Saturday, December 30, 2006

On an Ordinary Day

I may have mentioned this before, but I grew up … umm …. uhh … ahem …without a whole lot of resources. Okay, we were poor (or working poor) for a great deal of my life.

To summarize tidily and succinctly: When I was born, we were on welfare and lived at my grandmother’s house – my father’s mother, not my mother’s mother because she (my grandmother) wouldn’t speak to my mother because she (my mother) was in a relationship with a Black man. Then we moved to the projects, and my mom got a secretarial job. When I was five, we relocated to Iowa, where my mom got a job at an animal feed company making about $2.00/hour. Shortly, thereafter we moved into a trailer, and I grew up in a variety of trailer parks. Mom got several promotions throughout the 20+ years at the feed company, but she was always a single parent struggling to make sure we had what we needed.

And while that might sound grim – and it is if I told you many of the accompanying stories - the reality is that it’s not my life now and hasn’t been for quite some time. SRH and I are firmly in the middle class, most of our friends are middle class, and the life of eating ketchup sandwiches seems pretty far behind me most days.

But there are some days…days when I have a rip snortin’ good time talking about old times with some of my friends who have also been there. Truly. Because even though living in poverty is hard and degrading, it also produces some killer stories. And when you’re around people who get it, it’s can be really fun discussing family drama, criminality, and going without.

(Unlike being around people who have never been poor, who look at you horrified when you start to name your family’s euphemisms for going to prison. As a side note, this particular post may not be enjoyable to you if a) you’ve never been poor or b) your family dysfunction is of the Boy Scout variety or c) you are a good, decent person with even a little bit of sensitivity in your body.)

But indulge me because I recently had a great night of stories and laughter with a good friend whose family may be as crazy as my own. And while much of our discussion was focused on family drama, the economic factor was never very far below the surface.

These are my favorite quotes from our discussion:

On his way to the police station to turn himself in, my brother got off the bus and robbed a bank. But of course, since he’d taken the bus there, he had to find another bus to get him away from the scene, so the police caught him at the bus stop.”

“Well, his mom has offered to pay for their therapy now that they’re adults, but they’re kind of over it.”

"She sewed him up in a sheet. Beat him up, and then un-sewed the sheet. He was so drunk that the next morning, he just thought he’d been in a fight.”

“This must be a Northeastern Ohio thing: He spends every weekend with his girlfriend, but stays home with his wife during the week. My uncle does that, too!”

“So that they wouldn’t think he’d been involved in a robbery, he told the police that he was a drug dealer.”

“Yeah, my father’s wife is younger than his oldest daughter. Yep, I guess that makes me a little bitter still.”

What quotes have you heard yourself – or someone else - saying that sum up your family’s nuttiness?

(Come on, we all have the stories – it can be from your extended family, your “do over” marriage, or your partner’s family. It can be about broken marriages, broken laws, or broken limbs. Whatever it is, sometimes we just have to laugh our way through the craziness).

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Holly, Jolly Christmas 2006

Christmas this year was divine. It was full of love, laughter, and good food (as well as a fabulous lavender robe from my mother). It was so good, in fact, that I spent most of today in my new favorite pajamas – and robe - recovering from the crazy Christmas Euphoria that we all experienced yesterday.

(A new medical condition, Christmas Euphoria, is characterized by abdominal bloating caused by overeating combined with sore cheeks from smiling and a sugar buzz. Zane had a really bad case).

However, SRH and I did have a few lessons to learn this holiday season. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: three and a half years is not nearly long enough to develop competence at this whole parenting thing. Hence, mistakes were made, and lessons were learned.

Lesson 1: Santa should just be Santa. Don’t tie him to anything else. Santa brings gifts to little children and makes them happy. That’s it. No conditions. No limitations. He shouldn’t make demands. That ain’t Santa. His gifts shouldn’t be incumbent upon good behavior, or, say, giving up a pacifier.

Before learning this lesson, I listened to Zane’s pediatrician who suggested that giving pacifiers to Santa was a great way to get rid of them. After all, the child wants to get Santa’s approval – that means gifts. And he can’t be mad at Santa – that means that there might not be gifts, so voila! Pacifiers are gone, child gets what he wants in return, and the parents aren’t seen as the meanies who threw all the binkies out of the house. And since Zane only used his pacifiers in his bed at night, I didn’t think it was going to be a huge struggle. (Indeed, I am a dunderhead.)

So, Santa wrote Zane a letter that he would get some of his “train presents” that he’d asked for, if he gave Santa his pacifiers. We set all of Zane’s pacis on the plate with Santa’s cookies.

Zane was deceptively agreeable to our stupid, stupid idea – until he went to bed.

So while SRH and I were downstairs assembling all the cool Christmas gifts that we had been eagerly anticipating giving to Zane, he was upstairs with my mother crying/screaming for his pacifiers. For two hours.

It was dreadful, and my fool self learned never again to set parameters on Santa gifts. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

(On the other hand, he didn’t even ask for a pacifier tonight and went to sleep easily. But it still wasn’t worth the angst of hearing my baby cry himself to sleep on Christmas Eve.)

Lesson 2: Thinking that you are going to get a good “Christmas picture” with the entire family is not realistic.

One should just give up on the idea that the happiness and anticipation you are feeling on Christmas Eve will somehow show up in any photos. I had the brilliant – and original! - idea to get a picture of the three of us while we were all dressed up in our Christmas Eve finery. After all, I am rarely seen out of yoga pants when I’m not working, and Zane hadn’t had a chance to get any ketchup on his clothes – this was the perfect opportunity to show the world that my family is, on rare occasions, both clean and presentable.

Attempt 1:

Where is the joy?! Zane looks like he smells a barnyard. SRH has red eye, and none of us look particularly moved by the Christmas spirit.

Attempt 2:

Okay, we scrapped the idea that Zane would join us in a happy picture – he just wasn’t feeling it. SRH and I look relatively happy, but I’m not sure why my head is tilted back - must be to show off my flowing locks.

Since Zane decided to join us at the last minute, I guess Attempt 2 is okay - it somehow seems indicative of our family life, even though it’s not quite what I envisioned.

(Lesson 2A: Don’t forget to check to make sure that you have enough tape in your video camera to tape more than 5 seconds of Christmas morning. Geez, I’m such a novice.)

Lesson 3: If your kid has an obsession – say, trains – it’s best to just go with the flow. OR My child is a black hole of train need.

Far and away, the favorite gift this Christmas was a spiral train set.

Ooh, I love the spiral train!

And he did also enjoy the engines and freight cars we got him – mostly because they were able to be used on the spiral train set.

Isn’t the spiral train spiffy?

He loved that train so much, that he had his eyes fixed on it most of the day.

I’ll just keep my eye on this train in case mama decides she might want to touch it.

And while he was thrilled with the spiral train track, new engines, freight cars, and caboose that he got, he still managed to make sure that we knew that he still wants a Norfolk Southern Engine. (If he had the vocabulary, we might have heard something along the lines of, What? You are kidding me? I gave up pacifiers, and I didn’t even get a Norfolk Southern diesel engine? This sucks. I’m totally going to negotiate differently next year.)

So that was our Christmas. It was completely fabulous – lessons and all. Hope yours was great, too!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Last Minute Christmas Shopping

I have now discovered that my beloved partner, SRH, has an evil-genius plan to get the best Christmas gifts of anyone in our family. And here’s how he does it:

Two to three months before the big day, I ask him what he wants, and he promises to tell me.

Me: Hey, SRH, what do you want for Christmas this year?

SRH: Huh? Oh. I’m not sure. I don’t really need anything.

Me: Well, get to thinking about it buddy, because I’m not killing myself this year trying to come up with thoughtful, creative gift for you that you’ll never use because you didn’t want it anyway. I want ideas!

SRH: Huh? Oh. Okay. I’ll come up with something.

About a month before Christmas, we have an eerily similar conversation.

Me: SRH, what do you want for Christmas? It’s coming right up, you know.

SRH: Huh? Oh. Yeah, I’ve been thinking about it (which is such a lie because SRH doesn’t think about anything I ask him to unless I write it on his hand), and I can’t really come up with anything.

Me: Well, I need to put something under the tree for you. I’m going shopping this weekend, so you need to come up with a list.

SRH: Huh? Oh. I’ll get you a list by this weekend. (This, of course, is said without any intention of giving me an actual list, because that would spoil his nefarious schemes.)

So about a week before Christmas (right around now for instance), I start to freak out because I don’t have the perfect – or any significant - gift for my beloved. I have little things, but no gift that expresses my sincere appreciation for all the wonderful loving and giving things he does throughout the year. A gift that is both romantic and appeals to his joie de vivre. THE gift. And I don’t have it.

And I never do at this time of the year.

So last year, I panicked and got him an iPod. I braved the Apple Store three days before Christmas and bought a much nicer version than I was intending because, well, that’s what they had left. That at least stopped my hyperventilating, but then I figured that the gift needed an accompaniment, something besides one stupid gift – even if it was a big one, and I bought him a gym membership.

Of course, SRH likes to say that the only thing I didn’t get him last year was a pair of size 32 jeans that had a note pinned onto them that said Fit into these tubby, but I know that this is just deflection from the real issue that he gets nicer gifts when he doesn’t give me any ideas.

I panic. I spend. And SRH just sits back and gets all the benefits.

Unsurprisingly, this is a tactic he has used again this year. So lay it on me, what should I get a guy who doesn’t want anything?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

No I Won't Back Down

On Thursday night, we were giving Zane a rescue breathing treatment in the middle of the night when there was a “clunk” from the nebulizer (the machine which administers the breathing treatment). Then the motor of the nebulizer seemed to grind a bit for the rest of the treatment.

No problem, I told SRH. I’ll call tomorrow and get a new one. It was about time for this one to wear out. The last one stuck around for about a year, and this has made it a bit beyond that. I’ll make sure to call the place tomorrow and get a new one. I bet that they are ruing the day that they gave the RH family a nebulizer – we always have to get it replaced before the warranty runs out. We’re a losing proposition for that company.

Do you hear the blitheness in my tone? The confidence in my voice? The supreme indifference with which I agreed to take care of things?

Famous last words.

Of course, had it been just so easy, I wouldn’t be writing this particular post. So come with me on the “getting a new nebulizer” journey that I embarked on Friday.

We start our journey here:

Step 1: I called the number on the cover of the nebulizer – which happens to be a national number. After entering my zip code numerous times and talking to two different people, I get referred to the local supplier number.

Step 2: I called the local supplier and have an argument with the operator who insists that the problem is the filter of the nebulizer. I insist that this is not so, since we had the same problem with Zane’s last nebulizer, and we were told that it was not possible for it to be the filter. After arguing for a few moments, the woman-whose-salary-must-be-determined-by-the-number-of-
nebulizers-she-keeps-in-the-warehouse agrees to “look it over” if I will bring it in.

(I puzzle over this for a few minutes feeling frustrated and powerless as I’m sure that I’ll take it all the way across town, they will replace the filter and send me home with a non-working nebulizer. None of which would be a huge big deal except that it’s Friday afternoon, and Zane CANNOT be without a nebulizer for an entire weekend.)

Step 3: I determine to get a new nebulizer. A ha and Eureka! I figure out that the last one was paid for by our previous insurance company, so I haven’t used the “nebulizer benefit” with the new company. Therefore, I can get an entirely new nebulizer without hassle from the insurance company or having to fight with the last stingy nebulizer supplier.

Step 4: I call Zane’s pediatrician to get a prescription for the new nebulizer.

Well, crud. The doctor’s office is closed because they are moving. Yep, the one time they move the office in 15 years, and it’s the day we need a new nebulizer.

Step 5: I am not beaten. Zane has another doctor – one of the hidden benefits of having a child with multiple health issues is the relationship with a variety of doctors. So I call the allergist’s office and get them to write a new script. The nurse offers to send it in the mail, but I tell her that I’ll come and pick it up since we need a new one by the end of the day.

Step 6: I call our local mom and pop pharmacy to make sure that they are covered by our insurance. The very helpful pharmacist says that they are indeed covered. So great, I ask her to make sure that they have nebulizers in stock. But wait, while drugs are covered by my insurance, durable medical goods at that particular pharmacy are not.

So now I have to find a pharmacy which sells durable medical goods AND is covered by our insurance.

Step 7: Call the insurance company to find said pharmacy. After explaining my need to two different people, I am told to call another line for the information.

Step 8: Call the other number –which happens to be an automated line. So while I can find out which pharmacies are covered, it can’t tell me which ones have durable medical goods.

Step 9: Call my insurance company back. I re-explain the exact information that I need. They are very apologetic about sending me to the wrong number – and promptly send me to a website for information.

Step 10: Get the list of durable medical good pharmacies – there are only eight in the entire city – and find the one closest to us.

Step 11: Call the durable medical goods pharmacy to make sure they have nebulizers in stock and check their turnaround time. (I am determined to have that nebulizer by 5pm. A weekend without a nebulizer, when we are doing at least two rescue treatments in addition to his two regular treatments a day, is not inconvenient, it’s dangerous.)

The pharmacist assures me that they have nebulizers, pediatric nebulizer cups and masks, and that they can fill the prescription immediately upon receiving it.

Well, fuck yeah.

Step 12: Get Zane up from his nap so that we can get to the allergist’s and then to the pharmacy before the close of business.

Step 13: Drive across town to the allergist to pick up the script.

(Zane gets distracted by the video of Cars playing at the doctor’s office and refuses to leave).

Step 14: Promise Zane that we can rent Cars tonight and have a family movie night if he will only leave the doctor’s office already.

Step 15: Drive back across town to pick up the nebulizer at the durable medical goods pharmacy.

From this day forth, there are two types of pharmacies in my head: those rare, gem-like pharmacies where one gets nebulizers, walkers, and elevated toilet seats and those that merely supply the life-saving medications that we use daily.

Step 16: Oh, blessed relief. Get the nebulizer from the pharmacy.

We end our journey here:

It only took 4+ hours to get this all done. Just in time to give Zane another breathing treatment.

Sometimes Zane’s health concerns give rise to acute crisis situations that must be dealt with swiftly and decisively. Other times, a mama just needs a goodly supply of perseverance and determination – and hardheadedness to get it done.

In summation, sixteen simple steps and 1/6 of a day will get you a new nebulizer – but only if you really want one.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Nectar of the Gods

I am not one of those people who have addictions. I’m not – what’s that phrase? - an “addictive personality”. I am not dependent on any substance – even the chocolaty or caffeine-y ones.

This has been a bone of contention in my partnership, because I am married to a man who has multiple monkeys on his back. SRH has a wicked lust for Mt. Dew, and he can’t say no to donuts or cheesecake. Even on his best days, I daren’t get between my man and his peanut bark krispie treats. (An old family recipe, I will share it one day).

But me, I am an island.

A lone ranger. One who has no pesky dependencies or inconvenient inclinations. I don’t jones for nothing, man.

Well, I didn’t.

And then I discovered Bolthouse Farms Cranberry Lemonade.

My puny wordsmithing cannot convey to you – oh poor soul, who has not had a chance to experience the wonder - an adequate description of the overwhelmingly sublime combination of cranberries and lemon that this organic farm blends together to create such delectable perfection.

Oh heaven, I knew you were pink. I just didn’t know what shade.

(What’s your vice?)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

What Have I Done?

One of the most difficult conversations I’ve had as a parent involved discussing guardianship of Zane should something happen to SRH and I. Last summer, we had to have this conversation as we made our wills. We figured something like, Hey, Zane’s two now. It appears that he’s going to stay around a while so maybe we should start planning for his future.

(As an aside: I realize that it is a function of my privilege that I didn’t have to think about this until my child was two. Some of my dear friends have to do this immediately upon the birth of their children as they have no legal custody rights in our state.)

Anyhow, it was an uncomfortable conversation to have – especially as SRH and I were in two different states when we had it. SRH was with his friend Captain McArmypants in Colorado, and I was on the phone with them as said captain, who is an attorney, wrote up our will.

So we get to the point in the conversation where we have to figure out who, after my mother, would get Zane. And while there’s nothing wrong with SRH’s parents, there’s not anything particularly good about them either. And his brother is a numb-nut.

So we’re going back and forth about what friends we could ask, when the good captain clears his throat and says, Uhmm hmmm…I could take him. I mean for Chrissakes I’d be at least as good as SRH’s brother.

True, and with that moving declaration, we were sold. Captain McArmypants – single, unwilling to experience feelings, odiferous man that he is – would be third in line, so to speak.

And nothing has made me really question that decision – even though we learned that The Captain will be going for a tour of duty in Afghanistan in January. When he visited us over Thanksgiving, he and Zane had a great time together. Zane adored him and refused to take off the JAG shirt that The Capt. got him for over 24hours.

So, I had no second-thoughts until I opened my computer’s “shared folder” this evening and found this:

(The red caption says, See you in a year. I ask that you make this your desktop so Zane won't forget my face.)

Anyone else willing to take over the 3rd spot?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Um...Some Stuff I Didn't Mention Last Week

I have been thinking about the interesting way that blogs can be absolutely accurate and true and yet still omit important details of the blogger’s life. Such was the case last week for me.

Yes, I told the story of my naked hot spring action in a far away place with strangers – and that was true. And I do truly love me some Oh Holy Night, and it did totally help put me in the Christmas spirit. No, dishonesty or fabrications there.

But there were a few details that I didn’t write about.

For example, I had a crazy week last week professionally. It was challenging and exciting – and it had nothing to do with my paid work. But really, it’s not all that interesting for anyone but me, so I chose not to write about it.

Also, I was sick as a dog for most of the week. When I finally started feeling better from the sinus infection/bronchitis, the antibiotic I am on started kicking my butt. The side effects are uncomfortable and unpleasant, but – alas, I asked the doctor! – not severe enough to stop taking it. Again, were I to write more about it, you all might fall over from boredom or start tugging your ears in pain from the incessant whine. So enough with that.

Finally, Zane had both his hearing and speech evaluations last week - and the results were mixed.

Hmmm, I should probably write about that.

The good news: Zane’s hearing is completely within “normal” ranges, so hearing is not the issue for him. And while the hearing eval itself was traumatic, he eventually calmed down and responded to the questions. (Not surprisingly, the key was to proclaim all the high pitched noises to be train whistles and the low whirring noises as trains moving down the track. It worked like a charm.)

The “eh” news: Zane’s speech is overall in the average range. He’s behind in some areas. He’s on target in others, and in others he’s beyond what is typical. They recommended speech therapy for a few specific sounds, but certainly weren’t presenting it as something Zane absolutely needed. It was more a kind of “let’s see how it goes” attitude.

Which leads to…

The not-so-good news: Zane’s uneven speech evaluation results are atypical – and not in a very straightforward way. They indicate that something else may be going on with him.

We’ve been referred on for an occupational therapy evaluation to determine what the gaps in the eval mean. The speech therapist explained that they suggest an issue with sensory integration.

(Are all you mamas out there thinking autism right now? Because I sure was.)

But no, she says that he is absolutely not autistic. She said that while it was “subtle”, Zane may be having some difficulty processing what he receives sensorially. (Here, I would typically put a link to sensory integration disorder, but it kind of freaks me out right now, and we don’t even know if it’s a relevant diagnois or if his symptoms would even reach the threshold for such a diagnosis.)

Here’s some of what she saw: Zane has to label everything on the page before he could answer her questions about what’s happening on that particular page. He is very attuned to noises in his environment – he doesn’t filter some of the background noise. He can’t/doesn’t answer particular questions – it’s like he’s doesn’t understand the question although in other ways she can tell that he knows the concepts. And while he warmed up fairly quickly, he certainly had to adjust to the environment before he could move forward with the eval.

And before those who love us rush to Zane’s defense, I should say that I think she got a very accurate picture of what Zane is truly like. She saw us for well over two hours, and Zane liked her and happily answered most of her questions. He also evidenced nearly all of the behavior I’ve been questioning since he failed the speech and hearing screenings a few weeks ago.

So I think she had a handle on it. I trust (although not blindly) her expertise and will definitely be following up to schedule an occupational therapy evaluation.

So over the past week, I have become more and more aware of my own hopes and fears for my son, my preconceptions and misperceptions, and my own ableism.

I’m fearful. I’m definitely worried, but I’m determined not to borrow trouble before we have all the information.

I’ll let everybody know when there’s more to tell.

In the meantime, I will continue to write about my multiple gaffes and the mishaps of my marginal parenting, because it’s Christmas dammit, and I’m going to be joyful.