Sunday, February 23, 2014

Diez, Tiu, Dieci, Dix, Theka

Dear N,

Your 10th birthday is such a milestone.

For you, it is a season of newness.  Your body and mind are on the cusp of such great change as your hormones kick in and you prepare in another year to enter middle school.  You have grown so much in these ten years, and in another ten you will be, for all intents and purposes, a full-grown adult.

For me, it is a time of reflection, a looking back over a decade of mothering you.  As much as you have changed, so have I.

I am not the mother I was to you when you were an infant and young child.  In some ways, you had the best of me, a "me" your brothers have never and will never see.  More enthusiastic, more able to dedicate individual time, less tired, certainly more organized.

But you also experienced "uptight" worried that every little thing I did or didn't do would harm you.  I so didn't understand then how much of you was already "you" the instant you were born.  I didn't understand then that just being around, just being available to you when and if you want me, is so much more than being "in your face" and having quality time....whatever that means.

What a "you" you have grown to be.

I know you mostly see me being "nagging" mom or "grumpy" mom or "makes me do my homework" mom.  I don't usually let you know when I am being "studying your long thin fingers" mom or "liking that all you talk about is American Girl dolls because it means you are still a little girl even though I get tired of hearing about American Girls" mom.

I don't usually tell you how proud I am of you that you are one of the girls selected to work with the special needs students at your school because of your compassion and maturity.  I forget to tell you how glad I am to see that you have much more confidence in math than you did a year ago even though it will likely always be your "harder" school subject.   I have to remind myself to tell you how much I like it that you are so comfortable in your skin, wearing funky glasses without the glass in them just because you like how they look even though you don't need them for vision. I don't want to give you a big head or be a braggart, but I am so proud of you qualifying as the only 4th grader for written assessment.

Being your mom is such a huge privilege, and I am thankful every single day that I was blessed with you for my daughter.

Enjoy your 10th birthday events and activities!


Sunday, February 16, 2014

The good, the stupid, the things worth remembering

I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, and I will always be glad that I have been there for every "big" thing in all 3 of my kids' young lives.  Being a control-freak who doubts that anyone could do even 1/10th as good of job raising my kids as I have (warts & all) I am very thankful that I have been able to do it for.......gasp.....a decade.


I know that moms who work outside the home have a different kind of hard from me, but one of the biggest things that I think many stay-at-home moms miss from working outside the home is the professional respect they get for a job well done, which comes in the form of a paycheck or a bonus or a "You did great on that project!"

I know my children love me, but they can be complete dickheads towards me, which might be tolerable if I got a paycheck or professional credits or something that would balance out the "I feel like shit about myself" scale.

Which was part of the reason I am part-time teaching.  My students don't demand things of me.  They bring me Valentines and write me notes or send emails that say things like....
 I am amazed at how by taking your English class, how I have had more of a desire to start working on my novel(s) again. And by looking at books and talking about them and connections and all that wonderfulness, I've begun to notice it in my own work, and made more of an effort to create connections, even if i never expose it or give it more than a single mention. Your class has made writing more fun and exciting! thanks!

And I get emails from parents that say things like....
Thanks for all you do.  B is really enjoying this new book.  He doesn't want to put the book down, which is a huge joy for me to see.

This is also part of the reason I do the Girl Scout troop and the GEMS Club.  Ninety percent of it is for N, but that last 10% is because I get emails from teachers to tell me that a kid who attended the club said this in class:
"I have prior knowledge of this from GEMS club!" :)

And I had to wipe none of these kids' butts or get them a snack or listen to why I am such a jerk because I won't let them do whatever it is they want to do.

I blame most of my recent bouts of stupidity on these damned snow days, which have completely smashed any semblance of normalcy in my weeks.  When you are out of a routine, you tend to forget or overlook things.  In my case, the thing I overlooked was pretty darn important.

M's preschool Valentine Party was last Tuesday.  I coordinated the party and had emailed the other parents to remind them of what they said they would do or bring.  When I arrived at the party, I realized I had forgotten M's Valentines at home so I ran back to get them.

Later, after the party had started, I didn't see the food and I couldn't remember who was supposed to bring it.  I asked one of the moms if she remembered or if she knew where whomever was supposed to have brought it put it.  She checked her phone, laughed and then pointed at me.


I know some people might say this is a classic case of "doing too much," but I really do think it is that I had all 3 kids at home the day before the party.  When I would have normally cleaned up my desk, gone over all my "to dos" for the week and run to the store, I was instead trying to wrap my head around yet another snow day and all the noise and chaos that would instead be my Monday.


In the car the other day, G said, "Mommy, look at the snow sparkling!"  In all my years, I have never noticed snow sparkling in the sunshine.  It made me happy to see this, but more importantly it made me happy that my G helped me notice it.  It reminded me of all his good qualities, which have been sometimes difficult to see in the past few months.  

Friday, February 14, 2014

The year we didn't

This year, D and I agreed to not even get each other a card.  Honestly, neither one of us cares to have to make a special trip to the store to root through a bunch of too-sentimental Valentine cards.  Between the psychological assessment and OT sessions, that money on flowers and candy could be spent elsewhere.

I recently read The Fault in Our Stars, and while I don't usually like contemporary novels much or see a terrible amount of depth in them, I did like this book.  Maybe the fact that it mentions Shakespeare influenced me?

I think, though, what really resonated with me is these lines:

Some people don't understand the promises they're making when they make them, I said.
Right, of course.  But you keep the promise anyway.  That's what love is.  Love is keeping the promise anyway.

Life is full of seasons, and lately my life has felt like an eternal winter, a season of wanting to do lots of other things besides keep my promises.  To my husband.  To my kids.

But there is heroism in buckling down, keeping your promises, understanding that, as John Green also notes in his book, "The world is not a wish-granting factory."

Life doesn't always give you what you want when you want it.
(I need to remember this on

Serendipitous psychological assessment

There's some alliteration for you.

Graeme was scheduled to have part of his psychological evaluation this afternoon, but yesterday afternoon the psychologist we've been seeing emailed me to ensure I knew exactly what assessments she could do and whether I wanted to have more extensive testing done at another facility.

I knew I wanted to go ahead and do everything, if for no other reason than to eliminate the scary nebulousness of what-ifs from my brain.  When I called the other psychologists' office to see when we could get in, the receptionist said they were scheduling for April.  Then she said, "Oh wait, we have a cancellation for 9 am tomorrow, can you do that?"

Call it serendipity, call it god, call it fate.  It could be all those wrapped up with a bow.

He was tested for 6 hours today.

While completing my self-reports today, and last night, and throughout the entire process, I keep wondering whether I'm making something of nothing.  I have been known to make mountains of molehills.  But when I think of December and the twice daily tantrums for three weeks that brought me to my emotional knees, I know that I'm not over-exaggerating.  Even the psychologist we've seen said she thinks G would benefit from extensive testing.

There is also some part of me that feels like I am betraying G, parading him before psychologists asking "What is WRONG with him?," even though my rational being knows this is far from the truth, knows full well that I'm doing all this to help me be a better parent to him and help him learn to manage whatever difficulties he experiences, both now and later in life.  I hear of too many parents who don't want to admit there could be something wrong, who deny the possibility because it might make them look bad or because solving the problem is a lot of time and money and effort and frustration.  I guess if I have to err on one side or the other, I would rather it be on the proactive, somewhat overly-cautious side.

At the same time, when I was completing the self-reports, it made some things clear to me that what we have just gotten used to as normal isn't really "normal-normal."  Like on one of the assessments about sleep, in which I had to note that G hasn't slept through the night more than 30 times in the past 1095 days, and he is closing in on 6.5 years old.

I kept looking for meaning in anything the psychologist asked.  After speaking with her for a few minutes and witnessing her speak with G, she brought in an Asperger assessment and said, "I'll have you take this to just rule it out."  My ever analytical and highly suspicious mind wondered, "Does she not think he has this and she really wants to rule it out or does she think he might have it and wants to know for certain?"  Later, when she asked me a specific question about ADHD and whether it runs in our family, I wondered if she thinks THAT is his issue.

The worst that can happen is that the psychological tests show that there is nothing clinically wrong with G, that he just needs to mature or that this is just.his.prickly.personality.  Should that be the case, I have determined that I will likely resume therapy for me.  If there is nothing clinically wrong with him, then I need some supportive measures to help me cope with the time it takes for him to mature or to learn to deal with a child's personality that I find difficult to contend with.

Although the blogging certainly, certainly helps.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Even though this will post on Facebook, it is TECHNICALLY not a "bitching about the weather and ANOTHER snow day" FB post

This morning, when D told me that there is no school today due to snow, he had this weird grin on his face, so I thought he was joking and said, "You're kidding."

He replied, with the grin still on his face, "No, I'm not."
That grin made me suspicious.  He knows this has been a winter from hell, and I thought he was just fucking with me.
I said, "You are kidding?"
Crazy grin on his face---"No, I'm not kidding."

It occurred to me sometime later that the reason he had that look on his face is because he was thinking, I am going to get to witness my wife break with reality when I tell her this, and he was at once excited and fearful.

It is 10:45 am, and I have not broken with reality although I've got something akin to formication going on.  My kids are fine, their IQs diminishing by the second as they play video games and watch endless homemade American Girl videos on youtube.

Jimmy crack corn, and I don't care.

The only good thing about no school today is that I don't have to feel guilty taking G out of school early for his rescheduled OT appointment (which are usually on Fridays but this Friday is supposed to be his Valentine Party, and I didn't want him to miss that).  Not that I should feel guilty.  It isn't like he has had anything remotely resembling consistency in his school days this winter, so why should I feel I'm disturbing his tranquil, routine weeks of learning?

So what have I done with my morning?
I've already prepared dinner, run the dishwasher, categorized finances on, done 3 loads of laundry, stripped a bed and bitched to both my mother and my next-door-neighbor about this god-forsaken weather.  I'm going to break down soon and clean the master bath and iron clothes.

I have not watched tv or eaten bonbons, which someone I know suggested stay-at-home moms do, which is the reason we get so up in arms when snow days are called.  I normally try to politely ignore insane people, but I had to set this person straight.

Everyone I know is half-baked over this winter:

*The stay-at-home moms who haven't been to the gym in months and have collectively gained a zillion pounds because they go when their children are in school, and their children are never in school.

*The working parents who have used up every single second of their vacation time to stay at home with their children on these snow days.

*The grandparents who are being called in the wee hours of the morning to watch the grandkids so the parents can try to get into work and have an hour of vacation left for a summer trip.

*The neighbors who have gone to the store for their "trapped with children in the house" neighbors to get yet another gallon of milk and loaf of bread.

*The old people who would love to stretch their legs by walking to the mailbox but can't because they are scared to death they will fall on the ice and break a hip.

*The store owners who have done zero business because all their regular customers are stuck in their homes with children.

*The government and school officials who have prices on their heads because 1. they can't get the roads cleaned up fast enough and 2. no matter what call they make on school closings it is the wrong one.

Blogging must temporarily cease.... the kids are calling.....

10 minutes later

Now that I've wiped a butt, cleaned snot off the wall, and listened to my sons fight about whether they play Skylander Giants or Kinect Party, I'm going to go scrub the bathroom.  It is the only decompression technique I can find at the moment, and I forgot what I was going to blog about anyway. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

OT update and pursuing psychological tests

G has been doing OT for about a month and enjoys it, which is good since there is no convincing I have to do to get him to go without a fight.

I was finally able to speak with a high school friend of mine whose son also has sensory issues (we had been trying to coordinate a phone chat but snow days kept hindering our ability to speak without little ears around).  She was willing to lend me her expertise, which I appreciate tremendously.  Based on her suggestion, I have decided to pursue psychological testing, if for no other reason than to rule out what G isn't experiencing and make sure we aren't missing anything, like a learning disability.

As hesitant as I am to "label" him with anything, I also know what a relief it was for me to finally get a "label" at age 30 when I was diagnosed with OCD and generalized anxiety. It gave me a place to hang my hat, in a sense, a way to know what to manage in myself and how.  For me and D, I think knowing a diagnosis will help us better understand how to help him and hopefully keep us more patient.  Plus, the only way for G to get help, if he needs anything beyond what we're already doing, like an IEP at school, is to have that clinical diagnosis.

The other thing we're going to do is have G's occupational therapist work with him on feeding issues (another suggestion my friend made).  His food repertoire is terribly small. For health and social reasons, it will benefit him to expand his palate.

As much as I appreciate my friend's advice, the bigger thing I appreciate is her empathy.  I have a terrible tolerance for handling things (hmmmm, I wonder where my kid gets it?), but I don't always think people understand how challenging it can be to have a child with sensory issues, especially when the child seems relatively "normal" out in public.  I have much greater understanding of parents whose kids are more on the "weirder" edge of normal spectrum.

In the battery of forms you fill out when a child is experiencing developmental issues, there are constant questions about what the pregnancy was like and what the birth was like, all of which intimately involve me.  For better or worse, a mother can't help but wonder, "What did I do? What did I not do that I should have?"  For me, because of my antidepressant use, there is always that worry whether those impacted G in some way.  My friend was very quick to remind me that 1. it isn't me and 2. living with kids who have these issues is a challenge for anyone.

Thursday morning, after Monday's snow day and Tuesday's early dismissal and Wednesday's snow day, was a nightmare.  A full 40 minutes (not 5 minutes that feels like 40) was a screaming, crying, hitting and kicking at me tantrum by G who said repeatedly, "The roads look exactly the same as they did yesterday when we didn't have school!"  I couldn't argue with him because the roads did look exactly the same, but factors beyond his control and my control (the school district) decided school was a "go."  It took both D and me to wrestle him into his clothes.  G's frustration sends him directly into his id, his caveman instinct to fight or flee, and it takes much time and patience to get him back into homo sapiens sapiens mode.  (This is why I'm wearing an occlusal guard so I don't crack any more teeth.)

This caveman behavior is typical in a 3-year-old.  It lessens as a child gets to be 4 and 5.  But in a tall kid, half my size who is 6, he needs to be moving more into better ways to funnel his feelings, and he is not.  On top of this is the sensory persnicketiness.  Screaming if shoes aren't tied tightly enough.  Tantrums if clothes rub him the wrong way.  Certain perseverating behaviors that will drive a person who already has OCD almost insane.  Hence the OT and the psychologist visits and the move for testing.

Raising a child is always a balancing act between tending to his/her needs/issues while still keeping the parent's needs/issues in check.  Any kind of anomaly or abnormality or difficulty ramps that challenge up.  

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Wednesday that made me turn the corner on crazy

I have given up.  Uncle. (Mother Nature, do you hear me?  I said UNCLE!)

Monday was a snow day and not once did I bitch on Facebook.  Not one time.  I made the kids hot cocoa and filled squeezable bottles with water & food coloring so they could paint the snow.  I shoveled snow over them up to their necks (at their request).

I can roll with the punches for one day, right???  RIGHT????

Yesterday, however, was an early dismissal due to a pending ice storm, which interfered with my plan to get M to nap since N and G were coming home at the time I would be settling M down for rest.

D came home from work early because of the storm so I felt like I couldn't do any of my normal stuff I might do (like go through all my consignment stuff that is sitting in the office) because he was working in there so I attempted to do our taxes while the kids were awake. That was dumb; I wasn't thinking straight.

N and I were supposed to have our first piano lesson with our new instructor but that was canceled due to the ice storm.

Today was another snow day, and I have zero energy or inclination to be motivated or happy or tolerant or anything.  I think I'm shoulder deep in the proverbial funk.

Who knows if the kids will go to school tomorrow?   I think I've lost my ability to care.

I drove up to the video store today and let them get movies and a game so they can sit in front of the screens and let their brains rot.  I've even discontinued the timer on the video games and computers because I really don't care to keep track of how much time they are spending on them.

I don't want to Pinterest or make Valentines or do anything of the sort.  I did all that this weekend when I made 100th day of school (which we may never actually get to experience because of this dumb ass weather) shirts with G and M (who wanted one too).  I helped G make a Valentine's Day container for his class party.  I went over N's written assessment sheets with her.  I was "the mom" this weekend.

I don't feel like being "the mom" now.  I feel like crawling under a blanket and hibernating until all this winter shit is over, until we have some semblance of order reestablished.  I feel like throwing a toddler-size tantrum on the floor, howling at the moon.

This truly is the winter of my discontent.

(I just noticed I don't have a tag for "winter."  It sucks THAT much.)

Monday, February 3, 2014

The month of visitations and what this brings to mind about faith

During the month of January I went to 5 funeral home visitations, which seems an awful lot for a 4-week stretch.

I actually know a 6th person who died in January, but his wake was at the same time as another person's wake so I was unable to pay my respects.

Although none of these deaths made me feel a deep and profound loss, they did impact people I care about, and so in that way they were difficult.  (Smallest font since my sadness is a very, very minor, indirect one.)

My cousin committed suicide.  A mom friend from our kids' school lost her mother unexpectedly.  Another mom friend's dad passed after a long bout with Alzheimer's Disease.  A former neighbor died after a 5+ year battle with brain cancer (he survived over 4.5 years longer than his original diagnosis). My sister-in-law's grandmother died 17 years after a stroke that left her in a nursing home. Two students I teach lost their 45-year-old mother to lung cancer (and she'd never smoked a day in her life).

The death that has bothered me most is that of my students' mom, perhaps because she was a mere 5 years older than me.  Or maybe because I teach these wonderful girls who make my time in the classroom so enjoyable.

These girls and their family have a very strong Christian faith; their parents began a ministry and have a very big following in these parts (which I only learned about after their mother's passing).  I have read articles about the family and the mom's blog and I watched a video she made in which she talked about faith, her cancer and the prospect of her death.

I've mentioned that I feel very weird around people who talk a lot about Jesus mostly, I think, because it is just not how Catholics do it (or it least this wasn't the way Catholics did it when I was growing up), and since I was raised Catholic this is what I know and think of as "normal."  I guess I also associate talking a lot about Jesus/god with being very super-secure in your faith, and while I think a great deal on theological/existential issues, I certainly don't feel secure about faith in any way, shape or form.  Hearing people talk joyfully and securely about Jesus/god only serves to make my faith insecurities all the more glaring.

In my head, I think I've always thought that people who believe very strongly in Jesus/god are just okay with whatever happens in their lives because they know god is on their side, taking care of them.  Because I don't feel secure in this belief, I thought this explained my general nature of wrangling/wrestling/struggling with most everything.

It dawned on me, attending the visitation for my students' mom and watching her video, that just because a person has strong faith doesn't mean they aren't terrified, doesn't mean they are perfectly okay with what is happening to them, doesn't mean they aren't sad and deeply hurt that they are leaving behind the ones they love.  While they might find comfort easier in their belief in Jesus/god than someone like me would, they experience the same human feelings that anyone would experience in the same situation.

Any mother, regardless of her faith or lack thereof, would worry and wonder, "How will my children cope?"  She would hate the idea of missing so many big events in her children's lives.  A mother knows her children need her, and to not be there to comfort her children is a pain no mother would want to experience.  A mother's first fear is that her children will die.  Her next fear is that she will die before her children are adults.

On the day their mother died, the older sister emailed me to let me know she and her sister wouldn't be in class that week, and I was stunned.  A 17-year-old girl, whose mother had just passed away within the past couple hours, had the wherewithal to email her teacher to let her know that she wouldn't be in class.  I'm not sure whether this is a testament to her faith or her extreme maturity, but I, as a 40-year-old, would likely be on the floor curled up in the fetal position following my mother's death rather than taking on the responsibilities of my life.

I told one of the preschool teachers yesterday at church (with whom I sometimes have theological discussions) that I think god understands that any messages to me need to come from way out, indirectly in far left field.  Understanding faith is not going to be an obvious, easy, straight-forward thing for me.  Like the old man at Walgreens.  I'm not going to pay attention to holy speak or anything resembling surety.

I'm dripping in incompleteness, and that is where I find moments of understanding faith.