Writer/illustrator

Chipmunk’s new goal in life is to be a famous writer/illustrator. He’s very inspired by the Diary of  Wimpy Kid, Timmy Failure and Big Nate book series. His interest in writing is pretty great considering a year ago we were concerned about his struggles with writing. It turns out he only struggles when he’s not interested. So that should make the next zillion years of school a lot of fun.

Tonight he said he wrote a bedtime story for his brother. He brought it over to me to preview it.

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It reminded me of a Shinzi Katoh print. Aww! I immediately thought about how I want a tattoo of one of his doodles, and I grinned. Would it be this optimistic, surprisingly sweet seal?

“Flip it over,” he said.

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“That’s a meteor.”

Sorry for this morning

My 8-year-old has rough days. Many times, his rough days are related to some kind of blip in his routine. Late night? Rough day? Fighting a cold? Rough day. Other times, it seems like the stars have aligned to make him act like the biggest butthole known to parentkind. Fortunately, the good days get me through the days when I literally hunch over and see actual red. Or the one recent time I yelled in the car, “Stop being such a little shit.”

His eyes widened. “Why are you calling me a bad word??”

“BECAUSE YOU ARE BEING A LITTLE SHIT!”

He’s going to behavioral therapy which is mostly behavioral therapy for me, since it’s all about appropriate time outs and consequences and all kinds of other routines that make me feel inadequate and hugely overwhelmed. It’s helpful though. For both of us. The child has an uncanny ability to push my buttons. I know he does it for attention, and that he craves my attention like he needs it to breathe — but holy cow, kiddo. His therapist wants me to try to give him 5-7 good moments of positive attention for every time I have to point out a negative behavior, and it’s more difficult than you’d think. “Uh, great job eating.” “Good job putting your seat belt on!” “Wow you wore underwear today!” (We’re having a free balling it all the time issue.) “I really like how you’re not tormenting your brother right this second!”

I’m trying, though.

This morning he had a really rough time and ended up in time out after bellowing “I need to go to Dumb School” in baby talk over and over while I took a work phone call. I had a sick, cold feeling in my stomach as he walked onto the bus a few minutes later. I kissed him on the cheek twice. I don’t like saying goodbye to him for the long school day after we’ve been at each other’s throats. I hate fighting.

Later this evening, I was on the phone with Verizon trying to get my cable scheduled to shut down when we move out at the end of the month. I hissed at him and waved him off when he came to ask me for Halloween candy.

He came up to me with this note.

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State of the me

Every time I think about blogging I get this choked up feeling in my belly, like my bowels are cartoonishly crumpling together. Do you know what I mean? Like when cartoon cars smash and adorably fold together? It’s like that but less adorable. Why am I talking about my bowels. Aren’t you glad I updated my blog?

But seriously, blogging, like fiction, has become this looming cloud of FAIL hovering at the edge of my perception. I resent writing because it feels like work and then I childishly ignore it because I can, and I can’t ignore my actual work. Which, by the way, is going well. I can’t say that I’m in a financially rad position but I’ve now made it an entire year supporting myself by writing and that feels good. Sort of the way going down a slide feels good. Hopefully I won’t hit the water awkwardly with water up my nose and my top flying off.

I could bullet point some pretty compelling excuses for not blogging, but the truth is I could find ten minutes here and there. I just haven’t been feeling it. Except lately, every once in a while, I’ve had thoughts that have managed to escape the dark cloud of fail/bowels/etc. Maybe I’ll be able to start making words here again.

Because the thing is, I have stuff to talk about. Like Chipmunk (7) being back in social skills therapy and Moose (5) being totally different at his age than his brother was and thus throwing me for a giant loop. I’d like to talk about how I’ve been working out maybe 5 times a week or so and how it’s completely changed my health/stress/anxiety levels. I want to tell you about quitting coffee and the tremendous benefit it’s had on my sleep issues and, again, my anxiety. (Did I tell you how I got the flu the first week of September and ended up in the hospital twice with an esophageal ulcer from taking Advil for the flu? I can’t remember if I did but boy howdy was that a trip and a half and I am happy every day to not be that sick because it was THE WORST.)

I still want to talk about my kids all day and how they make me feel explodey. Sometimes it’s explodey with rage but often it’s explodey with love. They’re good dudes. Except at Joann Fabrics. Then they’re not good dudes and you want to leave them at Joann Fabrics.

When I get my words back under my fingers again, I’ll write about entering my second year of single motherhood and singleness and how sometimes it feels like the time flew by and sometimes it feels… like shit. I won’t talk about the times when I’m driving on some random errand and I’m crushed with anger and grief, because I’d rather talk about the everyday triumphs of being a person who is stronger and significantly less broken.

Can I tell you about the dude I dated for six weeks who abruptly dumped me over lunch because he “met someone” and how hard it is, sometimes, to swallow back a knee-jerk resentment toward the entire population lady-someones who are younger or not moms or whatever. But I refuse to be that way. Nope.

Right now my life is a lot of silly home improvements, like re-organizing my garage and adding a Craigslist work bench. It’s painting over paintings I got when I bought my first house with my ex-husband. It’s collecting makeup but not wearing it all that often but feeling sassy and pretty when I do. It’s being super glad I bought that Hitachi Magic Wand a few years back. It’s stopping biting my nails long enough that maybe this time it’s for good. It’s cooking again and keeping my house clean. It’s finally feeling competent at my job. It’s stressing about money. It’s selfies. It’s looking forward to time to myself but then looking forward to seeing my kids again even more. It’s touching my toes when I never, ever could.

I’m like a goddamned Alanis Morissette song and I do not give a single baked crap if I’m a divorced lady cliché — I am primarily happy and that’s far more happiness than I’ve been able to lay claim to for a long, long time.

 

tunnel vision

My son is seven and a half. Which means I’ve spent six years being aware that he’s different. His different-ness has had many labels. He’s one of those alphabet soup kids, and at seven, I still don’t really know exactly which letters make up his anything-but-typical little brain. And that’s okay.

I’ve been going to ABA therapy with the boys for a couple of months now. I love it and I hate it. I love that what I’m learning really can and will help him. I hate that I’m the one in charge and that it’s so damn hard. I hate that what a lot of this boils down to is that I have to structure our lives more. I hate wondering how many of his behavior issues are the result of poor parenting choices. (What if we’d set different ground rules, what if we’d been more consistent, what if?

*

Last Friday I took the boys to the Magic Kingdom. You see, Disney World has always been our escape. It’s rarely stressful. The kids go bananas. I feel like a little kid myself. It’s freaking Disney World, dude. How can you drive under the entrance and not feel like you’re on a one way street to paradise? The place makes me so damn happy.

Until I’m hissing at my kids to just smile for one second just both of you — no seriously you need to both LOOK AT THE CAMERA, LOOK AT MY FINGER HERE, JUST LOOK AT THE HOLE IN THE PHONE — I SWEAR TO GOD WE ARE TAKING THE MONORAIL BACK TO THE CAR AND DRIVING HOME AND GOING TO SCHOOL IF YOU BOTH DON’T LOOK AT THE CAMERA.

After six hours of pushing a nearly five-year-old in a stroller and enduring the defiant and teenager-y behavior of my seven-year-old I was totally that lady ruining the magic and probably causing Tinkerbell to hemorrhage in one of those cool tunnels under the park. I do believe in fairies, I do, I do, but my patience only goes so far and it grinds to a halt right about when you tell me I’m the meanest mom ever. AT WALT EFFING DISNEY WORLD.

But damn it, I did it. I took my kids by myself. Our strange triangular family lived through it. We even stayed at a hotel the night before and actually had fun there and probably didn’t wake all of the neighbors up at 7 am.

*

My son’s ABA therapist said, “Honestly, he seems more ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder to me.” We talked for about an hour, tossing around his behaviors and characteristics. Some are spectrum-y, some really aren’t. The kid is a conundrum. What we know for sure?

He’s quirky.
He’s very controlling.
He’s very defiant.
He has a super low frustration tolerance.
He has major sensory issues.
He stims.
He struggles with transitions.
He’s gifted (by the school system’s definition).
His interests are narrow (space, deep sea, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Beyblades at the moment).
He plays reasonably well with kids but doesn’t maintain or develop friendships.
Other kids report that he’s annoying.
He’s uncoordinated.
He’s sensitive but not empathetic.
He has trouble articulating his emotions.
He’s violent toward his little brother.
His temper is OMFG.

I can’t talk about what’s “wrong” with him without talking about what makes him so special.

He loves playing the drums.
Music enthralls him.
He reads voraciously.
His memory is uncanny.
He would run until he passed out if you let him.

He’s fascinating. When asked if he likes space of the sea more, he said, “Well we’re going to know everything about the ocean some day, but we’ll never know everything about space, so I like space more. For instance, in 2016 because of the Horizon we’ll have new pictures of Pluto that I have never seen.”

I feel like a jerkass when I list his struggles. But they’re not faults they’re just struggles — they’re just part of him. And when he’s horrible to me it’s not because he doesn’t love me and it’s not because I’m a bad mom and it’s not because I’m doing everything wrong. (Right?)

*

Oh my little love, you’re are so special.

And I get so mad when you’re mean.

I want you to love me as much as I love you. But you do — I do know that — and it’s not your job to show me that, it’s your job to be a little boy.

It’s my job to love you and love you and love you and I do, buddy.

*

It’s so much sometimes, and then it’s nothing at all and we’re on Space Mountain and you’re laughing and later you ask, “Did you hear me say AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH-SOME?”

You want me to know the things you know and love the things you love.

I don’t think I can do it and then you climb into bed with me and ask if we can have cuddle time and you start talking in your staccato way, clicking at the end of your sentences and I think for a while that I can understand, just a little, what your typhoon of a mind is like and you’re so tall now, and kind of hairy, and there’s no way you were ever that crying newborn who wouldn’t latch, that curly-haired infant with a big smile, that solemn toddler lining cars up, my baby, my baby.

*

ADHD. ODD. PDD. TS. SPD. OCD. ASD. IEP. SLP. OT. Uh.

*

Your brother loves you, dude.

*

I haven’t cried about all of this in a while, so I do. It doesn’t help that much, but it eases some of the tension in my chest. Pity party of one hiding in the bathroom at the children’s rehab center, recalibrating, processing, psyching myself up for the pitch black touch tunnel that is our future together, me and my boys.

As a little girl, my knees scraping the nylon carpet and my socks slipping off, I always loved the touch tunnel best of all.

New York City is a fairy tale

New York City is a fairy tale. From the moment it rises on the hazy horizon from your foggy airplane window, it’s a living thing. I crouched with my son on the observation platform at the top of Rockefeller Center and whispered, “Listen, can you hear it breathing?”

A parade tiptoeing ten blocks away. Sirens cat-calling each other. Shuffle-thumping construction and a thousand agitated taxi cabs. The snick-whoosh of the wind between buildings, snapping flags and rustling leaves. Restless garbage and the forever-static of millions of footsteps.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

When the train cars were crowded, my son held me and I held the rail, and we braced ourselves against the momentum.

“I’m the luckiest kid in the world,” he crowed, dancing from toe to toe in front of a display. Three enormous dead buffalo. “I’m seeing something from a book!  In real life!”

At the museum, I watched him. Not the animals. Not the architecture. I watched excitement curve his fingers and squirm through his skinny arms. I watched him bounce and point and dart and dash, electrified in a way he so seldom is, my little boy. I love him always and forever but in those moments it was almost more than I could bear, loving this strange little creature. I laughed it out, giggling helplessly and hurting with joy.

We’re all tourists.

We walked until our feet ached and sweated and ate and aimed our camera phones with something that felt like desperation. Trying to catch this, that. Trying to keep it.

We rode the Staten Island Ferry on a drizzly morning and steamed back toward the downtown skyline. Lady Liberty stood sentinel. My son asked for a hotdog. Misty grey skyscrapers sharpened into focus and rose and climbed until they towered over the ferry depot.

It was windy and loud and it scared me to let my son stand at the rope as the water churned below us, but I knew I was living proof that kids can hang out on boats without being lost the depths below, so I breathed through my fear and watched him fly, arms outstretched, lips parted in a delighted oooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh that the wind snatched away.

I’m afraid more often than I want to be. My anxiety is a choke-chain. But when my son curls up on me and falls asleep, trusting and safe, I am his world. I am that monument, that tower, that living city.

my favorite thing right now

It puts a smile on my face, too.