Saturday, February 26, 2011

It's all how you read the situation

One of the problems with raising your first born child is you have no reference point. There is no big picture. Everything you are doing is in the here and now. With your subsequent children you can take the approach that *this too shall pass* when things get hairy. But with the first you have to assume that this is as bad as it gets and act accordingly. You have no perspective.

One of the things I have been working on with my children for the past, oh, two years, is their insistence on using the word *butt*. For some reason it drives me bonkers when they say this word.Prior to them using the word in every possible sentence I didn't consider the word offensive. And when adults use it I still don't. But when kids use it it sounds so crass, so inappropriate. I tried many tactics to get them to stop but it just wouldn't take. I would correct them until I was blue in the face and it made no impact. Finally one day when I was giving them yet another mommy lecture on how that word hurts my ears I just stopped. It suddenly dawned on me that before I knew it there would be many words that were a greater cause for alarm then the slang for a person's derriere. I realized I needed to pace myself, save my energy or I would burn out well before the teenage years. Instead I needed to gird my strength and save up for a rainy day. This was not the first occasion when this thought has occurred to me.

My daughter loves to read. This started around the beginning of first grade and has escalated at breakneck speed. She wasn't an early reader but once she got going it snowballed. By the second grade it has reached the point where she won't stop reading. Ever. Now I know you are sitting there rolling your eyes and hating me for being one of those parents who says things like *Oh I just don't know what to do about Bobby. He is so gifted in science that I finally had to hire an ex-astronaut to tutor him in enrichment*. No, it's not like that. I am glad my daughter loves to read. My husband and I are both avid readers and nothing gave us greater pleasure than to discover our daughter is on the path to a lifelong love of the written word.

However, it has a dark side. This child reads morning, noon and night. She will wake up early before school to read her book or make sure she has enough time to read the comics in the newspaper. She reads when she has friends over. Of course this can be a big plus if the friend loves to read because my house stays really clean. And quiet. She reads everywhere all the time. We have to beg her to stop reading and converse with us at dinner. Or at least acknowledge us. It has become annoying.

It has also become a safety hazard. She reads while she is walking home from school. This wouldn't be a problem except that she can't see where she is going and I have to constantly bark at her to stop reading and just walk. This causes me to receive some strange looks. What kind of parent tells their child to stop reading? The one whose child has been known to walk into a power box affixed to a pole. She managed to avoid the pole because it was not in the middle of the sidewalk, but the power box stuck out just enough that she clocked her head.

This reading thing has gotten so out of control that she actually yells at me when she runs out of books. She whines and complains when we tell her she may not bring her book to read when we go out to dinner as a family. My mother came to visit for her birthday. We had bought my daughter a bunch of new books but didn't give them to her until the day before my mom left because I knew that the minute she opened them that would be the end of grandma's quality time with her granddaughter. And it was.

And then we were out to dinner one night when in came a friend of mine with her children. One child is a teenager and the other one is getting close. They are both extremely bright kids with lovely personalities and I am always impressed with them when I run into her. There we were at our table with my daughter reading her book. I felt so self-conscious about how dysfunctional we must look. And then my friend and her family sat down and the teenager pulled out his iPod and started watching a video and the almost teenager pulled out her DS and started intently playing a game. They didn't acknowledge their parents or each other for that matter. I am not sure they did more than grunt enough words to place their food order with the waitress. And at that moment it hit me. Perspective.

Monday, February 21, 2011

No, seriously, how did it *really* happen?

I am not someone who gets normal injuries. I have never broken a leg by skiing or broken an arm from falling out of a tree. My injuries fall into the category of *freak accidents* that border on unbelievable.

Yesterday I was frantically trying to get ready in the morning so we could go skiing when I cut my forehead on my hairdryer. For those of you who use hairdryers you are scratching your head (pun intended) wondering how that is possible. Let me just say that it is so complex I would have to draw you a diagram, or stage a reenactment. For those of you who have had cuts on their forehead you know how this can be a big problem. Even the smallest scratch needs medical attention to get it to stop bleeding. And if you are someone like me who uses their face to make a multitude of subtle expressions to convey to my children and husband my wide range of feelings then that skin is in constant use. Luckily *this time* around I knew exactly what to do and was able to patch myself up by first stopping the blood flow with some styptic, then closing the wound with a few steri-strips. We were in the van and on the way to the slopes in no time.

This wasn't the first face wound I have attended to. A few years ago my son took a golf iron to the face, courtesy of his sister (a so-called accident). It produced a gash above the eyebrow that I thought for sure would involve a trip to the emergency room to stitch. I was all prepared to dig out my *ER Frequent Customer Card* (two more trips and we get a free latte and a roll of gauze). But then I realized that it wasn't too bad and I was able to close it up expertly enough (with steri-strips, of course) that when my neighbor, who is a volunteer EMT came over to check it out he commented that it looked like a professional job.

A few years ago I was on my way to the running shoe store with my son in tow. He was sixteen months old and strapped into his car seat, happy to be going on such an important outing. I parked the van and since it was July I opened his sliding door to let some air while I gathered all the necessary supplies to journey into the store. My purse was on the front passenger's seat and as I stood on the curb I opened the door and bent forward to retrieve it and hit myself in the forehead with the edge of the van door.

Ouch! I said loudly, feeling a sting of pain and embarrassment because this was downtown Clarendon and I looked like an uncoordinated idiot. As I was straightening up a couple was coming out of the running store and yelled across the street to ask if I was okay and whether I needed help. I was about to answer my typical reply of no thanks, which applies to pretty much every situation including if I had broken my leg or was being attacked by terrorists because I am loathe to ask for help. But at that moment I rubbed the tender spot and when I saw my hand it was covered in blood. Simultaneously it dawned on me that the liquid running into my eyes was not sweat from the hot July midday sun, but more blood.

But I am stubborn, and will only ask for assistance under the most dire of circumstances. In this case I was the Black Knight of Monty Python's Holy Grail. It was nothing but a little flesh wound. I would get my shoes and be on my way to the pool. But then I looked in my review mirror. I was covered in blood. And to add to my blood soaked macabre appearance my wound was actually spurting blood, like in a bad B horror movie. In a small voice I replied to the couple, um, yeah, I think I may need a bit of help here if you don't mind.

They came over to the van, saw me and gasped. Ma'am, I think you need to go the hospital. I am not sure which caught me more off guard, the need to go to the hospital or the ma'am. Both took me aback but I think I was more alarmed by the ma'am. I asked them if they wouldn't mind watching my son while I called my husband and figured out what to do. The little guy was still patiently sitting in his car seat playing with his feet, obliviously to the fact that his mommy looked like a scene from Carrie.

Once my husband was called and he was on his way I realized that the entire side of the van was splattered with blood. My immediate thought was that I would need to go the car wash later that day. My second thought was that I should get it cleaned up now because my husband would be arriving with my daughter and all that blood may freak her out. So I asked the kind couple who were watching my son if they could also help me clean up my blood soaked van. Apparently once I accept help initially the flood gates open and I have no qualms about asking for it for increasingly inappropriate tasks. Like crime scene clean-up. And yet, they agreed and got the clorox wipes out of the back (because this is a mini-van and I have everything in there) and we all started wiping. Except I had to also hold a bath towel to my head while I worked so I wouldn't spurt more blood onto the van, adding to the carnage.

My husband came and took me to the hospital where all I could do was wonder if there would still be time to go the pool later. After all, I had promised the kids and they would be upset. At the hospital the kids got candy from the vending machines while I was discreetly quizzed on how I got the cut, because surely the *hitting myself in the head with the van door* was a cover story for some sort of abuse. Really, no one is that clumsy. I got ten stitches and was sent on my way. Once it was stitched up it didn't look that bad so I thought it was subtle enough that I wouldn't have too much explaining to do. Except no one told me about the giant black eye I would get which would turn purple and then green. For weeks and weeks I had to retell the story about the van door. And yes, it often involved a diagram and a reenactment.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A learning experience

Earlier today I was having lunch with a friend when the subject came up of cooperative preschools. She commented about another friend who had sent her children to one and how that just wasn't for her. She needed time to herself after so many years of sleep deprivation and not being able to take a shower uninterrupted. I couldn't agree more. The chance at finally having a little freedom - who would trade that in for mandated stints of wiping noses and many other less than glamorous tasks? Me, that's who.

Both of my children went to a cooperative preschool where I was required to work in the classroom as a teacher's aide anywhere from once a month when I only had one child at the school to as often as every week when both children were attending simultaneously. Just in case I wasn't giving enough of my blood, sweat and tears to the school in the classroom I agreed to serve on the executive board for three years in a row. We spent a total of five years at the school, or as I refer to it *hard time*.

In order to gain admittance to the school you had to write a short essay explaining why you wanted to go there, and why a cooperative appealed to you. My essay consisted of the usual drivel about wanting to share the educational experience with my child, blah blah blah. At the time we applied I was pregnant with my second, sick as all get out, and could barely keep my one brain cell left working properly. I confess that my sister may have written some of my essay. Or maybe most of it. Besides, did they really need to know that my true reason for wanting to go there was because it was the cleanest of all the schools we had visited, and actually had natural sunlight in the classrooms instead of being buried in a church basement? And not only were all the mommies at the open house friendly, they had doughnuts (did I mention at this point I was 8 months pregnant?).

We were accepted into the school (not because of the essay) and so began our cooperative experience. After working in the classroom a few times I still had no idea how I got there. Was I crazy? But after awhile I came to realize that being part of a cooperative was the best thing that could have happened to me as a parent. Not because I got to be with my child and spend cherished learning moments covered in paint or shaving cream. Or even that it gave me an excuse to have three hours away from my colicky, refluxy infant at home. Oh no, I learned something even more valuable. Other children are just as annoying, whiny, needy, defiant, funny, clever, creative, helpful and exasperating as my own. I was no longer parenting in a vacuum.

I have a tendency to obsess about...everything. I worry incessantly about my children and their development. If left to my own devices I would probably have been institutionalized before they reached the age of three, worrying that they couldn't fluently speak a foreign language yet, or locate Egypt on a map. At a cooperative you get to observe the entire spectrum of children and come to realize that not only is your child normal, but let's face it, more brilliant and well adjusted then all the others.

One of the biggest rewards of a cooperative preschool is that after each time you finish working in the classroom you come home and think how much worse it could be if *insert name of child who ate the paint in class* was your child. Sure, your child may still be struggling to count to five, but at least they don't eat the supplies. But let's say your child is the one who eats the art supplies. No worries, since you don't have the child that will only eat orange colored foods for snack, and if there isn't anything orange on the menu, cries at the top of their lungs. I could go on, but you get the point. The grass is always greener on your side of the fence.

My favorite memory of being at the school was when my daughter was in the 3s class and her little friend bit her. Hard. It left a big ugly red welt on her calf. It didn't break the skin and my daughter recovered quickly. The other mommy was beyond mortified. To this day she occasionally apologizes for her child's transgression from five years ago. When it happened I was taken aback, but not angry. Biting is something 3 year olds do sometimes. But the beauty of it was that it wasn't *my* 3 year old. My 3 year old may occasionally still pee her pants. She may never pick up her toys, doesn't recognize 5 is a number and has meltdowns of epic proportions when she doesn't get her way, but she doesn't bite. It is those small measures of comfort that help convince you your child isn't one step away from the penitentiary. And for the biter's mommy - she could console herself with the fact that her child never peed her pants at school and could count all the way to ten. It's all relative.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A trip to Sweden

I have a love-hate relationship with Ikea. I *love* the idea of Ikea, but hate actually shopping there. It isn't because of the crowds, I only go during the week, usually right when it opens. As a result you don't have to park in northern Örnsköldsvik, nor do you have to fear being crushed by throngs of people eating meatballs.

But even at 10am on a Wednesday Ikea is overwhelming. First off, it is so large that if you get separated from the people you came with you may not see them again until...Thursday. Additionally, you can't just cut across to get where you want to go. You must meander through their maze until you arrive at your desired section. And forget about trying to back track if you forget something. The only direction at Ikea is forward, where you arrive at the end and any sense of equilibrium you had left is quickly obliterated by the abundance of items in the *marketplace*. Here is where you find yourself thinking, wow, I didn't really need sporks, but these are so cute in the lime green, and so reasonably priced I should get several sets in case I have a dinner party and need lime green sporks.

And then there is the actual shopping. Attempting to compare and contrast something as simple as office desks goes something like this:
Me: So, we've narrowed it down to either the Guutengaart or the Sluukatorp.
Husband: Yes, I really liked both of those, but weren't we also considering the Kluunkaap?
Me: Oh yeah, but now I can't remember if it was the Kluunkaap desk or the Kluunkaap bookcase that we wanted.
Husband: Never mind, now I remember, it was Gaaarpuuntat.

At that point you feel so ridiculous, and are so overwhelmed by vowels that you just get in the car and go to Crate and Barrel. But let's say you can manage to forge ahead, make it through the ridiculous names and locate your items in the giant rows that make me dizzy. You must then make sure you pick up the correct pieces that you need to assemble your (insert name of piece of furniture here). Inevitably you accidentally take your eye off the ball and end up with the legs for the Raaavtonon desk, but the Duuktigor top and drawers. Usually in mismatched sizes. Of course you don't realize this until you get all the way home because at that point of your trip your sole goal is to flee the store with your items.

And finally you arrive home with the correct items in the correct sizes with all the parts matching. After letting the boxes sit in the middle of the floor for a few weeks you muster the energy to begin the assembly, only to discover THERE ARE NO WORDS in the instructions. Instead it is a series of hand drawn pictures with vague references (pictorial) to the pieces and how they fit together. Perhaps these are clear and straightforward to someone who works for Ikea building furniture. Or maybe the citizens of Sweden. For people like me who do better with explicit WRITTEN DIRECTIONS, preferably with a nice illustration, the instructions that come from Ikea are one of the circles of hell. Or you can be like my husband and just disregard the instructions entirely, putting together the furniture on sheer intuition. I will save the story for how that turns out for another time.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Medical attention is for other people

I loathe going to the doctor. I am not sure if it is because it takes time out of my day or if it is because it is admitting defeat. If I go to the doctor then I am acknowledging that yes, there is a problem here and my preferred method of treatment - willing myself to heal, hasn't been successful.

If my children are injured or ill I am immediately on the phone to their doctor and call up a specialist at the drop of the hat. If my husband has a medical problem I nag him until he takes care of it. If I have a problem it will be months and months before I pick up the phone.

I have made an appointment to go see a physical therapy hand specialist next week. The part that is problematic is how long I have been injured. The actual injury happened in August. Almost six months ago. Six months I have been living with a bum hand. My right hand. The injury is in my palm, and when it first happened I couldn't twist things, like door knobs, or open jars of Advil. Now it is only a problem for things like push-ups, or making a pincher motion with my thumb and forefinger, like when you do a shadow puppet show. As you can imagine, this has adversely impacted my quality of life.

To make matters worse, I saw my orthopedic in early December and he referred me to physical therapy twice a week for four weeks. I never went. So now I must call his office and grovel for a new prescription and acknowledge that I didn't follow his orders.

This is the same orthopedic I saw last spring when I had terrible pain in my neck and shoulder. He suspected a problem with the disc in my neck, advised me not to run for six weeks and sent me to PT. That time I went to PT right away, and felt so good I started running again the next week. As luck would have it, I ran right past my orthopedic on the running path, going the other direction. Whoops. I am fairly certain that he is very close to firing me as a patient.

This problem with seeking medical attention is not limited to issues of a muscular or skeletal nature. I have endured a sore throat that hurt so badly I felt like I swallowed broken glass. After two days of not being able to swallow I finally broke down and went to the doctor who told me I had a horrible case of strep throat. This has happened on two separate occasions. Clearly I don't learn.

I am not a martyr, and I am not afraid of doctors. I am simply a person who can't stand the idea of sitting forever in a waiting room, then sitting forever in an exam room and later waiting forever at the pharmacy, or some other doctor's office. And for every incident where I finally must admit I need a doctor there are many many many instances where I am able to heal myself which only reinforces my resolve. It also means I will wait even longer to seek medical attention.

So if you don't mind, I am going to save all those doctor's appointments for the people who have some common sense. In the meantime, I will go see the hand specialist and get fixed so I can resume my career in the shadow puppet arts.