Monthly Archives: October 2013

Fight Club

 

I’m sure there are houses where the children line up sweetly for baths and pajamas and kiss their mothers goodnight with their angelic blond hair curling damply around their ears. Isn’t it pretty to think so?

This is what bedtime looks like at our house.

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At least there were no nosebleeds tonight.

And Levi said, at one point, “Wias!! Could you stop talking for a minute please!” Which prompts me to quote to you perhaps the only line of dialogue I remember from Friends (delivered with fake finger phone held to the face):

“Hey, is this kettle? Yeah, it’s pot. You’re black.”

Who is that masked man?

Today was Trunk or Treat at our church. For the uninitiated, this is a version of trick or treat that uses open, decorated car trunks as the “houses” on a “street” out in the parking lot of the church. It’s nice for younger kids – not so much walking, and nothing really scary going on – and since we don’t live in a neighborhood, it’s especially nice for us.

We take pictures of Halloween costumes on Gigi’s porch, because it’s not all cluttered with bikes and jars containing wooly bear specimens and especially impressive spiders.

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As you can see, Batman was feeling his oats.

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I was happy to discover that the Batman costume did – just – fit over the cast. Levi was pumped (ha!) about the muscles and spent a good ten minutes running around the house posing after we put it on. Elias was less sure about his Diego vest, but utterly won over by the animal rescue pack.

I was very pleased with their costumes, especially considering the budget, which topped out at $9.00 for both boys. The animal rescue pack came from a friend (Thanks, Tricia!), Levi’s costume was a $5 garage sale find (Thanks, Janeen!), and the vest is an old white t-shirt turned inside out and trimmed to vest shape with pinking shears. I found fabric markers at Target for $4 and drew the patch on after a Google search. It’s not exact, but it’s recognizable, which is a lot more than you can say for any previous drawing effort from yours truly.

Paul dropped us off at the church and went to calling hours for a former neighbor at the funeral home up the street, and I thought we’d be just fine. Two lemonade spills, a bathroom trip (“Stop touching everything!”), and a nosebleed later, I was reduced to sending texts that started with “Coming soon?” and devolved to “Seriously, help. Now.” I did get all the blood off the gym floor. Let us not speak of the lemonade in the banquet room carpet. At least it wasn’t fruit punch.

I did not levy a candy tax this year. I’d like to tell you that’s because I’m selfless and disciplined. But it’s really because I have the good stuff hidden in a cupboard at home.

We made it.

We made it. We are done with appointments for the week. I have nothing tomorrow except work and preschool pickup.

Yesterday’s appointment at the pediatrician was okay, and both boys were pronounced hale and hearty. They refused to wear the little hospital gowns and greeted the doctor wearing underpants and big grins, but she seemed unphased. It’s probably not the worst thing she’s seen.

My sister came over this afternoon to watch Elias so I could take Levi to the CF center in peace. Levi was intensely pleased to be handed an iDevice upon arrival at the doctor’s office, and concentrated hard on knocking down green pigs for most of the appointment. He did at least take a short break to look at Canal Park and reminisce about the game we attended over the summer.

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We don’t have to go back for three months, unless something nasty shows up in the throat culture they took today. Fingers crossed.

I took a couple of vacation days and made myself a nice little four-day weekend, starting on Friday. I originally had grand plans for house projects, but I think I’ll lower my expectations to include getting caught up on laundry and having at least one nap.

Anything else is just gravy.

Too Many Things

I kind of lost it and bawled over the phone to a total stranger today. Oops. (On the bright side, she was really nice and stayed on the phone making sympathetic noises until I calmed down and could use my words.)

I’ve been dreading this week. We had a followup appointment with the orthopedic surgeon today (pins came out, which went really well except Levi was terrified about the process of “windowing” the cast; turns out he thought they were going to cut a window in his skin, which means I must not have explained things very well). One more week in the cast.

Tomorrow, I take both boys to their annual checkups, which will include a flu mist for Elias and a shot for Levi. This seemed like efficient use of my time (One trip! No babysitters!) back when I planned it, but at this moment I’m wondering if I was out of my mind. They are nuts, and containing them both in small spaces and requiring relative quiet is always an adventure. I will be packing a lot of snacks. I know bribing them with food is a terrible idea for their long-term health and well-being (STRIKE ONE), but honestly my goal is just to get through the appointment without breaking out a flask.

Then Wednesday Levi has a followup at the CF center, and they’ll do a throat swab to see if he really and truly got rid of whatever nasty stuff he’s been growing. We won’t know for a week or so after. So many appointments in a row (especially when there’s a fair amount of driving involved) is hard on everybody. So I’ve been dreading this week.

I prepared for the busyness by sleeping fitfully last night, which was exactly what I needed, right? And I was working this morning, going as fast as I could to get anything urgent done before I had to leave, and I got a phone call from the specialty pharmacy (that we have to use for a lot of the CF drugs because insurance companies think our lives aren’t complicated enough) that Levi’s secondary coverage is saying that he’s no longer covered, and they can’t send the medicine until the problem is cleared up. Which is bad, because he’s completely out of that med (STRIKE TWO). Levi’s secondary coverage is with the state, so a bunch of red tape ensued until I ended up on the phone with someone who said I didn’t fill out one form 1462 (I think; who can remember?), so he no longer had coverage.

I would swear in court that I have completed and returned every form they have ever sent me. But apparently a form is missing, and so Levi will not get his medicine because I am a horrible mother and I can’t get anything right I didn’t send in some form. And I said, “I have filled out everything. Twice. And my son is out of his medicine and <insert all my other issues that aren’t their problem> and I have to pick him up at preschool in ten minutes and I can’t believe I have to have this conversation about some stupid form!” And then I burst into tears, and Elias piped up, “Mama! Don’t say stupid!”

Really? NOW you remember that?

So the lady on the phone passed a note to her deskmate that she had a crazy person on the line, and told me to take some nice deep breaths. Which is something I have to remind myself to do so often that this is my phone wallpaper:

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She was really, really nice to me, and went out of her way to help. Paul had to drive over on his lunch hour to sign a paper, but whatever other black magic she performed resulted in a phone call at 4:50 today that they have all the paperwork they need and Levi’s coverage is reinstated retroactively. And the specialty pharmacy is sending an emergency five-day supply until they can get everything rolling again.

So I picked Levi up from preschool and dropped off Elias at a friend’s house, which he deeply resented until he remembered that it involved four doting female attendants and Barley, the best dog in the world.

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And then I fed Levi chicken nuggets in his booster seat (STRIKE THREE. Please do not call children’s services; I love them really I do.) on the way to the doctor’s office. The rest of the afternoon was uneventful, as these things go.

And in the relative peace, I had time to diagnose myself with a case of Too Many Things. An episode usually involves at least one bout of weeping, a tragically ignored kitchen, and an optional rant about the children’s behavior before resolving.

Here’s hoping today’s stuff out of the way will bring the Things Level down into the acceptable zone. But if not, at least it’ll be entertainment for all of you, right?

This is hard.

I haven’t written about this at all, and I’m not sure this is going to make it out of draft status (though if you’re reading it, it obviously has). But, as I said to my sister, blogging is cheaper than therapy. So I’ll give it a shot.

My mom is really forgetting things now. I don’t mean forgetting why she came into a room (heck, I do that daily) or the maiden name of her nephew’s wife or where she put her glasses. I mean major life events.

A couple of years before Levi came to us, we had another baby boy in our home for sixty days. We thought he was ours, but it didn’t happen that way in the end. The story of what, and how, and why is long and complicated and not the point right now. But it was a big deal. Surrendering that baby boy  – already so much my son, no matter what the legalities were – was easily the worst thing I have ever had to do in my life. It’s not overstatement to say that that experience and the aftermath have shaped my life and my character in significant ways. Maybe even in ways I don’t completely understand yet, seven years later.

Now. Imagine that I am your daughter, and that you had a front row seat. That I stayed at your house after it happened because I couldn’t bear to go home. That I sobbed and wailed and beat my fists on your table, and your bed, and your floor, and asked you if I would ever be happy again. I think it’s the kind of thing that wouldn’t be easy to forget.

And yet there we all were yesterday. That boy and his family came for a visit and for supper, which they do at least once a year. My mom came too, and my sister. We talked for hours. They all signed Levi’s cast.

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And when they went home, Mom said, “Now … how did you first meet these people again?” I gave her a gentle outline, and she came back, horrified, with, “I am SURE I never heard that before.”

Oof.

It’s not the first sign we’ve seen, but it’s the one I’m finding hardest so far. It seems so … I don’t know. So LARGE. And, as much as I’m going to sound like a drama queen, so much of a watershed, everything-was-different-after moment. Perhaps that’s just because it was my moment. I don’t know.

Either way, it’s more clear to me all the time. We are saying our Long Goodbye. And it’s hard.

I don’t know how to do this part. I know how to listen to the same story over and over (and over). I know things to try when something is upsetting and some calming words are what’s needed. I am getting better at steering around certain topics to avoid the upsetting things in the first place, and at guessing what topics those might be before learning the hard way. And anything that needs to be organized – this week it’s trash pickup – I’m all over it.

But this part. Man. I know that it’s grief, and I even kind of know how to do grief. Except not this way, this gradual loss of experience and history and personhood. I was talking about a good friend of mine recently, and I said that when we met, we had little in common. And that’s still mostly true, except that now we have twenty years of laughter and memories and shared experiences. History. If we didn’t have that history, we would be different together.

So what does it mean when the person who has known you the longest, who told you the stories of your babyhood so often that you believe that you remember them yourself, who is the very source and origin of your history … doesn’t remember?

I don’t know how to do this part. This is hard.

Random Thursday

 

Random because wow I’m tired, and it’s been a crazy week, and I have no profound thoughts to share, unless I discover them between now and the time I stop typing.

I picked up Levi at preschool this morning, and his class paraded out wearing their new “fire gear” and enormous grins. I didn’t have a camera with me or I would have taken a picture of them all wearing their hats and tanks. It was so terribly cute, and they were so very proud of themselves.

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The fire department came on a visit a while back, and Levi has been telling me about the firemen (their phone number is 911, in case you didn’t know), and learning our address and phone number really well.

I just heard a text arrive on my phone, which I’m hoping means that Paul is on his way home to ride herd on the craziness for awhile.

I have made more paper airplanes in the last three weeks than in my entire life before. I’m still not very good at it, but sometimes you really need a paper airplane and Papa is just not here.

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Those are pineapple chunks. Don’t they look innocent? Harmless, even?

HA.

I had food poisoning Monday night. I made myself a smoothie for lunch, and when I opened the can of pineapples, I thought, “Maybe I shouldn’t eat those.” But I couldn’t think of any reason why I thought that. They smelled okay. They looked okay. The date on the can was far into the future. So I put some in and blended happily away.

Just a tip, but if this happens to you, don’t let your desire to not waste the dollar overcome your lizard instincts. There was definitely something wrong with those pineapples. Thank goodness I only had about a third of them. The rest I saved in a jar in the fridge, at first because I was going to use them in future smoothies, and then because I thought I might have to take them to the ER with me so they’d know what I’d eaten.

My sister-in-law pointed out that it’s really nice that the human body can detect – and rid itself of – poison, and you know what? She’s right. That’s pretty cool. That might be the profound thought for the day. I understand that you may need to ask for your money back on that one.

I was without a work computer all last week, and I finally got one on Monday. Then the internet went out. It was intermittently available for two days, and was fixed yesterday afternoon. I think today is the first really productive day I’ve had in a week and a half. It felt great to actually get some things done!

Tomorrow night we have small group, and we’re having fondue – cheese and chocolate. I can hardly wait, both for Friday and for fondue.

Just Like Me: On Families

 

When you pursue adoption – at least domestically – part of the process is filling out an enormous form saying what kind of a child you will consider. That seems like kind of a stark way to say that, but honestly it’s a stark part of the process. Will you consider a child that wets the bed? Will you consider a child with a history of abuse? What about a child that was exposed to illegal drugs in utero? What about a child where literally nothing is known about family history?

We were using a private agency and were almost certain to get an infant, so a lot of the questions were moot. (For instance, I fully expected a newborn to wet the bed. I was not disappointed.) But filling out that form involved a lot of soul-searching. It felt cruel to check NO for any of the boxes – after all, each of those boxes represents a child, at least in theory, who needs love. But I truly believed (and still do believe) that it was necessary to be honest with myself and the agency about what was realistic. I had to say no to some things, because I just didn’t think I could handle them.

One thing that Paul and I had no trouble with was color of skin and national origin. We already had some shading in our extended family, so it wasn’t a new idea, and it just didn’t matter to us. (Let me say here that if a family doesn’t make the same decision, I am not standing in judgment. Every family has to make choices, and as I said above, they have to be honest ones, and they have to work for your family.)

So we always knew that we might have children that don’t look like we do. With Levi, we got one who could fly under the radar. With Elias? Not so much.

Awhile ago, Elias started talking about how his cousins are brown like him. Levi talks about it, too. My hands-down favorite story about the different colors of family is from the day that Levi had to have surgery to remove the bead he’d put in his left ear. In the middle of a discussion about anesthesia and counting backward, he informed the African-American anesthesia resident solemnly that his brother is brown. The resident leaned over to him and said, just as seriously, “So is mine.”

Recently, Elias has ramped up a little, and has taken to telling me, “Mommy. Your eyes are black. Just like me.” I decided it was time to address this issue a little more directly, so I went looking for a book that was recommended to me years ago. I couldn’t find it, but Amazon had it for around six bucks so I just got another one. (If history is a predictor of the future, I will find my original copy sometime today.)

A Mother for Choco is a paperback children’s book about a little yellow bird with no mother. He’s looking desperately for a mother who looks just like him, but he can’t find one anywhere. He finally finds a mama bear who looks nothing like him but behaves just like a mother should, with hugs and kisses and love and silliness. When he goes home, he meets his new siblings: a crocodile, a hippo, and a pig.

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It’s a pretty great little book – a lot better than that synopsis – and he loves it. Especially the parts where we do the actions along with the story and hug extra tight.

I know this isn’t going to be the last time we talk about how Elias looks different than the rest of us. It’s going to come up for Levi eventually, too. Even though his skin color is pretty close to mine, some of his features are different than you’d expect from a biological child of ours, if you were thinking about that sort of thing.

And I know that the discussion is going to get deeper and more complicated as they grow up and ask harder questions. But I hope that both our boys will always understand, deeply and unthinkingly and at the very core of their souls, the lesson that Choco learned. That families are sometimes identified by biology and eye color and that weird crooked third toe that all the girls have. But not always. And that the most important components of families are commitment and time and sacrifice and humor, all stuck together with the immutable mortar of love.