Archives for September 2011

It’s Official. I’m a Freak.

I’ve finally figured it all out.

I am a freak. Seriously. I’m a genuine freak and I saw definitive proof yesterday morning.

All it took was a routine dental exam and a new-fangled panoramic x-ray machine to uncover the evidence.

Living right there in my gums above my two front teeth is an extra tooth. It’s true. And it has gone undetected for more years than I care to share with you.

Of course, my twisted (freaky) mind immediately latched onto Stephen King’s, The Dark Half. I was so excited I almost started a manic plot description for the hygienist and dentist recounting Thad Beaumont and his pen-name turned alter-ego-psycho-killer, George Stark. Instead, I wisely chose to silently recall Thad Beaumont and the twin he absorbed in utero. The twin was discovered after Thad suffered debilitating headaches as a child. Initially, the headaches were blamed on a mass in Thad’s brain but, when the surgeon opened Thad’s skull, he found (GASP!) a nostril, fingernails, part of an eye and…wait for it…TEETH!

Purdy, ain't I?

Okay, so I’ll admit that my weird extra tooth wasn’t causing the dentist any visible alarm. It was merely my over-active writer’s imagination at work, but I was momentarily placed in a state of awe while I mentally reviewed the plot of The Dark Half. I might have a partially absorbed psycho-killer twin living in my head at this very moment! Think about it. It explains a lot. Like that time when I was eight and I cornered my brother and sister in the kitchen with a butter knife and threatened to kill them. They shouldn’t have teased me because evidently, they angered my toothy twin.

Anywho…

It turns out the dentist was more worried about the two wisdom teeth I need to have yanked. One grew when I was in my twenties and never really caused me any problems…until now. It seems my rogue tooth has, indeed, gone rogue. Sad to say, but it’s time to say goodbye to my beloved tooth and it’s impacted friend. They will be extracted by an oral surgeon at some yet-to-be-determined date in the near future.

Whatever. I always have time for oral surgery, graduate school, three children and a husband as long as I’m offered a hearty dose of anesthesia and a couple of Percocet for my trouble.  Also, my absorbed twin likes things like Percocet and booze. I find that keeping it medicated alleviates the anger it feels because I absorbed it in utero. Who the hell wants to share the spotlight with a twin? Sheesh. I’m way too selfish for all that business!

*Freaky Friday*

I figured that if I gave my post a title like FREAKY FRIDAY, it might lighten up the subject matter. Lately, it seems Friday has become the day for tragic posts involving my son’s development. As I often do, I’ve entered that stage of acceptance where I begin viewing his newly diagnosed syndrome with humor. Laughter is the best medicine, right?

My little guy and I spent a considerable amount of time in the pediatrician’s office yesterday. Have I told you how much I love our pediatrician? So does Joe.

Yes, he still has ADHD and we’re adjusting his medication to help those symptoms.

It also seems that he has Aspberger Syndrome…which is what I have suspected for quite some time. My gut was right.

When he was two and we were living in Boston, Joe went to an amazing preschool run by an amazing teacher. Her name was Siobhan. Siobhan and I both remarked that he had trouble making eye contact. It was then that I became aware that he didn’t play with the other children. He was just never fully socially engaged. From the age of two, Joe preferred building extremely complex structures with Magnetix. So much so, that one day, Siobhan saved one of his structures to show me. It was two feet tall and perfectly symmetrical in design and color. That structure presented a troubling mixture of amazement and alarm.

That summer, we went to Martha’s Vineyard and I bought Joe a wooden box filled with complicated Curious George puzzles. He sat in a restaurant and completed all four puzzles in less than thirty minutes and without any help.

When he was three, he became obsessed with two DVDs from a NOVA series called The Elegant Universe. He watched it every day, choosing theoretical physics, string theory and Michio Kaku over shows like Sesame Street or Thomas.

My guy has never really made a best friend. He’s not like the other guys. Group situations either cause him to find a solitary task or behave awkwardly.

In New Hampshire, Joe went to the Exeter Day School. It was there that a boy punched our four year old son in the stomach on the playground. Later, at summer camp, I watched a boy push and kick him while I sat in the carpool line. He was yelling at the boy to stop and the teachers leading the camp were nearby, but no one helped him. When we brought the situation to the staff’s attention, the woman said, “Well, Joe tends to go off by himself. He doesn’t play with the other kids…” as if was Joe’s fault that he was being hurt. That woman never apologized or explained why Joe’s behavior was never brought to our attention. We pulled Joe from that camp and cancelled Gwen’s planned preschool attendance.

Kindergarten began and Joe’s issues became more evident. Carpet time proved to be one of the biggest areas of difficulty. Joe wanted to lay down. Joe invaded the space of other children. Joe wasn’t picking up on social cues.

We moved to Maine that year and Joe finished Kindergarten here but his troubles have continued. Trouble with carpet time and coordination and bullying and tears.

Last year, Joe didn’t qualify for the 504 because he is too “academically advanced.” In the meantime, he struggles socially and his self-esteem has plummeted. At bedtime the other night, Joe said, “It’s easier for me to bad than it is for the other kids. For them, it’s easy to be good.” I assured him that he’s a good boy. A smart boy. A kind boy. A loved boy.

His diagnosis doesn’t change the way I view my son. Not at all. However, it makes me more aware of the way he is treated by people who don’t know. Strangers, teachers, family and friends who don’t know or understand that he is not purposely being naughty. I don’t want him to feel labeled, but I do want to empower him. Mostly, I want him to know that he is loved. I want him to go school and enjoy his time there without feeling like a bad boy, or a different boy or a boy who will be picked on.

And so, we begin the journey to give our son what he needs.

I Believe!

I’ve come to the conclusion that reincarnation is a fact. It has to be. There is simply no other explanation for the two year old that lives in our house. There is no way that this child isn’t fresh off a past life that included a stint in some kind of correctional facility…or a long career in the navy. There must be some explanation for her alarming combination of salty mouth and street smarts.

Two weekends ago, Kate tripped in the basement and hit her face on a barbell. Both of her front teeth both broke and she needed to be rushed into town for an emergency visit to the dentist. A half hour after she’d broken her two front teeth, she spit out some blood and wiped her swollen lip with the back of her hand. “I feel bettew, Mommy!” Strapped into her car seat and waiting to drive off to her first dentist visit, she looked like she just came off a month-long bender, all bloody and swollen, hair unkempt and wearing remnants of her breakfast on her dress. It was so disturbing that once we knew she was okay, we laughed. The image of Brad Pitt in Fight Club – post knock-down-drag-out – flashed through my mind.

Yesterday morning I was putting the finishing touches on the spackle that conceals my dark under-eye circles when Gwen began screaming at me from downstairs.

“Mom, Kate just stabbed me with a knife!”

I stared at myself in the mirror and whispered, “Are you fucking kidding me?” After taking 1.26 nanoseconds to digest the horror of what I’d just been told, I ran from the bathroom, down the stairs and into the kitchen. (By the way, it’s really amazing how quickly the human mind is able to construct an epic-length scenario filled with blood and mayhem.) As I neared the kitchen, I had already imagined Kate grasping one of my super sharp chef knives, dripping with blood and reflecting one quick blinding glint of silvery light. Gwen would be staggering around the kitchen pressing her hand to the wound and wheezing, Why? Why?

In a nutshell, I was freaking out and my imagination lent my blood and guts scenario a spaghetti western kind of vibe…which is weird. (*Note to self: Discuss with therapist.)

In reality, I sprinted into the kitchen and saw Kate holding one of her dull Gerber toddler knives. No blood, no guts, and no kid staggering around the room in leather chaps and a Stetson. Gwen saw my face relax and decided that was NOT the reaction she was looking for.

“Mom, Kate stabbed me with that knife on my arm like this,” she said, demonstrating a sawing motion against her bicep.

“Gwen, that’s ridiculous,” I stated, “First of all, that isn’t a stab that’s a cut. Secondly, this knife can barely cut through a piece of Play-Doh.”  I turned and whisked the knife out of Kate’s hand. “Kate, we don’t play with knives. Ever.” She angrily crossed her arms and shouted her latest mantra, “I hate it! Never! Never Ever EVER!”

“Katie, that makes no sense and knives are dangerous. Very dangerous.”

“You an ahhhshole, mommy,” she called over her shoulder as she left the kitchen.

“What did you say?”

She stopped and turned. “I do love you, mommy,” she assured me, “I do.”

I stood in the kitchen holding the tiny knife – the one Kate had just tried to shank her sister with -and digested the fact that my two year old just calmly announced that, despite my being a complete asshole, she loves me anyway.

I put the incident out of my mind. I even had a good chuckle after we dropped Gwen off at preschool and got stuck behind a dump truck that was spewing a cloud of black exhaust into the air. For approximately one mile, Kate called that hard working construction vehicle a “smelly cock”.

“Say truck, Kate,” I tried, “Teh…Teh..TRR-uck.”

“Cock.”

“Nevermind.”

Last night, Dave and I talked about these things after we’d tucked the kids into bed and said our goodnights. We were making our way down the stairs when Gwen called, “Goodnight! Don’t let the bedbugs bite!”

“Stop it, Gen…I gonna kill you,” Kate growled.

I turned to Dave and said, “I hope she didn’t stash that shank under her mattress.”

What Ifs and Maybe

Maybe I’m just run down from this unrelenting cold. Maybe that is why my heart broke a little bit this morning. Maybe that is why I feel so utterly helpless. Like a failure.

Joe’s still dealing with ADHD issues, second grade and frustration. He needs to be directed through transition times. He needs constant reminders to stay on track. He is so hyper-focused on reading books, that he’s slowing his table mates down. He is costing them the handsome reward that would come if they were the first table to be cleaned up and ready. His table mates are growing frustrated and resentful. Frustrated 7 and 8 year olds aren’t fun table mates and they don’t want to be friends.

He told me that his table mates aren’t very friendly to him. One ripped a book from his hands. Another took away the dice he was using.

He’s missing a bit of recess today because he got two warnings yesterday.

I dropped him off this morning. Standing on the sunny playground, I quietly spoke with his new teacher and I watched my beautiful boy.

He wandered the perimeter of the playground with his hands in his pockets. No running. No laughing. No playing. Just quiet, lonely wandering while he looked at the ground.

No eye contact.

As I left, I hugged him and told him a loved him. I encouraged him to be his best. I said goodbye but I didn’t really leave. Back in the car, I spied on him. I sat there and watched, hopeful that once I had left, he would join the other children. I told myself that he had merely been self-conscious because I was there, talking to the teacher. He might have thought he was in trouble.

He walked across the playground, seemingly invisible to any other children.

He didn’t speak anyone. He didn’t play. He didn’t even look at anyone longingly, as if wishing he could join in. When he sat on the sidewalk, I wanted to run to him and pick him up. I wanted to take him home and love him.

I want to fix him but I can’t.

He has cognitive therapy this afternoon. I’m afraid I might cry while we’re in that session and I don’t want him to see.

My gut is telling me that this might be more than ADHD.

Hallucinations or Fatigue?

The most interesting things happen when you’ve slept for just one and half hours and fueled yourself with a second round Sudafed and Ibuprofin.

For example, while innocently strolling through the kitchen, things like stuffed monkeys lying on the floor can result in intense startle reflexes. Suddenly, that innocent stuffed ape with it’s brown fur and flesh colored appendages morphes into a weird looking dead baby thing. As you round the kitchen island and encounter that horrifying creature, you will recoil and emit a raspy shriek. After you’ve resumed the involuntary act of mouth-breathing (because the nose is closed for repairs), and the image of that terrible thing  has rearranged itself into a plain old stuffed monkey, you will kick it.

Hard.

But that kick won’t be satisfying because the stuffed monkey is soft. Plush, even. It will soar into the next room and land on the dining room table where it will lie in wait. You might tell yourself, Self…let’s remember that monkey is on the dining room table so we don’t experience that particular 3 seconds of horror again today, okay?

You might also walk by the playroom and see that your toddler is drawing on the walls with a black magic marker. From deep within, a lucid voice screams at you, insisting that what she is doing is wrong, very wrong. That inner voice, the one that isn’t sick and tired, will encourage you to stop that toddler! Stop her this instant!  But your feet won’t move. Instead, you will wordlessly stand there mouth-breathing and dabbing at your nose with a tissue. You will watch.

Somehow, that detached balloon-head feeling that accompanies illness and lack of sleep enables you to take a step back. You might wonder if you’ve reached a higher state of conciousness because those thickly drawn black scribbles juxtaposed against the bright yellow wall are breathtaking. Or maybe you’re just short of breath. Either way, you will think, Yes! Yes, scribble away my dear talented child! For I am moving on now and I will deal with that tomorrow.

You will then sit down at your laptop, write a shitload of meaningless drivel and worry that you’re going to get kicked out of graduate school for submitting a less than stellar writing packet on September 23rd. You will stare blankly at the wall for several minutes then hopefully look at the clock and realize that you have 8 more hours to get through.

I’m not sure, but maybe the combination of Sudafed, Ibuprofin and coffee causes weird hallucinations. Maybe it’s a combination of each of those things plus staying up all night long…Maybe I should just hit the beer fridge and call it a day. It’s fine, trust me. Between our babysitter, Dora, and the playroom walls-turned-art canvas, we’re all set.

Now…about that monkey.

Where I Was

I was freshly relocated from New York to Boston and sitting at Putnam Investments waiting for an interview.

It never happened.

I sat unaware in the lobby as those airplanes struck the Twin Towers. It wasn’t until the second plane hit that I found out what was happening. The receptionist gossiped about it on the telephone, clearly unaware of the tragic events that were unfolding. My interviewer never emerged and I’ve since wondered if she ever bothered to look at my resume. Did she ever notice where I had come from? Where I had worked?

I got up and left without saying a word, feeling confused and panicky. I wondered what was happening and thought of our family, friends and co-workers that would be in or near the World Trade Center. Driving through Boston to our new apartment, I wished I could go home – to New York – and prayed that our friends and family were safe. 

At home, David and I watched the city on television, thinking of the firefighters and city cops who were friends, and wondered where they were. 

I’ve said my bit about this day and where I was when it happened…now I will say a prayer for the lives lost and go on, thankful and proud to be an American.

Sometimes I’m a Big D-bag

I’m forced to eat my own snarky words. As I type, I’m noshing on a giant bowl of sarcasm and snide comments.

Were you here when I made fun of the piles of dirt delivered on our 10th anniversary? I mean, really… after ten years you’d think he’d know that I’m going to poke fun at something like $200 dollars of soil coinciding with the very day we professed our undying love.  Those piles of dirt filled with rocks and debris nearly begged me to write about them. In fact, they pleaded.

The honest truth is that my father-in-law bought that dirt for us. Thanks, Pops. I was just funnin’ y’all.

So, despite Dave’s lack of foresight I truly attempted to control myself…but we all know that I have no self-control. I wrote a blog post about it. I Facebooked about it. I think I might have even tweeted about it after a glass or two of wine. (I have a vague memory of doing so, so let’s just say I hit Twitter after three *large* goblets glasses of wine and threw my man under the bus.)

Ultimately, Dave got pissed and may or may not have called me a douchebag. For a few minutes we bickered like a couple of people who have been married for ten years, partially laughing while precariously balancing on the edge 0f a joke that’s about turn sour. Taking my dirt pile related sarcasm public was the final straw and now I’m forced to eat, well…dirt.

Last weekend David built this…

Our friend Rob helped and so did I, mostly because I can’t help but insert myself in whatever project is afoot. You know something? It is actually satisfying to see this cool rock wall that we built for our tenth anniversary. There’s something way more permanent about a stone wall than I don’t know… what the hell did I want? A weekend away? A year’s worth of babysitting so we could have a night out each week? Those would have been nice, but somehow this is just as exciting. Also, a technicality allows me to claim that my husband gave me some serious rocks…just not the kind that sparkle.

The “nice” dirt is on the way and we have all winter to figure out what we’re going to plant.

I’ve officially been taken off the douchebag roster and gifted with a new pair of tall chocolate-brown suede leather boots with a kitten heel, a beautiful merino sweater, a scarf and several shirts from Talbots.

Chaos and Headless Dummies

Unfortunately, Narragansett No. 7 has been a casualty of back to school chaos which included, but was not limited to, a missing school bus, hurricane Irene, a visit from grandma and our dear friends Taryn and Rob. Adding to the insanity, my second writing packet has to be completed and returned to my Stonecoast faculty mentor by September 23rd, so whatever spare time I have had in the last seven days has been devoted to reading books and writing. Ghost stories and traumatic memoir and short stories and…well, you get the idea.

How positively smart of me to take on graduate school at this stage in my life. I mean, really… life wasn’t complicated enough.

It’s been slow at No. 7. I know…

But I miss you.

I miss us.

It’s not you. It’s me.

I’ve changed and become responsible. I’m going to bed at a reasonable hour and doing my homework now. I’m scaling the mountains of laundry that accumulated while we waited for our new dryer (Dear Samsung, you suck!) and we went school shopping. Yes, I took all three children (simultaneously) to the mall where we shopped for shoes and clothes. We all survived, thanks to my quick thinking and street smarts.

No, not really. We survived because there is nothing inherently dangerous about the mall. I have also stopped worrying about the people in Baby Gap. Seven years of motherhood has desensitized me. I don’t care what anyone thinks when Kate knocks down one of those creepy decapitated Baby Gap mannequins. Let’s face it; they’re a disturbing bunch. Those cranium deprived faceless babies could be inflicting irrevocable damage upon the mental state of children all over the world! It isn’t that far-fetched, the Gap has gone global. Kazakhstan is the latest country to be infected by denim clad headless dummies. What kind of newly-hatched human wouldn’t be alarmed at the sight of an impeccably layered, plump toddler without a dome? It’s weird.

I’ve also stopped worrying what people think when I holler the names of my children at random intervals. Besides, the hollering is only a portion of my cyclical technique. It begins with my pillage of the sale racks while repeatedly looked left, right and left again. I then execute a half spin and inspect the region directly behind me to determine the exact location of each of my three children. If, somewhere in my manic cycle of pillaging and mothering, I happen to lose sight of a child, I loudly call out his or her name while shushing the others so I can assess said child’s location. To a childless woman, it might appear that I have some disorder akin to Tourette’s syndrome. I repeatedly perform this odd ritual to ensure that my children have not been stolen or climbed a “Gap Employees Only” ladder to ceiling height.

 By the way, Gap employees… my two year old can’t read that plaque on your ladder, so if you are no longer using the ladder to adjust the headless babies, please put it away. Children + Ladders x Mother without prescription meds = me deeming you a daft jackass for leaving it unattended in the first place.

If, in fact, you have negligently failed to remove the safety hazard ladder from the sales floor, it’s best for all parties involved if you refrain from reprimanding my child for climbing said ladder. Trust me. You are required to provide a safe and pleasant environment while I attempt to squander copious amounts of my husband’s salary on clothing for my children. That happens to be a portion of the money I plan to recoup if a judge should decide that Gap Inc. owes my injured child a hefty sum for her pain and suffering.

Also, if I choose to undress one of your plump headless and impeccably layered mannequins because it is wearing the last purple 5T dress, you can’t stop me. Please don’t sigh and show visible annoyance because I am disrobing your creepy display. Just give me the clothes and no one will get hurt. I’m trying to attire my children, so that dummy will just have to find a new get up.

 While I’m on the subject, might I offer some additional suggestions?

If you see a mother with three children and a pile of clothes on August 28th, it’s fair to assume they are school shopping. Maybe, I don’t know… HELP HER? Why not periodically take a spin through your store and check on the family of four who has squashed themselves into a tiny dressing room? This is the perfect opportunity to do your job. It’s not that hard, you know.

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away, sales associates performed this very function. It’s true…I swear. I’ve heard legends about the ancient ones.  They were a tribe of sales people who willingly assisted parents rather than ignore them. In fact, newly discovered cave paintings crudely depict a Gap sales associate actually making eye contact with a customer while handing over a wooly mammoth poncho. Can you imagine? 

Seriously. When it reaches the point where a woman is red in the face and visibly sweating, you might step in and say, “Oh, let me help you with that.” If she is dealing with a crying toddler and 7 year old determined to study the private parts of pregnant mannequins and when she is no longer quietly lamenting that it would be nice if someone – anyone – could help, maybe it’s time to stop folding and interact.

 If, for some maddening reason you have chosen pay no heed to your customer, it is most unwise to suddenly dash behind the register and sweetly inquire, “Did you find everything you needed today?” Chances are, if I’m the person you’ve posed that question to, you’re going to get an earful and raging case of the stink-eye. I’ll probably say something to the effect of, “No. In fact I didn’t because I just spent two hours restraining my children while performing the job of a Gap sales associate.” This statement will either produce a moment of stunned silence or an indignant glare. Either way, you’ll stand on the other side of the counter and realize that yes, that woman did just say that to you.

You’ll be forced to watch her children, who now resemble a riotous troop of chimpanzees, as they hurl your freshly folded clothing on the floor. If you’re smart, you won’t say a damn word. That harried mother has surrendered and silently given her children full permission to behave like poo-flinging primates. She is allowing them ransack and annihilate Baby Gap. Why? Because you, dear sales woman, stood chatting and folding sweaters for an hour and half instead of offering your much-needed assistance. That’s why.

Of course, the preceding paragraph is entirely hypothetical.