Sunday, November 6, 2011

Warrior Mom

I've been thinking a lot about parenthood lately because my oldest friend (not chronologically oldest, just friendship-length oldest) recently had her first baby, a gorgeous almost 10 pound boy. When you watch other people have kids, especially after you've already gone through it, you get to really enjoy the process and bask in the magnitude of the experience. When I was pregnant with Henry, I was just scared I'd hate motherhood and worried that I'd screw it all up. But when you're watching your friend you get to relish the excitement of those last few days of pregnancy before you meet your new baby. You get to realize the magnitude of entering a hospital without a baby and leaving a few days later with your baby and with a new title for yourself: PARENT.
Thinking of Anna's precious baby makes me think of my own babes and where we are with them. Sammy, bless him, is an angel. Well, not entirely. He's a spitfire, and he's completely wild, and he wants at all times to be hugged, kissed, tickled, and interacted with. I love that about him. He reminds me of myself. Thus far, he seems to be doing well, and we're so happy he's ours.
And Henry is. . .Henry. He's a beautiful, funny, silly, curious three year-old; and, just like Sammy, we're so glad he's our son. I feel a little guilty because with all that's been going on with Henry, it sometimes feels like Sam is lost in the shuffle or along for the ride or some other metaphor for "not getting a lot of attention." But then I remind myself we've only been really dealing with this Henry stuff for about a year, and it (hopefully) won't be this intense forever. Hopefully.
Sometime in the past few months something just clicked over and I realized I'm fighting this label that's been attached to my son: Autism. I realized I've been trying so hard to find ways that he's not autistic, and I've just hoping so hard that he's fine and he'll be a normal, healthy, happy boy and grow out of his delayed speech, and his interest in automatic doors, and his lack of eye-contact. But I realized he's still not progressing in ways we hoped he would progress. He just keeps on being Henry. Sweet, funny, silly, affectionate, cute as can be Henry. But also autistic.
I hate Autism. I hate the word. I hate everything that I've ever associated with it. I hate that it's lifelong and incurable. I hate that it affects nearly every aspect of the lives of a person who's afflicted with it and his family. I hate the possibility, even the notion, that it could have my son, that people at the grocery store wonder what's wrong with him, that other kids might not want to play with him, that acquaintances, friends and family might pity Tripp and me, that we might never have relaxed, easy lives with little planning because Henry might not be able to tolerate that. I fucking HATE it.
But as much as it scares me, and saddens me, and freaks me the hell out, again I'm almost certain it's what Henry's got. Around the time I started accepting it and feeling nearly complete despair, Henry's speech therapist gave me the book, "Overcoming Autism" by Lynn Koegel, a psychologist and speech therapist, and Clarie Lazebenik, a mom of a boy with autism. Sometimes it's amazing to me how the universe works. I really don't know how I would have responded to this book if I'd received even a few weeks earlier. But I got it when I got it, and I started reading it immediately. In short, the book has been, no exaggeration, life changing. In ways that no one else has ever been able to, Dr. Koegel described Henry perfectly, giving examples that could easily have been Henry. But she didn't describe these kids like other books--as sad, hopeless cases who would never have friends, be in mainstream classrooms or get married. She used words like "adorable," "sweet," "friendly," and "easy going"--words that are used for normal (the P.C. term is "typically developing"--eh, whatever) kids. She also respectfully and thoughtfully acknowledged how unbelievably scary and depressing it can be to hear that diagnosis about your child. And Claire! Man, she articulated PERFECTLY everything I've been feeling--the absolute terror, the constant worry/panic, the self-consciousness regarding her kid's differences, the sadness.
Since starting the book, I'm seeing things differently. I think Henry is autistic, but I don't see that as the end of the world. I see that there is hope, and I feel incredibly determined to get him everything he needs so he can create whatever life he wants for himself. In some ways, it's been a relief just to accept it: To me at least, Henry seems like a pretty high-functioning "autist" (Tripp's term) rather than a really weird normal kid.
We finally got an appointment at Kennedy Kreiger, the highly-regarded institute in Baltimore that's supposed to be on the cutting edge of autism diagnostic work and research. I feel like a soldier preparing for battle and I just need to get orders from the colonel (the peeps at KK), and then I'm good to go.
Interestingly (at least to me) since my change in mindset, I've had the sobering realization that people who I assumed thought Henry wasn't autistic were actually just keeping their thoughts to themselves for fear that I would lose it. One friend said, "I didn't think you were ready before, but I'm glad you're going to get a second opinion now because I didn't want you to hear the "A" word and freak out."
So my kid is Autistic. I really hate that, and I would do almost anything to change it if I could. But I can't. So, I'm a soldier. Just like every other mom out there, I love my kids so intensely sometimes it physically hurts. I want every opportunity for them, and I will fight like hell to get them what they need to hopefully live happy, healthy lives. But, shit, it's going to be a lot of work.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I Love Fall So Much I'd Consider Naming a Daughter "Autumn" Just to Honor It

A list of my favorite fall stuff:
1. WEATHER. Cool and clear (or rainy, I don't really care). Point is, I don't feel like I'm dying and my undead corpse is providing a feast for various insects everytime I get the mail.
2. CLOTHES. Love jeans, love jackets, love dresses and boots. Don't get me started on turtlenecks.
3. APPLES AND PUMPKINS. Oh, sweet Lord, how I love apples and pumpkins. Speaking of which. . .
4. PUMPKIN SPICE LATTES. If you haven't had one of these yet, just go ahead and kill yourself for being such an irresponsible idiot.
5. Sleeping with the windows open, and it's nice and cool, so you have to snuggle in under a bunch of blankets
6. Low humidity=good hair
7. Driving with the windows down on a cool day, singing (loudly and obnoxiously)
8. Driving with the windows down on a cool day, singing loudly and obnoxiously with a pumpkin spice latte. . .ah, heaven.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Updates (Old Ladies Continue to Suck)

Oh, where to begin. . .
It's been a little under two months since Henry was diagnosed as having an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and since then lots has happened. If you haven't read the rest of this blog, I'll give you a short-ish synopsis: Henry was a train wreck for a while, his pediatrician recommended we see the local developmental pediatrician (aka the Autism diagnoser), he got tubes in his ears (based on urging from his speech therapist), he made some huge improvements, we were warned by the speech therapist that this particular developmental pediatrician (hereafter DP) tends to diagnose Autism A LOT, we went anyway, said DP diagnosed Autism. Not only diagnosed Autism, but said that despite the improvements we had seen and Henry being an absolute angel during the 2 hour appointment, "EVERYTHING I've seen today and everything you've reported is consistent with Autism." She gave us no hope and was very vague about what we could expect for Henry. And she gave us an application for a handicap parking decal. I hate her.
With the advice and support of family, friends and colleagues/professionals who have worked with (or at the very least met) Henry, we are now on a waiting list for a second opinion at a highly regarded institute in Baltimore. And now we're just sitting and waiting and watching and hoping that Henry continues to improve.
Henry started preschool a few weeks ago, and after an initial freakout the first time he got on the bus, he seems to like it. Everyday he wakes up saying, "School bus! School bus!" and is excited to put on his backpack and run to the bus stop. I'm relieved that he likes it, I really am, but I'd be dishonest if I didn't say I hoped for results that we're just not seeing. . .at least not yet. Although Henry has made significant improvements in practically every possible way since April (when he (coincidentally?) got ear tubes), it feels to me like he's plateaued. He's saying lots of words, but they're mostly unclear and he rarely says more than one word at a time. Not sure if it's out of laziness, eagerness to get the words out, regression or what but if we don't stay on him about saying every word of a sentence, he'll condense the sentence to the fewest possible words/sounds. For example, "I want more please" will become "more please" or "more" or (if we try to get him to say the whole thing) "want more". And not sure if it's out of frustration from us making him say it over and over again or if he never really knew what the words meant to begin with, but a lot of times he'll start adding other words, like "more yes" (instead of "more please"). It's incredibly frustrating and time-consuming for us (his parents) and him.
Eye contact and interest in others is sporadic. Henry's guaranteed to be interested in you if you're going to tickle or chase him or if you're going to snuggle with him at bedtime. Occasionally, he's interested in others at other times, but that's not a guarantee. It's often difficult to get his attention, he still sometimes screams in frustration, and lately out of nowhere he started lining up his trains (a symptom of Autism). What's very sad and scary is we're getting to a point where friends' children who are younger than Henry are surpassing him in speech, interest in others, etc. I feel so helpless, watching our kid stay stuck in whatever it is he's stuck in.
I've tried staying very involved with Henry's preschool teacher (she's actually a special ed teacher), but her feedback seems purposefully vague, which worries me. I want her to be saying, "Henry's doing great! He's making friends, having fun, doing well and is obviously very smart!" Instead her only real feedback has been, "Henry has transitioned smoothly." Oooookay.
So, here we are. Just waiting and hoping. And everyone is telling me, "You've got to love him no matter what" and of course that isn't even a question. I will love him more than anyone in the world forever, but that doesn't mean I'm not disappointed, and scared, and heartbroken at the prospect of my son being unhappy, relentlessly teased, unapproachable, unintelligent, unable to communicate or disengaged from and/or disinterested in others.
Henry's meltdowns are so draining (just like every other kid's meltdowns are draining to their parents); but the responses I get from others are especially upsetting. It doesn't help that Henry's the size of an average 5 year old; but he's getting to an age where a certain type of behavior is expected of him. Of course I'm used to it because I see it everyday, but I get that it's alarming to hear a kid who looks like he's 4 or 5 babble incoherently or scream in frustration. And boy oh boy do people LOVE to express themselves about it! Last week a kindly (truly no sarcasm intended; she's very sweet) WalMart greeter asked us Henry's age. When we said he'd be three at Halloween she replied, "Oh, that explains it. I thought he was about five and that he was Autistic or something." Sigh. This lady really seemed to mean well. What can you do but give a nod and a tight smile in that situation? The more upsetting situations are like today when I brought Henry to the doctor to check on his ear tubes. Henry, Sam and I were in the waiting room for about 20 minutes before Henry tried to push his stroller into a crowded area. I stopped him and told him he could push it in the empty area. Cue primal scream. Two older women (BWB fans, you know my record with them) who had been chatting nearby shot me a disgusted look and made a "tsk" sound. I calmly told Henry that was not acceptable. Cue second (albeit softer) primal scream. Now they were completely disgusted. I ignored them; but at that moment the nurse came to escort us to the doctor's office. Henry jumped onto a chair, hid his face, and started crying. I told him he could walk or get in the stroller, and he melted to the floor moaning. Exasperated, I apologized to the nurse, removed Sam from our Baby Bjorn knockoff and put Sam in the stroller (at which point, Sam started crying), picked up Henry and maneuvered them both into the office. During the entirety of this experience, the two old ladies were laughing (yes, LAUGHING!) at me. To my face. I gave them both the 20 second glare that's meant to imply "You want to say something to me, you ugly twat? 'Cause I'm ready" which obviously made them uncomfortable but did not stop their laughing. This is what I contend with. I hate this kind of situation so much. I do not want to be the person with the screaming, freaking out kid who everyone thinks is a brat. I don't want to be that person! Likewise, I do NOT want every nasty, nosy, self-righteous old hag on the east coast "giving me the business", as my Grandma would say. But it feels like that's what's happening, and it feels totally out of my control.
Meanwhile the confusion regarding Henry and what's going on with him continues. His ENT (who, upon entering the room, didn't know if Henry or Sam was the patient and BARELY speaks English despite getting his MD in 1978 from the University of Kentucky) couldn't find Henry's left ear tube, then could, then said, "It's probably there" regarding his right ear tube, although he couldn't see it. When I asked why he couldn't see it, he replied, "lot of wax". I asked if that could affect his hearing, and he said "no". (Um, I realize I'm not a doctor, but I'm pretty sure he's full of shit. Especially since NIH's website says, "Wax blockage is one of the most common causes of hearing loss.") I mentioned that when I was a kid, I often had to get wax removed from my ears, and he said, "Okay, byebye, see you at Christmastime!" Jesusfuckingchrist.
Again, so here we are. I don't know what to say about any of it. Sometimes just use this blog as a form of therapy and communication to whoever takes the time to read it. I just love my kids so damn much. I know it's totally a cliche and sappy, but I really did not know I could love anyone like this until I had them. And I don't mean that in an entirely positive way: It makes things complicated, it makes me feel incredibly vulnerable because here is this PERSON who I would in a second give my life for, and this person operates completely independently of me. If Henry has Autism, or gets cancer, or gets in a car wreck, there is nothing I can do about that fact. Of course, I can react to any of those situations, I can get him help. But I can't stop anything bad from ever happening to him or Sam. And that is so scary.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A la Carte Parenting Styles

Reading (okay, scanning) every parenting book I can get my hands on (okay, every book someone I like recommends). I'm now on a "Love and Logic" kick, but there are a few things from other sources that really speak to me. The following is a list of what I'm liking now (all of these have been interpreted and restated by me, so don't blame the books if this stuff doesn't work):

From Love and Logic:
1. Don't constantly save your children. Allow them to make mistakes and to deal with the consequences/fix their mistakes.
2. When disciplining misbehavior, express empathy first, as in "Aw man, now you can't play with the bat anymore. Bummer."
3. As often as possible, give children choices that don't hurt anyone else in the universe, i.e. "Do you want to put on your socks or your pants first?"

From Supernanny:
1. Toddlers often simultaneously want conflicting things, i.e. I want my shoes off and on at the same time.
2. Reacting to inappropriate behavior by screaming, hitting, etc. just shows children their misbehavior is powerful and models that screaming is an appropriate way to react to disappointment.

From 1-2-3 Magic:
1. Children are not little adults. They are not born with empathy, compassion or the ability to consider consequences.

Interested in what works for your, Readers. Hook a Mom up!

Monday, July 18, 2011

An Attitude of Gratitude

In no particular order, right now I'm so thankful for:

1. Pizza, particularly giant New York style, super thin slices with big puffy crusts,
2. Louie C.K.'s TV show,
3. Grapes,
4. "Baby Babble", a speech therapy DVD Henry is obsessed with,
5. Nighttime diapers,
6. A cool breeze on a blisteringly hot day,
7. Tripp's begun a ritual of making me some killer smoothies before bedtime (not a sexual euphemism),
8. Sam has the biggest, cutest, most awesomely sweet smile and he breaks into one often,
9. Henry and Sam both have incredibly hearty laughs,
10. Henry's bouncy blond hair,
11. Pretty much any type of frappucinno, as they are basically all that keeps me awake/sane anymore,
12. I've got some freaking badass friends and family,
13. Michelle, Henry's speech therapist,
14. Yoga. Ugh, that makes me cringe. Ah, so what, who cares, I'm gonna say it: I LOVE YOGA!

"A" is for Autism?

Oh, where to begin?
If you read this blog (and you know you do) you're no doubt familiar with my darling Henry and his spitfire personality. You're also familiar with the highs and lows of that personality--the raucous laughter and the epic meltdowns. Complicating Henry's personality is his lack of speech. Henry is WAY behind in talking. It's like he got to around 9 months and sort of plateaued for a year or so. He's been in speech therapy since November, and he's definitely progressed but not at the rate we hoped.
A few months ago, Henry's new-ish pediatrician (we changed docs because the first one seemed unfazed by pretty much everything going on with Henry) recommended we visit the local developmental pediatrician, mentioning something about "the spectrum", as in the Autistic spectrum. My heart sank, as Autism has always been one of my big fears about having kids. I know a zillion things can go wrong with living organisms (it's incredible to me so many of us are mostly okay), but Autism has always been high on my list of fears. For anyone who doesn't know much about Autism, here's a general definition: A pervasive developmental disorder characterized by severe deficits in social interaction and communication, by an extremely limited range of activities and interests, and often by the presence of repetitive, stereotyped behaviors.
My experiences with Autistic kids and adults is very small. I've seen a few of each professionally, and found each of them very difficult to relate to. (I know, I know, everyone is different and we're all unique snowflakes, but I'm generalizing here.) Each of these particular clients seemed aloof, oblivious and out of touch to me. Basically, I just didn't like them. (Fortunately (most definitely for them), none of them remained my clients for long.) I'm also pretty sure an ex-boyfriend was an undiagnosed Aspergers case, and that dude was a huge pain in the ass.
(I'm sure you can see where this is going. Sorry, I'm going to write the whole damn story, since this has become my therapy.)
Well, since the new pediatrician made this recommendation, Henry has come a long way. . .sort of. He knows a bunch of words and uses them (for the most part) correctly. He knows all his ABC's and can count to 10 (although he says "W" for 7). He waves/says "bye bye" and "hi", often shows interest in other children, plays with others (even strangers) if they're willing to chase and tickle him, points out objects of interest ("car!" "tree!"), and can take turns. Then again, he often doesn't respond when we call his name, doesn't seem particularly interested in sharing experiences with us, and often doesn't connect with other children.
Whatever. We thought we were in good shape. We went to the appointment with the developmental pediatrician a few weeks ago, even though the speech therapist hinted that this particular agency had a tendency to overdiagnose Autism. That gave me pause, but the pediatrician insisted we go. I was sure that the doctor would say something like, "There are some symptoms here that concern me, but he's made so much progress over the past few months that I'd like to see where he is after he starts preschool."
So, we go to the appointment, everything seems to go well, Henry plays well for about 90 minutes with a speech therapist he never met, the doctor leaves for a few minutes, comes back in and says, "Yep, he's Autistic." Well, she doesn't actually say it like that, but that's what it felt like to me. There was no discussion of MAYBE. There was no mention of him doing well in the past few months or doing exceptionally well (in my opinion) during the doctor's hour and a half observation of Henry. It felt very much like she was saying, "Yeah, you know all that stuff about Henry improving and how he played nicely in this tiny room with a stranger? Doesn't matter. He's still Autistic." The doctor was pleasant and attempted to be empathic, but she also seemed confused and bewildered by my weeping, as she continued to say, "I'm sure this isn't a surprise to you?"
She wasn't able to tell us WHERE he is on the autistic spectrum, no mention of high functioning or low functioning. Basically it was like, "Your kid has this lifelong, incurable, potentially devastating condition. He could be the next Bill Gates or he could be dependent on you for the rest of your lives. Here's a brochure about a $30,000/year Autistic school and an application for a handicap parking decal. Have a great day!" I'm sure there was more to it than that, but that's what it felt like. I walked out of the appointment crushed, stunned, tearful, and lost; and I stayed that way for about 24 hours. Tripp, bless him, barely had time to respond himself and just tried to keep me from spiraling into despair. He is disappointed and scared, but seemed much more emotionally prepared to get this news than me.
The next week was a weepy blur. I constantly watched Henry for "signs." He just responded to me calling his name, of course he's not Autistic! He misused a word he's known for months; he's not progressing in his language like I thought--definitely a sign of Autism. At any moment, I could be 100% convinced he either was or wasn't Autistic. I felt high on life when I thought he wasn't and crushed when I thought he was.
The WORD "Autism", the label "Autistic" feels very final and scary to me. It feels like a restriction on what we can expect from Henry. Of course, all parents have hopes and aspirations for their kids. I think I want what every parents wants--first and foremost, kids who are healthy and happy. But I also hoped Henry would be friendly, and loving, and empathic, and gentle, and smart, and funny and a good friend and someone who will hire the best nurse's aide money can buy to change my diapers when I'm old but also someone who stands up for himself and doesn't take shit from anyone. The label "Autism" seems to stop short the possibility of all that. My kid won't be able to relate to others. He'll be the weird kid, won't look at us, will be stuck in his own world. Worse, he could be throwing crazy tantrums and not speaking when he's 10, 12, 15. . .
Friends and family have been very supportive and have lots of advice. Basically there are two camps: 1. Don't worry about it/ Get another opinion. Some have said there's NO WAY he's Autistic, doctors overdiagnose this disorder all the time and you were warned that this doctor in particular overdiagnoses. 2. Good, you got the diagnosis, now you can get the help Henry needs.
Meanwhile, we're home with the "After the Diagnosis" packet (and about a billion Autism websites), most of which say you've got to intervene EARLYEARLYEARLY and WITH INTENSITY. Age three is too late! If you wait till they're four, you're done for! They've got to have 20-25 hours of 1:1 treatment per week, especially when they're two to three years old!
Basically, it's just been a whirlwind. And my sweet, sassy, spitfire Henry is completely oblivious to it all. He plays with kids when he feels like it, he cuddles when he feels like it, he completely ignores us when he feels like it, he laughs and cries with intensity, he has meltdowns, and yet sometimes he shocks me with how easily he shakes off disappointment. Good days and not so good days. Actually, more like good moments and not so good moments.
And here's where I am with it: My aunt said something that just hit me the right way: "Henry's not Autistic, he's Henry." And that's the truth. He's Henry, and he'll always be my Henry, my son. No diagnosis or problem, however big or small, will change that. Whatever he faces, I will be right there by his side. I love him so much, and I want nothing but the best for him. But if he's got this, I'll be there with him. And even if he doesn't have this, he surely will have something else to battle.
So, Henry is Henry. And no matter what, I got your back, buddy.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Gee WHIZ a lot has happened since my last post. The three people who read this already know all this, but what the hell--might as well put it here for posterity.
FIRST (and, realistically, the only thing I'll write about today): My dad had a heart attack. That was a crazy time, people. I recognize there is a lot I don't know about a lot of things; but I was completely CLUELESS about heart attacks. It seemed to me that everyone knows someone who knows someone who has had a heart attack, survived and is pretty much fine, right? (Okay, I might have been the only one who felt this way.) I had no idea that it takes about 4 minutes for the brain to start dying (medical professionals, please correct all my bullshit science), and it was very, VERY likely that if my dad survived the heart attack he would have severe brain damage that would result in him spending the rest of his days in a nursing home. WHAT?! If you'd asked me 3 months ago about possible long-term effects of a heart attack, that wouldn't have crossed my mind. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Before I knew my dad had a heart attack, I watched him collapse in the last 100 yards of a half marathon we were completing together. He was a couple hundred feet ahead of me, and I could barely see because of the monsoon-like conditions (seriously, streets flooded and officials shut down the race before some people could finish). I saw someone ahead of me collapse, and my thought process went like this: Oh no, someone fell. I bet they were dehydrated. . .Huh, they're not getting up. . .Um, I guess it COULD be Dad. . .Holyfuckingshit, is it Dad?!
By that point I had reached him, and the first thing I saw were his shorts and jacket. Somehow that was what shocked me most--more than seeing his ashen face and his lifeless body. How could this possibly be my Dad? My Dad who had trained so hard and who is so freakishly, annoyingly diligent about what he eats! He was seizing and his face was gray. Such a bizarre and surreal experience. People say to me, "You must have been so scared!" and I was. But really it was one of those experiences I've heard people in the therapy biz refer to as "schizing" or "splitting". It was like my mind split into several compartments. The first was very matter-of-fact: Very calmly I thought, "Dad is dying. I'm watching him die. I'm going to have to call Mom and tell her Dad is dead." I cried quietly as I watched the paramedics, but in an unexplainable way I felt very calm. Another part of my brain (which for some reason wasn't openly displaying itself) was incredibly sad, helpless and panicked.
Thank God (or the universe, or serendipity, or whatever it was) we were at a place in the race in which people were around us. Unbelievably, my dad was getting amazing care right there in the middle of the street. I later learned that a spectator (who happened to be a nurse practitioner) was just a feet from my dad when he fell and was the first to begin CPR. An ambulance was a dozen feet away. The EMT crew had an ER physician on board that day who was training them to begin hypothermia treatment during transport to the hospital.
Our luck (or, again, whatever it was) is simply unbelievable to me. It gives me chills. Literally five minutes earlier we were jogging in a neighborhood, and no one was around. We actually considered the possibility that we had gotten turned around and were no longer on course. But, no, the ridiculously awful weather kept potential participants and spectators indoors. We didn't have our cell phones (they would have weighed us down, people!), so I couldn't have called anyone. If his heart had stopped ten minutes later, we would have been driving home; and as you can tell by this post's first paragraph, I certainly wouldn't have known what to do.
A few excruciating days followed as we waited to see if my Dad would come out okay from his treatment-induced coma. Our family and friends were absolutely amazing during this time--right there by our sides (and on the phone, and over the Internet), helping out with everything. And then early the morning of April 18th, we got a call from his nurse that he was awake. We zoomed to the hospital and there he was--groggy and weak, but talking, and smiling and recognizing us. This was absolutely one of the happiest days of my life.
It's been just over two months, and my Dad is back home, working full time, just started jogging again as part of his cardiac rehab. Simply amazing. We are so, SO lucky.
But this blog is about bitching, people, not gratitude. So here comes the complaining. During this whole experience I developed a fantasy of how my dad would turn out: He would make a full physical and mental recovery (of course), but he would also awaken with a new philosophy on life. Dad would decide that since life is so unpredictable and precious he now wanted to spend as much time as possible with his friends and family, so he would retire and he and my mom would move closer to me. He would let go of all grudges and judgments and just love and accept everyone for who they are and what they can offer. He would be peaceful, and content, and happy, and joyous, and wise, but not dogmatic. Sort of like a living, breathing "Life is Good" shirt.
But that didn't happen. Instead my Dad is. . .well, my Dad. He's exactly the way he was 1 minute before his heart attack. Judgmental, rigid, stubborn, a touch homophobic and a bit self-centered. (He's also funny, kind, generous and hilariously absent-minded). But I'm starting to realize (slowly, begrudgingly and thanks entirely to Tripp) that this is okay. Not only IS it okay, but it needs to be okay because I don't have a choice in the matter. Such a cliche, but I can't control anyone else--a lesson I apparently need to learn over and over. My Dad is my Dad, and I am eternally, immeasurably, overwhelmingly thankful to everyone and everything that contributed to his recovery and to the fact that I can call him on the phone today and tell him what a turd he's being. And as for all that guru, mountain top, peace and love shit? Well, I guess that will have to be what I aspire to. I love you, Dad.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens

This site is mostly dedicated to kvetching; but it would be dishonest and depressing if it was completely filled with my (mostly pointless) rants and complaints. So, here is a list (in no particular order) of things I am soooo grateful for:
1. Sam thinks I'm hilarious and laughs at me all the time. He also loves to be kissed, tickled, hugged and all-around manhandled,
2. Today's weather is absolutely 100% perfect. Sixty-two degrees, sunny, no humidity. It's UNBELIEVABLY BEAUTIFUL,
3. Henry had an appointment with an ENT today, and they can do his ear surgery NEXT WEEK! (We were going to have to wait a month at the first place.) ALSO, Henry was an absolute angel at the appointment, despite the whole thing taking a lot longer than we had planned and a gazillion people putting all kinds of medical devices in his ears. I almost cried I was so proud of him,
4. Tripp. Just everything about him,
5. Grandma Margie. As is the case with most people, the things that drive me nuts about her are also the things I love most about her. Case in point, her obsession with my children: While that can have some annoying fallout, her interactions with Henry and Sam are some of the sweetest, cutest, loveliest, most beautiful treasures of my life,
6. It's spring and there are big, beautiful dogwoods in bloom all over the place,
7. All of our wonderful, amazing friends who offered so much support and love during my virtual freak-out last week,
8. Chocolate and good coffee,
9. My recumbent bike,
10. Everything else. We have a roof over our heads, access to good health care, food, clean water, and the people we love are healthy and happy most of the time.
I am truly, truly blessed.
I'm about to make myself vomit, so I'll be back to bitching soon.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Will of a 2 Year-Old vs. The Determination of a Mommy

Is it just me or are 2 year-olds unbelievably strong-willed? I know, I know, everyone says, oh yeah, that's a 2 year-old blahblahblah; but I can't believe their little brains are capable of the maniacal power games that Henry seems to play.
Picture it, nap time today: Henry spent two hours (this is not an exaggeration) jumping out of bed, running down the hall, and then standing in front of me jumping up and down, shrieking, grabbing toilet paper, flushing toilets, and doing anything else he could in what I can only assume were attempts to rile me up. In true "Supernanny" form (I'm a devotee), I did not engage. I ignored for a while (which usually, eventually, works--in that Henry gets tired/bored and eventually just goes to sleep). In the past week, my next step has been to lock him in his room--something I was initially against (what do I do when he can break out? And isn't the point to get him to learn the rules?). But several friends told me this worked for them, so I tried it. However, my little devil learned how to break the baby lock in less than a week. I locked him in today, hoping that he wouldn't bother fiddling with it; and by the time I was down the hall he was running after me, lock in hand. Finally, I began to silently escort him back to his bed. Again, I did not engage: After I put him back in bed the first time, I said "It's time for rest, honey." The next 247 times, I kept silent and made no eye contact. I even tried to make the walk back to his room as boring as possible--walking slowly and quietly so Henry couldn't run. But this went on for two hours, people. TWO HOURS. Henry never got upset, pitched a fit, or cried. He was completely content the entire time.
I find this kind of thing so difficult. As a parent, you start questioning yourself--at least I do. Am I doing the right thing? Is this ever going to work? Even if it works today, am I going to have to start all over with this tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day? It's especially hard when you're alone or (most difficult) when you're with someone who does not support you. My mother, God bless her, is thoroughly, completely, head over heels infatuated with my children; and as a result refuses to enforce anything resembling a rule. She also questions me (that's putting it mildly; it's really more like an active criticism at best and a complete tantrum at worst) when I'm attempting to set limits with Henry. So, when I'm with Grandma Margie, it usually goes something like this:

Me: Henry, it's time for bed.
Henry: Wah!
Grandma Margie (to me): Are you sure he has to go to bed now? He didn't eat enough dinner. He's been sick! This is a new environment! He's excited to see his grandma! Can I go in there and talk to him? The fan is running in his room, and it's keeping him awake! The room is too warm! The room is too cold! Do you think I should go in there and sing to him? He doesn't like the color of the room! Don't you think I should go sit with him? I'm going to go sit with him.

This continues until I either give in or tell her (usually loudly) to STOP, in which case the whole thing starts again within a minute if Henry is continuing to complain. The point is, when you're a new parent (again, at least for me) and you've never done this before, and you're trying to raise your kids right, it really sucks when other adults aren't supporting you.
Anyway, I'm proud of myself today because I stayed calm (deep breathing helps), did not engage, and kept repeating to myself, "I WILL out will this two-year old!" Eventually, Henry got tired and instead of popping up and running down the hall after I put him in bed, he got up at a regular human rate and walked down the hall. Silently celebrating a chink in his armor, I carried him back to bed; and he immediately started to get back up. I put my hand on his belly and quietly said, "We don't have to do this, honey. You can relax. It's okay. It's time to rest now, but we'll play later." He went to sleep.
I'm fucking exhausted but proud of myself.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pity Party, Interrupted

Just put Henry to bed. He snuggled up to me, put my hands on his cheeks and fell asleep while I quietly sobbed. Like I said to my friend who recently revealed she has a bun in the oven, motherhood is messy and complicated. But ultimately, you just love these damn kids so much it hurts.