Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Today you are five!


Dear India,

This is you this morning. Today you are FIVE!

You are so five. Going on 15. You do this celebrity pose that you surely learned on Barbie--one hip stuck out to the side with your hand on it, elbow crooked. You roll your eyes. You sometimes have A Tone.

I put together this stroller last night because your dad is gone this week. Initially I had two extra pieces and both wheels kept falling off. And then one of my friends helped me on the phone, and now only one wheel falls off.

I think it's because the metal rod is supposed to have grooves on each end instead of just one end. Your dad thinks that it has something to do with the extra pieces, which incidentally are still extra. I keep telling him that I think he needs to saw a groove into the other end when he comes home.

If it were just me, I'd glue the thing on. However. I'm willing to wait for him to check it out.

For the time being, you're strollering very gently.
You're so full of energy and enthusiasm and certainty. You rush full speed at everything you want to do. You love exuberantly. Sometimes you drive your brother insane, but you love the tar out of him.

The other day you were so determined to do the monkey bars. You got up and fell down over and over until you could get to the third rung.

I admire you.

One of your teachers was endlessly impressed by the fact that on a stormy day you said the sky looked "ominous". She must've made a big deal of it, because now you regularly ask for words that most four-year-olds don't know.

Obstreperous is a word I've suggested. Because boy howdy are you.

And yet, you're extremely kind. You're gentle with younger kids. Your teachers told us that there's a child in your class with delays, and you're unfailingly patient and sweet with him.

Speaking of school, you recently told some of the kids in your class that for time out, we send you to the bathroom after your daddy poops. I had to tell your teacher this is absolutely not true. She laughed and told me that one of the boys was all, "Wow, I thought I had it bad!"

I was, I must admit, impressed with your creativity.

We've recently been discussing body hair and puberty and menstruation. I can only imagine what you've shared with your class in this regard.

You call yourself a fashionista. Your dad rolls his eyes at our shared enthusiasm for clothing and footwear. Some of your outfits are truly surprising but also incredibly refreshing. You love to put on my boots and prance around.

I deliberately don't talk about size and weight, instead emphasizing strength. You see me work out regularly, and sometimes you join me. You talk about how strong you are, about the physical things you can do. I hope this continues.

You hate food lately. Meals are generally torture. Despite this, you consistently like broccoli and you've become a huge fan of asparagus. You also like figs, which I'm kind of fixated on right now myself.

Sometimes I look at you think, how did I get so lucky? I say this to you. How am I so lucky that I get to be your Mama?

We are on spring break and we have had a lot of together time. Last night I hit my limit, and I said I needed a time out. You started to cry and followed me. So I invited you to join my in my time out. We snuggled in the chair in the back room. Because Jordan called it the "background" when he was very young, we still call it the background and I don't think we're ever going to stop.

You pronounce the fourth floor the floh floh. I'll be sad when that goes away.

And you still say, "It's glad that..." I'm so charmed by this that I never say "I'm glad" to model the correct form. I just agree with you.

You are wonderful company. I love spending time with you. I love when you put your small hand into mine.

I so often stroke your cheek and tell you that you are my joy, my treasure. Sometimes in the morning you do the same back to me.

Sometimes you come up to me and kiss me on the cheek over and over. Kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss.

These things crack my heart wide open.

It's getting harder and harder to pick you up, but I will keep doing it as long as I can. You wrap your legs around my waist and your arms around my neck. You put your head on my shoulder, and I can feel your soft skin against my neck. Sometimes I feel your eyelashes flutter.

This is one of the unexpected pleasures of being your mother, something I have come to love most. One day you will be too big to fit or too old to want to. I hope it takes a long, long time.

I love you love you love you,

Mama

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

How to cause a commotion on Rock Creek Parkway at rush hour

Perhaps you were on Rock Creek Parkway at rush hour yesterday and you had to drive around a broken-down car in the middle lane, inside which was a nicely dressed woman sobbing hysterically?

That was me.

I will admit that with regard to vehicles, I fit the worst female stereotypes. It is terrible, I know. I lived alone for six years, owned my own place, took care of all my bills and what-have-yous.

And still, when my muffler broke, I called my dad. When my dad offered to get my oil changed, I was delighted.

I take my car to the DMV inspection, and to get it fixed, and all that. But I find all these car things stressful. Maybe I make them worse than they have to be.

Remember when I broke my wheel and then rolled into that parking lot full of convicts?

Now, I feel the need to tell you that earlier in the day, I'd said my final goodbye to a dear family friend. I'd placed my hand on his forehead, silently wished him Godspeed, told him I loved him, asked him to say hi to my dad for me.

Grief, in the end, is all about us, isn't it?

So I had already been crying a good deal and was already an emotional wreck before my car broke down.

I called Nick (hands free, on speakerphone) from I-66 the second time that I put my foot on the gas but the car didn't respond. See, the first time it did that, it was brief. This little light that looks like a submarine but surely isn't, flashed on. And then my car went back to normal.

And then it happened again. And then went back to normal. He said to try and get home and then we would deal with it.

But then I got on Rock Creek, and traffic was so slow, stop and go. And at some point, my car stopped, and would not go, no matter what.

The submarine light, the battery light, and something else went on. But not the car.

At this point, I was maybe half a mile from home, in the middle lane.

I had this brief urge to get out of the car, get on the Rock Creek bike path I know so well, and go home. Car? What car?

People behind me started honking, because what kind of jerk just plain stops in the middle of Rock Creek Parkway at rush hour?

My windows were down, because even though my car had not been overheating, Nick kept asking, and it was a beautiful day and I figured why add extra stress to the unhappy engine by running the AC.

So my windows were all the way down when my car died. This detail matters because here's what I did next: I put on the hazards and started sobbing hysterically.

I mean, I was crying so loudly that people who passed me leaned out their windows to ask if I was OK. I could only nod because I couldn't actually breathe.

One woman very kindly said, "I hope your day gets better."

I called Nick, who very sternly told me to PULL IT TOGETHER AND BREATHE. This only made me cry harder, which I knew frustrated him and did nothing to calm me.

Anyway.

Once I was able to calm down a little, he said to call 911.

Which I did. The woman who spoke to me told me not to cry. But in a nice way.

Naturally, I continued to sob after hanging up.

And then two young and very fit guys came over to my window and said they were going to push my car to the side. They very kindly did.

Nick called again and said he'd organize the tow truck and call the car place, and where exactly was I and what had happened with the car?

So I said, "Well, I was driving, and then when I tried to accelerate it just went "Rrrrrrrrr!" and then the little light that looks like a submarine flashed and then it went back to normal but then it happened again and then..."

"You're going to have to explain to me what 'Rrrrrrrr!' means. And the light looks like a submarine?"

So I explained as best I could what the car had done and not done and that there is this light that looks like the Beatles' roundy Yellow Submarine with a periscope.

I think he said this may be the engine light. In any case, my explanation was enough to tell the car people and the tow truck.

And then he said to get out of the car, because cars often get hit from behind. Apparently this is a thing people know but I did not. Now I do.

At this point on the parkway, there was a small stretch of sidewalk and a low wall. So I sat on it, in my nice dress and wedge heels. But for the car with the hazards and hood, and I guess also the location, what with it being on a wall on the side of the road, I looked like I was waiting for a date to pick me up.

I wasn't crying anymore. But my phone battery was low. I put it on power save, and posted my status to Facebook.

Nick criticized me for this later, but I will tell you that I needed some support. And my friends are lovely. A couple of them so nicely offered to come get me.

I was wishing I'd brought a book. I should never go anywhere without a book. And phone power.

A number of police came by and asked if I had called 911 or had a tow truck on the way. One of them pulled over and gave me a flare and told me how to start it, in case it was dark by the time the truck came. He also helped me open my hood.

I can't tell you how many people looked over and asked if I was OK. Two cars pulled over and asked if I needed a ride.

They were either really kind or axe-murdery. You can't tell when you don't know people. But I'm going to go with kind.

By "going to go" I mean choosing to assume. I don't mean I would hop in the car with a stranger.

I will be honest and say that I did that kind of thing in my foolish youth and nothing bad every happened but I count myself lucky.

Eventually a tow truck pulled up behind my car. I waved and walked over.

Except that it was a random tow truck. I called Nick to ask him the name of the company, which turned out to not be this one. The guy said, "Cancel the other one. We're here now and we can take you."

I was tempted, because I was so tired of waiting, and starting to fret about it getting dark. In the dark, the nice guys who inquired about my welfare would start to seem threatening.

Nick wanted to speak to him, and after a brief conversation he said I would just wait for the truck we'd organized. Apparently the man said, "So you're just going to leave your wife on the side of the road?"

Ooh, manipulation.

And then, after another half hour or so, just as the sun was starting to sink and I was thinking I had to light the flare, a nice man named Max turned up in a very large tow truck with the correct company name on the side.

He asked what had happened and I didn't use the "Rrrrrrrrr" noise. He expressed sympathy for me sitting by the side of the road for that long.

And then I handed him my keys, thanked him, and walked off into the sunset.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

New additions to the fear list

Death by coconut
This is a thing. A friend of mine went to Panama, and at the hotel they gave her a list of things to watch out for.

Top of the list? Above scorpions? Falling coconuts. Hand to god.

"Although it sounds peculiar, the most dangerous thing in the Caribbean is having a coconut fall on your head." Direct quote. See below.
Proof!
So I Googled this, and there are a number of articles about how you are more likely to die from a falling coconut than a shark attack.

I think they were trying to reassure people, like listen, shark attacks aren't even as common as coconut attacks, but all I could think was, you're not safe in the water and you're not safe on the beach! Nature will kill you every time.

Listen to this: if a coconut falls out of a tree, it can hit you with 2,000 pounds of force. And then you die.

This happens!

I recommend wearing a sturdy but stylish pith helmet. Betty used to have a very cute one, although I cannot remember why, because if she knew about the coconut danger, she never shared it with us.

So, yah.
Death by being swallowed by a python
Last week I read about a 25-year-old Indonesian man who went out to harvest palm oil. And he never came home, so his family went out looking for him.

Do you know where they found him, two days later? In the stomach of a 23-foot long python.

Yes.

Pythons, they squeeze you to death. They're incredibly powerful, and they just crush the stuffing out of you. There you are, walking along, collecting your palm oil, and the next thing you know your whole body is being strangulated by a giant python.

Then they swallow you whole. Their jaws unhinge, or something like that, so they can open wide enough to swallow an entire grown man. With his boots on.

They do this, and then lie around in a ditch and wait for you to digest.

I'm not clear on what happens to the boots.

Apparently, they rarely eat humans. They typically eat small and medium sized mammals.

Also, I know what you're going to say: We don't have them in DC, Lisa, except in the form of shoes and handbags.

Listen, we also don't have hippos, and they are way high up on the list. I don't let little things like practicality or lack of proximity deter me.

Like, I also realize there's not going to be a shark in the bottom of the pond or the swimming pool. But if I can't see the bottom, or if it is deep and I am swimming alone, it doesn't keep me from panicking.

Jaws traumatized me for life.

Also, did I tell you that there are sharks in the Potomac?

You're welcome.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Scary monsters and super creeps

My brother and I were raised immersed in the religions of the cultures we lived in--Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Islam. We never attended church services, but grew up visiting temples and mosques and churches as cultural outings rather than religious ones.

Then, when I was 14, my parents got worried that eventually my brother and I would freak out about our lack of religious upbringing and run off and join the Moonies. So they started hauling us to Mass. But, for me anyway, it was too late for the ritual to appeal.

Despite my parents' fears, I've never sought out a cult, and as far as I know, my brother hasn't either.

Nick and I haven't raised our kids with any religion, although I'm starting to think we should at least offer them some religious education.

I can't remember if I told you that last year my daughter came home one day and said, "Mama, do you know who Jeez is?"

Right.

Now, Jordan knows a lot of bad words, but he also knows that kids shouldn't say them. And when I run my mouth when I'm driving, he will say things like, "Mama, maybe instead of using the asshole word, you could say he's a jerk."

I always thank him and say he's right.

And yesterday the kids were watching teens and adults play basketball at the park. Jordan later told me that he heard some very bad words. I said I expected that was true, and I trust him to know not to use them.

So recently at dinner Jordan said, "Mama, is 'hell' a bad word?"

Nick had bought Jordan a King Kong comic book. And apparently someone in it says, "Holy hell!"

I said it depends on how you use it. I went on to explain that Christians think hell is a place where bad people go after they die.

Fortunately, they didn't delve into this, because I don't have much more to say. The bulk of my knowledge of hell comes from Dante's Inferno.

Anyway, back to the hell at hand.

I said, "Talking about hell as a place is fine. But if you say something like, 'Oh, hell!' then it's a bad word."

"What if I said 'Holy hell' because a 50-foot-tall King Kong was chasing me?"

"Sweetheart, if any giant beast is chasing you, you go ahead and say whatever you want."

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

For those of you who also love my Betty

Because I hate suspense, and cancer is very scary, I'm going to tell you up front that everything is OK.

And now I'm going to tell you about the past month.

It is February second, and I am in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.

I'm a sucker for stained glass and achingly high ceilings.

My dad was Catholic, and when I'm in a church, I light a candle for him. So I am wandering around St. Patrick's, wondering which saint would be the best one for my dad's candle.

I look for Saint Michael, because that's my dad's name, but then Michael was an  archangel, right? How does that work? Does he get a niche with candles?

Before I can examine all the saint options, my phone rings. It's my mother's doctor. I answer quietly. Are you allowed to talk on a phone in a church?

She tells me that my mom's CT scan revealed a mass in her lung. And that she needs a further scan to determine what it might be.

I am too well aware of the fact that Mom has smoked for 60 years.

I start to cry while we are talking, and in the end, I can only whisper, because otherwise, I will wail.

And then I feel so lucky to be in a church. I sit on a pew and sob. I know I'm an adult with children of my own, but I am not ready to let go of my mama. I am not ready for my children to lose their Nana, one of their biggest cheerleaders, reading companions, night-time snugglers.

As I cry, I pray, which is what I do in crisis. I did this every time my dad attempted suicide and went missing. Every time he wound up in the hospital and I held his hand and stared at the monitors.

I beg, and I tell God that I know that I really suck in that I only pray when I need something and it is true that I am not religious and don't go to church and am not going to start. But please, please let my mama be OK. Please.

Unable to stop crying, but with a train to catch, I find the nearest saint, and light a candle for my mom. I figure the living need it more than the dead.

There is a gift shop near the door, and I stop in. I buy a St. Patrick key chain.

Because I am also a sucker for colorful stuff with saints.

The following week, Betty has a PET CT scan. They have her drink glucose and put her in a lead-lined room. She'll be radioactive, so she has to stay in there alone. She can't be around babies or pregnant women for 24 hours.

The technician explains that cancer uses glucose at a faster rate than normal cells. So this test will show if her mass is using glucose, and how much.

Her mass shows up as using glucose. This means it is growing, although not rapidly.

We are fortunately able to get an appointment with a recommended pulmonologist within the week.

The nurse takes her vitals and tests her breathing, which shows that she has reduced capacity for her age. The doctor shows us the scans of this new, growing mass, which wasn't present three years prior. He says removal would be the preferred option, but her reduced lung capacity makes that very risky.

He says he needs to consult with the radiologist to see if he can get to it for a needle biopsy, so they can know what they are dealing with. If not, and they deem surgery too risky, they would consider radiator or chemotherapy.

I ask if it could be an infection, and he says yes, there is a remote possibility. But this is not the kind of thing where he'd give antibiotics and wait to see what happened. We need to start treating this ASAP.

He calls me to say the radiologist can do it.

Betty has the biopsy.

I call to get results, and am told we have to meet with the doctor. The first appointment he has available is 4:40 pm the following Monday.

As in yesterday.

Betty spends the month letting go of things she loves. You like this? Take it. Here, have this. I should sell my Indian paintings. They're valuable.

At some point I realize what's going on and I say, "Mama. You're not planning on dying, are you?"

She denies it, but I don't believe it.

Finally, finally, the Monday that was yesterday arrives. We drive to Sibley, and finally, finally sit  down in the room with the pulmonologist. Who we like, and who, incidentally, has a nice head of hair.

He shakes our hands, sits down and says, "It is not malignant. It is an infection. You dodged a bullet."

I start to cry. I exhale all of the breath that I have been holding for the entire month.

He explains that it takes six weeks for the culture to grow, but they think it is a kind of nontuberculous mycobacteria. This means it's a wee bacteria that's like TB, but not. And it is not contagious.

It's around us, in the air and the soil and what have you. But this one has now set up camp in Betty's lung.

Older women are the population that this typically happens to, turns out. Them and people with compromised immune systems.

He writes down a lot of complicated names, all of which are possibilities. These require 18 months of triple antibiotic. They are, as the treatment suggests and my google research confirms, very hard to kill.

But for now, we wait. They monitor her with another CT scan in May.

It is not cancer. This is the most important thing. It is NOT CANCER!

My mom says, "What should I do now?"

The doctor respons, "Go home and celebrate. And buy a Powerball ticket."

Later Betty says to me, "I'm not going to die."

And that, my friends, was our month.

It was an amazing reminder to me to hold my loved ones tight. To be kind. To appreciate the people I have while I have them.

To love big, with the realization that nothing is forever.

That was our month, and I'm so grateful to be on this side of it.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

I mean, I guess I could try

Yesterday the second grade at Jordan's school had an event. Parents were asked to supply breakfast.

I volunteered to bring coffee. You can never have too much coffee, right?

The Dunkin Donuts was surprisingly empty when I arrived. There was one person at the counter, asking for one of the new donuts. This new donut, which I think was actually pain au chocolat, would not ring up.

The man ordering kept pointing at the donut tray and saying, "It's $1.49."

But it wouldn't ring up. It went back and forth like this until the attendant got the manager.

So then it was my turn. I asked how many cups per box. Eleven. I ordered two boxes of coffee.

By the time the boxes were ready, there was quite a line. The manager rang up my order while the other guy filled a bag with cups and creamer and such.

He put the boxes and the bag together on the counter and said, "Do you need help? Is it just you?"

I didn't think, until immediately afterwards, about the fact that they were heavy, and that these men assumed I was driving, and were offering to help carry them to my car. 

So I replied, in front of everyone, "Oh, I'm taking them to school. I could never drink all this coffee all by myself!"

I just...Why?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A twofer of sorts

Most of the time I do not give my boobs any thought.

It's kind of like how I feel invisible when I'm out running, and then am always shocked when someone I know mentions they saw me.

I don't think about them, therefore they're not.

I mean, obviously they're still there, but not in a way that is of particular interest to me. Except sometimes, when I fixate on their no-longer-perky-little-cupcakeness, and then google breast implants.

What I want, really, is just a little scoop up where it used to be. Or rather, two. One on each side. That is all.

But there are more pressing things in the world to think about, and I spend the bulk of my anxiety on my children, my family and loved ones, and on the crisis state of our country and the world.

Nick mentioned the other day that I have the least sexy bras imaginable. And I was surprised, not because I disagreed with him once I thought about it, but because I had never thought about it.

Lingerie was a priority for me for a while. Mainly in my 30s when I had some money and there was no consistency in who might be seeing my undergarments.

And here I will say that I hit one of my lowest points in underwearing in my 20s, just out of grad school. I was in a state of semi-undress with a guy and then realized that one side of my underwear was held together by a safety pin.

And I was all, "Oh, god. My mother would die if she knew I was wearing such terrible underwear." And then he was all, "Why are you talking about your mother?"

It went no further than this. I'm pretty sure I threw out those undies after that. But it's also possible that I didn't.

So.

While I was pregnant and had young babies, I wore very practical maternity or nursing bras. And then when I was done nursing for the second time, and ready to go back to my beautiful bras, there was a lot of space between where my boobs ended and the bras began.

Tragedy!

Post-two-baby-nursing, instead of embracing the boobs like a kind hug, my bras regarded them like a picket fence might gaze at the house across an expanse of yard.

Faced with replacing them, I discovered the joy of stretchy sports-y bras. Not with the stern construction and constraint of running bras. But made with lightweight fabrics and thin straps.

These bras have a good shape, no wire, no hooks. They're extremely comfortable. The have optional pads for warmth/looking like I have actual boobs.

Still, every once in a while, I do think about breast implants. I have friends who are utterly delighted with them.

Would I be utterly delighted to have some semblance of my old body back? To occasionally, with the right bra, have cleavage?

But then I think, besides the cost, and really, even bigger than the cost, is the fact that it is surgery.

They put you under. General anesthesia is no joke. It's a big deal.

My friend Maude had cognitive impairment after anesthesia. It is rare, but it does happen. And her surgery was not elective.

What if something terrible happened, when it was something you didn't need to do in the first place? You were altered for life because of something totally frivolous?

I decided no to breast implants. Absolutely not.

And then I realized that in the next couple years, I'm going to need to have a colonoscopy. They put you under for that as well.

So if there were a way to do them at the same time, then I'd only have general anesthesia once, for a non-elective procedure!

I told Nick I just need to find a way to simultaneously get the colonoscopy and breast implants.

He contends that finding this surgery combo seems highly unlikely, even impossible.

I concede that he is probably correct. In the meantime, I'm going to get an attractive lacy bra or two. They just need to not itch.

Boob itches are the worst.

Monday, February 13, 2017

You don't say

India wanted to make her own valentines this year, so yesterday we bought fun colored paper and all these glitter glue pens.

What is it about glitter that makes it so endlessly compelling? Who can pass it up? Not us.

(And now that I say that, maybe it is like trauma memoirs, and not actually a universal preference. Whatever. I love the glitter.)

India threw herself into the project with delight. I cut out the hearts and she went about layering colors of glue all over them. They were all abstract, save one.

"Oh, India, your valentines are all gorgeous!"

"Thank you, Mama."
"I particularly love this one! Is this a dancer on this card?"

"That is not a dancer."

"Well, to me it looks like a beautiful dancer!"

 "Mama." Serious look. "That's Jesus."

Oh.

Friday, January 27, 2017

School struggles

I'm writing to ask for some guidance. I need help.

Jordan is having a really hard time in school. He says he hates school, which may or may not be true, depending on the moment. But it is true that half his day is a struggle.

Here's the deal, or what I think is the deal. And as I see it, there are two issues. One, a personality clash with a teacher who doesn't have a lot of experience. And two, the inability or unwillingness to stay on a task he finds boring.

Jordan is in a bilingual school. He has two main teachers that split his day--one for English, one for Spanish. All math instruction is in Spanish. Now, he likes math. In fact, he loves it. And his Spanish is great, so it is not impeding his ability to do math problems.

What he doesn't like, or anyway, claims not to like, is Spanish.

We heard this the first year, when he disliked his Spanish teacher. Last year was great; he loved both teachers, and they loved him. We heard no Spanish complaints.

This year, he likes his English teacher. She is fantastic. She's been teaching a long time, and she is  strict and fair and she has his number. He and his Spanish teacher have had multiple standoffs. He clearly frustrates and annoys her, and she frustrates and annoys him.

My brother had relationships like this with some teachers. I saw this annually. His grades were great and terrible, depending on whether or not he liked his teacher. Nick says he was like this as well, so it feels familiar to him.

Me, I just went along to get along. I mean, I didn't always do my work. But I was always, always polite and agreeable. Interestingly enough, that goes pretty far.

Earlier in the year, when the standoffs started, we met with the teachers and the school counselor, who was amazing. (She's now retired, and I don't know her replacement yet.) The counselor knew Jordan, and explained him well to the teachers. He's smart. He's sensitive and intense. The school day takes everything he has--he has nothing left for homework.

I agree with all these things.

Now, Jordan has had to stay after school a number of times to finish math problems. Two days ago he had to work over recess.

They get 30 minutes of recess a day, which is hardly enough as it is.

His teacher explained that she is opposed to taking away his recess, but feels it is her last resort, when she has no other consequences to mete out.

Nick and I have discussed how he does better when he's cajoled than when he's threatened with punishment. I've been in standoffs with him like the ones they have in class. Mine are of the "brush your teeth" variety, and hers are of the "do your math problem" ilk.

The standoffs are obviously wretched for all involved. He is extremely stubborn, and he comes by it honestly.

But he's not disruptive. He just...sometimes doesn't want to do what he's asked to do. So he doesn't.

Sometimes when they're doing math he just spaces out. He dawdles. Yesterday we had to complete his math at home, because he did two problems in 30 minutes, because he was just hanging out.

He's not climbing walls or pinching other kids or getting others involved at all. Nothing like that. He's simply not doing what he is supposed to when he doesn't want to.

But she feels that she can't let him out of classroom tasks without consequences, or her authority is undermined.

The other day she told me that he doesn't do his homework, so clearly he isn't used to doing things he doesn't want to do at home.

Want to enrage me? Imply that I'm a lazy parent. Tell me that I don't require my kid to do anything he doesn't want to do.

So I replied, politely but possibly through slightly clenched teeth, "He's SEVEN. I don't think seven-year-olds should have homework, and I am not going to make a seven-year-old do homework. And I assure you, he does plenty of things he doesn't want to."

Now, I remember having a history teacher that I disliked, and her class was boring. I would sit at my desk and quietly watch the seconds on the clock and see how long I could hold my breath. Tick tick tick tick tick.

I don't remember a single thing she said in class, but I do remember being impressed with myself when I got to a whole minute.

She never noticed. But I also did at least the bare minimum, and would never have said "no" to an authority figure.

So yesterday was a crap day at school, and I got an earful from his Spanish teacher at pickup, and we had a bad night of struggling with math problems. Because my kid didn't want to do them. Because he kept getting distracted. Because I had to keep him on task and keep him on task and keep him on task.

When Nick got home and I told him about it he said, "Do you think Jordan has ADHD?"

I flipped out. Of course he would pick a facile answer. Of course he would be all, let's just throw some medication at our kid. Ooh, I was mad.

He doesn't bounce off the walls. He can sit still. He can concentrate, really concentrate, when he's interested in something. Of course he's bored with those math problems. Especially with the way you have to do math now, drawing boxes and circles and whatever the hell. My god, I'd be bored. I'd quit halfway through, too!

I got over being mad and I did some reading.

Huh.

So many of the descriptions of symptoms felt so familiar. They could be describing Jordan. Not just in school, but at home. (More surprisingly, they could also be describing me.)

But reading a list doesn't mean this is what it is.

I don't want him to hate school. I don't want him to have miserable days, and then miserable nights. Switching classes is not a solution, in my opinion, because even if were possible, I don't know how he'd get along with the other Spanish teacher. And we'd be giving up the great English one.

It seems only right that we get some professional help at this point. If there's something to diagnose, like ADHD, obviously we want to do so. And if it's not ADHD, but there is something else that can help our kid, we want to do so.

Where do I start?

Monday, January 09, 2017

Blue, blue, electric blue, that's the color of my room

I was going to start this out with, "The problem with depression..."

But of course, there's not one THE problem. There are a variety of problems and inconveniences. I don't actually know that there's any upside.

A friend who has bipolar disorder described a manic episode to me, and I have to say--and in fact did say to her--that it sounded like fun.

She said they can be fun, and you can be super creative and get a lot done, what with the time you spend not sleeping and seeing the world in a very different way. Which is what makes manic episodes so seductive.

But mania has a dangerous component, and of course depression can be crippling.

So there's that.

Whereas I have plain old depression without the mania. It's not like I'm wishing for a manic component.

Of course, if I had a wish, it would be not to have to deal with depression at all.

But my depression is manageable, and so I manage it. With medication. With daily exercise. With nutrition. I have a light box. I'm limiting sugar, and trying to get off it (oh, but I love sugar...). I'm avoiding fast carbs and alcohol.

All of these things help a lot. But they don't completely fix it. There isn't a once and done fix, or not for me, anyway. There's maintenance and vigilance.

When I am overwhelmed, it seems Sisyphean. Other times, it's just like having asthma, which is only limiting when I don't manage it properly. I don't think of it as my defining characteristic, but I have to think about it, so I don't let it slide.

This is just how it is.

It used to be that when I got depressed, I'd cry. I'd cry at work, alone in my cubicle. I'd go home and sit on the floor and cry. I wouldn't be able to leave my apartment because I couldn't stop crying.

I could hold it together for meetings, provided they weren't all-day meetings, because if they were, I'd have to go to the bathroom intermittently to cry.

I'd run regularly because I couldn't run and cry at the same time. It was a good break.

But now, now when I sink, it manifests in anger. I still cry pretty easily, but I do not sit around and cry for hours on end.

Instead, I get impatient. Angry. I snap at everyone. I have so little tolerance for anyone and anything, myself included.

Basically, I'm a lot more functional in my depression, but boy do I suck to be around.

But this also means I don't recognize it so easily. It's much more obvious when you cannot leave your home, or have a whole conversation, because you can't stop crying.

Now I just seem like a harpy. I'm shrill and ill-tempered and screechy. But that might not be depression. It could also be hormones. Or a bad day. It might not be a shift in brain chemistry.

Hard to know.

I mean, I saw my shrink last week and told him I thought my current dose of medication was great. I'm doing really well, I said.

But it turns out I've been horrible to my family. No patience, no tolerance, very sharp tongued.

I could feel myself doing it, but I didn't recognize it. It was just...why why why is my family SO ANNOYING?

And then on Saturday, Betty asked if I'm depressed.

Depressed? Me? Why?

Because I've just been so unpleasant. So short with the kids. With everyone.

So I stopped and looked back and realized that I've been retreating for a while. It's been harder and harder to leave the house. I haven't been enjoying things. Was this depression? I thought my meds were right.

I don't know if it's my brain chemistry or the weather or the alignment of the planets or what-have-you.

Nobody really knows. My shrink admits it's a guessing game. They make their most educated guess, and then it's trial and error. Which is what makes mental illness so hard. There's still so much of the brain that's a mystery.

I have permission to up my dose.

So I did.

And the world is starting to look a whole lot more appealing.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Sandwiched

I'm in the sandwich generation. Maybe some of you are as well.

My kids are 4 and 7, and my mom is in her late 70s. This is a big span of ages.

Betty lives with us, and this is good in so many ways. My kids are growing up with their Nana in their everyday lives. When they list our family, she is included. When Jordan reads at night after dinner, she is who he reads to.

If we are Facebook friends, you regularly see pictures of them together in the red chair.

But sometimes, one of my kids and my mom are ill or in need of some kind of help, and I get a little overwhelmed.

I do freelance writing and editing, but no longer have an office job. So when someone needs me, I am here. I can do what I need to do without calling a boss first, without sprinting home from the office.

This is a lucky position to be in. I know.

So.

My mom had been wheezing for a while. I would hear it every once in a while when we were sitting together. Once or twice I offered her my inhaler.

We all had colds all fall, so I figured it was connected. But this week it hit me that it had just been too often, for too long.

On Tuesday I asked her if she wheezes regularly.

Every day.

I asked if this concerned her and she said, "Maybe this is just how I am. I wheeze."

No. People do not just wheeze without a reason.

So I had her call her doctor, who, when she heard about the wheezing, was able to squeeze her in on Thursday.

And then Wednesday night Jordan started crying while Nick was brushing his teeth, which is how Nick wound up looking in his mouth, and then called me in, and then we both tried not to freak out so that Jordan wouldn't think it was something terrible.

It was a big bump on his gums, above his remaining top front tooth. Big, round, and sore.

I freaked out after he went to bed. What if it were something terrible?

Our dentist is away this week, so early yesterday morning we started calling around and got an emergency appointment with a pediatric dentist in Chevy Chase.

I asked if they thought we would have time get to K Street for my mom's appointment by 12:30. They said yes.

So we took Betty with us, and parked right across the street at Saks, because Betty said she would browse and also get parking validated. (Note: she got us free parking, plus they gave her a bunch of samples.)

The staff was lovely. The dentist was wonderful. And they kindly gave us a break on the anesthesia Jordan wound up needing.

Jordan had an infection. That was the big bump. The baby tooth had to come out.

But it took longer than expected. Because anesthesia, tooth extraction, hang out and breathe through the oxygen mask recovery.

All went well. He was a rock star. 

So at noon Betty got nervous about her appointment--as did I--and got a cab. But not before handing off our parking validation.

As soon as we could leave the dentist, Jordan and I raced down to K Street and parked in one of those lots that charge you like a million dollars an hour.

I am, on the whole, opposed to paying for parking, but sometimes it is just not optional.

We sprinted a block, Jordan complaining the whole way, and got to the waiting room in time for them to call my mom back.

I go to her appointments because she is a terrible self-reporter.

She'll be sick and when the doctor asks how she's doing she'll say, "Fine!"

Seriously. Her arm could fall off and she'd say she was fine. And if the doctor didn't notice, she'd come home and I'd ask what the doctor said about her missing arm and she'd say, "I forgot all about it."

So now I go to her appointments and she says she's fine and then I'll be all, "Except that you've been so sick you haven't been able to eat for three days, which is why we're here."

And then she'll say, "Oh, right. Except for the terrible nausea." Or inability to breathe. Or whatever it is. Severe pain somewhere. Arm falling off. Etc.

Also, I wanted to make sure to tell them that she's smoking. Yes. I wanted to tell on her.

She'd quit a couple years ago after getting pneumonia twice in one season and not being able to get out of bed for weeks. Honestly, weeks. Her doctor told her sternly that this was just going to keep happening if she kept smoking.

So she quit. I think.

A couple months ago, when I found out she was sneaking cigarettes, I said, just like a kid, "I'm telling your doctor on you!"

Ooh, I was so upset. She said she'd already told the doctor, but I wanted to make sure. Because it matters.

And I wanted to ask about COPD. Because I am terrified of this.

To sum up: Jordan lost his last front tooth, and is absolutely delighted.

Betty has pneumonia.

And me, I'm just very tired.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

As midnight nears and shadows creep/Come into my sleep

You know I love my daughter.

I love her more than rainbows and chocolate and sunshine and sprinkles. We play this game regularly. What do we love each other more than?

Everything.

I love her and her brother more than anything they can name. Anything imaginable.

But I want her the hell out of my bed.

I have thought about it, and counting bad sleep while pregnant, and the fact that India was up every two hours for at least her first year of life but in my recollection it was more like two, then if you add all my nights of good sleep together, I've had maybe one week of solid sleep in the last five years.

No wonder I am so tired and haggard and crabby. All the time.

Every night our little dollop of delight comes in sometime between midnight and 2:00 am.

You'll be awakened from a sound sleep with "thump thump thump thump thump" and the thud of a small body reaching the bed. She clambers up, and crawls up  the middle of the bed and into the covers.

And then it begins.

It would be one thing if she just went to sleep and didn't move a whole lot. I could live with that.

I'm not saying you always get kicked in the head or whacked with a sleep-heavy arm, but it does happen with terrible regularity. And she likes to sleep with one leg in, one leg on top of the covers. So your covers are constantly being tugged.

India has the middle of the bed. Prime real estate. But she wants to be right up against you. Nick has his claim pretty firmly staked, so I tend to wind up on edge of the bed.

She mashes against me. So I scoot. And she scoots. And inch by inch, we creep towards the edge. I awake fully when there is nary an inch ahead, just air. Hello, Charybdis!

During the day, it's different. I am super huggy. I touch people's arms when I'm talking to them. I hold hands. My daughter climbs up on me all the time.

But sleep? NO TOUCHING. This is my side, that is your side. I love you very much goodnight, see you in the morning.

If I go sleep in her bed, she turns her attention to Nick. So there is no real sleep. Last night I went to her bed at 2:00 am and then at 4:00 she came down and woke me up to find her water.

I nearly wept.

We have tried a sticker chart. Five stickers and India got to pick her treat! McDonalds! Frozen yogurt! A trip to the Diner! A pony! Our first born!

Anything! Dear child, anything! Just let us sleep!

We had five nights of staying in bed, like until about 5:00 am. Or coming to our bed but then agreeing to stay in her bed when Nick took her back.

This, for us, totally counts.

But then she was done. She'd accomplished it. Five was enough.

It turns out that there's nothing worth more to her than sleeping with us. Stickers for treats? Feh!

Jordan can be bribed encouraged with Pokemon and Lego. And he's always been a great sleeper. And he's like me--if he gets scared and comes to our bed, he stays an hour and then he's done. He wants his space.

India doesn't have things that she's into for bribery. And even the proffer of outings she loves aren't enough.

For a while we put a cute little foam mattress next to the bed. She could sleep in our room, but not our bed. She had her own pillow and my Gramma Lillian's rainbow afghan as her special blankie.

She called it her cozy bed.

Her cozy bed worked all night like twice. And then, then she enjoyed her cozy bed until one or two in the morning, and then crawled in our bed.

She says she's scared. This is what she says every time. No matter how cozy and safe she will agree that her bed is.

You cannot argue with scared. True or not, you don't want your kid to think that you are unconcerned about their fears.

(Even if it is up against my fear that I will never sleep again.)

We are old and tired and desperate.

So if you have any suggestions or resources we are begging open to them.