Tuesday, October 27, 2015

18th anniversary (writing now because we, duh, married on one of the busiest weekends of the year)

D and I married on All Saints' Day eighteen years ago.

We discussed getting married on Halloween, but I knew that would eliminate a ton of family members from attending, which would have been great on the budget but sucky on the celebratory effect.

With regard to our selected anniversary date, we didn't realize the following:

1. We would always forget our anniversary because we think, "Our anniversary is in November," without fully grasping that it is DAY 1.  We don't have any actual time in the month of November to prepare.  As our lives have gotten busier, we have pretty much agreed to forego cards and other such trinkets.

2. We would be so busy with our own tribe of children that actually celebrating our anniversary would be an afterthought.  By the time Halloween ends at midnight, we will have been to approximately 167 Halloween parties, 2 pumpkin tosses, 6 trunk or treats, and a spooky orchestra concert.  In years' past, doing something on our anniversary has been on the calendar, and no thank you.

(Hence, the reason I'm posting this now instead of the weekend.)

With regard to marriage, when we started out, we didn't realize a whole heck of a lot more, like.....

*how, in retrospect, the first 4 years felt like play-acting.

*how, in retrospect, years 4-6 were crazy good.

*how our home eventually went from feeling not as homey as our parents' home to the place where we decompress and breathe, and we didn't realize when or how it happened.

*how he and I would begin at opposite ends of a spectrum on issues, meet in the middle and somehow bypass each other.  He is where I used to be, and I am where he used to be.

*sometimes the best you can say about your marriage is that you've simply put too much into it to deal with starting over with someone else, so you suck it up, watch things blow over and move on.

*how usually episodes like the aforementioned are followed by moments when you know this person is a really good fit for you, for a variety of reasons.

*you have to get really good at ignoring a lot, including some of your own stupid behaviors and thought processes that really amount to nothing productive.

*how much of a feeling of pride and success comes with sticking with the same person for this many years and not once having raised the iron skillet over his/her head in the middle of the night.

Really, I don't have snarky comments (ok, maybe just one) about the sports banquet

Last week was N's field hockey banquet.  It was my first such event.

It was very nice, took a huge amount of effort and organization on the part of its coordinators, and it meant so much to N.  She and the other girls were excited and had fun.

Following the meal, each of the coaches gave out awards to their players.  I appreciated N's coach because she kept her awards' delivery short and sweet.  N received "Most Improved Offense."  I don't actually know what that means, but whatever it is, she has improved so I'm happy.

It was at this point that the internal snark came out.  Technically, it is/was not directed at any of the particular coaches; it is/was aimed at all sports players/coaches around the world.  I have had occasions to listen to televised interviews of sports figures, and they are the most redundant, nonsensical things I've ever heard.  It makes Through the Looking Glass and other Lewis Carroll fare seem like ludicity.

At the awards banquet, it took quite a long time to say what might have been summed up in one sentence:  "Players gave their all, gave 110% and rocked it." The Carrie way to have an awards ceremony in under 2 minutes.

The awards took long enough that I played with my phone and seriously considered grabbing my book from my purse until it was over.

But all the while I was having these "please.STOP.TALKING" thoughts, I felt guilty, which is why after we returned home and got the kids to bed, I sent a thank you email to the coach, coordinator and parents of N's team.

Although I grouched about the 3-times-a-week practice and rolled my eyes at all the goody bags and "team spirit" things, the whole point of it was to team- and friendship-build, and the girls loved it.  They are 11-year-olds who thrive on that stuff.

It occurred to me that I should be thankful for the parents and coaches who put the energy into these little things.  Just because I think they are unnecessary and pointless doesn't mean they actually are.  My reality isn't everyone's reality; my disinterest isn't everyone's disinterest.

Especially not my daughter's, who is already talking about next year's field hockey season (heaven help me).  

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

If it looks like OCD, and it sounds like OCD, it is probably OCD

I have seen this meme (and others like it) float around about M&Ms and OCD, and I sorta hate it.


I think I dislike it because it minimizes the disability and disarray that OCD can cause in a person's life.  OCD becomes something ridiculous and comical.  Something that just makes you rearrange your M&Ms. 

People use OCD now the way people used to use the word "retarded."  Off the cuff.  They like a certain brand of lipstick and say, "Oh, I'm so OCD about my cosmetics," in the same manner in which people would jokingly say, "Don't be so retarded!"

I don't get angry with them, but I wish they understood just how debilitating it can be.  How unfunny it is if you are living it every day or watching someone you love struggle with it.

Today I scheduled an appointment with a child psychiatrist for G.  Our family physician feels that, given G's behaviors, OCD sounds very likely and medication would be warranted.  An 8-year-old child probably shouldn't even notice when his mother moves a flower arrangement, and if he does notice, he certainly shouldn't scream, cry and briefly lose his mind because something was changed in the house.  An 8-year-old probably shouldn't have a repetitive string of things he says before bed every night, in the exact same way, for a year or more.  

I am not anti-medication.  My medication changed my life for the better, although I initially struggled with "having to take medication to make my brain work properly."  Why the brain is so darned different from kidneys or intestines or any other body part that is allowed to stop working properly of its own accord without any shame or guilt, I do not know.  

My fear at the idea of putting G on medication, or even considering it as a possibility, has to do with changing his brain in an unnatural way, but our family doctor said something today which, given my experience and what I know about OCD, I should have been able to say to myself:

It doesn't make much sense to think medication will keep G's brain from developing properly.  He is not medicated right now, but given his anxiety, his brain is not developing "properly."  He is likely developing all kinds of distorted patterns of thinking that will end up causing him more harm over the long run.  If medication dampens his anxiety and OCD behaviors, he will be more likely to learn affective, useful coping mechanisms.  

Heightened, consistent and chronic anxiety that interferes with a child's ability to feel secure and function, even within a household that is as flipping "secure and functional" as I can possibly make it, is not "normal" brain development.  

And so we look toward the evaluation and whatever answers it gives us.  

Monday, October 19, 2015

Purge. Shop. Rinse. Repeat.

The irony of my morning is not lost on me.

It is completely ridiculous to donate items to Goodwill and then walk directly into Goodwill looking for more stuff, right?


The donated items were things like a seed spreader, a sprayer that I used once to do the deck, and a fake tree.  And a box of clothes.

My shopping list was short:
A black hoodie for N (for her Halloween cat costume).
Snowpants for G.
Swiffer pad thingies (it says that on the box.)

Then there was the list of "browsing" items for which I didn't hold out much hope:  a wider basket for the pillows/blanket in the living room and gently used side tables that are significantly taller than 23 inches.

Goodwill (basket and side tables)==no dice
Habitat Restore=nope
Home Goods/TJ Maxx--basket found, $14.99
Once Upon a Child=snowpants, $6.50
Target=hoodie ($19.99) and Swiffer thingies

I liked looking at the home goods, but it also bothered me because I really strive to be pretty minimalist.

As per my usual, I found myself thinking all manner of thoughts that really aren't conducive to successful shopping.

Thoughts like....

"Why do I like gallery walls?  They are so busy, which is really not minimalist at all.  So am I really not a minimalist?"

"Can I be a minimalist about horizontal stuff but not vertical stuff?"

"Why does everyone seem to want rhino heads on their walls?"

"Am I weird because I do not want rhino heads on my walls?

I am on a couple of swap pages for moms on Facebook, and I am amazed at how many people eagerly jump on items that, at least for me, require lots of stewing and a very specific plan of where I am going to put an item.  I would never, ever buy a piece of furniture without having measurements and knowing where it is going to stay.  Perhaps this is because once a piece of furniture enters my house, it probably isn't ever going to leave.

Shopping with myself for company is a drag.  

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The disappointment of stupid parental dreams

N doesn't want to take piano lessons anymore.

We started lessons when she was 8, mostly on a whim.  She struggled with math, and I knew all the research about music instruction possibly helping kids with math.  Plus, I never took music lessons as a kid.  I went to parochial schools, and it wasn't even an option to learn instruments; there was no orchestra or band as there was/is in the public schools.  I wanted her (and the boys) to have some private musical instruction experience.

Since I didn't know how to read music, I began lessons, too, so that I could help her and maybe help motivate her.

Last year, she began playing viola in orchestra and continues now in 6th grade, although that may end too since she is talking about foregoing orchestra in 7th/8th.

Our last piano lesson was in late May, and she didn't touch the piano until last week when I made her in order to prepare to restart lessons.

She complained that she can't remember the notes because she is getting them confused with alto clef, which she uses for viola.  She just doesn't want to do it, but she won't say she doesn't want to do it because she doesn't want me to be disappointed in her.

What I had to explain to her today is that agreeing to do something you don't want to do just so someone else isn't mad at or disappointed in you never, ever results in them being pleased.  She doesn't want to play piano anymore, which means she has a terrible attitude about practicing, which makes me angry and frustrated.  It is better to disappoint me once than to continue to frustrate/disappoint me every time she half-ass practices.

I told her, "Yes, I will be disappointed that you stop playing piano, but I'll get over it."

And I will.

I also explained to her that parents sometimes feel disappointed in their kids, and it really has nothing to do with their kids.  It is them.  The problem is the parents.

Like after college, when I interviewed at a big cigarette company.  I was 21 and fresh out of undergrad.  I was offered a job making probably 40K in a supervisor position on a factory floor.  I turned it down and took an editing job where I started at 17K a year.  I didn't want to smell like menthol cigarettes, and I didn't want to supervise anyone, especially not someone 20+ years older than me who might rightfully resent some ding-dong telling him what to do.

My dad couldn't wrap his head around the fact that I turned down "such a great opportunity."  He was a manager at another big local company, so this sounded like an amazing position.  I didn't disappoint my dad, although I felt like it at the time.  He was disappointed because he would have loved to have that opportunity if he had been in my shoes.  But he wasn't, and I had to make a decision that I could live with.

As it turned out, working at the editing company allowed me to get my master's degree (and the company paid half the cost).  The cigarette company eventually closed down its plant here, so I would have been unemployed or had to move away from my family/friends.

I told N this story today, and I told her that sometimes she needs to just be honest with me and not worry about whether I'm disappointed.

And I need to remember that even though I think I don't have secret dreams for my kids, I really do deep down.  And I need to sometimes be disappointed that my kids' dreams aren't my own.  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

If I had been medicated earlier in life

Sometimes I wonder how my life would be different if I'd been medicated at age 20 instead of age 30.  If my nervous breakdown had come a decade sooner, and I'd gotten some much-needed therapy under my belt before I'd graduated from college the first time.

Most of the time I do this kind of wondering when I'm not entirely satisfied with my existence, and in some ways lately I've been in a low-grade bleh.

Overall, I think I've made thoughtful choices in my life, but they have also been very safe choices.  Choices that were made to ensure I wasn't pushed too far out of my comfort zone.

There were many things I didn't do out of fear in my twenties.  I didn't ever live alone or even with a friend.  I went from my parents to my husband, and that is one thing I hope my children never do.  I hope they are on their own or live with a friend before hooking up for a lifetime.

I never went into the Peace Corps, which is something I thought about for awhile.  It was unadulterated fear that kept me from doing this.  Fear of bugs and disease and how I would ever survive without my allergy medicine.  I didn't even investigate it at the time to learn more.  I simply allowed fear to shut it down.

I never traveled with friends or backpacked across Europe.
I was never very independent.

I wonder if I'd been medicated, if I'd had some therapy, if I might have made a whole slew of different choices that would change where I am now.  Not that where I am now is bad.  But sometimes where I am now feels like maybe I short-changed my life a bit.

Some of this re-thinking of my life actually centers around G and his tantrums whenever I change something around the house, like move furniture or rearrange/repaint fixtures.  He throws a screaming/crying/flailing tantrum, says he hates change, asks me if in 2 years we can change it all back to how it was before, and then proceeds to get on with his life.

I feel like this has OCD written all over it (or I'm just projecting).  The notice of detail, which most 8-year-olds wouldn't even let enter their consciousness.  The desire to not change ever, to keep things exactly as they are.  It seems a little hoardy, too, like if I agreed to it, he might want me to store all the old plumbing fixtures and upholstery that was removed.

He struggles with things sometimes, and I wonder if medication would help take him down a notch, lessen that fear, the anxiety that sometimes leads him to throw these "I hate change" tantrums.  I wonder if not medicating him will mean that one day he will make fearful choices and at 42 look at his life and wonder if his choices were the best ones for him.

There are many ways in which being like me would be ok, but allowing fearfulness to guide so many of his choices wouldn't be one of them.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Kickin it at 6

Dear M,

Tomorrow begins your run as my favorite 6-year-old.  N and G were both excellent in this role when they were 6, but I admit it is especially special with you because you are my bonus baby.  I find myself clinging to your squeaky voice and innocent cuteness because I know  The final curtain call.

You have been in speech therapy for a few months now and are saying words much more clearly.  It is sweet when you practice correctly enunciating words, like "lobby" this weekend every time we got into the elevator to go to the "lobby." You found ways to work words like "lobby" and "lion" into sentences just so you could practice.

You are a real character.  It takes you awhile to warm up to people, but when you do....look out.  You have already demonstrated your armpit and back-of-the-knee fart techniques to your kindergarten teacher, and she told me today at conferences that you've told her about your mad dancing skills, although you haven't shown her.  Yet.

I love this picture of you because of how you always 
wink, point your fingers and click with your tongue
as if you are calling a squirrel.
With the glasses, it just completes it.

You are so, so good at entertaining yourself even though that usually means a bath is needed.

You are everything to your big brother, G.  He adores you with a love that almost equals his desire to drive you crazy.  You are usually so patient, much more so than anyone else in the family is with him.  Whenever I ask you what you want to eat or drink, you say, "Whatever Gwam is eating/drinking/having."  And then you usually follow up with, "I want what he wants because we're bruhers." (brothers)

I once wrote in one of your baby books that I worried about what kind of mischief you two would get into as you got older, and I have seen it grow and bloom.  The two of you can crack each other up like no one and nothing else.  I usually consider it hilarity of dumbness, but I am always so thankful you have each other even if I don't get the joke.

You are a fierce hugger and lovebug and to this day you still twiddle my ears, just as you did when you were a nursling.  If you see either mine or N's belly, you drop everything and run over to hug us.  Daddy offered you his hairy belly for a hug last night, but you replied, "Dat's embarrassing."

You very regularly crack us up, like this weekend when you were playing in the pool, and we heard you say, "Stupid dammit!" while you were splashing some imaginary beast in the water.  I fear both Daddy and I laugh at your antics and say"You are so cute" too often because we are savoring these last remaining days of young childhood in our house. As evidence, just this afternoon you said, "I like putting out Halloween decorations, and I'm cute and stuff," so clearly it has all gone to your head.

When I think back to when we discovered you were coming, unexpectedly, we were so discombobulated, and yet we don't know what we would do without you in our family.  Because of we are five, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

I love you ever so much, my sweet boy,


A return to a childhood memory

The family just returned from spending a few days at a state park about two hours from our home.

As a kid, I remember my parents taking me and my younger brother to this state park and inn.  Actually, what I mostly recall from this childhood trip was the cool indoor/outdoor swimming pool. A glass wall separated the sections, and you had to swim underneath it to get from the inside to the out.
My kids in the cool indoor/outdoor pool. 
They thought it was awesome, too!

My mom tells me that we went in the warmer months, but there was a freak cold front, so we spent the entire time in the one pair of jeans and one jacket we had all brought "just in case."

The other memory I have of this trip is watching my parents and brother ride in a small boat into one of the caves.  I was scared and refused to go, so I stood on the water's edge by myself.

Hmmmm, I wonder where my middle child gets his stubbornness?

I planned this short trip almost immediately after we returned home in June from our exhausting trip to Orlando, FL.  That trip wasn't much fun considering the heat, tiredness, D's back spasms and the sprinkler ordeal in which we had to move out of our condo.  It was memorable but definitely not enjoyable.

Low-tech fun:
Casting fishing lines to try to hook plastic fish.

Guests throw coins onto the historical homes' beds which are used for upkeep. 
The kids thought this was hilarious. 

Helping the kids make friendship bracelets.

Views of the Pioneer Village and trails.

This short fall weekend felt relaxing.  It helped that we had no cell phone service (which some people actually complained about on  The whole point of going to the woods is to live deliberately, people!)  Being off-the-grid is awesome.  It also helped that the weather these two days was perfect.

We hiked a lot, and the kids didn't whine.  M said his legs were tired, but G didn't complain at all, which is a bonafide miracle.  We saw two caves.  We visited the pioneer village.  We picnicked our lunches both days.  We visited the nature learning center two times (the second time at the request of G).

The Stagecoach Trail.  
M's legs were tired, so I played pack mule for a few minutes. 

We ate breakfast and dinner together at the inn.

I felt like we connected as a family, which feels like a much better memory than running ourselves ragged all over Disney and Universal, trying to pack in as much "fun" as we could to justify spending $100 per person.  Our entry fee into the state park was $9.

I totally love it that the kids enjoyed doing such simple things.

I'd say we most certainly got 100 times that much enjoyment out of it.