Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

What Goes Through Your Mind When You Think You Might Die

The first thing was "I didn't even say good-bye to the boys."

When I was 10, I had a paper route. On weekends, the papers had to be out by 6:00 am. On those the cold and silent winter mornings, as I trudged through the snow and the wet with the weight of my loaded satchel bumping rhythmically against my legs, the darkness was complete; relieved only by the streetlamps and an occasional porch light. I was never scared, but I hurried along, anxious to be done with the job and get back to my warm bed.

I suppose it's no surpise then, that one morning, I delivered a paper to a house in which all the occupants; mother, father, grandmother and baby, had all perished in a fire the night before while I slept safely and soundly in my own home just down the street.

I didn't notice anything amiss. The crispness of the winter air held not the faintest whiff of anything sinister. I didn't feel anything foreboding or unsettling or sad as I climbed the front steps and placed the paper between the two doors. I didn't notice the depression in the snow where the baby had landed when the grandmother, desperately trying to save him from the flames, threw him out the window.

Nobody had heard the sirens wailing. Nobody had seen or smelled the smoke. Those people died while their neighbors slept, unaware of the tragedy unfolding just steps away from their own doors.

Since then, I have had a deep and abiding horror of dying in a fire. When I moved to the city 20 years ago, I wouldn't even consider living in a high rise apartment building and I turned down several jobs because the offices were located in skyscrapers. If a fire breaks out below you, there is nothing to do but jump. And that is prospect that still turns my blood to icewater and twists my stomach into a desperate and diabolical knot.

The fear that has never left me, but it has abated a bit over time.

This morning, that fear came back to me with sickening swiftness as husband and I were awoken from our blissful slumber on the 8th floor of the Westin Peachtree by the electronic shriek of the fire alarm.

The alarm was interrupted by a hotel wide broadcast.

"Attention Guests. We are aware that the fire alarm has been activated. The Fire Response Team is investigating. Please await further instructions."

I was not disposed to await further instructions. I said as much to husband who agreed.

We dressed hurriedly and I frantically gathered up our belongings.

And that's when I was hit by the realization that I had not said good-bye to the boys. I hadn't told them I loved them. They were engaged in a cutthroat game of ping pong when it came time for us to leave them with the friends who would be keeping them overnight. They are older now, and long past the age of needing assurances that we would be coming back. And so we simply left.

Husband said gently, "Baby, leave it, it's not important. We've got to go."

I nodded and grabbed my wedding ring off of the bedside table. "Everything else can be replaced" I thought, but on the heels of that thought came another, silly, senseless one. "But I just bought that outfit!!". Along similar lines, I was already lamenting the loss of my favorite sandals. They are deep brown silk embroidered with gold, bronze and silver thread and appliqued in a paisly design. I also thought regretfully of the hundred dollar bottle of wine I had bought Husband last Christmas. We had brought it with us to toast our anniversary.

"We can't just leave all our stuff!!" I said.

"We'll be back. It's just a false alarm."

"You don't KNOW that!" I wailed.

"Baby, it's going to be fine. Let's GO." He was trying to be calm, but I heard the urgency in his voice. He was as frightened as I was.

We left our room and made for the stairwell. Other guests were doing the same and everybody wore that peculiar expression of outward calm that suggests barely restrained panic. Once inside the stairwell, I was instantly reminded of all those people who lost their lives in the stairwell of the World Trade center while trying to escape the fire, the smoke, the imminent collapse. It made me feel trembly and breathless. I tried to just focus on putting one foot in front of the other.

I told myself over and over that it was silly to panic. It was a kid, a prank, some illicit cigarette smoke. It was NOT a sweeping inferno that would soon engulf us in flames.

It wasn't, dammit.

But I wasn't having much luck getting through to myself, and neither apparently, was the woman in front of me on the stairs. She banged her small pullman down on each step and jerked it viciously around the corners. Husband commented that she looked pissed off in the extreme, but I thought her anger was simply a mask behind which lurked the hysteria of complete and total terror.

There were people carrying sleepy eyed children and I was once again reminded of my boys. I hoped I would see them again and then, I berated myself for the fatalistic thought.

We exited onto a cobbled terrace in the rear of the hotel. The sun was shining and there was a gentle breeze blowing. The small man made lake in front of us rippled and sparkled. It's the kind of day on which it seems like an awful injustice to die.

But fire or no fire, we were out. My heart slowed and the quaking in my limbs stilled.

After about 20 minutes we were allowed back into the hotel. Everything was fine, apparently. But the emotional aftermath was obvious on the faces of all the guests who milled about in the lobby. It's hell to wake up fearing for your life.

Later, when we picked up the boys, the first thing I said to each of them was "I love you."

They both gave me a strange look and then looked at one another. Pre-Pubescent One said "Um. It was just one night Mom."

I know. But it taught me a very important thing.

Always say good-bye.

Friday, September 28, 2007

I Think I Might Be a Lesbian Now

How much do you love HER???

In other Friday randomness....

Why is it that when you are NOT looking for something specific (i.e. an outfit for a funeral, a camisole to go under that sheer top, etc.) you find all kind of wonderful stuff that fits well, is available in your size and color and is on sale? But when you really need something, it's as if the heavens have opened up and swallowed every single item of that kind in the known world?

Why are people willing to spend twice the retail value plus shipping for items on ebay? I don't mean collector's items or rare items. I'm talking about kids's clothing. In trying to buy brand name jeans for my oldest son, I was repeatedly outbid. I wasn't lowballing either. I made what I considered to be a fair and reasonable bid for USED clothing. But my maximum price was exceeded by another bidder every single time. After factoring in shipping, I could get them for that price at the store, maybe less if I catch a sale. Weird.

Also, why are people buying five pairs of $50 jeans for 12 and 13 year old boys? Do you have any idea how quickly adolescent boys grow?? Last year, PPO got two paris of brand name jeans for Christmas. The rest had to come from Old Navy and Target, or Plato's Closet (consignment store). I am simply not going to spend that kind of money on a kid, first of all, and secondly, on a kid who grows an inch a month. It's just NUTS. And yet, auction after auction proclaimed..."I bought these 12 pair of brand name jeans for my son and he outgrew them in a month!" I know...some fudging is expected in auction descriptions, but still....ever hear of a washing machine? Amazingly handy little household appliance.

Why are people surprised that Facebook cannot come up with a uniform standard of usage for their users that is fair and balanced (apologies to Fox News)? Mark Zuckerberg was TWENTY TWO when he founded Facebook in 2004 and is now acting CEO. Think back to what 22 year old guys were like. Yeah. Not the epitome of maturity and wisdom. Hell...most of them still blush if they have to go down the tampon aisle in the grocery store. No wonder he's disconcerted by a little nip. And no wonder that he defends the posting of pornographic images. The internet is the modern day equivalent of Playboy and Facebook is Mark Zuckerberg's own personal porn emporium. Certainly, he does not want to despoil the sanctity of his digital playground by allowing images of breasts serving in a functional capacity. It spoils the magic people.

I think teachers should have to be parents before they get their teaching degree. "Procreating before certification" Say it with me. I should start a campaign or something. If teachers were parents, they wouldn't give fourth graders a fuckton of homework and three projects all at once. "Map in a Month"? How about "Map When I get around to it?"

I also think good teachers should be paid way more than people like Michael Vick and Brittany Spears. It's a gross miscarriage of justice and a demonstration of our completely screwed up priorities that those individuals rake in millions while our nation's school teachers can barely eke out a living.

My first crush turned 49 yesterday and that makes me feel very old. Happy Birthday Shaun Cassidy. Loved your clothing line. Somewhere in a box there still exists a baby blue satin baseball jacket with your wholesome image silk screened upon it and a photo album full of clippings from Tiger Beat magazine. My childhood crushes in chronological order are as follows:

Shaun Cassidy
Lee Majors
Rick Springfield
David Hasselhoff
Michael Jackson (when he still still looked human)

In highschool I was not quite so devoted. I think my crushes changed weekly.

I have created a monster. I took Pre-Pubescent One to his first concert (Fallout Boy) in June, and now he is hooked. They are coming again sometime in the next couple of months and he is begging to go. He loved absolutely everything about the concert going experience. But yannow...when I was a kid you could go to a concert for ten or twelve bucks. The real big names might have cost a bit more. I remember begging my mother for $40 to go see Michael Jackson, but that included bus fare to and from the venue, which was four hours away in Chicago. These days, you have to take out a small loan to see anything, much less a big name concert headliner. I didn't get to go, incidentally. My mother thought it was outrageous to pay $40 to see a concert. Now, I'll never be able to say I saw Michael Jackson when he still had his own nose. Or, his own anything, really.

Husband is whisking me away this weekend for our anniversary. I have no idea where we are going, nor who will be caring for my children, only that someone will. I am strangely disconcerted by the fact that I am not at all disconcerted. That should tell you how seldom Husband and I get any time alone. He had to do an enormous amount of juggling to make this happen. It really sucks not having any extended family nearby to rely on in situations like these.

See you cats in the sandbox!!

Thursday, September 27, 2007


You know...when I started this blog, I vowed that it would not contain the same tired old crap that everybody else was posting. I resolved that it would not be a litany of personal problems and complaints, nor would it be rife with maternal endearments and cute little anecdotes. But lately, that is exactly what it has become.

I am irritating myself. I want to tell myself to shut the hell up already.

I have all kinds of really highbrow stuff I want to write about, (really, I do) but right now, I lack the energy and the focus. So, in an effort to lighten the mood here at Chez Antagonist, I'm going to take a page from Mrs. Chicky's book, and talk about something that makes me happy.

It's terribly superficial and completely without import. It's a little shameful and essentially meaningless. But it never fails to lift me up when I am down.

What is this miracle?

Simply put....product.

It's funny....People who only know me as an online persona, are surprised to find that I am very girly in person. People who know me in real life, are often surprised to find that I actually have a brain.

Oh, I'm articulate enough that people don't usually think I'm an ignorant bumpkin, or an insufferable dullard, but I'm pretty reserved, and I don't have a job or a degree, two barometers by which people commonly gauge intelligence.

I suppose it's a natural assumption to make then, that I lack ambition or intellect, and that I am a SAHM because it's the only thing to which I am suited.

But those of you who know me only as a writer, a blogger, a "thinker"...might be surprised to find that I have a dirty little secret.

I? Am a product whore.

I LOVE make-up. Perfume. Hair care products. Bubble bath. Lotion. Nail polish. Clothes. Shoes. Jewelry. Purses. Smelly candles. Tarts. I love it all. I love it so much that I collect vintage vanity items. Mostly it's perfume bottles, but also compacts, name it.

People think my profile is a joke, but it's patently true. My two indulgences are books and beauty products. I can't get enough of either one.

Anyway, today I want to talk about some of my favorites. I've done this once before, but it was a while ago. There are some products that I simply cannot live without. But since I am an lazy, directionless slattern who doesn't earn a paycheck, I have to get my fixes on a budget. There will be no $100 face cream on my list.

And because one can really never have enough product, and because aside from being a hopeless addict I am a shameless enabler, I want you to share your favorites with me in the comments.

1. Olay Regenerist Serum

LOVE this stuff. I use it twice a day. It's just the right amount of moisture for my oily skin, it provides a smooth canvas for my mineral make-up, and it really does improve the overall look of my complexion. It's every bit as good as high end department store products.

2. Bare Escentuals Mineral Make-Up.

I can't live without mineral make-up. Because my skin is extremely oily, and I am prone to breakouts even at 38, I have to be extremely vigilant about what I put on my face. Bare Escentuals is made of pure minerals, with no binders, fillers or oils. Sometimes, because of my product whoredom, I am tempted by other foundations. I am always sorry.

There is a learning curve to using this product, and a lot of people give up on it after one or two tries because they've used far too much and it ends up looking mask-like, or because, due to improper preparation of the skin, they find that pores are emphasized. But once you've mastered it, I swear you will never, ever go back to liquid make-up.

The other BE product I can't live without is Bisque. It is THE only concealer that can cover my heavy duty undereye circles (inherited), and I swear, that it actually helps heal blemishes while it covers them. It doesn't crease like cream or liquid concealers. It used to only come in one color, which was kind of a bummer, but now it comes in original (pink toned), summer (warm toned toned), and honey (for asian or latin american or Indian/Middle Eastern complexions).

FWIW, L'Oreal's new Bare Natural line is pretty comparable in terms of coverage and quality. However, it broke me out terribly, so I'm fairly certain it contains ingredients other than minerals. But if you're not sensitive to that sort of thing, give it a whirl. It's half the price of BE, and you can't go wrong with that.

3. OPI Polishes.

I adore OPI. I confess it's mostly because of the clever names, but it really does wear an incredibly long time, especially on toes, which are tough to keep looking manicured. My favorite shades are "Don't Be Koi With Me", "Down to My Last Penny", "Cheyenne Pepper", "Melon of Troy", "Cosmonaut Tonight Honey", "Ecuadorable Coral", and "Chocolate Shakespeare". Their base and top coats are amazing as well.

4. Frederik Fekkai Glossing Cream.

I would do anything to keep myself stocked with this stuff. ANYTHING. It's simply unparalleled. Just a pea sized amount turns my entire head into a shiny, shimmering mane, without greasiness, heaviness, or build-up. It's made with Olive Oil, so it's healthier than glossing products made with silicone. It's very expensive. But, it lasts so long that it really turns out to be quite economical. I just finished a trial sized tube, which was $9. But it lasted 4 months. And I have A LOT of hair. I purchased a new 4 oz. tube for $20. I'm sure it will last me at least six months, and probably closer to 9. All FF products are amazing, but if you only had to choose one, this would be it.

5. Aveeno Positively Smooth Shave Gel.

I've never used a shaving cream until recently, because I just didn't think it was necessary. This? Is necessary. It goes on like silk and gives an incredibly close, smooth shave. It really does inhibit hair growth so you can shave less often. I use it erm...other places...and it's the only thing that prevents terrible razor bumps.

6. Bath And Body Works Warm Vanilla Sugar and Sensual Amber everything.

I quite smoking about ten years ago. When I did, I could no longer tolerate heavy, cloying perfumes. Bye-Bye Poison and White Diamonds (Gawd, those are SO awful. Can anybody who's senses are not completely numbed by nictone tolerate them?) hello Bath and Body Works body sprays. I have to be careful, because anything too floral triggers migraines. Fruity stuff makes me a little nauseated unless it's really light. But Warm Vanilla Sugar and Sensual Amber are just the perfect amount of sweetness, tempered by a subtle spiciness. People always compliment me on how I smell when I use these two scents.

I was thrilled to discover that Wal-Mart (yes, I know they are evil) carries a line of B&BW dupes that are dead-on copies of my two favorite scents. They carry the full complement of products; bath gel, body lotion and body spray.

7. Queen Helene Mint Julep Mask and Mint Scrub

One of the reasons I like this stuff so much is because it smells like juicy fruit. Just opening up the tub makes me feel rejuvenated. But it is also a really good product for anyone with oily skin, large pores, blackheads, or all three. It shrinks pores, gets that deep down debris, and sucks up oil. It makes my entire face feel younger, fresher and tighter without feeling stripped. It does double duty as a blemish healer as well. The best part? It's like, $5 for a huge tub. It used to be that the only place I could find it was Sally Beauty Supply, but the other day I found it in (evil) Wal-Mart. I was psyched.

8. Burberry Classic Perfume

How do I love thee Burberry Classic?? Let me count the ways. This perfume is DA BOMB. It's such a light but crisp, fruity but powdery, sweet, but spicy....Aw hell. You'll just have to smell it yourself. It's one of the few perfumes I can wear without feeling like I need a gas mask. I love it.

9. Revlon Colorstay Lipstick

I'm a lipstick junkie, and I am hardcore. I probably have 100 lipsticks in my make-up drawer right now. And probably only about ten of them are in my regular rotation. Because I am very pale, I have very little pigment in my lips. For that reason, I have worn lipstick since I was old enough to start stealing it from my mother's make-up drawer. Now, after so many years, I feel weird when I don't have anything on my lips. It's like two pieces of paper rubbing together. It BUGS me. So I always have lipstick on. If I'm just hanging out at home, I have to at least wear lip balm. It's a sickness really.

Anyway...this lipstick is very light feeling, but gives a nice amount of pigment. It doesn't dry out my lips or make them feel cakey. It stays supple and it LASTS. The only drawback is that you have to use make-up remover to get it off. I buy it in every color I can conceivably wear, but I use Enldess Spice and Something Honey the most.

10. Burt's Bees Milk and Honey Lotion

In a word...YUM. This smells sooooo good. Kinda minty. Kinda sweet. Kinda fresh. And the scent is incredibly long lasting. I can wear this and not wear any perfume or body spray and smell delicious all day. It makes my skin amazingly soft and moist without greasiness. Again, people always comment about how I smell when I slather myself with this lotion.

Alright. That's my top ten. Now you know my dirty little secret. My personal shame.

But you know...I think it's people who can take comfort in little things, that are ultimately able to weather the big things. That premise was the basis for a piece called "Spiritual Lipstick" and it's still as true for me as the day I wrote it.

Yes. Parenting is stressful. Marriage (even to a great guy) is stressful. LIFE is stressful. I could drown my sorrows in meaningless sex with empty eyed strangers. I could smoke crack or get high on my kid's prescription drugs. I could eat myself into an early grave. I could court an adrenaline rush by engaging in thrill seeking behaviors. I could shop my way to happiness and put us in the poor house.

Lipstick, bubblebaths, historical novels and non-fat caramel lattes are much less destructive options I think.

Fellow product whores, enable me.

In re-reading this post in the a.m., I have decided that it is, possibly, the most inane thing I have ever written. But, it is what it is. And more importantly, it is what it isn't; to whit, a whiney post about my kid. So that's a good thing. Take it for what it's worth.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

There's No Crying In Baseball

Diminutive One got his big break last night.

The coach put him on the mound in the third inning. The score was 5 to 4 in our favor. When he took the mound, he was smiling and exuded confidence. But I knew better. As he warmed up I winced at his stiffness, the slow deliberation as he went through his warmup, the mechanical motions that should have been so fluid and effortless. He was terribly, terribly nervous.

When the inning was over, the score was 9-4 their favor. Diminutive One was absolutely destroyed. He had walked in four runs, and not struck out even one batter. Nobody expected him to, of course. It was his first time on the mound, and frankly, I was impressed that he got up there at all and that he didn't bean anyone.

The first time Pre-Pubescent one came up to bat in kid pitch, he got nailed in the ribs by a wild pitch that resulted in a bruise from armpit to hipbone. I feared his ribs might be broken, but I guess the kid who hit him wasn't any stronger than he was accurate. The first time Pre-Pubescent got on the mound, he hit three batters square in the noggin. At least he was consistent.

So really, all things considered, Diminutive One did very well. But he didn't see it that way. He compares himself to his brother, who has been pitching for five years, and older, more experienced pitchers in his own league.

The coach finally pulled him and as he left the mound, his shoulders slumped in dejection. He dragged his feet and shuffled into the dugout. He was near tears, but I knew his pride would not allow him to cry in front of his teammates. Everybody knows there's no crying in baseball.

The coaches and his teammates were amazingly kind and positive, (except for one kid, but he's the worst player on the team so I don't know where he gets off) but he didn't want to hear it. He was mired in misery and nothing could pull him from the sucking black mud of his shame.

I wanted to hug him until he felt better. But of course I couldn't. Nobody wants their MOM in the dugout, much less to have their Mom in the dugout coddling them like a baby. I started to go over and offer words of encouragement, but Husband caught my eye and shook his head. My words, no matter how well intentioned, would not be appreciated or recieved with grace. He was right. So I sat back down and worried quietly in my camp chair.

For the rest of the game, Diminutive One was inconsolable. He asked the coach if he could sit on the bench so he wouldn't mess up anymore.

Diminutive One's way of dealing with embarassment is to become irascible and surly. This is to demonstrate that he doesn't care, when in fact, he cares very much.

He was positioned at third base, but refused to field the ball. My heartbreak for him turned to anger and embarassment. I'm never embarassed or angry when my kids perfrom poorly, whatever the endeavor as long as I know they were giving it their best effort. I am and angry embarassed when they don't try. I am embarassed and angry when they sulk. I am embarassed and angry when they just give up.

He's such a complicated kid. Sometimes I just don't know what to make of him. And sometimes it's hard for me to resist the siren song of "What is wrong with him?"

You would think, after pitching poorly, that he would go out there and do his very best, wouldn't you? Wouldn't that be the reasonable thing to do? To prove that though you might have screwed up, you're still willing to give it your all and be an assett to the team??

You would think. Wouldn't you? But you would be wrong.

When he got home, he went straight to bed without showering or speaking to any of us. When I went up to tuck him in, he was turned to the wall with the covers pulled over his head. He hasn't looked small to me for some time, but he looked small then. I heard the tinny strains of music as they escaped from the ear buds poked into his ears.

I stood there, deliberating. I wanted to tell him I was proud and disappointed and confused. But his coach and Husband both had already talked to him about his behavior. Anything further would be adding insult to injury.

I leaned over and kissed the top of his head. I pulled one ear bud from his ear and said, "I'm proud of you. And I love you."

He rolled over and reached out his arms the way he had when he was small. As I hugged him, he began to sob quietly.

There's no crying in baseball. But apparently, it's okay if you're in your own bed with your Mom's arms around you.

I think that goes for Moms too. It's okay to cry if your arms are wrapped around a quietly sobbing 9 year old who smells of glove leather, ballfield dirt and Gatorade.

Thank goodness.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Wedding That Almost Wasn't

Alright, enough of the poor me, my poor learning disabled kid schtick. Quelle bummer, eh?

Today is my 14th anniversary. Sometimes, that seems impossible. It honestly seems like just yesterday that we were starting our life journey together. It seems like just yesterday that we were a young couple expecting our first baby. It seems like just yesterday that we were a young couple expecting our second baby.

The years have flown by. And though we have definitely had our ups and downs, I feel extremely lucky to have found a life partner and friend like Husband.

I've already done the "Husband rocks" thing to death, so to spare you any further treacly, nauseating rhetoric, I will tell you a story. The story of the wedding that almost wasn't.

It's a long story, so grab a cuppa something and get comfy.

I will preface this story with another story, that could, had I been of a mind to look at it that way, been an omen of what was to come. In preparation for our honeymoon we applied for passports. Husband went to renew his driver's license to make sure everything was in order. He was promptly arrested.

It seems that a former roomate of his had assumed his identity by stealing personal documents and procured a driver's license in Husband's name. Then, he had gone on a petty crime spree throughout the state. Check forgery, robbbery, theft, hit and run, fraud. At the time, the fraud division of the GBI was no great shakes, and the burden of proof was on us. We spent MONTHS trying to straighten out the mess, terrified that our passports would be held up, and our ridiculously expensive (and far beyond our means) honeymoon package would be wasted.

So there was that.

Husband and I were on a seriously tight budget. Husband's sister had, after being engaged far longer than we, decided to marry a mere three weeks after our wedding. Thus, all of the in-laws resources were sucked into the swirling vortex of need and obligation and there was nothing left to spare for us. My parents were experiencing a bit of a financial crisis at the time, and though they did what they could, even the most bare bones wedding cost far more than we could afford.

We budgeted carefully and in the end, decided to marry in a small Unitarian church that offered a wedding package we could afford, which included the services of a "wedding coordinator". Taking it down to it's most basic terms, in this instance, "wedding coordinator" would mean a chick who goes to the church and digs weddings and likes picking out pretty flowers. I think said chick was also badly in need of some meaning and direction in her life, but again, different story.

So first off...because a number of our guests were from out of state, the Bachelor party was held the night before the wedding. If you know anything, you know that this was a recipe for disaster. My father got my fiancee well and truly inebriated, so much so, that he urinated in the bedroom of my best friend and matron of honor (and her husband, who was also one of husband's groomsmen) having stumbled there in the middle of the night in a drunken stupor, thinking it was the bathroom. I know, I know...nobody was holding a gun to Husband's head and making him drink but you have to know my Dad. He's a persuasive guy.

Anyway...Husband was not in terribly good shape, even by the next evening when our wedding was being held at 7:00 pm.

One of my bridesmaids broke down on the highway on the way to the church and couldn't get anybody to stop. This was before everybody and their 8 year old had a cell phone. Why you wouldn't stop to help a woman in a coral colored evening gown and high heels is beyond me. She was frantic, thinking she was holding up the service. Little did she know.

My gown was not custom made, but because I have some weird physiological quirks, it needed quite a few alterations. Though I was a size 10 at the time, my arms were a size 18 (not really, but they might as well have been). I've always had weirdly fat arms. It's a family trait, I guess. I had been doing tricep kickbacks for months, but that only seemed to add to the problem. So the arms needed to be let out.

At 5'4" I am short, but not freakishly so. But this dress was apparently made for an Amazon, because it had to be shortened almost 6 inches, which necessitated that the entire bottom of the dress basically be reconstructed. Also, the bust and the waistline needed to be taken in as my torso really belongs on the body of someone much smaller in the caboose. And, of course, the bustle stays needed to be added.

When I picked the dress up at the seamstress's house several days before the wedding, it was draped over a series of hangers and swathed in opaque gray plastic. The seamstress told me that it had been pressed and carefully hung to prevent creasing. She said NOT TO TOUCH IT until it was time to put it on. Foolishly, I never even peeked under the plastic.

You can guess where this is going, right?

At the church, which was really, I think, a former grocery store located in a strip mall, the only place for me to dress was the Pastor's study. As I fussed over hair and make-up, my matron of honor unwrapped the dress. "Hey, I didn't know you decided to replace the roses on the back with a bow." She said this with surprise, but no great concern. I'm not really a bow type of gal. And, with a behind that would put J-Lo to shame, I'm definitely not an ass bow kinda gal.

I replied that I had not, but at that point, I was not yet concerned, merely confused. But further investigation revealed that not only was it not my dress, it was not even finsished. Raw, ragged seams dangled thread, pins poked from the hem and wrists, and yes, the beautiful silk roses that I had loved so much on the original dress had been yanked off and large, floppy bows temporarily pinned in place; one, right smack dab over what would have been the top of the wearer's butt crack. To add insult to injury, the dress was a size 20. There was simply no way I could make it work.

I was paralyzed with shock, but my mother was galvanized into action. She called the store, only to find that the seamstress, who, presumably, had my dress, had left the country for Brazil, or Argentina, or some such exotic and far flung location. She would not be back for weeks. A quick check confirmed that my dress was not at the store.

My mother told the store manager that she didn't care what she had to do, but she better get an effing dress to the effing church in an effing hour, or she would take out a full page ad in the Atlanta Journal Constitution chronicling our disaster at their hands.

It was the first and last time I ever heard my mother say the f word.

So, while I languished in the Pastor's study, clad only in my push up bra, lacy slip and pantyhose, my guests drank all the boxed wine and ate up all the lil smokies and mini quiches. There would be nothing left for after the ceremony, but that was the least of my worries at the time.

While I paced, well-meaning friends and relatives, seeking to soothe my frazzled nerves, brought me glass after glass of wine. Since I hadn't eaten that day due to nerves, it went straight to my head. And by the time the dress arrived, I was every bit as drunk as Husband had been the night before.

The dress was a store demo. It was the correct model, but it was heavily creased and begrimed. The store people had spot cleaned it hurriedly, but the sleeves and the hem were still filthy. The bodice sagged comically and it was far too long. I looked like a little girl playing dress up. But it was a dress and I was spared from having to walk down the aisle in my attractive and pricey but not altogether modest underclothes.

As we stood at the entry doors to the church, my father had an iron grip on my arm. I wobbled and swayed on my 3 inch satin heels and insisted that I had to use the bathroom. "No you don't." he said soothingly. "You just think you do." And with that, he took a deep breath, opened the doors, and proceeded to drag me down the aisle.

From there things proceeded pretty much as planned. I traded my Dad's arm for Husband's and I clung to him with what he at first presumed was amorous zeal. But he soon figured out I was completely snockered and holding on for dear life. He said nothing, but merely tightened his grip. We made quite a pair the two of us; he green to the gills and me flushed and stumbling.

We got through the ceremony just fine, but another disaster was lurking.

The cake, you see, simply never materialized. To this day, I don't know what happened. I think my mother does, but wisely, she forebore to explain right then, and she has not offered an explanation since. She simply directed the "wedding coordinator" to find me a cake, any cake, and be back within the hour. What I got, was a rectangular grocery store confection with orange icing, and the most hideously gaudy wedding topper I've ever had the misfortune to lay eyes on. But it was a cake.

When, finally, the ceremony had concluded, I let out a sigh of relief. I felt relaxed for the first time that day and I was ready to par-tay.

Until I realized that everyone was leaving. Then my blood began to boil. I didn't care if there wasn't anything left to drink but tap water and nothing left to eat but communion wafers...I had paid for a dj and people were going to DANCE, dammit.

My mother rounded up as many guests as she could before they made their escape and implored them to stay for just a little bit. We danced, and acted silly, and tried to forget all the mischance that had occurred. We were just as married, after all, and that was the important thing.

I swore that one day we would renew our vows in a lavish ceremony that I would plan down to the most minute detail and make sure that everything went off without a hitch. But as the years went by, it seemed less and less important. The wedding might have been an umitigated disaster, but the marriage most assuredly is not. So I'll count myself lucky and not spare a moment on regret for something that wouldn't have mattered anyway.

Two days later, we embarked on our honeymoon in Europe; first London, then Paris. And it was everything a girl could hope for. Romantic, exciting, sophisticated, carefree....sigh. When I look back, it is that time that I remember. Just the two of us, high on life and love and experiencing a great adventure.

Happy Anniversary honey.

I hope we have many more years and many more adventures together.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Diminutive One came home from school about 30 minutues ago. I was anxiously awaiting him, but tried to appear nonchalant. I didn't ask him how his day went, I simply greeted him and asked him what he wanted for snack.

As he munched, he looked at me thoughtfully and said, "You know. I had a pretty good day today. I think the medicine helped. I didn't get in trouble ONCE. AND...I got an A on my spelling pretest."

Maybe the medicine just gave him some confidence. Maybe, that little white pill just made him THINK he could do better. And maybe, it really did. Frankly, I don't care which is true.

I felt like crying, but I held it together. I told him how happy I was, of course, and glad that he felt like it was working.

Then he said, "Mom, I really think I am a kinisthetic learner. (he is) But maybe a little bit of auditory too. But definitely kinisthetic the most."

Now, earlier in the week at his doctor's appointment, she had suggested we have him tested for learning style. This is in the works, but insurance is balking at paying for it and the place we want to take him, a center that specializes in his type of disorders, is not cheap. So it hasn't happened yet. Though we know his learning style, these types of evaluations can often uncover one of the multitude of co-morbid conditions that are typical to ADD, such as processing disorders and mood disorders such as depression or anxiety. We discussed it in depth, but she never said the word kinisthetic.

I gaped at him and said "Where in the hell did you hear that word?"

He looked a little insulted and said, "Mom. Guidance comes to our class every Monday and talks about character and stuff. Today she talked about learning style."

He said this as if my astonishment was entirely unwarranted. But it wasn't. Because he was listening. The fact that he followed the lesson was far more astounding than his use and understanding of the word.

He settled in at the kitchen table to do his homework and I noticed, with a sort of surreal feeling, that he was sitting. Normally, he stands to do his homework. He stands and taps. Bangs. Hums. Twirls. Flaps. Flutters. I know that those self stimulating behaviors serve to keep him focused so I've been trying to quell the impulse to implore him to stop. But today I didn't have to. He was doing none of that. And his homework was done in 15 mintues with no tantrums, no protests, no tears.

Now I feel like a real putz for waiting so long.

This is my achilles heel. I overthink things. I ponder. I ruminate. I research. I pro and con it to death.

A lot of the time, this serves me well. But sometimes....sometimes it results in a child that could have started the year off on the right foot if his mother hadn't been such a pussy about a teensy weensy little pill.

This motherhood gig...what made me think I'd be good at it? Well, of course, I assumed I would have a "normal" child. I was good at the baby stuff. I know some have a really tough time with that. But I had the baby knack. I'm not sure I have the instincts necessary to guide a troubled child through life.

But then...I don't really have a choice do I? Maybe I'll pass the next test of my mothering mettle more expiditiously.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Double Edged Pill

Yesterday morning, Husband handed Diminutive One a small white pill. A perfectly harmless looking thing, really.

Diminutive One did not want to swallow it.

His reluctance had nothing to do with philosophical concerns or apprehension over side effects. He has a sensitive gag reflex and simply didn't relish the thought of throwing up, which is his usual reaction when made to swallow anything unpalatable. At nine he still requires chewable or softmelt medication.

My objections were not so simple.

The decision to medicate him was actually made some weeks ago, when it became clear that he simply cannot function in the fourth grade, despite his intelligence. There is a greatly increased workload, much of which is self-directed. He lacks the ability to keep himself on task. And, he is a disruption to the entire class. Other children are suffering because of his issues.

But I've been dragging my feet. The medication recommended for him is a powerful stimulant that carries the potential for a multitude of side effects. Some are mild, some are very frightening. It has street value.

I find myself in the position of having to decide between the lesser of two evils for my child. That's a not a good feeling. It's a very helpless and hopeless feeling.

As mothers we are indoctrinated into the belief that we must do the best for our children. But in Diminutive One's case, there is no best. There is only less bad. And that just doesn't seem good enough.

But this week was a particularly difficult week. Things came to a head and demonstrated quite clearly that Diminutive One cannot continue the way things are going.

I was in the bathroom directly above the kitchen as Husband gently, but firmly made Diminutive One practice swallowing until the little pill finally slid down. I listened, and my stomach cramped in sympathy. I felt breathless with anxiety.

What have I done to my child???

It wouldn't go away, that question.

I watched him closely all day. I felt the need to touch him often. Several times I caught him looking at me quizzically. My over attentiveness was puzzling him, but he wasn't particularly worried, I don't think.

He didn't freak out. He didn't threaten to kill himself. He didn't threaten to kill anybody else. He didn't get nauseaous or dizzy or anxious. He did get a headache, did I.

He seemed calmer, but I wondered if it was wishful thinking. I asked Husband, who tentatively admitted that he thought so too. But we both realize that one day is no indiction of how the medicine will ultimately affect him. And because he started at a relatively low dose, we kniw it's possible that we might not see any improvement at all.

We got something of an answer at 5:30, when the medication promptly and spectacularly wore off in the middle of a baseball game. He became a whirling dervish of activity. In the dugout, he was nearly manic with energy. On the field, he couldn't stay in one place and gesticulated wildly. The poor dugout Dad was at a loss for how to deal with him.

Husband and I looked at one another with understanding. So it had been working! This was good. But the fact that it wore off at 5:30 was bad. He had taken it later than he would need to take it during the week, (he gets on the bus at 7:00 am) so theoretically, it would be wearing off just about the time school let out. He would need it to last a little bit longer in order to get through homework and function during extracurriculars.

The trick is accomplishing that, without having him high as a kite at bedtime, which is a crap shoot under the best of circumstances.

So there's still work to be done. There still might be side effects. It still might be that we can't find the right balance with this medication.

And I'm still worried.

Looking back, I feel like I should have known what was wrong. He has never slept well. The first month of his life I was nearly delirous from sleep deprivation. But then we found he had severe silent reflux. He was prescribed medication and seemed better.

But he gave up napping at 18 months. No more naps, ever. It was a sad and disspiriting day. I was already bone weary.

We discovered a couple years ago that he had obstructive sleep apnea due to drastically enlarged tonsils. We blamed the sleep problems on that, but strangely it didn't improve much with their removal, though his supposed "asthmatic" episodes disappeared.

He crawled at seven months and walked at nine. He had places to go, people to see, things to do. No sitting on his sitting at all, really. As a toddler he was in constant motion. He climbed everything. I couldn't take my eyes off of him for one second. Ever.

Due to the reflux, he has some scarring in his lungs from aspirating stomach acid. This makes him very prone to pneumonia. The first time he was given Albuterol both of us nearly lost our minds. Normal kids get a little wired from inhaled steriods, Diminutive One went completely insane. Certain brands of cough syrup do that to him as well, and certain food dyes and sugar. Corn Syrup is like crack to him.

Everybody said he was just "energetic" and "all boy". But I knew. I knew there was something WRONG. But I let them persuade me, because nobody wants to admit that their child has a serious, debilitating condition. I let them persuade me until I couldn't be persuaded any more. Everybody was wrong.

And now here I my child powerful mood altering drugs, hoping it's the right thing to do.


This a whole lot harder than deciding what brand of diapers to use. It makes issues like breastfeeding and crying it out seem petty and inconsequential by comparison.

He asked me, yesterday, if this medicine would make him smart. And oh how I wanted to say yes.

I told him he was already smart, but the medicine would help him use his smart better.

I hope to God I was right.


On a more gratifying note:

I'd like to thank Sandy G, Momish and Slackermommy for graciously bestowing me with awards this week. I am late acknowledging their kindness, and I apologize!!

I promise to spread the love when I have an opportunity to properly reflect upon it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Best Medicine

It's been a rough week.

Lots of heavy stuff...the death of a friend, the decision to medicate my youngest son, work concerns for Husband, and the persistent ache of missing my family.

I need to laugh.

If you can watch the following and not laugh...well, I'd venture to say your week has been a whole lot rougher than mine.

Diminutive One heard the giggles and came to watch. He grinned.

"Is it really that fun to have a baby?" he asked.

"Yes. It really is."

I squeezed him, remembering. From the very first chortle, his laugh has been infectious. I used to tickle him just for the sheer joy of hearing it spill out of him.

Babies are good.

And I feel better. You?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Beating Cancer

My friend has died.

Jim was sick for a little over a year, but still his death was shocking and seemed far too swift. Even after he made the decision to stop the treatment, the reality of his death seemed like a distant thing. A future thing. Something to think about later.

Of course, for him, I'm sure it was anything but swift. And neither he nor Kate had the luxury of thinking about it later. They had to think about it every second of every minute of every day. They have two small children who need to be provided for, and for their sake, Jim and Kate had to plan for a life without Jim. Such a thing is almost beyond my comprehension.

He died Monday, in his sleep, peacefully, his beloved Kate by his side. Thank God for that. He deserved a dignified and noble death, and if cancer didn't grant him that, at least it let him go without exacting an extra pound of flesh. Jim was not afraid and he was not beaten. He was done letting cancer have it's way with him, and he left this world behind on his own terms.

I am so very saddened by the loss of him, though we haven't seen them for some time.

When I first met Jim, he was so quiet that I wondered if maybe he had problems with social interaction. But I soon learned that it was just Jim's way. And I soon learned that his diffidence hid a keen intelligence and a very ribald sense of humor. For a long time, he simply listened quietly to the general chatter and then, during a lull in the conversation, he broke his silence and said something so incredibly clever and funny that I was taken aback. I hadn't thought he was a dullard, exactly, but I never expected such wit from someone so reserved.

We used to play the game Tabboo, and Jim's definitions were always the best. He always won, partially owing to the fact that he could keep a completely straight face when his definition was being read. It was quite a blow to my ego, as I had previously been the reigning champion. But I couldn't be too disgruntled. Jim was a gracious winner.

When Jim and Kate asked me to be their doula for the birth of their first child, I was truly touched by their faith in me. I was just starting out, and in fact, Rachel's birth was only my third. I almost missed it, because the early stages of Kate's labor went by mostly unnoticed by her. I know, it's terribly unfair, isn't it??

When I arrived at the hospital after a 40 minute drive, through much of which I was mostly asleep, I had to fight my way past a formidable black nurse who crossed her massive forearms and stated, "You can't come in, there's a woman giving birth in here."

"I know that!" I snapped at her. "I'm the doula. I'm supposed to be in there!"

Jim called out something from Kate's bedside and the unsmiling woman grudgingly stepped aside.

Kate was lying on her side, curled into the fetal position. Jim crouched at her side, gripping her hand. He glanced at me briefly, and then his eyes returned to Kate. They never left her again. Because of the precipitous nature of her labor, an epidural could not be administered. She would be giving birth without any pain relief.

"I can't do it Lambchop! I can't!" she cried.

His voice was calm and steady when he answered her. "Yes you can. We'll do it together. You can do it."

And because his strength was her strength, she did.

After a cuddle with Kate, Rachel was taken to the warming station to be bathed and such. I assured Jim that Kate would be just fine and he reluctantly left her side to be with Rachel. The nurse, after completing all the customary procedures, handed Jim the tiny pink bundle.

Jim was a swarthy guy. If it hadn't been for the twinkle in his eyes and his incandescent grin, he could have easily looked menacing. But he also looked strong and full of life. When he held her, skin all roses and cream against his darkness, his youth and vigor was magnified. He looked invinceable. And he looked utterly besotted with his daughter.

Once, at a cook-out, when Rachel was just starting to walk, I was playing with her, holding her hands as she plodded plumply in that stiff and awkward baby way. I glanced up and saw Jim's gaze upon us, upon her, really. He wore the experssion of one who is utterly entranced and enamored.

They moved away two years ago, and we have kept in touch. But circumstances have not allowed us to see them since then. Husband and I have not had to witness the wasting of his body, or see the ravages cancer has perpetrated on his soul. For us, it has maybe been easier.

Because we, I, can remember him in moments like those that he gazed upon his firstborn child. Ungaurded and unabshedly in love. Vibrant. Alive.

Jim was a wonderful man in so many ways, but above all, he was a loving and devoted father and husband.

I don't mourn for Jim, really. He is free now, and I know his spirit is smiling. I mourn for those left behind to deal with the loss of him. I mourn for Kate and the children. I try to imagine myself in Kate's shoes, and the only thing I can imagine is feeling lost. But she has been so strong. She, this time, has been the strength.

Just as with birth, together they faced down death. Together, they said SCREW YOU CANCER.

Jim, it was an honor to know you. Godspeed, to wherever your soul finds peace.

Kate, all of our love to you and Rachel and Jake. You have been an inspiration and an example to all of us. If ever, God forbid, I should find myself in a similar situation, I hope I will handle it with as much grace and courage as you have shown.

Jim has beaten the cancer. Forever.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Boobs Demystified

Once, the issue of breastfeeding meant a great deal to me.

I breastfed both of my boys and when I was a practicing doula, I advocated strongly for it. I tried to encourage my clients as much as I could, without becoming an overbearing zealot. Someitmes, it's a fine line to walk, especially when a woman is experiencing difficulties.

Now that breastfeeding is no longer a part of my life, I don't give it much thought. When I do, I can't really seem to muster as much passion for the issue as I once had. On one hand, this feels a little shameful. On the other hand, I think it's tempered the judgements and assumptions I might have once made with the kind of pragmatism born of hindsight.

So, there's this hullaballoo afoot, apparently; instigated by the always thought provoking Bill Maher, and a call to action. I'm a little slow on the uptake since my breasts have been retired from active duty for the better part of 8 years. But I think I can effectively rebut anything that has to be said on this issue, particularly if it is said by someone who is glaringly ignorant of the health benefits of breastfeeding, as well as it's importance in creating a strong and loving bond between mother and child.

Don't get me wrong. While I'm not a big Bill Maher fan in general, I like that he doesn't give a flip about public opinion, political correctness or the hyper sensitivity with which we seem to be collectively gripped these days.

But when it comes to this issue, I'm afraid he has ignited a firestorm that he is ill-equipped to extinguish. I'm not going to address his remarks point by point, because first, they were made with the express intent of generating controversy and inciting outrage. It's what he does and it should come as no surprise to anybody. And second, because he's a putz.

What I do want to address is a possible solution to this problem.

We need to demystify boobs.

In no other country are boobs so coveted, worshipped, lauded and adored as they are in the United States. In no other country are they treated with such reverence or such disdain. In no other country are people so shocked and outraged when they are put on display. And in no other country does their appearance cause so much adolescent sniggering or moral grandstanding.

Why? Because we have elevated breasts to near mythical status by deeming them lewd incitements to lust and fornication and covering them with all manner of clothing and contrivances.

I will not say that breasts are ONLY for feeding children. Anybody who does assert such a thing is sadly and inexcusably ignorant of the sexually inflammatory response they elicit on the part of other human beings; beings who are, intrinsically, sexual.

But perhaps this is one of those chicken and egg mysteries which can never be really solved. Did man, finding it wholly tantalizing and visually pleasing, sexualize the breast, thereby making it an object of intense desire? Or, did errant desire take a functional appendage and turn it into an icon of sexual titillation and desirability?

Whichever the case, the result remains the same. People like breasts. I like breasts. Although I am not sexually stimulated by breasts, I do find them very beautiful. But people are also shocked and dismayed by breasts, because they are sexual objects and as such, tabboo.

Recently, I was persuaded against my better judgement to let my boys watch a movie that I had deemed inappropriate for them. The main reason for my objection was the violence, but adding to my concerns was the nudity. I won't go into why I changed my mind, but as we watched, I found that while I could endure them watching the violence(albeit with no small amount of discomfort) during the moments of brief nudity, I felt horribly compelled to shield their eyes, fast forward...whatever, just do something to keep them from seeing the female breast laid bare.

I was shocked and disconcerted to find that the nudity bothered me much more than the violence. That is is how effectively we have been schooled to view the female breast as an obscenity. That is the depth to which the female breast has been villified, objectified, and sexualized.

So here's what I think:

We need to immerse ourselves in boobs. We need to see them on topless beaches. We need to see them plastered on billboards, taxicabs and busses. We need to see them on television, in magazines and on shining silver screens.

And we very much need to see mothers breastfeeding in public.

Only then will we ceased to be discomfitted by them. Only then will they cease to inspire shame and loathing, both in the wanting and in the posessing. Only then will people stop going to such great and sometimes violent lengths to avail themselves of them.

And only then will gentlemen like Bill Maher cease to titter like schoolboys behind one hand while shielding a surreptitious erection with the other when confronted by the sight of a mother feeding her child.

But then, I'm sure he can't help it. His masturbation analogy alone illustrates a certain sense of disgust and self-loathing when it comes to his baser instincts. And perhaps it is only through the forbidden, the shameful and the tabboo that he can be roused to sexual potency. To be sure, its a construct that we Americans have created and perpetuated with with our Victorian sensibilities and our Puritanical ideology.

Think of it this way...a century ago, it was considered unspeakably lewd to bare ankles or ears. They were, like the breast, verbotten due to their inherent eroticism. Now, we go about with them on display without giving it a second thought.

But...when was the last time you encountered an ear or ankle fetishist? Even among the plethora of sexual content on the internet geared toward every deviant taste you won't find a single porn site dedicated to ears or ankles. Not one.

Embrace your sexuality Bill. It's a good thing. Boobs? Are a good thing. And hey...I won't breastfeed in your bedroom if you don't ejaculate in my Applebee's. MMMKay?

Because the last time I checked, Applebees was an eating establishment. And a nursing bayb is most assuredly, eating. And breastmilk is most assuredly, food. A steady diet of breastmilk will yield a strog, healthy well nourished infant.

A steady diet of male ejaculate is unlikely to yield anything other than a whopping case of indigestion.

The analogy, like the argument, is ill-conceived and inept. And the exhortation that there is no deeper principle at work other than a failure to plan ahead is the worst kind of ignorance.

I'm not sure which bothers me more.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Dear Mom and Dad,

I remember my first bike. It was red instead of metallic blue and it had a triangular black seat instead of a sparkly banana seat. I was not grateful.

I remember the year I had to have clogs because absolutely everbybody was wearing them. Instead of the real leather kind with the wooden soles and the braid up the front, you bought me a pair of beige imitation leather ones with faux woodgrain soles. I was not grateful.

I remember the year that I asked for a vest for my birthday. I wanted one that was real down with rainbow stripes. The one I got was fiber fill and it was baby blue. I was not grateful.

I remember those fashion boots I pined for. They were leather, of course, and laced up to the knee. They were to die for. I could almost smell them and hear the creak as I walked. The ones I got were real leather, but they zipped, and there was a flaw. I was not grateful.

I remember thinking that I would die if I didn't get a pair of R.D. Simpson's and a poet blouse. I got some toughskins with a heart embroidered on the pocket, and a knit batwing top with rainbow colored heart balloons all over it. It was cute, but it was wrong. I was not grateful.

I remember how we clamored for Intellivision or Colecovision. What we got was a Sears game console with generic versions of all the really popular games. We were not grateful.

I remember the class ring that I so carefully selected. It was real gold and was set with my birthstone and inscribed with my initials. The one I got was imitation gold with no birthstone. It turned black after a couple of years. I was not grateful.

I remember all the oversized blouses that you sewed for sister and me when we were in high school. They were beautiful, and far better than anything I could buy in a store. Our friends were all envious. But they lacked a designer label. So I was not grateful.

I was not grateful for goulash, or powdered milk, or generic peanut butter. I was not grateful for a warm winter coat and boots from Shopko. I was not grateful for our home, with the shabby carpet and cracked plaster. I was not grateful for your jobs, which were not glamorous or sophisticated.

What a shit I was.

I am raising my own children now. I understand what it is to choose between needs and wants; sometimes to choose between between needs and needs. I know what it is to wish with all your heart that you could buy your child that special thing. I know what it is to realize you can't. I know what it is to convince yourself it doesn't matter, that they will be better for not having everything their heart desires. And I think back to all those things I wanted....

I realize now, how you must have struggled. I realize now, that you tried so very, very hard to give me (us) the things we thought would make our lives happier.

I realize now, that I had the thing that maybe some of my friends would have traded their designer clothes and their fancy toys for.

I had love. I had a stable home life. I had two strong, positive role models who taught me about honesty, integrity, and the value of a job well done. I had parents who loved and respected one another. I had the bone deep certainty that you would always be there if I needed you.

And I am so so very, very grateful.

I'm sorry it took me thirty years.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Because Sometimes, You Just Have To

I like sports. I like watching my boys play sports. I think sports are good for kids, especially if you have one who has a tendency towards chubiness like Diminutive One. Keeping kids active is important. Teaching the values that come with team sports is important.

But somtimes, those lessons are difficult to learn.

As I mentioned in a recent post, Fall Ball has started. Both boys have moved up to a new league, and for Diminutive One especially, the transition has been somewhat difficult. Because of a late birthday, he stayed in the lower league longer than he really needed to. He was one of the oldest as well as one of the most accomplished players. He got used to that.

Now, he is once again the youngest, and his skills can't compare with those who have been playing in this league for several seasons. That's a little disheartening after being Top Dog for so long. But he's not alone. All the kids that have moved up are in the same boat.

It used to be that he knew everyone, regardless of who happened to get on his team. Not so in the new league. So he's been trying to make friends. Socialization is hard for Diminutive One under the best of circumstances, so I was really proud to see him making an effort to get to know his new teammates at one of the recent practices.

As I witnessed the following scene, however, my pride quickly turned to white hot rage.

Diminutive One: "Hey. What's your name?"

Cocky Little Snot: "None of your business."

Diminutive One: "Well, what grade are you in?"

Cocky Little Snot: "None of your business."

There wasa a pregnant pause as Diminutive One was temporarily stymied. Honestly, I don't think he's ever encountered such purposeful maliciousness.

Cocky Little Snot: "How old are you anyway?"

Dimiutive One: "Nine. I'm in 4th grade."

Cocky Little Snot: "I only talk to 10 year olds."

Diminutive One: "You were talking to Nick."

Cocky Little Snot: "Well. He's cool."

There was another pause as Diminutive One tried to process the kid's hostility.

Cocky Little Snot: "What kind of bat is that? Where'd you get that thing, Wal-Mart? What a piece of crap."

Diminutive One shrugged. It's a hand me down from his brother. He has no idea where it came from, nor does he care. A bat is a bat, as far as he is concerned.

Cocky Little Snot: "I bet I have the most expensive bat in the whole league."

Diminutive One shrugged again. He doesn't know and again, he doesn't care. And he decided that the kid is not worth his time or effort.

He seemed relatively nonplussed about the whole incident. Part of his difficulty with social interaction is that he really doesn't concern himself with others' wants, needs, or opinions.

But I...I was seething.

I thought about butting in and cutting that kid to ribbons with a few well chosen words. I thought about how I could wound him to the core without really even trying. I thought about a look of crestfallen shock on his smug little face. I relished the thought for a moment.

But I didn't do any of that, of course. What I did, is call husband, who, due to work issues, was stuck at the office.

Me: "Hey..umm...we're going to be a little late getting home."

Husband: "Okay. How come?"

Me: "I'm going to buy Diminutive One a new bat."

Now...we try very hard to teach our kids that material things are not important. They have far more than I ever did as a kid, but they don't have nearly as much as many of their peers. And when they ask why they can't have a certain thing, we try to be frank about our financial situation, the decisions we've made to keep me at home, and how we find other things more important than stuff, such as family time, a less stressful lifestyle, and pride in ourselves rather than our belongings.

I know that buying Diminutive One a new bat is the wrong thing to do. I should talk to him about being the bigger person and turning the other cheek and all that pacifist bullshit. But I don't care.

From my childhood I know what it means to never be the kid with the latest coolest thing. Just this once, I want him to the cool kid.

If I am honest though...that bat is not for Diminutive One. It's for me. Because I can't buy him a cure for his learning disability, and I can't buy him an education tailored to his needs at a fancy private school, and I can't buy him the ability to make friends with ease. I can't bankroll his happiness though I sure as hell would if I could.

But by God...I can buy him a damn cool bat.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Beautiful Liar

Beware, I am about to gush about my husband. I know. Gag me.

Most of you guys know that I am ridiculously lucky when it comes to my spouse. And I don't talk about him much, other than in passing, because the thing about having a good husband is....nobody really wants to hear how good your husband is, especially if their husband is a real shitheel.

It's kind of like someone else saying to me, "I try and try and I just can't put on any weight!"

If not an outright invitation to get bitch slapped, at the very least, it smacks of bragging.

I also don't complain about him because most of the women in my life to whom I could complain have very little sympathy when Husband does do something....husband like. Many of them would gladly take him off my hands. Women just like Husband. They always have.

Anyway, last night we had an experience that just typifies why my Husband rocks and I thought I would share it with you all, because I'm generous that way and because nobody in my real life wants to hear about it.

I've had a migraine for several days, and I've been fairly miserable because I have a thing about taking drugs. The thing is, I don't. They freak me out. But last night was the first and only night out of the entire week that we had at home together as a family and I was determined that we would have a nice meal together.

Having lived on hastily gulped sandwiches and/or fast food for far too many days to count, I was looking forward to eating a meal that required silverware.

I seared the roast well on both sides, carmelizing the onions and creating a rich broth. Then I put it to slow cook in the covered electric skillet. I added carrots and potatoes a while later. I made a nice caesar salad. Everything was going well.

But if you suffer from migraines you know that it's sometimes difficult to perform every day tasks because you just aren't thinking straight.

My last step was to make gravy. I'm pretty good at gravy if I do say so myself. But I could not find the new box of cornstarch I had recently purchased. I was annoyed, but it was no big crisis. I can make gravy with flour if need be. I just strain out the lumps and nobody is the wiser.

I did find a small bit of cornstarch in a Pampered Chef shaker/sifter thingy that I use to add flour and/or cornstarch to recipes. It was about half full and I thought that miiiiiiiight be enough. It wasn't. I added it to my drippings only to find that, oddly, it did not thicken the mixture at all.

So I reached for the flour, stirred it into some hot water and then added it to the skillet. I watched with gratification as it thickened into a sumptuous brown gravy. There were a few lumps, but I strained them out and the gravy looked almost good enough to photograph.

I called everyone to the table, brimming with domestic pride at the meal I had prepared for my hungry family. All I needed was a day dress, an apron and a towering bouffant.

Husband fixed a plate for each of the boys, without gravy. Amazingly enough, they have not inherited our love of artery clogging ambrosia.

Then each of us piled our plate high and poured gravy liberally over the meat and potatoes. The smell wafting up from my plate was delicious, migraine notwithstanding. I inhaled appreciatively and husband did the same.

As it happened, I took the first bite.

At first, my mouth was so shocked that it just couldn't process the unexpected taste. Instead of the savory, salty, meaty encountered a confusing sweetness. It didn't entirely compute.

I stopped mid-chew and sat there for a moment, confounded.

Then I remembered and snorted. I giggled. The giggle gave way to a guffaw. I was well and truly amused but also annoyed with myself.

Husband asked what was so funny. I told him to take a bite and he did so, never expecting the truly startling combination of animal by product and confectioner's sugar.

You see...several weeks ago Husband made brownies for the kids. Apparently, someone, and I'm honestly not sure which one of us it was...used my shaker/sifter thingy to dust the brownies with a uniform layer of powdered sugar. Instead of discarding the powdered sugar or better yet, putting it back in the package from whence it came, someone left it in the shaker/sifter thingy, where, weeks later, it would be found and mistaken, quite reasonably, I might add, for cornstarch.

Seriously. Put powdered sugar and cornstarch side by side and try to tell them apart. Okay, okay. But NOW pretend you have a migraine the size of Detroit and that your vision is peppered with lovely but inconvenient amorphous blobs. Then pretend that you are breathing out of your mouth because when you have a migraine, random smells can render you immediately and violently ill.

See what I mean?

I should have been tipped off by the fact that the "cornstarch" completely dissolved when I added water, instead of making a nice milky looking gravy base as cornstarch does. And I should have been tipped off when it didn't thicken the drippings even a little.

But you know...the migraine...she makes me stupid.

So I suggested that we scrape our plates into the garbage and start over. But Husband wouldn't hear of it. He ate every bite with gusto. He proclaimed loudly and enthusiastically that it was the BEST gravy he ever had, hands down.

"Wolfgang Puck would never do something that innovative with gravy."

And that, ladies. Is why my husband rocks.

Jealous much?

Chicken Soup for the Grandaughter's Soul

I'b sick.

It happens every year. The kids go back to school and bring back germs. They get a little sniffle sniffle, a little koff koff. I get the head cold from hell with a full complement of symptoms. If you're like me, nothing is more comforting than a mug of steaming hot chicken soup when you're under the weather.

But not just any chicken soup. No sir. No reconsituted quivering chicken flavored goo from a can will suffice.

When I'm sick I want chicken soup made from my grandmother's age old family recipe. "Dane Soup" they call it, though I don't know why. We have a smattering of Danish heritage, but we are mostly of German descent. My Great Grandmother's name was Willhelmena Ernestina Steinberg, (Steenberg, not Stineberg) and it doesn't get much more German than that. My Grandmother, Rena, married my grandfather, Edwin Schroeder (ShrAY-der, not ShrOH-der).

The combination of their genetic Teotonism created four children who could have been poster children for the Aryan race. So the name has nothing to do with lineage, nor do the Danish hold a patent on chicken least not to my knowledge.

It's a true mystery.

This soup is a badge of honor in our family. It's difficult to make becuase one must do more than just follow a recipe. The ingredients are fairly simple, the combination unremarkable. But for the dumplings to come out right...firm but springy, light but substantial, doughy but not has to have a certain sense of when the batter is right. It must be thicker than pancake batter, but not as thick as drop biscuit dough. It must be elastic but not sticky. It must sliiiide off the spoon, clinging, stretching, until the filament breaks and springs back. It not only has to look right, but it has to feel right when it slips into the bubbling broth. It must sink quickly and then bob to the surface where it will be steamed into plump and tender perfection.

Once, I used self-rising flour in ignorance. When I expectantly lifted the lid off the pot, I was stunned to see that the dough had absorbed all the liquid and swollen into one giant dumpling with bits of chicken, celery and carrot protruding from it's craterous surface. Another time, I forgot to add the melted butter and the dumplings crumbled into the soup leaving bits and pieces of gluey debris floating in the rich yellow broth. Once, for no particular reason that I could think of, the dumplings sank to the bottom of the pot and stayed there, where they became, tough, warty little clods.

But I've got it now. My dumplings are perfect and that means that I have passed the test. I'll always be remembered in the family as one who got the dumplings right. But it means more than that to me. It means a sense of connection to a grandmother I never knew. Every time I make this soup, I think of her and I miss her. She died when I was an infant of a myseterious heart malady. When asked, the simply country doctor said "Well, she had an enlarged heart. But she needed a big heart. She was a big lady."

A cousin of mine, who was 13 at the time, told me just recently that it was the worst day of her life. Because according to everyone who was lucky enough to know her, Rena Mary Schroeder was the quintessential cookie baking, doll clothes sewing, apron, glove and girdle wearing, in your face with hugs and kisses Grandma.

My mom often tells me how proud Grandma was of me. My mother was born late in my grandparents' lives, although these days, 35 isn't "late" at all. But her closest sibling was already 17, so by the time I was born, most of the grandkids were teenagers, and there had been no babies for quite some time. I had a full head of black hair, and my mother would tell me smilingly how Grandma had to take off my bonnet and show everyone my mop of plentiful jet black hair.

The other cousins had all been fair and bald (that Teutonic blood again) until the advanced age of three...and Grandma delighted in the novelty of a hirsute baby. She knitted me sweaters and booties and bonnets, she sewed me dresses, she combed my hair into fantastic creations secured with bows and ribbons and pink plastic barrettes. She showered me with love and attention and then, quite unfairly, she died abruptly at 59 with no warning and no word of good-bye.

Then, I didn't realize what a loss her death was, but years later as a young girl, with only one remaining Grandma, who was enjoying her freedom after years of raising three boys to adulthood on her own and wasn't particularly interested in baking cookies or sewing doll clothes...I felt monumentally cheated.

Every Christmas and every birthday I missed her. When people spoke of her, I was jealous and I was angry. Why hadn't she gone to the doctor? Why hadn't she taken better care of her health? Didn't she care about being there for her last three grandchildren?? And then just as quickly, I would feel contrition and sorrow. Of course she hadn't wanted to die. She hadn't meant to leave us without a grandmother. Like all of us, she just never thought that death would claim her so soon or so suddenly.

Not long ago, while cleaning out my Aunt's basement in preparation for their move to a retirement community, my mother came accross several old reels of 8mm home movies. She brought them home and showed them to me on my last visit. I had seen many photos of my grandmother of course, but its hard to divine someone's essence from a motionless black and white photo.

As I watched the grainy flickering image on my parents' living room wall, she emerged form the screen door of a white farnhouse. Startled and embarassed by the camera, she smiled. That smile took my breath away. She was so beautiful, but it was more than that. It was proof that she actually lived and breathed and existed somewhere other than my imagination. She patted her hair and then waved her hand as if to indicate that the camerman should not waste any more precious film on her. As she walked away, I was struck by a sense of overwhelming familiarity. I knew that gait, I knew the shape of her body. But how? Was it an actual memory, or just the desperate need to identify with her somehow?

Just then my sister breezed in, and once again my breath was snatched from my chest. I had always wondered where my sister got her beautifully aquiline nose and her sweeetly shaped lips. But it was more than shared features. It was the sway of her hips, the curve of her bosom, the spring in her step. They were so similar that it gave me goosebumps. And now I have something other than a crumpled photograph or a grainy home movie. She is more than just a hazy, amorphous grandmother ideal. She was real and she lives on in my sister, and all of us really. Nearly 40 years after her death she is always a topic of conversation at family gatherings. She is spoken of as if she was here only yesterday.

So I stir my soup, and I think of my Grandma. The comfort is not in the soup itself, but in the history of its making. I feel close to her and I like to think she would have been proud. I did it Grandma. I made the soup.

If I'd had a girl child, she would have been named Rena. I would tell her all about the woman she was named after, and I would have taught her to make Dane Soup.

Originally posted 09/07/06. Reposted because first my computer and now I, am once again, sick.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Gift to Myself

Last week, I reposted my story "A Blessed Thing". It was a true story. But what I wrote does not illustrate the full scope of the poverty in which Miss Jimmy lived.

Labor Day weekend we visited the in-laws in SmallSouthernTown and with the story still fresh on my mind, I asked my father-in-law to tell me more about how he met her and how their relationship developed. I was astonished to learn that he had been taking care of her in some form or fashion for nearly forty years.

They met at the grocery store where FIL had his first job as a butcher. She would walk from her home (the same one in which she died) to the store every week to get her meagre supply of groceries. It wasn't long before the frugality of her purchases prompted FIL to realize that she was in dire straits. He began saving cuts of meat, chicken thighs and legs and assorted pork parts for her.

Store policy would not allow anything in the meat case that was over a day old, so anything that was left over the following day was either thrown out or taken home by employees. FIL would bring out the purloined meat and give it to Miss Jimmy, exhorting her to take it lest it be wasted.

After a while, he started squirreling away dented canned goods and expired boxed goods, knowing that they were still perfectly edible. He couldn't stand to see the waste while Miss Jimmy went hungry. Sometimes he purchased sale and clearance items in bulk for her. She wouldn't have accepted them if she knew he had paid for them, so he convinced her that they had been destined for the dumpster.

That went on for many years. FIL grew very fond of Miss Jimmy, and she him.

One day she stopped coming to the store. FIL became terribly worried. He had never known her last name and he didn't know where she lived. But, as in most small towns, there is an internal grapevine for divining those sorts of things. Eventually FIL found out that Miss Jimmy had been stricken with diabetes and was so ill that she could no longer make the long journey on foot to the grocery store.

He grilled the townspeople that came into the store until he encountered someone who could direct him to Miss Jimmy's house. The next day he made his first grocery delivery to her door.

FIL had known that Miss Jimmy was poor, but that was the first time he realized just how poor. Her home was in terrible condition. The porch and the roof sagged with age and rot, the doorframes were warped and the windows were covered over with cardboard where panes had been broken and never replaced. The paint peeled away in chunks, leaving great expanses of gray and weathered wood exposed to the elements.

A lone window at the side of the house sported lace curtains, and a warm glow shone from it. It was the single room in which she was living, unable to afford to heat the rest of the damp and drafty house. Even that one room was piercingly cold. She was using a kerosene heater, but in an effort to conserve the precious fuel, she kept it just barely warm enough to survive. FIL added kerosene to his weekly list of supplies for Miss Jimmy and told her to turn it up until it was warm as toast in her shabby little room.

As the years went by, FIL and MIL provided Miss Jimmy with a multitude of other items such as an electric blankets and warm clothing. But it was tricky business taking care of someone with such a fierce sense of pride and independance. They had to contrive all kinds of stories to convince Miss Jimmy that she was not the recipient of a charitable act, but in fact, doing them a favor by taking the items off of their hands.

Miss Jimmy died in 1995.

With the holiday season, FIL had been terribly, terribly busy, (in addition to working as a butcher, he had a Wild Game Processing Business out of his home) and had been unable to get over to see Miss Jimmy for a couple weeks. She died alone, her teeth frozen in a glass beside her bed.

It ate FIL alive.

Which brings me to the point of my post. It is absolutely shameful that people in our country are living in such poverty. That they are alone. Cold. Scared.

I mentioned a while back that I was going to volunteer for the homeless, but it has become a logistical nightmare for reasons too numerous to go into. Suffice it to say that I have been monumentally disheartened by that.

However, I have come accross a new opportunity through the Community Outreach program at the Elementary school, (I know, I said I was done with PTA, but this is worth putting up with all the petty crap) where I can bring food to people just like Miss Jimmy. But it's more than just food. It's a friendly face on a lonely day. It's a human voice, a warm touch. Someone to listen to their stories. Someone to smooth a blanket over their lap or brew a cup of tea. Someone to fuss and care.

If you have some time...even as little as an hour every week...consider volunteering for a program like this in your area. There are so many people out there cold and alone and there doesn't need to be.

Miss Jimmy touched me in a way that I can scarcely do justice with words. If doing this leads me to others like her, then it will be I who receives the greatest gift.

It's a gift we can all give ourselves.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Piss and Moan, Piss and Moan

Baseball, Georgia heat (Are you kidding me? 95 degrees in September?) and Competitdads do not make for an enjoyable Saturday afternoon. Don't get me wrong...normally I really enjoy watching my boys play ball. But sometimes, other parents and coaches who are more interested in winning than teaching, can make it a real downer.

The league my boys play in has two seasons: Fall and Spring. Spring is the competitive season. There is a tournament, team rankings, player stats...the works. It is generally expected that Spring ball is played to win. And if you have a child that is not at a high skill level, you expect that your child will most likely be playing in the outfield a good portion of the time. If you choose to have your kids play Spring ball, you accept this and you teach your kids to accept it.

But Fall ball is about instruction. There is no tournament and teams are not officially ranked. It is generally expected that kids will be drilled in the basics and also get an opportunity to work on skills and play positions that they would not get to play in Spring ball.

And yet, some Coaches and some Dads insist on treating Fall ball, like Spring ball.

In the Spring, Husband coached Diminutive One's team. That combined with the fact that Diminutive One was the oldest on the team, having been in that league for three years due to a late birthday, made him one of the more competent players. He got lots of field time. But even in Spring, Husband made sure that all the kids got a chance to play infield at some point. Our team didn't have the greatest record...we were about 50/50. But every kid came away from the season feeling that they had contributed to the team.

Diminutive One finally moved to the next league this Fall. It is his very first season in kid pitch. It's the first season in kid pitch for a lot of kids. So it's an important season in terms of instruction and acclimation.

This is when the kids start learning to pitch. Diminutive One is really excited because his brother has been pitching since he was 8 or so. He idolizes his brother and so, wants to emulate him. He has some rudimentary skills from watching and playing with his brother, but he has had no formal instruction. Husband is pretty baseball savvy, but has not felt knowledgeable enough to teach anything beyong the very basics of pitching.

Some kids, having never faced a pitcher their own age before, and wary (rightfully so) of wild pitches, step out of the batter's box every single time. Some kids swing at picthes that are nowhere near the strike zone. Some kids don't swing at all.

There are new rules as well. Stealing bases is allowed now. Some kids steal indiscriminately. Some kids, even when told to run, won't, for fear of getting picked off. Some kids will run but can't stop watching the ball.

So there's a lot of new stuff. Which is why INSTRUCTION in Fall ball is really, really, really, really, really important for kids moving into a new league.

Husband is having work issues and didn't feel he could give a team the time and attention they need this season. It always makes me apprehensive when he doesn't coach, because we're at the mercy of chance when it comes to whom we actually get as Coach. We've had some doozies.

Husband was initially very optimistic about this new Coach, because it's clear he has a lot of experience and knowledge. Unfortunately, he also has a skewed perception of what Fall ball is for and a very healthy appreciation for the merits of nepotism. It was very clear to me from the very first practice, that there were certain kids that were going to get all his attention. His own kid of course, and those who had played Allstar ball over the summer.

Diminutive One played outfield the entire game, even though he is a good catcher, has a strong arm, an accurate throw, and knows how to field a ball properly. And the Coach's son pitched almost the entire game, despite walking batter after batter. I don't think Diminutive One has a snowball's chance in hell of getting near the pitcher's mound.

So I'm feeling kind of pissy about all of that. Husband has already talked to the Coach about it, and he will persist, if he feels that Diminutive One or any other kid for that matter, gets shortchanged. But I'm annoyed that it's even an issue. It shouldn't be.

On the other hand, life is not fair, and it's a disservice to our kids, I suppose, to cultivate that expectation.

But it still pisses me off.

We've been baseball parents for a long, long time. Both boys started at five, and Pre-Pubescent One has played quite a few summers of Allstar ball. We've seen the good, the bag, and ugly. I know that you have to accept the bad and the ugly when your kids play team sports.

I do think team Sports are an important part of character development for kids. So we press on. Some years are good, some years are bad. But, luckily, it never seems to affect their love of the game. I guess that most of the time, it bothers me more than it bothers them. Which is a good thing.

I sure hope there's a Major League Contract in the cards for one of them.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Sometimes, There Isn't a Band-Aid Big Enough

When you have a child with issues, the beginning of every school year is cause for stomache clenching uncertainty. A good teacher can mean a world of difference to any child, but to a child with a learning disability, it can mean the difference between misery and triumph.

Last year, Diminutive One's teacher was completely uninterested in helping me help him. It was frustrating and demoralizing for both of us. The years that he has had good teachers, he has absolutely soared. He liked himself. He believed in himself as a smart kid. But the bad ones have set him back so far it's sometimes hard not to feel a cold hard surge of anger at their careless dismissal of him.

This year, I am enormously encouraged. His teacher has been patient, constructive, and eager to assist in making the classroom environment work for him. of all, she believes in creative teaching. I could have wallpapered my whole house with the worksheets Diminutive One did last year. He was bored silly. He shut down. And then, because he made no progress, he once again began to think he was stupid. And the hell of it is...he is so not stupid. a meeting the other day, she asked for volunteers to fulfill various roles in the classroom. One of which was "Creative Curriculum Parent". Can you guess who was holding her hand in the air, supported at the elbow by the other and hollering "OOH! OOH! OOH!" like Arnold Horshack on crack? Yes. That would have been me.

I got the job.

Basically, I will be working with her to come up with fun, interesting, and different ways to teach the required curriculum. How. Cool. Is. THAT.

So that's good.

But there's this other little matter.

Though Diminutive One passed the portions of the CRCT required to move on to fourth grade, he did not pass math. There are two reasons for this. First, math is difficult for kids with ADHD. At this stage of the game, there are multiple steps, which require a lot of focus. If you miss a step, you've messed up the entire problem. Second, he hates math and so, he has simply refused to learn the facts that he needs to know in order to perform more complicated equations. He does not know his multiplication tables, for instance.

Oh, we tried. I bought flashcards. I won't even tell you what a nightmare that was. I bought a "multiplication rap" CD for him, thinking that because he likes music so much, this would be a great way for him to learn. But he's no dummy. He knew what I was trying to pull. And oddly enough, a week after I brought it home, that CD disappeared. We tried rewards. We tried punishment. And the response to each and every tactic was a resounding screw you. Not a literal screw you, but an attitudinal screw you.

So. He now qualifies for special assistance in math, which I think is a GOOD thing. I mean, it's kind of stupid that the kid has to fail before he qualifies for help (I'd been begging for help for him in math but was told since he had scored well the year before last, he didn't qualify.) but, yannow...better late than never. He CAN learn math, he just needs a little more attention and instruction, which he will now be getting.

So today I told him that he would be starting EIP (Early, my left foot. They should call it the finally pulled their thumb out of their ass and realized the kid needs help intervention program, but I suppose that's a somewhat burdensome acronym.) next week.

First, his face crumpled. Then, he thunked his head down onto his arms, which were folded on the dining room table. Then he started to cry. He doesn't like anyone to see him cry, so he fled to his room. He slammed the door and buried his face in his pillow, but I could still hear him sobbing his little heart out.

He's a pretty stoic kid, so when he cries, I come undone. I know he's hurt deep down, and that hurts me deep down.

I gave him a few minutes and then went upstairs. I knocked on the door and was told to "GO AWAY". But I didn't.

I rubbed his back for a minute and then asked him why, exactly, that upset him so much. I knew, of course. We've all been that kid a time or two. The one who was, in some infinitesimal way...different. But to be so publicly different...well, it sucks.

"Mom", he sobbed, "Everybody is going to know that I'm STUPID!!!"

How the hell do you refute that?? Because that's exactly what every kid will be thinking when the aide comes to the classroom each day. And I felt his heartbreak and shame as if it were my own. I said the only thing I could think of.

"You're NOT stupid. Don't I tell you that all the time? You know what? I was really bad at math too. But I wish I had tried a little harder. I told you how poorly I did in school, and how it made me feel so terrible about myself. I don't want that for you."

"It doesn't matter if I try or not. I'll always be too dumb to do math."

"Well..." I said, searching for the right thing to say, becuase Dr. Spock doesn't tell you what to do about THIS shit..."You've already tried not trying and that's not working so good, right? You are SO smart, that I think if you did try, you would blow yourself away. Seriously."

He looked at me dubiously. I'm just his Mom. He knows Moms are supposed to say stuff like that. It isn't really my opinion that matters to him at this point in his life anyway

I changed my tack.

" told me Andrea had to have a resource teacher for reading last year, right?"

He nodded morosely.

"Did anybody think she was stupid?"

His face, which had cleared a little while I talked, crumpled once again and he wailed..."I DIIIIIIIIIDD!!!"

I gave up talking and just hugged him. If he were bleeding or broken in some way, I would know just what to do. But how do you fix a kid with a fractured self?

A word to Moms whose children are young enough that their ailments can still be kissed away...sometimes there isn't a band-aid big enough to cover the hurt. And sometimes, you, as a mother, will feel crushingly powerless.

So here is my secret recipe for dealing with those kinds of situations.

1 ice cream cone
1 hug
1 lifted ban on prohibited activities even though it's a weekday
100 I believe in yous.

Combine all ingredients. Apply liberally to injured soul.