Monday, April 27, 2009

I am not one of those devout women of faith. I doubt Christians want to slap others, and I always want to haul off and smack people who blink and me and say, "Well, they say God doesn't give us any more than we can handle," as they sip their Starbucks coffee in the front seat of their Volvo, the sun reflecting off their perfect acrylic nails, their thousand dollar pupppy in their lap, their worst parenting worry that their five year old won't go right to sleep when put to bed. I met a mom the other day whose eight year old daughter was going to an audition; I got to see the child's professionally designed and prepared curriculum vitae complete with photos.

I actually had someone say to me, "I am so tired. I volunteered at the school for two hours, cooked supper, and took the kids to lessons. It was a big day."


First, let me say that coffee for me isn't a treat, it is my drug of choice to get me started in the morning. I don't bother with the acrylic nails because all the dirt and bodily emissions which end up in my care would be hard to scrub out. Plus, I feel guilty spending the money on fake nails when the copay on just one prescription is over forty dollars, and we are known by sight at Walgreens. I drive a minivan with scratches down the side from bicycles, because a damaged child doesn't want a mom to have something which makes her happy.

I am raising other women's children, children whose only flaw is that they have experienced the biggest violation of trust by a woman who gave birth to them: she didn't care enough to stop damaging behaviors or give the babies the lives they deserve or most importantly care enough to prevent a pregnancy which was completely unwanted. I see the irony in some kids having a mom with perfect hair and beautiful nails, a gorgeous home, music lessons, sports activities, and private education and designer clothes. Moms who worry that they are't giving the children all they can or should. Moms who pay for a curriculum vita, while my kids get hand me downs (they destroy their clothes), live in messy rooms (I work full time and have no desire to clean up anything that is not unsanitary), play with the football in the backyard (they get overstimulated when in group situations), and live with a goofy labrador retriever who was rescued from the pound (he can handle himself if they try to hurt him).

The vitae I have for my children is a complete medical record of therapists and medical evaluations, a specialized education plan at school, and psych evaluations.

My biggest worry is that, despite all my energy and time and effort, one of my children will choose to not heal. And that worry is for them, not for me.

I don't believe everything happens for a reason. I believe that things happen, and we have to deal with them. I don't believe that God will protect me. I believe that I have been given the gift of the strength to deal with whatever comes.

However, I am either a slow or stubborn learner, or I am someone who forgets the lesson easily because I keep getting it again and again.

And people don't get it. Or, if they get it, they don't want to know that people can be raising children who have had serious trauma, sexual abuse, or prenatal exposures, children for whom a day spent lying and stealing and being oppositional is normal, children for whom a day with only three rages is a good day, and for children for whom trying to kill the new mom is a normal way of thinking.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Swamp Creature

We live in an area which is predominantly clay, and with the basment waterproofing, redirecting the gutter output, leveling for the pool, and digging because of the septic issues, the back yard is no longer flat, on a gradual slope to the neighbors', but now is a series of dips and hollows.

It is a bog. At first I blamed it on the fifty-year-old septic system which is still limping along (and hopefully will do so until the sewer comes in, years after the city water), but now I realize that mush, um, much of the yard is soggy back there. Last week the water had stood so long, it developed the rotting biologicals stench that smells so much like septic tank that it had me sniffing the air and perimeter of the yard like some specially trained search and rescue dog.

So EG is out back, daily digging dirt and moving clods around to better direct the rain and fill the low areas, and I refrain from doing more than one load of laundry and one load of dishes a day, taking a shower every other day, and waiting for a dry spell so I can catch up with the dirty clothes.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bambi: beware

Last night I took all three kids to the music store where two of them have music lessons.

As we were leaving the parking lot, I noticed deer in the front of the business across the street. Now, this is not a music store in the middle of the forest, like in some Disney movie. It is on a three lane major roadway, with traffic lights, grocery stores, apartment buildings, churches, banks, restaurants, and the police station.

I cut across the street and pulled into the parking lot to the middle school and parked. There were ten does in the group, all of whom appeared to be young. They grazed in the lawn of the middle school; I rolled closer. They gazed at the car for a minute and went right on nibbling. Eventually, they crossed the parking lot one by one, passing no more than ten feet away from us.

When I was growing up here, we never saw the deer, although I am sure we had them. Periodically, one would get its front leg caught in a wire fence on someone's property and have to be shot or we would see tracks in the snow. However, there was enough room for both of us. People would say that they are encroaching on our territory, but I would say that we moved first.

We do have deer by the house, but we see them maybe once or twice a month--EG has let the acre next to the house go back to its natural state so the deer have somewhere to go. However, there are no more natural predators for the deer, and they are multiplying. The night I was a herd of three does and a buck standing along a five lane road in the nearby city, waiting to cross the street, I realized we had blurred the lines between nature and suburbia.

What I realized this morning is that the deer were ingesting chemically treated grass. So one day, does this mean that these mild creatures will be conducting an uprising, with their mutant antlers, sharp fangs, and glowing green eyes?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Rites of spring

I think Easter is a holiday of inconvenience.

First, the weather rarely cooperates. All those outdoor sunrise services, and the weather here in northeast Ohio is generally forty or below and most likely raining or snowing on Easter morning. So, we all deck ourselves out at the crack of dawn in new spring outfits and freeze our behinds off outside on frost-covered benches. He arose, we are told, while we worry that we might be stuck frozen to the seats.

Second, the daggone baskets. With three dogs and two cats, hiding the baskets has gotten to be challenging. The dogs eat the candy, and the cats ingest the Easter grass, and all of them have digestive upsets. To hide the baskets really well generally means that the kids can't find them either, and then we experience the "Why me?" drama of the child who allegedly get a basket. Then, if I give them too much candy in the basket, the kids eat it all before breakfast and bounce off the walls.

Third, the cooking. There is only so much ham a family of five will eat without complete and total mutiny. Not to mention the hard boiled eggs, which smell like an unfortunate plumbing issue. Having family over requires cleaning and planning, neither of which I felt like doing this year, especially if my house smells like the septic truck.

Let's not forget the shopping. I see the ads--pastel, frilly organdy dresses, which will be put on once under duress by my tomboys, and then donated to Goodwill. White shoes, which will be worn out in the field and ruined. And hats? Not happening. Purses, maybe. Nita carries hers everywhere, much like the character or the grandmother on The Golden Girls--handbag outside to play, on the sofa to read, and into the bathroom. I feel like she views our house as a nice place to visit, etc.

And, finally, the worship. So many people who never attend the "regular" services show up for Easter. Custom decrees that we welcome them and make them want to return to worship with us again, but frankly, I don't want them to come back. They talk and laugh during the homily and more holy parts of the service, and my children, who experienced my laser beam stare more than once, keep one eye on the non-regulars and one on me, in case I attempt to make an example of them to show others what happens if one misbehaves in church. If only. Why don't they have Easter Service for Non-regulars, much like Easter Service for Dummies.

So, in my opinion, we kind of veered off track when it comes to this spring celebration. It makes me crabby.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Nita's school contacted me last week on Thursday, asking me to come in Monday morning for a meeting about getting Nita evaluated for extra educational services.

This was interesting on several levels. I have been requesting an evaluation for two years. Over the last month, families who intended to have their children enrolled in this private school next year were to pay a $100 registration fee. We didn't. Plus, early last week, we requested that Nita's paperwork be sent to the public elementary school. So this has me wondering why the sudden need for an evaluation six weeks before school lets out. Does the current school intend to count her in a census of special needs and want to get her evaluated before the end of the year? Or did they realize that this should be done to keep from looking bad (too late). And I love the call on Thursday afternoon for a Monday morning meeting mentality. These are working mothers--(what) were they thinking?

Anyway, it will be interesting to see how Nita does in the public school. This is the same child who wrote a check for a hot lunch, and it is the same kid who decided she needed glasses. A friend of mine had a habit of leaving reading glasses everywhere, so Nita appropriated a pair of these without my knowledge and took them to school. When she went to her special reading class, she made a great ceremony of donning her spectacles. The teacher asked, "Do you wear glasses?" Apparently, Nita answered in the affirmative, or at least in the just-this-side-of-lying.

It was then that Nita really began to struggle in reading. I got a note home from the teacher, saying that Nita needed an eye exam. I complied and sent a note to the teacher, telling her that Nita's vision was fine.

Eventually, of course, Nita lost the glasses. The teacher then sent another note home requesting that I replace this poor child's glasses, implying that my refusal to do so was being neglectful. It took a while, but we all arrived at the same truth.

You know, I really wonder how much of this kid's need for intervention is real, and how much is the adults' perception of her lack of learning. I think she knows a lot more than she lets on.

Friday, April 3, 2009

You can't fool Mom

The other night I stopped in to see my mother. The staff almost gleefully handed me a cup of chocolate pudding and said, "Would you like to feed her?"

Lately she is having trouble opening her mouth, and she takes forever to eat, so I am sure the nurse and aide were delighted to pass that job on to someone else.

As I fed my mother, I realized she had no idea who I was. We made small talk about the weather, and her friend L, who knows all of us but thinks she is employed by the facility, chatted with us for a while.

Another lady, A, was drinking a cup of juice. My mother watched her, mostly because there was little else to do. A said, "What are you doing? Why are you watching me?"

Mom said, "No reason."

A said, waving her cup, "Haven't you seen anyone eat bacon like this before?"

Mom looked a bit befuddled. L rolled her eyes.

Eventually my mother asked me, "Does your mother know what you're doing?"

I will never lie to anyone, but I have gotten amazingly facile with how I tell the truth. "I'm not sure," I told her. "But I know she's seen me do it."

"Of course," A said, "your mother always knows if you're misbehaving."

"Good point," I told her. "Moms are smart that way."

Mom smiled.