Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Violent Bedtime Song = A Bad Mother?

When Emily was born, I was seventeen years old and still had a pretty good singing voice from years of private voice lessons.

I sang to her all the time from the very beginning, and Jim Henson's "The Rainbow Connection" quickly became her favorite (it rose above the soundtrack to both Miss Saigon and The Phantom of the Opera, which she also heard a lot of).  It was her official "lullabye" by the time she was a month old, and I sang her that song every night until she was probably five or six.

I could sing that damn song in my sleep.



When Ari was born, I started singing "The Rainbow Connection" to her when we were still in the hospital.  I was over show tunes by then, so she got a lot of Irish folk songs I listened to with my dad as a kid.  She liked "The Gypsy Rover" and "A Lament for Brendan Behan" and "Four Green Fields" and "The Holy Ground" and tons more, but "The Rainbow Connection" was also the bedtime song.

Leave it to this one to break the mold ...



I tried to continue the trend, I truly did.  From the very beginning, I sang "The Rainbow Connection" to Miss Gabrielle every night.  However, she decided early on that she preferred a different song.

A song about war and violence.

A song with swears (well, "arse" and using "Christ" several times).

A song where a soldier has his legs blown off.

Yup, Gabby's favorite song is "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" (written by Eric Bogle, but here is Liam Clancy doing it ... this is the version I grew up listening to).



"And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" is a song about an Australian wanderer being forced to fight in World War I.  After losing both of his legs, he is shipped back home along with the rest of "the armless, the legless, the blind, the insane" and is just grateful that nobody is there waiting for him to get off the boat "to grieve, and to mourn, and to pity".  As the years pass, he sits on his porch each April watching his aging counterparts walk in a parade, noting that, "The young people ask, 'What are they marching for?', and I ask myself the same question."

Yeah, it's kind of a depressing tune, but it's cerebral and empathy-inducing, thought-provoking and characterized by a gorgeous melody.

It also has words that are fun to say, arrangements of letters that feel good rolling off your tongue, even more so when you're singing--Gallipoli, Suvla Bay, billabong, Murray's green basin, outback, waltzing matilda, Australia, quay, hump tent and pegs, and so on.

So here is my dilemma ...

Gabby freaking loves this song.  She freaks out if I don't sing it to her.  The other night when I was out, Jeff played Liam Clancy singing it, and that worked, but she needs that song every night.

Sorry if this is too much information (although I'm pretty sure I crossed that bridge long ago), but I still breastfeed Gabby at night.  On one side, she gets "The Rainbow Connection", but she is clearly in a mad rush to get that one over with, to get to "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" where she smiles as she nurses (I'd post a pic except, well, nobody needs to see my boob).

So I have three options, I think ...

1. Eliminate that song from our bedtime routine.  I mean, she's going to be picking up the words pretty soon, and I don't think having her run around singing, "For ten weary weeks, I kept myself alive/While around me the corpses piled higher" is the best idea, which leads me to

2. Sanitize the song.  Cut out the particularly violent verses or substitute words for them.

3.  Let it rip as is.  It makes her happy, it's part of her bedtime routine, she loves the song, I love the song, and the world can kiss our butts.

I am torn ...

Oh, Gabrielle ... why couldn't you have just liked "The Rainbow Connection" like your sisters?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A "Pupday" Party for Howard ... How Cool is This?

Ariel has been asking for a puppy of her own for years.  Literally years.

We talked about getting her one for Christmas, but then we found out we were having a baby right around then, and it seemed like a foolish idea to be taking care of a puppy and a baby and their eccentricities at the same time.

And then one of Jeff's students mentioned that his girlfriend's mother was fostering a pregnant dog that had been shipped from Georgia, starving and abused.  When her puppies were born last July, she wasn't able to nurse them, so the foster mother and her family had to take care of them, an around-the-clock job that I cannot imagine.  There were twelve pups in the litter, but only nine survived.

Anyway, by October, there were only two puppies left, so Jeff suggested we go look at them.  If we got Ari an early Christmas present, the puppy would probably be acclimated by the time the baby was born in December.

Ari was adamant that she was going to name her new puppy "Chewbacca".  However, we had kind of an amusing surprise when we got there.

The foster family had quite a sense of humor; each of the puppies was named after a character on The Big Bang Theory.  The two remaining dogs were Leonard and Howard, and Ari fell in love with Howard right away.

There was no question that Howard would be our dog.  The question was why Ari wanted to keep his name Howard when she'd been so vehement about naming him Chewbacca.

Ari, who is a fan of The Big Bang Theory, explained it thus: "His name is obviously Howard because he is all over the ladies."

And so Howard arrived and quickly became a member of the family.

His first night and morning home:




And even though he loves Mommy and Daddy ...


Howard is unquestionably Ari's puppy:



Ari had her tonsils and adenoids out in late October, and Howard was there to take care of her the whole time:


Howard quickly learned that hiking is an endeavor his family enjoys.  He quickly became a fan, too.


He gets along well with other dogs, especially his "aunts", my mother's dogs.

He loved Gabrielle when we brought her home, and was unspeakably gentle with her from the start:

And then came Christmas



Howard will do anything for his girl, including playing dress-up.

He is just the perfect dog for our family.

Anyway, we received an invitation in the mail a few days ago.  They are having a "pupday" party for all of the puppies from the litter.  Howard's foster mom, Amanda, ending up keeping the mother dog, so it's a great opportunity for a reunion.

We are definitely going.  After all, how often does this sort of chance come up? (And Ari wants to know if Sheldon the puppy is anything like, you know, Sheldon the TV character)

And how lucky are we to have had this amazing, annoying, loving, mischievous puppy come into our life?  I can't believe it's already been a year.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

So I Woke Up in a Bad Mood Today ...

Actually, I woke up reliving the rape in a dream that was pure nightmare, tangled in bedclothes and whimpering like a frightened puppy.

I woke up in midair, not really sure what was going on until I hit the floor.  I had, for the first time in years, fallen out of bed.  It was so dark in my room, and I had actually cleaned up a whole bunch of stuff yesterday, so the floor itself felt unfamiliar.  I was scared and started calling for Jeff.

"I'm sleeping," he muttered in reply.  In fairness to Jeff, it was three in the morning.

So I sat on the floor crying for a few minutes, then stood up and made my way to the kitchen to get an Ativan.  I used to have nightmares and/or insomnia every night, but the doctors have worked really hard with me, and taking two Ativans and Prazosin (also known as Mini-press), a medicine used to treat PTSD, has been invaluable.  I rarely have nightmares, and I fall asleep and sleep like a rock most of the time.

I knew what had set this off, though, not that it helped, particularly at three in the morning.

**SPOILER: WHAT FOLLOWS IS PRETTY DISGUSTING ... I WON'T BE OFFENDED IF YOU STOP READING NOW**

My rape was particularly violent.  Well, that's kind of a misnomer; all rapes are violent.  I'm going to rephrase that to say that my rape was particularly bloody.

I was sodomized for almost an hour, and the blood was extreme.  It was everywhere.

During a surgery that I told everyone was a hemorrhoidectomy (this was before I could talk about the rape to anyone), my anus was repaired.  Prior to that, it bled all the time (my ex-husband either didn't notice or didn't care or was too drunk to do either).

I've been having a rough week medically, between mastitis and terrible abdominal pain and fluid in my lung leading to a pneumonia.  I haven't been able to do my daily walking, which has historically helped a lot.  It's been a change having Ari home (her last day was last Thursday) along with Gabby, and even though I adore them both and love and prioritize my kids more than anything, trying to keep both a ten-year-old and a 6-month-old entertained and happy is a challenge.

Anyway, what they give you for pain at the hospital through an IV is either morphine (good) or dilaudid (better) in terms of helping with pain.  And then they give you Vicodin (which they are calling Norco now, or else I'm missing something??) to take at home.

If I had a predilection for drug abuse, I'm sure I'd be dead by now.  As it is, I only take pain medication when I'm in extreme pain.

There's a reason for this, you see.  (If you're in the  medical profession, you can probably see this one coming)

Narcotics have the potential to constipate the hell out of you.  And if you're constipated, if pooping is hard for you but you keep trying, something lets go at some point, and there is blood. So you get scared and take colace and magnesia and drink fluids by the gallon, and the whole time you can just feel nothing moving.  At all.  

And you dread the day it's going to happen, because the colon might be large, but it is finite.

Well, it started to happen for me last night when I got home from my first meeting at work since Gabrielle was born.  So I went into the bathroom with my phone because, you know, Candy Crush, and I took some ibuprofen in preparation, and then I decided to just sit and go with it.

It didn't take long to start.

It also didn't take long to feel the blood pouring out, which brought me right back to that night, and I was suddenly having a flashback to the day after the rape, when I had my first bowel movement.  I lost all track of time and space and where I was; instead, I truly felt that I was in my college student apartment in Plymouth, alone and scared and chain-smoking sitting on the toilet then ashing into the sink, praying for death, which had to be better than this.

When I finally came back to myself, I was still in the bathroom of my house.  When I wiped, the blood was extreme, and so was the pain.  Clearly I had torn something again (this happens every couple of months, but not usually to this level).

I put a pad on my underwear and brushed my teeth and went back out to my family.

"You were in there a long time," Jeff commented.  I just looked at him.  "Are you okay?"

I shook my head, then went into the kitchen to get my two Ativans and one Prazosin; I was ready for bed, even if it wasn't even eight o'clock yet.  I walked past Jeff in a daze, and he kept asking what was wrong.  I finally said, "I had a flashback."

"Oh no," he said, following me (which drives me crazy, but it's hard to be mean to someone trying to help you).  I got into bed, pulled up the covers, and turned the TV on. It was "Family Feud", which is great for not thinking about anything while you fall asleep.

In a few minutes, Jeff came in.  He touched my shoulder, and I jerked away, then apologized.  He asked if I wanted to talk about it, then he touched me again. I shook my head no, then, when he asked if I just wanted to be alone, I nodded.  I felt badly; Jeff is very good to me, very patient, and even though things have been tough lately, he's been trying not to let it impact me overmuch.

He left to watch TV with Ari, then I fell asleep before "Family Feud" was even over.

Until, of course, I woke up tumbling out of bed screaming sixteen-year-old pain out of my mouth.

I was able to fall asleep again, but it wasn't good sleep.  I'd set my alarm because I had a doctor's appointment that I really didn't want to go to (I hate seeing a primary care doctor when I'm seeing all these many and varied specialists).  All she did was ask what the Gastro people were saying, and I refused to let her touch my abdomen because it actually wasn't in agony for a change and I didn't want her poking and prodding to bring back pain.  I suggested she read what the Gastro wrote.

She instead wrote that I refused to let her do her job and was argumentative.  She told me she thought I was depressed.  I considered responding, "Depressed is the least of it, honey.  If you dreamed what I dreamed last night, sweetheart, you would not be sitting her calmly passing judgment on someone."

So I wasted $15 I couldn't afford for a complete waste of a doctor's appointment.

I had plans with one of my friends, but I only have three good tires on my car, and I'm not comfortable driving to the seacoast that way.  He told me to put the spare on.  The spare is a temporary fix, and I do not the $150 to get a new tire mounted and balanced.  I'm pretty sure he's furious with me now.

And so the problem, I suppose, comes back to money.  If you have any to spare (and I just want to say that I have always donated money when I could), please look at the button to the right of this page and consider.  I am out of work for another two months, and I'd rather not go start giving out $50 blowjobs at the alley behind Mike's Pub and Grub.  Getting money for my writing, even if I'm begging for it, is much more palatable.

And it's not like I want anything extravagant; I just want to be able to drive my car, to make co-pays for appointments that are NOT a waste of time, to get to my mother's, to  maybe get a couple of new shirts that aren't stained with breastmilk in awkward locations.

Jeff will take care of the girls financially, but it's very awkward between the two of us right now as I know he's not exactly swimming in it, either.

Anyway, if anyone is wondering why I'm in a bad mood today, that is why.

I just hope tomorrow will be better.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Sometimes I Think There Should Be a License to Parent ...

It's been quite a day already at my house ...

Ariel worked harder than I knew was possible for her to do as she and Jeff put up the new pool.  It's much bigger than the old one, though, so they had to clear and level the ground first, and it was a procedure that took all day and went well into the night.








Unfortunately, Jeff has to work today, so it's not going to be ready for swimming until later today, if at all.  Ari clearly missed that message last night at 10:30 pm when we ate dinner (pizza from Domino's ... I love gift cards!).

I woke this morning to Ari gently shaking me.  She was holding her sister, who was dressed, which should have been a clue (I vaguely remembered Jeff waking up at just past seven, lamenting that he didn't have time to take a shower or he'd be late for work, and I quickly realized that he would not have had time to dress the baby).

"I wanted to let you sleep in," Ari said apologetically, "but Gabby's hungry."

Indeed she was, and while I fed her, Ari sat next to me, strumming like a tensed wire.  I finally asked, "So, what are you up to?"

"Do you think we can start putting water in the pool?"

Hmm.  No big surprise.  "It's not that easy, honey.  We have to put in an inch to start and make sure there are no leaks, then we have to actually fill it, then the whole shock and chemical thing."

"So can we go do that?"

"We have to wait until Jeffie get home from work  He mentioned doing the leak-checking if he comes home at lunchtime, but we'll have to wait and see."

With a patented teenage eye roll, she said, "That makes no sense at all.  We can put an inch of water into pool and check for leaks."

"And what do we do if there's a leak?"

That stymied her. "Patch it?"

"Do you know how to do that?  I sure don't."

At about that moment, Gabrielle decided that she wanted to express her displeasure with life.  She started screaming like crazy.

Gabrielle is generally an extremely happy baby.


When she screams like that, it generally means she is either hungry, tired, or needs a diaper change.  When she is upset, she shrieks and cries these huge tears.  If you don't know Gab, it's pretty disconcerting; fortunately, it's pretty easy to figure out what she wants.

Since I knew she wasn't hungry (she'd just finished nursing) or tired (she hadn't been awake for long after over twelve hours of sleep), I figured I'd change her diaper.  I asked Ari if she would bring a diaper in for me.

"What?"

"Would you bring a diaper in, please?"

"What?"

"Never mind."

"What?"

When she came into my room, she had a diaper with her, so I knew she'd heard me all the time.  I thanked her and started changing Gabby, who really didn't need to be changed but was screaming nonetheless.

"Can I go outside and ride my bike, please?"

Gabby's screams get, if anything, louder, and huge tears were rolling down her cheeks.

"No, honey, not right now."

I tried to convince Gabby to take her pacifier, and in the brief moment of silence, Ari asked, "Why not?"

"Because I need your help with other things today."

"But I have soooooooooooooo much energy I have to get out."

Gabby started wailing again as I said, "So does Howard.  Why don't you take him outside and play ball with him?"

She groaned.  "Do I have to?"

"He's your puppy, Ari.  It's your responsibility to make sure he gets enough exercise."

"I'll do it after I ride my bike."

"You'll do it now, please."

"Come on, Howard," she grumbled, leading the excited dog through the house and then slamming the door on their way out.  It got Gabby shrieking even more, which I hadn't thought possible.

I carried Gabrielle, still screaming, into the bathroom.  I happened to look out the window and watched Howard bringing his ball over to Ari, dropping it at her feet, and looking at her expectantly.  I also watched her walk away from him each time and sit in one of the patio chairs.

I called her inside, and we had words.  Gabby screamed the whole time, and I started getting a pretty terrible headache.

I finally told Ariel that she had lost the pool for today.  She started crying, realized that any further words from her in addition to Gabrielle yelling into my ear and flinging herself all around, and gave herself a time-out downstairs in her playroom, where she read a chapter of her book.

Gabby was still going hot and heavy when Ari came up twenty minutes later and apologized.

I said that was fine and I appreciated her apology.  "Can I take Howard out?" she asked.

"Of course, thank you," I replied.  She took Howard outside and played actively with him.

I still couldn't figure out what was wrong with Gabby, so I tried feeding her again (not interested) and changing her diaper, which there was no need of.  

Ari and Howard came back in around this time.  "Why is she screaming?" Ari asked.

I told her I wasn't sure and explained that it was probably time to give her some Tylenol and a full body look-over because the obvious answers weren't panning out.

I gave her the Tylenol then put her back down on the floor.  Ari sat next to me, and I explained to her (because she likes kids and is probably going to be doing a lot of babysitting in a couple of years) how if you go through every single body part and area systematically, you can sometimes find things you might miss.

"Like what?" she asked.

I told her about the time when she was a baby and she was just inconsolable.  Like Gabby, she was a pretty mellow baby, so I knew something was wrong.  I finally took her feet out of the outfit, and a string was wrapped around one of her toes, cutting off the circulation.

"Was I okay?" she asked, very concerned

"Do you have all ten of your toes?" I replied.

"So what's wrong with Gabby?"

I had finished my examination and could find nothing wrong with The Gabs.  I did, however, notice that Howard was chewing on something in that way he does where you know he's trying to be stealthy.  It was the dispenser for Gabby's Tylenol, so I asked Ari if she would hold her sister so I could grab it.

Howard gave it up happily--he knew damn well he wasn't supposed to be chewing on it--and I washed it quickly and went back to Gabby, who was now lurching herself in strange directions while Ari tried to hold her.


I took her from Ari, put her pacifier in her mouth, and started rocking her.  I was pretty sure that she was crying because she is teething and shared that information with Ari.

"You know what I was just thinking about?" Ari said.  This is a common--and dangerous--preface for an Ariel dissertation.  "You know how, in The Grinch song, it says he has termites in his smile?  He doesn't HAVE a smile ... I mean, he's the Grinch, right?  I mean, come on!"

She kept prattling on about the Grinch and Gab kept fussing, so I decided it would be a good time to go to Walgreens to get formula and toilet paper.  I figured Gabby would fall asleep in the car (she often does) and Ari might actually stop talking for a minute if I put music on.

The trip was moderately successful.  Gabrielle enjoys shopping, so she was chilled out even though she was awake.  Ari kept talking, but I pretty much half-listened and she didn't seem to mind and/or notice. When we got home, she helped me unload our purchases then took Howard out.  Gabby had--miracle of miracles--fallen asleep in the car, so I had a couple of moments of blessed silence

Because I wanted to be sure not to wake Gabby up at any cost, I pretty much sat at the kitchen table with her asleep in her seat in front of me and read my Facebook newsfeed.

And I was disturbed as hell.

I try not to judge, I really do, but sometimes I am appalled.  I hesitate to write this because I don't want to "out" anyone specific that might be reading this, so I'm keeping it general.

*  "Thank God my parents took the kids for Fathers Day.  John and I really needed some time alone.  It's not like we couldn't have done this some other weekend, one that wasn't set away for fathers and their kids."

*  "My kid is refusing to walk at graduation.  This hurts me so much. I really wish I'd stood up to her when she was 6 months old and refused to sleep in a crib; since I didn't, she has known that she can push me around."

*  "I am going to move in with a guy I've been dating for a month.  He lives in a tiny trailer, but I don't have custody of my kids anyway, so it's not like they'll be over a lot.  I'll definitely see them less, though, because I spend all my free time with my new boyfriend."

* "Can someone watch my kid next Friday night?  There's this amazing party planned, and I haven't gotten to go out in over a week because of the kid.  Pleeeeeeeeease help me out.  I'm only 19, and I deserve to have fun once in awhile."

*  "My baby won't stop screaming.  I am seriously going to go put her out in the car because it's the only way she'll fall asleep. I'll just take a little nap so I can rest up, and I'll run the AC, so it's not like she won't be safe."

*  "I can't believe Susy's science teacher gave her a D in Science.  I mean, what is wrong with that teacher?  She's going to lose her athletic eligibility because of that stupid teacher.  And when I went in to complain, he had the audacity to tell me that Susy is in high school now and should be increasingly responsible for herself.  I think HE's an irresponsible schmuck.  Also, he told me that I should take time out of my busy life to look at her grades posted online.  What the hell is it with teachers these days?  He wants ME to keep track of her grades?  Isn't that HIS job?"

So I went back through my morning in my mind, how I'd taken Ari's pool privileges away, how I'd taken the kids on a car ride to keep the one with diarrhea of the mouth quiet for five minutes and the one too tired to sleep to drift into a nap, how I'd never really figured out what was wrong with Gabby and how Ari was very clearly trying to get back into my good graces so maybe her punishment would be rescinded.

And that's when I realized that I am not a perfect parent ... but my kids are always, always, my top priority.  I even texted Emily to say hi since I hadn't talked to her for a couple of days and I missed her.  Having Gabby asleep on the table in front of me was boring; I craved her sweet toothless smile.
I missed Ari's prattle, and I missed exchanging texts with Emily (we have some fun with emojis).

Why would anybody spend time and energy on Facebook bitching about their kids on a regular basis, or making it very clear through Facebook statuses that you are putting a guy that's pretty much a stranger to you before your kids, or showing over and over in so many ways that your kids are not a priority to you?

I'm not going to lie.  My kids drive me apeshit sometimes.  That is not something I would generally publicize, though, and I certainly wouldn't consistently complain about them on Facebook (or anywhere else) or make very clear that my thoughts are on this guy I just started dating instead of on my kids.

Sometimes I think I must be very unusual.  I would rather spend time with my kids than anyone else.

One of these days, Ari is going to stop talking to me.  She is going to think I'm lame, or she'll be at a point where she doesn't want to confide what she's doing to me.  And Emily will sometimes go a day or more without texting, and it hurts my heart (I know she's busy and that's a stupid thing to be sad about, but I can't help it).  And I feel terrible guilt if I go out before putting Gabby to bed because we have a routine; she is saying "Mama", after all, and that confirms to me that my place is being there for my children.

Why is it so unusual for me to prefer the company of my kids to anyone, including private and alone time with my husband, my friends, and my family as well?

I know intellectually that I'm not the only one that feels this way, that a lot of people reading my Facebook this morning would have been equally disgusted.

I guess it just saddens me that people are so willing to publicly state their apathy, their disinterest, their preference for others, when it comes to their kids.

One of Emily's friends once said to her, "Your mother is so nice.  Does she every get mad?"

Emily started laughing and said, "Oh my God, you should see her when nobody else is around.  She just believes in keeping personal business personal."

How you feel about your kids is personal.  It's one of those things that, if remotely negative, should be talked about to a therapist or a close friend but never, never trumpeted on Facebook.  After all, if a mother is talking about her new boyfriend on Facebook all the time and never mentioning her kids, the truth of the matter is probably even deeper and those kids are feeling a huge void, whether their mother realizes it her not, because she is now absent from their hearts as well as much of their lives.

I decided to write this post at about this point and asked for feedback on my Facebook wall.

I got some interesting responses ...

 "It's sad...and happens so often. My HS kids crave adult attention!"

Um yeah talk to my ex Sister in Law who completely 100% told her kids have a nice life and then got married. Hasn't even seen her 1st grandkid who will be 1 next month....."

"it is something that breaks my heart. These same parents are usually the most harsh to judge our homeschooling, kid-centered family. Which is interesting because I just feel bad for them - that they have beautiful kids who they don't enjoy - what part of them is broken and needs healing? I've seen this a lot w/respect to addictions. I really just pray that their hearts and spirits will be healed and they will be able to step into engaged parenthood fully for everyone's sake."

"I totally respect people who make the decision to not have children. Whatever the reason - it's very important to go into having children w/ clear intention if at all possible. (Not discounting many parents I know who are awesome who were...surprised... and have risen to the occasion.) And when society puts on a lot of pressure to have kids - it takes a lot to withstand it."

"Find the balance...question your motives...ask a true friend for honest perspective...get quiet and listen to your gut! I could go on and on...I was told that I was a good mother because I wondered if I was a good mother...I still wonder if I was/am..."

"I knew I could never handle children especially is this day and age. So many rules of what u can and can't do so many opinions. My feeling is u walk into schools in this time and u see how the kids behave. And u walk into a school 20 or 30 years ago and see how things have changed. You tell me if physical discipline is wrong. I got physically disciplined and there's nothing wrong with me."

While I was reading through some of these, Ari and Howard came bounding back into the house, slamming the door behind them.  Naturally, Gabby woke up.  Screaming.

Ari was in a great mood, though, and Howard had obviously been well-exercised.  I took Gab out of her seat and brought her over to the blanket on the floor where we change her.  She stopped screaming and smiled a bit at me.

Then she made a weird grunting, animalistic noise.

"Gabby, you sound like a constipated horse!" Ari yelled, and we both started giggling madly because that's exactly what she sounded like.

My kids--all three of them--make me laugh harder than anybody, smile more widely than anyone, and enjoy life so much more than another person every could.

Based on what I saw on Facebook today, this is not the norm.

Am I nuts ... or are those other parents, the ones that openly attack or blatantly ignore their kids?

I'd love to get your thoughts on this.  As a teacher, it's an area that haunts me.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunday Stealing: I'm in Rare Form Today ;-)

Evidently this is the second part of a 90-question meme; clearly I've been slacking on my Sunday Stealing. Enjoy!  

Do you read your horoscope?
Not usually.  I’m a Scorpio (no kidding, right ;-)?), so it’s usually pretty extreme and melodramatic.

31. Where was the last place you bought something?
McDonald’s.  Jeff and Ari are clearing the ground for the new pool (bought with many saved gift cards and Ari eschewing her allowance for several months).  The old pool was really pretty small, so we just put a tarp down under it.  This one is pretty big and quite deep (almost over Ari’s head), so they are bonding over the prepwork on Fathers Day, and they expressed an urge for McDonald’s.  I am supposed to be “resting”, but I figured hitting the McD’s drive-thru wasn’t terribly taxing, so I got Jeff a Big Mac meal and Ari and Mighty Kids Cheeseburger meal.  I didn’t get anything because, in addition to resting, I am supposed to focus on liquids. 


32. How do you feel about your hair right now?
My hair sucks.  The gray roots aren’t even roots anymore; I have a half and half thing going from the last time I had it colored.  Unfortunately, I’m on medical leave from work and won’t get paid until August, so my hair is not a financial priority when you have the mortgage to pay and children to feed and no income.

33. Do you bite your nails?
Nope.  If you think about where your nails go throughout the course of the day, even if you wash your hands a lot and/or use hand sanitizer, you’re playing with fire if you bite your nails. 
34. Do you have any expensive jewelry?
I have a few nice pieces, mostly from my grandfather and a diamond-cut gold bracelet that my stepdad gave to my mother that she gifted me with after he passed away.  My ex-husband gave me diamond earrings and a couple of other things.  Jeff got me a beautiful gold starfish necklace last Mother’s Day, but the chain was too short for me to wear it comfortably and we haven’t been able to afford a new chain, but I can’t wait until I can wear it.  My engagement ring is white gold and heart shaped … I love it!

35. Have you ever been told you speak fast?
Yup, sometimes I speak really quickly. 
36. Is your laugh usually hearty?
Haha, my laugh is memorable, but I don’t think anyone has ever referred to it as “hearty”.  Annoying, yes.  Loud, yup.  Even “nice”.  Never hearty.
37. How fast have you driven a car?
Oh goodness gracious, I don’t know.  Actually, I do … 120 on a highway at 2 or 3 in the morning.  Viva la college.
38. Have you ever smoked?
Yes, and I currently have fluid in my lungs, which isn’t the main focus of my health dramas but certainly doesn’t help.  I wish I had never smoked.  My beloved stepdad died from lung cancer caused by being a lifetime smoker.  For a long time, I would occasionally slip when I was out drinking with certain people or at certain places.   
39. What was your favorite subject in school?
English.  Duh. (Sorry, I’m an English teacher)
40. Do you have cell phone provider loyalty?
Yup, I’ve used Verizon Wireless from Day 1.  I think this is mostly because it’s what my parents used.  Also, I tend to have customer loyalty in general.
41. What type of boy or girl do you usually fall for?
The type that will get me in trouble.  I deviated from that with my ex-husband because he’s a math nerd and he seemed safe and boring following the drama surrounding the rape debacle (ironically, of course, he ended up being the most abusive guy I've ever been with, but that’s a story for another day).  My current husband, is also sort of an exception because he is such a nice man, but I’m pretty sure he used to be an asshole.  That’s what he says, anyway.
42. Do you have any hidden talents?
I can tie a cherry stem in a knot with my tongue.  It’s a great hit at parties.  And whilst flirting with cute guys at bars in my wayward youth.
43. Favorite Song?
“Wake Up” by Alanis Morissette
44. Do you like to sing at all?
I love to sing.  I used to be pretty good at it, too.  My main gig right now, though, is singing to Gabrielle when I’m rocking her to sleep at night J
45. Dream Job?
Writer.  I would love to be able to be home writing all the time, blogging regularly about compelling subjects and getting paid for it, working on novels, even doing research and writing about mysteries or conspiracy theories from my own perspective.  I WILL write a book about Charles Manson someday, by the way, for all of you aware with my bizarre fascination in terms of psychological control.
46. Where does most of your family live?
Actually, virtually all of them live within an hour.  It’s a wonderful treat!
47. Are you an only child or do you have siblings?
I have a sister, a brother, two half-sisters, a half-brother, a step-sister, and a step-brother.  I know a lot of interesting people just in my own family ;-)
48. Would you consider yourself to be spoiled?
In some ways I’m very spoiled.  My husband and kids try very hard to “keep Mama happy”, but that’s in terms of behavior and activities.  I virtually never spend money on myself; seeing my kids able to participate in activities and have nice clothes and such makes me much happier than buying myself stuff.  I do have an iPhone 5, but it’s my one extravagance.
49. What was the first thing you thought when you woke up?
“Oh, Gabby’s here … Jeff must have gotten her.  That was nice of him J. Wait ... is she passed out??”

50. Do you drink?
Well, I’m breastfeeding, so not much right now (although I do have a beer or two once in awhile).  I also have a messed up liver, so I shouldn’t drink at all period, but I do sometimes.  I almost never drink at home, though; it’s only when I go out, and since that almost never happens these days, I almost never drink.
51. Know any other languages?
ig-Pay atin-Lay.  But seriously, I studied Latin in both high school and college.  It’s the base for the Romance Languages (Italian, French, Spanish), so I guess theoretically I could pick up one of those pretty easily.  Latin itself is a dead language, but I learned more about grammar in Latin than I ever did in English class.
52. Ever write a coded message?
I’m sure. 
53. Have you ever been in someone else's wedding?
Yup, my sister’s.  Had to give a speech, too ;-)
54. Do you have any children?
I have three daughters.
Emily is 19, and a brilliant student, a gifted musician, a bit OCD about time, and in general the kind of kid ever parent dreams of having.

Ariel is 10, and a gymnast, a cheerleader (it kills me to write that, but she’s actually very talented), a free spirit, blonde in both the literal and idiomatic sense, and probably the funniest kid I’ve ever met.

Gabrielle is 6 months old.  The sky’s the limit with her, but I think we are in for it based on the sparkle in her eye …

Oh, and Howard, my boxador puppy, is almost a year old.  He is a fantastic dog, if a little crazy (less so since being neutered).  He drives us all a bit bananas at times, but he’s a very good boy and I love him very much.

55. Did you take a nap today?
Nope.  I am supposed to be “resting” (two ER visits in a row before we made any sort of progress), but I’m not good at resting, so I’m sitting up (because the idea of fluid in my lungs terrifies me in terms of lying down) and typing.  I couldn’t get Gabby to take a nap for the longest time, but she is finally asleep in her swing.  Maybe I’ll try to take a quick one when I’m done with this.
56. Who has the same birthday as you?
Hillary Clinton, Pat Sajak, and Keith Urban. 
57. Ever met anyone famous before?
Not anyone I’d brag about meeting ;-)
58. Do you want to be famous one day?
I would LOVE to be a bestselling novelist.  Or a famous blogger where people talk about what I write around the water cooler. 
59. Any Pet Peeves?
Too many to list.  Most are related to grammar (using apostrophes with an s to make a word plural is a big one) or sloppy spelling/are you really THAT… unaware? (“I love you so much I can’t breath when you’re near me” or “She lead the way into the restaurant”) or things like the word “supposedly” being said as “supposably”.  It makes my toes curl … Maybe I’ll have to do a blog post on this topic …
60. Are you multitasking right now?

No, I’m resting.  And writing.  So I guess that means yes.  J

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Why My 20th High School Reunion Matters to Me

I'm going to be honest, I didn't love high school.


My birthday is at the end of October (but I was reading at a high school level as a first grader, so they started me in first grade when I was probably too young), so I was significantly younger than most of my classmates and never really felt like I fit in.  In fact, my closest friends in school were not in my class at all.

I always felt like my sense of humor, my sweet nature, and my ravishing beauty were lost on many of the people in my graduating class.  In large part, it's because I went through a pretty traumatic time in 6-8 grade when my parents were going through an extremely acrimonious divorce and I burned a lot of bridges and had a terrible attitude.

Anyway, I had no interest in reunions before this one.  I put on a lot of weight as a coping mechanism to a trauma that happened when I was twenty-one (my life has apparently been trauma-ridden ... I'm rarely bored, though ;-)), none of the people I wanted to hang out with would be there anyway, I was only a teacher and not some international world traveler or working for a Fortune 500 company, I didn't fit in with "those people", and blah blah blah. (Evidently my bad attitude followed me into adulthood)  

I kept waiting for someone to do something about the 20 year reunion, one of those people who seemed so on top of it in high school, who things seemed to come to so effortlessly.

A couple of things happened to me, you see, that have changed my attitude, my life, my priorities, and so on.

First, I almost died giving birth to Gabrielle in December.  In fact, technically I died twice.  That sort of experience changes a person.

Secondly, I am in the process of being diagnosed with a "progressive" disease.  It's a disease people die from, but they usually suffer a lot first.  Over a long period of time.  Yeah, I'm not super excited.  What I am, though, is ready to enjoy life while I can.  I'm ready to make up for the lost time I missed due to bad attitude and traumas.

I've found through Facebook that many, many people in my graduating class are kind, funny, caring people.  I was foolish to think otherwise.  And once you've become friends through Facebook, it seems stupid not to carpe the freaking diem when an opportunity like a twenty-year reunion comes up.

Finally, I am out of work until the next school year.  In addition to being destitute and stressing about mortgage payments and doctor co-pays, I am starting to become bored.  This reunion has given me something to focus my energies on during Gabrielle's naps and my puppy Howard's walks.

It has been fantastic therapy.

I believe in the power of positive thinking, although I didn't always.  I am excited about this reunion and hope that everybody goes.  It would mean a lot to me personally, and I think the friendships I have seen develop on Facebook speak to how wonderful it would be to get together.

Each day is a gift, after all.

I am not writing this for pity, by the way.  I have three wonderful children that I will brag lots about at the reunion, a kind and loving husband, a puppy that keeps me busy, a career that I love, a mother/siblings/nephews that I see all the time, and an appreciation for the small things in life that I never before possessed.

Also, I write a lot.  Being a writer has always been my dream, and this blog goes back to 2009 (and I've gotten to write for some other people and places as well, which is a treat).

I just wanted everyone to know why I, who was never exactly "involved", am spearheading this reunion (with lots of help!), and why I very much want everyone to try to come.  If you were on the fence about going and this played a role in swaying you, it was certainly worth writing.

For those of you not in my graduating class ("the intended 'audience' of this piece," says the English teacher in my head), what are your thoughts on reunions?  Good, bad, or ugly?  Necessary evil?  Why do some people choose to go, and some people choose to "sit it out"? 

Friday, June 6, 2014

ADHD: To Medicate or Not to Medicate?

The question of whether or not to medicate a person with ADHD or ADD is not a new one.  It is, however, still a controversial question, which I think is kind of funny.

In the name of full disclosure, I have ADHD.  It was diagnosed when I was sixteen and a junior in high school by the muckety-mucks at Children's Hospital in Boston, along with disabilities in both auditory perception and spatial stuff.  
   Myself, my brother, and my sister.  I had gotten us all in trouble with the photographer.  I look very sorry, don't I ;-)?

Prior to my junior year in high school, I was a mediocre at best student, except in English class and occasionally history.  I was tested in first grade because they thought I was gifted (and my IQ test bore that out) since I was caught reading Stephen King's Cujo under my desk instead of filling in the "J is for Jam" paper.  I was tested again in fourth grade because I had become an apathetic student, so my IQ was tested again; the number was almost exactly the same as it had been in first grade, meaning I was still of "superior" intelligence, so that's when I received the "lazy" label.  

That label stayed with me for a long time.  I couldn't articulate to the teacher why it was hard for me to stay in my seat, why I couldn't understand multiplication, why I knew my foot tapping irritated her and I didn't mean to do it but I just couldn't help myself.  If we were given four worksheets to do, I would get half of all four completed and receive no credit.  Even though I loved books, listening to the teacher read was torture for me because I couldn't understand what she was saying.

One of the most humiliating days of my life was when the teacher picked up my desk and dumped it out on the floor because it was so jam-packed with stuff.  I had no sense of where to put stuff, so I just crammed it in my desk.  To this day, sticky notes give me anxiety attacks, and binders make me cringe.  I couldn't finish anything I started, I couldn't complete a task without getting up to walk around, and I just in general made my poor teacher's life miserable.

And so my label as "lazy" became something of a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Until I realized the summer going into my junior year that I'd better get my ass in gear if I wanted to go to a good college.  School started, and I tried with all of my being to do well, but I could tell from the start that it was not going to make a difference.  I went home crying to my mom one day that I couldn't hear, that Mr. Smith gave us lectures in history class and quizzed us the next day to make sure we were taking notes, but I just couldn't *hear* the lecture.

My mom, who is a nurse practitioner, tested my hearing with her machine and it was perfect.  However, she also did something she'd never done before regarding my lackluster school performance--she listened.  

She set up an appointment at Children's, and I was diagnosed, and suddenly my entire pathetic school existence made sense.  The people there were great; they gave me some wonderful ideas, such as recording lectures to listen to later, finding an using an organization system that worked for me (in my case, it was putting everything in one folder so I knew exactly where it was and so I could go through and do what needed to be done), and so on.  

I got straight As my junior and senior year of high school. 

I should probably mention that my mother refused to allow me to have an IEP or a 504 plan or anything.  She did not want me treated as stupid, and she did not want me walking into college with a stigma (stigmas are the story of my life, apparently).  She also refused to allow me to be medicated for it.

One of my Facebook friends messaged me yesterday, and it really got me thinking.  

Here's the gist:

I've read in some of ur posts that you take adderral for I'm assuming ADHD. My 13 yr old son was diagnosed with that at the age of 6, I know some parents are against medicating children. We recently moved back to NH and the doctor he has has stated that just because he was on meds in the last state we lived in doesn't mean he will be on them up here. His behavior has been affected as well as his grades. What are your thoughts?

My thoughts are, of course, colored by my experiences, and I think it's especially significant to remember that I was not medicated for ADHD until I was an adult.

There is no question that my school experience would have been more positive if my ADHD had been diagnosed earlier and if I'd been treated for it.  I could have learned coping skills and strategies along with my ABCs and 123s, because the lessons that we learn young are almost always the ones that stay with us.

It is a disservice to just let kids (and especially teenagers) with ADHD rip.  Adults, too.  We are impulsive, we often hate ourselves for our actions afterwards but cannot explain why we (jumped out of a third floor window/jumped off a moving train/told your study hall teacher he walked like a duck/kicked your best friend in the face/smoked pot in the bathroom across the hall from the main office in high school/et cetera) and consequently find it hard to apologize, and there is a lot of loneliness associated with the condition because nobody truly gets you, or at least it feels that way.

We are actually contemplating having Ariel tested.  There is definitely a genetic link, and she exhibits many of the symptoms (I see them with both my mother heart and my teacher eyes).  Jeff used to scoff when I mentioned it, but he's starting to notice it, too.  Because she does so well in school, though, a doctor would be hesitant to medicate.  It's important to remember that only surveys given to people that see a child in different atmospheres are truly accurate.  If they surveyed Jeff and I, the results would be very different than what her teacher and her gymnastics coach would say.

I should mention that many non-medicated children with ADHD find ways to "hyper-focus" as it's the only way they can rest their brains.  For me, it was reading; I could sit and read for hours without stopping, without moving, without jittering.  A lot of ADHD kiddos fixate on video games.  For Ari, I suspect that gymnastics is starting to serve this purpose for her.

Anyway, what I responded to my friend was:

If the meds help, he should take them. I mean, I wasn't on meds until I was an adult (my mom didn't believe in ADHD lol), and it's a lot easier to learn coping skills as a child with the help of meds than as an adult (speaking from experience). Do you mind if I write a piece on this? I won't use your name.

Ask for surveys to be filled out by three if his teachers, and you should fill one out, and if he's on a team or club than the coach should, too. That gives valuable info. Sounds like you might need a new doctor

So what are your thoughts on this very timely issue?  Did the advice I gave my friend make sense, or am I full of manure?