Sunday, May 31, 2009

Munchkinmom plus eleven

I am out of the loop. The other day, some people were discussing who was an annoying celebrity/public figure, and I would guess that I had no clue who at least 90 percent of those people were.

Jessica Biel? Spencer and Heidi? Jon and Kate? Who is Lori Petty? And did I spell any of those names correctly? And someone named Kimora? It makes me think of coffee creamer.

I spend my days with the three kids, my courses, my job, my husband, my pets, and the people I meet through my therapy bunny. My walking partner is a smart, educated mom of two who doesn't watch television much either. My students talk about people, but I don't know if those being discussed are actually in the students' lives or in the media.

So I got online and looked up these people, and I decided that it wasn't a bad thing that I didn't know that much about them--they appear to be famous because of their personal lives: babies, infidelities (or at least suspected), poor choices of acting jobs, and general inappropriate or stupid behavior.

So, yes, I talk to people about how I trained the rabbit to stay in a basket. I read textbooks and only the front page, local section, obituaries, and Charlie Brown. I spend some time on a couple of boards online.

And I think I am doing just fine without "I'm a celebrity, get me out of here."

Saturday, May 30, 2009


My niece is graduating from high school tomorrow. She is a remarkable young woman who, despite attentional issues, has completed over a year of college as a junior and senior, all while working and volunteering. This year, she was honored as a young woman of distinction in the county's cotillion.

She knows what she wants to major in when she starts college in the fall, and she has gotten offers, with incentives, from several distinguished universities. She is a success story.

This week, on my birthday no less, I went to an Individual Education Plan meeting for youngest at the private school which we are leaving. This spring, the school suddenly decided youngest needed testing to determine if she needed services, as her grades were poor this year--they were fine in first and second grade. No one other than I seemed to think that this is not because of a change in youngest but because she finally got a teacher who was actually teaching and not all wrapped up in a pregnancy or assuming Nita was dumb because she was black, an impression which Nita used to her advantage.

Anyway, the school psychologist called me and said youngest scored in the seventies (100 is average) on the IQ test (I refrained from sarcastically asking her, "And what did you score?"), so her grades reflected her abilities and therefore she would not be receiving services. The school psychologist told me that, if I could come up with a medical diagnosis, then we could get services.

What amazes me is that it is considered "normal" for kids with low IQs to get poor grades, so no interventions are necessary. Okay, so let's just let any kid with a low IQ score struggle and determine they are dumb and then not succeed in school. What happened to no child left behind? Are we just having them go through the same education as everyone else, get poor grades, and calling it a success?

Since I know Nita better than anyone, I don't accept an IQ score that low. I am not delusional about her abilities--I know she has challenges. However, this is the same kid who doctors said might never walk and most likely never talk. I wouldn't accept that as a final diagnosis, so we got her therapy three days a week, and she not only walks, she runs and plays the drums and skates and plays basketball, and just now her father told her, "You talk too much." This is the same kid who took a check and correctly filled it out to get a hot lunch. This is the same kid who can program the VCR and figured out how to use the computer all on her own.

Yes, the doctors SAID, but as my sister put it, "Nita didn't get that memo."

I also know that it is possible that Nita was bored with the process and that she doesn't like the school psychologist who tested her, so this might have skewed her scores.

Some kids learn differently, and some have learning disabilities. Just because Nita doesn't fit into the nice, neat, visual/auditory learning classroom situation, then let's not write her off as not being able to succeed and make sure the one thing she does learn from her education is that she is not as good as most people.

I called our family doctor, who knows us well, and told his nurse the situation. When I gave her the IQ score, she said, "So when he gets done laughing, I'll ask if we should have an evaluation done at the Cleveland Clinic."

So, at the IEP meeting, I celebrated my birthday by not simply signing the IEP. Instead, I wrote my concerns on the bottom of the form and told the school system I'd be in touch. But my big question is, "What happens to the kids whose parents don't have the wherewithal to get them services or can't fight for interventions?"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sucks isn't even a start

I am not one for using coarse language. I don't swear, as I find that my vocabulary is enough to say what I need to say without resorting to something not so eloquent. Plus it is more fun to tell someone off in a sentence that they have to work to process rather than resorting to a simple, pedestrian curse.

However, having cancer join the family has made me aware of how limited I still am. As EG said, "We need a stronger word than 'sucks.'" Sucks describes when you back into a pole in your Mom's car, when you forget your homework and your teacher gives you a zero, or when your best friend's boyfriend breaks up with her.

Sucks is a high school word, and cancer is a very adult thing.

So, I am having trouble expressing how horrible it truly is to see a person so ravaged by a disease in thirty days, to be literally starving to death because he cannot eat because the fluid in the abdomen is pushing up on the stomach, to have a doctor say, "there is nothing I can do for you." There are not words to give to the children to help them cope with what is happening to the uncle they love so much. It is impossible to describe the fear and anger we feel that the world was hard enough a month ago, only to have this eclipse it all.

Sucks isn't going to begin to describe it.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I Shoulda Stayed in Bed

One of the things I despise yet endure every morning is eating breakfast with Rocky. I buy Naturals sugar cereal, which he is permitted to eat every other day. On alternate days, I require that he eat healthy cereal.

First, he always starts by sitting on the edge of his chair and leaning over the bowl and shoveling the cereal in. I will say, "Sit back in your chair" with varying levels of irritation.

Then, he will hold his spoon at the very end, fill it to overflowing, hoist his elbow, swing the spoon around front, and shovel the food into his mouth from a precise 90 degree angle, straight ahead. Of course, much of the food ends up on his face. He digs around and pokes at the cereal constantly between every bite, chewing rapidly like a rabbit, adding more cereal before he swallows. When he takes the cereal from the spoon, he closes his lips tightly around the spoon, and instead of pulling the spoon out of his mouth, he nods and swings his head back. When he gets to some milk, he will fill the spoon as full as he can get it, and then flings the milk toward the general vicinity of his mouth.

Eventually, all the digging and fussing drives the bowl across the table to his left, so he will raise his elbow even more, lean across his place, and continue collecting from the cereal bowl.

Soon he will start to get full (or worn out), so he will play with the cereal, trying to stick it to the bottom of the spoon, bobbing the raisins in the milk by smacking at them, playing "bombs away," layering and stacking different cereal types, and swirling milk over the construction site. "Stop playing with your food," I tell him.

"Yes, Mom," he replies, changing games. I tell him again, adding that he will be excused if he doesn't stop. "Yes, Mom." And he continues.

Eventually, I snap. "You're done," I tell him. He always looks at me owlishly and somewhat offended and/or confused. "You're done," I repeat, sending him away from the table. He droops over to the sink and drops off his bowl and shuffles back to me. "Go get dressed," I'll tell him. He scuffs off toward the living room to play with the cat. "Where are you going? What are you supposed to be doing," I ask.

"Getting dressed," he will say. "Oh." Then he goes into the bathroom, where he practices faces in the mirror, where I suspect he is seeing how he will look when he finally gets to kiss a girl.

"Open the door and quit fooling around."

"I am putting deodorant on."

"Open the door and quit fooling around. You don't put deodorant on your face that close to the mirror." Silence. I guess Breanna will have to wait longer for him to get comfortable enough for that close-in smile, not that she so much as suspects he has plans for her. "Now. Go. Get. Dressed."

"Yes, Mom." Crashing and banging from the bathroom. "Uh-oh." He untangles himself from the shower stall door. "I was just going to the bathroom."

"Stand on both feet when you use the toilet next time."

Silence. He is wondering if there is a periscope nearby. Finally he treks to his room, where we start the dressing routine, the one where the dog took his planned school clothes and hid them somewhere during the night, and now he can't find his clothes ANYWHERE.

And we start it all again the next morning.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


A few months back, my sister and I decided no more invasive procedures for my mother. No more lab tests, no more blood draws, no more.

The doctor requested labs last month, and we refused.

The doctor requested labs again this month, and we refused.

So, because one of Mom's medications requires a blood test to see if the levels in the body might poison an individual, the doctor discontinued the heart medicine.

My sister emailed me and said, "Are we okay with this?"

I don't know. After all, this is her heart medicine. However, she has no quality of life. She is on ten medications a day, give or take, has to have a heavy duty laxative to get her to evacuate her bowels, is incontinent, wakes up every morning and every afternoon from her nap having no idea where she is, not to mention who she is. She eats pureed food and has to be fed her meals, and all her liquids are the consistency of milkshakes.

So where is there a quality of life?

Plus, this is hard on the rest of us. I try to go every day, just to make sure that the little things are done, like she is NOT parked in front of the TV yet again despite my requests to put her by the window, like her books that the hospice volunteers read to her are still available, like her face is wiped off after her meals and her hair gets combed. My sister feels torn, having her own family issues to deal with. My kids, tired of waiting for the inevitable, ask, "When is Grandma finally going to die?"

So I most likely signed her death warrant. However, Alzheimer's did that first, a long three years ago.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Evil Eye

Nita is sitting across from me, giving me the evil eye.

She just came downstairs in a pair of wrinkled, stained, dirty pants, which she intended to wear to her school concert.

I nixed that idea, and she is now upset that I want her to look nice.

Why is it that these children think their evil eye can intimidate me?

Puh-leez. My father could blister paint on an off day, and my mother was known for her ability to level a gaze that, clear across a school gym, could bring a ten year old boy to a dead halt.

I not only got the gene, I got the years of osmosis.

So I just now stopped typing and glanced at her. "Fine," she said. "Make me look like a loser. You hate me. I know you hate me. Why do I have to live in this family? No one else has such a mean mom."

I still need to tweak this ability and get it streamlined. Somehow I get a lot of talk first and then action.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I've been grieving again.

I hate grief. It sneaks up on you and you suddenly turn around, and there it is, where it wasn't a moment ago, looking you straight in the eye and forcing you to acknowledge its ghoulish existence.

And then it is gone again, and I go on as normal, but I am sure it is never far away, just waiting until I again least expect it . . .

After five years of faithfully going there, I have grown to hate the nursing home. Every day or so, when I go to visit, I pull in the parking lot and think, "I do NOT want to go in there ever again."

But I shake off my self-pity, and I do go in, one more time. One more time. One more time. And one more time. And, yet again, one more time.

I think this is what purgatory must feel like. Moments of normalcy, moments of the grinding, wearing sameness. I don't want to, but I will, as I have my children repeat after me.

I wondered once what horrible sins I must have done to deserve this, and then I realized that my mother is in a much worse situation--her own private Hell, if you will, as she wakes up every morning and every afternoon from her nap and isn't sure who she is and where she is and why she is there. And she sure didn't do anything which I could think of to warrant her current situation.

I keep coming back to the epitaph which said, "It hasn't been an easy life, but it's been an interesting one."

Given a choice, I would have perhaps gone for a different kind of interesting, maybe consisting of tequila bottles and the cabana boy.

Dirty Harry

Harry is the dog which we got from the pound on his last day. He is a chocolate lab, short and stocky, and one of the nicest dogs I have ever met. When my first dog I adopted as an adult died, I vowed to never give my heart to a dog again. And I didn't.

Until Harry.

He didn't require any housetraining; he somehow just got it. Even now, if he doesn't feel well when we are away, he will go to the back door and throw up, unlike Penny, who, well, is more spontaneous. However, it does make for some exciting homecomings.

When he barks at night, he has a very good reason, and we will get up to check why.

If he comes to me and barks, there is a purpose, much like Lassie. Unfortunately for him, I am not as smart as Lassie's people, and it takes me a bit to figure out what he wants.

When I took him to meet the trainer, she said, "What an awesome dog."

Every once in a while, Harry will do something to remind us he is a dog, like eat a tissue or swipe food by craning his neck and licking things off the table or get into the dog food bin and gorge himself, or eat something which requires an emergency trip to the vet.

Which is okay, as I wouldn't want to forget that about him.

So, whoever owned Harry before he was picked up as a stray, don't come around here asking for him back. I didn't give him my heart--he just took it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Waiting waiting waiting

I remember when I finally was going to get married. Suddenly, I noticed so much more "bridal" things. Or recently, EG bought a new, little bitty car, a brand I had never really noticed. Now I see them in various places, in a variety of colors.

Now that my brother-in-law has been diagnosed with cancer, I find I pay more attention to how often the illness shows up. Randy Pausch had pancreatic cancer--he eventually died of the illness. Patrick Swayze has the same thing--rumors vary as to how he is doing. Steve Jobs was treated; Ruth Bader Ginsberg is being treated.

Things don't look good for any of them.

Of those diagnosed, only 20 percent are alive after one year, and only 4 percent are alive after five years.

How ironic that my mother is in hopice while we all wait for the inevitable, and now this has usurped that horrible wait with something even more unfair and tragic.

I don't do the waiting thing well. When I got a letter from the Cleveland Clinic, telling me that there was an abnormality in my mammogram, I called right away. The receptionist asked me when I wanted to come in, and I said, "Now?" Uh, no, but they could fit me in six weeks later for more tests.

So for six weeks I walked around wondering if my body had turned against me, if I was going to have to fight death off sooner than I expected, if my children would be raised without a mother.

Now my brother-in-law knows those same things, plus he is in pain, and he is uncomfortable because he is retaining fluids, and he has side effects from the pain killers, plus he cannot keep anything down and is losing weight at a drastic rate.

And he waits for the chemo to start, waits for the chance to commence fighting this thing which has taken over his body and his family's life.

My sister has exhibited remarkable grace through all this--all her worry and care focused on him but on keeping life as normal as possible at the same time. She grocery shops, run errands, takes her husband to the emergency room, researches online, attends her kids' school functions, goes to work, and takes time out for the simple things.

I am on the outside, looking in, and feeling helpless.

And yet, the one thing we have in common is that we are all waiting, waiting, waiting.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Winning Hand

Some people on a board I visit once mentioned playing "bad week poker."

I think I broke the house this last week.

Monday, the septic tank overflowed. I told EG, as I toddled off to take Nita to three appointments, "This one's yours."

Tuesday, I called the school, as we were supposed to have reservations for "Special Person's Day" turned in by Thursday. If the child did not have a "special person," then he or she would remain in the classroom during the party and miss the festivities. We couldn't come at our assigned time in the afternoon, so I wanted to change to the morning time when EG could go. The school secretary told me to call the mom in charge of arranging the event, so I did. I explained that we had limited family to start with, and one member was scheduled for surgery the day of special person's day, so could we be permitted to change the time so at least the kids' dad could attend. Ayatollah Starbucks Mom told me, "Absolutely not! That would be too disruptive and chaotic."

Excuse me? You are already taking kids out in two shifts that day, so how could changing shifts be too disruptive and chaotic? I started to cry and hung up. I then emailed the principal.

Wednesday, my beloved office partner, who is an attorney, became incensed at "disparate treatment" and asked me if he could attend the event on the opposite shift as Nita's Special Person/Legal Counsel. I vetoed that idea.

Thursday night came and went, and I finally got a response from the principal, well after I could turn in a permission slip/reservation to attend, apologizing for the rudeness, if I experienced any, assuring me that the parent volunteers were "working very hard to make this a wonderful event for all involved," and telling me to contact her if I had any further concerns.

Yes, I did. I sent this reply.

While I understand that many families have a mom who stays at home and two sets of grandparents who are healthy and able to get to school functions, not all children have that fortunate situation. Many children have two parents who work, family members who are ill, and grandparents who are not available.

I do not see how having a child go to the opposite session would have such a negative effect on the already disrupted school day. Permitting a child to attend a function only if he or she has a "special person" and leaving others behind in the classroom is a disparate way of treating the children. This is on par with passing out party invitations to only some of the children and not to others in the class.

I do not agree that all volunteer families are doing their very best to create a "wonderful experience" for the families at St. A. If that were the case, then ALL children would be included; and not just those who were "special" enough to have family members with schedules that exactly fit in with the plan put in place by the parent volunteers arranging this event. How ironic that a school which purports to follow Christian values would be so inconsiderate of the feelings of its children and intentionally exclude some of them. This mentality is one of the reasons why we are not sending our children to St. A school next year.

Okay, I got a little hot. Of course, I got no further response from the principal.

Thursday, too, my brother-in-law went into surgery to have a pancreatic tumor removed, only to have the doctors discover that it has metastasized throughout the peritoneum. There is some hope, but it doesn't look good.

Plus, we got a call from the principal about the little incident with the kid who sexually assaulted Rocky.

Friday night, I got home from work, and we went to the police station and filed a "documentation" report on Rocky's incident at school. When we got home, we had just sat down in the living room, and the smoke detector went off upstairs. I was frantically running all over, checking light bulbs and outlets, and Nita was saying, "I don't know what happened."

Then I saw the matches on her bedroom floor. She was curious and decided to experiment. Fortunately, she also had five bottles of water, also contraband for the bedrooms, which she used to douse the papers, clothes, and guitar which had been blazing away.

She was incarcerated in her room and lost all her bike riding on the street privileges because of lack of responsibility.

So, if we played bad week poker again this week, I would be happy to have a bad hand.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Good Grief

This week, a kid at school went too far.

We had run into this boy at church at an event, and he had told Kiki her shirt should be tighter. Mind you, he didn't know Kiki, and he was ten at the time. The kids reported the boy to the parent in charge, and they were told, "He has issues." When he started in on my youngest, she came to me, and I went and sat next to the little miscreant during the entire church event. Just because he has issues does not mean that he can behave impulsively or inappropriately.

So imagine my delight when I discovered the same boy was in Rocky's class.

Earlier this year, I took Rocky to see the principal, as this other boy had been commenting on Rocky's genitalia. It bothered Rocky. The other boy also commented to the girls on their breasts, so it wasn't so much a sexual thing as a power or impulse issue. The parents were called in to talk to the principal.

Then this week, there was a substitute in class, and the other boy went over to Rocky, sat on his lap, and when Rocky shoved him off, he grabbed Rocky's testicles twice. Rocky told the teacher, and the principal got involved. The boy was suspended.

However, the more I thought about it, the more concerned I have become. So last night, I went to the police station and filed documentation on this child. I didn't press charges--yet. However, as the parent of a traumatized child, I find this other boy's behavior indicative of a deeper issue, and I worry that this is a pattern. Since privacy is an issue, I don't know if the parents are clueless, in denial, or really trying to keep him under control. I also wonder who might be assaulted next time a substitute teacher is in the class.