Nubby

Jingle’s tail has seen better days. The week before last at homeschool co-op, she was sitting on her mat, minding her own business, hoping some kid would drop a sandwich at lunch, when all hell broke loose.

Someone walked by, and she wagged her tail happily in response. When she did this, her tail swooped under a radiator, and came back out with a gluey gooey mousetrap, about the size of a car license plate, attached.

Jingle freaked and started spinning in a circle, trying to get away from it. I tried to get the trap off of her, but it was stuck tight. My fingers were getting covered in gooey glue. It was disgusting. So much for lunch.

Thankfully, Melinda had scissors with her (some homeschool moms are so prepared). I had to cut the trap off and in the process cut Jingle’s big fluffy tail, way down. Where she used to have a beautiful fan, she now has a nub.

She’s so embarrassed.

If you see her, be cool. Pretend not to notice.

And to any mice in the big old church building where co-op is held?

You’re welcome.

Self-care

Todd has today off and is not working until tomorrow afternoon. With his encouragment I am at a hotel two seconds away, and for the next 22 hours, I do not have to answer to anyone. No one will demand a thing of me. I’ve got my Trader Joe’s peanut butter cups. I’ve got my Limeaide. I’ve got my O Magazine. I’ve got my iPod with all my meditations.

I’m going to take a long hot uninterrupted unhurried shower. I’m going to snuggle up with Oprah. I’m going to catch my breath.

Fighting the urge to justify it by telling you what I don’t spend money on, that so many women do. But you know what? To hell with that. I’m rocking the hotel and the peanut butter cups. I need it. We can afford it. I’ve already spent too much time on this short paragraph.

See ‘ya later alligators. I’m ’bouts to get all rejuvenated.

How Can I Help You?

Being with my kids 24/7 has me feeling overwhelmed. I love that they get to be educated at home. Riley is thriving beyond my wildest dreams. Seth really enjoys it. It seems to be working for everyone, except maybe me. It is so isolating sometimes. I miss the camaraderie of work, and the paycheck. No matter how much Todd says it is “our” money there is still a power differential.

Anyway….I’m treading water here and getting tired. I’m not as present with the kids as I like to be, and my main objective seems to be how I can keep them occupied so I can get away from them and their constant needs and demands for twenty minutes here, half an hour there. I am not motivated to cook. Our weekly organic produce rots on the counter. If I have to do another dish I am going to scream. Todd and I don’t go out. We don’t do anything social. He is happy to come home and hang out after working hard all week but I’m dying here. I feel so ready to take a job. Perhaps something part-time in the evenings. Nursing would make sense. It is where I can make the most money. I’d have to take my boards again, but whatever. It wasn’t that hard the first time.

And then, perhaps the real reason for the overwhelm. Seth had a sore throat last week. Peering in with a flashlight, the back of his throat actually looked bloody. A couple of days later, it looked more like hamburger meat. This week his tics are really severe. His whole body seizes up. His arm does a wide circular motion. It can take him 20 tries before getting a sentence out, as if his speech is a vinyl record getting stuck on a scratch. The hypothesis with PANDAS is that a strep infection causes an auto-immune response, which somehow attacks the basil ganglia of the brain, the part that controls movement. So you not only have to stop the strep, but also the auto-immune response to it. Seth does not have the truly debilitating psychiatric symptoms often associated with PANDAS but he does have irrational fears and some urinary issues which cause him embarrassment. He fits the criteria for the diagnosis. And if it isn’t PANDAS, what the hell is it?

Our regular pediatrician does not give a shit. He acts as if I have Munchausen by Proxy syndrome because I do not settle for his lackadaisical, “kids outgrow tics.” This isn’t a slight little tic. This is a whole bunch of tics. Some are vocal, some are full body seizing tics (which are constant, Seth’s ribs are sore from it) and it’s not just tics. He is nine and can’t go upstairs by himself, due to fear. He wasn’t always this way.

Luckily we have a specialist who knows about the condition and is doing her best to treat it, but we really have not found the magic bullet yet. Seth’s immune system is screwed up and has been since he was at least three. He missed 33 days of school his kindergarten year.

I find myself resenting women who gripe about how school is closed for this holiday or that and they can’t get any work done. It was never my dream to homeschool and I am not a natural teacher. I fantasize about sending my kids to school, but it was horrible for Riley and school is strep city. And …how could I think of sending Seth? Ticking all over the place and stammering and smelling like pee? No. Not putting him through that. I know it is all relative and so many people have it so much worse than us, but I am tired.

And this is what the overwhelm is really about. My boy is not doing so hot, and I can’t get a minute to catch my breath, and sit with it, and tune into my inner guidance, and really figure out what he needs.

So many good things to report though. Riley got expanders for her upcoming braces and she is doing so well with this metal device attached to her upper palate. She is 100% on board with braces and feels like a “teenager,” and is so full of herself over them. It is a right of passage for her and she is loving it. She is handling all the associated sensory issues like a champ. Better than I would be. She is just growing and thriving in so many ways. Looking at how well she is doing, knowing how far she’s come, I know we can get to the bottom of things with Seth.

We have to.

He is such a good kid. Even with all of this, he’s mostly happy. He’s mostly joyful.

What’s it all about little man? How can I help you?

What does your soul want me to know?

Sister Assist

The kids are taking a play-writing class. They worked on character development the first week, and this week they are to bring a scene, already written, back to class.

One scene.

Riley’s written two very lengthy ones, and could go on. Seth struggles with one.

He sits at the table, forlorn. He has it in his head, can’t get it on the paper.

Finally, I let him dictate to me and then when we’re finished, I ask him to copy it in his own handwriting. It’s important the boy be able to write if he’s capable of it, and he is.

He starts, then gets teary. It is so much to copy. He’s paralyzed. I am losing patience.

Riley says, “Mom, it’s just that he’s overwhelmed.”

“I know Riley, but he’s not doing anything.” Exasperated, I look at her and say, “Why don’t you help him.”

She goes over to the paper, takes a second sheet and covers up all but the line he is currently writing. Relief washes over him, and he begins to write.

One line at a time.

An Important Lesson

Today I was tired, so I took a nap.

I let the kids play their Nintendo DSi games, and I slept, for over an hour.

I was upstairs, with the door open, with a calico cat snuggled into the back of my legs. I could have heard them if there were any trouble.

There was no trouble.

They were happy, since DSI’s are usually not allowed during the school week.

I am rested.

I was tired, so I took a nap.

Don’t say I didn’t teach them anything today.

A Free Webinar with Author Jennifer Lauck

We’d been writing all day under a big tent in a meadow. As we walked the dusty dirt road back to the outdoor kitchen at the Buddhist retreat center in the Colorado mountains, Jennifer Lauck, (award winning, best selling author Jennifer Lauck) looked at me and said, “You’re the real deal. You’ve probably been writing for many, many lifetimes.”

It was my first writing workshop. It was the kind of moment you tuck into your heart and keep. The kind of thing you take out from time to time to look at, when you’re feeling doubt.

Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar would not have been written without Jennifer Lauck. I was changed forever by her memoir Blackbird. Therapists have used Blackbird as a tool to access the child voice of trauma in their clients. As soon as I finished it I had to read every other word Jennifer had written, and her subsequent memoirs were just as good. If this brilliant author thought I could write, maybe I could believe it too.

Jennifer’s latest memoir is Found, a story about finding her birth mother forty plus years after being given up for adoption. Beautifully written and poignant, it does not disappoint.

Jennifer graciously asked me to guest post on her blog and to take part in one of her Free Webinars this week, to discuss my decision to publish Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar independently.

I hope you’ll join us Thursday on the call, 11am PST, 2pmEST.

Put them on an index card, carry it around

I heard an interview earlier in the week on XM radio (I think it was on Dr. Oz’s show) with Marci Shimoff, author of the books Love for No Reason, and Happy for No Reason. She suggested an exercise which I thought was fantastic. Each person you see, silently wish them these four things:

May you be safe.

May you be happy.

May you be healthy.

May you live with ease. 

The driver in front of you in traffic. The person bagging your groceries. Your child’s teacher. Your spouse. 

May you be safe.

May you be happy.

May you be healthy.

May you live with ease. 

Your neighbor. Your friend. The people who read your blog. Your children.

May you be safe.

May you be happy.

May you be healthy.

May you live with ease. 

The bankers, the protestors, the contestants on Dancing With the Stars, your cat.

May you be safe.

May you be happy.

May you be healthy.

May you live with ease. 

Just thinking these statements softly to myself, I feel the good ju-ju pumping through my body.

I’m going to put them on an index card and carry it around.

Life Long Learner

When I was fifteen, my mother had twin boys. I adored them. When they hit school age, one of my brothers had a learning disability. School was not easy for him. One day when he was really little, my mother was going over his work and pulled out a worksheet which was checked with lots of red marks from his teacher. My heart hurt for him. I was ready to give him a pep talk, when he looked up at our mom and beamed,

“Mom! Look how many I got right!”

I am taking an on-line class right now, and in all my crazy business of getting my book out, I missed an email telling me the details and all the assignments, so I am a couple of weeks behind. Nothing I can’t catch up with but I’m not feeling like my usual straight A self.  I’d been getting some emails from the instructor, but nothing too meaty, and I was waiting, waiting, for the class to really kick in. Little did I know it had kicked in, without me!

Today, while I learn from my mishaps, let me focus on what I’m doing right. My intention with the class is to really learn. It is not to go gangbusters for the A.

I’ll be spending the day, joyfully catching up. Appreciative there is always so much to learn.

Co-op, Speed Stacking, and the Clay Class Formerly Known as Effing

Today was the first day of homeschool co-op. Riley and Seth are taking a play writing class in the first block. In the second, Riley is taking puzzles and games, which is a lot of charades type games, mind teasers, thinking on her feet. Does she need her mom in that class? No she doesn’t.

Seth is jazzed about cup stacking for his second block:

 

You want to see kids thoroughly engaged? Get them cup stacking. And, it’s good for you!

…stacking improves hand-eye coordination and reaction time by up to 30 percent.
Sport stacking helps students develop bilateral proficiency equal performance on both sides of the body. By increasing bilateral proficiency, a student develops a greater percentage of the right side of the brain, which houses awareness, focus, creativity and rhythm. Stacking helps train the brain for sports and other activities where the use of both hands is important, such as playing a musical instrument or using the computer. Sequencing and patterning are also elements of sport stacking, which can help with reading and math skills.  
– From the speedstacks.com website

The kids are also taking another session of clay class, (formerly known unaffectionately as effing clay class) and Riley has requested her mother NOT be there. So I am down the hall, for two blessed hours, (within earshot of screaming but not small blips, and in the path of the door should she bolt). Let me repeat. I am down a long hall, hands off, for clay class this year. Yesterday I was able to write for the full two hours. She had a couple of very small moments, but none that required my intervention.

Tutors come three days a week for a total of seven hours, (math, science, Spanish) thanks to the Ohio Autism Scholarship. We’re doing a ton of reading. Our schedule is very loose, but we have a lot going on. Last week was a field trip to the Art Museum.

It’s Friday afternoon and they are presently plunked in front of the TV, vegging with some popcorn. Soon they’ll be outside riding their scooters on this unseasonably warm and gorgeous day.

Riley thinks she wants to return to school for high school. Her motivation? She wants a boyfriend. This, she confided to her tutor. Did you hear the thud of Todd fainting over that one? Seth would like to be home forever, despite the fact there is a charter school here that uses Lego as part of their curriculum. He’s still intermittently wracked with lots of neurological tics and some other issues associated with PANDAS so I am glad for him to be home at this point in his life. I’ve learned not to look too far ahead.

For now, we are in a good place. Lots of freedom. Lots of activity. Lots of learning going on for all of us.

Have a great weekend!

Lovingly yours,

MO’N

What Special Needs Can Look Like at a Wedding

My friend Kim’s girls were excluded from a family wedding and it’s caused a whole heap of pain for all involved. What were the bride and groom afraid of? Most special needs parents are not going to let their children disrupt a special occasion. We will get our kids out of there pronto if things aren’t going well. We live on hyper alert. We’re not here to ruin special occasions, but we would like to be part of them.

I grew up with a boy in my extended family who has Down Syndrome. He is one year older than me. He was ring bearer in our wedding. What he brought to our special day was joy multiplied. Was there a chance Jack would do something unexpected? Yes. And I had point people assigned to him just in case.

The people there loved him. He was in his glory. He had the best day. Jack did his ring bearing duties beautifully. He let out a huge WOO-HOO! when the priest said, “You may kiss the bride.” He made the reception even more fun with all his dancing, at one point landing himself in the middle of a huge circle of cheering fans screaming, “Go Jack! Go Jack!”

We gave him a copy of the reception video, and he took it back to his group home and played it incessantly for months. 

Just thinking about it again, I have goose bumps. It makes me happy, to think of him so happy.

How sad that some choose fear over love. Weddings are stressful. People get caught up in wanting to control every detail. But what’s more important, having the perfect wedding? Or valuing the perfection in everyone you love.

 

Ringing in 43

Tucking her in the night before my birthday, she could barely contain her excitement. She wears her heart on her sleeve, and was as happy for me as she would be if it were her own birthday eve.

I have a wonderful daughter.

We had a typical day. School work in the morning. Hurray for our great tutor! Reading aloud in the afternoon. Charlotte just started wowing the townspeople by weaving SOME PIG! into her web. Later, Riley went to music therapy and Seth and I sat outside in the gorgeous sunshine reading The Hobbit. Seth listens so intently, and remembers details I couldn’t begin to retain. I love reading with him.

Pizza for dinner, then, they sang to me and gave me cake that tasted like the most delicious giant Ring Ding.

We plowed into it, and then Seth noticed how funny the cake looked half gone. That chunk missing in the front is where I dropped the camera on it while trying to take the picture.

I’d never licked my camera, until now.

After cake, we went to buy some trees. I’ve been wanting to plant a couple of them in the back yard. Looking through the selection, studying the likes and dislikes of different varieties (some like shade, some like sun, some are sissies for cold weather), Riley says to me, “So this is your idea of birthday shopping?” We laughed! 

I didn’t only get trees though. My beloved HT got me an iPod. Because I was the last person on earth carrying around a CD Walkman. My friend Betsy teased I might as well be carrying around a boom box on my shoulder.

We rode home laughing with trees sticking out the car windows, kids holding onto the thin trunks.

Many gorgeous people from so many points on the planet wished me happy birthday on-line, by phone, and through snail mail cards. THANK YOU!

We put the kids to bed and TIVO blasted through DWTS, and did our obligatory screening of Glee.

43 years old, I went to bed with a heart full of love, and a belly full of Ring Ding.

I don’t generally like odd numbers, but it seems like it’s going to be a very good year.

*Freshly showered and not a stitch of make-up in the photo. Posting anyway, ’cause happy is beautiful.

Still Twenty Days Older

From second grade through junior high, I had a dear friend. We were pretty much inseparable. I was twenty days older than her and I loved to rub that fact in her face. For twenty whole days, I was ten while she was still nine. I was 11 while she was still 10. And so on. That’s how I rolled.

She moved away and we lost touch and I have always missed her.

Last week, I found her. (Praise Google from whom all blessings flow).

Today is my birthday. I can’t think of a better gift than knowing where she is and how she is doing. Call me happy.

Inside This Memoir Writer’s Neurotic Head

My ego is on a freaking rampage and having a ball! Self-judgement abounds. Sometimes I don’t know if my skin is really thick enough to be a writer. No, I have not received a bad review (yet). No, I have not gotten critical feedback. People are saying nice things.

I just have this fear somewhere in the back of my mind that something is fundamentally wrong with me for being compelled to write about such personal things. Why do I do this? And why don’t many other people do it? Am I wrong for doing it? Do I have some sort of mental instability? Some sick need for attention? Am I bad? Shameful? Lacking healthy boundaries? A narcissist? Cruel?

My ego does a fist pump and cheers!

Why do I have to go back and explore things? Why can’t I let things stay buried? And why do I have to make it public? What if other people in my story are perfectly fine not to ever think about these matters again? Why do I, in my grandmother’s words, have to “open a can of worms?” Bad, bad, girl, talking about things that would be better left alone. I was the one in my family looking around saying, “Yo! This is messed up! Why can’t you see it?” Why does this seem to be my role in life? What’s wrong with me?

Sly, sly ego. If it can’t get me on that one, it searches for a different angle. Self-pub. What a joke. Thoroughly researched, and a viable way to get books out these days, especially with a traditional publishing industry that is limping along, but I can easily fall into that hole.

Or this….POD (print on demand) means I can make changes. My friend with an eagle eye found some things, like, I’m constantly capitalizing the word “Dad” in the book, when not referring to a dad by name. Interesting mistake, because I am not constantly capitalizing “mom.” She found some other small things, that if I change will make the book look more professional, and tighter, and nothing big, and easy to fix, but boy my ego is having a field day ripping me apart! How embarrassing for it not to be 100% perfect! How awful for the people who have purchased it already to have a book with mistakes! Shameful. I want to crawl into a hole.

Looking at the suggested changes last night I was practically pulling out my hair, not crying, but teary and very overwhelmed. The kids came in the room, took one look at me and Riley said, “Does somebody need a hug?”

Somebody did.

I told the kids what was happening, and Riley reminded me we found typos in Little Women when we read it, and Seth insisted we also found one in Harry Potter. He even remembered the word.

Every single day as I was writing Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar, I did a meditation before writing, offering up the day’s efforts to serve the highest good for all involved. That was my intention. Being perfect was not my intention. Hurting people was never my intention.

I don’t fully understand why truth-telling is in my DNA, but today when I’m feeling small and scared, I’m going remember that “highest good” intention, and trust it. I don’t have to understand everything that is in motion right now.

Charlotte’s Web

I facilitate a book group for 9-11 year olds and this month we are reading Charlotte’s Web. It was my first “big girl” book when I was a child. So charmed by it, I do believe it set me on the path to becoming a lifelong reader. And it’s hard to be a writer if you’re not a reader. It’s an important book for me on so many levels.

I’m reading it aloud to my kids and falling deeply in love with it all over again. I have not read it since I was about 11. I love how the book is not fearful of tackling difficult issues, specifically death. Wilbur the pig finds out the plan for him to be slaughtered, and Charlotte the barn spider tells him to stop wigging out. She “can’t stand hysterics.”

Charlotte isn’t all warm and fuzzy. She reminds me of some of the best people I know and have known. They aren’t prone to sentiment, there is a dryness to their humor, but they love me and have my back. They wouldn’t presume to know what my life is like, but they do unflinchingly know my heart. They show up.

The three of us cuddle up on the big chair to read. I love that my children are hearing Charlotte’s  words out of their mother’s mouth. I want her wisdom to seep into their bones. Everything we love, we will eventually lose. I want them to know that loving is worth it. I hope this book about a spider and a pig can in some way prepare them. So when they experience losses, and they will, they’ll know it’s a part of life. It is okay. All will be well.

I was inspired to pick Charlotte’s Web for this month’s read by this beautiful interview on NPR.

Thank you E.B. White. Your brilliance lives on in your stories.