Monday, November 29, 2010

Hair: The Long and the Short of It

It's recently hit me how much time and emotion are invested in hair in our house. Seriously.

There is Annabelle, of course, with her unofficially diagnosed trichotillomania. Which breaks my heart. And which I thought we had so well under control, and which lately we clearly do not have under control. Her hair had grown out so nicely from last spring through the summer until school started, and since then she's been on a twirling/twisting/pulling frenzy that no amount of reasoning, ignoring, or fidget-toys seems to be helping. It recently got to the point where one whole side was so noticeably shorter than the other that she looked positively lopsided. I consulted with a girlfriend who also has a daughter with a penchant for pulling and asked her, "Should I trim her hair to even it out? Or should I just leave it since she doesn't seem to care?" I was advised to leave it, and I did for a while, but I couldn't take it any longer and this weekend I trimmed it. (And I'm still asking myself, is it fair or right to impose my vanity on my six-year-old daughter? And I still haven't come up with an answer.) The truth is, Annabelle is a beautiful little girl - I'm not just saying that - and she looks adorable with a little pixie cut. It's not the short hair that bothers me, it's the reason it's short, and it's people asking her why her hair is short while her sisters' both have long hair, and watching how she kind of folds up in shame when the question is posed to her.

Then there is Joey. He's been letting his hair grow for almost a year now. And really, I swear he has the most gorgeous, to-die-for hair . . . wavy and thick with natural golden highlights . . . I'm telling you, he has the kind of hair that women pay big bucks to simulate. Anyway, and I really like the long hair on him. But quirky little Joey . . . I started thinking this was becoming some sort of Howard Hughes thing with him, that if we didn't make him go in for at least a little trim, he might go the rest of his life without allowing scissors to touch his hair. So with the aid of some good old fashioned bribery, we got him to agree to go in for a little trim this weekend. It's still long, and it still looks great, and now it's cleaned up and hopefully we've broken whatever hair-head-trip he was on.

Kevin also grew his hair out over the summer, and I have to say it looked awful. He's got straight, fine hair like me, and it just hung in his face. But it was almost like he was competing on some level with Joey - we were letting Joey grow his hair out, and Joey gets all this attention for his gorgeous hair (from family and strangers alike), so it seemed like Kevin wanted a piece of that too. Which is a little sad, that Kevin at 13 feels like he needs to compete with his 8-year-old brother for whatever reason. Anyway, we pushed and pushed for Kevin to get his hair cut when school started back up, and he did, and was very upset about it. And since then, we've made him get his hair cut a couple more times, and it's always with a fight. He looks so handsome with short hair, but I'm not sure I feel like anyone has won. I guess he's at that age when self-expression is rearing its head, and we have to let out the reins some, right?

Lilah's hair is down to her butt. Like Joey, she has the most wonderful, gorgeous hair. Curly, thick, honey-colored, cascading down her back. Hair that I'd kill for. She announced to me yesterday after her bath that she wants me to cut her hair, that she wants it like Daisy's (which is a little longer than shoulder-length). She started crying and begging me to cut it. I have no doubt that she hates how I have to comb and tug through it after washing it to detangle it (and no amount of conditioner seems to do the trick). But I can hardly bear the thought of cutting those tresses! Plus, she's so fickle these days that I just know I'd cut it and she'd be shrieking that she wanted her hair back. So it stays for now, but I know at some point . . .

Finn's pretty easy. I just stick him in the kitchen sink about once a month and take Daddy's electric trimmer to his head and give him a faux hawk. The only downside is that Michael doesn't like the faux hawk. Well, you know the saying - you can't please everyone.

I think Daisy is the only one who is happy with her hair the way it is, and whose hair everyone else seems to have no complaints about either.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving this year was the best in recent memory.

I have to say, usually I find myself becoming depressed when the holiday season hits. It's usually when I feel the absence of extended family the most, and it's always a reminder of my dad's untimely death right before Christmas in 1998. This year everything feels different though. I guess it boils down to the feelings of gratitude I wrote about in my last post. This family of mine - my husband and my kids - it's enough for me. It's the family I always wanted, and there's nothing to pine for anymore. I miss my dad - I always will - but he'd want me to be happy and to bask in the present.

Anyway, it was a pretty low-key, no-stress day. Michael and I spent the day getting all the food ready, and we had dinner on the table by 5:00.

The turkey was fabulous - and I'm not a big fan of turkey. It was super moist, tender and very flavorful. To achieve this, Michael had to establish relations with the bird three days in advance according to these instructions my friend Robin sent me. Seriously, bookmark it and try it next year - you won't be sorry.

I am feeling positively in the holiday spirit now - me, the Humbug. Might even get some Christmas decorations put up before the weekend is over.

I close with a little Thanksgiving animation my brilliant son, Kevin, made with clay and Legos. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Although I'm not a fan of holiday-forced gaiety, I must confess that I am feeling downright thankful of late, and compelled to express it and put it out there. And perhaps Thanksgiving is, after all, a good reminder to acknowledge the ups on this roller coaster of life.

A year ago, we were being held hostage by Michael's cancer. It was a very dark time in our house. I just went back and read what I wrote around Thanksgiving last year, and it seriously brought tears to my eyes. We had made it through almost an entire year of chemo and radiation and surgery and recuperation from surgery and multiple trips to the ER (as well as the Swine Flu - remember that? - sweeping through our house), and there we were, Thanksgiving week. It was a chemo week, so Michael was bedridden for much of the week. We were existing in our bleak, insular little world, isolated and afraid, painfully putting one foot in front of the other, trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was a hard, hard time.

A year later, Michael appears to be in robust good health. Cancer treatment is months and months behind us, but not so far behind us that it doesn't still hurt. The fear, we have learned, will probably never go away completely. Michael is due for an annual scan soon, and anxiety is mounting. Cancer is a fucker. It's wily and unpredictable and it doesn't care that we have six children who desperately love and need their father, or that here is a truly good man whose wife feels like she would not be able to face life without him.

But I don't mean for this to be a post about the dark, scary things. What I mean to say is that existing right alongside the anxiety over Michael's health is a gratitude that often overwhelms me. Not just that he's here, alive and well, but what we gained from the ordeal. We figured out what really matters and what doesn't, and that life is really short and really precious, and it's a criminal waste to spend much time or energy focusing on petty annoyances in a marriage. We know now what we're made of, and that's a gift. We know that those words we spoke at our wedding, "In sickness and in health, in good times and bad . . ." are really, really true for us. We meant them, and we know that now, because we've been put to the test.

Hard times afforded me the opportunity, too, to shed relationships that were more negative than positive. It was like separating fresh milk - the cream rose to the top, and I am left with a handful of friends who continue to enrich my life on so many levels.

And of course there are my kids. Six little vessels in whom I can pour all the love that went so untapped in me for so much of my life.

I don't know what tomorrow will bring. I know now that nobody ever gets to say "I've paid my dues." I have no doubt that life probably still has a few more curve balls in store for me, and I hope I can weather them. And although I'm certainly not wishing for more hard times, I respect the lessons and opportunities the hard times have afforded me. Without rain, you can't appreciate the sunshine. Right now, my life is filled with sunshine, and I am thankful.

Monday, November 22, 2010

NOT Enjoying the Small Things

A rant:

I know this is going to make me sound bitter and jealous and petty and a plethora of other not-so-pretty things, and maybe it's true, maybe I am those things sometimes. Image be damned, I must purge.

It's that blog. You know the one. Everyone seems to know it. And almost a year after the birth story that went viral, people are still freaking forwarding it to me and telling me "You have to check out this blog! It's amazing!" And now all over Facebook, everyone (well, not everyone, but a lot of people!) in the Down syndrome parenting community are encouraging everyone to vote that blog as The Best Blog (of what, I'm not sure).

Gah. I'm weary of her and her blog and all the attention it gets. Or really, whatever. I don't care. But why do people keep encouraging me to get sucked into her vortex of Beauty and Perfectness and Positivity?

Kelle Hampton and I have exactly ONE thing in common: we both have a child with Down syndrome. That's it. I can't relate to her. I read her birth story when it first made its way around the internet early this year, and I could not relate to it at all. Who wears full makeup while giving birth? Who has tasteful, handmade parting gifts (or was it party favors?) for her room full of birth attendees? Who has a professional (or at least extremely skilled) photographer capturing her in all her contracting and pushing glory with just the right lens and lighting? It looked like something out of a high-end magazine for crap's sake. And on every sporadic occasion that I have visited her blog just to see if I could find something - anything - to identify with, that's what I saw: perfect, glossy, magazine-worthy.

Maybe that really is her reality. Maybe her life really does look like that. I have no idea, but I do know that I just can't relate.

And how did she become the Poster Child for parents of children with Down syndrome anyway? She's been on Oprah for crying out loud! And in Parenting magazine! And I believe she has a book deal in the works. Seriously? The truth is, while I think that her portrayal of a beautiful, photogenic life has probably served the general population well by showing that having a child with Down syndrome isn't the horrible, ugly burdensome thing so many people believe it to be (if anyone outside the Down syndrome community is even following her - again, I have no idea), I actually think she's doing a disservice to a lot of parents who have children with Ds, because the truth is, the vast majority of us don't find instant nirvana like she apparently did. For most of us, coming to terms involves a somewhat lengthy process, during which there is much crying, ranting and fist-shaking. I think for a lot of parents with kids with Ds - especially new parents who are still in the throes of getting a grip - Kelle's portrayal of her recent life has the potential to make them feel like, well, shit, actually. That's kind of how it makes me feel when I occasionally visit her blog, just to see. It's like looking at an issue of House Beautiful, knowing you're never going to have a gorgeous, immaculate, well-appointed, tastefully decorated house like that. Or it's like looking at super models, knowing you just can't compete.

I have nothing against Kelle. Obviously, I don't even know her, and I'm sure if I met her, I'd think her a perfectly delightful person. I don't know if her blog is an honest portrayal of her experiences, or if it's all (or mostly, or somewhat) staged, or if she fell into internet superstardom completely unintentionally but now has an Image to maintain. All I know is I can't relate! Her perfect life spread out on her perfect blog doesn't resonate with me, and it kind of makes me feel crappy.

So, uh, yeah. That's it I guess.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

On Fickleness, Separation Anxiety, and the High Emotions of Four-Year-Olds

We are having quite the time with Lilah lately. Sweet, giggly, good-natured Lilah - the one of the bunch that's always been the most easy-going and the least trouble. Suddenly over the last couple of months she's tapped into this inner reserve of emotions, and it's been very trying, to say the least.

In addition to becoming far more uncooperative in general than she's ever been before, and crying big fat tears that ooze down her chubby little cheeks when she feels slighted or when Mommy or Daddy get mad at her for something (like being uncooperative), these new found emotions seem to be manifesting mainly in her not wanting to go to preschool, and not wanting to go to dance class.

Although I worried about how Lilah would do on the first day or two of preschool, having never spent any sort of extended time away from her parents or siblings, I really thought she'd quickly take to school. I've always known her to be a gregarious, fun-loving little girl, and I thought she'd quickly make new friends and look forward to each day's new activities and adventures. That hasn't been the case. I was actually surprised at how smoothly things went in the beginning - she separated from us and willingly went into the classroom in the first few days of school without any drama or tears. It's sort of gone downhill from there, though.

It started in the first couple of weeks where she started telling her teacher that she missed her mommy and her Finn. I thought this was very sweet. We came up with the idea of giving her a snapshot of me and Finn for her to take to school with her that she could look at whenever she got to missing us, and for a while that was enough. But it's gradually dissolved into her crying before school and wailing that she doesn't want to go, she just wants to stay home. I've talked to her teacher about it (in fact, her teacher actually approached me recently and told me that Lilah often seems "down" at school), and her teacher thinks it might have something to do with Lilah being dumped for the first time in her life. She had her first ever best friend, but alas, it was short lived, as the other girl, in the teacher's words, seems to have "moved on." I can see that this has hurt Lilah, but I don't think it's the crux of it. She's made some other friends, so she does realize there are other fish in the sea.

I think she just wants to be home with me and Finn.

As Michael has pointed out, at home she's had four years of being The Baby Girl, and I won't deny that she's been coddled to a degree. Not spoiled, but certainly adored - it's hard not to adore that girl with her long golden tresses, her sidelong glances, her sweet giggle, and her prancing around like a little pony when she's happy. She's kind of everyone's pet here at home, and she's probably gotten used to that attention and admiration at home, and I'm guessing that maybe it's a bit of a rude awakening for her to realize that the world outside of our house doesn't necessarily have her on the same pedestal.

Then there's dance class. We signed her up for dance when she was three. She wanted to do it because both of her sisters were doing it - and really, they're a threesome. She was very happy and willing until recently. She happily went to class every week and participated, she took part in the big spring recital the school did, and it was great. After the recital, I gave all three girls the opportunity to stop taking dance if they wanted, or to take a break. No, they all wanted to continue. So I re-enrolled them. They all said they wanted to be in the winter recital coming up, after I made it clear to them that they didn't have to if they didn't want to, but if they wanted to, they couldn't change their minds. Lilah insisted she wanted to be in the winter show, so I paid the fees, bought the costumes, and now it's all changed. Now she doesn't want to be in the show. Now she cries and wails every week when it's time to get ready to go to dance class.

It all seems to boil down to some sort of separation anxiety. Just like with her resistance to going to preschool, I suspect that her new resistance to going to dance class (and for the record, once she gets there, she's fine) has to do with her just wanting to be at home where everyone loves her and everything is comfortable and familiar.

And I'm torn. What do I do? Obviously preschool is non-negotiable. She's four - she needs to be in preschool. And despite her not wanting to go, she is getting something out of it. But what about dance? Do I make her keep going for the next few weeks until the winter show is over because she insisted she wanted to be a part of that? Is it ridiculous or unfair to expect a four-year-old to fulfill a commitment they made? Is this a teachable moment, an opportunity to instill the principle of following through in her? Or would it be easier for everyone and more reasonable to just write off all the money we invested in all the classes before the show, the show itself, and her costume, because suddenly she no longer wants to do it?

I don't know, I don't know.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


So I unfriended 80 - yes, EIGHTY - Facebook "friends" today. It was harder than I thought it would be; I actually had to do it in phases, scrutinizing my Friends List several times at intervals throughout the day. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings (though I acknowledge that I may be flattering myself by thinking anyone would even care), and it was not any kind of statement - I just wanted to whittle my list down to people I actually communicate with and have some sort of relationship with. Even after the purging, I am left with 130 friends on my list which still seems excessive because I don't think I even know 130 people in real life. I think in the future I will be a little more selective about which friend requests I actually accept.

I also returned two of the four shamefully expensive bras I bought at Nordstrom last week. This was something of an ordeal in itself. I know that Nordstrom is famous for its customer service and accepting returns no questions asked, but my stomach was still aflutter at the prospect of returning the bras. I should say that I'm not really a Nordstrom girl - it's always felt a bit out of my league (I'm not worthy!). And after all the time and trouble Olivia the Bra Fitter spent with me, well, I just felt kind of bad. And I was afraid, despite Nordstrom's reputation for accepting returns, that I was going to have to explain myself, and then maybe they'd try to talk me out of returning them, and then my resolve would crumble and I'd be just one more sucker, suckered into buying expensive Nordstrom bras.

So I skulked into the Nordstrom lingerie department this morning, hoping that Olivia the Bra Fitter wouldn't be there (yeah, like she'd even remember me), with the two bras that I had resolved to part with. Lucky me, nobody was in line at the checkout, and it was a different girl working. Yay! "I'd like to return these," I said. "They didn't work out for you?" she asked. "Umm, no, I guess not," I said. "Sure, no problem." And then? Olivia the Bra Fitter is suddenly approaching. I busy myself digging through my purse, hoping my hair will obscure my face so I'm not revealed.

She didn't notice me. Or if she did, I meant nothing to her. Gosh, after all we went through together . . .

And I'm now $140 richer!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

November 17 is National Unfriend Day

That's right - in case you haven't heard, late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel has deemed tomorrow, November 17, National Unfriend Day for Facebook users. His reasoning? That Facebook friending has gotten out of control and is diminishing the value of real friendship. I tend to agree.

Even I have found myself in the position of being something of a Facebook whore, willing to accept friend requests of nearly anyone who sends me one. Why? Because I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. The vast majority of my Facebook friends are people who found me through one of my blogs, and although a small number of the people I've "met" via the blogosphere I've developed actual relationships with, the majority of them I have not and, chances are, won't. And while I'm flattered that anyone reading my blog liked what they read enough to want to friend me, the fact is that most of us really are probably just taking up space on each other's Friends Lists.

I think Facebook started out as a means to keep in touch with people we actually cared about, but it's evolved into something much, much bigger and more impersonal - and to some, I'm sure, it's an extension of the popularity contest we all took part in (or at least tried to, or dreamed of trying to) in high school. Maybe it's time to just stick with the people who actually matter to us.

Nobody likes being "unfriended," but let's put it into context: yeah, it hurts to be unfriended by someone you actually did consider a friend, but to be unfriended by a stranger? By someone whose status updates in your newsfeed never meant anything to you anyway? Eh, big deal.

So I'm ready to purge my list tomorrow. I think. Maybe. Probably. What about you?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Adventures in Bra Buying

Did you know that 80% of women wear the wrong size bra? I didn't know this either until I was informed by a good friend of mine recently. I've heard vague references from different friends over the years to getting professionally fitted for a bra. It was always something that kind of went in one ear and out the other for me; on some level I guess I assumed that getting professionally fitted for a bra was for women who took their breasts very seriously because they were either very well-endowed and/or had something to show off. I don't fit into either of those categories. These puppies have been work horses for the past NINE years. The days of showcasing anything are long, long behind me, and my bra criteria has pretty much been comfort and functionality, period.

Still, when my girlfriend told me recently that most women wear the wrong size bra, and then shared her own bra-sizing revelations with me, and finished up by showing me her beautiful new boobs in a beautiful new bra that had been professionally fitted, my curiosity was piqued. Hmmmm . . . have I been wearing the wrong size bra like millions of my breast-owning sisters? I had to find out.

Not being eager to actually go somewhere and have somebody knowledgeable measure me (which would involve revealing at least a little naked flesh to them, which makes me shudder with insecurity), I figured I could probably figure it out myself with the help of the internet. I took my iPad into the bathroom (see how convenient that is?) along with a handy-dandy seamstress tape measure and Googled "bra sizing" and was directed to many, many different sites which all confirmed that there is, indeed, a wrong-bra-size-wearing epidemic, and which each gave a different method and formula for measuring and determining Your Correct Bra Size. Some advised that I needed to measure around my ribcage under the sisters, and depending on if I came up with an even or an odd number, round to the nearest something-or-other, while other sites instructed me to measure around higher up under my armpits and then subtract from that number the age of my dog's mother, while still other sites asked me to measure my left leg and divide that by the last four digits of my social security number. Okay, I kid. But seriously, there were several formulas, and each one gave me a different Correct Bra Size.

Let me back up and just say straight out that I've been wearing a 34C bra, but doing so with the knowledge that it's not the right size (even before my friend enlightened me). During the height of nursing when I was proudly milk-filled, I filled out a 34C to perfection. But nursing has dwindled, as have the size of the girls, and somewhere in the back of my mind I've figured that I am, at this point, probably more like a 34B (which is almost hysterically funny because I come from a long line of natural-born DDs).

Anyhoo. So according to these different sites, my Correct Bra Size is anything from a 30A (ha!) to a 36C. This was not helping to solve the big mystery. It was clearly time to bite the bullet and get professionally fitted for a bra. Ugh.

So I strode confidently into the Nordstrom lingerie department this morning, trying to disguise my insecurity and bra-sizing ineptitude, and smiling at the first twenty-something-cute-as-a-button-firm-bodied-girl-who-clearly-has-never-had-one-let-alone-SIX-babies-literally-suck-the-life-out-of-her-breasts who approached me and asked if she could help me, I said, "I'd like to get fitted for a bra." She was very nice. She took me back to the fitting rooms and asked me to take my top off, whereupon I was immediately overcome with the need to inform her that I've had SIX kids and even my husband doesn't get to see me with my shirt off. She just laughed (in a nice way), and I did as she instructed. She measured me and announced that my Correct Bra Size is . . . (drum roll, please) . . .


So much for the big revelation.

Anyway, she had me try on about a dozen different bras. Some of them I didn't like, some I did (I LOVED the Bra-llelujah by Spanx - super comfortable). I ended up buying four bras and spending a shitload of money on them, which I now feel completely guilty about and am already considering returning two of. I also got suckered into buying a $6.50 bottle of special detergent to hand wash my new bras in, because apparently anything else - even Woolite - will ruin the elasticity of these pricey brassiers, and apparently special Nordstrom scientists have developed the one and only exact detergent formula to maximize the life of them. Yeah, like I'm actually going to hand wash my bras. Come on.

All in all, I would summarize the experience as humbling humiliating, and very expensive. I am left feeling even more depressed about my body than I was before.

Oh, and I think I will be buying my 34Bs at Target from here on out, thank you very much.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Unfriended: A New Way to Snub

It's sort of a strange thing to find that you've been unfriended by someone on Facebook. When an unfriending occurs, there is no proclamation or announcement or notification; the unfriended is just quietly removed from the unfriender's Friends List, and the unfriended will never know until such time that they go searching through their own Friends List and find someone's name mysteriously missing.

I've done it, I admit it. I've unfriended people who were complete strangers to me from whom I didn't know why I accepted friend requests to begin with. I've unfriended a few people who I had actual fallings out with, or people on the other side of an actual friendship that just ran its course and petered out mutually. In those cases, why bother with the pretense of a Facebook "friendship"? The unfriending seems like a logical step.

But when it's a person you've actually known for a very long time - say, since junior high school (hypothetically, of course), a person with whom you may no longer be close practically speaking but have had no falling out, no disagreement or words - nothing over the last year or so except pleasant Facebook exchanges - well, then it's just weird. Or maybe not weird. It's obviously a statement of some sort which boils down to "I don't want to be friends with you anymore." You think everything is fine, then you realize you haven't seen this person's status updates in your newsfeed for a while, so you go through your Friends List to pull up their Facebook page so you can check up on them and see how they're doing, and poof! They're gone from your list. Was it something you did? Something you said? Was it your radical atheist views? And your husband might say to you, "Why don't you just get in touch with her and ask what happened?" (Hypothetically, of course.) But you think, no, what's the point in getting an explanation? It's only bound to lead to hurt feelings. And you're left to conclude that they just don't like you anymore, for whatever reason. Which makes you sad. (Hypothetically, of course.)

It's just interesting how Facebook - and electronic communication in general - has changed the face of relationships. We can now sit comfortably behind the cover of our computer screens and tell people off - say things we'd never dream of having the nerve to say face to face. We can profess undying friendship to people we've never met and likely never will. The people we love and hate are only a text or email away. We don't even have to think about what we're going to say - we don't have to measure our responses or carefully weigh our words - instant communication and constant availability has done away with much of that. And now we can even dump friends impersonally and anonymously. Maybe divorce will become that easy eventually.

Isn't technology great?

Monday, November 8, 2010


After discovering her very first loose tooth just a few days ago, this one came out easy as pie. The kids were horseplaying after dinner tonight, and somehow or other Joey accidentally hit Daisy in the mouth as he ran past her and the next thing we knew, there was her tooth on the floor and quite a bit of blood in her mouth. Not a tear was shed, though - she laughed! Happy to suddenly be a bigger girl, I'm sure, and happy to know the Tooth Fairy will be paying a visit tonight in her honor!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Parenting: Not For the Faint Hearted

Out to dinner with a couple of girlfriends last night, my friend Lisa made a statement so fundamental and yet profound, that I am inspired to write about it and explore it in all its truth and glory. She said, "The hardest part of parenting, the most exhausting part, is the constant, never ending, twenty-four hours a day of standing your ground and backing up your bullshit." Bullshit being whatever principles you hold dear, and whatever values you endeavor to impart on your offspring.

God, isn't that the truth.

Before you have kids, you hear the stories of sleepless nights with colicky babies, of nursing troubles, of tantrums in grocery stores, of playdates gone bad, and of that mysterious but apparently frightening Teenage Stage. You know parenting isn't going to be a cakewalk, but until you are in it, elbow deep in the blood, sweat, and tears of actual parenting, you just don't know how hard it really is.

In all the wisdom experienced parents try to pass along to new parents, nobody talks about the relentlessness of it all. Of the absolute stamina parenting requires. About how one challenging childhood phase evolves into yet another, and that raising your kids is years and years and years of exhausting effort.

The truth is, kids are born at odds with us grownups. It's us against them, from the moment they come squalling into the world, imposing their demands on us while we impose our wills on them. Kids are needy and dependent and willful and determined all at once, and they employ strategies like whining (has ever there been a more tortuous device than whining? seriously.), and tears, and dramatic threats, and wheedling, and optional hearing, and spontaneously lying-down-because-every-muscle-in-their-body-has-turned-to-Jello-because-they-are-not-getting-their-way, and ignoring our advice, and bending our rules, and pushing our buttons, and trying, trying, trying, always trying to see how far they can go. And we the parents are required to stand firm in the face of all this and take the blows as they come without breaking. For years and years.

I mean, we do break from time to time. I know I do. I yell too often. Sometimes I hear myself, from a distance, screaming at my kids, and I am horrified and ashamed. Sometimes I close myself in the bathroom for five minutes and release a deluge of tears and frustration, and emerge, swollen-eyed but resolute, ready to go back into the trenches. Because that's what you have to do, you have to summon up the fortitude to keep going, to keep being the grownup even when you wish someone else would come in and be the bad guy for you so you can just go take a nap for crying out loud. Giving up isn't an option. Surrendering on a large scale can be disastrous.

I don't mean to say that it's not worth it. I love my kids so much that it's often a physical ache I can feel in my core, and I would not trade this gig of motherhood for anything ( . . . okay, sometimes I'd like to trade it - just temporarily - for a trip to Hawaii, or, you know, five minutes of peace and quiet). There are rewards along the way: sloppy kisses, strangle-hold hugs, glimpses of your children showing kindness to others, occasional moments when it feels as though all the stars and planets are aligned exactly right and you and your kids are in perfect harmony for a short while. The big payoff doesn't come until much later, though. Not until they're all grownup themselves. Only then will you get to stand back and know if all your hard work - your stamina and exhaustion - paid off in the form of a happy, well-adjusted, productive adult who doesn't hate his or her parents.

It ain't easy. And it's a long row to hoe.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Here's a little tidbit I've learned through experience: as a parent, you lose cred with the kiddos when you can't keep their names straight.


Me: "Daisy! Get down from there right now!"
Annabelle: "I'm not Daisy."

It has nothing to do with the fact that those particular two are twins; they are not identical and are easily told apart from one another. It's just that I can't seem to keep their names straight. Not just the twins, but any of the kids. Or the dog, for that matter.

The fact is, I rarely get any of their names right on the first try. Daisy probably thinks her name is Aunt Daisy, because I can't seem to blurt out her name without accidentally first starting to say her sister's name. It comes out like this: "Ann-Daisy!" Which sounds a whole lot like Aunt Daisy. There are also the following common combinations:

Deh-Ann . . .
Lilah-Finn . . .
Joey! Uh, I mean, Kevin. Did I just call you Joey?
Finn! I mean Twinkle!

Yes, even the dog often gets called by the wrong name.

Finn sometimes gets called Lilah, not because the two of them look anything alike or are even close to the same size, but because, I guess, somewhere along the line, I got used to calling the youngest "Lilah." And even though Finn has been the youngest for over two years now, my brain clearly hasn't completely processed this fact. And Twinkle is sometimes mistakenly addressed as Finn because on some deep level, my brain knows that the newcomer was Finn at some point, and has yet to completely assimilate Twinkle as the latest newcomer (over a year later).

Sometimes I resort to "Umm, you," or "What's your name again?" or "Which one are you?"

I'll never forget the time Michael addressed Joey as "Boy." I looked at him quizzically and asked, "What was that about?" He said, "I swear to God, I totally blanked on his name for a second!" We got a good laugh over that one.

It's no wonder they don't take us very seriously. I'm sure we come across as complete kooks to our kids.

Maybe name tags are in order?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Just Write a Check

Within the first couple weeks of the new school year, the flyers and catalogs start coming home with my kids. It's Fundraising Season, and it lasts all school year long.

I detest school fundraisers. It's not the giving that I mind - I don't. I know full well that our schools have been sucker punched time and time again by budget cuts. I know that our schools are being forced to cut programs along with spending, and that they're operating with almost the bare minimum. Any extras, and indeed, even a lot of the necessaries, have to come straight out of the community's individual wallets at this point.

What I mind is the crap we are asked to sell, and the marketing to the kids themselves. Who needs more overpriced wrapping paper or cookie dough or See's Candy? I understand the concept of giving people something in return for their money, but the truth is, I'm not going to go forth in my neighborhood and try to sell the same stuff that all the other families in the neighborhood are also trying to sell, and had I an extended family to hit up, I'd like to think that they'd be willing to just give up some moolah for a good cause and not have a need for some candles or stationary to show for it.

As for marketing to the kids, I say leave the kids out of it. I don't like having to deal with my kids' emotions when I refuse to sell cookie dough or take the family to dinner at Islands on Tuesday night because they've been led to believe that the fundraisers are mandatory. It's almost like the kids are a tool in the whole marketing ploy, exploited to play on the parents' guilt. I think fundraising should be a matter strictly between the schools and the parents.

Someone else recently wrote about this topic here, much more eloquently than I have. It definitely struck a chord with me.

A long time ago, when Kevin was a mere tot and just embarking on his school career, an older, experienced mom told me, "Forget the fundraisers. Just write a check." Some of the best advice I ever got.

Good Morning . . . ?

I think I finally put my finger on it this morning, on what makes the mornings so challenging and often unpleasant around here: there is just no warm-up period for the kids. Let me explain.

See, I'm admittedly not much of a morning person. I need some time after I wake up to slowly rejoin the world of consciousness (and to decide if I'm happy to be there or not), to get my thoughts in order, get a handle on my mood, and so forth. A transition period from sleeping to waking to functioning.

The kids, on the other hand, have no apparent need or desire for any such warming-up period in the morning. They go from dead sleep to wide awake and raring to go in about one-ninth of a second. Often they are up before my alarm even goes off in the morning, standing by my bedside announcing that they have to go potty (so go already! why the announcement?!) and demanding breakfast. Even when I manage to beat them to it and get myself up before them and creep into the kitchen and start processing, the moment they're up, it's instant GO! NEED! DEMAND! BICKER! DANCE! CHASE EACH OTHER! SING AT THE TOP OF THEIR LUNGS!

And there are six of them! (I know, I know, I asked for this. I know. Shut up.)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Armchair Psychology

We all know certain people who could be described as self-centered, self-involved, and/or self-important. We've heard the term "narcissistic." Did you know, however, that there is actually a clinical condition called Narcissistic Personality Disorder? I guess I'm not surprised to learn that this is yet another category of diagnosable illness in this age of pathologizing just about every quirk or flaw of human behavior. Without going into that issue at length, though (except to say that it has long bothered me that there no longer seems to be just quirky, or just shy, or just high energy, or just an asshole, and that every human behavior these days seems to potentially fall under some diagnosis), I have to say that I find myself fascinated by this Narcissistic Personality Disorder. generally defines NPD as ". . . a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration."

According to, NPD symptoms may include:
  • Believing that you're better than others
  • Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness
  • Exaggerating your achievements or talents
  • Expecting constant praise and admiration
  • Believing that you're special and acting accordingly
  • Failing to recognize other people's emotions and feelings
  • Expecting others to go along with your ideas and plans
  • Taking advantage of others
  • Expressing disdain for those you feel are inferior
  • Being jealous of others
  • Believing that others are jealous of you
  • Trouble keeping healthy relationships
  • Setting unrealistic goals
  • Being easily hurt and rejected
  • Having a fragile self-esteem
  • Appearing as tough-minded or unemotional
Its causes tend to be rooted in childhood, resulting from abusive parents, over-praise from parents, or overly critical parents.

This particular personality disorder raises an interesting question: how does one deal with a person like this? The very nature of their so-called illness outfits them with an inability (or unwillingness?) to see or acknowledge their own shortcomings, as well as a generally obnoxious demeanor to go with it. So any suggestion to them that they have "issues" which need to be addressed for their own good as well as the good of the people around them is an exercise in futility. Because it is classified as an illness, does this require one to deal compassionately and tolerantly with said repugnant behavior, or is it okay, for one's own emotional well-being to draw clear boundaries, even to the point of generally steering clear of said narcissistic person as much as possible?