19 December 2011

Birth Day (imported post)

With the presents unwrapped and the cake eaten, tonight I can only think about a family on the other side of the world who are likely remembering that this day nine years ago they left their newborn daughter.

Someone -- mother, father, grandmother, we will likely never know -- left her, from everything that I know and believe to be true, somewhere safe, somewhere she would soon be found. But she was left, and they have no way of knowing that tiny infant, less than a day old the last time her mother saw her face, is now so loved, safe and warm, snuggled in bed asleep between her sister and her giant panda pillow.

That baby girl waited 27 months from that first day until she had a family again, and despite that this amazing, complicated, resilient, remarkable child has a smile that lights up the world. A smile her first mother has never seen.

Thank you, unknown family, for the daughter we share.

17 November 2011

The First Thanksgiving, by Boo (Imported post)

Boo tells the story of the First Thanksgiving:
They were in a BOAT. And they had to PEE, even on the boat. And lots of Pilgrims died. And they saw Indians. And they didn't have enough food to eat so they DIED. And I think they had 90 ... not the Pilgrims, those other people. The Indians. They had 90 Indians. And they didn't have enough to eat. So the Pilgrims went out and shot ... I think it was five deer ... Does that sound right? Five? And 90 Indians? So they could have enough food.
Meanwhile, Mimi writes a school essay about what she's thankful for.
I am thankful for my family. My sister is crazy but she is a good sister and I love her anyway. My dad helps me with my homework. My big brother is asome at soccer and I love him very much. My mom, she does very good cooking, I love her always. These are some ways I'm thankful for my family.
Mimi's not wrong about her sister, frankly.

10 November 2011

Yes, AGAIN (Imported post)

So I broke my foot falling off a curb. Again.

That was Saturday. Stepped off a curb, my right ankle gave out and my foot twisted and I went down, hard. The thing is, this happens to me so often that while it hurt -- it REALLY hurt -- I decided to ignore it. I was leaving my friend Kate's place, on my way home to get ready for a date. I sat on the curb for a minute, debated calling Kate to come help me inside, and then got in my car and drove home. And got ready for my date.

I was aware, this entire time, that my foot was hurting probably more than it should, given my prior experience with such things. I decided to ignore that and go out, because 1) I hate making a big deal out of something that turns out to be nothing and 2) I had a date. This doesn't happen THAT often, and I didn't want to cancel to sit home by myself and think about how my foot hurt.

I arrived at the restaurant and proceeded to have a lovely time for the next several hours, except for how much my foot hurt. And kept hurting. And got worse. Date said several times "Are you sure you don't want me to take you to the ER?" No, no, I kept saying, I'll go home and put some ice on it, and will see how it is in the morning.

I got up to limp to the bathroom a couple of times and by the last time I did this, I knew I was in bad shape. Half an hour or so later when we got up to go, I couldn't put any weight on it and date had to help me to my car. At this point if it hadn't been a first date I might have had him take me to the ER, but seriously? On a first date? Awkward!

During the 15 minute drive home I became aware that putting pressure on my foot from the gas pedal was causing pain to kind of shoot up the back of my leg. Also my toes were kind of tingly. Then I realized that to get out of my car and to my front door, I'd probably have to crawl, or hang on to the side of the house; and I realized, too, that if I got inside and got up tomorrow and it was worse, I'd have a really hard time getting myself back out of the house to go to urgent care.

So I stayed in the car and took myself off to the ER. Usually when I'm at the ER it's for one of the kids, or one of my parents, to be honest; it's a surreal experience to be there by oneself. I had a brief flare of hope that maybe I'd have a cute resident, since, after all, typically one is at the ER in pajama pants that have been vomited on, or a bloody shirt; I still looked fairly cute in my sparkly tank top and skinny jeans. But no.
I got to go to x-ray right away, then sat on a gurney in the hall for a long time listening to nurses and techs and residents have the same conversation over and over about the time change. There was a drug-seeker getting more and more irate because no one was giving her drugs, which she seemed to think violated her constitutional rights. Finally she got up off her hallway gurney and stomped out. I thought she she be more appreciative of having the ability to stomp, really, unlike some people.

Hedgebaby with three broken legs. Which is awful, but way cuter than me.

The resident, eventually, confirmed a fracture of the fifth metatarsal, otherwise known as the bone I have broken twice before. I had to take my pants of to get a splint, because of COURSE I was wearing my skinny jeans; then I had to sit around in a gown while they looked for some scrub pants for me to wear home because of course the jeans wouldn't go back on over the splint. (Although, now I have scrub pants, so, score!) After splinting me, the med student was writing up the order and had to ask me how to spell "crutches."

Then it occurred to me and the medical student that I wouldn't be allowed to drive home with this temporary splint on my foot. And it was three am. (Four, if you didn't factor the time change into account.) Fortunately my lovely sister who lives 20 minutes away was up, for no good reason, and came to get me, drove me home, got me in the house, and tucked me in.

26 October 2011

We Will Survive (Imported post)

This is just to say massive thanks to everyone for listening and commenting. I took all your advice and internet-hugs to heart, and it has helped me to cope the past two mornings, when there was a giant fight about whose toothbrush was whose (REALLY?) and today, refusing to walk.

It seems obvious, doesn't it, that it would be something about school? And yet Boo seems to love school, by all accounts, and is almost always cheerful, if tired, when I pick her up at the end of the day. She's never said anything negative about school aside from complaining, after the first day, that they don't get naps. And my gentle prodding and flat-out asking if anything at school upsets her goes nowhere. She's not a kid who generally plays her cards close to the vest, so I have to think I'd know by now if there was something going on. All the same, conferences are next week and I'll be asking about her classroom behavior and any overall issues in the room.

Not seeing her dad on any regularly scheduled basis isn't helping, although why that should cause specific morning meltdowns I'm not sure. The girls do see him quite a bit, but various circumstances right now mean that we don't have a set two-afternoons-and-every-other-weekend schedule, or any variation thereof. And that's not good for either of them, so I do what I can to make sure everyone knows at the beginning of the week what's going on.

Then there's the fact the Mimi *is* doing so well. Boo has seen Mimi overreact and go nuclear on many an occasion, and now she sees her basically doing what I expect of her in the mornings. So it's possibly delayed reaction/imitation to something that's proven attention-getting? Will be trying to make more of a point of spending one-on-one time with Boo, as much as possible, although that is more difficult these days with the girls on the same school schedule and my work schedule being what it is.

Anyway, I have some ideas. And just putting it out there, and knowing that others have been through it and are pulling for us, helps me cope. I forget what a relief blogging is. It doesn't matter how many comments I get on a facebook post, it's not the same thing as sitting down and spilling my guts onto the keyboard and getting all this virtual love in return. I really must try to do this more often.

24 October 2011

What About Boo? (imported post)

I need help. I am in dire straits here and I have no idea what to do. It’s Boo, is the thing. She’s supposed to be my “normal” kid (for what that’s worth) and right now, she’s the one that is giving me an aneurysm every. single. morning.

She’s a whiny kid. She just is. It makes me want to stab myself in the ears with my crochet hooks, frankly. I do all the things you’re supposed to do to break a kid of whining, including ignoring it, making her ask more politely and in a different tone of voice, using positive reinforcement like stickers and rewards for when she’s NOT whining, time-outs for massive tantrums and really improper behavior. Sometimes, in the immediate, these things work. But long-term, nothing has broken her of it, and in fact, it’s getting worse.

Now we’re at the point where every single morning is a battle. Last year, getting her out of the house for preschool was occasionally difficult and frustrating, but NOTHING like this year and kindergarten has been. We are late to school nearly every morning, despite the fact that I have taken to getting up two hours early and being completely ready to go before I get the girls up. I’ve moved her bedtime up so that she is getting, consistently, between 10 and 11 hours of sleep. We lay out clothes the night before, pack lunches the night before, have backpacks by the door ready to go. And yet. And yet.

It’s not predictable, but the kid knows how to push every single one of my buttons. Some mornings, she’s not hungry and cries at the mere mention of breakfast. Other mornings she’s STARVING and cries if I suggest getting dressed before she’s eaten something. Some mornings it’s asking her to put on her coat, or put her lunchbox in her backpack, or put on socks. There’s no telling. And there’s no warning, is the thing. She goes from zero to 60 in a millisecond. If I were nagging her to put on her socks, I could at least understand why she gets upset. But I’m talking about something like the following:

 Boo comes out of her room, dressed except for socks. Me, noticing this: “Oh, sweetie, you need to put socks on.” Boo immediately screams “I CAN’T FIND ANY SOCKS” or “I DON’T WANT TO WEAR SOCKS”, begins sobbing, and dashes back into her room and slams the door.

I think this is what I find most frustrating. Everything can be going so well, and then with no warning whatsoever, we’re in total nuclear meltdown mode. That’s what happened this morning. I was ready to go. Mimi was ready to go. Boo was ready, except that she had to put on her coat and pick up her backpack and lunchbox. She’d gotten distracted by a toy left out in the middle of the living room, and when I walked out of the bathroom after brushing my teeth and said “ok, everyone at the door” she started screaming at me “I’M DOING SOMETHING OK JUST A MINUTE.” With no warning, or provocation, or anything. Just screaming.

I walked over, plucked the toy out of her hands, CALMLY reminded her that mornings are not playtime, and told her to put on her coat.


“Whatever you are doing, it’s time to stop. We need to leave now so you can be on time for school.”

“JUST A MINUTE I JUST NEED IT FOR A MINUTE.” Screaming. Crying. I steer her to her bag and coat, on a dining room chair, and attempt to wrangle her into both. She fights me. I pick up the coat and say that ok, then, she can put her coat on in the car but it’s time to go. She screams that she wants her lunch box IN her backpack, and I reply that I will do that in the car. She starts crying. I start getting REALLY frustrated. She attempts to dash past me back into the living room, and I instinctively stick my arm out to prevent this because I know from prior history she’s headed to her room to throw a tantrum and this will cause further delay. Unfortunately, she runs into my arm neck first, and I catch her by the throat. So she starts crying harder. At this point *I* start crying, from sheer frustration and guilt that I have no idea how to help her.

I ended up sending Mimi to the car ahead of us, picking up the coat and backpack and lunchbox and half-carrying, half-dragging Boo out to the garage. I set her down to unlock the car and throw everything in, and there’s a melee about who is sitting in which car seat, at which point I just scream at everyone to get in the car, dammit, why do we have to do this every single morning? Can’t we just get out the door and be on time for once?

By the time everyone is in the car and buckled, we are all in tears. Poor Mimi, who has done every single thing she was supposed to in a timely fashion, gets upset whenever I get upset and tries to be sympathetic. “I’m sorry you had a bad morning, Mom,” she says. Which makes me feel guilty and makes me cry some more.

We get to school and Mimi dashes in just in time. Boo won’t get out of the car because her lunchbox isn’t yet in her backpack, so I have to park and drag her into school five minutes after the bell rings, both of us with red, swollen faces. Boo stands in the doorway to her classroom, while other kids stare at her, and her teacher asks her to come in and hang up her stuff. I am on the receiving end of yet another Look from the teacher.

I go back to the car and sob all the way to work. I get to the parking structure and spend another five minutes in the car melting down, trying to collect myself, and dabbing on the face powder I now keep in my bag because I am so often trying to cover the fact that I’ve been crying in the morning. I can’t focus at work. I feel horrible.

I feel like a terrible, terrible mother. I know I’m not. Mimi is doing so well. We’re going to therapy once a week. She listens. She follows directions, at least as much as the average eight-year-old. She hardly ever rages, she talks to me about her feelings, she acknowledges when she screws up. She apologizes when she has a regression and acts out. I’m so proud of her, and I have to think that some of the credit is due to how hard I’ve worked with her to get a handle on this.

Is it just that we’ve focused so much on Mimi’s issues that Boo is screaming for attention? I really thought we’d made a big effort NOT to leave her out. To make sure both girls get time with each parent and special treats and attention and cuddles. Boo snuggles with me at bedtime and we read a story and sing a song. She tells me “I love you Mommy” out of the blue, offers hugs and kisses, holds my hand when we’re out in public, says “please” and “thank you” and is so funny and awesome and smart.

And all that and more is why this morning thing terrifies me so freaking much. I cannot get a handle on it. She does this at other times, too, but mornings are the worst. Sometimes getting ready for bed does not go so well but usually I can stay calm and deal with that. It’s trying to get the three of us out of the house in the morning, fed and dressed and sort of on time, that stresses me out. I hate being late. I hate when the kids are late and I imagine the teachers shaking their heads and judging me, even if they aren’t. (I kind of think Boo’s teacher is, though. Gah, the Look.)

I hate feeling like the single mom who cannot manage her kids. One morning last week, I was so pleased because we were EARLY to school. Then after we got there we realized that no one had lunch money, I’d forgotten to give Mimi her medicine, and Lila only had rainboots and not gym shoes. This happens to the best of us, I know, but it happens to us All. The. Time.

I’m doing everything that has been suggested to me. Mimi’s therapist has given me advice about coping strategies in the morning, talking to Boo about expected behaviors, sticker charts, positive reinforcement, ignoring tantrums, time-outs, and on and on. Boo screams at me “stop TALKING TO ME!” when I bring up my expectations. She gets time-outs and loses privileges for that sort of rudeness, because I can’t allow it, but it doesn’t seem to stop her. Massive praise and rewards for good mornings, positive behavior and pleasant tone of voice doesn’t seem to give her any sort of incentive to keep it up. Nothing is working.

I needed to get this out. I haven’t blogged in ages and ages, and I don’t really have time anyway, and Facebook and Twitter are so much faster and more convenient and all that. But this is so much more than I can explain on any social media platform, is so much bigger than 144 characters, and I am just at a loss.
I’m not necessarily looking for advice. I just needed to put it out there. If you have a miracle solution, God knows I’ll try it, but don’t tell me, please, that she is seeking attention, acting out cause she misses her dad, needs therapy, or any of that stuff. I know all that. I know. I’m working on it. I’ve BEEN working on it.
And this is my “normal” kid. To cop a phrase, God said HA.

19 August 2011

Linkapalooza (imported post)

No time to post. None. And if there was, I would be posting about how I have no time, what with work and then the writing (work) and then the Mimi & Boo stuff (still work, although enjoyable) and then the dealing with the kids and summer and insanity and my lingering case of the blahs. And then the best puppy dog ever, Sophie, died last week after a very short battle with a malignant tumor in her mouth. And that has been awful. She was 13, but we weren't ready to let her go.

Really just not much else going on right now. So instead, some links.

If you want to read about how I flew out to NYC the other weekend and helped my good friend Moxie drive her stuff to Toledo, go here. You won't be sorry. Monkeys, Burt Reynolds, Amish kids with cell phones, and a big yellow truck.

If you want to see how I spend what little spare time I have (read, what I do when I get bored at my actual job), check out my Pinterest boards. But beware: Pinterest is highly, highly addictive. I can't even describe why, it just is. Go look.

If you think one shouldn't make fun of people who can't spell, are potential serial killers, are obnoxious, or in general just mock-worthy, then don't, whatever you do, check out my tumblr about online dating: Not OK, Cupid. When one has spend enough time on the online dating circuit, one must have an outlet, I've discovered, or one might lose one's mind. Also, it's fun.

A couple more fun links. The holidays are coming up faster than you think, people.

My friend Kate makes awesome things. I am particularly in love with the library-card notepads and the incredible variety of gorgeous quote magnets. (Kate also took the pics for my recent Mimi & Boo listings.)

Another friend makes these nifty ornaments using classic literature quotes.

Aaand, I should probably get back to work.

30 May 2011

Two is Enough (imported post)

Today we went to the movies. Last night I promised the girls if they got along and didn't fight for the entire evening we could go today, and indeed, they managed to be civil for three whole hours until bedtime, so we observed Memorial Day by celebrating our freedom to pay exorbitant prices for inferior popcorn. We were waffling between "Rio" and "Kung Fu Panda 2" but then fortunately I got the word from some of my friends who are also parents that KFP2 would not be a good choice for Mimi right now.

(Side note: Dear Hollywood, could we effing PLEASE have a kid's movie not rife with abandonment/adoptee issues on some level? PLEASE? Because they turned up in Rio, too, although not as central, and really, I am tired of my kids asking what happened to various characters' parents every time we watch a movie.)

28 May 2011

Chiming in with my completely unnecessary and unsolicited opinion (imported post)

So there's this ridiculously illogical critique of the children's book parody "Go the Fuck to Sleep." The fantastically logical blog Words Have Meanings has a response, which includes the following valiant attempt to deconstruct the logic of the critique.
  1. If children aren’t read to, it is detrimental.
  2. Go the F*** to Sleep is read by good, but frustrated parents.
  3. We must assume they don’t read to their kids.
  4. Thus, we must be concerned about Go the F*** to Sleep.
(Ok, back to me) I love that the author of Words Have Meanings pointed out that the fact that this IS a parody of children’s books would be lost on people who don’t read to their children, so … what exactly is the assumption here, and how was it reached?

No one has to like the book, or think it’s funny. I do think it’s funny. If you don't, that's ok too. But if you're going to write a contentious op-ed claiming it's not funny because it's the sort of thing that causes child abuse, you need to a) have logical supporting arguments and b) expect people to challenge you. The author of the original piece has been responding to supporters on Twitter and belittling, mocking, and blocking people who don't agree with her.

Back to me again. I’ve been struggling with sleep issues with my kids for years, and have found if you don’t laugh once in a while, you’re going to cry. Or tear your hair out. Or drink. You have to have some kind of coping mechanism that lets you acknowledge it's ok to be completely frustrated with your child once in a while.

In fact, I would argue that failing to acknowledge that these precious angel snowflakes of ours AREN’T always perfect and do make us feel crazy at times is the sort of thing that helps create a culture where parents feel destined to fail. That’s what catharsis means, after all: it’s the emotional release we experience when channeling frustrations into acceptable outlets. We need catharsis specifically so we DON’T snap.


18 May 2011

Time for a list (imported post)

I've been harassed a bit about not actually writing a blog anymore. In a nice way, of course, because my friends are nice people (hah!) I mumble about not having time, but that's not strictly true, because I do lots of other stuff that I don't exactly have time for. So here's my list of excuses for not blogging, in lieu of a blog post.

Things I'm doing instead of blogging, by Jen

1. Working at Job #1, the full-time one that pays me the most, requires me to shower, get dressed, and leave my house, and allows me to provide my children with health insurance, a roof over their heads, and endless supplies of Annie's bunny mac and cheese (it's organic!)

2. Working at Job #2, the freelance one that allows me to research all sorts of weird topics, be re-tweeted by Alyssa Milano (for this article), pay for Boo's preschool, and occasionally get myself a little something, like a haircut, or jeans that don't sag off my ass.

3. Work at Job #3, Mimi & Boo, which right now is suffering mightily because Job #2 pays more consistently. I am, however, busily crocheting my fingers off every spare moment lately as I have a show this Saturday and 2 or 3 custom orders that are way, way, way overdue. If you're someone who has asked me about custom orders or making specific characters, I'm hoping to get back to that in July. Because...

4. Getting ready to move. In June, the girls and I, as a family of three, are leaving the house we moved into three years ago as a family of five. It's a good move, actually, if bittersweet. We're moving into a slightly smaller house about three blocks down the same street we're on now, which means no change of school, commute, or schedule. All the packing, however, is still just as a big a hassle, and as I go through this I'm realizing exactly how much stuff the Ex still has in my house. Never mind the legions of outgrown toys and clothes that must be sorted and given away or donated. If anyone is on the lookout for toddler toys or size 3 girls' duds, get in touch. Seriously.

5. Doctors and therapists and social workers, oh my. If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you probably picked up on the fact that my Mimi is struggling. She has ongoing mental, emotional, and developmental issues (I try to avoid saying "disabilities" because that implies that her struggles are much more limiting than they truly are). For a variety of reasons, the emotional issues are at the forefront right now; I spent one entire scary day last month with her in the Psych ER at our local hospital because neither of us were sure she was safe. Things are very one-step-forward-two-steps-back right now, but all the same I do think we are making a teeny bit of progress. It's hard. It sucks. I'm sleeping about four hours a night trying to deal with numbers 1-4 on this list, see to Mimi's needs, and still have some time to just hang out with my daughters and laugh and play. Please don't say to me "I don't know how you do it," because to be honest I don't either.

6. Dating. Well, not really, but I have been on a few dates on the odd, unfortunately not-regularly-scheduled weekends the girls are with their dad. I've been highly amused, when I'm not seriously depressed, by this whole online-dating-profile thing and finally started my long-awaited (by at least three people) Tumblr about my adventures in that world. There are only two posts right now, and the one copied over from here (which, seriously, is a CLASSIC), because, well, see nos. 1-5 above.

7. Noodling around on the internets. This will come as no great shock if you've known me for any length of time whatsoever, but I do this thing where I get obsessed with something, have to find out everything about it, and then three weeks later have moved on to something else. An evil friend turned me on to Pinterest, which has only enabled and fueled this personality flaw (or, as I like to think of it, engaging quirk). Now I spend time organizing my boards, looking for things to pin, and stalking other people's boards. It's very important. Almost like working, because after all I pin lots of crochet stuff and so it's, you know, inspiration. Or something. I also spend a lot of time on facebook and twitter, although to be honest, not quite as much as I used to. I'm trying not to overshare quite as much. It's hard. I like to talk about myself, apparently.

I do other things, too, but these are the biggies. I read (slightly more now that I have an e-reader and can read and crochet at the same time). I help Mimi with her homework (often ending in tears, for one or both of us). I enjoy the hell out of the moments I can sit with Mimi and have a (often hysterical) conversation about her ideas on life, the universe, and everything, several of which I need to transcribe because dudes, that kid is a hoot, as my mom would say, and also scarily perceptive.

I chat with friends via instant message about work frustrations, cute or irritating things my kids do, cute or irritating things THEIR kids do, pop culture, tv, and boys. I try to limit the number of times I lose my freaking mind to three a week or less. I weather four-year-old trauma, drama, and tantrums from Boo, and in return get exchanges such as the following:
"Mama? Mama? Mama? Mom? Mom? Mommy? Mom?"
"I wuv you."

22 February 2011

Eat your veggies, and maybe you'll meet a nice boy (imported post)

So I go out on dates, and once in a while they go well, and once in a while they go like this: Oh, this was fun, we'll have to do it again sometime. (Subtext: I'm never going to see you again and I'm ok with that.)

And then almost never, they go like that and then I get an email a few days later that goes like THIS: