Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Rinse. Repeat. Ugh.

Someone made millions with that phrase. "Rinse. Repeat."  Did you know that?  It exponentially increased shampoo sales.  People went through it faster.  What they didn't know is that they also were describing parenthood.  So succinctly.  So aptly.  I'm laughing.  And sometimes you laugh so hard it hurts.

I'm at the lunch table today with my kids and I'm just going ape shit.  Granted, I'm recovering from surgery.  I'm tired, angry and sore.  I want to feel better.  Soooo, I'm a bit short tempered.  But really!  Oh my Jesus Christ Lord in Heaven Holy Mary Mother of God... I say the same shit over and over and over at the table.

There's William, doing his best fucking Captain Morgan impression... one foot on the floor, one on the chair in some stupid pose, eating his stupid sandwich.  SIT THE FUCK DOWN!!!!!!  (don't worry, I leave out the F-bomb when I actually say it) It's easy.  Pull up chair, land bottom on it, legs forward.  SIT. DOWN.  I'm constantly saying to him, "William!  Sit down. Stay a while." And then I look at Diz.  Slouched, one leg off the chair like she's ready to dash, no where near her plate and crumbs flying everywhere because she has inherited my tendency to eat like cookie monster.  She's wiping her hands on everything BUT the pristine freakin' napkin that is lying right at her fingertips. I spend half my meal saying, "napkin, napkin, napkin, NAPKIN!!!!!"

Sit down.  Face forward. Move your cup from the edge of the the table.  Chew with your mouth closed. Don't talk with your mouth full. Use your napkin. Eat over your plate. You are not excused yet. Ask politely. GAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!  I need to record my voice saying these things and set it on an endless loop throughout a meal and then maybe I could get more than a mouthful in my damn belly before I just give up. This is the ultimate mother diet.  I talk so much and get up so damn much, I have no chance to eat.

And I realized as I needed a freakin' nap and deep breathing session to come down from just lunch time (which sadly enough probably takes 30 minutes but feels like HOURS), that most of parenting is rinse. repeat.  Rinse because it's like they are clean and starting over and haven't heard A DAMN WORD YOU'VE SAID. And repeat because you might as well be a broken record.

One of my personal favorites in my current endless loop of batshit crazy mommyhood?  Shut the door.  I say this endlessly.  William goes to the bathroom and apparently thinks we're all interested in his intestinal goings on.  "William SHUT THE DOOR!"  Of course, this makes him turn and pee all over the floor.  AAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHH!  Or when Lizzy heads into the garage to fetch juice from the little fridge and the smart dogs are doing the happy dance because they see the chance to dash for freedom... "LIZZY!!! SHUT THE DOOR!!!"  When they come in from the outside, when they exit the car, when they change their clothes, when they go the back yard.  They both can read now. I swear I'm posting a sign on each side of each door in this house that says, "Shut the door!" I need to design something that is like a house alarm, although instead of a lovely voice saying things like "back door open" it says "SHUT THE DOOR BEHIND YOU BEFORE YOUR MOTHER SUFFERS A HEART ATTACK".  Shut the damn door.  Really.  Keep hand on door and pull it closed behind you.  Stop letting out dogs, letting in flies and letting the world (as my friend Angie would say) "see your business."

Another personal fave.  Turn the light off.  Children think that lights are essential even in a window-laden house on the sunniest day.  They leave them on.  Everywhere.  Bathroom, bedrooms, pantry, kitchen.  I hear the click of the light switch and it's like being aware of a ticking time bomb.  I'm on pins and needles. Waiting... aaaaand.  AGH!!!  "TURN OFF THE LIGHT!!!!!"

The newest refrain on constant repeat is "GO TO BED".  My little good sleepers are suddenly insomniacs.  These two little monkeys, who used to stay in their beds and ASK permission to get up, are now the nighttime wandering gypsies of my house.  I will be about 4 steps down (they sleep upstairs) when there's already a voice behind me, "Mom?"  I have to mutter obscenities under my breath and breathe deep as I turn and say, "Yes?  I was JUST there. What is it?"  Insert stupid phrase here - I don't have my blanket. I had a weird dream (Dizzy's favorite... I don't think she gets yet that she would actually need to SLEEP first).  I'm thirsty.  I have to go to the bathroom. Where is my... (pick something iPod, book, tissue, shoe, Batman, doesn't matter they're just making shit up at this point). My leg hurts. My head hurts. It's hot.  It's cold.  The closet door isn't closed. There's a Tyrannosaurus in our room. We want to slowly kill you. Wait what?  Oh, I was getting carried away there.

Mom - two things.  #1 I TOTALLY GET YOU NOW.  and #2 I'M SORRY.  I used to think Mom was mean for saying talking to me is like talking to a brick wall.  Now I get it.  I do.  Both kids, but Diz in particular, require an average of 5 repeats for most requests.  FIVE.  AVERAGE.  And TV or video games don't matter.  She was just holding and squeezing some rubber Angry Birds toy yesterday and this is me - "Diz.  Get up and put on your swimsuit it's time for swim.  Diz?  Diz! Get up and put on your swimsuit, it's time for swim.  DIIIIIIZZZZZZYYYYYY!!!  HELLOOOOOO!  What am I talking to, a brick wall?  Why aren't you moving? DIZZY!!!!  GET UP.  PUT ON SWIMSUIT.  YOU HAVE SWIM.  Oh my God in Heaven I'm throwing away that damn bird if you..." (insert Dizzy screaming, scrambling up and running to her room for he swimsuit).  Holy crap. Really?  THIS is what gets her moving?  Ugh.  Rinse. Repeat.

And if ONE MORE of my requests is met with "But I'm just..." I'm gonna lose it kids.  Call the men in white coats, get me committed.  I used to work in mortgage banking.  A land of whining and cajoling and deadlines and anger and egos.  And it was 10 times easier than this shit.  I'm not joking.  It came with other adults and lunch breaks.  Parenting is a slow, very lonely descent into madness.  And mine starts with the phrase, "But I was just..."  I don't give a shit if you were "just" finishing a game, playing one last thing, putting together one last piece, sitting down to play, jumping on the trampoline.  The dictionary defines "now" as "in the time immediately to follow".  Not WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE LISTENING.  Not AFTER YOUR I WAS JUST.  Right. Fucking. Now.  IMMEDIATELY.  Now, Now, Now!!!!!!!!  I have this long, loud drawn out "NOOOOOOW" that I punctuate my sentences to the kids with.  Every day.  It's when they know mom's about to lose it.  It makes them jump because mommy-gone-batshit-crazy is never a good thing. And I hate having to yell.  I hate using my big "now", but seriously.  When I make a request, little feet need to MOVE. NOW.  When they continue along as though I've said, "Get ready for school whenever you're good and ready" with their little heads bent over their Legos or whatever, I go fucking nuts.  WHY ARE THEY STILL SITTING THERE?!  Why?  Am I quiet? (we all know that's a no).  Have I suddenly spoken in a foreign language?  Am I trapped in soundproof glass?

My therapist once said that because I'm an introvert, I'm usually living with a soundtrack in my head (she's right).  But the song has changed.  It's no longer a lovely narrative of my little journey.  Now it's the chorus stuck on the same refrain.  A broken record of get up, brush teeth, put on your clothes, clean that up, come to the table, sit down, shut the door, don't hit your brother, don't tease your sister, say please and thank you, turn off the light, chew with your mouth closed, do what I say, get in the car, put on your shoes, use your napkin, two hands, use your fork, listen to me, listen to your father, come here, don't touch that, don't put that in your mouth, eat like a human being, take your shower, do it NOW, go to sleep, get in bed.  

Rinse. Repeat.  My only consolation is the day William or Dizzy makes the phone call I often make to my mom that starts with, "Mom, I'm sorry.  I so get it now."

Until then... rinse. repeat. breathe. And pour yourself a nice, stiff drink after they fall asleep. You're gonna need it.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Love Thyself

I want to teach my kids to love themselves.  Not to nitpick at freckles or hair color or overbites.  Not to worry if they are the shortest in class.  Not to care if they like different clothes from their friends.  Or if they like to play different sports.

I initially worried that, at this point in my life, I was not in the best position to teach them that quality.  I'm no longer young.  I have (as my daughter points out... and counts) lines on my forehead.  I have arthritis and a squishy belly.  Depending on my mood and the time I'm willing to spend, my hair alternates between done just right and being twisted into two little "Princess Leia" buns, roped into two french braids or yanked back into the ubiquitous "mom ponytail".

But as I think on it more, this is the PERFECT time.  About to turn 40, I suddenly find that it's no longer about what I look like, or how many friends I have... but how I got here.  And I love it.  I love me.

At 17, I hated myself.  I was blonde, tan, had a 23 inch waist, belonged to every school organization you can think of, had a number of friends and "princess" tiaras from school to show my worth.  And I hated me.  I'd gotten past an abusive relationship only to doubt my every step rather than applaud my strength.  At 20 I hated myself.  I was an A-average college student and had a well-muscled frame that reflected my new interest in weight lifting.  And I hated me.  Trying to find myself in relationships, trying to find my faith in campus organizations, trying to spread my wings 900 miles from any support system, I constantly teetered on the edge of major depression.  The hatred continued as I struggled with depression, alcohol and more in my 20's.  Self doubt lingered in my early 30's as I gave birth to two kids and struggled with working after the first and staying home after the 2nd.

I turn 40 in August and I remember my mother saying she liked life after 40 because, quite frankly, you "just stop giving a shit".  And she's right.  But it's more than that.  It's that I really, truly, have found a way to love me, because of the road that got me here.

I love the lines on my forehead, because they are there when I make funny faces to make my kids laugh.  I love my arms, even though they are not yet in shape, because they have carried two kids... sometimes at once - across playgrounds, through pools, up stairs and in rocking chairs.  They have held crying babies, puking toddlers and sad kids.  They've hugged little ones who have played their first tee-ball game or conquered their first somersault in gymnastics.  I love my hands, arthritis and all, because they look like my mom's.  Hands that dig in dirt, finger paint, remove splinters, stroke feverish heads, cook meals, apply bandages and never flinch at blood, poop, puke or snot.  I love my body although it has sags and squishy places because it CARRIED and was the SOLE FEEDING SOURCE of two humans.  Because when the kids were born, even though I had C-sections, as soon as they could, the hospital placed my babies on my chest.  Why?  They've discovered the best way to warm a child, any human really, is not heated blankets or incubators, but skin-to-skin, belly-to-belly contact.  I love my voice because EVERY DAY my daughter asks "will you tell me a story", not because it matters what I say in the story, but because she likes the comfort of hearing me.  I love my legs, even when they betray me with arthritis and sciatica, because they play soccer with my son, jump on the trampoline, and run races with the kids.

Parenthood may not be "pretty" in the ridiculous media-TV-model sense.  I'm not super thin, my make up isn't perfect (it's often non-existent), my hair isn't perfectly coiffed and my clothes aren't the current fashion.  But I really and truly have never felt more beautiful than when I was pregnant, when my children tell me they love me or when my children hang on to me because to them I am strength, I am safety and I am Mom.

I hope in this current state of mind I can teach them that they are beautiful just as they are.  Not because of what's held in the mirror, but because of the AMAZING potential they carry in their teeny bodies RIGHT NOW.  They don't need anything else.  No one to build them up, no clothing to dress them up, no crowns to validate them, no tools.  Their little selves contain the seeds to an amazing life.  They just have to be.  Be themselves, be open, be kind, be love, be unique.  They are the beautiful future and because I was blessed enough to bring them into this world, I have never felt more beautiful.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Of misplaced lizards, expensive losses and Dory

Dory: I suffer from short term memory loss. It runs in my family... At least I think it does... Where are they?”


I don't think Dory forgot her family, I think she forgot she was a mother... because only mothers are this forgetful.  I know I am.  Honestly, I don't know where my brain is these days.  It's gone.  Officially gone folks.  Somewhere with the disposed diapers, the packed away size NB baby clothes, the rocking chair we gave away and my maternity clothes, somewhere is my brain.  Cuz it certainly ain't here anymore.  I'd look for it, but I've forgotten where to start.  I'm lucky I remember my name. Shit I know my kids wish I could at least remember theirs as I'm known to throw out the dogs' names, my siblings' names and probably a sprinkling of old flames' names before I EVER arrive at theirs.  Calling them these days usually sounds something akin to:

"Uh...Yuko-no-sash-no-Dane-Ellie-Mike-no-FUCK!  What IS your name? Agh!"


Granted, I've never had the BEST memory.  My family can attest to this. I often wore a dumbfounded expression (my son wears this now) when my mother would inquire about a field trip notice or homework that she only knew existed because my responsible sister would pull hers from her backpack in pristine condition as though it had been pressed.  I would be forced to dive into the abyss of my backpack, removing a crumpled wad from the detritus of my academic efforts and attempt to flatten it again into a paper that could still be written on.


After having children though, I can say that unfortunately, those were my BEST years as far as my memory is concerned.  Now I'm shambling around, lucky to be dressed and wearing the correct glasses... only because Elizabeth's don't fit me yet and I'm so out of it, if they did I would never notice they are the opposite correction than the one I require.  Add some drool and I'm ready for assisted living.

Now, if it were just the normal day-to-day items, that would suck, but it would be better than my most recent testaments to my increasing motherhood-induced dementia.  While I'm known to call my own cell phone in an effort to locate it (only to jump when it vibrates in my pocket... please refrain from sick vibration related jokes here) and walk around swearing about the missing glasses that are already perched on my nose, lately the forgetfulness has been... bigger.

The other day I go walking upstairs to our playroom and as I reach the top of the stairs, the landing to which affords a perfect view of our terrarium, I literally get those pre-fainting, oh-shit prickles as I realized our terrarium is EMPTY.  We have two, count 'em two, juvenile Bearded Dragons, and both have flown the coop courtesy of yours truly.  FUCK.  Juvenile Bearded Dragons are still small.  Thus they are FAST, easily camouflaged by our light brown carpet (really, did we have to obtain pets that match our carpeting so perfectly?), and will skitter away rather than accepting a helping hand back to the heat they require to survive.

So I'm looking at this empty cage, trying not to panic because I realize it's 4:00 in the afternoon and that cage has been open since 7:30 am when I fed them last.  That's 15.5 hours for them to explore our 2200 sq ft home.  Shit.  I yell downstairs to Mike that I've "done it again!" when I hear the freakiest scratching noise on top of the cage and realize one of the lizards is bright enough to stay near a heat source.  I pop her into the cage and yell "yay!  I found one" to which Mike's panicked voice replies from downstairs "ONE!!!!  You mean you lost BOTH this time?" (I had recently... uh, misplaced one when we had friends over for the first time.  Thank gawd they had good senses of humor and were not squeamish).  I look under the couch where I had found him last time and there he is, flattened against the carpet like a hawk is flying overhead.  I grab my daughter's sparkly wand (hey, it was right there) and begin to attempt to guide him out from underneath as though he's merely a marble that can be rolled in my direction.  But he begins scrambling and popping around like he's a barefoot, double-dutch champ competing on hot pavement and I'm getting PISSED.  I finally get him to jump in my direction and grab that little sucker before he can get away.

While it's nice to misplace items that can't actually RUN away, I have to say, misplacing the big ticket items in life is something I can do without.  This morning, as Mike and I are at brunch with the kids and wanting electronics to entertain them at the restaurant Mike says, "I would have brought the iPad, but I couldn't find it".  Again with the oh-shit, hot prickles as he says, "You carried it out of Red Lobster last night, though, so I figured you know where it is."  He sees my face and says, "You DID carry it out of Red Lobster, RIGHT?"  Weeeeeeell...

We actually get it back after calling Red Lobster, so I'm feeling better about finding it, but seriously doubting my ability to keep track of anything that isn't already attached to my body or that lacks the vocal chords to say "DON'T FORGET ME!!!" as, unfortunately, my children have ACTUALLY had to do.  Yeah, I know.  Mother of the year here.


Not only have I recently misplaced a big ticket item, I've also misplaced something just plain BIG.  I'm not exactly sure how I've managed this feat, quite frankly.  I think it takes Dory-sized memory loss to do this. My most recent?  A large, reusable grocery bag, packed to the top with Elizabeth's swimsuit, two towels, 3-in-1 over-sized shampoo bottle, a rash guard and comb.  WTF?  It's not like when I drop a small key into the abyss I call my purse.  THIS IS A FREAKIN' GROCERY BAG FULL OF STUFF.  So full, in fact, stuff sticks out of the top.  And I lose it.  Because I'm an idiot.  Because my head is so full of what I have to do and where I have to go next and whatever little strange tidbit of imagination has spilled from my daughter's lips, I can barely remember to clothe myself fully before leaving the house.  I left it on a playground we played on after swim class.  Just walked away not noticing the rather large, NEON GREEN item sitting there.


It's gotten so bad that Mike has to mark his coffee cups from Starbucks because I've been known to consume his after consuming mine because I forget I've already had one and proceed to reach for whatever is in front of me.  My children have found me swearing about the lost pajamas and bemoaning their irresponsibility, only to have to point out sadly that I'm holding those same pajamas.  I've left with a grocery list of only 6 items, CROSSED ITEMS OFF AS I SHOPPED, and still forgotten to buy the ketchup listed there.  I even tried to turn off my truck IN THE MIDDLE OF DRIVING IT on Friday.  Don't ask me why.  I don't know what possessed me, halfway down the street leading to my son's school, to reach over and turn the key.  Who DOES that?


They say that a bit of coffee daily helps fight dementia and Alzheimer's, so with the amount I drink, I should freakin' be able to get through a day without putting cereal in the fridge, losing a lizard and trying to reheat my coffee in the toaster oven.  I shouldn't attempt to put on my son's pants or walk into the laundry room in just my underwear in search of pants and then walk toward the stove to prepare breakfast STILL sans pants.  I drink enough coffee to keep the local Starbucks in the black and yet I call my son by the dog's name.


Suddenly my mother makes sense.  Her need to call me Gypsy (our dog), her inability to give the right lunch to the right kid, her falling asleep in her dinner, her countless lost cameras on vacation and her sudden rifling through a purse to search for glasses that are sitting on top of her head.  She's a mom.  Babies in your belly don't just suck your energy, they abscond with your brain cells as well.


Dory sang, "just keep swimming" and I'm thinking now, it wasn't because she was the encouraging sort.  I'm thinking she would have just plain forgotten and sunk to the bottom if she didn't.



Monday, May 20, 2013

Sleep Positions

I'm looking over at two beautiful little heads as I type this.  Hair askew, arms and legs strewn about in a tangle of William, Elizabeth, blankets and comforter and soft snores emanating from below the pillows they never quite seem to rest their heads on.

We're having a playroom camp out.  We've been sick/quarantined to the house for a week now thanks to Whooping Cough (yes, I'm serious).  And with no need to wake up early, no school schedule to stick to tomorrow, I thought - why the hell not?

And as I look at this beautiful tangle next to me, I find myself thinking of the many "sleeping positions" I've taken in the last nearly 7 years.  I can measure my life as a mother in those positions.  I can mark the growth of these two and the change into who I am now, versus who I was then.

When they were teeny I found that my sleeping positions were often not chosen, but a result of sheer exhaustion posing me as my eyes closed despite my best efforts to the contrary.  I recall falling asleep in the rocker, feet falling asleep on the ottoman, Boppy pillow on my lap and a child attached to my breast.  My head would fall, my body would rock forward and I would start awake, fearful of dropping this sweet thing who had fallen asleep, mouth still open as though wanting to keep the option of nursing open should they wake.  I remember being so exhausted from the nurse/pump/clean/diaper/put to bed cycle in the newborn days that I would only get as far as burping them and just fall asleep with them there.  Me sitting straight up, them with their tiny, sweaty heads on my shoulder.  Sometimes my hand would just stay on their backs.  I remember falling asleep cradling them, sometimes on the couch, sometimes in the rocker, because I hadn't made it to the crib.  I would wake up and see their beautiful little faces in my arms and just decide to sleep with them, because it was too delicious of a moment to let end.  I remember not wanting to be apart from them, so I would make a little "nest" for them on the couch and fall asleep facing them or next to them and I could feel their little breaths across my face.

Sickness over the years brought more sleeping positions.  There was the half-reclined/half-sit up position, propped up on pillows in an effort to help them sleep sitting up when they were so congested they couldn't breathe lying down and were so small they needed to be held in that upright position. I've slept in small beds, on couches and even on floors, usually curled into a small ball with one hand on a trash can listening for the telltale moan that precedes their vomiting.  I've fallen asleep against bathroom walls, toilets and even kneeling and leaning against them during nights when vomiting or diarrhea has taken so long, we haven't left the bathroom for hours.  I've fallen asleep on my back (which I hate) with one arm falling asleep under their sweet heads because they feel so yucky, they want to sleep on my shoulder.

As they've gotten older, the chances to sleep holding them diminished and blooming in their place have been the strange solitary positions brought on by my body just surrendering after a day of keeping up with two little ones.  I've fallen asleep at the kitchen table.  We'll be mid-meal and my eyes will just shut and my head tilt backward or forward.  I've fallen asleep lying next to them in bed as a book has crashed onto my face because I can't even get through one short pre-nap or pre-bedtime story.  I've fallen asleep sitting on the bathroom floor, with my head and arm stretched across the side of the tub because I can't even make it to story time.  I've even drifted off standing up... drying my hair, cooking a meal, surveying the pantry, washing dishes or standing in front of the open fridge.  Not even realizing I was tired until my body pitched forward.

Now the two of them sleep together.  But there have been nights when they still want me to sleep with them.  And I do, either because these moments don't last forever or because I fall asleep mid bedtime story.  I often end up balancing carefully on my side, arm falling asleep, so I can take up as little room as possible in the bed.  Otherwise, I end up in the tangle myself - Elizabeth's feet in my back, William's arm smacking my chest, all of us rolling around and complaining in our sleep about the accidental wrestling match that results from sharing a bed.

But the best positions are the ones like tonight.  A playroom camp out.  A playroom tent city.  A makeshift "bed tent".  Whatever silly fun we can come up with.  I'm thinking if it's warm enough this summer, we'll need to add one more to the repertoire  - the trampoline camp out.  That thing is freakin' huge and I'm sure I can find a way to rig something across the top of the protective netting so that we can make a trampoline tent.

I know I'd sleep better if I would just put them in their own beds every night.  But these moments won't last forever.  They won't want me close forever.  They've been asleep for hours and my butt is falling asleep as I write this and I know I may be tired tomorrow, sharing this not-so-comfy fold out with them.  But they'll remember this camp out.  The movie, the giggling, my snoring and the novelty of waking in our playroom with nothing to do tomorrow but play.  So what if it's not a good night of sleep for me.

Besides, as my mom often says, "I can sleep when I'm dead."

Friday, May 17, 2013

Don't miss the little moments

"Mommy, am I ice skating?"

I look up from cooking and see Elizabeth, clad in a short night gown and over-sized Hello Kitty slippers, sliding and laughing across our hardwood floor.  She is utter joy clothed in unkempt, blonde bed-head, crooked glasses and a smile so big, it breaks my heart.

"Wanna skate?"

I pause.  I should finish making brunch.  I'm in pj's still, tired from our shared illness, and hungry.  But I don't want to miss this.  These little moments are where the magic lies.  So I put down the chef's knife, slip on my own socks and make her crack up at my purposely clumsy twirls and leaps on my "skates".  I don't really want to go back to cooking.  So we skate a little bit more and I feel like a kid again.

We miss these moments often, or at least I do.  And these moments usually hold more magic than any of the "big" ones we work so hard to plan- the Disney adventures, the airplanes, the grand parties, the school programs.  The little moments are what they'll remember.  What they'll treasure.  If we'll only take the time to stumble on them, like that perfectly intact, sparkling shell on the beach.  All the more beautiful because we weren't looking for it at the time.

I want to remember heading out in rain coats and rain boots one ridiculously wet day to "worm hunt" with my kiddos, hands FREEZING as we picked them out of puddles.  And I want to remember their surprised laughs and joyful squeals as I turned the worm hunt into a puddle splashing adventure, not caring that we came home dripping wet and freezing... and too late for naps.

I want to remember the "car picnic" in the very back of my Ford Escape while the rain and wind pounded the windows.  Me and two little bodies packed together, surrounded by an array of Starbucks bags we used as plates while we enjoyed scones and yogurt and oatmeal and coffee and hot cocoa.

I want to remember the last-minute playroom camp-outs where we ignored bedtime, shared our huge but not overly comfortable fold out bed, popped popcorn and fell asleep together to some animated movie or another.

I want to remember jumping on the trampoline with my son and his friend while the sprinkler was spraying all of us and doing a front flip just to make them laugh.

I want to remember walking out of the house with my daughter's fairy wings strapped to my back and one of her tiaras on my head and going to pick up William from school that way just because she asked if we could be fairies when we picked him up.  She and I walked to the front of the school, hand-in-hand, wings out, tiaras sparkling and too busy enjoying the look on her brother's face to care what the other parents might have thought.

Don't miss the little moments folks.  I kick myself when I let one by.  Let's not get so lost planning the perfect event that we care about WAY more than they ever will, that we forget to stop and draw "whiskers" on our faces with washable marker.  While we're busy cleaning our houses, making meals or jumping on the computer to plan that ultimate vacation, let's not forget that deciding to wrestle with them or watch a movie mid-day or go the park after dinner because it's not dark yet, will mean so much more.  Because it's the little jewels collected over time, piled up and put together, that they hang on to and treasure most.

I know because, while I have good memories of a Cancun vacation with my folks, or the big trip to Maui we all took... one of my favorite memories is of my twin and mom and I, huddled under a tarp in POURING rain in the Sierras on one of many fishing trips because we weren't going to just give up and head back to the cabin without any fish. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Credit Where Credit Is Due

I don’t give her enough credit.  Elizabeth.  I don’t.  I’ve forgotten that the sensory stuff is really such a small piece.  I will teach her to not fear the toilets.  I can teach her to find the foods that don’t bother her.  I can teach her to calm herself and curb her destructive tendencies.  But what I can’t teach, I forget to credit her.  I forget how WELL she does.  Truly well.  Not just for a 4 year old, not for a “sensory kid”… but for anyone. 

We had to get to LAX 2 hours early, only to find that it was 4 hours early due to a sizable delay to our flight.  This could be torture to parents with children who DON’T have sensory issues.  Who don’t have “motion seekers” with an oral fixation and auditory sensory issues.  But it wasn’t hard.  Not really.  Nor was the two hour flight after 4 hours of waiting.  She played with her sticker book until it was okay to use the iPad.  She NEATLY drank a cup of soda on the plane filled WAY TOO FULL of soda and ice to be balanced precariously on those sad little airplane tables.  Didn’t spill a drop.  When it was time to find a restaurant in busy LAX, she put down her iPad and went willingly.  When her brother had to go to the bathroom for the umpteenth time, she didn’t care.  When she and I had to squeeze into the smaller of the handicapped bathrooms so she could stay in her stroller while I used her nemesis (the automatic toilet), she was wonderful. 

Did she get edgy when we were waiting for our zone to board to be called?  Yes, but it wasn’t out of control.  Just a 4 year old girl who was a little tired.  Did she and her brother have a moment about how much light to let in the window on the plane?  Yep, but it was a sibling moment not out of the ordinary.  She did well.

I was so looking forward to this vacation.  And fearing it.  We’ve just started Occupational Therapy to help her with her sensory issues.  She sometimes yells when she thinks people are looking at her.  I have to watch her eat food she really likes carefully, because she will overeat to the point of vomiting.  She can’t handle standing in even the shortest of lines without touching everything in sight or collapsing onto the floor.  She doesn’t make friends easily because she will yell at other kids to go away in public places.  Strange places and strange smells can bother her.  She can reach a tantrum level where all she can do is scream, “I CAN’T CALM DOWN!” over and over.  And over.

Had I known how amazing she’d be, I would have slept better the night before we left.  But this trip was full of the pitfalls for a girl like her.  Strange public bathrooms.  Frequent changes (my mom’s house, my dad’s house, Palm Springs hotel and back to my mom’s).  My absence as I met up with old friends.  Sharing public space like the wading pool at the hotel. And, of course, the delays.

She handled it all.  And beautifully.  I actually teared-up at the pool when two little girls climbed in with her and instead of her usual bossy or screaming or angry demeanor, she turned to them and said, “Hi.  My name is Elizabeth.  What’s your name?”.  My mom and I stared at each other in disbelief.  And I turned away so Elizabeth wouldn’t see me get teary-eyed in pride.
When her beautiful little blonde head fell against the plane window because she was exhausted after trying SO HARD in the airport during our delay and during the flight, I looked over and felt the most immense love and pride, I let my hair fall around my bent head so her brother wouldn’t see me tear up again.

The first night in Palm Springs, when she declared the hotel room too small and that she needed a house to “have room to run”, a short walk around the grounds and pointing out the “fun” of hotel rooms like a TV in the room, a little fridge stocked with goodies thanks to her Oma (my mom), etc. adjusted her mood almost immediately. 

When faced with her nemesis, the automatic toilet, she started to panic, but took her deep breaths, put on her headphones, worked to stop her shaking and declared, “I can do it mom”.  I couldn’t hide the tears that time.  I hugged her tight and told her I was SO, SO proud of her.

I want her to be different from me.  I want her to be fearless and try everything.  I want her to be tough, so bullies never hurt her.  I want her to be uninhibited, so she can enjoy being different, rather than fighting to fit in. I want her to be comfortable in her own skin, so she never fights anxiety or depression.

So far… she’s WAY ahead of me.  Dammit, here come the tears again.  It sure is nice when they’re from pride though.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Afraid to Say It Out Loud

I should be going to bed right now.  I will be tired tomorrow.  But I've been dealing with something for a while and I've wanted to write about it, but I've been afraid to say it out loud.  Afraid to voice the fear.  Afraid if I mention the Devil's name, he will, indeed, appear.

We're doing Occupational Therapy with Elizabeth.  Why?  The doctor will tell you it's because she still walks on her toes at 4 years old.  The doctor will say she wanted to do an MRI first to rule out spinal difficulties because she seems to be a "normal" (I hate that word), bright, articulate child and that it is only because I pushed for OT evaluation.

I will say something else.  It's because, starting with a gymnastics class, I began to notice... differences.  She isn't the same as other kids her age.  Yeah, a 3 year old has trouble focusing.  But she stood out.  My kid was THAT kid in class.  I'm crying as I write this.  It's been months since that class, but it still hurts.  Having THAT kid.  The one who jumped all over, spun in circles and sang to herself while the others tried to follow the teacher.  The one who lay in a puddle or rolled all over, when the teacher asked her to sit up and pay attention.  The one who nearly had to be pulled out because she began to throw a fit of embarrassing proportions when a teacher tried to help her do a somersault.  The one whose name was said over and over and over... and over.  And my heart sank.

We had been through eating therapy at around 2 because she began vomiting up nearly everything.  Sometimes from texture.  Sometimes from smell.  Sometimes because she lacks the satiety cue to know when she's full.  I had hoped it was the last thing.

But then came the noise fears and the amazing tantrum/reactions they produced.  Vacuums.  Blow dryers.  The car wash. Blenders.  Mixers.  Fans.

Then came the need to put EVERYTHING in her mouth that she never outgrew.  Still hasn't.  And the destruction of EVERYTHING by chewing, ripping, smooshing, crushing, etc.

Then came the tantrums about... we don't know what.  Anything.  Nothing.  Not finding her sock.  Someone picking up her toy.  Chocolate milk.  The lighting in a room.  Someone looking at her.

And then came the gymnastics class.  And I began to think.... so what is Sensory Processing Disorder?  What else should I look at?  I have no idea.  And so I pushed the doctor.  Because I KNOW my daughter.  She is bright - she just read the word "crystal" off the eye doctor's computer and turned to her and said, "what's a crystal? why does it say that?"  She has made a couple friends.  She has pretty decent motor skills.  Her potty training didn't fall into what would medically be considered "late."  But despite all that, there was this nagging.  And the gymnastics class.

So we're going.  Therapy has been great so far.  I've learned about Chew Stixx - wonderful, safe things she can carry with her to chew on so she doesn't chew on her sleeves, paper, rocks, toys, whatever.  I've learned about using balance balls, wiggle seats, weighted blankets, wraps and skin brushing to try to put her "senses" in order.  I've learned about visual cues like a motor (how fast is her motor running) to help her figure out her emotions and how to re-center herself.  I've learned about fidgets (gadgets she can fidget with instead of jumping out of her chair) and "heavy work" like running, jumping, pushing, pulling and balancing so she can maybe focus on quiet tasks later.

But it's also created a weight in me as I watch her for... signs.  Does she make eye contact?  Why does she show no interest in making friends or being social at the park?  Why does she seem to never hear me, forcing me to ask her things 4-5 times?  Why does she not seem to understand social rules like when to undress?  Why you shouldn't kick another kid at the park?  Why you should follow the teacher's rules?  And I wonder... am I looking at more?  Am I looking at Asperger's? 

I'm terrified.  And not because I can't handle this... but because I fear for her.  My beautiful, bright, imaginative, blonde little mud princess.  I don't want her to feel like the "bad kid."  I don't want her to get picked on.  Or ostracized.  I want to wrap her up and hold her tight and make sure that the world doesn't bump and bruise her too much.  I want to go all "mama bear" on the shitheads out there who stare at her when she's having a hard day like she's an undisciplined, spoiled, unruly brat and who shake their heads at me.  I want to rip their fucking throats out and say, "do you even KNOW what I've been through today with her?  Do you know that just the sound of my blow dryer this morning and you looking at her is enough to disorient her in a way she CANNOT help?!"

I'm trying not to panic.  I have a friend whose daughter went through a lot of what Elizabeth is going through and now... she's fine.  She laughs about how she was afraid of flushing toilets.  She has tons of friends.  She plays sports.  She's awesome.

And so I hope.  And fear.  And cry.  And go to therapy.  I will take one day at a time and see where this road takes us.  Tonight, with the help of an amazing friend, I made my first "social story" - a picture story to help Elizabeth  through our upcoming plane trip to California so that maybe she will be able to handle automatic toilets and a 2 hour plane ride and the security line at the airport.

She just had her 4th birthday.  In my FB page I said she was my "imaginative, funny, muddy, ninja-princess-warrior-storm trooper-whirling dervish" and that I wouldn't have her any other way.  And I wouldn't.  I just want the rest of the world to want her that way too.  Because she is amazing.  She kicked the shit out of me when she was in my belly (she loves that story).  And she does it to this day... in the most amazing and beautiful ways.  Like when she sings a little song she has only heard once... perfectly and in key.  Or when she gives me the most amazing hugs and holds my face and says, "I love you so much mommy"

I'm crying again as I write this.  But I won't be afraid to say it out loud anymore.  The Devil can fuck off... whatever she has or doesn't have, or is or isn't - she's perfect.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Opa's Stories

For some reason, I've been thinking a lot of my Opa.  Wishing I could talk to him one more time.  Remembering the magic tricks and swimming lessons.  And the life lessons.  Mostly, though, I wish I could sit by him and hear one more story.

Opa told the best stories.  When I heard his voice take on that familiar “narrator” note, I would shut up in a hurry.  His stories were not to be missed, nor was the awesome “shhhh shhh” laugh that accompanied them.

I often wonder how I will tell stories to interest my kids and grandkids, when I haven’t had the life to fill a room like his stories could.  Perhaps what mom says is true – she always says you have to be tortured and have a hard life to be an artist (writer, musician, painter… it doesn’t matter).  Opa’s “luck” was being at the confluence of some of the largest events in history … and being on the wrong side of all of it.

Opa was an Indo, which is not short for Indonesian , but rather a term for the Eurasian or Indo-European peoples of  what was then known as The Dutch East Indies.  He was the product of those Dutch sailors sailing at the behest of the crown and the Dutch East India Company who got greedy for what Indonesia had and colonized a people who did not want them there.  Those sailors intermarried with the locals and thus “Indos” were born.  Our family and other families like us say that word with pride, but it wasn’t always uttered by others in a nice way.

It was a good life for Opa, until WWII came along.  Being Indo made him a victim three times.  Once when the Japanese occupied the islands and Opa, technically a member of the Dutch army, was captured and imprisoned as a POW.   The second time when he was he was freed by the Allied Army only to be re-imprisoned by the Indonesians fighting to throw off their colonial “oppressors”.  And finally, when he was “repatriated.”  Although he was innocent of the colonial fighting that brought the Dutch to rule over the Indonesians a century before he was even born (and the violence that made it an official “trading post” 300 years prior), he was hated by the native Indonesians for the bad (or good) luck of being born into a ruling class.  So he and his family (including my aunt and uncle) were “repatriated” to The Netherlands even though Indonesia was the only home they had ever known.  My Opa spent the rest of his life looking for another Indonesia… even moving to Hawaii briefly in search of it.

The best of Opa’s stories were actually about his time as a POW.  But I think it’s only because of Opa’s need to cast everything with humor.  It was his armor, as it is my mother’s and mine.  I think it’s a family trait actually.  Like my cousin Pam talking about putting the “fun” in funeral and my cousin Rick IM’ing me from his time in Iraq with stories of bombed porta potties.  We are experts at laughing at ourselves.  It deflects attention from the ugly matters at hand.  While Oma would sometimes talk briefly about being loaded naked onto trucks “like cattle” and packed in so tight you could hardly breathe, Opa told of playing tricks on the guards and my favorite, landing in a “pit of shit”.  I lived for that story.  It never got old.

I don’t even remember how it started.  I’m not sure how, in the middle of a Thanksgiving dinner or a Super Bowl party it could come up.  I just know the rest of the sound in the room disappeared and I could see the tropics of Indonesia intersecting with the brutality of the camp when I heard him say, “I remember being scared of a tiger once in camp…”  I was riveted.  So here’s his story.  I only wish you could hear his accent (mostly Dutch with some influence of the Indonesian language that made him sound different from those raised in Holland) when he told the story.  And his laugh that made me think of Ernie on Sesame Street. 

Opa was up one night in camp because he had to,  ahem, use the facilities.  However, being a prisoner, the facilities consisted of large pits dug into the ground.  Now, keep in mind, this is Indonesia.  There are animals there we do not have to worry about here in the USA unless you’re worried about escapees from the local zoo.

So he’s wandering in the dark when he sees yellow eyes peering at him from the bushes and freezes.  He’s wondering just how big this tiger is and how on earth he’s going to get away.  He weighs his options and decides that instead of shitting into that pit, he’s going to have to jump in.  Up to his neck.  So he does it.  Jumps in up to his neck and waits.  And waits.  And waits some more.  Yellow eyes still staring, not moving and Opa is left wondering how long it takes a tiger to pounce once it has stalked its prey.  And will it jump into a pit of shit if it's hungry enough? The eyes begin to move toward him, the leaves rustle and out steps… (and here’s where Opa cracks up) the guard’s damn German Shepherd dog. 

At this point in his story telling, Opa is laughing so hard he begins to swear in both Dutch and English and it takes him a few moments to catch his breath.

So poor Opa, covered from the neck down in shit (and I use that word because that is the word he used, even when he first told me the story and I was only about 7).  He climbs out, giving the dog a murderous stare, and has to now dive into the FREEZING river to wash it all off.  He then drags himself out and attempts to dry off, warm up and stop shaking – he still can’t tell if it’s from the cold, the fear or just sheer lack of body fat.  He weighed around only 80 pounds when he was freed.

Opa never did see a tiger during his time as a POW.  And he never forgot that German Shepherd either.  Nor, I suspect, did he ever forgive him.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Of Snot, Hips, Arthritis and... JEEZ! WTF already?!

My buddy Chris Clark from work (at my old mortgage job, not my stay-at-home job... I'm not just keeping some dude around the house for my entertainment) used to ask me if Mike and I lived on an old indian burial ground for our extreme bad luck with illness, injury and other random household items.  Well Chris... I think I'm just gonna answer yes now.

The illness and injury and "strange shit" rate in the Plavin household has now reached comedic proportions kids.  It's ridiculous.  I mean COME ON already. Current status:

Mike - back injured and sore, some kind of cold/flu crap he got from William
Me - walking on crutches thanks to a fall on my hip this morning, gotta call doc tomorrow about swollen lymph nodes all over, but cleared of the breast cancer scare after a mammogram and ultra sound
William - on week 2 of the cough he has lingering after the horrid bug he brought home last week
Elizabeth - feverish and at the height of the cough/snotfest that William brought home last week
Yukon (yep, including the dogs here) - liver is repairing, but mobility and bladder/bowel control is not great.
Ellie - Still need to take her to the vet because she is a literal dialy "snot cannon" who sneezes out a horrible concoction of dog food and green goo a few times a day.

I think it's time to invest in better vitamins, some horrid tasting made-only-from-vegetables daily drink, some good pyramid-scheme supplements and snake-oils, a Shaman, a priest and a good exorcist around here.   Seriously,  I'm out of options.

When I took William to the doc at the start of his bug (thinking he might have strep) the Pediatrician said she hasn't seen the rate of illness around here (not just us, I mean, but here where we live) in many, many years.  William's school sent out a special email about keeping kids home and ALL my friends and neighbors (regardless of diets, vitamins, anything-you-can-think-of-to-boost-your-immune-system methods) are stuck in the same hellish merry-go-round of illness.  I'm thinking we need to just send the kids in hazmat suits for a couple months and "Silkwood shower" the whole damn school.

As for Mike the illness would be enough... but no, we're Plavins and we do everything BIG.  I believe it was last week or the week before that I hear Mike yell out in pain after a few minutes of playing with the kids.  Here's the deal, Mike has Spina Bifida Occulta.  His last two vertebrae are not formed as they should be.  He has to be very careful with impact.  William, however, forgets this and decided to try out is WWF moves on Mike and jumped butt first onto Mike's lower back.  All 56 pounds of him.  Mike's legs tingled for a few days and now he's very sore. "Can you smell what The Rock is coooookin!" - yes, yes I can Mr. The Rock and it's called a crippled Daddy.

Dizzy finally had a good night of sleep last night after two nights of crying, nightmares and breathing difficulty.  But of course, following the Murphy's law of child illness vs. parent illness, she has the energy of 3 Jack Russells hopped up on crack, so getting her to get enough rest is going to take some sort of animal tranquilizer... or duct tape. 

We brought Yukon back from the brink of liver failure and pancreatitis with the help of some meds from the doc, HOWEVER, the meds do not treat his spinal stenosis, so now he cries when he lays down now and his bladder/bowel control rivals that of a newly potty-training 2 year old.  Needless to say,  a trip to the vet and perhaps a 12-step program to get him off the booze might be the answer.  "Hi, I'm Yukon and I'm an alcoholic"... I can see it now.

When we first brought Ellie home we actually took her to the vet fearing she had kennel cough or some horrible respiratory ailment because we have never, EVER seen a dog like that.  She is a mucus factory.  She has these HUGE sneezes, multiple times a day and look out if you're close.  You will require a change of clothing.  I'm NOT kidding.  So I've been wanting to take her back to see if there are some allergy solutions or something, because I'm running out of "oh shit" towels in the house just cleaning up her snot.  But between doctors visits for me and the kids and school-baseball-indoor playground obligations, there's been a delay.   But our "snot cannon" is making us CRAZY, so I'm going to try to squeeze it in this week... if I can walk.

Because that brings us to me.  As if the arthritis and William shouting "YOU NEED THAT" at a wrinkle-cream remover commercial doesn't make me feel enough like an aging freak, these past two weeks have involved a CBC, Mammogram, ultrasound, two doctors trips, the same flu/cold crap William has, swollen lymph nodes that I STILL need to see the doc about, and now... The Fall.  The whole house is currently under quarantine to try to stop the spread of the crap, so I've been sleeping in our office.  I was TRYING to get up with the kids today to let Mike sleep in again to help rid him of whatever bug he has.  Dizzy is in there with me and I'm dozing again when I hear "beep... beep... beep..." OH SHIT.  That's the burglar alarm.  William (whom I vaguely heard come downstairs and thought was just going potty) had tripped the alarm attempting to let Yukon out to pee.  So I scramble off the futon bed and start to RUN for the alarm.  Only... I turn the corner really fast into our hallway and our beautiful entry carpet (there ostensibly to prevent slips on our hardwood floor) is apparently slippery to the barefooted human.  Or at least to someone as clumsy as I am.  My legs shoot out behind me, my arms in front of me and, assuming the pose of a runner sliding into home, I CRASH hip-first onto the floor.  I'm in so much pain I can barely think and being an expert fainter, I start to recognize the fluttery, cold sweat, darkness-closing-in feeling as I at least crawl far enough to hoist myself up and disarm the damn thing.  Then I collapse.  Elizabeth is screaming and shaking me in her best Simba-trying-to-wake-a-dead-Mufasa rendition, William is crying and Mike IS NOT sleeping in.  I'm now on his crutches and some Advil and he has drug his sick ass and our two freaks out to accomplish the grocery shopping I was supposed to do today.

I think we're an episode of Modern Family.  I really do.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Don't look...and other choice "Dizzy-isms"

I was going to write a different blog about Elizabeth tonight.  After having her first Occupational Therapy visit and starting to see the "warning signs" of some of her sensory issues in hindsight, I was going to write about how scary, beautiful, frustrating, funny, heartbreaking and uplifting it can be.  But I decided to write on a lighter note after laughing with Mike about what a funny little adventure she is becoming.

"DON'T LOOK" - This is a new favorite saying of hers.  But unfortunately, this phrase also strikes fear into the hearts of her parents because the literal translation of this phrase is "I'm doing something I know you don't want me to do and I'd rather not be caught."  She hasn't yet grasped that she has tipped us off to her most recent crime spree and that we will INDEED LOOK  at what she has done.

It started out small.  We'd be at the table and I'd tell her to use her fork instead of her fingers and she would announce "don't look at me" and then pick up a piece of food with her fingers.  It has escalated though.  Particularly when it comes to messes or "wrapping."

Elizabeth has become obsessed with what she calls "wrapping" (not to be confused with rapping - she does not imagine herself to be the a female equivalent of the Beastie Boys or Run DMC.  And yes, I know I just aged myself).  She loves to play with ribbons, shoelaces, thread, Slinkies, belts, etc. and wraps them all around other objects or in between multiple objects.  She creates "spider webs" or "gates" or god-knows-what else that eventually I or the dogs get entangled in.  And, fearing the danger of someone getting seriously hurt and already seeing too many ruined Slinkies and yo-yo strings, I've forbidden her from "wrapping".

The other day, as I finished breakfast dishes and realized my little angel was not, in fact, completing her puzzle as I instructed, I turned away from the sink calling her name in time to see her rush out of my bedroom, slam the door and HOLD IT CLOSED.  Then she said, "Don't look in your room mommy."  As you can imagine, I was instantly terrified.  Was my make-up all over the walls?  Had she wrapped up the dog?  Had she emptied an ENTIRE roll of toilet paper into the toilet (Don't laugh, she's actually achieved this last feat and not while wiping.  Just for fun). As it turns out, she had done some "wrapping" with shoelaces that were still attached to my shoes so I had to spend about 15 minutes untangling a rather impressive array of knots that she'd invented to bind together 5 shoes.

"Dizzy..." I warned.
"I told you not to look," she replied, as though that horrendous tangle would magically disappear if I never looked.

And then recently I had set out food coloring and Dixie cups for some "science time" with her and her friend Jack for their "school time" and after disappearing long enough only to put some food in Yukon's bowl I see her jump down from a stool, rush toward our powder room yelling, "don't look at me mommy!!" and then I hear her turn on the water.  I knew EXACTLY what she had done.  She had touched the food coloring bottle literally SECONDS after I said not to.  I came into the powder room (much to her disappointment) in time to see her scrubbing frantically while going through our foaming soap at an alarming rate in order to de-yellow her little hands.  It's with a bit of evil glee I noticed that, by bedtime, there was still a little yellow on her hands and it frustrated her to no end.  Live and learn, little devil.  Live. And. Learn.

Later the same night, as I was getting the kids ready for bed, she DASHED into her brother's room (she always sleeps there) and shoved something under the covers.  The look on her face and her WIDE green eyes made me laugh and I asked, "whatcha doin?".  She replied, "I was hiding it, don't look".  Turns out, she had bitten a corner out of a piece of paper and we have been trying to get her to STOP chewing on/biting/eating other items.  However, thanks to our Occupational Therapy visit, I did not get angry, but rather gave her something healthier to chew on... I'll elaborate on this in another blog.

"YOU HURT MY FEELINGS!!!!"  - the exclamation points are because this is ALWAYS shouted in the middle of one of her tantrums and is never said in that heartbreaking, accompanied-by-puppy-dog-eyes, tearful voice one would imagine a little girl like my daughter would employ for appropriate guilt tripping.

This tactic, however, is still rather admirable even in the face of her not realizing maximum effect could be achieved with a softer voice because, like any good manipulator, she uses it to try to shift blame to the offendee and away from herself (the offender).

For example, we will be at the dinner table and I will tell her for what feels like the thousandth time, "Dizzy, DO NOT play with your food!"  She made the bad decision the other day of spitting at me in retort.  I IMMEDIATELY removed her from the table and instructed her to go upstairs to her room in search of her manners as she had obviously left them up there during nap time.  She collapsed in a heap at the bottom of the stairs, refusing to go up and screaming, 'YOU HURT MY FEELINGS!!!!!!"  When I asked her how, she said, "YOU WON'T LET ME SIT AT THE TABLE!!!!!"  I reminded her that she was welcome to sit at the table upon rediscovering her manners, but it was too late.  She was wounded, insulted and inconsolable.  I walked away and let her melt into her puddle of tantrum.  She eventually returned to the table and apologized.  Not well, but we'll work on that.

The YOU-HURT-MY-FEELINGS turn the tables routine is Elizabeth's favorite weapon with her Father.  She is in that stage where she's particularly attached to me as we spend most of the day together.  So she will often tell him to get away from her or that she does not want his hugs, only mommy's.  One day, in particular, she learned just what an error this is.  It was my turn to clean up dinner while Daddy handled bath, stories and bedtime.  Well, she began yelling and screaming that she did not want him to give her a bath, she did not want him with her, etc.  So he informed her that she could give herself her own bath, she had lost her bedtime story and he would not be tucking her in.  Of course, she realized then, that Dad was serious and that now she was story-less and that Daddy is funny and fun at bedtime and she had ruined it all.  She ran downstairs shouting "YOU HURT MY FEELINGS!!!!" over her shoulder at her Dad and then found me and whimpered "Daddy hurt my feelings" into my shoulder.  When I pointed out that perhaps she hurt Daddy's feelings by pushing him away and screaming at him and that she owed him an apology and I WOULD NOT be reading her a story, she then ran away from me crying "YOU HURT MY FEELINGS TOO!!!!!".

I'm starting to think the literal translation of "you hurt my feelings" is "you disciplined me and I don't like it."

DON'T LAUGH AT ME!! - This last one is also accompanied by exclamation points because it is never said quietly, but rather as she dissolves into what can only be called melodramatic, teary, tantrum-laden histrionics at the table.

You parents know... sometimes your kids do something so damn cute, that it makes you laugh with joy.  Dizzy does this often.  She often unintentionally makes the most keen, funny, acerbic, sarcastic, brilliant and true observations and it sends Mike and I into hysterics.  Like when Dad asks her if he's cute and she replies, "No... you're big" or when Ellie (our snotty lab) snots all over the carpet and she says, "Ellie, you're gross... but I love you" or when she re-does Mommy's hair and I ask her if it looked bad before and she replies, "no... just boring."  SHE'S FUNNY.  She's awesome. She's honest.  She's 3-years-old. 'Nuf said. 

The problem is, recently, our joyous laughter as begun to offend her in the worst way.  She bursts into tears and acts as though we're the cool kids making fun of her or something.  She melts down and yells at us "DON'T LAUGH AT ME!!!!!!"  No matter how we try to explain it, no matter how many hugs we give... she's hurt and she takes her time forgiving us.  And the trouble is, her little offended face is also so cute, we laugh again.  It's a vicious cycle really.

So, like I said, I was starting to write about her because we're about to go into a complicated adventure with Occupational Therapy.  I was starting to write about my fears, about dealing with Sensory Issues in small children, about how complicated something as simple as a play date can get with her "issues"... but this seemed like much more fun.  Because no matter what happens with her, she's an original.  She's a smart but a mess, she's funny but sensitive, she's awesome and funny and beautiful and so fitting of that nick name her brother gave her SO long ago - "Dizzy". 

She's too wonderful to heed her warnings - so look, laugh and enjoy her as much as we do and we'll help her not to get her feelings hurt, but to enjoy it just as much.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Long trips made longer...

Yesterday I took my kids up to Portland for a day trip to meet friends at OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry), enjoy some local eateries and squeeze in some fun before winter vacation ends.  The drive is 2 hours.  Or it's supposed to be. 

We left the house at 11:00 am and returned at 10:00 pm.  That's an 11 hour day.  Only 4 of it (and thus a minority) should have been spent on the road.  SIX-AND-A-HALF hours of it were spent on the road.  This is making me reconsider trying to drive to California with my kiddos.  That's a 14 hour drive... what exactly will that stretch into?

Some of you parents who are well-traveled or skip it altogether (or who have younger children than mine) are now shaking your heads.  "She did something wrong!"  You're saying.  She forgot the tricks and tools that make a car ride go smoothly.  No, no, kids.  I did not.  Truly, I didn't.  So what happened, you ask?  How did we turn this particular mole-hill into a mountain?  Well, we're Plavins.  We make everything a, extra special.

Each kid is belted into their age-appropriate seat.  Elizabeth in that annoying, ridiculously large, 5-point seat belt monstrosity that any child under 40 lbs is supposed to ride in.  She's 38 pounds.  Ugh.  As slowly as she gains weight, she'll be in it FOREVER.  William, my brick of a child, is in his easy to move, light-weight, equipped with cup holders (THANK YOU GOD!) booster.  They each have this lovely lap-table contraption strapped to them so that they have somewhere to eat and game.  They are properly equipped with technology designed for 2 hour drives - William's has video games, Elizabeth's has movies and pre-school games.  They have lovely, new over-the-head headphones on (Star Wars and Hello Kitty) so that mom does not go bat-shit crazy hearing William play FIFA Soccer and Elizabeth watch "Nightmare Before Christmas" while she tries to hear her latest music-mix CD or talk to her own mother on the (hands-free!) cellphone on the way up. 

"I'll just make a quick stop to top-off my gas tank and grab some cash and then we can hit it" I toss over my shoulder to the kids as we back out of the driveway.  Keep in mind the gas station is literally 2 miles down the street.  My top-off SHOULD HAVE been quick...

"I have to go potty," William says juuuuuust as the gas guy takes the pump out because I only needed about 6 gallons.

"Are you SERIOUS?  You just went.  At the house."

"I'm serious mom."

So I park by the convenience store, unbuckle Elizabeth, get them both inside so William can use the bathroom.  Strap them both back in, strap tables on, untangle headphone wires, hand off headphones and technology and zip across to the ATM.  Sigh of relief.  We can go now.  But I need caffeine.  Thank god Starbucks is only 6 minutes away and has a drive thru.  We've purchased the necessary coffee and cocoa since it is FREEZING outside and I'm starting to leave the drive thru when...

"Mom, I don't know what's wrong with me, I need to pee again."

"Shit, William..."

"Mom," interjects Elizabeth, "Don't say shit"

"OH my God!  Let's go inside.  QUICKLY please," I'm trying to keep a level voice.  Unbuckling tables, unbuckling children, rinse repeat.  Ugh.  While William goes to the bathroom, Elizabeth drinks HER ENTIRE COCOA.  Now I'm worried.  But we get back in the car, more buckles, wires, tables and situating and we hit the road. 

We hit the I-5 and I hit the cruise control, call my mom and drink my coffee.  The kids are head-phoned and talking now and then to each other and myself as though they did not have headphones on and we all know exactly what part of what game and movie everyone else is on.  It's kinda funny really.  We've been driving nearly 20 minutes when I see a rest-stop sign. 

"Anyone gotta go to the bathroom?" I joke.  Only, no one's laughing.

"Oh thank God," sighs William.  "Yes!"  Can a child have an enlarged prostate?  Just wondering.

"NO, NOOOOOOOO, I don't have to.  I don't want to try!  I don't want to hear the flush!"  Elizabeth is wailing and we haven't even stopped the car.  She has some aural sensitivity issues.  No tests yet, but really, I think I know.

We get out and I'm assuring her that despite her chugging her ENTIRE cocoa in the 5 minutes we stood in Starbucks, she does not have to try.  The girl can hold it FOREVER.  I decide I'll take advantage of this one stop though, hoping it's the last.  My GOD I can laugh hard at that idea in hindsight.  We're quick, and re-buckling, attaching tables, yada-yada and on the road.  We're now a good 30 minutes behind schedule.

"Oooookay," I say in my best I'm-totally-patient-and-cheerful mom tone, "I'd like to keep going now until it's time to grab a quick DRIVE-THRU lunch so we can just get there."

This is not to be.  We make one more gas-station bathroom stop before finally hitting Taco Bell.  We drive through to "make it quick", but I end up having to park the car briefly to get rid of the Starbucks stuff and help the kids arrange their lunches on their tables and their drinks in a fashion that won't turn the back of my car into sugar-goo from spills.   We're now an hour behind where I wanted to be.  But they eat, drink, start playing again and we're FINALLY getting there.  We're 5 exits away when...


"Dude!  William, can you make it 5 exits?"

"I think so Mom"

"Okay, otherwise, you're a dude.  Pee in a cup."  I'm not unsympathetic.  Really, I'm not.  It's just that we've reached the part of the freeway in Portland where it suddenly shoots off vein-like in a million different forks and over/underpasses, that I cannot FATHOM getting off to find a suitable potty stop and ever finding my way back to the correct on-ramp, bridge, highway, you name it.

We make it to OMSI and William has to go so badly that, thankful that we are in far-away "overflow" parking, he just pees by a tree and we head in.  HOLY CRAP.  By the way, Elizabeth finally goes to the bathroom once we're in OMSI.  She hasn't gone since we left home over 3 hours, 1 cocoa, 1 soda and a lunch ago.  Don't tell me it's the chicks who have small bladders.

OMSI is awesome.  The kids are awesome.  I'm having a great day.  We eat dinner at this kick-ass roadside place called Grilled Cheese Grill where you order at the stand but then eat in a school bus.  The kids LOVE it.  We eat very unique, VERY Portland, hand-packed ice cream at another place called Salt and Straw before we hit the road.  It's only 6:30 when I tell my hubby we're on our way home.  Knowing I'm travelling with kids, my hubby says, "See you at 9:00"   Again, I can laugh now.

I make William use the bathroom TWICE at Salt and Straw before we leave.  I have Elizabeth go once (after convincing her this is a small quiet toilet and there's no need to fear it).  I get them strapped in, no tables this time.  William's Play Station Vita is out of juice so I inform them it's movie time, they have to share my iPad now.  Surprisingly, they agree instantly on a movie.  I take it as a good sign.  My mistake.

"BUB-BAAAAAA," Dizzy is saying his name in her special I'm-pissed-at-William inflection, "I wanna hold the iPad!"

"No, Diz, then I can't see it.  If i put it here, we can both see it."  But it's between their seats and they're both having to crane their necks downward to see it. I'm navigating the ridiculous criss-crossing arteries of Portland freeway again after nearly missing my on ramp, so I can't help until I hit a straight patch.  When I finally do I have William hand me up the iPad and I prop it up using a sweatshirt on my center console so it's facing them like a movie screen.

"There," I sigh, "now it's up and you can both see it."

"But Mom," William whines, "what if it falls."

"It won't"


"William, I swear to God..."

We make it about 20 minutes south to the suburb where my in-laws live because it's familiar to me and I know I can find the Starbucks to dose myself with more caffeine and because Elizabeth is dying for water.  I navigate the streets to the strip mall with the Starbucks. I pull into the parking lot and look at the sign next to the door and it says it closes at 7:00.  I look at my car clock in time to see it click from 6:59 to 7:00.

"You've gotta be f#@!ing kidding me," I mutter to myself.

"Mom, you said f#@!..." Elizabeth begins.

"E-LIZ-A-BETH," I warn, "I'm SORRY.  I need coffee and I wanted to get you your water."

"Let's go to that McDonald's over there," William chimes in, "We can get juice and I gotta pee..."

"NO WAY!  Are you kidding me?  You have to go again?  Are you shi..." I cut myself off from swearing again, but it's too late.

"Mom, you almost said..."

"Elizabeth!  I KNOW!"

We drive over to the McDonald's and go in.  William pees AGAIN while I get coffee and water.  Strap them in, set up movie, give them waters, situate them as I think sleep will follow soon.  I'm getting tired. Not so tired though that I'm not being overly cautious when the man parked next to me says, "I'll help you, I left my own kids in the car."  I get the kids in quick and get moving.

The MINUTE I hit the I-5 it's like someone dropped a blanket.  Pea soup.  Fog so thick I can barely see more than the few feet in front of me lit by my headlights.

"Crap," I breath


"Elizabeth, I said crap.  Give it a rest.  Poop.  There is that better?"

"What's wro-" William begins and sees the fog, "Oooooh, man! Mom, can you see the fog?" he asks like I've somehow missed that we can barely see another car until it's right next to us.

"Yes, William.  It's ALL I can see.  Please let me focus.  I'll be slowing the car down so I can keep us safe.  The drive is going to take longer now okay?"

"Okay!"  They're both cheerful.  It means more movie time.

We've been driving an hour when I hear snoring.  Elizabeth is passed out.  I should be closer to home, but the fog has made it a horrible drive.  And then it comes.

"Mom, I have to go again."

"Okay William," I'm too tired to be impatient.  Now I just feel for the kid.  "Let me find a stop.  I need somewhere where I can see you go in and watch the car at the same time.  i don't want to wake your sister."  (Who hasn't peed since Salt & Straw, mind you).

We pull into a truck stop/convenience whatever-the-hell-it-is in the middle of rural Nowheresville, Oregon.  The store is perfect though as I can see the entrance to the bathroom from the front doors AND keep watch on the car.  Plus, I need some strong bitter coffee to add to my McDonald's "mocha" (I'm gonna put that in quotes as the sugar content makes me doubt there's any coffee in my mocha).  We ask the clerk for the key as instructed and he informs us someone is in there.  William looks panicked.

"Sorry bud," I say as I stand RIGHT in front of the automatic doors so I can watch the car.  "You gotta wait until they are finished."  But we wait and wait and wait.  He's dancing now and I've forgotten my internal promise to stop swearing.

"What the hell?" I mutter, "Is someone SHOWERING in there?  What on earth is taking so long?"  We've been there 10 minutes.  No joke.  Standing there with a pee-pee dancing 6 year old for 10 minutes.  I'm tired, freezing and watching the car.  I take a sip of the coffee and promptly burn the crap out of my tongue.  Super.

"They have a shower?"  I can't tell if he's excited or surprised by this prospect.

"No... William," I sigh.  Sarcasm is wasted on the young.

After 15 minutes of standing there, the clerk knocks on the door muttering something about perhaps the previous person locked the keys in there, but a voice emerges,

"Occupied still!"

I think William is going to pee on the floor when this woman and her daughters pile out of the rest room in pajamas.  She sees his little dance and sees what must look like murderous disgust on my face and says,

"Oh... sorry.  Had the whole posse in there."  I can't even respond.  I think they WERE washing up and changing in there.

"William, meet me in the car.  I can see you from there." I walk out and get in the car to crank up the heat and be ready for William.  But now I have to pee.  I walk back in and take a turn after he's done asking him to watch the car from inside.

We FINALLY leave the damn truck stop and get back on the freeway.  With Elizabeth asleep it's a bit easier as William can get himself buckled and manage the iPad and headphones by himself.  I add the truck stop black bitterness to the McDonald's sugary crap and it becomes a decent coffee drink.  Back on the freeway, I feel lucky.  The fog gives way to an incredibly clear night and I can speed up again.  Elizabeth is sleeping and William has become engrossed in the movie 'Tron Legacy."  I'm happy when I see signs for Albany, knowing I'm getting closer at last.  But Fate is a fickle bitch.

Fog DROPS in again and I slow WAY down.  I can't see and despite the coffee, it's now 8:30 and I'm tiring from the long day and the effort it takes to focus in the fog.  I'm really tired.  I want to be home.  We pass the Corvallis exits, Millersburg, we're getting closer.  I see signs for Brownsville (fun note, some of "Stand By Me" was filmed there) when it happens again.

"Mom, I hate to say this but..."

"I know, William.  I know.  I have no earthly idea where we are, but I'll find something."

I find another truck stop, but as I stop the car, Elizabeth wakes up.  She's weepy and confused, so I get her all unbuckled and take her in with us.  It's FREEZING and foggy outside, so we rush in.  She starts to freak about the bathroom again when I assure her she doesn't have to try.  William goes and I want to leave when...

"Mom.  I'm really hungry," he says quietly.  I know he's afraid I'll be mad.  I'm too tired to be mad.  I'd say no way, but I have no idea how long it will take to drive home in the pea soup.  I tell them to stay inside while I grab the wallet I left in the car thinking there's no way I need it just for a pee stop.  I walk outside and -

BOOOOOM!!!  I actually duck and crouch to the ground.  I don't know what that sound is.  It's too loud to be a backfire from a car.  It's pretty rural out here.  Kids shooting at cans.  I don't know.  I grab my wallet and run back inside.

"Can I have these chips?" William asks.

"Chips?  Really?  Shit, I don't care."  And I don't.  I. WANT. TO. BE. HOME.  I buy the chips and we head out to the car.  I'm carrying Elizabeth because it's freezing and she's muttering sleepily more to herself than to me,

"Shouldn't say shit..."  Man.  I suck as a mom sometimes.

We're buckling, situating, opening chips and I'm re-arranging the movie player and switching the movie because now Elizabeth is WIDE awake and William has to give up on his Tron movie.  He's way good spirited about it though.  He's even sharing his chips with his sister.

I'm back in the soup.  Craning forward and I see the signs I want to see.  Harrisburg.  Junction City.  Coming up is exit 195B.  Our exit.  I'm trying to be careful because they changed the freeway a little while ago when they built a new overpass.  I miss the exit in the fog.  SHIT.

I take the next one and take a longer route home.  I finally get on our highway, get off on our exit and head down our main cross street, Barger.  The fog is SO thick, I can't make out our intersection (we don't have a light) and I overshoot it.  I back up and turn onto our street and then overhsoot the house too.  I'm going to chalk that up to too tired.

I pull in the garage and Mike opens the door between the garage and house.

"Wow," is his greeting.

Wow indeed. Oh, and Elizabeth did not pee before bed.  She did not pee until she got up again at 8:00 the next morning.  William peed twice more before going to sleep.

Seriously.  Can you have an enlarged prostate at six?