A Mommy Blog About Raising Men, Not Boys.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Who's Your Favorite Fish?

My favorite fish is easy to spot. It swims in the biggest tank and I am jealous of the divers swimming elegantly through the water with them. So much so, in fact, that I've decided this is something I must do. I must swim in the big tank in the Georgia Aquarium.
I love the ocean. I wasn't scared by JAWS. I was intrigued. I wanted to know more and more. I would get into a shark cage (but probably not get out of it). But I can't dive. It's apparently pretty intensive to learn to dive, and for something I might not ever do again I'm not sure it's practical. But I can also go there and snorkel, and the whale sharks swim at the top anyway. I'm IN.

I'd like to shimmy down to the bottom though. I'd like the freedom of all that water to swim and swim. I wonder how quiet it is. I bet that other than the sound of your tank, that's about the most peaceful place on the planet. Especially since it's very likely nothing in there will eat you.
My kids love doing all the interactive stuff, touching the squishy starfish (Julia named hers Patrick). But I wait anxiously for the big tank every visit we make. I just sit and watch them glide by effortlessly, at perfect peace in their giant watery world.
The big tank is everything. I want to burst through the doors and flop into the water. Of course that's super dangerous and might hurt the fish because they are fragile. So I'll wait, we asked this time how you get to swim with them and it's not too bad, so I hope I get to do it within the next year.

The perfect end to a long day looking the amazing creatures at the aquarium is some classic Georgia style comfort food.
I may have regressed on my diet a bit today, but no regrets. This was a great day with all of my favorite people, in one of my favorite places.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

It Even Comes With A Free Shovel

Being the adult is sometimes more aggravating than the literature suggested. I think we were supposed to be able to stay up as late as we want and eat whatever we want and no one can tell us we can't. Life was supposed to be carefree and full of nonstop fun right? I think there were supposed to be flying cars.
What adult life actually is, is best summed up by Steve Martin in PARENTHOOD. "My whole life is have to."
Yesterday my sweet girl had her last soccer game. She was the TEAM CAPTAIN. She was ecstatic. The girl who will volunteer to sit out whenever they will let her played three straight quarters, and even tried to play a few times (she's still more enamored of running around a field with a bunch of little girls than playing soccer).
Afterward was the requisite team party and little trophies for participating. I smiled and cheered.

Inside I was a ball of stress. You see, my dad might be dying. When he had a heart attack, it wasn't surprising. He's been over 300 pounds most of my life, and if I'm honest has horrendous eating habits. A heart attack for my dad seemed like the normal course of events quite frankly. It's not that I wouldn't grieve and be sad, it's just that - I've been mentally ready for this for 30 years at least.
But he didn't die.
He had a massive bypass surgery and he lived. He recovered. He went to rehab, but then moved into a care facility because his dementia is creeping up and he needs more help than my mom can give him. However, things were going pretty ok. I'd call him a few times a week, on my way to the airport when flying out, from a far away place and tell him all about it, from work, just wherever and my dad and I would talk. Sometime's he be confused and we'd talk about things from a long time ago. Sometimes though, he'd be himself and it was kind of wonderful.

3 days ago my brother and SIL texted me that dad was being taken to the hospital and he was unresponsive. He had sepsis. It wasn't good.

Two days ago he started telling us he was dying and telling us who he would like us to tell, including his parents who he told me he hadn't seen in 20 years. They're dead.

This was turning and turning and turning in my brain, watching my girl play, watching her eat her treats excitedly. There were treats for the twins too, who liked the fruit kabobs best.
When you're the adult, you have to smile and cheer and take pics like a good mom (or dad) while your heart is splitting apart because someone you love is suffering and you can't fix it. Worse than that, the experts aren't sure they can fix it either. My brother and SIL are manning the ship, having the conversations with doctors and nurses and talking about what we'll do after he recovers/if he recovers. I want to shake my dad and say GET BETTER MATT IS GOING TO MAKE SURE YOU ARE IN A NICER PLACE. But honestly he can't. I sit at a distance and worry, and cry intermittently when I remember something wonderful. I worry so much that I forget everything I hate about him.

You learn who cares and who doesn't when crappy things happen, and you learn how strong you are and how strong you aren't. And you keep moving, drinking coffee, putting on foot in front of the other and going on. Because this is how life works.

As we walked to the car Julia gushed over the goodie bag/bucket she got as a gift. "It even comes with a FREE SHOVEL MOM!"

Indeed. Life should.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Mammogram Shmammomgram

I had to go back for my six months mammogram. I have to do this because I have "dense" tissue apparently and they don't like what they see inside me. They don't say that. They say "probably benign" after you suffer all the indignities of the process. But you can tell by watching their faces that they don't like it.

Once upon a time I had a lump. It was in my armpit and after I saw my GP he referred me immediately to a specialist. The sign on the door said ONCOLOGY. I remember walking through that door by myself at about age 24 or 25, not having realized what I was in for. They did an ultrasound and scheduled me in surgery the next morning. I remember not even processing the possibilities of the bad, but being numb with terror. Oncology. I'm having surgery and the person who ordered it is AN ONCOLOGIST.

It was outpatient surgery and I was awake for it. I remember them putting one arm over my head and securing it, and the nurse taking my other hand and holding it. I thought she was being nice but now I realize she was doing that so I didn't interfere. What I remember most was this crunching sound. They cut into my armpit and it went crunch. I'm not sure why. Crunch crunch snip and he pulled something out. I remember the look on HIS face - it was relief "It's just a sweat gland," he exhaled. Then he added in a more serious tone, "Of course we'll send it for tests to make sure everything is ok." But I could tell from the first statement I was ok. He told me a sweat gland had gotten infected and turned hard. No big deal.

Getting my mammogram is nowhere as harrowing. I hate it. I feel like meat. I don't feel like a person while I'm there. They aren't unkind. They aren't cold. But I think they're just so "matter of fact" about what is so scary that it's just, well I'm not sure how to explain it. I guess in their efforts to mitigate the terror some of us feel while there - their neutrality swaddled in a sea of pink ends up dismissing the very human part of us that is screaming inside. I guess they don't want a bunch of sobbing females when most of us don't actually have anything wrong.

I'll get my mammogram despite how dehumanizing it is because it's important and frankly I don't want to be dead. I'll get it on time and I'll get it every six months or three months or whatever they say. I'll go and sit in my pink gown and eat their graham crackers or smart ones cookies, and drink their tea or coffee and I'll pretend like I am not sobbing inside. I'll pretend like it doesn't hurt (it's not agony but it fucking hurts) and I won't ask questions. If I ask questions I will start crying. "Do you have questions?" "No."

I have no family history, in terms of maternal breast cancer. My mom is adopted. What I know is that my mom doesn't have breast cancer. They asked me about 10 times if I was sure I couldn't get more family history, does anyone else have information? What don't these people understand about NO?

They took me to the little room this time, the bad news room. I held my breath while I waited. If I a man in a white coat showed up, I knew that was bad news. But it was just the same woman who had actually GROANED while lifting my breast onto the machine, and she walked me through my results for this round of tests. "Probably benign." I'm enough of a cynic to hear "but maybe not" aloud in my brain. She goes through the list of things, dense tissue, large breasts, etc. Come back in six months.

I sat and listened to her ramble trying to process my relief. There is a pink phone in there, with two handsets. It's just one phone. But two people can talk at the same time. I don't know what that's for. That would be a good question for next time. "Why are there two handsets on this weird phone?" Maybe it's so you can call your family with bad news and they can talk too? I'm not sure what you would use this phone for.

You do a lot of introspection and thinking about your life while you're wondering if someone is about to tell you that you have cancer. Now, if only all that wisdom would stay put once you hear you don't have it, I'd probably be on the path to a better, more fulfilling life right now.

Oh well. Maybe next time.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Some Achievement Awards Are Real

I am not a fan of Achievement Awards or Participation Awards. I don't think kids need an award for showing up. That doesn't develop them into people who think they have to WORK for anything. If everyone gets a ribbon or trophy, why are the ones for the winners special? They aren't.

However, I need to add an asterisk to this statement because every once in a while an Achievement Award is real. It's not just because it's my kid, this goes for the other kids like him who got this award last night at Fifth Grade Graduation (also not a real thing in my book but I got teary eyed there anyway.)

Miles got an achievement award last night, and his teacher spoke briefly of the things that he had accomplished in the three years he'd been with him. In truth, he's accomplished an amazing amount of things since we started him and his brother in Autism Pre-K all those years ago.

  • He learned to speak.
  • He can ask for things - I want this, I want that. Etc.
  • He can read.
  • He can do math.
  • He can tell time.
  • He can make change.
  • He can follow multi part instructions.
  • He learned to take turns.
  • He learned to play board games.
  • He learned to play the xylophone.
  • He learned sign language (on his own might I add)
  • He became about halfway potty trained (still working on it)
This is the short list. He started out as a four year old who screamed his wants and needs, who tantrummed all the time like Helen Keller for the most part and while being an affectionate, sweet baby was really just that - a giant baby. There was no willingness on his part to ever understand us, or listen and follow instructions. Today he has pretty much perfect receptive language skills, meaning - he TOTALLY understands us. 

He isn't a perfect child, in fact sometimes he's a complete a-hole. I can say that, I'm his mom. He is. If he were a typical child I think he'd be a real brat. Possibly not, but he's a handful. However, he's also smart, and funny, and he loves books now. He loves to snuggle. He plays, really plays, by himself. HE LOVES YOUTUBE. It's hilarious he's learned that he can enter in anything and watch videos. He must love to travel, and to go to McDonalds because he watches hotel videos from the major chains, and McDonalds commercials all the time. 

He probably won't ever be a child I get to have an actual conversation with, but in the time since we handed him over to the school system I think it's fair to say he has achieved an amazing amount. Next year for the first time in years he'll be in the same school with Charlie which I'm hoping reduces some of the scheduling crazy around here. 
So that's a real achievement award. My kid learned to talk. And pee in the potty. I'm glad to accept an award for that. 

Thank you Gwinnett County Schools. You are amazing.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water

Yesterday was Julia day. It was a day chocked full of things ABOUT JULIA. It's probably hard to believe every single day isn't like that, but they aren't. Well, in her mind they are, but no, they really aren't.

We started out with her Gymnastics recital or whatever you want to call it. with a bunch of little girls tumbling and jumping and showing us their amazing skills which was pretty hilarious. No, their skills weren't amazing. What was really fun to watch was all the bouncing excitement of four & five year olds. They're all Tiggers after a sort, bouncing bouncing bouncing in excitement.

After a quick diaper change of the twins we headed off to soccer where the girl varied between playing soccer and just ambling about the field the way she does. I can't decide if she likes soccer or not. She SEEMS to like it but doesn't seem all that into it. Maybe I'm judging her unfairly though she has some other kids on her team that are soccer MACHINES. She's also the youngest on her team, everyone else has been to Kindergarten and so she's got social immaturity as well.

We headed out to go shoe shopping next and once again were confronted by my least favorite response when we apologized for the Twins and shared that they are Special. I was going to rant about it but I already did a great job ranting about it six years ago and it all still applies so just go read that.

Going around all day, even on Julia day, with two litttle special guys in tow can be a challenge. I don't need your smug "oh God loves them all" sort of response. I don't care and it's unbelievably rude. If someone was blind would you say "Oh they're all blind"? No, because that's fucking insane. Oh I wasn't going to rant. Moving on.
We went for Chinese which was a perfect ending to a long day full of Julia's activities. My annoyance faded in the face of egg drop soup and the joy of realizing I have a decent Chinese buffet right by my work, which has both a noodle station and a Mongolian grill. I'm all about this. Who wants to go with me?

It's hard to sharpen your saw, as Dr Covey would say, when it feels like your entire life is overwhelming you. As a parent you want to lay down and do nothing sometimes and as a parent of four - two of whom are Special (just like every other single child I'm told) I think you want to more than usual. But you don't get to. You have to keep moving, make more coffee when they steal yours, and find ways to focus so that you don't forget who you are, or what you are.

For me, sometimes my mental recharge comes from the weirdest small things. It's rarely from a coffee at the beach (although that was awesome), or fresh flowers in Montreal at a vendor, or even a good book. No my mental reset anymore will come to me when I don't expect it. Usually it hits me sideways in the form of something that just delights me, and instantly I feel differently. I'm stronger, more patient and ready for the rest of my day/week/month.

Yesterday after a long day out and about, changing diapers in bathroom stalls, sitting in the hot Atlanta sun for soccer (it's different from all ya'lls sun) and then trying to wrangle kids AND shoe shop, my moment of Zen came as we walked into the Chinese restaurant.
This is possibly the happiest thing I've seen in a long time. Is it a Buddha? I don't even know, I'm ignorant of Eastern religions and traditions etc, so I don't know. But when I saw this thing it was like a flash of joy. I wanted to rub it's belly and see if I felt a smile that big break out onto my face. I didn't because I wasn't sure if that was disrespectful. But man, this thing is making me smile right now looking at it.

My fortune cookie only solidified my feeling of strength.

Despite how hard it is, and how confusing it all is a lot of the time, I live a really great life.

Never think otherwise.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

I Survived

These four people just spent four days with me while I coughed and wheezed all around them. I'd say how sorry I am except I had a really amazing time with them and it seems like I only had a cold, although it felt like the death on Monday.

We had long meetings which were pretty interesting and I enjoyed despite my nonstop consumption of liquid and medicine. But we also go to have a lot of fun - way more than I expected.
I got to drive the boat. This is a scary proposition to me, but I didn't crash it nor did any other person with me who ALSO drove the boat so I guess it all ended up ok. I had to use the head, which was apparently in contention for THE WORST TOILET IN SCOTLAND, and featured this view as you sat on it.
Since that window was open I had visions of the ship sinking and me dying on the loo as the water rushed in, taking me to my watery, toilety grave, while my team mates all swam to safety - minus a few eaten by sharks.
What is weird in a lot of my pics is I can see how much weight I've lost, I don't hate every single picture of myself, so for a change yeah, I'm in a lot of these. It feels weird I admit. I also see how much I need to stop having big ice cream filled cocktails but that's another story.

It was a really busy but great four days. I got to know people I didn't know very well, and now they all know that I'm extremely silly. Damn I was keeping it a secret from most of them. I felt really good to have been invited to participate and you can't tell it but we did work hard every day. We just played hard at night to burn off steam. I also slept like the dead every single night because well, sick.
I feel really amazingly fortunate to have been to Charleston TWICE in two months. It's a beautiful place to go and recharge. I admit though, coming home and bathing in my own shower was simply divine. I can't wait to sleep in my own bed with a five year old tucked under my chin, even though she should be in her own bed.
Now we're having a delayed Taco Tuesday, because EVERYTHING IS AWESOME......

I'm glad to be home.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Sick For The Road

There's too much going on right now. I just got home from a great trip to Montreal. The very next day we had to take the girl to register her for Kindergarten in the fall.
She immediately met another little girl there, whose name was Judy. They have decided to be friends as you can see. Best friends, if memory serves.

It was really wonderful to be back at the school, so many teachers and even the Principal came up and said "I remember when you had her", it was such a feeling of community. It's nice to be in a place where people know you and have memories of you. I really felt good knowing people there are excited to see her so grown up and ready for school. She's ecstatic. She's been telling everyone since her birthday that she gets to go to school now because she's five. I would've been sad and probably weepy except that she was SO excited it was impossible to feel anything but happy.

Now that we've squared that away I'm gotten properly sick. I'm not sure why or how, but I am. I have a death cough, fever and a sore throat. I'm pretty sure this is something both terrible and contagious. What makes it super charming and awesome is that in three hours I'm heading out to go on another work trip for four days.

I am going to die.

But not before I infect everyone travelling with me and everyone at the conference I'm going to.

My doctor gave me boosters of all of my vaccines because I'm travelling internationally on a regular basis. Apparently sinus infection doesn't have a vaccine. Pity.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Meanwhile On the Streets of Montreal

I love going to work in Montreal. The team there is pretty wonderful but the place itself is like no other I've ever been to. I love how welcoming everyone is there and how forgiving they are of terrible efforts to speak French. But mostly I love how beautiful it is.
I love that there is a store just for olive oil. I can't decide if it's funny or wonderful. Mostly it makes me think of SPATULA CITY SPATULA CITY SPATULA CITY.

But it's way more awesome than that, if you can believe it.

Julia asked me if they had apples there, and if so would I bring her one. I did, and some of the best meringue cookies ever made on the planet. They got crushed on the ride home but they were still pretty much the most amazing crumbles of meringue ever.
The idiots at Hertz gave me a big luxury car when in fact what I needed for Montreal parking was a YUGO. I can't being to tell you what a pain in the ass that thing was to park. I will have to like, kick someone's ass if I get a huge car ever again.

I get to see a friend while I'm there and which is awesome and I love working with the team there, it's interesting and different and I have to admit it's all new again in terms of work, which I love.

The biggest problem I had was that my data got shut off bcse of an error and I couldn't find my way to the airport without SIRI. My friend Christa had the brilliant idea of getting a cab to follow to the airport and I hired an UBER car and VOILA - I made my flight.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Shaking It Off

We've probably been IN too much, the twins get antsy when we don't GO GO GO and they've been fighting and carrying on more than usual. We decided that since the girl's soccer team has a bye week we'd definitely go out for the day and there was a small local festival up the road that fit the bill.
Small town America festivals with the Boy Scouts and Masons hosting activities & food booths are some of my favorite things ever. There were tons of local merchants selling their wares, and after looking at pictures I realized we didn't get any honey! We always get honey! Note to self, Charlie could really use local honey - the poor kid is allergic to all the things.
But what we really needed was something that would make four children squeal and laugh and let off pent up energy.
The Boy Scouts were running this and they were great with the twins, very understanding of their boundaries - such as don't pull on Miles foot to help him go higher - but you can pull on the strap to his harness and send him sky high NO PROBLEM. The foot though? Hell no. They made a really positive experience and all four kids bounced their little brains out, jumping higher and higher. Charlie especially loved it, but Charlie loves things that fly. Before we knew he was autistic we always said Charlie would be a pilot. Now of course I'd have to advise you NOT to get on that plane.

It wouldn't be a trip to a festival without some festival foods, and we had to feast on some funnel cake (My Hunny's favorite) and some Menchie's frozen yogurt. My friend Gogo has recommended Menchie's forever and I was excited to finally try it. It was everything she said, and then some. I just took a picture of the Sweet Butts BBQ because I have the maturity of a 12 year old. Also, I wish I'd had some BBQ now.
We stopped here to look at the Tigger, I only noticed the cigar store Indian afterward lol. The guy does chainsaw carving, apparently he'd been doing some of it live before we got there and we missed that bit.

Before we went home we explored a couple of antique shops. I took this picture of Julia under the dryer because my Uncle George had this EXACT hair dryer back in the day. EXACT. I took the picture for my mom. It occurred to me that my daughter is the first generation that won't have this experience of getting her hair done by Uncle George. My great grandma, my grandma, my mom and I had the luxury of a stylist in the family for a long time. He's been dead since I was a freshman in college but it feels like he should still be here.

At least I don't have to worry about him cutting all her hair off one day because she wants a Dorothy Hamill cut. (Sorry about that Mom).

I also picked up a nesting doll (actually from Russia SCORE) and I'm pretty pleased with it. I saw about 1000 things that I really want. Visiting antique stores makes me want to redecorate my house and entertain all the time.

No time for that today though, I have to walk about the door in 59 minutes for Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson and head to Montreal for a few days to work with some really great people. I hate leaving, I have to confess. I LOVE to travel but I always get to this point before I go that I don't want to go at all. I want to stay home.

But I can't.

Now to hope the twins are good for the husband while I'm gone. Crossing fingers.