You Take The Good, You Take The Bad…

A few weeks ago, Dave and I met with a psychiatrist that works with Joe’s school. It was our first meeting. You know, kind of an informational session…these are our concerns…the pediatrician thinks it’s Asperger’s, the therapist thinks it’s social anxiety and there’s a two-year wait for the specialist that will eventually give us the real skinny.

Anywho… Joe has actually been doing much better. We recently switched his ADHD medication for a new one. No sleep issues and his appetite is better. Most importantly, there have been no psychotic and completely out of character mood swings. Just a little guy with a super busy brain who can now sit through six hours at school without major issues. It seems to me that his social anxiety has improved a bit too…which leads me to conclude that he might not actually have Asperger’s but hey, I’m no doctor.

So now that I’ve caught you up a bit on Joe’s state of affairs, let me tell you how the meeting with the school’s psychiatrist went.

It went well.

I think.

He asked if Joe had ever been subject to physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

No.

Though, there was that time I spanked him for biting Gwen’s cheek four years ago. Or that time last year he kept saying “piss” at school and the teacher called me repeatedly so I finally brushed a tiny red pepper flake on his tongue and then felt immediately guilty and still wonder if I’ve scarred him for life. But, no…no emotional or physical or sexual abuse…beside that red pepper flake.

I vaguely recall Blair from The Facts of Life being on the Today Show and defending Tabasco Sauce as discipline for children. As I watched that show, I also recall thinking, Jesus…that
Blair’s a real hard ass! I would have pegged Jo for that kind of abuse…her and her black leather jacket and motorcycle. She had a real chip on her shoulder when she showed up at Eastland.
Fast forward a couple of years and the memory of Blair and her spices filled my mind after good old soap failed to do the trick. I know, I suck. No need to send hateful mail.

There I go again, getting off the subject entirely.

So, the psychiatrist writes a note in his folder and moves on.

“Is there any history of alcoholism in the family?” he wondered, peering over the top of his bifocals.

Here’s where Dave and I looked at each other, snorted, laughed and said, “Uh…yeah! It’s rampant, man!”

Here’s also where the doctor chuckled along with us then stopped to look at us as if we were crazy. So we back-peddled.

“Uh, well…I don’t drink anymore and she’s…,” Dave says, waving a hand in my general direction.

Did my husband just tell this child psychiatrist that I’m a lush with a vague hand gesture?

My mouth hung open in astonishment. “Yeah, well a glass of wine at night…but JESUS, my parents… whoooo wheeee!”  (Sorry, parents but Dave started it and I needed to deflect so I made it appear that you are the ones who are complete lushes. I assume that one day, my children will throw me under the bus in a similar manner. I hope you understand. Then end.)

That's my wine...served up by my husband.

Minutes later, we were asked to fill out a form, the last two pages of which were very important. I checked off two pages of questions like, does your child pick his nose? Dude, he’s seven. Until last year, there was a boogar wall behind the bunk bed.

Does your child use tobacco? Dude, again… he’s seven.

But seriously.

I was trying to be serious.

You see, Dave and I have a habit of being serious, on our A-game, but little snips of our humor can’t help but squeak out. It’s like needing to fart to relieve some pressure. We can’t stop ourselves. For instance, when asked if Joe had ever been subjected to physical violence we adamantly replied no then Dave added, “Nothing abnormal…you know, ‘go to your room’ and
maybe some yelling…”

“Yeah, we try to hold off on electric shock and cattle prods unless things get really crazy,” I laughed. We all laughed. Then the shrink abruptly stopped laughing again and made a note in his file.

Why do these idiotic statements flow from my mouth like verbal vomit? I mean, really. School psychiatrists don’t normally appreciate the dry and twisted humor of parents attempting to help their child through the social minefield that is first grade. Do they?

Now, by the end of the meeting, Gwen and Kate were losing it. Did I mention that our sitter wasn’t available?

Actually, allow me to give credit where credit is due. Those two little girls sat quietly and patiently for an hour. They colored and played a game on the laptop. They were angels.

Yet, as is typical, in the last five minutes of conference room jail Kate lost her mind.

While we wrapped things up and said things like thank you and we’ll be in touch and yadda yadda…I tried to quiet Kate’s incessant repetitive whiny babbling question with an ill-timed, “Yes, sure Katie.” I really had no idea what she’d asked me. I fell prey to the mother of mothering mistakes – the inattentive, “Yes, honey” response. The one that comes out of our mouths while  we’re trying to engage in a serious discussion with someone like the cops or school shrinks.

We were still wrapping it up with the good doctor and, while Dave chatted with him, I turned to Kate and cheerfully asked, “So what should we do now?”

“I SAID WE GETTING DONUTS YOU KNUCKLEHEEEEAD!”

Between cattle prods, nose picking and knuckleheads, I’m pretty sure the shrink was left wondering what in the hell goes on at our house.

The good news? The authorities have not shown up.

Yet.

Public Humilation and Other Horrors

This weekend I spent a lot of time compiling essays and filling out transcript requests. I’m in the process of applying for my MFA in Creative Writing. By this afternoon, I was looking for a mindless task. I needed to zone out. I finished painting the family room a lovely shade of Fairview Taupe (brown-ish/grey-ish). Perhaps it was the paint fumes that got me thinking…We have been changing diapers almost non-stop since July, 2004. That’s a lot of hiney wiping. Yet, in exchange for the care and feeding of our three lovely children, we routinely suffer grave humiliation. There are a few that I’d like to address. I don’t expect they’ll be able to provide me with a proper response or change their behavior immediately. No one can accuse me of being unrealistic however, its time to call these kids out on a few things.

In the play space kitchen you were whipping up some “treats” when you loudly announced that you were serving me a glass of wine. Delivering the wine in an enormous and “fancy” ice cream sundae glass was the icing on the cake. You gave all the other mommy’s a nice warm cup of tea. What gives?
If I hold your hand in the mall and you’re pissed because I wouldn’t buy you one of those giant cookies, please don’t scream, “OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW! YOU’RE HURTING ME MOMMY!” People think I’m abusing you.
Don’t yell, “I’m going to kick your ass!” Ever. You’re four. Not cool.
I know you’re my son but that doesn’t mean that I relish the act of cleaning your “pee pee” from the outside of the toilet, the floor or on occasion, the wall. What’s with that? There’s a big round hole. Point and shoot, dude. It’s not like your junk is separated from the toilet by several feet.

Yelling, “Look Mom, they even have booby traps here!” in Target was funny. I’ll give you that. But standing in the cart and squeezing each of the booby traps while saying, “Nope, too big for mommy!” wasn’t. Besides, they look like this because of you, you little stinker.

When Daddy quietly mutters, “Where the hell is the fucking bus?” to himself, don’t turn around and say, “I don’t know, maybe we fucking missed it.” Daddy doesn’t understand that you have the super-human ability to hear things from yards away. Skip the F-bombs. Especially at school. Please.

Stuffing things in your nose is never a good idea. We were lucky that your sneeze dislodged the twig. Plus, I have booger issues. Stop it.

If I take a picture of you with my phone, don’t loudly ask, “Mommy? Did you just take a picture of my privates?” That’s messed up. Social services visits mommies for statements like that. Please stop.

I overheard you tell your cousin that your “mom goes crazy.” Did you also happen to fill your cousin in on the times that you’ve cried and thrown the controller across the room because a mushroom killed you on Super Mario? No? Well, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Capiche?

While I’m on the subject of video games, It’s disturbing to enter the room and find you in the bean bag chair clad only in your mini-boxer shorts and a t-shirt, the room smelling vaguely of farts while you navigate the perils of Super Mario Land.

It’s not okay to bite the dog. Not ever.

It’s only okay to color on your face with WASHABLE markers. Sharpies are never a good idea. Trust me.

Please take a moment to vote for No. 7. Just one click does the trick!

Cookie

Gwennie’s preschool welcome letter was in the mailbox this afternoon. This was the moment that I have been dreading all summer. *sniffle* I know, I know… I need to let her move forward. It’s preschool. A right of passage… a major milestone in the life of my little cookie. My Cookie. *sob* She tries to make me feel better by saying things like, “Mommy, I have to get all growed up!” or, “It’s okay Mommy, you’ll be right back to pick me up”. She says these things with a shrug of her tiny shoulders while wearing an appropriately empathic, but too-bad-for-you facial expression. I recognize it as my own.
Oh, how long I waited for my little girl! For all of my blustering about never wanting children (back when I didn’t know I wanted them), I secretly dreamed of one just like her. Here’s a little secret…Gwen was not planned. I had no idea I was pregnant for weeks. No idea at all that another baby was on the way! Thankfully, we sorted it all out before we ended up on the I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant show.

My sweet little Cookie. I have no idea how or why the nickname “Cookie” began, but it belongs to her. Like every other mom, I will never forget the day we first met. As I recovered (lay helpless in bed) from surgery Dave took photos and, in his ecstatic state of new Daddy bliss he posted a most unflattering photo of our new baby girl.



I was beyond mortified! “WHAT?! You posted that picture?! Look at her…she looks like a hairy linebacker in that shot! Why that picture?!” You can imagine that my hormones were in full swing at this point. Poor David.

Here’s the one I would have sent:

I’ve enjoyed each and every minute of her existence, right up to this very moment. She makes us laugh both giggles and belly laughs without even trying. She can as easily make me cry as I watch her attempt a brave face before confronting the man-eating hippos in her closet. Who can blame her for being frightened if those are the kind of things lurking in the shadows of her bedroom?

Over the past week, I have gone through what seems like thousands of photographs and can’t help but marvel at how tiny the children were. How easily we forget and how quickly they grow. Chubby little baby cheeks and beautiful toothless grins are fading away. Like every other parent in the world, we only have our memories and photographs to help stir them.

I explored picture files full of Joe and Gwen’s first years, when we lived in Boston. I had forgotten how tiny our apartment in Oak Square was. I thought of when our two babies shared a sweet little bedroom, and how suddenly one afternoon I heard them babbling to one another. That was the afternoon that she became a little bit more “baby” and little less infant.
When people say that children are born with their own personalities, they aren’t wrong. It didn’t take long to see that Gwen was an “Alpha” baby. She began busting Joe’s chops (his words) as soon as she could sit up. Here’s the proof:

Gwen came into the world making us laugh. She has that special something that lets her get away with just a littlebit more than the others. She has comic timing. Gwen has presence. She’s quick to defend and stands up for the rights of those being wronged…including herself. She has a quick wit and a sharp tongue. At 18 months, she exited the sandbox with purpose to toddle to the swings where she proceeded to smack the neighborhood’s three year old Neanderthal who was pushing Joe around. I wouldn’t have believed it unless I watched with my own eyes. She emitted some sort of crazy babble/yelling, smacked the bully a few more times for good measure and chased him off. Gwen is one tough Cookie.
She claims that her brother is her bestest friend in the world, but will rat him out in the blink of an eye. She welcomed her new baby sister into the family with grace and watches over her to ensure her safety and happiness. In fact, she’s Kate’s official spokesperson. So much so, that Kate can speak her own Kate language, leaving Gwen to interpret. Oddly enough, she has developed an uncanny knack for knowing precisely what Miss Kate is demanding.
Gwen can walk into a room full of strangers at 12:00 and come out with 5 new friends a half hour later. It doesn’t matter if it’s a girl or a boy. So now, as summer ends Gwen is eager to join her fellow tribesmen, the little people of Patten’s Nursery School. She’s a tiny social maven on the verge of independence! She’s teetering on the edge of freedom. She’s chomping at the bit to escape my (control) love.
I will be shocked if there are tears when I leave her on the first day of preschool. In fact, I have absolutely no fear that she will cling to my leg, screaming to go home. Nope. No need to pry her off and run before my own tears start to flow. Instead, I’ll drive her there, walk her inside and she’ll run away from me to meet her new friends. I’ll hang around a bit (too long), making sure that she finds her cubby…that she’s okay, and right around the time I realize that I’m not okay, I’ll feign cheer, choke out a “Goodbye, Cookie! Be a good girl!” as I hastily exit. My little Cookie is growing up too fast.
My dirty fingered, bandaid obsessed, dress wearing angel. I had no idea that she was coming, but I’m sure glad she’s here.

Mommie Dearest and the Summer Boredom Blues

joan

I’m having a day. I’ll be completely honest here and will probably offend someone in the process (or at least make you wonder if I should really be mothering three small children). But really, who hasn’t had one of those days where, by 3:00 p.m. every sound emanating from the general vicinity of your children makes you want to hop in the mini-van with a suitcase full of your favorite shoes, a pack of smokes and a copy of On The Road? Come on. Tell the truth. You’ve fantasized about a covert nap time escape, haven’t you? I have.


On many occasion, I’ve wondered exactly how stay-at-home moms can homeschool. You mean, you’re always with your kids? 365 days a year????!!!! 24 hours a day..7 days a week????!!! (What I’m saying in my head is, “Lady, you’re looney toons.”)


Can you tell that we’re on the downward swing of summer vacation and all of the fun “stuff” has started to lose it’s appeal? We’re almost at the new school year (28 days, 13 hours and 54 minutes to be exact). If that yellow bus doesn’t pull up soon I might just loose my mind. The most alarming part of this situation is the fact that the kids are only entering 1st grade and pre-school.


They’re bored. Boredom = problem behavior = mommy needs prescription meds.


Oh, the poor little things. They’re bored. Let’s bring them to Funtown/Splashtown, the beach, buy them a pool, go to Toys-R-Us, library, buy them a stinkin’ puppy, get them ice cream, go to the park, blah, blah, blahblahblaaaaaah.


What does a Mommy do when faced with such a challenge? Hmmmm..let me look for some ideas on the Internet! Oh look, here’s a blog entry titled “Bust Summertime Boredom”, I’m sure this nice lady will have some excellent pointers. Plus, it says that the ideas are also wallet friendly. Excellent!

 1. Family Dance Party.
Okay. I can do that..I’ll just turn up the stereo and get everyone to dance. “Look! Guys…look at Mommy. Hey! Let’s dance..guys…guys?”
Joe: “Mom, you look crazy. Can I have a treat?”
Gwen: “Can we go to the beach?”
At least Kate humored me with a wiggle.
 
2. Fort Building.
“Hey guys, wanna build a fort?
Joe: “YEAH! Hey Gwen, we’re going to build a fort!”
Gwen: unintelligible words followed by a delighted shriek.
Me: “BE QUIET THE BABY IS SLEEPING!!”  deep breath… “okay, now just go into the living room and use whatever cushions you need. Blankets too. Have fun!” Fast forward 2.5 minutes. A piercing scream comes from the family room. I enter to find that Joe has built a fort, turned on Transformers and banned Gwen from entry. The baby is crying because I yelled.



3. Family Cookbook.
Susan, the Blogging Wonder-Mommy, says that this is a great way to share your favorite cookbook with the children. Plus, all that measuring keeps their math skills fresh. She goes on to say that I should let my children pick the recipe they would like to try. Um, Susan? Won’t will also entail a trip to the grocery store? My favorite cookbook is Gourmet and the kid not glued to Transformers can barely count. I’d like to throw Gourmet at Susan.

4. Listening Game.
Susan, who is clearly doing a much better job at child rearing than I am, suggests lying down in the backyard to “listen”. What do we hear? Can you make that sound? This is what I heard:  “I hear a poo.” giggle. “Gwen, pull my finger.” Kate picked that moment to back up and plop her smelly bum on my head and Joe followed with, “Can we go to Funtown /Splashtown?”
 
5. I’m too bored with Susan to keep reading. I wonder what Susan would think about drawing on each other…
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Welcome, To Fantasy Island

Alright, so I just have to throw this one out there and set it free. Things are about to get absolutely bizarre at my house over the weekend. So bizarre, that it took me about half of a day to process and recognize the weirdness. Is weirdness even a word? If not, it should be. It applies to this situation.

Those of you that know me well know that I’m the product of a broken home. Yeah, yeah, it was the 80’s and, frankly, who isn’t the product of a broken home? (Humor me). Trust me reader-person, this isn’t going to be a tragic recount of the past 30 years and how my parents ruined my life. This is about the comedy that my parents unwittingly subject me to every few years.

Inevitably, some family event happens that requires Mom and Dad, sometimes along with significant others, to gather together and celebrate said event. My sister’s wedding in the early ‘90’s was the tester for behavioral problems. Luckily, we discovered that brief stints of togetherness are tolerable and, if the stars are properly aligned, quite entertaining. Okay, scratch the stars…mostly alcohol and music tend to do the trick.

Let me catch you up a bit. We are all lucky to have my mother staying with us for the summer. It’s been great. The kids love having a Grandma in the house, I love having Mom in the house, Dave loves that Grandma is in the house. Jeez, I think that the dog is even in love. We’re in Grandma Heaven around here.

So, a few months back my father sent a brief e-mail (he keeps it REAL brief) telling me that he’ll be in NY for his 50th class reunion…will be visiting my sister on such and such dates and then up to us in Maine on such and such dates…frankly, I just spaced because, well, I’m a bit spacey sometimes. Also, in my teen years he had a tendency to not show up, but I promised you that I wouldn’t go there.

Fast forward to this morning.

Scene: my kitchen.

My mother enters saying, “Your sister called. Your father will be here on Sunday.”

Pregnant pause while she waits for me to react. Of course, I’m absorbed in some minutia so lamely respond with something to the effect of, “Oh, really? That’s nice.” Awkward pause…“Oh wait, so where are you going to stay?!” Not exactly tactful, am I?

Mom responds, “I have to work, so I’m staying here.”

For some reason, my brain processes this tidbit as A-Okay. My mind says, “Hey, she seems cool with that…let’s go to the beach!” We went to the beach.

Fast forward to mid-afternoon. There I was, bumping around the lawn on the riding mower when, somewhere between the front porch and the playset, it hit me. My mother and father are going to be staying at my house. At the same time. They’ve been divorced for like, 29 years. How stinking funny is that?! Seriously.

This has all the potential to be like a bad Fantasy Island episode. Picture Mr. Roarke standing on the dock with Tattoo, greeting this week’s guests, when the fabulous 30-something woman (me) with baggage is forced into a “fantasy” where her parents reunite and kill/fall in love again/have crazy monkey sex with each other. They go through some kind of hellish/euphoric experience and then they go home (after pushing Tattoo into the lagoon).
The whole scenario is entirely fitting of the chaos that surrounds me and my growing family. Really. We need a film crew around here. And while we’re at it, I’m taking suggestions on how to explain this to the kids. Excuse me while I go look for my happy place.