Archive | December, 2011

Happy Boxing Day!

26 Dec

I have no idea why today is called Boxing Day, but I’m willing to take it as a reason for a day off. Many of you know that, in addition to writing this blog, I write a parenting column for Naperville Patch, an online newspaper that covers my city. Now, the idea of me as a fountain of parenting wisdom is pretty amusing and should be amusing to many who know me. Here, then, is a link to my column for this week:

Enjoy and Happy Seventh Night of Hanukkah.



How WordPress Gave Me A Migraine but I Found Blog Love Anyway

19 Dec

Many of you know that WordPress, the service that manages my blog, recently featured my blog on its homepage. For those in the know, I was “Freshly Pressed.” For those in the don’t know, WordPress is the place on the Internet where I post my blog. Every day, WordPress, the biggest hosting service out there, picks the best of that day’s posts. They say they wade through more than 650,000 posts and who am I to argue.

The Monday before Thanksgiving, WordPress picked my post on gratitude. Now, WordPress promises that they will let you know if they pick your post for Freshly Pressed. WordPress lied to me. I found out I was Freshly Pressed when I checked email that day and saw I had, oh, say 100 emails from strangers commenting on my blog. I was shocked, amazed, astounded and all of those other words I tell my students to use instead of “surprised.”

I did not count how many people hit the like button or made some nice comment about that post. WordPress kept track of the activity on my blog, though. Over the course of two days, I had 3,450 views on my blog. A typical Monday prior to that, I would get about 3,400 fewer.

At the same time . . .

Many of you also know that we are broke. One of the expenses we’ve put off is veterinary care. That same Monday, my daughter was playing with her Littlest Pet Shop figures. “Mom,” she said, looking at something lying on the floor, “is that one of Pogo’s teeth?” It was, indeed, one of our dog’s teeth. Our dog can’t eat soft food without diarrh—oh, I mean—dire circumstances. His teeth are, therefore, tremendously important to me. I checked the checkbook and called the vet.

Vet expenses are one of those things that you think are going to be affordable in the “we can probably pay for it if we eat vegan for a month” category, but always wind up in the “we can only pay for this if we eat hay for a year” category. I never have to have a blood test before getting my teeth cleaned, but my dog does. So, blood test. His rabies vaccine had also expired, so rabies vaccine. Fortunately, he pooped on the waiting room floor, so I was spared following him around with a little plastic spoon to collect fresh turd. So, fecal test.  Total: $500.

I got Pogo home and went to my office, where I responded to probably 60 more comments.

At the same time . . .

It was Thanksgiving week. Thanksgiving is at my house. My house was trashed.

At the same time . . .

I’d been training for my first 5K. I needed to find time to run.

Comments answered, I went to the kitchen for a tea refill. Pogo’s face had swelled to the point that his tiny Papillon snout was nearly buried in bulging fur-covered flesh. We went to the vet. Injection to counter allergic reaction: $100 and we still hadn’t done the dental work.

I deal really well with crises; I keep calm. I took my dog to the vet. I responded to the comments. I made the pecan pie. I trained for the run. No, crises don’t faze me. It’s the letdown afterward that’s a bitch.

I woke at 5 am Thanksgiving morning with a migraine. I took a thermonuclear pain pill and went to bed. I skipped the run. The turkey was great.

At the same time . . .

Things were still hoppin’ on my blog. In addition to the humbling praise, I received awards from two other bloggers:

the Versatile Blogger Award


the Liebster Award.

Both have strings attached.


•  Thank the bloggers who nominated me for the award. Totally up on that; a Southern woman raised me. I’m hoping it’s ok to combine the two. So, thanks to The Waiting, Nevercontrary, Katy Stuff and Aprillbrandon for the Versatile Award and CrudMyKidsSay for the Liebster.

Please check them out. They are great bloggers writing clearly and creatively.

•  Pass the award on to 15 (5 for the Liebster) other bloggers. Now, this was kind of a problem as I didn’t really read other bloggers. SHAME! I found them though and they’re listed below.

• List seven things about me you may not know. See FAR below. You don’t know these things for a reason, people!

The blogs you will check out and may like as much as I do.

A Clean Surface: sort of Martha Stewart with a life. Check out how to make a gingerbread house.

A Buddhist in the Rust Belt: just discovered this. It takes some . . . guts to be a Buddhist in Montana.

Kpgarcia: poetry and photos.

Boggleton Drive: really cool comic. Check out this gem.

Teachermother: writing about teaching and mothering. Duh.

Violet Sunday Studio: ART!!

People I want to punch in the throat: kind of like my blog only. The post on the Elf on The Shelf is priceless.

(Crap! We’re only at seven!)

Democratic Party of DuPage County: don’t laugh. There really is one. Is it bad to nominate a blog I edit? So what!

Renovating Rita: she’s got a recipe for latkes. What’s not to like?

Scribblechic: sweet musings on motherhood. (Yes, I can appreciate sweetness.)

Philosopher mouse of the hedge: the selling mistletoe story is about one of the best Christmas stories I’ve heard.

You’ve Been Hooked: tales from a bellman. Really. Funny!

(Twelve . . .almost there.)

The Anvil: Colonel Klink for President?

Kvetchmom: doesn’t every mom kvetch?

Huffygirl: a nurse practitioner on life and wellness

Whew! Done.

Now for the seven things:

1.     I match my bra and panties. Every day.

2.     I hate green peppers.

3.     I watched Jersey Shore. Once.

4.     I eat Hellman’s out of the jar.

5.     My hair turns orange if I color it myself.

6.     I don’t care how my alma mater fares in sports.

7.     I was a sorority girl.

Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for your kindness and support. I’m loving the wild life on my blog and you’re the reason.


God, Help Me! They Want To Help!

12 Dec

My husband calls me Thor. He does this partly because I am one-fourth Danish but mostly because I will try to do anything myself before asking for help. I move furniture. I haul wood. I reach for things on the top shelf.

I don’t have some “I am an island” complex, but I really would rather do many things myself. I like working hard and it feels good to be independent. Frequently, too, I’ve found the help people want to give doesn’t really feel helpful to me.

When I’m in the middle of making a big-deal dinner, say Thanksgiving, the last thing I want to do is find some job for someone to do. Someone comes at me with a “what can I do to help” while I’m in the middle of trying to strain the gravy and I’m likely to feel more irritated than grateful.

A friend pointed out to me, after asking how she could help with our Passover Seder preparations, that I was delusional. Preparing a seder, even a small one, is a lot of work. I said I did not need help. If my life were a western, this woman would be the rancher’s wife, ready to shoot marauding varmints right between the eyes. She looked at me with a “Puh-leeze” cock of her head and said, “You need help.” I felt her will seep into me and my head nodded in acquiescence. I accepted help. It was painful.

I’ve since developed a strategy that allows the helpful to help and me to keep my sanity. I plan in advance what tasks will be delegated and what things only I can do. Ok, that sounds really arrogant, but when I’m making dinner at my house, I get to decide who’s going to season the sauces and who’s going to set the table.

I helped around the house when I was a kid and I expect my own children to as well. Finding things they can help with that are truly helpful has been a bit of a challenge, though. My daughter believes it’s helpful to run a day spa in the family room on the weekend we’ve planned to decorate the house for Christmas. While my husband, son and I were moving furniture and digging boxes out of the crawlspace, my daughter and her best friend were coercing us into making massage appointments. An hour later, my husband was getting a massage in the family room, while I struggled and cursed to get a tree made of wire and green plastic bristles to look like something other than a tree made of wire and green plastic bristles.

When it comes to getting help, I may have painted myself into a corner with the boy who cried wolf. I’ve been so insistent that I don’t need help that I don’t get it when I truly do. Not too long ago, I was cleaning a particularly heavy and unwieldy fountain pump at the kitchen sink. Every summer, I convince myself that a fountain is exactly what our deck needs and I contrive one out of the variety of pots, tubing and buckets that proliferate in my garage.

While the fountains are usually charming, they generate copious amounts of algal slime. Cleaning the pump is, therefore, a rather nausea-inducing task. So, I was at the sink, attempting to clean the pump without regurgitating lunch. Pump clean, I transferred it from one hand to another while reaching for a towel. The pump fell on my big toe. It hurt. I have a particular string of profanities that I only utter under extreme duress. I’m pretty sure I uttered them.

Once the initial surge of adrenaline subsided, I assessed the damage. My toenail was crushed, awash in blood. I pushed aside the visions of blood and algae slime and found the calm center of my mom brain. Efficiently but painfully, I washed the wound, bound it with a clean towel and made an ice pack. I hobbled over to the couch to watch Food Network while I iced my toe.

I turned on the TV to find my son had left it in video game mode. Now, I could have hobbled over to the TV, fixed the viewing mode and hobbled back to the couch. No, I thought. There are people in this house, my toe hurts, those people can help me. So I shouted, “Help!” My son, I knew, was in his room listening to music. My daughter was in mine, watching Sponge Bob. I shouted louder. “HELP!” No response. “HELP! HELP! HELP!” I yelled. I yelled for about a minute. Finally, I gave up. I hobbled over to the TV, hobbled back to the couch and iced my toe while watching Paula Deen make something like pork shoulder donuts.

Later, I asked my kids, “Did you hear me yelling for help?”

“You were yelling for help?” my son asked.

“Yes. I was. For quite some time.” I glowered at him.

“My door was shut,” he said.

“You could have heard me,” I said. “I was yelling pretty loud.”

He covered his lack of concern by deflecting guilt to his sister.

“Well, what about her?” he asked and pointed out that the door to my bedroom was open the entire time. My daughter could well have heard me from the very first pitiful cry for help.

“Did you hear Mommy?” She looked at the floor.

“Yes,” she said. “But Mr. Crabbs was yelling at the same time, so I couldn’t be sure.”

“You didn’t think you should come downstairs to make sure Mommy was ok?”

“No,” she said. “I really wanted to see Sponge Bob.”

We had a talk about empathy, thoughtfulness, caring for others and being grounded.

This Thanksgiving, my son actually asked “What can I do to help?” He was serious; I was astounded. My daughter made our signature ground cranberry and orange relish, operating the food grinder by herself.

I’m not confident yet that I’d win out over Sponge Bob, but I’m holding out hope for the future.

I Don’t Have ADH. . .

5 Dec

It’s not like we weren’t paying attention. In fact, with only one child, paying attention was never an issue for us as parents. He had our full attention and we thought everything he did was amazing and wonderful.

We were so in love with him, in fact, that we had a positive explanation for the range of his eccentric behaviors. Running full tilt into a wall for fun? He needs extra stimulation. Lying in the grass in left field, tossing his mitt in the air and catching it, while his teammates are attempting to win a game? Well, who wouldn’t be bored playing left field? Circling the little boy next to him then taking a bite out of his arm while the teacher reads a book on sharks? He has a vivid imagination.

It wasn’t until we adopted our daughter and were no longer focused solely on our son that it came to our attention that he had a problem with focus. And staying still. And keeping his hands off of things. And blurting out ridiculous statements.

What did we do about it? We tolerated it. We even encouraged some of it. Really, who wouldn’t be amused by a child who blurts out “Chicken!” at random moments throughout the day? While I knew that his tendency to hang on people (their bodies, not their words), was annoying, I figured he’d learn more from the annoyed taking a swat at him than from my constant nagging. Nope.

Then he went to middle school. And he started failing. And failing. And failing. We tried punishments. He continued failing. We tried inducements. He continued failing. We talked to his teachers. He continued failing. We tried a homework completion spreadsheet. He failed to complete it, even when he completed the homework.

He hated writing; he hated reading. His handwriting was so terrible that even if he had the right answer, if the teacher couldn’t read it, what was the point? We coaxed, we cajoled. We checked homework. We reminded. We crossed our fingers. We sacrificed goats. His grades didn’t improve.

Eventually, he was referred to an interventionist. At this point, I need to make sure you understand that he hated writing, couldn’t remember his assignments and, if he did his assignments, couldn’t remember to hand them in. We’ll ignore for a moment the fact that he was still blurting out things like “I like pie” and hanging on people.

RTI, response to intervention, is all the rage in schools these days, the goal being to intervene before the child fails. Obviously, we got to it a little late. Still, I was thrilled that our son would be getting help.

First recommendation from the interventionist was to have him practice writing to a prompt as soon as he came home from school. Second recommendation from the interventionist was to have him track everything he did every half hour from the time he came home until he went to bed.

There is no witty way to describe my reaction to these recommendations. I believe I said something to my husband like, “Are they freaking crazy?” Still, we tried the tracking thing. It worked if I followed him around and badgered him into filling in the little half-hour blocks. Most of them had notes like, “Argued with Mom.” This, I told myself, is insane. Actually, I probably used the past participle of an “F” word.

And my son continued to fail. Abandoning the little half-hour blocks and the afterschool writing torture, we sought the advice of other experts. Eventually, thousands of dollars and four professionals later, we had a diagnosis: ADHD.

Well, duh, you say.

Yeah, duh, I say. I spent a lot of time kicking myself for turning over every stone looking for solutions while ignoring the big one in the middle of the path. I’m still kicking myself but at least now I’m doing it while I’m learning everything I can about ADHD.

While it’s a relief to know what we’re up against, we’re up against a pretty formidable foe. Routines and habits are essential coping mechanisms. Tell that to a teen. I’m not even going near the nutrition suggestions yet. He needs all the calories he can get to counter the weight-loss that accompanies his medication routine. Down the road a little, we’ll have to worry about driving. He’s not pushing it and neither are we. Kids with ADHD get more tickets and have more accidents. They are also more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. We’ll cross those bridges when we get to them, but we’re looking ahead so we’ll be prepared.

In the meantime, I’ve learned that people can be pretty goofy about ADHD. Some people think it’s over-diagnosed. That may be the case, but after resisting the appellation for more than five years, I’m pretty sure we’re finally barking up the right tree. Other people make jokes about it, blaming their day-to-day forgetfulness and distractibility on the disorder.

ADHD jokes don’t really bother me all that much, but I wondered what my son felt about them. So I asked.

“I don’t care,” he said, then mentioned a friend who calls it “ADSO.”

“ADSO?” I asked.

“Yeah. Attention Deficit. . .Shiny Object!” he said. “But mostly I tell my own jokes.”

“Really?” I asked. “What are some of your ADHD jokes?”

“You think I remember?” he said.

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