Friday, September 28, 2007

You Never Know _________ Until You're A Parent

1. You never know your tolerance for bodily fluids until you're a parent. Vomit, poop, pee, drool, mucus and any given combination, which would have grossed you out years ago, is now simply a part of your life (even if it still makes your stomach clench)

2.You never know your capacity to love until you're a parent. This may sound cliche, but it's true, and I think that as a parent you realize that everyday. I mean, who could ever know that someone who demands all your time, abuses you regularly, and is generally unappreciative of all you do, could make you love them more than anyone else ever has?

3. You never know true insanity until you're a parent. Sleep deprivation, food deprivation, and constant harassment equal a level of crazy that you can't appreciate until you're a parent or a P.O.W. Sometimes you hear voices, sometimes you see things, and often times you have paranoid fantasies.

4. You never truly appreciate that children are actually tiny mental patients until you're a parent. They don't sleep, yet keep going. They puke at the worst possible times. They ask questions over and over again, forever expecting a different answer. They can live on peanut butter sandwiches. They are manipulative, skilled liars. They NEVER get tired! They are crazy, and take their parents with them.

5. You never know just how golden silence is until you're a parent.
The quiet, oh the peace and quite. When you're a parent, you pray for those moments, those rare times when everything goes still. When the kids are asleep, when the pets have given up begging for affection, when the spouse is quietly absorbed in a computer game. It's mythical, magical fleeting great white whale. Every parent hunts it, few ever harpoon it.

6. You never know true empathy until you're a parent. When your child hurts, you hurt, plain and simple. No one else's pain can bring you to tears the way your child's can.

7. You never know how to manage money until you're a parent. I love to listen to my childless co-workers talk about how they have no money. They "have no money" but can still go dinner. They "have no money" but can still buy a new pair of boots at Macy's. When you're a parent, you actually know what it means to NO money, and how to creatively stretch a dollar, sideways if need be.

8. You never know how much you love your own parents until you're a parent. Remember when you told your parents you hated them? Those torturous teenage years that you thought they were evil, unfair beasts? Well, becoming a parent gives you a deep respect, a reverence, for your own parents. Now that I have two of my own children, I can't imagine how my parents ever raised four of us. I can't fathom how they juggled work, bills, and all of us kids and our various problems. They were super human. I love you mom and dad. Thank you for loving me, even though I was rotten.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Good Thing Is Hard To Find

Part of Julie Pippert's Hump Day Hmm..... "A Good Thing Going" for Wednesday, 9/26/07

Life has been a bit craptastic lately, leaving me at a loss for non-depressing blog posts. GH lost his job, and then had his debit card information hijacked within the same week. K got sick and was spewing everywhere, followed up by a fun and exciting bout of wetting the bed. G's fits have reached a new level, and the other day he told me he didn't want me to be his mother anymore, which brought on a hysterical bout of weeping, and forced my friend to bring me out for emergency afternoon cocktails.

Finding a good thing going right now is hard, but perhaps this is the perfect time to dig for it. I need to find the good things that are going on beneath all of the rubble that is our lives at the moment.

Good Things Going On:

1. Having a House Husband
Having GH loose his job has been a HUGE financial blow to us, and caused GH several small nervous breakdowns. However, there is a bright side. I've gained a House Husband. This means no child care expenses. This also means a cleaner house, children who have more time at home with a parent, and even dinner when I get home. It's actually been kind of nice, and I'm going to enjoy it while I can.

2. Knowing People Who's Lives Suck More Thank Mine
It's easy to feel like life is as bad as it can possibly get sometimes. It's very sobering to look around and see how much worse it can be. One of my co-workers' husbands is being shipped out to Afghanistan next month. Another is tangled in a nasty custody battle on top of other huge issues. And then of course, there are the clients that I work with, who have been abused and exploited their entire lives. It can always be worse, much worse. The fact that it isn't is a very good thing.

3. The Craft Business Is Finally Building Steam
My side business is finally beginning to pick up! Though it's my dream to make my jewelry and crafts my full time job, I know it will probably never happen. However, I'm finally starting to get some recognition, and loyal customers, which feels really good. I'm doing my third craft show this weekend, and hope it will pull in a bit of extra money, and some more interested customers.

4. The Kids Are Healthy And Whole
While they have both been having their issues lately, K and G are both healthy and (relatively) happy. They are bright, loving children, and I'm very lucky to have them (but please feel free to remind me of that if K wakes me in the middle of the night again tonight, or the next time G has a fit).

5. I Have a Good Marriage
Though GH and I have our moments, and we generally drive each other crazy, I'm very lucky to have him. I don't think anyone else in this world could put up with my Type A neurosis, my obsessive crafting, or my wacky business ideas. He lets me nag him (to a point) and tells me everything is going to be all right when I'm feeling like nothing will ever be all right again. He sticks by me when I my try my hardest to push him away. I don't know what I'd ever do without him, and I hope I never have to find out.

Well look at that, I guess I do have "Good Things Going" after all. :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hump Day Hmm - Why I Matter

Today I've finally decided to tackle Julie's Hump Day Hmm, something I've been wanting to dive in on for a while. This week's topic is "How I Matter". I think I may have chosen the toughest one yet to start with. lol. Here goes....

My whole life, I've worked hard at being tough. Never reaching over 5'2", I still aimed to be 10 feet tall and bullet proof. I resolved never to be vulnerable, never to be a sucker.

I grew up in a small town where being different made you a social pariah. You were one of the good 'ol boys or you were Not. I was a Not. In high school, I was the girl with the shaved head and the leather dog collar. I once got detention for walking my boyfriend on a leash through the halls of school. My high school principal called me a "scrapper" for the numerous confrontations and fist fights I engaged in. I made sure that people left me alone, and those who didn't, only bothered me once.

Despite all this, beneath the leather and studs, beat a soft heart. I often used my power for good, taking down bullies, threatening those who hurt my friends, etc. As an underdog myself, I watched out for those who were even more helpless than myself.

After high school, I remained street tough, but cleaned up a bit to get a real job. I moved to NJ and worked in the mall. I got my hair cut at an expensive salon, and even got my nails done. I wore nylons to work, and a blazer. I felt like a real wiener for the first time in my life. It was during this wiener period however, that I committed my one true heroic deed.

While walking to the grocery store behind my house one afternoon, I watched an elderly lady have her purse snatched out of her grocery cart while she put groceries in her trunk. Flabbergasted, I began to scream at the purse snatcher from my place across the parking lot. The man said nothing, but began to run straight towards me, cradling the stolen purse in his arms in a football hold. I stood there, screaming, swearing, telling him to drop the purse. He continued to charge. When he got to me, I grabbed hold of him, trying my damnedest to take him down. At well over 6 feet, and outweighing me by at least 80 pounds, he threw me hard on the ground and made a break for the woods surrounding the parking lot. Ignoring my broken acrylic nails, and various cuts and bruises, I stood up and froze, torn between trying to chase the thief through the woods, or going to help the elderly woman who was still standing at her car, confused and upset. I chose to help the woman.

Long story short, I assisted the woman, who spoke only broken English, into the grocery store, where we contacted the police. The woman eventually communicated that all of her medications and rent money was is her purse. I went down to the police station, and by the time I was done giving my statement, and getting my injuries photographed, they had caught the thief, and recovered the woman's purse, though it's contents were largely scattered throughout the woods. Several days later, I received a card from the woman I had helped, thanking me for my help. I still have it, and it's one of my most cherished possessions.

Aside from that, my life has been far from heroic. I've never saved a life, never delivered a baby in a broken elevator, or even bungled another robbery.

The way I matter most these days is as a parent. While I may not always be super mom, I do my best at trying to raise wonderful future adults. I work hard, and try to set a good example. Though I my falter now and again, I try to provide my children with a good moral compass and a compassion for others. While I may never save a life, perhaps one of my children will someday because I've instilled that into their hearts.

Oh, and I try to be a good wife on occasion too. On occasion. Special ones.

I like to think the job I have now matters as well. After completing my BA in English Literature, a long strange road has lead me away from publishing and into Human Services. I now work for an agency that provides assisted living for adults with developmental disabilities. While I never could have predicted this career path for myself, I wouldn't change it for anything. Editing articles about lawn care never brought me fulfilment I get from having a simple conversation with one of our clients, who are all amazing people.

So, while I may never cure cancer, I still like to think I matter, even if it is just a little.....

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Meeting

So this morning we had G's PET (still don't remember exactly what it stands for) at his school, and frankly, it couldn't have come at a better time. This past week G's fits have been out of control, and yesterday I received my first Call From School. Apparently the "honeymoon" period is over, and G's decided to establish his boundaries with his new teacher. Oh, and did I mention GH has been in tears almost daily over G's rages? It's been a real treat.

The meeting consisted of me, GH, G's teacher from last year, his current teacher, the school's Special Education Director, and the district's school psychologist. It was a good group who listened attentively to me and GH as we expressed our frustrations and our fears. Last year's teacher helped validate our concerns and fears with input of her own.

Perhaps the most gratifying part of the entire meeting was hearing all of those people in the room who have had contact with G talk about how incredibly smart he is. There was even talk of having him evaluated for gifted programs, to help alleviate his frustration and boredom.

Even talking about G's issues was comforting, as now there's a plan in place for having him evaluated. Terms like OCD, Depression, Anxiety Disorder, and Aspergers are still terrifying, but nothing can equal the fear of not knowing. We just want to know what's going on in our little G's head so we can help him. As a mom, there's always that drive to kiss and bandage every boo-boo, to make it all better. When the hurt is invisible and it's tearing your child apart every day, it makes you feel so helpless, so useless. I just want my baby to stop hurting.

So for now, the evaluations start. One for gross motor skills, one for anxiety, one for socialization, one for sensory monitoring, etc. It's quite a list. Oh, and don't forget the paperwork we got to bring home, with lists of behaviors to rate G on, and the evaluation form wanting to know everything from how nauseous you were while pregnant, to the first time your child farted (no kidding, that may just be on there).

We meet again on October 10th to touch base, talk about where the team is with evaluations, G's progress, and more diagnosis specific evaluations. Until then, we just keep holding on. G included.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Making It Happen

Yesterday, I finally got the call I've been waiting so long for- G's school had finally set up a meeting for his PET.

Now, if you're not sure what a PET is don't be concerned- I've actually forgotten what exactly the acronym stands for myself. Something Evaluation Team? Anyways, what it boils down to is that, after a long period of struggling on our own, we may finally get some real help for G.

To understand the situation, you must first understand my G. He is a very complex little boy. He is so smart, it causes him frustration and boredom. He'd rather do math problems than art. He obsesses over things constantly, from any shift in our daily routine, to what's for dinner the following day, to the amount of time he gets to spend on the computer. He's the pickiest eater I've ever known, so picky in fact, that's it's almost as if any food with flavor causes him pain. He hates to sleep, and, even after he manages to drift off for a few hours, he'll wake up in the middle of the night, turn his light up, and do tanagrams in bed.

G has always been "quirky", and initially we chalked it up to a funky personality. So what if he loved looking at the phone book for hours, staring at the neat rows of names and numbers? And his difficulties with transitions? Just a phase, we were sure.

Our outlook changed as G entered school. The teachers began to notice things we never had. G's fine motor skills were lacking- his hands became tired quickly when he wrote and drew. His gross motor skills were behind as well- he avoided to much physical activity. His vestibular system (the 5 senses) became easily overwhelmed. And then the fits started.

G's fits are terrifying. When his schedule is interrupted, or he has to deviate from his current obsession, etc. he falls into horrifying fits. It's like he's possessed. He screams horrible things, cried, throws himself on the floor, and can't be touched or reasoned with.

Of course there are a lot of other little pieces, to numerous to go into. Eventually, we couldn't deny it any longer- G was different, and we needed help doing what's best for him. After extensive personal research, my husband and I found that G fit all of the criteria for Asperger's Syndrome, a high-functioning form of Autism. Armed with our experience, our frustrations, and all our love, we consulted our pediatrician. The pediatrician then referred us the only behavioral specialist in our area.

The behavioral specialist sent us a scary amount of paperwork to fill out on G, from the time he was in the womb. I filled it out, sent it back, and then was told it would be up to a year before G could be seen. We were dumbfounded, frustrated, and at a loss for what to do next.

After expressing my frustrations to a new co-worker, I was told that we could get all of G's evaluations done through his school, at no cost, and much faster. Once again, I was dumbfounded. How could that be? I mean, if that was true, why hadn't the school told us this after so many meetings with teachers and staff, talking to them about G's behavioral issues and our concerns? Why don't they let ALL parents know that these services are available if needed?

Well, now we've finally made progress. The meeting is on September 18th, and we're all so relieved that help may finally be within reach. Until then, we will continue to be patient and understanding, dealing with the situation the best we know, and hoping that answers will be coming soon.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Holding On... And Letting Go

Today was K's first day of school. She dressed up in brand-new clothes, strapped on her brand new backpack, and waited outside with the big-kids, like her big brother G. When the big-kids got on the bus, she watched them depart, eager for her own bus, the special kindergarten bus, which would pick her up after theirs.

After the other kids were gone, and the other parents cleared out, it was just K and I, waiting alone in the chill morning. I held her on my lap, burying my nose in her hair, hanging on tightly to that moment where I could still hold her, where I knew she was safe in the circle of my arms. I held on to that moment, where I knew she still needed me.

Eventually, she slid away to perch in the grass at my feet. She looked at me, so knowing, so grown up all of the sudden.

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And I held on to that moment too. To knowing she was big enough, and strong enough to take that next step, with her tiny feet that now looked so adult in her new golden slippers

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And then, in a moment of pure K, she danced.

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And I held on to that tightest of all.

And then, it was time. GH joined up outside as the bus rounded the corner. The anxiety knotted my stomach, and I fought the urge to drag K back inside. She bounced and glowed. Her excitement flowed through her, splashed on the sidewalk, and managed to hit me with a few drops. I smiled,and tried to hold on to her, but she was too wiggly.

And then she walked away. And I let her.

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Monday, September 03, 2007


K: When I grow up, I don't want to cut my hair

Me: Well honey, you don't have to cut your hair if you don't want to

K: Yes I do. You have to cut your hair when you grow up.

Me: No you don't K, you never have to cut your hair if you don't want to.

K: Yes you do! If you don't cut it, it will touch the toilet!

Me: (trying no to laugh) Well, you can always just move it out of the way so it doesn't touch the toilet.

K: Ellllllewwwwwww

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Home Is Where The Food Is

I knew GH was my soul mate the first time we cooked together. His enthusiasm, his infectious joy, and his obvious love for food made the whole experience new and exciting again. Even now, after cooking together for years, it's always better when we do it together, and not just because it divides the work, but because it's one of the times when we connect the best. We share, we love, we eat.

Food has always been a major part of my life. Me and my brothers and sister were raised in a house centered around food. My parents have been involved in the food industry our entire lives, from serving it, to cooking it, to selling it. For a while they even owned their own catering business. I can still remember the whoopie pie assembly lines and the night my dad spent on the kitchen floor, his hands encased in ice, after slicing fresh jalapenos without gloves. It's these food centered vignettes that pepper my childhood.

I was a good cook from the time I could stir. I made my first, lattice topped pie at age 10 (my parents still exclaim over the photos proudly). Every new recipe was a chance to explore, experiment and best of all, eat. Food was a playground, and I was the queen of the monkey bars.

After I had kids, food took on a different roll in my life. No longer could meals be skipped, eaten irregularly, or consumed purely for pleasure. Food was now Important. It was now the building blocks of tiny minds and bodies, something to be balanced and carefully considered, something to be planned and scheduled. In short, it became work.

When GH came into our lives, one of the greatest gifts he gave to me, was giving me back my love for cooking. Now, food wasn't just something to fret over, just another chore. Weekends became a time of elaborate, ethnic meals, of baking, and laughing, and stuffing ourselves silly as we cooked. Food was recognized once again as something that binds people together. Feeding friends and family is something with so with true gusto and flair.

K embraces this passion for food with open arms. She's one of the only 5 year-olds I know who will scarf down calamari, heap her plate with steamers, and polish off a bowl of spicy seafood gumbo. We encourage her pure delight at trying new things, her pride at tackling a new food experience.

The one cog in our foodie family wheel is G. To him, food is "plain" or "not-plain". Guess which one he prefers? To G, the perfect meal is cheeseburgers or tacos- anything else is up for debate on a daily basis. Most days he rejects breakfast no matter how much we plead. When dinner's placed in front of him, it's usually greeted by grumbling, complaints, and sometimes tears. This frustrates GH and I to no end. Though we parade a bright rainbow of food in front of him, he can't be threatened, bribed or cajoled into trying a bite. How we ended up with such an extreme picky eater, we'll never know.

This weekend, my parents are visiting. I'm always thrilled to cook for my parents, to garner the praise of two such wonderful chefs. Tonight we will cook a dish GH and I invented last weekend- a Gorgonzola and white wine cheese sauce with cherry tomatoes over penne pasta, topped by broiled scallops that have been marinating in olive iol, fresh garlic and minced basil overnight. I drool just thinking about it. Tomorrow night, a roast chicken with GH's Ultimate Mashed Potatoes, and all the fixins. Everyone will eat drink, talk, and generally make merry.

G is sure to request a bologna sandwich both nights.