Scar Tissue

I saw it in his eyes – a brief glimpse of deep sorrow – before he began dictating to his nurse the clamps and implants he’d need to fix the encephalocele atop my daughter’s head. It was the same deep sorrow I saw in the eyes of every person in the waiting room at the neurosurgeon’s office realized that Amelia Harks was, in fact, not me, but a tiny baby in a carseat, no bigger than my arm.

In that brief moment, the neurosurgeon became human, not some arrogant doctor, about to saw into my daughter’s tiny head.

Now that tiny baby, no bigger than my arm, is a toddler with an attitude so reminiscent of my own that it’s hard for me to remember that they are one and the same.

As she grows, the scar does too. What once looked relatively small now encompasses much of head. Her curls, always in a halo, cover it, so I don’t receive the same sorrowful looks I once did. For that, I am grateful. For if I did, if I had to explain those turbulent first years of her life, I don’t know if I could stop the sobs.

People, well-meaning people, tell me the scar is “barely noticeable” that they can “hardly see it,” and I always thank them on her behalf. Inwardly, however, I wonder if they know how that hurts.

It would not matter to me if the scar somehow became invisible – although she might appreciate it some day – because it’s always there for me. The scar haunts me.

Most days, I am able to work through it, reminding myself that she, my warrior daughter, is here and that she is perfect – scars and all.

There are other days, though, that the limitless well of deep sorrow I once saw reflected in the neurosurgeon’s eyes, threatens to swallow me whole. The tears, hot and fast, course down my face and I am powerless.

I scoop that toddler, once a baby no bigger than my arm, up into my arms and I weep. Confused, she touches my tears with her tiny finger and asks, “Mama sad?”

“Yes, Baby,” I choke out. “Mama’s sad.”

And the three of them – flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood – climb atop me to squeeze the Sads out. It’s only then, with the pressure of three squirmy bodies on my chest, all elbows and knees now, that I finally feel whole again.

And I wonder, as they scamper down, screaming and chasing each other about the house, my tears drying to a hard crust on my face, the well of sorrow closing for the moment, how I got to be so lucky.

amelia-and-alex-greenhouse

Sweet Child O Mine (Who Will Not See The Light Of Day Until She Turns Sixteen)

I came to the End of The Internet on Friday. I was searching for a laptop bag, right? And it turns out that laptop bags are the fugliest thing on the planet. Well, at least, the ones I could find.

Hence, the End of The Internet.

But I get all kinds of pissed off when I can’t find something that should be so simple, so I spent most of the day flopping around indignantly, occasionally shaking my fists at The Internet Gods, who had, for the first time, failed me.

After my daughter came home from preschool, she climbed up onto my indignant lap and demanded to look at what I’d been looking at. Which happened to be the kate spade website.

She and I spent a good while perusing ridiculously expensive purses, which, apparently, she, like her mother, is enamored by.

Eventually, she slithered off my frustrated lap and stood on her head on the floor next to me. Seeing a perfect opportunity to teach her some gymnastics, I rolled her over, helping her perform her first somersault. Delighted, she stood up, clapped her hands, yelled, “YAY!” and then begged me to do it again. So I did. We probably did twenty somersaults together before it was time for bed.

And it was walking up the stairs that I noticed something. The scar on the back of her head was bright purple.

Now, she has a skull implant there, covered by a thin layer of imperfect scalp skin (thank YOU, neural tube defects), upon which no hair will ever grow. The scar is fairly visible, although it often looks like her part is just extra-long.

She’s also got a couple of birthmarks on her face, common for kids with midline skull abnormalities, all of which turn from mildly discolored to extremely red whenever she becomes Furious George (which, since she’s my kid, is fairly often).

But I’d never seen her skull turn that purplish shade before. Immediately, I thought of what a dumbass move it was to do somersaults with a kid who has a fucking skull implant.

I dragged her into the bathroom, where the light was a bit better, and took a closer look. It could be something…and it could be nothing. Either way, I was right back in that birthing room, delivering a sick baby again. Only this time, it really WAS my fault.

I called the doctor on call, snotting and crying all over the phone, as I kept her up well-past her bedtime, to assess her level of consciousness. When I realized that she seemed to be just fine, the purplishness had subsided, I decided to put her to bed.

Then I checked on her every forty-five minutes for the rest of the night.

The next morning, the on-call doctor finally called back. Apparently, the answering service sucks a fat one. “Keep an eye out,” she said, “for any other signs of head injury. Vomiting, loss of consciousness, swelling, bruising, irritability.”

Okay, this I could do.

The following evening, I put her in bed, where she promptly barfed everywhere.

Shit, I thought briefly, until I remembered that my own guts had been through hell that week. Okay, I told myself, it’s a flu-bug. She’ll probably be up half the night barfing her guts out.

But she wasn’t.

She got up late the following morning and ate a quick breakfast with her brother.

Then, on the way to the Computer Store, she yacked again. A full 14 hours after her initial vomiting episode. Which, to me, was a Very Bad Sign.

Off to the ER we went. After several very long hours, it seemed that was simply some very bad timing. A flu-bug was the most likely culprit for her illness.

She’s been grounded until her sixteenth birthday.

That is, after I buy her a pony and a Porsche.

————

I have a new column up every Thursday at CafeMom. It’s called (barely) Surviving Parenthood. It’s full of the awesome.

———–

Speaking of Full of the Awesome, I was thinking about using THAT for a shirt design. Is that lame?

Also: TODAY is Tax Day, not April 15, which, hi, why didn’t someone tell me it was changing? That’s bullshit.

Anyway, the winner of my shirt giveaway:

shut-your-whore-mouth-shirts

(P.S: if you’re interested, they’re giving away a couple of my shirts on Band Back Together, too.)

Life, Unexpected

Dear Amelia,

One of the only things my mother – your grandmother – said to me that ever made any sense was this: “wow, you sure do have to learn everything the hard way, Rebecca.” I don’t think she was being unkind, considering I’d just dumped my cheating boyfriend, scrapped my lifelong dream of becoming a doctor, and pushed a squalling infant – your biggest brother – out of my vagina. I was twenty years old. That was before I then dropped my nursing career for an illustrious “career” as a blobber and popped out two more crotch parasites, so yeah, it’s safe to say that your grandmother was right on the money there.

And, I fear, it’s probably genetic.

Because the moment that doctor informed me that there was something wrong with your head, it reminded me of this: life is unexpected.

Had the pill not failed me, I never would have gotten knocked up with your biggest brother, which means I would be Dr. Aunt Becky (that’s Mommy to you) by now. In that one tiny moment, my life was forever altered.

That’s the way life works. It’s in those unexpected moments that we discover who we really are; who we are really supposed to be. Maybe it’s not what we planned or what we thought we’d be doing, but it’s beautiful and it’s ours. I don’t expect you to take my word for it. Go ahead, find out for yourself. You already have.

Amelia's Dragons

At a couple of days gestation, thanks to some wonky issues that no one understands entirely (folic acid deficiency plays a part), your neural tube didn’t properly fuse and that big skull of yours didn’t quite get put together the way a skull should. Then, your beautiful brain started to grow outside your skull cavity, necessitating some pretty heavy neurosurgery when you were a wee babe. That moment, at a couple of days gestation, forever altered everything.

Thanks to that one unexpected moment, a whole host of things happened. A cascade effect. The best of which is this: you now have a cadre of Auntie and Uncle Pranksters who will kick the ass of anyone who needs it for you (never, ever underestimate the power and love of The Pranksters). You’ve also helped put a face to your disorder, encephalocele, and you gave me the idea for Band Back Together.

Aunt Becky's Daughter

Pretty good work for a two-year old.

I’m so proud of you, Amelia (or, as you like to call yourself “Nie-Nie”). Having a daughter was one of those lofty goals, like “having a discernible waistline” that I thought I could never achieve, and here you are. Even as I delivered you, I expected the doctor to tell me that you had a penis. I just couldn’t imagine I’d be so lucky as to have a daughter.

And yet here you are. My Miracle Mimi, the girl with the curls like a halo, she is here. Kicking ass, taking names, and probably going to murder me in my sleep over a pair of high heels.

I can hardly wait to see what you’ll do next. Unless it’s murder me. Which I really wish you wouldn’t do.

Aunt Becky

Happy Birthday, Sweet, Slightly Scary, Always Wonderfully Awesomely Ass-Kicking Baby Nie-Nie.

It’s you + me against the world, kiddo. So watch the fuck out, world.

Love Always,

Mommy

Somehow, This Is All Because I Called Dr. Sears An Asshole

(you know, Dr. Sears?)

When I was in school, I took test-taking Very Seriously. This was extra-hilarious considering I spent most of my actual class time slouched in the back row playing Bejeweled and texting my friends things like, “OH MY FUCKING GOD, my classmates are MOUTH-breathers. Imma go all RAMBO on their asses.” Had The Twitter existed*, I’m confident that I’d have been on there all the time, filling it with my inelegant (rapier) wit.

But the moment A Test was on the horizon (which, in nursing school, was every other day), I was in my element. Synapses firing, notecards flashing, every A beaten by a higher A. I didn’t earn the semi-sarcastic nickname Super Becky Overachiever and draw comparisons to Hermione Granger by getting C’s. Also, if I’d gotten C’s, I’d have been kicked out of the program. Such is nursing school.

Now, just look at where all of those A+++++ have gotten me! I am a BLOBBER, er BLOGGER ON THE INTERNET. I CAN HAZ FREE PUBLISHING?!?

Anyway.

Early Intervention is coming today to reevaluate my daughter’s development. Turns out that tests? Not always so fun.

Here is my representation of how Amelia’s Evaluation will go:

Early Intervention: “So, does Amelia stack six blocks?”

Aunt Becky: “Oh yes. She stacks twenty**.”

Early Intervention: “Does Amelia feed herself with a spoon?”

Aunt Becky: “Amelia wins at spoon feeding! She’s a spoon-feeding CHAMPION!”

Early Intervention: “Does Amelia walk unassisted?”

Aunt Becky: “Amelia RUNS! Like the wiiinnnnnnddddd.”

Early Intervention: “Does Amelia pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and forefinger?”

Aunt Becky: “She can pick up a single grain of sand!”

Early Intervention: “Can Amelia do complex quadratic equations?”

Aunt Becky: “….”

Early Intervention (scribbles on papers triumphantly): “AH-HA! I KNEW IT!”

Aunt Becky: “….”

Early Intervention: “All other babies are doing complex quadratic equations at age two. You should really have been working with her by now. This is probably a result of bad parenting.”

Aunt Becky: “But. BUT! I don’t even KNOW what that IS!”

Early Intervention (writes down): “unfit mother.”

/end scene

Hm. I wonder if I can play the part of Amelia today. Certainly Early Intervention won’t notice if it’s a grown woman pretending to be an almost-two year old.

P.S. I’ll let you know how it goes.

*It may have existed. I don’t know if it existed. I mocked Twitter a lot before I joined it. Which, uh, HUMBLE PIE ANYONE?

**Like I actually know this.

Wednesday’s Child is Full of Grace

There are a few occasions when I take time from my very busy schedule of creating pictures of my fake dead cat, Mr. Sprinkles, doing wacky things to respond to emails. Because, really, is there anything better than this?

Mommy Needs Vodka

That Mr. Sprinkles! He’s a WILY guy!

But on very, VERY rare occasion, I get an email that makes me stop and go, “You know what? Maybe I should stop working on pictures of myself with my fake dead cat Mr. Sprinkles and do something better with my time,” (the feeling never does last)

A year ago today, I got one of those emails.

My now-friend Nikki sent me an email about her 20-week old fetus, who had just been diagnosed prenatally with an encephalocele. Somehow, she’d managed to look past the grisly stories out there about other children with encephaloceles (the fatality rate for encephaloceles is exceptionally high) and had found her way to my mediocre blog.

More specifically, she’d found Amelia’s Grace, the stories about my daughter who, too, had been born with an encephalocele.

Amelia was born with the kind of encephalocele associated with the least favorable outcomes. A posterior encephalocele filled with brain matter. I’d had a standard vaginal delivery. There was no NICU team waiting for her. In fact, no one was waiting for her but a nurse, the doctor and a tech.

In short, everything about the situation surrounding Amelia’s story was bad.

When I wrote Amelia’s Grace, the story of my daughter, I’d never really thought that someone else might find my drivel while searching for something to cling to. Some hope in an otherwise grim situation. Because the statistics, those cold hard numbers about encephaloceles; those are grim:

An encephalocele reduces the likelihood of a live birth to 21%.

Only half of those 21% survive.

75% of those survivors have varying degrees of mental retardation, the severity of defects higher for those who have the brain herniation on the back of the skull.

She, however, she is not grim. She laughs in the face of statistics. She will tell that encephalocele to shut it’s whore mouth.

Amelia will also give her voice to those who have none.

Nikki has been a good friend of mine for a year now and she’s helped me as much as I’ve helped her. Proof that sometimes people come into your life at exactly the right time. I owe her a debt that I don’t think she understands.

Now, I will simply direct you to Lily’s Story, which I have strong-armed Nikki into writing for Band Back Together.

Today is the day that it turned upside down for Nikki and my sweet girl, Lily Grace.

What a difference one year makes.

All That You Can Leave Behind

You’re annoyed.

You shift uncomfortably in the ottoman as you check the time on your iPhone and note that the doctor is now forty minutes late. You try not to think about all of the barf germs that you’re now merrily collecting on your favorite ugly pajama pants as your daughter, the one with curls like a halo begins to pull on her shirt, the one she insisted upon wearing, indicating that she, too, is highly annoyed and would like to take off this shirt and GO HOME, thankyouverymuch.

Your toddler son is engrossed in a game of Angry Birds on another iPhone but stops his game for a couple seconds to cough that worrisome I-smoke-three-packs-a-day cough that’s sent you all on a field trip to the doctor in the first place. You frown but quickly turn it into a smile. Even with this annoying bout of what you think is bronchitis, everything is just as it should be.

You are happy. Finally.

You think about the first time you were ever in this pediatrics office; nearly two years ago now. Your new infant daughter tightly clutched in your arms, the frightening MRI images of her precious head on the computer, the referrals to the new neurologist – one who will take your insurance – and you remember how you wept. In public. Again.

You remember those horrible, heartbreaking days well, although the colors are fading into the background, the sights and sounds and triggers all fading into a dusky shade of their former vividness.

You won’t forget. Ever. You know that on your deathbed, you will remember, as those are days you can’t forget, but now, they’re losing their power.

Life is moving forward.

You think of the year that seemed like it was never going to end. The year ends tomorrow.

All of those things you thought you’d never leave behind, all of those things have been put squarely to bed.

Those dragons have been slayed.

Certainly, there will be new dragons to battle, but for now, you stand with your daughter, the one with curls like a halo, proud and triumphant over the bodies of the fallen dragons.

A smile plays on your lips as you think of what’s to come. Of the people you’ll meet and the people you’ll learn to love. Of all of the things that you’ll do with the next 365 days. This year, you know there is hope because there is always hope.

The doctor finally comes in and greets you by saying, “I can hardly believe you’re the same people!”

And you smile and laugh, because you know just what she means.

How The Light Gets In

I wanted to thank you for your incredible display of warmth and kindness on my post about autism. When I say things like, “I’m honored to know you,” I’m not being a hokey ball of cheese, I mean it. I’m incredibly lucky to have such an amazing group of Pranksters in my life. Thank you. To everyone who commented, tweeted, emailed, or read the post, I thank you.

Historically, it’s been hard for me to talk about autism and how it affects us because I simply don’t know what to say about it. As so many of you said (and like so many other disorders, diagnoses and conditions) it’s not the same sort of disorder for everyone, but because it’s so prevalent in the media, everyone is an expert. That makes it difficult when “experts” like Jenny McCarthy and the guy down the street want to lecture you on the danger of dioxin because they “know” better than you do.

Simply put: they don’t.

But when it’s something that’s so close to your heart, no, when it’s PART of your heart, it’s not something you just want to lay out there for Rando Joe Schmo to trample on.

I was wrong.

Because it dawned on me as I read all of your incredible stories what power we have. Each of us. What a unique platform we have at our disposal.

Before, if we wanted to be heard, we had to write a book, hope it was interesting enough to get picked up by a publisher (whose bottom line was, of course, big fat dollar signs) hope that the book was read by enough people to be considered a success and then maybe, just maybe, we’d be heard by the Right People. Newspaper and magazine articles went through a similar process, only to be read by a smaller audience. The common denominator was that people had to pay money to access the words you wrote, IF you were enough of a success to be published at all.

But in the era of self-publishing, it simply doesn’t matter what your pedigree is. People who’ve never written a single word can start a blog with a few keystrokes (see example: Mommy Wants Vodka) for free. It costs nothing to read the words I write. Not a cent. Sure, you may pay for your internet connection, but that’s different.

You know, Pranksters, I’m not a fan of self-centered blog “ZOMG BLOGGING IS THE BESTEST!!!!!!!!!!” circle jerks, but I’m constantly amazed by how unique our platform is.

We can give a voice to those who have none. We can give a face and a name to things you’ve never heard of. We have power to do so much good.

People read us to connect with other people, not the cold, clipped, polished words in a magazine. Our blogs have the human element that would be neatly left on the editing room floor of any newspaper. We’re too raw, too unfiltered, and too real. But it’s our flaws that make us interesting and our pain that binds us together.

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know what a neural tube defect is. You also know my daughter, Amelia, was born with a very rare one called an encephalocele. It’s likely you hadn’t heard of it before you met Your Aunt Becky and her daughter Amelia. I’d learned of neural tube defects in school and I knew of encephaloceles…but typically in conjunction with Chiari Malformation.

Now you’ve all heard of it. You know that THIS girl had one:

Encephalocele - 2 years later
Amelia Grace

Over the past two years, I’ve given encephaloceles a voice. And a face. This is what an encephalocele looks like.

Encephalocele Surgery
Amelia's Scar
Encephalocele
The Shirt Says It All
Encephalocele
Sparkle Princess of the Bells

Through my blog, I’ve met people who have been prenatally diagnosed with encephaloceles. I’ve met adults with encephaloceles and other neural tube defects. I’ve become a March of Dimes Mom. I’m planning a resource website for those with encephaloceles because none exist. I’ve become an advocate and a voice for encephaloceles.

I became a voice because it was the right thing to do.

You just reminded me that it’s still the right thing to do. Now it’s my turn.

So this is me, Your Aunt Becky, encouraging you to speak your truth. Stand up tall and proud for what you believe in. Give a voice to those who have none and a hand to those who may not think to ask.

Pull those skeletons out of your closets and make them dance the motherfucking tango.

A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Action

Normally the things that Your Aunt Becky rages against are things like “tofu bacon” (I mean, really vegetarians? Bacon is meaty and delicious. Just…give up the ghost and call it something else. I love tofu. Tofu is not bacon. It will never be bacon) and “thousand island dressing” (because if you had ever been a waitress and had to clean up hot thousand island dressing, which, I should tell you right now, MELTS, into oil and bits of…gross green things *gags* you would call it bullshit, too).

Occasionally, I’ll wage war against a random celebrity, like John C. Mayer, (who, I should tell you, I’ve been at war with since 2003, and this cease-fire I’ve called has left a big gaping John C. Mayer-like hole where John C. Mayer used to be) but really, I can’t get worked up about a whole lot. You have to be smart to get mad about stuff, and Pranksters, we know my IQ rivals boxes of rocks.

This weekend I went on a tear.

I was 29 shades of Furious George because I had been putting together a reference sheet about encephaloceles for Band Back Together and realized, once again, there’s fuck-nothing out there about them.

Now, for those of you not glued to my archives, my daughter Amelia was born with a previously undiagnosed encephalocele in January of 2009. An encephalocele is a nasty little neural tube defect (like spina bifida), only with encephaloceles, the skull, rather than the spinal cord, is the improperly formed bony structure, and in Amelia’s case, part of her brain developed outside of her head.

It’s about has hilarious as it sounds.

Obviously, she’s fine. She kicked that encephaloceles ass.

When I talk about the statistics we beat, it’s staggering to me. I can’t even wrap my mind around the infinitesimally minute minority we fall into without crying.

But what’s bothered me this whole time, besides the lingering PTSD and the unanswered questions about it all, is this: there’s nothing out there for other parents who sit on the computer, perhaps even prenatally diagnosed with some sort of encephalocele or neural tube defect, scared and alone.

I do mean nothing.

Oh sure, you can find some articles about encephaloceles from Children’s Hospitals. Some eMedicine artcicles about encephaloceles. Terrifying images of dead babies. Babies with horrible encephaloceles. The worst case scenario of what your baby could look like with an encephalocele is right there.

If you broaden your search to “neural tube defects,” you find more information. A number of spina bifida support groups. The Spina Bifida Association is an awesome resource and support group for parents of kids with spina bifida. Then again, spina bifida, a sister neural tube defect to encephalocele is one of the most common birth defects. Spina bifida affects 1/1,500 babies every year.

When I first started researching (I’m a researcher at the core of it all) encephaloceles after Amelia had her neurosurgery to correct her encephalocele, I had lumped all neural tube defects together. I had been wrong. I had thought that encephaloceles were much more common than they are.

Spina bifida affects 1 in every 1,500 babies a year.

Encephaloceles occur in 375 babies a year in the United States.

Not 1 in every 375 babies. Just 375 babies. That’s hardly any babies at all.

That’s why there are no support groups for parents of babies with encephaloceles. There’s no one running a website devoted to these particular neural tube defects (that I could find). There are no places to go when you’re scared and terrified and alone and shit, encephalocele is a fucking scary ass diagnosis. Look at the statistics. They’re grim.

Then, look at my daughter:

She’s not particularly grim. Unless, of course, you take away her cuppity-cake. Then she’ll cut a bitch.

Through some magic key, eventually if you search through enough pages about encephaloceles, you’ll find my blog. I know this, because I’ve met a couple of families who, when they’ve been diagnosed prenatally with an encephalocele, they’ve come by and talked to me.

It’s how I met my now-niece, Lily Grace (named in part, I should say, after my Amelia Grace), who is also kicking ass and taking names.

The gut-punch came this weekend, when I saw that in the searches for my new blog, the only thing besides some combination of “Band Back Together,” that people had searched for was “encephalocele – parenting.”

Okay, so that’s when my cold, black heart broke and I got good and motherfucking mad. I knew that someone was searching on the other side of a computer for something that does not yet exist. Some comfort. Some place that does not show you the horrors of a diagnosis that is not always horrible.

After I paced around the house, furious and upset, because Pranksters, that is motherfucking BULLSHIT, I realized that it was time. I’ve been slowly reaching out to people and asking them to contribute stories about neural tube defects to Band Back Together, because that’s a place to start.

I’m gathering research and I bought a domain. I have two partners. Lily Grace’s Mom, Nikki, and Katie. We all think it’s bullshit, too. It’s time to take action.

So, Pranksters, if you know anyone who has a story about Neural Tube Defects, please let us know. OR, you know, if you have some other full of the awesome ideas -like a dance party- let us know.

Or, you can just tell me something you think is bullshit. Because there are so many things that are bullshit out there. Like turkey bacon. And clowns. Clowns are totally bullshit.

(tomorrow, it’s Prank time. We’re gonna pull a John C. Mayer for charity)

Go Ask Aunt Becky

Dear Pranksters,

I will ask you more about this tomorrow, but if you know of anyone who has a child with a neural tube defect, especially an encephalocele, will you please holler at me? Email, comments, carrier pigeon* WHATEVER.

There is much advocacy and work to be done. It’s time. I’m starting with gathering stories and information over at Band Back Together, but that’s not enough. It’s simply not. So we’ll start there.

Dear Aunt Becky,

I recently received an e-mail from my aunt stating that her and her family would be visiting my area sometime in the near future to be able to visit my family. She sent a list of places that she might be staying at and asked me to check them out.

I haven’t seen this lady since 1999 and speak to her on the phone about once a year. This is the first time I have heard of this visit and it appears I have no say in it.  How can I get across that I have no desire for her to visit without seeming too ungrateful and bitchy?  Should I just let the visit happen and suffer through it?  Help!

Oh Prankster, I like unwanted guests like I like head lice, which is kind like of an unwanted guest if you think of it. So, my suggestion is this: get head lice. No one likes lice. Even lice don’t like lice.

And if you want to be a better person than Your Aunt Becky, you could simply send her a list of things in the area that she can hint, hint, hint, do while she’s visiting, hint, hint, hint. Perhaps a nice meat-packing plant. Or a tour of a morgue? I mean, certainly there must be some awful attractions in your area that no one in their right mind would want to visit. I’d be showcasing those right about now.

Good luck, Prankster.

Dear Aunt Becky,

I have an overzealous mother-in-law who absolutely cannot stay out of our business.

How do you politely tell your Christian mother-in-law with her Christian dog and Christian friends to jump off the soapbox and quit meddling? She’s a closet Negative Nelly and it’s fucking making me insane. My husband is excellent at telling her where to shove her intel but she’s smart now and waits until he’s no longer in earshot to spew her poison.

Topics vary from parenting, finances, religion, anything she can turn into a argument. I am all for being respectful and polite but it’s getting to be hell. She loves to say I take her advice/comments/bible thumping judgments out of context but I am positive I am in the right here.

Advice?

Well, I had to check the email address on this one, Prankster, to see if I had, perhaps, sent this to myself in a Blueberry Vodka-induced haze, but since I require no email to send me a question, I am not sure that I am not answering myself here.

So, Prankster-that-might-be-Aunt-Becky, this is how I handle the lovely passive-aggressive-you’re-doing-it-wrong jabs that are often winged in my direction: I fling them right back. I gave up being polite awhile ago when I realized that it was my motherfucking house and I don’t allow bullies to bully me in my motherfucking house. You want to tell me my business? Go for it. From the street. I can’t hear that far, especially when I’m inside with the door firmly locked.

That’s the trick for passive-aggressive poo-flingers.

Now, if your mother-in-law is an arguer, I would simply turn cheek and jump on the computer/iPhone/Blackberry and tune her out. People who are convinced of their right-ness aren’t going to be dissuaded by you, nor should you expect them to be. You won’t win at her game, so don’t play it. She wants to tell you your business? Ignore her. A couple of conversations when all you say is: Yeah, mmmm-hmmm, you’re right, I am doing it wrong. Always.

And don’t let her get you alone any more, Prankster-that-might-be-Aunt-Becky. Let your husband handle her.

Dear Aunt Becky,

I’ve been dating a really great guy for almost 8 months now. Everything was going great, up until a few months ago.

I royally fucked things up when I was texting with an old guy friend. Things in our text message conversation, taken out of context, were really inappropriate and my man who saw the conversation later wasn’t too happy about it. We hashed things out and I thought the ordeal was over, however, he keeps bringing the issue up.

He says he can’t trust me anymore and doesn’t believe me when I tell him I love him. I understand that I screwed up but it seems that nothing I say can reassure my boyfriend that this is never going to happen again. Everybody messes up sometimes and I believe in second chances. I didn’t physically cheat on him or even “text cheat”.

I honestly have no idea what to do anymore or if the relationship is even salvageable at this point (which I really hope it is). I just can’t stand feeling like shit every single day over something that happened months ago.

Man, Prankster, I want to come and smack your boyfriend for you, and then give you a big fat hug, because you don’t deserve to be put through the wringer for this.

Here’s the thing: he’s got to move on from this. I get that he was hurt. I get why. It happens. Miscommunications happen all the time in relationships.

But the insecurity he’s still feeling over a little miscommunication right now isn’t fair to you. You’ve explained the situation, you’ve apologized and he needs to move on. If he can’t move on from this, maybe it’s time for you to move on. The stress you’re under has got to be horrible and that’s just not fair to you.

Maybe it’s time to sit down and have another real heart-to-heart about this. Explain that he’s got to let go of his insecurities and trust you or this relationship just can’t work. Relationships are founded on trust. He cannot keep beating you up for something that happened so long ago. You deserve better.

I wish you luck, Prankster.

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I’d intended to shout this out on Friday, but I got distracted by my microwave.

My friend Anna, who is a smart fucking blogger, has written a how-to guide for making money from your blog. And? It’s free. That’s a total win, Pranksters.

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As always, Pranksters, please pick up where I left off in the comments. And feel free to submit your burningest questions to Go Ask Aunt Becky on the top of the site.

*What the fuck is a carrier pigeon?

Loose Ends Reminds Me Of Bookends Which Makes Me Want A Sandwich

I got a bill in the mail last week, which is highly unsurprising, because between my “Get out of -ologist free card” I’m pretty much always sending off some payment or another. So it was with exactly NO emotion whatsoever that I opened a bill from the big umbrella corporation that is home to most of my doctors.

When I put it THAT way, it sounds so sinister.

Anyway.

I opened up a bill, looked at the dates of services, squinched up my eyebrows, wondering how my daughter had walked herself to the doctor, and then looked BACK at the dates of service and realized they were asking for a co-pay from last year.

From one of her many pre-surgical neurologist appointments. The dates just happened to coincide with this month, minus a year.

Somehow, in all of the hustle and bustle of taking our daughter to and from the doctor every day or two, our daughter–whose age was still measured in days–I’d somehow forgotten this one, single co-pay. Everything else has been long paid off, all the receipts and insurance pre-authorizations shoved into a manila folder somewhere.

It’s marked maybe “Amelia.” Or “encephalocele.” Or maybe it says nothing. It could say “Happy Birthday, Steve;” I don’t actually know. There are thousands of cross-sectional pictures of her brain in that folder too, should she ever want to see how her skull wasn’t properly put together, or where her brain hung out of the back of her head.

I thought about what a difference a year makes as I wrote out the check yesterday, because it’s been almost a year since my daughter had her brain surgery. I’m the same person who wrote,

“I cannot break this feeling of doom and foreboding. I cannot imagine a life past next Thursday one way or another. I cannot believe that I am lucky enough to have this baby AND KEEP HER.”

I wish I could go back and give myself a huge reassuring hug because I remember how horribly terrified I was that she was going to pass on the table. If I could do anything, I’d go back and do that.

She kicked brain surgery in the balls on February 26, 2009:

(she was very, very, very swollen from surgery)

And here she is now, my daughter, the girl with curls like a halo. The one who regularly breaks the bones of her foe and then sucks down the marrow for a snack. My ass-kickin’ little girl.

Not to be outdone by her oldest brother, she helps wash walls, even if it’s only with a wee Playmobil brush. Also: planning on how to remove that wall with her teeth. Because OBVIOUSLY.

She even helps with laundry. If by “helping” you mean, mischievously throwing all the “too small” clothes I’d sorted carefully out all over the house with her brother so that they could roll around in them. Which, I have to say, may have made my too-small heart grow 30 sizes.

Oh Amelia Grace, how wonderful life is with you in our world. We couldn’t imagine it any other way.