Category Archives: Humor

This Is Ridiculous

Good lord, I haven’t posted anything since August? I need to get back in this habit. I miss it. But how to catch up?

My life over the past year and a half, Cliff’s Notes style: I found a new town and fell in love with it. Built a house. Moved my family. Now have impossibly large children, aged 14, 12 and 10. Cut off 10 inches of hair. Had surgery and recovered from it, but now have to wear a %$#@ing medic alert bracelet for the rest of my days. Gained ten pounds, lost ten pounds. Got the kids acclimated to a new town, new climate and new schools. Adopted a dog. Recovered from a nasty case of pneumonia a month ago. Helped my youngest brother raise a whole lot of money for Parkinson’s Research in our dad’s honor, and then watched said brother run the New York Marathon. Became an aunt for the seventh time (welcome to the world, Finnley Hawk!) Haven’t met him yet. Need to fix that. In 18 months, have consumed approximately 1,628 cups of coffee.

So here we are. Moving forward…

In Urgent Need of Decaf In School Supply Hell

I am fully capable of helping my children muddle their way through middle school drama. I can comfortably engage in spirited conversation on a variety of important and trivial issues. I have a reasonably high IQ score.

Why is it that hunting and gathering school supplies is so far outside my comfort zone?

I know how to make a list. The stores I frequent even try to simplify things for me by setting up gigantic, idiot-proof Back-to-School Zones containing everything each of my three children might possibly need in support of their return to their schools’ freshly buffed hallways and dust-free chalkboards.

But I H.A.T.E. this chore. I have had the grade-specific, administrator-approved, itemized lists all summer long. And yet I put it off as long as I possibly could because “MIssion School Supplies” gives me a headache and makes me whiny.

Why? I’ll tell you why. In fact, I have a list.

1.) Because in each of my years as a Parent Who Is Required By Law to deliver her children back to school with specific sets of items designed to optimize their learning potential, such as antibacterial wipes and #2 pencils (no mechanical pencils, please) I have never once managed to find everything on the list in one store. Always at least two. Last year, it was four.

2.) Even though I feel certain that there must be an efficient way to accomplish this chore, I always end up aisle-jumping in order to cross things off “The List” in order, for fear of missing something, only to return to each aisle no fewer than four times in search of whatever might be the next thing on the list.

3.) Since I have three children in three different grades, multiply the steps in item #2, above, by three. Do NOT suggest to me that I try to fulfill the needs of each child all at once while in each aisle, because that’s even worse. The order of the items in each list is not at all logical or consistent, and with three lists going at once… dammit, I’m starting to twitch.

4.) Some far more organized and less manic parent has always arrived at the store earlier in the week and exhausted the supply of, say, 1-subject wide-ruled spiral notebooks, of which I must purchase seven. Sure, there are plenty of notebooks, and I suppose if I were smarter I would just grab a handful, count to seven, and be done with it. But I feel obligated to figure out which notebooks are on sale so that I’m paying $0.99 each instead of $3.99. After digging through the mess for a while, usually as soon as I start feeling like I’m conquering the beast, I realize that five of the seven notebooks in my cart are not wide-ruled, but college-ruled. I sigh heavily as I throw back the rejects, only to discover that the vast majority of the wide-ruled notebooks remaining on the shelves are of the three-subject variety.

5.) Target doesn’t allow shoppers to drink vodka while perusing the school supply section.

6.) By the time I’m finished, my very roomy cart is full to the brim:

fullcart

7.) My total school supplies bill for three kids, including tax, is $163.87. My kids are very grumpy about the loot that they see hauled into the house, because I never return with the cool, multi-colored binders or Phineas & Ferb folders. I go for the boring stuff. Store brand pencils. Plain notebooks. Sorry kids, Mom is cheap.

8.) Ah, number eight. To any readers who may also be teachers or administrators, let me ask you a favor. Please tell me the truth. I’ll keep it to myself.

Folders. Some are paper and some are plastic. Some come with prongs, others have pockets.

The item on the list that says, “4 three-prong plastic folders with pockets in solid colors; avoid black.”

Level with me. This is a joke, right? I mean, I actually admire the hell out of you if it is, because it’s brilliant in its evil purity. But, honestly. I can find paper folders with prongs and pockets. I can find plastic folders with prongs or pockets. But in Store #1, there are no three-pronged plastic folders with pockets. In Store #2, I thought I found them! But they only come in… yep. Black. Finally, sweet success in Store #3. I almost wept. Different colors and everything. But. Seriously?

9.) Finally, I return home. I sort through every last eraser and sharpener, highlighter and red pen. But I know it’s not over yet. It really was a good idea, in theory, for the district to limit itself to one list per grade so as not to add to the August confusion, but we all know that there will be a second list, to be fulfilled after Back-to-School Night, when each teacher tells us what they really want their kids to bring to class.

I have heard tales of some stores that sell bundled packages of all the necessary supplies by school and by grade, and of other energetic districts where sharp-minded parent volunteers band together and offer supply kits for sale at Back to School Night.

Oh, I love this idea.

If anyone wants to help me figure that out for next year, please come find me. I’ll be at Target, buying more glue sticks.

schsupp

I Found A Lump, Part III

Click on either title to link back to:

I Found A Lump, Part I
I Found A Lump, Part II

The knockout drugs worked this time.

I remember the placement of the IV, oxygen mask, BP cuff, and pulse/ox monitor. I remember being wheeled into the operating room and moving myself from gurney to table, wishing I was anyplace else. I had a strangely casual conversation with the surgical nurses about my pulse and blood pressure, which were “surprisingly high for someone of my stature.” Ha. Yep, put me in a medical situation, and my normally healthy numbers hit the roof. Good news for me, according to the nurses — high blood pressure meant that they could give me more of The Good Drugs since my body would metabolize them quickly. I did not argue!

I don’t remember getting drowsy. I anticipated heavy eyelids and that dreamlike “I know what’s happening, but I don’t care” feeling — I have always been aware during sedated surgery, and remember much of it in detail. Not this time. I remember nothing. Totally looped.

I woke up later to too many faces above me, and a sense of desperation as I tried to will my way back toward consciousness. Dr. T. explained things and I wanted to listen, but I knew I wouldn’t remember. I heard her say that my blood was refusing to clot, and that they had pressure wrapped me. I quickly became aware of what would become my primary source of torture — and comfort — over the next 24 hours: a huge ace bandage wrapped several times around my chest and back, stubbornly pinching just under my left arm. I felt tape corners in my armpit and suppressed the urge to rip them off. I wasn’t quite awake yet, but was already thinking about how my skin would object when it was time to remove the tape and the gauze. Hospital budgets may be slim, but my nurses did not skimp on tape. Dammit.

Rest, ice, Darvocet. Repeat as needed. I got home and deposited myself on the couch, feeling relieved and fairly comfortable. But as the local wore off… not so much. Ice did nothing through the thick pressure wrap, nor did Darvocet. I called and spoke to the surgical nurse who said, “With the amount of surgery we did on you, you can double up the dose.”

The amount of surgery they did on me? Hm, that’s… interesting.

Dose doubled, and an hour later, still no relief. Too much pain and too much nausea. Got through to my surgeon at 10:00 PM and will forever be in her debt, because she called in a prescription for Vicodin.

Relief. Sleep.

I went back to the gym three days later. Ha! That was stupid. I had hoped it would make me feel better; more normal. But instead it made me feel weak.

I hate weak.

Spent most of the next week in elective time out, trying to sleep. I was hurting, sleep-deprived and generally not fit to be around humans.

At my post-surgical appointment with Dr. T., the stitches came out, and I learned that the pathology report read: “Benign ruptured cyst with granulation due to probable bleeding. No malignancy. Case closed.” There is no sweeter word than “benign.” I need a copy of that report. I should frame it.

It surprised me to hear that I need a medic alert bracelet that labels me, from here on out, as someone with “coagulopathy.” I am now considered a “free bleeder.” No bike racing for me.

My surgeon told me that she used “quite a lot” of electrocautery to stop the bleeding, and that it simply didn’t work. She said that she finally stopped trying; that’s when they pressure wrapped me. Evidently, I am also not a good candidate for sedation in the future. I am supposed to tell doctors that I need an anesthesiologist and should be knocked out at the next level with Propofol. The surgical team used the maximum amount of sedative, and while I thought I was out cold, they were concerned that I was far too alert. I talked to the doctor and nurses throughout the surgery and they thought I might try to get up, thrash about, or remember things.

I laughed and cringed as I asked my doctor, “What did I say?” She looked me straight in the eye with a half-smile and deadpanned, “You do not want to know.” I didn’t pursue it.

I’m not sure how to process the whole “free bleeder” thing. Dr. T. told me that I would likely have to advocate hard with any physician… she said that most surgeons “will take one look at you, see a healthy, strong person who doesn’t drink a lot or do drugs, is small-framed, and will roll their eyes and be generally skeptical of both the bleeding tendency and your strong resistance to anesthesia.” Even with complete knowledge of my bleeding disorder and my body’s tendency to need more drugs than most, they were very surprised by what actually happened.

So chalk up a couple more medical oddities for my Krypton File. I don’t like the idea that no procedure is “minor.” And the thought of something like a serious accident and my increased potential for just plain bleeding to death scares the hell out of me. But mostly pisses me off.

Eleven days out, I’m still not where I want to be. I am starting to feel more like myself again, thinking about things like school supply shopping, dinner, and catching up with laundry. As I told a friend, I’ll feel a lot better when my left breast no longer looks as if it was in a bar fight.

My new Medic Alert bling should be here by Tuesday.

And my morning coffee tastes better than ever.

Old Favorites Part IV: Breaking 2nd Grade News

This one is for Norah, as it addresses my youngest daughter’s entry into the world of theater. Hannah is currently in “crunchtime” rehearsals for “Alice in Wonderland,” which means that her rehearsal hours per week really should be netting her vacation time and health insurance. “Alice” will be performed during the first week of April. Hannah is playing the role of the Three of Clubs, but she has all lines memorized for all characters — I’m really not kidding — and is prepared to step in as an understudy for anyone at all, should it be necessary. This was originally posted on April 15, 2007.

Hannah announced early last week that her class will be producing a play, to be performed at the end of the school year. They chose “Charlotte’s Web,” and she expressed interest in one of the lead roles — the part of Wilbur.


As the week progressed, Hannah’s desire to be Wilbur — to own the pig — became more urgent. She spoke, sometimes to me, occasionally just to herself, of several classmates who were also being considered for this role, and listed new reasons daily as to why she and she alone could do the part justice.

This worried me.

Each morning she declared that it was one day closer to the Day of Reckoning — Thursday — when the parts would be officially posted at a table in her classroom. It was clear to me that her hopes were so laser-focused on this one role that she might be losing sight of the fact that the play would be fun no matter what part she got. She mentioned that she was also being considered for the part of the narrator, so I did my best to sell her the idea that the narrator also had an extremely important job. Unfortunately, I knew that my consolation speech was pointless, as the narrator does not get to faint three times, sit in Fern’s lap, or wear a fuzzy pink suit.

Thursday morning, as Hannah packed up her homework, morning snack and jumprope, she reminded me that today was the day. She would learn her theatrical destiny as soon as she walked past her hallway cubby and into her classroom.

“Mom, when I come home later, you’ll know that I’m Wilbur if I have a biiiiig smile on my face,” she said. Of course, I cringed, concerned about the opposite scenario, imagining her little face contorted with pain and streaked with tears once she found out she was slated to play any other role.

All day, I worried, preparing to comfort my little blonde if she came home disappointed.

At precisely 3:45, I heard the loud rumble of Bus #9, as it groaned to a halt in front of the house. I raced to the front door. Act casual, I ordered myself. Hannah disembarked, looking at her feet.

Uh oh.

As she approached the door, she glanced up and saw me, and made an effort to flash a big, toothy “Hi, Mom!” grin. I read it as a brave attempt to show me that she was okay, and prepared for the tears.

From inside the front door, I watched as she crossed the lawn, squishing the mud beneath her boots. She walked up the steps and ditched her backpack at the threshold. Then she stretched her arms out to both sides, threw her head back, and loudly declared: “I’M WIIIIIIILBUR!!!

I have no idea how she is going to memorize all those lines.

I’m also not sure how to address this disturbing conflict of interest.

UPDATE: Mrs. P told the class earlier in the week that whomever got the role of Wilbur would have to be someone with a loud voice. Hannah is quite proud to have been positively recognized for her lack of volume control.

Old Favorites Part III: It’s A Control Thing

Continuing our walk down memory lane… I originally wrote and posted this on July 11, 2007.

I like to sweat. I need it.

Exercise is my mental health program, almost entirely. The actual health benefits take a distant second place to the stress relief I get from it. I suppose I’m slightly addicted to the feeling of an elevated heart rate, as well as the fatigued satisfaction that follows a tough workout, but as habits go, I’m sure I could do worse.

I used to run when I was in high school and college, but my knees won’t let me anymore. I like the full body workout I can get on an elliptical trainer, and I love my Friday spin classes, taught by Pat the Perky Sado-Masochist / NICU Nurse / Bad-Ass, who believes in packing her 45-minute classes chuck-full of steep, virtual-muddy hills, and time trials. There are no downhills in her world, and she smiles and laughs her way through class while kicking the butts of all who dare to claim a flywheel.

Probably because of this, I recently rediscovered my bike.

The actual one, with wheels that touch the ground and move the bike from here to there.

I don’t know how to fix a flat. I can’t name or locate the parts of a bike beyond the wheels and gears and handlebars. Long parked in the garage with its ever-thickening coating of dust and partially deflated tires, seeing the sun only for the occasional leisurely ride with the kids, I finally took it out for a spin a few weeks ago.

Abby and Hannah were over at a friend’s house, either choreographing a dance routine for the camp talent show, or perhaps humiliating neighbor cats by forcing them to wear doll clothes and paper hats, so I asked Sam if he wanted to go with me. He said no, but I dragged him away from the computer and made him go anyway.

Given the choice, Sam will build Lego railroads and airplanes, or drive the Train Simulator from his computer chair for days at a time, so I wanted to get him outside for some exercise. I hadn’t been to the gym in a couple of days because of all the summer-kids-are-home-activities, so I also wanted to make the most of our ride through the streets, and went at a faster pace than our usual family roll through the ‘hood. He seemed to enjoy it in spite of his surprise at the pace (“HEY MOM! WAIT UP!”).

At about four miles, I looped by the house, giving Sam the option of doing another lap or stopping. He wasted no time telling me that, um, he was done, thank you very much, and in need of a Gatorade and some hammock time.

But that ride reminded me that cycling outside brings with it warm breezes in the face, sunshine and goldfinches and summer scents at every turn, like strawberry plants, barbecues, and freshly cut grass.

And downhills. Downhills!

So now I’m hooked.

I rode another four or five miles that day, and then eight or nine the next time. That became routine, so one day last week I rode twelve, just because I knew I could, and I because I thought double digits sounded cool. Yesterday, about halfway through my intended twelve miles, the number “eighteen” got lodged in my head, mostly because I just wanted to see what it would feel like to push it that far. And of course, once I got close to eighteen, I figured I’d make it an even twenty.

It took about 90 minutes, and it was a challenge to walk up the front steps once I got off the bike, but I loved that I did it.

20 miles! Woo hoo!

Not too bad for a confirmed doofus who, according to my mom, used to “trip over blades of grass,” and only very recently sustained injury while braving the treacherous terrain between the front door and my minivan.

One of the things I love about exercise is that I am in complete control, unlike much of the rest of my life, which often seems to set its own course and haul me along for the ride. There are obstacles I can overcome in almost every session, and goals I can reach, sometimes as simple as getting my butt out of the house and through a workout, even when I don’t feel like it.

That pattern and energy builds my confidence and makes me feel strong, and therefore capable of taking control of the rest.

I hated when my knees shouted a loud “NO!” to the running option a year or two ago; I don’t like admitting defeat. But biking is much easier on 41 year-old bones and joints, and although real cyclists know that 20 miles is roughly equivalent to a jog in the park, cycling mileage sounds far more impressive than the three or four miles that I could manage when I used to go out to run, beating up and breaking down my shins and knees and feet with every step on the hard pavement.

I like to sweat. I like the mental vacation. I like to push myself to see what I can do.

But before I take the bike much farther, I guess I need to figure out if I can fix a flat tire.

Hannah’s Commentary on My Sunday Lunch, as Evidence of My Rapidly Advancing Age

I happily took a seat in my kitchen with a bowl of Vegetable Barley soup and a handful of cheesy Goldfish crackers. Hannah licked her fingers as she polished off her Kid Cuisine burger and fruit snacks. Then, she stared at me, eyes wide open and totally horrified, as I tasted my first spoonful.

Hannah: Mom?

Me: What’s up, Hannah?

Hannah: You’re starting to get old.

Me: What?! Why are you saying that?

Hannah (getting agitated, because the answer is SO obvious): You’re eating soup.

Me: And that means I’m old?

Hannah (totally exasperated): Old men. Who are sick. Eat soup.

Me: Yes, they do. But sometimes young kids who are healthy eat soup, Hannah. And other people, too.

Hannah (dramatic eyeroll; heavy sigh): Yeah, right.

Old Favorites Part I: Sam’s Secrets Revealed

Brought to you by reader demand… this is the first in a series of favorites. This entry was originally published on May 4, 2006.

That subject line is not so much mine as it is Sam’s title to the poem he made up last night.

Sam is my 10 year-old son. He has high-functioning autism. I struggle daily to find the balance between talking openly with him about his diagnosis, and letting him just be a kid.

Every parent who travels this road knows that slapping a label on your child can be social homicide. But I think Sam needs to understand why his brain works the way it does; how it makes him exceptionally gifted in certain areas like visual processing, math, and rote memorization of spoken language, to name a few.

It is also the reason that he has a 1:1 aide during his school day, struggles to sit still in a classroom, and has trouble understanding how to start or maintain a conversation.

I think he needs to know why he has these challenges in order to conquer them. He also needs to feel proud of the inestimable gifts that go along with his neurological configuration, which is different than most.

I try to be honest and open about it, so that in his mind, it is simply a piece of the fabric of his personality. But I don’t dwell on it. This diagnosis does not define him.

Sam is echolalic, which means he has an extraordinary ability to memorize large chunks of language that he hears from other people, computer games, TV shows. (We received one of our first “this kid is different” red flags when he began reciting the entire text of the children’s book “The Polar Express” — verbatim — at age three.) When speaking spontaneously, he avoids eye contact, his delivery is monotone, and he struggles to find words. But when he repeats something that he has heard, he has all the punch and inflection of a seasoned Shakespearean actor performing a soliloquy.

Sam has a school open house coming up next week. Some of the kids are memorizing poems, to be recited solo in front of a large group of parents and students. A few afternoons ago, he ran inside right after the bus dropped him off, and proceeded to recite — from memory — not one, but all five poems that some of his classmates are learning. He has a wonderful teacher this year who plays to his strengths, and Sam will be delivering one of the recitations next Thursday.

Last night, just before bed, he was running around his room, laughing because he had put on a new pair of underwear over the ones he was already wearing. He was literally bouncing off all four walls and the floor. We have a trampoline and some occupational therapy-approved swings in our yard, and Sam gets sensory integration OT sessions at school every day to help him settle into his body, so that he can sit still. While I understand that his “wall bouncing” is neurologically-based behavior, I still get annoyed when it happens at bedtime when we’re all fried and just want to shut down the parenting engines for the night.

So, while I failed at my efforts to maintain my patience, and chased him around the house with his jammies in my hand, he announced, “Mom! I have a poem!”

Exasperated, I said, “Sam, that’s great, but right now I don’t want to hear it. You need to go to bed.”

He went ahead anyway, smiling and trying not to laugh.

He is often hard to reach. When I see a twinkle of presence in his eyes, I can’t deny him. So I listened.

He smiled and said, “This is a poem about me!” and improvised the following:

Sam’s Secrets Revealed

I’m a great builder.
I am an artist.
I have autism.
I have two overdue library books!
Baseball is my favorite sport.
I hit so many grand slams.
And I’m wearing two pairs of underwear right now!

He could have pulled the actual rug out from under me and I wouldn’t have noticed. In that one brief recitation, Sam revealed to me that he knows he has autism, and that he sees it as just one item in the middle of a list of many things that describe him.

I was elated.

And I’m wearing two pairs of underwear right now.