Category Archives: Kids

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…

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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

It’s not my first… this one makes number five since I started growing fibroadenomas in 1994, if you’re keeping score, which I suppose I am.

Lumps suck. Lumps are scary, not supposed to be there, infuriating, disempowering and defeminizing. In my case, so far, they have all come through pathology with labels that are always somewhat “unique,” but also, thankfully, always something other than cancer. But no matter how much my body seems determined to make ambulatory surgery with local anesthesia and IV sedation a hobby, I have never gotten used to it.

My last lump adventure was in 2005. It was a seven appointments long, high-stress, multiple-biopsied extravaganza which culminated in the surgical removal of two “areas of concern.” In the end, my “atypical apocrine-like cells” were passed around to several pathologists at two different teaching hospitals, and ultimately labeled as indeterminate and rare, but most likely benign anomalies.

So here I am with four surgical scars and deeply insulted breasts, but also with my (“most likely”) good health and an ever growing secret stash of four-leaf clovers and lucky pennies.

Deep breath.

Five weeks or so ago, I found a new lump. One would think I’d be downright religious by now about regularly checking myself, but with all my scar tissue and surgical troughs, I find it almost impossible to tell whether or not there’s anything different going on from month to month. I’m not very good about checking. But this sucker was big. A good inch and a half across. I was horrified as I realized, a day or so after I found it, that I could see the lump in a mirror at my gym, through two layers of fabric, mid bicep-curl.

These things get scarier as I get older. While I know that statistics are on my side and that the vast majority of lumps are benign, I also know that the numbers get slightly less favorable when lumps appear after age 40. I have not spent the past five weeks worried sick about cancer — I know that would be highly unlikely, and have instead used my negative energy worrying about surgery. But it’s still impossible to completely quiet the “what ifs.” They have a way of murmuring and whispering their way through each day until the final post-surgical pathology report comes in, no matter how much the odds tell them to shut the hell up.

As a doctor’s kid, I was well-taught to comfort myself with the knowledge that “medicine is all odds.” I know that getting ahead of myself with worry takes a physical toll as well as an emotional one, so for the most part, I try to focus on the procedure itself and the pain-in-the-assedness of it all, rather than get caught up in the possibility that I may be in for a longer, far more difficult journey in the case of any malignancy. So I tend to walk into pre-surgical appointments feeling fairly confident. “Yeah, I know the drill,” I think to myself, having been here several times before.

But then, something always cues those damned murmurings. The “Understanding Breast Cancer” poster in the exam room, or the sterile white room itself, which someone has attempted to soften with sparsely placed home decor, including a framed landscape scene of a barn in a field of bluebonnets. The wall art is oddly soothing in its serenity, until one notices its awkward placement near a needle disposal box marked “BIOHAZARD.” I appreciate the efforts to smooth out the rough edges of a sterile environment, but also find it darkly humorous.

Ultrasound. Unsettling statements like, “here’s what concerns us” and “possible solid mass” and “next week’s surgical schedule.” Mammogram and second ultrasound to confirm findings.

Fill the fridge with groceries. Take the kids swimming. Pretend there’s not a golf ball-sized lump in the left half of my swimsuit top. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.

Click on either title to link to:

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

Old Favorites, Part V: I’m Not Kidding, I’m Asking Him for Lottery Numbers

autism-awareness
In honor of World Autism Awareness Day, I’m reposting one of my favorite stories about my son, Sam. While there is nothing about this post that is specifically about autism, it’s still an autism post as his diagnosis is a big part of what makes Sam… Sam. There is far more to him than his neurological profile, but there’s no denying that autism is an integral part of his big, beautiful, quirky, brilliant personality. This was originally published December 12, 2007. Since then, Sam has won a Harry Potter toy train (Train Show Raffle in our former hometown,) a $10 Target Gift Certificate (drawing at school in which three students out of 500 won a prize) and a sweet Lionel Starter Model Train Layout (Raffle Prize at a Train Expo two weeks ago.)

Read more Sam posts by clicking the word “Autism” under the “Categories” tab on the right.

Some of you who read here regularly may remember that my son, Sam, has excellent luck. Unbelievable, really. He wins things.

I have never, in any of my 42 years, won anything. Not that I’m bitter.

IMPORTANT BACKGROUND ITEM #1: Last year, while begrudgingly attending a performance of his sister’s play, Sam won seventy bucks in a raffle, during intermission. Then when he entered another raffle, a mere two days after the first, amidst concerned, maternal warnings that most buyers of raffle tickets do not actually win anything, especially not twice, he won the coveted half-hour massage gift certificate.

I worried about the lesson in all this. Gambling = getting stuff. Argh. Then again, it’s hard to argue with a two-for-two winner.

IMPORTANT BACKGROUND ITEM #2: Sam also enjoys lying convincing me of things. For example, when I say, “Sam, I need you to come over here so we can get your homework going!” he likes to point to a spot just behind me and say something exclamatory, such as, “MOM!! LOOK!! FLYING MONKEYS!!” When I look, he runs away. If he wants, say, a cell phone to call his own, he says that he won one and tells me where to pick it up.

So when he tells me things that seem to be a tad, shall we say, unlikely? I’m a little skeptical.

Yesterday, he came home from school and flopped himself on the couch.

Me: How was school, bud?

Sam: Oh, fine, I guess.

Me: Did anything interesting happen at Chess Club?

Sam: Oh. Well, no, but during lunch I won a bike.

Me (laughing, as I playfully punch him in the arm): Har! That’s funny, Sam.

Sam (with smirky, I-really-hope-she-buys-this smile): No, really. And Chess Club was good, too. I won my match.

Then, we went on to discuss the cold, rainy weather, what I was making for dinner (spaghetti), and the fact that it was quiet since the girls weren’t home yet. Sam got up to go get a snack, and I went looking for his backpack, to see what we had in store for homework.

Yeah, right. He won a bike. Har! How funny.

Then, I opened his binder and found a note penned in big, red, teacher handwriting. The note said, “WOW! SAM WON A BIKE!”

Um. Whut?

Unbeknownst to me, Sam’s school participates in a program in which kids earn points for making healthy lunch choices. Choose healthy items over junkier ones; earn tickets. Prize drawings are held throughout the year, for CD’s and books and pencils. Yesterday, they held the Big Grand Prize Drawing during lunch.

And now he’s the proud owner of the biggest, baddest, sweetest set of red wheels I’ve ever seen.

sambikesm.jpg

The Boy rejoices.

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.