception has been that most of my clothes still fit very comfortably, jeans aside.  I basically am living in my pajama pants and t-shirts. That hasn’t stopped me from falling in love with maternity clothing, however.  I honestly believe that belly panels and shirred sides on shirts are some things that plus-sized women’s fashion has been desperately needing for a long time.

And can I just say how totally bizarre it feels to have all of your organs shifted around and up, and for your lower abdomen to start feeling kind of like an inflated ball?  Because it’s straight-up weird. And it’s occasionally acutely painful.  The best way I can describe it for guys or ladies who haven’t experienced it yet is that sometimes you get cramps that feel sort of like the cramps you get when you are super constipated and really have to make a bowel movement, but slightly higher in your abdomen… and no amount of pooping is going to make anything better, so eating a big handful of prunes, while great for its fiber and nutrients, is ultimately folly.

This week has been much better in the realm of tummy issues, though. Only 1 day where I got sick – otherwise, things are alright!

One thing that has been a bit disturbing to me is that I’ve had a few seizures.  Not like, a ton or anything – heck, it’s nowhere close to what I dealt with prior to pregnancy, but it still freaks me out when it happens.  I got so used to not seizing! I got some tinglies in my feet and back yesterday too, so I’m willing to bet money that I’m fighting off some kind of ickyness. It’s nothing to be worried about, just so you know. My epileptologist told me that as long as I continue breathing through the seizures and am not falling, it’s not likely to harm the baby. Her biggest concern is making sure that me and Hush Puppy have sufficient oxygen at all times.

Pre-Birth (or “Soul”) Contracts

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So, one thing that Facebook is really great for is introducing me to concepts that are second-nature to friends of friends but are totally unusual and bizarre to me.  One of these things is the concept of the Pre-Birth Contract.

A quick summary: Before you were born, you and a bunch of spirit guides got together, reviewed your last lives for what was good and bad, and decided a path or “destiny” for yourself to move towards enlightenment — to better understand what life is all about — to better understand how you are a part of God.  This solidifies the idea that there are no coincidences or accidents — this was all part of God’s (and your) plan. The curve ball?  You forget all about the contract you made upon incarnation and have to experience it without the knowledge that you’ve chosen your path for your higher self’s greater good. That’s the only way for you to experience free will and the ability to creatively problem solve.

At first blush, this notion made me angry (It seemed like the cruelest form of victim blaming I’d ever seen.) and then it amused me greatly. My response to my friend’s friend was, “If I planned the life I’ve gone through for my greatest good, I am a serious pain in my own ass.”

I mentioned it to Adam, who is an even bigger fan of table-top roleplaying games than I am, and his immediate response was, “What a neat idea! It’s like cosmic character creation.” He made a joke about how there’s got to be real estate in Heaven, and that we’re all just trying to get to the de-luxe apartment in the sky — that folks with harder lives get better quarters.  Imagining that I’d get better digs because of MS and seizure disorder gave me the giggles.  When I said, “I’m doin’ it all for us,” he was quick to remind me that we’re only married until death, so he’d have his own place.  I asked him a moment later if my eyes were actually shooting laser beams into his face or if I was just imagining it. 🙂

I wondered if Hush Puppy was currently in negotiations, or if that happened before conception.  Then I wondered, with all the things I’ve endured (and continue to endure), what enlightenment my soul was after.

Why NOT me?

whynotmeYesterday, my friend Erika wrote a great blog entry about how she deals with self-pity in regard to having MS. Her tactic is not to say, “Why me?” but rather “Why not me?”  She reminded us all that everybody’s got their burdens to bear, and that it’s better to do so without unnecessary sadness over the hand you’ve been dealt — but then she said something that I’ve seen many, many folks with MS say.  She said, “I want my ‘old’ life back.”

For whatever reason, when I read that, it made me think about those Pre-Birth Contracts. It made me wonder, “What am I trying to learn?” I can’t count the number of times over the last 7 years that I’ve wished that I never developed MS… the number of times I thought about how much better life would be if I were still able to drive… to be a full-time attorney and to still perform musically without fear of experiencing seizures on stage… the number of times I have shamed myself for not being an equal financial contributor to our household… the number of times that I worried about being a burden to the people I love, or worried about frightening children with my seizures… the number of times I’ve had to fight suicidal ideation.

It got me thinking: what good has come out of dealing with MS and seizures?  And the answer was, “Quite a lot.”

The Upside of Down

findthegoodHaving MS and seizures has caused me to learn many lessons that I would not have otherwise have learned.

  • It’s absolutely forced me to learn the importance of regular meditation and/or prayer for physical and mental health.
  • It has highlighted the need for self-compassion and made me learn how to practice it.
  • It’s made me question the way that I think about everything – and to constantly examine those thoughts for truth and rationality.
  • It’s made me wildly change my expectations of myself and others.
  • It’s made me face some of my biggest fears (like spending huge amounts of time alone or being locked up in a mental hospital against my will) and to learn how, not only to cope, but to thrive in situations that prior to seizures, I would have avoided at any cost.
  • It’s required me to face demons of past abuse and to do the hard work to move as far past those memories as possible by both growing as a person and learning to forgive the people who caused me harm to begin with.
  • It’s made me take a long, hard look at what I thought was important and to reassess my priorities.
  • It’s made me redefine what love means, and to see how vital it is to not only feel gratitude, but to express it loudly and regularly.
  • It’s made me a more kind, empathetic, compassionate person to others.
  • It’s made me much, much more patient. (Which isn’t saying much, since, emotionally, I’m still wildly impatient – especially with myself. Still, 2014 Rae is way more patient than 2006 Rae.)
  • It’s made me redefine what it means to be a good friend, and to more fully appreciate the people who are willing to be on this ride with me.
  • It’s made me painfully aware of mortality, of the importance of never taking any aspect of your body or health for granted, and of the fact that doctors are just people who are doing their best to help people with the knowledge that they currently possess.
  • It’s helped me to recognize what’s really important versus what society and advertisers suggest are the things we should be focused on.

If it weren’t for my disability, I wouldn’t have the privilege of staying at home with my future children. I wouldn’t know, deep down, that the most important work I will do in my life will be to raise kind, emotionally intelligent, community-minded, curious kids. I would be trapped in the Quest for More Stuff and More Power.

I wouldn’t know the joy of the double-nap day or the freedom that comes with being able to say, “The dishes and laundry will be there tomorrow.”  I wouldn’t be able to laugh about people who are genuinely fretting over fashion or other “first world problems.”

Does that mean that I’m grateful for my challenges?  OF COURSE NOT. That would be silly. Challenges suck! Nobody’s genuinely grateful for disability.  But I am genuinely grateful that there’s gold to mine from the rubble. I am genuinely grateful for growth that wouldn’t have otherwise occurred.

When I think about my “old” life and my current existence, it really feels like looking at two very different people… sort of like comparing apples and oranges. 🙂

But either way, the fruit is sweet. Life is good.

Everyday Earbug

And just because life is amusing in its serendipity, while I was writing this, I found out that one of my favorite bands (Marina and the Diamonds) has released a new single.  The name? “Froot.”  I couldn’t make this up if I wanted to. 🙂 Hope you enjoy.

Happy Friday!

Exercising My Right To Abstain.

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Today’s the mid-term election in America. Damn near every post on my Facebook feed is the same digital sticker saying “I voted.” that is otherwise completely devoid of content. For everyone who is proud of themselves for participating, I say, “Good for you!”  I, for one, will be abstaining.

Why?  Because of 3 reasons:

The first is logistical: I can’t get to the polling place.  When we moved to the Chicagoland area, we moved in to my brother-in-law’s house in Romeoville (a town that’s an hour away from where we live now). That’s where my ID says I still live, and hence is where I’m registered to vote.  Yes. I know that I need to get that ID updated. Adam and I have delayed that process because we thought we were going to be getting a house somewhere, and that it would be a lot of unnecessary waiting in line and filling out of paperwork. We expected to live in this apartment for maybe a year.  It’s been almost 3 now. So, we will be remedying that soon. Strictly logistically speaking, thanks to my seizure disorder, I lack the ability to drive way the fuck out there while Adam is at work. So, there’s no way for me to voice my opinion, if I even had one.

The second is practical.  I am not remotely invested in this community, and I am not educated on any of the races. Other than not wanting Bruce Rauner to be governor because his family gave $700,000 to the lobbying groups behind the terribly flawed SCOTUS Hobby Lobby decision, I have absolutely no opinion whatsoever on anything that’s being voted on.

Honestly, I am just starting to accept that Chicago is going to be my permanent home, and that I don’t have any say in the matter. I absolutely hated this city before being forced to make the best of being here.   I wanted to live in Los Angeles.  I still do, but I know it will never happen again. I did all the hard work necessary to get out there… but disability completely stripped me of my autonomy. I couldn’t support myself anymore, and when Adam couldn’t get a job there for over 2 years, we had to choose between going to a homeless shelter or moving in with family. Not a tough choice, especially considering that Adam had a job here within a week of our arrival — but it has been a long, difficult adjustment for me.  These days, I look hard to see what’s good about Chicago… (and there’s a lot!) but I still don’t feel like a Chicagoan. I don’t know if I ever will. I feel like the people who live here and love this place should have a louder voice than me when it comes to their local politics.

The third reason is intellectual honesty. I factually know that my vote wouldn’t matter anyway. I would only be playing my part in a nation-wide charade. We are no longer living in a representative democracy. We are living in a society where the only people who make it to the ballot are there because they have the financial support of oligarchs. We are living in a society where votes are lost all the time by malfunctioning hardware, where the Republican party actively works to stop poor people from voting and miraculously has the SCOTUS’s aid in doing so, where the only real votes we have are with our dollars.  You know, because money is speech now. Voting gives us the ability to PRETEND that we have any say in what goes on here. It gives us the ability to PRETEND that we’re not succumbing to neo-feudalism. This pageant gets played out because people buy in to partisan marketing messages and can’t be convinced of truth afterward.  I have had to accept that very, very rich people are the only ones whose voices will actually be heard by our government, and that those people, by and large lack empathy and are out of touch with the needs of the common person.

Personally, I don’t like participating in a farce, even if it’s the “American” thing to do.

Chasing the American Dream

Remember how I said we had a contract on a house? (This would be the 7th house we bid on in the last 6 months…)  Well, we don’t anymore. We had a housing inspector out on Saturday and found out that the property we were slated to buy had all sorts of interesting problems.

Electrical issues! There was no electricity to the kitchen, wiring to the main breaker using wires that aren’t even available in this country, and all of the electricity to the garage was not grounded, and was therefore a fire hazard. Also, the connection to the city’s power was not up to code, and there were wires just randomly sticking out of the ground that could hurt people!

Plumbing issues! All of the spigots on the outside of the house were leaky. None of the showers or tubs drain properly. The sump pumps were both homemade, rigged incorrectly, and non-functional. The whirlpool tub was non-functional. The hot water heater needed to be replaced.

Safety issues!  The door to the basement opened over the stairs. The outside stairs, both in the front and back were irregular in size and could cause people to fall. There were cracks in the foundation.

For these reasons and more, we decided to step away from the property.  At this point, I’m completely over the idea of owning a house. Other than wanting to be closer to family and friends, I don’t see a benefit. Our 2 bed/2 bath apartment has good access to public transportation and damn near everything you could want in walking distance, for a good price.  If Adam finds a place he wants me to check out, I’ll give it a look, but I’m absolutely done spending time on Zillow and RedFin for the time being.

Pregnancy Update

It’s been over a week now since I last worshiped at the porcelain altar! Morning sickness has been replaced with extreme crankiness and bacne.

Tomorrow, we enter week 14. The traditional “size” this week is “lemon.”  I much preferred this graphic, however.

Our next OB appointment isn’t for another 2 weeks, so there really isn’t much to report. Things are just rockin’ along.  I have, however, come to a very important conclusion – and that is that I don’t need to participate in The Bump’s May 2015 mommy board anymore.

Why I left TheBump: Somebody asked about whether or not it’s ok to host your own baby shower, and she got mercilessly flamed. She was told, “If no one throws one for you, you don’t get one.” I jumped in to say that I vehemently disagree, and that Emily Post and Dear Abby’s opinions should never mean more than your personal experience and your genuine relationships with the people in your life. I said that folks are going to be giving their unkind, unwanted opinions regarding motherhood for the rest of time, so she should start getting in good practice on telling people where they can shove those unwanted opinions, and that she should do whatever makes her happy. At that point, I became the target for the catty, hormonal bitches, and decided that if I actually stood by my opinion, the correct next move was to completely ignore theirs.

I have found it interesting, however, that when I’m super cranky, I have an unreasonable desire to click back on that thread and see the mean things that these women have said and get upset and fight.  Resisting that urge has been a big deal for me.

3 Great Things About Yesterday

  1. Started a new 21-day meditation challenge by Oprah & Deepak Chopra. I always enjoy those.
  2. I was taking the bus home from my chiropractor appointment, and on the second leg of it, when I tapped my Ventra card, it said “insufficient funds.” I started to look for the money, and a total stranger offered her card. She said, “Happened to me just last week, and somebody took care of me. I’m just payin it forward.”
  3. Was an effective housewife – got dinner on the table, did the shopping, did the laundry.

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Daily Cute

Everyday Earbug

And now, it’s time for me to go do all the things! You know, things like actually eating breakfast… 🙂

To Dickfinity and Beyond!

Seriously, id?

“Id, ego, and super-ego are the three parts of the psychic apparatus defined in Sigmund Freud’s structural model of the psyche; they are the three theoretical constructs in terms of whose activity and interaction our mental life is described. According to this model of the psyche, the id is the set of uncoordinated instinctual trends; the super-ego plays the critical and moralizing role; and the ego is the organized, realistic part that mediates between the desires of the id and the super-ego. The super-ego can stop one from doing certain things that one’s id may want to do.” (Thanks Wikipedia.)

I am actually awake 2 hours earlier than I usually wake up because my brain will not stop chewing on my mom’s response to me telling her that the meme she posted was uncool. That’s right. I’m actually losing sleep because my brain won’t let it go.

I genuinely want to drop it. I honestly know that nothing good can come from continuing the discussion, enumerating the ways that a meme that she didn’t write is innately hypocritical, or continuing to shame her for it in a public forum where her friends and coworkers can see it. There is zero benefit there. None! It’s not like she’s going to thank me for enlightening her. The very best case scenario ends in her apologizing and admitting that I’m right, which means she’ll be upset, and I don’t relish the idea of needlessly upsetting my mother.

But my id doesn’t give a single, solitary fuck. It is chewing on it like a dog with a bone and does not want to quit fighting about it until she admits that I’m right and that the meme is stupid.

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I mean, seriously, it’s one thing for someone on the internet to be wrong. But for my own mother to be the one on the internet that is wrong? *BRAINSPLOSION* 

This comic does a better job of describing the situation than I ever could. I am desperately, intensely striving for Level Two.  I’m already being a dick. My id, however, dwells in Dickfinity.

The Ultimate Flowchart

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Well, this morning could definitely use some awesome. I gotta turn this trainwreck around.

3 Great Things About Yesterday

  1. Got some new clothes that I feel confident and beautiful in.
  2. Ate way too many pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.
  3. Was surprised to find out that Rush Hour 3 exists, and enjoyed mostly ignoring it while doing other things.

Daily Cute

Everyday Earbug

This band is what would happen if Black Sabbath, Heart, and Jethro Tull had a 3 way gangbang and ended up with a baby. I’m pretty sure Dad will dig their stuff.