Sunday, January 18, 2015

We Know You're a Jerk...Did You Really Have to Reinforce It?

It's funny, with most people that show their assholian tendencies, you just stop hanging out with them, talking to them, associating with them, or whatever. A perk of being human is free will, and in general you can avoid people that are truly horrible.

Unless they're family. Or co-workers. However, both of those situations are usually short-term (as in, I guess I can handle the occasional get-together with totally miserable family members or sit in a meeting an hour a week or so where highly immature and rude co-workers think it's okay to make jokes about a rather structured colleague water boarding peers for stepping out of a meeting), and we all have our crosses to bear.

My ex-husband seems to enjoy being a cruel and emotionally manipulative force in my daughter's life, though. It is utterly unnecessary, and I will never understand why he (and others like him) can't just accept the terrible damage that they've done to others and walk the hell away. Reopening the wounds over and over again, for six years now, just drives home the fact of your douchebaggedness over and over...

He's playing this "I've found God" game lately, so I'd like to put this into language that goes along with that: a true and just God will make you burn in hell for eternity. No matter how many Facebook posts you make about the greatness of God and how amazing life is since you've found Him, I'm pretty sure that He hears actions louder than words, so really you should be quaking with fear if your religious claims are true. Douchebag.

My children are the most important thing in the world to me, and I'm especially protective of my middle daughter, Ari, because of the emotional torture she's had to endure (and the physical torture she's had to observe) at the hands of her biological father. Nobody needs to hear the saga beyond the fact that court paperwork is explicit that he is not allowed to be alone with her because of his "issues". That, I assume, speaks volumes.

If you aren't equipped to be a parent, if your presence is going to damage your child, nobody would blame you for walking away. In some cases, this would be the greatest gift you could give your child.

If you make the choice not to do this, however, then there is an implied expectation that you will do your best to make up for six years' worth of cruelty and mind games. 

One very small way to do this would be to answer the phone when your daughter calls (at the time you've requested, on the number you've requested) on her birthday. Seriously, picking up the phone and saying, "Happy birthday" is a very simple thing to do; it's a seemingly small gesture that nonetheless shows a degree of care, no matter how small.

Yet you couldn't be bothered.

And not because you were on a bender (which Ari understands because it's happened so many times) or were in jail/rehab/et cetera (been there, done that, many times, so she gets that as well).

Even though Ari primarily hates you due directly to your own actions six years ago and your constant emotional manipulation in the years since, there is still a part of her that hopes. Your daughter has a beautiful and giving heart, something you will never understand, and so she still wants you to answer the phone when she calls.

I am not going to tell her that you didn't answer the phone because you were too busy with your girlfriend's grandson that you somehow have custody of (you aren't allowed to see your own child unsupervised, yet you are allowed to raise a baby...what a sick world).

I would never show her this post your girlfriend made last night:

This was Ari's birthday:





She had a wonderful day, and she was surrounded by people that loved her--aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, sisters--but you taking twelve seconds to answer the phone and say happy birthday (or call back, or text, or whatever) could have been a positive addition to the day.

Instead, you chose to reinforce what a loser you are.

Why?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Pretty Sure I Saw Racism at the Pharmacy

True story...I've had a sickness of some sort (it's been called bronchitis, pneumonia, even whooping cough) since early December. I've taken three rounds of antibiotics, got better for the course of treatment, then I'm sick all over again.

Started feeling it coming back yesterday, so I decided to be proactive and call the doctor today. Apparently it's a sinus infection this week, and they're trying a different antibiotic along with still more codeine cough medicine.


The doctor faxed the Clindamycin script to Walgreen's, but the Phenergan with Codeine is apparently a controlled substance, so I had to deliver a paper copy, show ID, promise there is no meth lab in my basement...

I should probably mention that my pharmacy is sort of in the ghetto. It's an inner-city kind of drugstore. I almost never leave there without some sort of story...

For example, today there was a guy talking in rapid Spanish on his cell phone, quite loudly. I know enough Spanish to infer that he was getting hell from his wife/girlfriend/maybe even mother for not coming home last night. His excuses were increasingly creative, and when he got called up to the pharmacy and said, "Te amo" into the phone, he got hung up on. Poor guy's night got even worse because he was apparently one day early for his nicotine patch prescription. He was pretty irate because he'd been waiting for awhile and it took him that long for Walgreen's to inform him that he'd have to come back tomorrow. I felt like stepping in and saying to the pharmacy tech, "Come on, dude, he's in deep shit with a female in his life. He wants a patch instead of a cigarette. You'll give it to him at nine in the morning but not now?", but I was already pretty pissed off about something that happened to me earlier.

So I mentioned that my Walgreen's is an inner-city one. I enjoy going there because I almost always encounter interesting people. I am usually an ethnic minority and I perhaps have a higher grasp of the nuances of English grammar, but none of that really matters. I've had men that don't speak English get something off a shelf for me. I've held the newborn baby of a young Hispanic mother while she went to the bathroom (must be my honest face...she didn't speak English, either). I've crawled around on the floor picking up a display of boxes an old man accidentally knocked over (tears of gratitude on that one).

So, yeah, this is my store. These are my people. I have never felt unsafe or in danger there. I've never felt disrespected or looked down on there. 

Until today.

I knew it was busy from the moment I had to park my car in a spot not right in front of the store, so I wasn't surprised that there was a line at the pharmacy. There were four people ahead of me. 

My cough sounded wonderful, and the young African-American kid in front of me kindly offered to let me go ahead of him. I thanked him but told him he'd been waiting and that was fine. He asked if I was sure (I suspect he didn't want to catchy my pestilence), and I said that I was but appreciated the gesture.

And then the game-changer walked toward the pharmacy...

He was a middle-aged man wearing a camel hair suit coat, creased khakis, loafers that I'm pretty sure had "Gucci" stamped on them. He was wearing a Rolex, and he carried himself like he was better than everyone else.

He carried himself, in fact, right past the long line and to the front of the counter, where he stood drumming his fingers on the Walgreen's sign and looking expectantly toward the pharmacist. "Picking up for Jones," he called in a calm voice that was loud enough to carry over.

And I'll be damned if they didn't stop what they were doing and get this guy his prescriptions! 

Never mind that the waiting line was five people deep. Never mind that those of us waiting had shown patience, tolerance, and, yes, kindness to each other.

It wasn't until that moment, as I started coughing so hard I thanked God for pantiliners that catch leaked pee, that I realized I was going to have to wait even longer to even *drop off* my codeine cough medicine, never mind get to bring it home and take it.

And why?

Because this rich-looking white guy thought the rules didn't apply to him...and the idiots at Walgreen's backed him up on that!

I was appalled!

Anyway, I finally got my prescription dropped off (and heard the saga of Unfaithful Nicotine Patch Dude), but I was so disillusioned.

It got me wondering if I had worn a dress and nice shoes (I have both, although I don't often wear either) and put my one-carat diamond earrings in, replaced my trusty Vera Bradley purse with the more stylish one with a Coach label, straightened my hair and put on makeup (I can still look pretty good when I try; I just don't see the need to try very often)...could I have pushed my way to the front, gotten my medicine, and been treated like I was superior to the other customers?

Sadly, I'm pretty sure the answer is yes.

Racism (or maybe it's classism??) still exists, make no mistake about it. I just wish I hadn't had to see it...

Has racism ever reared its ugly head when you were least expecting it?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Trying to Find Writing Again ...

So I think it's safe to say that I've lost writing.

This is heartbreaking to me, as writing has been my solace, my sanity, and my safety since I was a very little girl. I don't remember NOT writing ... and now I can't seem to do it.

There's a part of me that says, "Gee, you know, maybe I've said all I need to say." Deep inside, though, I know this isn't the truth.

So, then, what is?

I think the truth is that the things I have to say are complicated. They are inflammatory. They put a lens on people, including myself, who have not acted well.

That lens is strong. It's unbreakable. It's also got a "no going back" clause.

I have always had a rebellious streak. I never wanted to do what I was supposed to do in the way I was supposed to do it.

However, I also have a "people-pleaser" streak. I would hope that nothing I write would never hurt people. At this point in time, I'm not sure that's possible.

I could write about fluffy bunnies and Christmas spirit and how beautiful the ocean is ... but who really cares?

What I want to write about ... well, I suspect people would care, but it might piss off a lot of people. Intentionally lighting fires under folks is not my style.

And so I'm silent.

The other problem is that there is a novel brewing. It's very John Irving-esque, and it's largely true. Writing that novel could either kill me or save me. I'm not sure I'm ready to roll the dice on that one.

Yet it haunts me, that story that is begging to be told, that story that has never been told. Even with the protective label of "fiction", I don't know that I have the courage to go there, and so I beat myself up metaphorically every time I fire up my laptop.

Anyway, I'll stop rambling. I am going to try to write more.

I don't feel like me without writing.

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.