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.

and then words happened

Over the past three months, Chipmunk has gone from efficient recitation sort of reading to full blown reading all the things, with inflection and punctuation and goofy voices and omfg he’s reading. The key with him seemed to be figuring out that he didn’t need to read chapter books. He could read science books and signs and subtitles and video game instructions and every damn thing ever. Which appeared to get him over that hump of “I don’t waaaaannnnnttttt to.” He’s halfway through first grade and he’s reading at an upper second grade level in a small group with two other kids. I’m so happy the school is able to accelerate him like that. I am giddy.

I started reading early and read books all the time. I read in the swimming pool, in the bath tub, in the car, at the dinner table. I read everything I could get my hands on. My secret heart’s wish has been for Chipmunk to develop a love of reading, but I haven’t pushed him–especially since he seems to skew more toward science and math. But holy cow, he’s into it now. He’s not really into stories that much, but any little thing he reads thrills me. It’s the coolest thing to share with him so far. (Sharing interests with my kids is one of the best perks of parenting. The Aquabats! Riding roller coasters together! Watching The Sound of Music! Frozen yogurt!)

READING.

Tonight, he took things to a level I really didn’t expect. I asked him to stop playing Kinect so he could clean his room for an hour and he flipped out as he always does when I suggest any amount of room cleaning. I started to get angry and dive right into yelling psychomom mode when I glanced at a yellow notepad on the desk. My mom’s always used these yellow notepads. Ever since I was a little girl. They’re symbols of organization and order and reason.

“I have a special job for you,” I said, as I wrote down four tasks. I told him that if he did each of the four things I wrote down, I’d give him 50 cents a task:

  1. pick up Lego minifigures
  2. put books on the bookshelf
  3. put the DVDs in the DVD box
  4. pick up the extra toys

“What’s my mission?” he asked, suddenly excited. SCORE. SCORE A MILLION POINTS FOR WORKING AROUND STUBBORN MCASSHAT’S AVERSION TO CLEANING. He ended up finishing three tasks (running to me with the notebook and pen to check each off) before deciding to take a “break” for an unspecified amount of time, which is still totally a win in my book because after the first three or four times I’ve gotten totally sick of organizing Lego bricks in order to vacuum the small rug in his room.

Anyway, later on, he took the notepad over to me and asked, “Can I keep this?” I asked him why and he said, “I want to write all about my life in it.”

I stared at him trying to keep my shit together and eventually managed to squeak, “I can buy you a diary or notebook or journal if you’d like, that would work better and it wouldn’t rip.” BE COOL. BE COOL.

He said that’d be great (!!!!) and ran off with a pen and the yellow notepad to make a list of characters, enemies and powers as part of the story of his life. Then he gave each one a point score on power/awesomeness. (I scored 20 out of 100.) (His brother scored zero.)

HE IS WRITING. FOR FUN. WRITING THINGS DOWN. IN A NOTEBOOK. I had to make him stop writing and go to bed eventually. I finally caved on playing it cool and squeezed him tight and said, “You know, Mama is a writer so it makes me very very excited that you are enjoying writing things down.” He said goodnight and then whispered to me in the dark, “I can’t wait to write down places tomorrow.”

keep moving

I know when I look back on these days, they’ll be foggy, like those first weeks after a baby’s birth, when the world is seen through milky glass.

The world continues moving around me, even if I feel like I’m moving in slow motion. Or stop motion, even, like those horrible jerky effects in Clash of the Titans. Everything has a cartoonish feel to it when your life is surreal and not at all what you ever expected it to be.

But it keeps moving.

This morning, I woke up cranky and snapped at the kids too much. I’m tired. I hurt all over, inside and out. I thought it would end up being a shit day, but Chipmunk was the one to drag me not kicking, but briefly screaming, out of my dark mood.

We went to Busch Gardens, since we have passes, and when he stopped being pissy, he turned into a talkative ball of delight. He grabbed a map and read the names of all the places and told us where we needed to go. He read every sign he could get his eyeballs on. He started talking to kids in lines, asking them where their parents were and where they went to school, telling them silly stories. He rode rides with me, and said, “I’m glad Jingle Bells is playing, it makes me brave!”

I asked him to take a picture with me, our first time together on a wooden coaster, and he said, “Let’s both make faces like we’re screaming!”

When we got off the wooden coaster, he told the people in line, “Listen, I don’t think you want to ride this! This seat is way too bumpy!”

On the carousel, he looked up, watching the gears the whole time, fascinated by the way they moved his horse up and down.

We “raced” on the gliders high above the park, and he looked over at me and gave me a thumbs up.

He wouldn’t let us leave one area of the park until I took his picture with each of four giant characters on stilts. “I can’t believe I finally get to take a picture with a stilt bug!” he shouted.

Later, he played with friends. Really played.

We went to a Christmas tree light show thing with Caroline and her boys, and when the lights and music began, Moose gave a silly grin and watched from his perch in my arms, and Chipmunk wiggled his skinny butt and did a dance for the entire set of Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

On the long drive home, in the dark, Moose fell asleep and Chipmunk stayed up until the very end.

“If The Flash had henchmen,” Chipmunk said, out of nowhere, “they’d be joggers.”

A huge airliner flew right over us, landing at the airport by the highway, and he said wondrously, sincerely, “Whoa, a spaceship.”

I’m sad, but I can’t be sad all the time, not with my buddies reminding me how cool life is.