Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Notable and Quotable 2.0, the Interactive Version

Since I am still feeling kind of underground about the new school year and kindergarten, and unable to process it let alone write about it, I thought I'd do a notable and quotable. But since I'm also feeling a little lonely, missing people, what do you say we make a little game of it? ONE of the scenarios below I completely made up. Which one? You tell me. And tell me how you're doing, if you wouldn't mind, because I miss you. Now, let the game begin:

Reminder: Peaches, NT, is three. Rooster, who has autism, is five.

A. Peaches: Our house is old. Can you buy me a new one?

B. Peaches: "Mommy, why did you and daddy have kids?"

C. Rooster: "I say, Bah Humbug. Do you hear me? Bah humbug."

D. Peaches (40 minutes after being tucked in): "MOOMMMMMMY! MOOOOMMMMMY! MMMMMOOOMMMMY! Come here! DADDDDY! Someone come quick! Pull my blanket back up! IT SLIPPED OFF!"

E. Rooster: "Will you please help me hunt for slugs?"

F. Peaches: "Are you happy at me, mommy?"

G. Rooster: "When you die it's going to be just us and daddy."

H. Peaches (about her best friend for the last 2 years): "Mommy, I love Ian. I want him to be in my family. Mommy, at night, when I'm at home, I think about him." (Insert meaningful pause and deep sigh. "I think about him."

I. Rooster: "Ebenezer Scrooge woke up in the inky darkness and saw ghostesess. They showed him a big TV. And on it was HIM!"

J. Peaches: "The queen spoke to him and he said, 'Yes, my highnesses.'"

K. Rooster: "Mommy, mommy! Mommy, I'm learning to READ!!!!!"

L. Peaches: "No more cookies, mommy. I'm all done. Can I have some of your salad?"

Friday, September 25, 2009

Medical perspective

Today, J and I became indignant about our son's health care, or lack thereof, and I flew into my fix-it-frenzy, emails flying. Today I felt sorely neglected by pediatricians, and that makes me hotly indignant.

Today, though, I read what it's like to be indigent. Almost sounds the same? Much worse.

Once again, perspective smacks the Rooster's Mama, who OFTEN needs that kind of smacking.

Please read a powerful blog post written by a dear friend of mine who, though younger than I am, has always taught me things. (Love you, Gwyn.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009


I appreciate our ABA person. He came into our lives, into our home, going on about a year ago now I think, though I can't really remember life before ABA. Having him here kind of reminds me of the brief period in which I had a personal trainer: I dreaded the arrival of my trainer, and deeply appreciated the experience afterward because I knew I could feel the benefits. However, when my trainer moved to Australia, I gave a huge sigh of relief. By contrast, I dread the end of ABA, and I know I'll hate so see JT go. Honestly, he feels a little like family now.

JT has pulled my kids in the wagon around the block with me so many times I finally started to realize the neighbors might suspect me of polygamy. He reads to both my kids, plays with them, has carried them out of my car when they were sleeping, has fed them, has given many high fives and knuckle bumps. He disciplines them. He is super nanny plus some.

JT has a son, too, about the age of Peaches. We talk about our kids.

Tonight, Rooster had a pretty major meltdown when we got home and met JT for ABA. Rooster became aggressive and JT became all business, enforcing the rules just as I wanted him to, but it hurt to watch nonetheless. JT asked me, "Are you okay?" I assured him I was, but we have kind of a standard dialogue every so often in which I ask him for a pep talk, and so I said, "Can you just humor me and give a 'Things will get better' talk?"

JT always complies with this kind of ridiculous request while still walking the "I make no promises" line. He finesses it well usually. Tonight he said something like, "Sure. Some things will definitely get better, because they get better as they grow. They mature, and they get more control of themselves. They become more independent, and that will help. Other things will be difficult, sure, but some things will get better."

I had managed through Rooster's screaming, his thrashing, his food throwing, his whole meltdown, and the aftermath of tears. I had managed while tending Peaches, unpacking lunch boxes, making dinner, repacking lunch boxes, cleaning smashed banana from the floor. But tonight sweet JT's well meaning speech did me in.

Of course, it was the "they." He said it at least a half dozen times, and with each one I felt like something bit me. For a few times I tried to tell myself he meant "kids" by "they." But he didn't mean kids. He didn't mean his kid. His kid and my kid don't fit into the same pronoun.

JT loves my Rooster. I know he does. And Rooster has kind of a love/hate thing going on for JT. It's all kind of familial. Except for the they.

Hey, I know. But still.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

On the Other Side

In 15+ years working in education, I've often lauded the value of switching "to the other side of the desk" -- meaning, I think teachers ought to take classes and pay attention to what if feels like for students, to better inform teaching practices, to build empathy, to have "aha" moments.

Perspective. Forever it seems like I'm learning new lessons about perspective. Apparently I'm a slow learner on this topic, but an avid and engaged one at least, fascinated by the topic. Most of you readers learn much faster than I do, and I turn to you for the lessons I crave, so perhaps you will find zero enlightenment here. But on the off chance I have something to share with you, I'm going to recount my most recent lessons learned on the other side of the whole mother-daughter thing.

So I took Peaches with me back East. Last weekend, we celebrated my 20th high school reunion, the arrival of my dear old friend's baby boy Noah, and my mother's 65th birthday and upcoming retirement. For this trip, the mother in me planned, organized, arranged, packed, purchased, drove, flew, coordinated, carried, clean, cajoled, coerced, comforted, apologized, pleaded, interpreted, explained, commanded, reprimanded, disciplined, educated, entertained and medicated in order to schlep an allergic three year old on a trip that lasted 45 hours and covered 3,000 miles, 4 airplanes, two cars, several houses, and almost NO SLEEP. The trip? Well worth it to me, full of meaning, and lots of fun. But I confess to you that a week later I am still very worn out, physically still limping along, yawning, yawning. You know I'm not stoic! I am not mother of the year. I complain. I find motherhood, and my two kids in particular, challenging. I sometimes feel like I'm shouting into a black hole.

Now, how about the flip side?

I flew the coop early from my mother's home, and headed West in 1993, fresh out of college. For 16 years, my mother has called me before my trips to visit her, reminding me what she wanted me to pack, cautioning me not to bring "that ratty sweater I hate and those God awful shoes..." Different sweater and shoes each time, but the same theme -- I am not the fashionista daughter my mother wanted. Each time I arrive, she reaches in her purse at some point, and pretends she is about to apply lipstick. Then, she looks at the tube, frowns, and says, "Damn, I bought the wrong color. Oh well, you can have it -- it'll be great with your complexion!" It is almost always Toast of New York. I always complain that I don't wear makeup, but then I put it on to please (or silence) her. She drives me to the hair salon, and though it is actually walking distance, she drives the long way so she can remind me again how much nicer I would look if I just cut it "a few inches shorter this time."

On this trip, things were different. I brought along with me the fashionista daughter my mother always wanted -- Peaches. She merrily acquiesced to giving countless fashion shows. She trilled in ecstasy at all the new clothes waiting for her. She twirled. She applied lip(chap)stick artfully, often. Yes, she told anyone, you can "do" my hair!

No one offered me Toast of New York lipstick.

And you know what happened, right?
I missed it.

I didn't feel jealous not even a drop. Oh, I loved seeing Peaches and Grandma in their element. I loved having the pressure off me to be someone I'm not. I loved wearing jeans and not feeling like the disappointment of the ages. No one kvetched about my hair.

But I realized that I like my mother's attention, too.
Oh, I still got attention. In lots of ways. It was GOOD for me to realized I missed the Toast of New York, that's what I'm saying. It was a both-sides-of-the-desk good epiphany. I needed it.

At one point, I'm standing in the shower while Peaches plays with Grandma and Grandpa's dog, Grandpa watches a little of The Game, and Grandma fusses around the kitchen. I realize I forgot to borrow a razor (and I couldn't pack one since we only did carry-on). I know where one is, though; I know I can grab a towel, make a dash, get a razor. I also know that I can call out, "Mommmmm! MOM!" If I do this, I will sound just like Rooster and Peaches so often do. I do not wish to sound like them. I do not like it when they do that. It makes me grumpy. I am standing there, staring at my hairy calves, 38 years old and NOT lazy (though very TIRED), and I am sure you know that of course I call out. My mom doesn't grumble and snarl, "WHAT?!!!!! WHAT do you WANT?!" She just brings me a razor. She might even be thinking (though I doubt it), "Once a year, it's kinda nice to be shouted to for this or that when my kid comes to visit!"

No deep, surprising revelations here, but for a slow learner like me, the good lessons on the other side of the desk -- er, shower? -- include these:

  • Things I do for my kids now that they seem to resent or find annoying will some day possibly be appreciated.
  • Things my kids do that annoy me now, I will probably some day miss.
  • Attention from your mother feels good. Everyone needs some.
  • The rituals and scripts of each family weave into our identities. They have layers of value and meaning.
  • Grandmas are wonderful.

Oh, wait, I ALWAYS knew that last one, always hold it fast in my heart. I should close by saying that this, my first trip home since my grandma's funeral, made me miss her very, very, very much. It also made me feel her presence as well as her absence, because she is such an integral part of who I am. I think she was whispering the lessons of this trip in my ear. As much as Peaches is the fashionista daughter my mother never had, I was the school girl daughter for my grandma who took pride in the same bookishness that made my mom a little queasy. But my Grandma, too, loved fashion, and how dearly she would have treasured seeing Peaches strut around in her fancy skirts on this trip. Peaches has her twinkle.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Smelling the Roses

I'm NOT saying that I'm optimistic about kindergarten. THAT would be foolhardy. I think the last time I was optimistic, Bill Clinton (and his wife) had this good idea about reforming health care...

Today, my son's first day in kindergarten, his first day in public school, had plenty of challenges. Plenty more await us. ALL I am saying is that on this one day, I could see the good side of most of the bad sides.

We started our day by parking FAR away from the Rooster's school, because the only close spaces were right by the school that he no longer can call his own, and while I'm glad he's moving on, for him it remains a bitter pill. Good side of the long schlep? We walked along the four blocks with many other families, and I felt a sense of belonging to the new community. We met people, we smiled, we hadn't yet burned bridges. When we got to the auditorium, we quickly found the class assignment list, and the Roo is not in the classroom I've heard so many great things about. At first, this bummed me out. The good side, though? Later, the teacher explained that they expect to shuffle kids around the first two weeks. At least five kids can expect to change rooms. Plus, while the teacher didn't overly impress, the aide assigned to Rooster went out of her way to welcome me and put me at ease. She knew his file, assured me she'd made herself well aware of his allergies, that she's done this all many times before.

Parents spent the first hour or so of the day in the room getting the lay of the land. One little boy who seemed to be missing a parent cried heavy, hiccuping sobs in the corner while the teacher talked. Seeing that the teacher offered him little empathy, my Roo took it upon himself to approach the boy. I couldn't reach Roo, or hear what he said, but when it had no consoling impact, he took things up a notch, and reached out and hugged the boy. Seeming to calm him a little, Roo finally went all out and planted a kiss on his cheek! The boy didn't like that, pulled away, and finally Roo had had enough. "Fine, then," he loudly announced, "but you are crying too loud and hurting my ears!" This got the teacher's attention, and she asked, "Whose child is this?" She meant the sad boy, not the Roo; she wanted someone to take the boy and get him quiet, and that made me worry a little bit about her empathy level. The good news? Clearly, autism or no, empathy is not lacking in my little guy. We have to master appropriateness and mood regulation, but surely he's A-okay with empathy, at least some of the time.

After school, I picked the boy up and helped transition him for the first time to after care. When I excitedly asked about his day, he described it as, "Not too good." Why? He said, "Today I felt dumb."

Well, OUCH. That? That's bad. How can that have an upside? Because a year ago, and certainly before a year ago, I could not have imagined my son expressing his emotions to me in that articulate way. They might not be the emotions I hoped for, but I couldn't be more proud of his language. We will address the feeling dumb part for sure, now that we know about it.

On the way to after care, which is run by the same people who ran his summer camp, we crossed paths with several children Roo recognized. A couple called out happily, "It's ROOSTER! I missed you!" One let Roo give her a big hug. He had nothing but smiles for the familiar kids and adults in after care, and he also has an aide there as well.

In theory, I will be out of town for the next two days. I didn't mean the calendar to work out this way, and it's hard to miss his second and third days of school. The good side? Daddy will get a turn to get a feel for the new school, having missed the first day to take Peaches to a doctor's appointment.

Yeah, I'm still PLENTY worried about kindergarten. But today is just the first day, so I'm pacing myself. And along the way, I'm smelling a few roses.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Trichotillomania Help?

So a friend of a friend is asking for help. Anyone know anything about trichotillomania? Looking for blogs, encouragement, etc. to ease her panic.

Packing it In

Oh, I guess in theory right now I should be packing things, all kinds of things, but I'm not. In theory Peaches and I head East in the wee hours before dawn on Thursday, and in theory J and I take Rooster to his first day of kindergarten tomorrow morning. You know how I roll, though, friends, and I showed myself to be a foolish gambler when mere hours ago I spoke with enthusiasm for the upcoming adventures, so now of course my little Peach has suddenly spiked a fever.

I am, as rooster likes to script (from The Moffats audiobook), GOBSMACKED. I am not packing a suitcase. I am not writing notes to the kindergarten teacher and the AAA (aide). Can't. Stuck. Stymied. Like the word petrified, like something pulled from the La Brea tar pits. Vigilantly sitting up waiting to see if the newly tucked in girl coughs, cries. Steeling compulsive peeks at the clock until the next dose of Tylenol in two more hours. As usual, the only thing I am able to do when I'm in this state is this. Blogging. Here I Am and Here. I. Am. I have no idea how to wait patiently as time passes, I only know how to pace back and forth in writing.

So, rather than dwell (on whether Peaches has the flu, if she got sick from eating food she'd dropped on the floor at a fast food restaurant on the way home from my inlaws, how we'll divide up her care and Rooster's first day at kindergarten and WORK, if we'll be able to travel, whether we should have gotten Roo the flu shot during our last visit to the doc when he was already under the weather, if I can even contemplate flying East alone or missing my reunion/mother's 65th birthday/dearest friend's new baby, why the deities screw around with me, and how dumb I was not to get the flight insurance for the first time ever), I blog.

I blog.

To distract myself, here is a bit of noteable and quotable for you:

Me: Peaches, do you know who is my very favorite girl in the whole wide world?
Peaches: Who?
Me: (touching her with my index finger) You are.
Peaches: You know who is my favorite girl?
Me: Who?
Peaches: (touching me with her index finger)AMIE!

Peaches: Even though I'm mean, do you still love me?

Me (to Rooster): How much do I love you?
Rooster: So much.
Me: For how long?
Rooster: Forever.
Me: Who loves you more than I do?
Rooster: Me! I love me more than you do!
Me: NOBODY loves you MORE than I do, Roo.
Rooster: That's right! Nobody!

Okay, whew. That was good for me. I think now I'll pretend to try look like someone deeply contemplating packing up for a fresh start at a new school with new teachers, new shadows, and a roostery kindergarten boy, and for a remote hope for a trip East with a Peachy girl. But actually I'll probably see you here again in about five minutes.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Robot Tea

I love introducing people to each other. Sometimes I even have a knack for it. Sometimes it works out to my detriment.

For instance, I used to have these two close friends. The guy was my roommate when, straight out of college I did a fellowship at a magazine very much like a journalism version of the Real World, and four of us from around the country came together as strangers to become editors and roommates in California. The girl I met a year later, in Texas, after I'd edited a story about Teach for America and realized I wanted to change my life and join. She was my closest buddy at TFA boot camp. I told her, "You'd be great with my old roommate." I called him and said, "You'd be great with my new friend." But they lived in opposite parts of the country, then in different countries, and this went on in different permutations for years. Finally, I told them both via email, "If you two ever meet, you will fall and love and get married, I can absolutely feel it. So, here are the email addresses. Meet." They have three kids now. Sure, they stopped talking to me as soon they fley into LA to meet up at my apartment for the first time, but at least they are happy. (I say that last part with just a tich of old resentment at being cast off, you know, but just a tich.)

That being said, I hope you will not forsake me when I introduce you to someone. I mean, I hope you love her and all that, and I expect you will like her blog better than you do mine, but still, keep in touch after visiting over in Canada, eh? Be sure to tell her Rooster's mom sent you, and, please, let her know her family will be okay. She could use some blogosphere love and support.

But, ahem, so could another lonely blogger still stuck in Cali you might know... so please don't forsake the yenta, is all I'm sayin'...