What I Learned This Week

Procrastination is a gene.  And my son got mine.  This year he has to participate in the school science fair, WHICH we have known about since November.  It is due in SEVEN days.  I just found this out.  My son hasn’t started it yet.  And just when my life can’t get any more stressful – you know, because I do stress over my kids’ schoolwork, especially if I know I’m going to be sucked into the eleventh hour drama the night before when nothing, absolutely NOTHING, is attached yet to the display board – he comes home from school with this big, shit-eating grin on his beautiful face to tell me, guess what mom? I’ve got great news! Turns out we were misinformed on the deadline and he actually has two weeks left.  And we threw our arms around each other and did our best happy dance.

If you steal someone’s Bluetooth, make sure you delete the original phone from it.  Otherwise, you might be bowling 2 lanes away from the original owner when suddenly it “reconnects” to the original phone.  Oh, and more importantly – if it rings, for the love of all things cellular, don’t answer it.  Can you say “busted” 3 ways to Sunday? 

There’s going to be another wedding in the family!  I.  Am.  So.   Excited.  Now I sit anxiously on my hands –so I don’t chew off every last cuticle on the hand I was working on when science project came a-knocking – to see where the happy couple decides to seal the deal.  It’s either going to be at the top of a very cold mountain, for which I will need some very quick skiing lessons, some heavy padding and definitely a helmet, …. Or, somewhere a little safer and requiring less clothing, like a nice patio flanked by flowers and a restaurant with 5-star food.

My in-laws, who have been married for 46 years, have decided, since neither of them want to live without the other, that when they reach the end of the road of life they will drive off into the Grand Canyon sunset and right off a cliff like Thelma and Louise.  That’s assuming they still have all their faculties and don’t get confused and drive off the side of the local quarry and end up living…. and get committed to that other purgatory known as nursing home.

The people you went to high school with weren’t necessarily the people you thought they were.  For real.   You know, like the girls you thought were getting laid all the time, weren’t, and the girls you never would’ve guessed, WERE.  My mom warned me about this long ago, when she told about a friend of hers in high school who went away for a while to have a very large cyst removed from her abdomen.  Lesson to us all:  Beware the quiet ones.
And while we are on the subject of sex, did you know there are sex parties out there, just like Tupperware and Pampered Chef?  Not sex-where-people-are-having-sex parties – because that would just be, ewww – but parties selling toys and paraphernalia and clothing and stuff.  I have to admit I had heard of these before – and not surprisingly from someone I would never have expected to host one – but I think I just blocked the whole thing out of my mind.  However, someone handed me a catalog at this banquet we went to for something totally unrelated to sex or anything even close to that – and, thank God I’d had a couple of cocktails before I opened it!  Think people over 40 don’t blush?  Guess again.  I’m already thinking of who to invite to my party… I’m nearly peeing myself, thinking of the post that would follow that!

You know you’re drunk when you spill your margarita… in bed.  Even if you weren’t even drinking it at the time.

And, on a more serious note….

A strong circle of women is a beautiful thing.  A friend of mine refers to her circle as her Village, the friends who are there for her no matter what, through thick and thin, who she can call in an instant for anything, anytime.  That old adage, it takes a village to raise a child, is stretched to stand for something way more potent and enduring – it just takes a Village.  I envy that.  We all need a Village – one that holds us up, carries us through, tells us like it is, laughs at our ridiculousness, cries for our heartaches, drives us crazy, supports our struggles, celebrates our achievements, no matter how small, never lets us feel alone, AND helps us raise our children.  It is a beautiful thing.

Animas – the company that makes my daughter’s insulin pump – has submitted to the FDA for approval their integrated insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor (CGM) known as the Animas Vibe, which has been in use in Europe for two years already.  The continuous glucose data is viewed directly on the pump, rather than a separate receiver, and has a built in safety alert for glucose of 55 or below.  Still, she would need a separate site for this, which features a needle the length of a quarter that most likely would send us back to that cat-and-mouse chase of our syringe days.  But nevertheless, this is an exciting development as I constantly revisit my desire to put her on a CGM.
Miscellaneous tidbits:

  • According to Ask.com, simulating a volcanic eruption, experimenting with egg flotation, and creating simple electric circuits are among the top 10 science projects.  MY kid chose a self-inflicted conceived engineering-type project guaranteed to drive him to tears and me to madness (note to Todd:  please buy an extra bottle of tequila this week). 

  • A joint survey by Today.com and SELF magazine found that of 18,000 women surveyed, a staggering 84% have endured a toxic friendship.  Friends who were self-absorbed, backstabbers and hypercritical friends, friends who were unreliable, friends who were like the proverbial black cloud on a sunny day… even friends who still behave like they’re still in high school.   I wasn’t surveyed, but I can definitely include myself in that count.  Thankfully age and experience has sharpened my radar for that kind of poison.

  • The Grand Canyon, where the fictional Thelma & Louise drove to their death, has depths of over 600o feet (1 mile) in some places.  The actual locale used for that memorable plunge was in an area just south of Dead Horse Point State Park, which is in Utah.  There are 2000 foot cliffs there, and safety concerns listed for the park include its relative isolation, lightning, and unfenced cliffs.   It’s 2,391 miles to the Grand Canyon from Baltimore, translating to 1 day and 14 hours.  I’d say that’s the place to go.

  • The sex toy party trend is heating up.  But, according to one source, many of these consultants conducting the parties are not well educated in sexuality!  Shocking.  Consequently, this could also result in your not knowing that one should only use 100% medical grade silicone lubricant on silicone toys.  Worse, toxins potentially found in some products can be absorbed by the vaginal wall and create a health hazard.  Do your homework ladies!  There – you have learned something new and I may have saved your vagina.  You’re welcome.

Middle Schooler

I was really tempted to write this as a “Thrift Shop” parody, because a rap about it would be less likely to make me cry.  My son, who is careening toward the not-so-tender age of 13, is now officially taller than me.  When I say it’s official, I mean it’s on the books.  The record.   The pediatrician’s report.  The tip of his tongue (cause he thinks it’s really cool).

We knew it was coming.  He’s been sort of staring me square in the eye for the last 6 months or so… and I have to admit to a sort of fascination with hugging flesh and blood as large as me.  Well, he isn’t as large as me.  While he tips the height percentile at 90% or so, he is clawing at the 50th for weight.  But what he lacks in girth though, he more than makes up for in 40 pounds of adolescent smart mouth. 

It’s maddening to hear the apple of my eye open his mouth – to sass me with some declaration of the unfairness of life as he knows it.  Or, to constantly prod his little sister with nicknames like “fart” and “poo” (and sometimes in combination, “fartpoo”) …  guaranteed to elicit a subterranean squall from the offended that hammers on my delicate sensibilities.  If I had a dime for every “Owennnnuhhh!” I could afford to be lying on the beach in Anguilla going deaf by the sound of the crystal waves licking the powdery sand.

I took him for his annual physical – not because I’m a good mom but because I wanted to get it in before his medical coverage ran out.  (Not that it’s going to – there’s just been some random, foreign news about insurance rates higher than the Empire State becoming a hardship or something.)  Anyhoo – I strategically scheduled said appointment for early morning after our little princess got on her bus to school.  The pediatrician asked the typical questions, directed mostly at him, gave a quick exam and announced that my firstborn is now 5’3” tall.  We each filled out psychosocial questionnaires – I assume to weed out the normal kids from the kids most likely to burn down a building, or drown a live animal.  My nosy eye noticed that Owen had answered the questions almost exactly the same as I did (insert sigh of relief).

It’s almost intoxicating, to have even a glance through the window of your kid’s soul …. Like flicking through television channels and accidentally stumbling across a forbidden movie.  There’s a small thrill, to see what they feel on the inside sometimes, and at the same time triggers that tilt-a-whirl in your gut where worry over what you might see lives. 

I was cleaning out his room the other day, moving things around, throwing stuff away, putting others in logical places – when I stumbled upon one of those old-style composition books on his desk.  Without any ill-intent, I opened it up to determine whether it was worth tossing, and to my surprise there was written a page-long rant dedicated to the night I grounded him.  Hehas the right to do whatever he wants, no one can tell him what to do, and parents are so stupid for grounding us for no good reason. 

Admittedly, I had been concerned by his emotional response the night of the “incident,” he was alternately angry and crying, both claiming innocence and accusing me of being wrong and unfair while announcing that he hated me.  He made some worrisome statements, peppered with smart-ass remarks that catapulted this unmedicated momma to Pluto and back.  I got angry.  Really angry.  But what I hadn’t known, when I sent him to his room, is that he had sat down with an empty page and journaled his feelings.  How f-ing amazing is that??  His mother – herself a self-proclaimed wiseass – has always used her own journals for expression.  Well, after she shot her mouth off and threw a few objects, that is.  I never taught him to do that – the first part, that is.  But, he has certainly seen me writing plenty over the entire 12 years of his life.  I was at once proud of his self-imposed coping mechanism and – even if I still felt spinning-tea-cup-whoozy – somewhat relieved that what he had privately written was normal.

So we left the doctor’s office, and grabbed some Cinnamelts for a treat.  We have so few of these moments alone together, and they are so precious – more so because the symbolism of his stature affects a knowing sense that they will grow fewer as the years, and his body, progress.  I took this rare opportunity to open a discussion about how he’s doing.  Really doing. 

Okay, I guess, he says. 

I mean, how are you feeling about things now – you know, since the divorce and all? 

Okay, he says, it’s kinda hard sometimes.

How is it hard? 

Well, it’s hard because we don’t all live in the same house. 

And that was all he said.  But I understood his perspective, because I witness it nearly every day that custody is exchanged, with Ava’s smothering, emotional and physical response to me, and when her blood sugars do their emotional dance.

I’ve been wondering whether the children would benefit from counseling – someone safe to talk to with no personal stake in their situation.  I spent a good deal of time investigating the possibility, but for a number of reasons I don’t need to share today, wasn’t able to get either of them to see someone. I still think it’s a good idea.  I think it’s a good idea for me, too, but that’s also another story, for another time.

The rest of the car ride we spent discussing trivial things, like Owen’s latest achievements in Roblox, and his Honor Roll report card…. and the Gardisil vaccine.  The good doctor  had turned his attention to me after my 12-year-old’s exam, to share the latest news regarding this “important” vaccine.  For the second year in a row – I turned it down.  I KNOW my son doesn’t need it just yet (though I won’t be so naïve as to pretend he never will).  Come on – he’s TWELVE, won’t even talk ABOUT girls, let alone LOOK at them. 

So Owen and I discussed what it’s for and why it might be a good idea in the future… and WHAT  would make it a good idea in the future.  Thankfully, he’s had enough health education this year that he understands the basic concepts of this conversation, and we were able to move on to other topics. 
Passing the Chuck E Cheese reminded me of an earlier day when I took him there with my Mom’s club, and his little 3-year-old self threw a very orthodox tantrum on the floor in front of a table of grandmothers when it was time to leave.  They all just sat there staring at his prone little body, seizing on the carpet in front of their table, like he was an animal at the zoo.  

I was mortified.  He was never one of “those” children.  Never.  He was my easygoing baby from the very day he slipped out of my body…..  and the reason I tempted fate by having another.  He was always smiling, always loving, affectionate, and outgoing.  He loved making new friends.  With the reasonable exception of what I used to call the 6 o’clock witching hour, where he would fuss incessantly for over an hour every day, he slept through the night and I didn’t go any grayer. 

I recalled the Chuck E. Cheese story with him, and he laughed out loud.  Then I recalled another isolated incident – a Sunday afternoon trip to a local toy store when he was 18 months old – he fell in love with a Thomas train table set up for play in the store.  We gave him a good half hour with it, but he was still VERY unhappy when it was time to leave.  He kicked.  He screamed.  He howled.  But I kept an iron grip on him until we got to the car, where his limbs went rigid and I couldn’t fit him through the car door.  I am still amazed how strong small children can be, when they want to.  My mother-in-law, who was with us, just stood motionless, taking in this spectacle and finally asking, what the f— is wrong with this child??  Owen thought this hilariously funny today.

I love to recall “the old days,” as we call them.  I will never forget, nor stop missing my little man.  And now I am starting to sound like an old woman, or that embarrassing, doting mother no one wants to listen to.  I swore I’d never be that, and now it’s too late and I’m afraid I need a support group.  I could call it, Mothers Who Miss Their Baby Boys. But, I’m also loving the Joy of watching him grow into a man – the thoughts and ideas he possesses and the personal achievements he makes, the character he is building and the values that will make him a successful man.  I just wish time didn’t go quite this fast.

Once Upon A Time

I know this woman, who recently went through a nasty child custody battle.  She was blindsided by her children’s father, who filed for full custody of the children and subsequently painted her a very bad mother.  I watched her deteriorate during those long days and months – and struggle to smile through her tears and the fear that kept her awake at night.  I felt powerless to help her – all I could offer was to remind her of faith, and remind her of who she always was, to never lose sight of herself. 

He called her a liar. He said she was trying to take the children from him.  He told her children that he didn’t want them living in her home.  He told the evaluating psychologist that she had been a drug addict, that she had emotional issues that required medication, that it was she who was the perpetrator of the domestic abuse, and – in a final blow after the evaluations were over – told the doctor that “given her prior abuse and neglect of the children,” he saw no other alternative but for him to be awarded full custody.  She read this statement in the actual evaluation report, after he had sat in the same room with her for the final review, where he had agreed that shared custody was best for the children.

Luckily, he didn’t win.  In the months that followed, she found that things began to settle down.  The girlfriend he’d had through the entire process, had moved out.  Then there was a new girlfriend, which ended so fast, she never even had a name.  He wanted to “work together” now, for the sake of the children.  There were no more attacks on her character, no more animosity from his camp, and very little communication beyond what was absolutely necessary.

This woman I know – she is happy and healthy again.  Mostly.  No one is perfect.  But, not long ago, the man who systematically tried to destroy her came to her with an appeal.  He apologized for being a bad husband, and all the mistakes he had made there.  He didn’t apologize for the custody suit.  He told her he needed her help, since the custody arrangement they spent thousands fighting over was going to be a hardship for him during the summer.  And, moreover, he wanted to share with her that he was dating someone new.  He’s in love.  The kids have met her.  He wants to marry her.   Turns out, she knows this other woman – however, casually, and from very long ago.

I thought she’d be stunned by this news, but she says nothing surprises her anymore.  She’s relieved it’s at least someone who she is sure is a good woman, who will be kind to her children.  But she was not without conflict, knowing the power she had to bury him.  In my opinion, she would be a better woman by keeping her distance, and saying nothing.  Not that I could ever blame her for a weakness to do otherwise.  Wish them well, and hope this is the last girlfriend her children will have to meet for a while.

I wonder though…who is this man – who destroyed her trust in him long, long ago – who is acting like this super nice guy – manipulating emotions to elicit her compassion, now that he so desperately needs it?  If he were stronger, would he think nothing of trying to take everything from her, again?  Who is this lovesick man – who shows women a softer side, who laughs, buys flowers, and goes places?  This man is a stranger.  He said he has changed.  Can anyone become the polar opposite of everything they once were? 

I say leopards never change their spots.

People don’t really change their attitude; they simply change their masks. ~ unknown

Someone told me that people change like the seasons, but I don’t believe it, there’s a big difference – seasons never change for personal interests. 
~ Senora Roy