Laughing Mama's Blog

My inner monologue with myself inside my head put in this blog out in the open for everybody to read.

My Drew- Part Three… (AKA: “How many appointments does it take to make a therapist’s head explode?”) February 26, 2010

Filed under: Humor,kids,Life,parenting,Psychotherapy — laughingmama @ 2:51 pm
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Continued from Part Two

So there Arnie and I sat every Thursday at 11:15 discussing the seemingly mundane details of our home life with someone I was sure couldn’t relate to us on any level. Being a therapist of course she didn’t share any personal details of her own life. But, from what we could gather and using completely baseless stereotypes this is the picture we had painted of Dr. S: she lived in the local liberal college town with her husband who was either a professor, a spoon player in a grass-roots type jug band that only played gigs for fundraisers for the environment, or raised alpacas and grew organic vegetables on a chemical-free farm outside of town. She also belonged to organizations like PETA and Greenpeace, owned 2 cats, wore Birkenstocks outside of work and her house was powered by solar energy. Oh, and based on some of her suggestions we were pretty sure she had never given birth. The only thing that we assumed we had in common was our wanting nothing but the best for Drew. That and she and I were pretty much curly hair twins which was actually kind of comforting. It’s not that Arnie and I hate organic veggies, jug bands or cats, it’s just that we were fairly certain we lived in two different worlds. (Okay, we really are dog people more than cat people.)

Despite this we thought Dr. S was a very nice lady, we liked her very much and we hoped that she liked us. We had nothing to hide, felt like we were a pretty happy family and a strong couple and so our lives were an open book to her. We let her in on every detail she wanted to know. Although the beginning of our sessions were usually pretty irksome. Dr. S: “So…. how’s everything?” Arnie and I would look at each other as if we were passing some silent information back and forth. A quick scan into the windows of our souls, a gut check to make sure we were okay. A: “Fine.” Me: “Good.” Dr. S: “Uh huh….. uh huh.” Silent staring across the round table ensued as well as lots of uncomfortable nodding. It made me wonder what she would do if, instead of saying everything was fine, I blurted out, “I’m SO glad you asked Dr. S! I can’t take it anymore!!! I’m on the edge and can’t step away!!!” But, we didn’t know her well enough to mess with her.. yet. Finally, Dr. S would ask a more specific question or bring up something going on in school. At first it was very serious because serious things were going on with Drew. His anger was coming to a head and his alter ego, who we loving referred to as “Mr. Furious”, was making his presence known more often in the classroom, in a BIG way. This is where we took a leap of faith.

Even though Arnie and I came to the LD Center asking for help, we didn’t always agree with their methods 100% but we decided to give it our best shot and go through the process with an open mind. Their “letting the genie out of the bottle” theory seemed like lunacy to us. And it was resulting in behaviors we had never seen in our boy- hitting, kicking, biting, spitting. I was ready to call a priest to perform an exorcism on our dear son. Instead, Dr. S pleaded with us to stick it out and give it time. The beginning was going to be messy. Much like cleaning out a closet, you have to get all the crap out and make an enormous shit pile before you can sort it and put it back in an organized way. She reminded us that we had come to THEM for help and the reason was we had exhausted all our options and knowledge of how to handle Drew. She promised it would get better. It didn’t. Not as quickly as I would have liked, that is. Although, the interesting thing about the process is that when Drew left school, he also left Mr. Furious behind. Sure, we had our moments at home just like always. But, the extreme nature of his outbursts were confined to the classroom. Dr. S had told us to expect that. She reassured us that he knew he was safe at LD, that he knew he could “bring it” there and they would handle him in a gentle and understanding way no matter what. A couple of months went by and we began to see improvement. Drew was having fewer outbursts and he was asking to call us less frequently.

Did I tell you about the phone calls? Oh yeah, those. Calling one or the other parent however many times a day is a practice they engaged in because they felt it was important for the children to feel connected to their parents as they were going through this confusing time. I understood that completely and of course was always happy to take the calls. But often the sounds I heard on the other end of the phone (mostly from the other kids) were so upsetting that I had a hard time holding it together enough to reassure Drew that yes, Arnie and I loved him very much and always would. Sometimes I would hang up the phone from one of those calls after Drew was sufficiently settled, lock myself in my bathroom and sob. (Of course I took the phone with me just in case he needed to call back.) Not great mommy moments. My heart broke for our boy. As much as I was grateful for the school and their expertise, I hated that he was there.

At least, as I said, he was making progress. Our faith in the process was growing, even if we felt like some of the strategies were ridiculous and flew in the face of everything we believed as parents. For example, I have a temper. I can’t help it. It’s in my DNA. Obviously, being yelled at was not working with Drew. They implored me to try a different approach. My patience was tested at every turn. Instead of being stern I had to gently hold my out of control child who was screaming at ME and tell him that I “heard his message”, that I understood he was having a “big feeling” and that I was there for him, loved him and wanted him to be calm so he didn’t hurt himself or anybody else. That was SO not me but Dr. S once told us “You’re the adults. You have to step out of the tornado and stop it, not keep it spinning until everyone is out of control.” Damn it! I hate when people remind me I’M the one who has to be the grown-up. We quickly realized that how we parented Drew had to be adjusted for what he needed, not the other way around. He wasn’t going to fit into our “box”, so we had to do what worked for him. Putting her suggestions into practice and seeing positive results in Drew over time went a long way in developing our bond with Dr. S and the school.

That being said, there were times when Arnie and I literally rolled our eyes. Dr. S was obviously a big believer in the Freudian stages of development. Naturally, she felt Drew was stuck in the phallic stage. Arnie and I got a HUGE (stiff, throbbing) kick out of all the ways she supported her theory. His Lego creations were always tall buildings or enormous rockets. “He’s asserting himself as a male and what could do that better than a long, powerful rocket?” Wow. I should really do Part 3 as a video blog so I could show you the hand gestures that went along with Dr. S’s assertions. They were quite… graphic. Arnie and I frequently pinched each other under the table and I had been known to bend down to fish a piece of gum out of my purse on the floor during these discussions so Dr. S couldn’t see me trying to stifle juvenile laughter.

We did joke with her, it’s who we are. And we usually didn’t pull any punches when we didn’t agree with something she said. For instance, she once showed us a drawing Drew had done of a big, tall, lighthouse with a window about 3/4 of the way up. Dr. S told us she thought it was unusual for him to include a window in the lighthouse and thought it was Drew trying to say that he wanted people to SEE him, see inside him for the good boy he is. Totally deadpan, Arnie looked at Dr. S and said, “Yeah, yeah… that could be. Either that or he’s drawing a picture of the lighthouse we saw while on vacation in the Outer Banks last week that looked EXACTLY like that.” At least Dr. S admitted that might be it, even if she didn’t back down from her original assessment.

Months went by and as things started to calm down, we developed an easy rapport with Dr. S. As a matter of fact, the receptionist who was posted at the front of the LD Center told me that she could hear us all laughing from behind Dr. S’s closed door at the end of the hall. (She also said that doesn’t happen very often so… gold star for us!) We were steps away from singing Kumbaya with the crunchy Dr. when the incident where Drew pooped on the boat happened. (If you haven’t read it yet, here’s the blow by blow: https://laughingmama.wordpress.com/2010/01/07/pooprainbow/.) As we recounted the incident, I had never seen anybody scribble in a notepad faster than she did. The look on her face said it all. To call it a “shocked expression” would be the understatement of the century. It bordered on horror, pity (for Drew) and excitement. I say excitement because this was the type of childhood trauma that could haunt a kid for years. In her mind, we just gave Drew a reason to need therapy until he was 18. She wasn’t so sure about us after that.

At this point I think it’s important to explain something about my husband. He’s a fire starter. By that I mean, he likes to screw with people. He finds a hot button and pushes it, repeatedly, until you end up in a corner mumbling to yourself. Okay, he’s not that bad, but he is a tease and does like to stir up trouble. That’s why he took particular delight in telling her, after one trip to the mountains to visit his family, we let Drew fire a real, live shotgun at a can in the woods. Let me also reiterate something I’ve said before- my husband is a safety engineer, not a hillbilly, and would never do anything stupid or foolish with our kids. This is not one of those stories that starts out “Well, we were in the back of the pick-up truck gettin’ drunk one night…”. None of that mattered to Dr. S right then. I didn’t think our therapist could get any more pale than she already was… but then we put the words “shotgun” and “Drew” together. Her face was ashen.

And then there was the time we bought our new (to us but very used) boat. Seeing as how Dr. S was sure any mention of boats, canoes, kayaks, lakes or water of any kind would forever be tied to the pooping on the boat incident and would therefore scar Drew emotionally, Arnie couldn’t wait to tell her! She was less than enthusiastic about the idea. Our offer to have her aboard one weekend to go tubing with Drew to see how much he loved it was politely declined. Although, that might have had more to do with our very detailed description of the mold, rot and roaches (yes, roaches) we found once we purchased the boat. We might have exaggerated its condition slightly (although there really were roaches), but when you’re getting financial help from people you don’t want them thinking you’re going around purchasing yachts.

I do have to give Dr. S props too, though. Sometimes she turned the tables on us and left us speechless. Like the time she suggested we tell Drew, who was 6 at the time, about the birds and the bees. I guess she felt like he was still too preoccupied with his penis and needed to be informed of its actual purpose before he did something stupid with it. I contended that learning its actual purpose would ENSURE he would do something stupid with it. After a round of “Let me tell you how many ways this is a bad idea”, I posed this question to her, “Can I give out your number to the moms that will be calling us after Drew has humped their daughter?”. Dr. S conceded that simply talking to Drew about self-love being acceptable in private would be a good compromise. She and I were kind of amused to suddenly see the “fire starter” fizzle out when faced with the thought of discussing masturbation with his 6-year-old. He was the one who was pale after that meeting.

The fact that we had moved into a comfortable relationship with Dr. S directly coincided with the great progress Drew was making. He had finished his first year and very easily transitioned into year two since most of the children were returning and his teachers were going to be the same. There were more good moments with Drew than worrisome and at times he spoke like a child well beyond his years with a certain wisdom and insight into his feelings most adults would be jealous of. It made me wonder what life would be like for us outside of the LD Center walls.

To be continued…

 

My Drew- Part Two… (AKA: “Paying a college tuition now so that there might be college later”) February 15, 2010

Filed under: kids,Life,parenting,Uncategorized — laughingmama @ 9:29 am
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Continued from Part One

At pre-school drop off and pick-up, I had gotten used to the looks from the other mothers. When I came around they either whispered their plans for play dates or stopped talking all together. Like I really wanted to take Drew to “Jump Zone” anyway. A gigantic room full of inflatable moon bounces would be like torture and holds the potential for accidental death and/or dismemberment of several children. At the very least there would be a couple of concussions. (Again- how young is too young for a police line-up?) No, I had my own very understanding friends with children who loved to play with Drew and welcomed him with open arms and copious hugs despite the need for pads and helmets. Drew made it easy to see who had the intestinal fortitude to stick around. He had a way of zeroing in on the “weakest” of the herd and dispensing with them quickly. What we were left with is a strong group of kids and adults who love us completely and totally and to whom we never have to apologize. (We still do because that’s the way we are, but we are always ignored or told we’re being ridiculous.) They are our life-raft.

So no, the self-righteous moms with “perfect” kids didn’t bother me. What came like a sucker punch from Mike Tyson was a phone call I received from the director of the pre-school. I had enrolled Drew in the half-day kindergarten program there for the coming fall. Drew was going to turn 5 and I knew he wasn’t ready for public school yet. Apparently the pre-school wasn’t ready for year number three with Drew. “We love Drew and would be happy to have him back… but, I’m just wondering if maybe there isn’t some place better suited for him.” Well holy shit. I had always joked about him getting kicked out of school before he turned 5 but now it was actually happening! Besides that, where were we supposed to go? Name a book about special needs children and I’m sure I’ve bought it. Name a forum on the internet that deals with behavior issues and I’ve probably joined it. Name an article about mental disabilities in children and I’ve read (or at least skimmed) it. They all make you realize that you’re not alone, that you’ve got it easier than a lot of people and that we should always count our blessings, but none of them describe your situation exactly or provide any concrete help.

Even the agencies in your area that are supposed to be “in the know” aren’t always helpful. We had the “transition” meeting with our IEP team to discuss kindergarten plans for Drew. We had him re-evaluated because I was hoping he’d at least qualify for speech this time and/or some individualized learning during his day. He didn’t. The plan they handed us included just this: a 15 minute resource consult with his teacher once a week. That meant the two teachers would get together, his classroom teacher would vent about how he was driving her nuts and the special ed. teacher would try to give her tips on how to handle him. Not even in the ball park of good enough. When we expressed our disappointment and told the team we were looking into half-day kindergartens at non-traditional schools they were appalled. “We rarely hold kids back for behavior issues.” we were told- as if our only concern was how it would look to the neighbors if Drew didn’t pass kindergarten. How in the world was he supposed to learn the material if he couldn’t even understand that pretending you’re a lion, growling your ABC’s and hugging everyone you see during the day because you’re trying to escape the hunters are not appropriate behaviors?

We were at a crossroads. Where do we go from here? I knew someone with a son Drew’s age with his exact issues. She had chosen to put him on Prozac in order to attend public school. That wasn’t a decision I was comfortable with for Drew. I know medication is necessary and a means of survival in some instances, but for us, it had to be a last and final resort  and we weren’t there yet. Thank God nobody had recommended that for him. Besides that, it would be hard to support HIS drug habit when such a large portion of our income already went towards keeping me supplied with wine. I’m not judging anybody else because having a special needs child is difficult. People don’t understand your child or how you have to parent them. You’re like an outsider looking in at other families who can go to the playground and teach Johnny manners and the proper etiquette of playing with others while you have the Tazmanian devil out without a leash. Just the thought of a playground ties my stomach in knots to this day.

I had never been able to find a name for the symptoms of Drew’s “disability”- other than “strong-willed”, which the term itself is laughable. I’m not a fan of labels per se, but having one might have gone a long way in being able to explain his actions to others. Of course I would never wish anything bad for my children but there were times when I thought life would be a bit easier if he had some sort of “tell”- a birth mark or some other sign so that people could look at him and understand that he’s not a bad boy, he’s just wired differently. Instead (and thankfully) he’s an amazingly handsome boy with huge expressive hazel eyes, a bright smile and cleft chin just like my dad’s and my grandfather’s before him. He’s also incredibly charming when he wants to be. A smooth talker full of compliments who knows how to get what he’s after. It’s saved his ass on more than one occasion. “Junior Senator” is a perfect nickname for him- he has never met a stranger and leaves miles of smiles in his wake wherever we go.

So, with his strengths and challenges in mind, I began searching for a “suitable” place for Drew. I came across a website for a private school about 30 minutes away. A page on the website was entitled “Who Do We Help?”. It couldn’t have described Drew better if it had used his name, address and last school photo. The children they help was Drew to a “t”. After I finished sobbing from relief, I printed out several pages to show Arnie that night and called the school to make an appointment for Drew. Our first visit to what I’ll call “The LD Center” was kind of a preliminary screening to make sure the fit was correct. I was ecstatic to find out they don’t have one-way mirrors at their school. They do have lots of psychotherapists and very, very smart people. That’s almost as intimidating. Drew met with the director of the program who didn’t evaluate him with a standardized test, he simply talked with Drew as he played with a bouncy ball. I was worried for the good doctor’s safety. He was a tall, thin, older gentleman and I was sure Drew could break him in two without blinking an eye. I also thought the choice of bouncy ball as a toy was awfully brave. Clearly this man didn’t value his life or his eyesight! What happened instead set me up for my well deserved reputation as “the crying one”. I’m surprised that in addition to that, my love of laughter, and the ability to swing between the two quicker than you can snap your fingers didn’t earn me the title of “the one who needs Valium intravenously STAT!”. I would have proudly worn that on a sash. No, instead of frustrated sighs and defeated looks into the mirror by the evaluator, I saw my son truly bonding with this man who was honestly enjoying his interaction with Drew and several times laughed heartily and sincerely at Drew’s antics. I felt some of the tension I had been holding in my body for the past two years leave me. There WAS a place that was better suited for Drew and just maybe we’d found people who could understand him and help all of us.

Dr. Director agreed with me. “Drew is our kind of kid” he declared. Thank goodness! Although, he would have had to have been blind, deaf , dumb and wrapped in a mattress to not see that.  Next came the meeting where we found out more about the school and they find out more about us. I was given a 14 page questionnaire which was more in-depth than any county questionnaire we had ever filled out and also included a financial worksheet. This was our first clue that this experience would be life-changing in more than one way. At our meeting, the doctor told us that Drew has what is referred to as Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified. Basically what that means is that he has some symptoms of several of the autism spectrum disorders. He’s not autistic and he doesn’t have Asperger’s syndrome, but instead has a bit of this and a bit of that. Mostly, communication problems and social and emotional delays. I looked down at the piece of paper where I had just written “PDD-NOS”. I wanted so badly to scratch it out and write in big letters “DREW” instead. I knew what THOSE letters spelled and what “Drew” means. It means joy and love and laughter and highs and yes, lows. “PDD-NOS” just looked foreign. The doctor saw that I had written down his diagnosis and, as if he had read my mind, told me “You might as well throw the paper out. Those are just letters. I only told you that so you could have an answer. It’s not important.”. Then he handed me the tissue box. He also laid out the school’s philosophy and went through what we could expect which was a lot of hard work for Drew as well as us. It sounded promising and scary at the same time but we were so thankful to have a plan for the next two years (the school only goes through age 7) and someone in our corner who was optimistic and understanding.

And then he hit us with the bill. After Arnie and I started breathing again he assured us that they have financial assistance according to need. Some people get squirmy when you talk money and it makes them uncomfortable, so let me just say this- one year at LD is equal to a year at Duke University. Look it up. Or don’t… it’s $36,000. My thoughts went in this order: 1. There’s no way we can afford that 2. We could if I started working again 3. As a prostitute 4.I don’t care, we’ll do whatever it takes. 5. I’m gonna need shorter skirts. It was at this point that I understood that scene in Forrest Gump better than ever. (You know, the one where he’s sitting on the front porch of his house while his mama “entertained” his teacher inside.). Hey, you do what you’ve gotta do for your kids, right?! Dr. Director saw our distress and assured us that it would be okay, no family had ever been turned down because of money. They have an amazing fund-raising goddess and the community is very good to the school. Thank God for the generosity of others… and credit cards.

Drew began at LD the month after his 5th birthday. It’s an 11 month program, 5 half-days a week. There were 7 children in the class with two teachers, both of whom had multiple degrees (one a master’s) in special education and psychology. After a very lengthy and complicated phase-in process it became clear to me that this was unlike any school I had ever seen. Every child had different issues and when put into a room together, it was chaos every day. One of the other mothers and I sat in our designated spot during phase-in and literally all we could say was “What the f*ck?” over and over and over. I wondered what we had done, if this really WAS the right place for Drew and if he was going to be able to survive. Thankfully the LD philosophy is to treat the entire family not just the child so part of the tuition included weekly meetings with a therapist for Arnie and I.

I will preface this by saying I have never been to a therapist. Some of my friends have and they’ve been helped greatly so I was trying to have an open mind. Even though a part of me wanted to wear a hat made of tin foil to our first appointment so she couldn’t control my mind. We soon found out that even though we talked about things going on at home, it wasn’t about us. It was about Drew and how things that happened outside of school affected his emotional growth and the teachers use that in class. Also, it was a way to keep us informed about his progress in class so that we could put into practice at home things his teachers were working on. It was a very symbiotic relationship. In addition it was necessary in order to explain to us just what the f*ck was the point of all the chaos. They put it to us like this: it’s like letting a genie out of a bottle. Obviously nobody in this school had ever watched “I Dream of Jeannie” because genies don’t look like rabid animals trying to break out of a cage. Our therapist explained further. They wanted to push Drew to get his emotions out so that they could help him identify them and then learn how to deal with them in an appropriate way. Sounds logical but when put into practice it’s really frightening. Forget ‘Saw VI’- I had my own horror show every day. I was in awe of the teachers. How they could handle 7 emotionally fragile children in such a calm and loving way was beyond me. I personally wished I could have given each of them 36 million dollars.

Despite all the insanity (and I quite literally mean that), Drew loved the school. I think he was particularly smitten with the teacher primarily assigned to his case. She was a 23-year-old blonde beauty who is the very definition of sweetness and light. I often wondered if Drew acted out just so that she would HAVE to restrain him. In addition to the 23 year old, Drew’s second teacher was just as young and beautiful. I got a sense from her that we were kindred spirits and would get along famously if it weren’t for that teacher/parent barrier the LD Center insisted on. I so wanted to take her out for a beer. This was our team and there they were – upbeat, positive and sunshine-y every morning before the madness began. I don’t know how they did it, but I knew for sure that Arnie didn’t mind morning drop-off at all.  Luckily the school was on his way to work so he rearranged his schedule so he could take Drew in the morning. That left me with the opportunity to take Mary to first grade every day which I was glad for. I’m sure siblings can sometimes get lost in the shuffle and we never wanted that to happen to her. So, working together, Arnie and I came up with a good routine and we slowly eased into it. Unfortunately his normal 8-5 Monday through Friday work routine was taking a beating. On most days he didn’t get to work until 9:00 which meant he didn’t leave until at least 6:00 and with traffic he wasn’t getting home until 7- just in time for dinner and kissing the kids good night. Add to that our weekly therapy meetings that occurred on Thursdays around lunchtime and he was sacrificing a big chunk of time every week. But can it really be called a sacrifice when you’re having so much fun? Who knew family therapy could be so entertaining?

To be continued…

 

My Drew- Part One… (AKA: “With a mother like me, he’s GOT to be special.” February 12, 2010

Filed under: Humor,kids,Life — laughingmama @ 3:44 pm
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Disclaimer: The subject of this post and my treatment of it may make some people feel uncomfortable. My son has “special needs”. He’s my son, I’m allowed to say what I want. I in no way mean to offend anybody else with special needs or their families. This is our story. Don’t feel bad for laughing. I want you to. It beats the hell out of crying.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I first realized there was something different about my son, Drew, very early on. In the womb, actually. At 20 weeks we had our first ultrasound just like everybody else. But unfortunately this ultrasound was not routine. We learned pretty immediately that he was a boy and were overjoyed. We also found out that his heart beat was good and his growth seemed to be right on target. The tech then said she would let my doctor go over the rest of the results with us in that very serious, “I’m not allowed to give you bad news” kind of way.  I wondered what could be wrong when everything seemed so right. An agonizingly long amount of time later, we learned from my doctor that I had placenta previa which basically meant that the placenta was blocking Drew’s exit. (Sorry for using the word ‘placenta’ twice. Well, three times now. I know it’s icky.) There are such things as partial previas which sometimes move out of the way as the uterus (sorry) continues to grow, but I wasn’t lucky enough to have that kind. Mine was a complete previa and most likely wouldn’t go anywhere. This is why I don’t play the lottery. If there were a “prize” where you actually had to pay the lottery commission $27 million dollars, that’s the one I’d end up with.

Long story short, I began hemorrhaging at 30 weeks and was hospitalized for the rest of my pregnancy. See? No lottery for me. I was there for 7 weeks before Drew was born in an uneventful c-section on July 26, 2002. Half of the staff that I had gotten to know very well in my time there were present. I will never forget one of the nurses who held him up to me had tears pouring down her face and wore the biggest smile I had ever seen. I can honestly say that since day one Drew has made an impression on the people he meets. He was a happy, healthy, chunk of a baby. He was developing typically and slept like a champ. The only quirky thing we had noticed was that when his teeth came in up top he got his side incisors first instead of his two front teeth, prompting us to call him “Fang”. Other than that, I had no worries… until he started missing some milestones. His speech was slow to come and, compared to other children his age, he seemed to be extremely active and take life threatening risks even after being told no several times. (Time out, negative reinforcement, even spanking when the offense was egregious- nothing ever worked.) Over half of my life was spent chasing him around trying to keep him safe, others safe or objects intact. All of my concerns were discounted by many friends, family and even the pediatrician. “He’s a boy.” was an answer I heard often. (Even though nobody else’s boy acted like this.) Apparently having a penis gives you a “get out of jail free” card for all kinds of behaviors.

Finally when Drew was 3 our pediatrician had pity on me and referred me to a county agency called Project Enlightenment. I think it was because in the middle of Drew’s 3 year check-up he chucked a book from across the room that hit me square in the side of the head and I must have looked at the pediatrician like a wounded baby deer just begging to be shot. Leaving the office with that pamphlet made me feel like a failure as a parent even though our oldest child didn’t have behavior issues and we were a pretty happy family. Regardless, I was glad to have it but wondered what kind of place it would be. Would they be smoking hookahs? Were we were going to meet the Dalai Lama there? ‘Project Enlightenment’ is a pretty lofty name for a government agency. Turns out they were really great, even if I didn’t feel overly enlightened. I filled out form after form and multiple surveys as I sat behind a one-way mirror and watched Drew being tested. I hoped that something good would come of this because I had a feeling that this might not be the last one-way mirror I’d be watching him through. How young is too young for a police line-up?

Sitting there behind the glass I felt powerless. The test administrator put a paper in front of him and asked him to point to a clock. He got out of his chair, walked around the room, rolled around on the floor and tried to throw the chair before she calmly placed him back in the seat and then he pointed to a picture of a cat. I felt as if I let him down. But then I remembered all those times I would reach for a book and pat my lap. Drew would sit and listen to the story for about two seconds before he would pop up, run over to the book-case and before I could say “Goodnight Moon” he would have every book, DVD and toy on the shelves demolished and laying on the floor. Undeterred, I would attempt it the next day, and the next day and the day after that until finally there I was behind a one-way mirror looking at my child who couldn’t grasp the concepts of under, over, in or out. Although, I’m pretty sure if they had asked him to identify a picture of a “crazy mommy” he would have had no trouble with that whatsoever!

Not surprisingly he qualified for services and at our “first of too many to count now” IEP (individualized education plan) meeting we found out an itinerant teacher was going to come to his pre-school twice a week for 30 minutes to work with him individually on fine motor skills like cutting and also on counting since he couldn’t even count to five. Fantastic! What about the root of the problem- you know… inappropriate behavior? I would venture to guess that most of the moms of kids in Drew’s pre-school class did NOT get notes sent home outlining all the ways their child broke the rules that day. Here is an example of one such note:

Drew’s parents: Drew had a good hour and 15 minutes. (At least she gave him that.) At 10:40 he needed more intervention during free play at centers. At the Lego table he drove the boat he had built through 2 other children’s creations and scattered Legos from the table to the floor.  In the bathroom he grabbed and pulled a child… he was using the urinal and walked into the “open” space (before he was done). He kissed Olivia on the mouth at circle time.

Sounds like a scene from “The Hangover” doesn’t it? Good thing he didn’t have a wad of dollar bills to stuff down Olivia’s pants. I’m sure learning how to cut and count will make those behavior issues a thing of the past! Clearly, that wasn’t good enough. We hired a one on one “shadow” for Drew during class- a wonderful woman who was already a teacher there and who had a degree in special education. We also started Drew with a private speech therapist. Our family budget was getting tighter and tighter. We had no idea what was to come.

To be continued…

 

Girl, you’ll be a woman soon… (AKA: “Just kill me now… Please, really, kill me.”) February 5, 2010

Filed under: Humor,kids,Life,Women — laughingmama @ 9:25 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Written January 5, 2010

Preface: To Mary~  If one day, when you’re grown up, you read this, I know you’ll be terribly embarrassed and I’m sorry. However, let me just remind you that I’ve also written about your brother shitting on a boat so get over it.

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My little girl is growing up. No, that particular rite of passage hasn’t happened for her yet, but it has for someone very close to her. It’s only because we haven’t seen this young lady much lately that Mary doesn’t know about it yet. I’m quite sure the next sleepover will be especially informative for her even though I would bet a million dollars this girl’s mother has threatened her with her life if she breathes a word of it to Mary. I think back to what I was like at that age and the things I would talk about with my girlfriends during sleepovers went in this order: 1. Boys 2. Mean teachers or classmates 3. Boys 4. Any changes we had experienced in our bodies until one or all of us tumbled over in a fit of giggling. These topics could only be made more enticing by our mothers telling us NOT to discuss them with anybody. It’s inevitable. I know very soon she’s going to find out all about her friend’s foray into womanhood. And even though she’s only (almost) nine and it pains me beyond belief, I know I should prepare her for what she’s about to hear.

To that end, I went to the bookstore and bought a book that might help me explain it better. I got a few suggestions from people who have ventured down this path before me. I decided on a book entitled “American Girl: The Care and Keeping of You”. I chose this one because it only dealt with puberty and general hygiene issues, and had nothing whatsoever to do with sex education. One step at a time for me, I like to take things slow.

So, I found myself in Borders, in the children’s non-fiction section, searching for this thing I didn’t really want in the first place. I located it on the shelf next to a book that had “Everything you wanted to know about sex!!!” on the back of it. Really? Everything? I certainly pray to God it does not have EVERYTHING an adolescent would want to know about sex in it. I tried to ignore that piece of filth and tentatively picked up my book. I started flipping through a few pages and then stopped when I saw an in-depth analysis on the different types of feminine products available. I felt sick. I closed the book. Maybe I should head to the fiction section and pick up a copy of Judy Blume’s “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” instead. No, I decided to suck it up and stick with the plan. Good, solid, honest information is best, right? Then why did I feel like I was buying porn?

Honestly, I was so embarrassed I had to grab a book for myself just so I could put it on top to cover up the “period” book when I checked out. Sometimes cashiers at bookstores like to get into discussions about what you’re buying and I could just imagine a pervy middle-aged man taking a look at “American Girl: The Care and Keeping of You”, raising his eyebrows at me and saying, “Ooooooh. Does someone have a young lady on the verge of womanhood in their household? Hmmmmm?” Ugh, I felt like the whole store was staring at me as I walked toward the registers. Thankfully, a teenage girl was the next available clerk and she couldn’t have cared less what I was buying. She did, however, ask me if I needed a bag. My eco-conscious mind spoke before the logic center in my brain could process the question. “No, that’s okay.” Crap! Now I had to walk out of the store and through the parking lot with this blinking sign of my daughter’s development in plain sight. I almost went back and asked her for a bag and wondered if I could also ask her to wrap it in brown paper. I swear, I almost wish it were the January issue of Hustler instead. But, I didn’t.

I quickly walked to my car and put the book in a fabric grocery bag I keep in the console. It wasn’t just to hide it from my eyes, but also from Mary’s since I was about to pick her up at faith development at church. So that means I was also hiding it from Drew, God, and Jesus. I prayed that I didn’t get into an accident and had visions of the book flying out of my broken windshield and landing at the feet of a pimply faced boy who had just witnessed the crash and who was now doubled over in laughter.

God took pity on me and I arrived home safely. As the kids were getting ready for bed, I took the book out of the bag and flipped through it again. In the comfort of my own home, I felt like I could find the strength to face whatever may lie beneath the cover. Oh my Lord, there were naked cartoon pictures. Cartoons of girls in various stages of breast development and I don’t even want to describe what else. Suffice it to say, I don’t really remember exactly what my pre-pubescent body looked like but I do NOT remember having what I can only describe as a chia pet between my legs like this cartoon American Girl. Someone got a little carried away with the charcoal pencil if you ask me. The only saving grace in all of this was that my husband was home and, as uncomfortable as these cartoon breasts made me, I was going to revel in his reaction to them.

His look of absolute horror was priceless. There’s a memory and it’s a keeper. He closed his eyes and shook his head in an attempt to erase what he had just seen but no amount of brain bleach is going to scrub away that image anytime soon. I consider it a kind of pay back. I’m the one who will have to sit down with Mary for this mother-daughter heart to heart and discuss things in great detail that are better left unsaid. And knowing Mary, she’ll have lots of questions. He gets to have “the talk” with our son. I imagine it will go something like this: “You’ve got a penis. It gets bigger sometimes and it’s fun to play with. Don’t do it in public. And don’t stick it in a shampoo bottle. Love you, son.” Not fair!

So, just now when he came into the room holding the book open to the cartoon procedure on just HOW to use feminine products and declared it the most disturbing two pages he has ever seen in his entire life did I laugh and clap? Hell yes I did! For what’s the point in having kids and going through milestones if you can’t celebrate them together? That’s why when I talk to Mary I will hug her tightly and tell her it will be okay, that it’s all part of growing up and that it’s something beautiful to be proud of. In reality I know no matter how tactful or gentle I will be, this experience will scar her for life and will always be the stuff of legend in her mind. Much like my mother asking me, “Do you know about things? If not, we can get a book.” I’m actually kind of glad “American Girl: The Care and Keeping of You” was not in publication then.

Copyright 2010 by Me

 

David Sedaris seeps into my life far too often… (aka: “My Brilliant Idea”) February 1, 2010

Filed under: Humor,kids,Life — laughingmama @ 10:03 am
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Written August 28, 2009

DISCLAIMER: There will be lots of profanity in this commentary. If you’re offended by profanity, don’t worry… I’ve included an asterisk (*) in place of one of the letters so you really can’t tell what the obscenity is supposed to be. F*cking LOVE that! See? Bet you thought I said “Focking LOVE that!”. You’d be wrong though.

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I’m a HUGE David Sedaris fan. He’s an author, humorist, satirist, columnist, funniest person to come out of Raleigh, North Carolina EVER. I went to see him speak and it was the first of two times now that I’ve publicly peed my pants. I wish I were joking. If I could have fallen on the floor in a heap of laughter and tears without being sent for further evaluation I would have. The dude is FUNNY. The fact that he grew up around these parts is secondary but nonetheless interesting. I’ve actually seen his brother’s hardwood flooring van on the street that runs by our neighborhood. It still makes me wonder to this day who had their floors installed by “Silly P”. In any event, I ingratiated myself in my book club as the worst picker of books when I chose Sedaris’ “Me Talk Pretty One Day”. The only other person who liked it was my friend, Heather, and I will be forever grateful to her for being as sick and twisted as I am. She just “gets me”. But, everyone will admit that it was the best book discussion we’ve ever had.

In this particular book Sedaris describes something called a “F*ck It Bucket”. His father was going through a rough time and his brother (Silly P/The Rooster) brought over a bucket full of candy proclaiming, “It’s gonna be alright. When shit’s got you down, you just need to say f*ck it and eat yourself some motherf*cking candy.”. Better advice I had never heard. I have been known to give my friends their own personal F*ck It Bucket when life deals them a big, stinking, rotten bushel of lemons. It’s the least I can do. Candy does do wonders.

So, when school started for my kids and all of us were getting the homework blues I had a flash of brilliance. I’ll make them their own F*ck It Bucket. Of course, I was politically correct and called it the “After School Bucket”. My sister had just happened to win a very pretty, oblong, lime green bucket recently. Lucky for me she was trying to declutter and I enjoy collecting random pieces of shit, so it became mine. (Did I see a new show called “Hoarders” is on TV now…) I placed it in the middle of the kitchen table and filled it with blank notebooks for spelling homework, a pencil cup stocked with freshly sharpened pencils, erasers, and brain building snacks they could partake in when they got home. I was so in love with myself when I was finished!

And so were my kids. When they burst through the door at 3:15 they stopped in their tracks. I could almost hear the angels singing. Book bags dropped to the floor as they stared at the beautifully appointed lime green bucket. “Mommy, what’s THAT?”. “That’s your new After School Bucket dears.” “Wow, what’s in it?” “Well, all kinds of things to make our afternoon easier and more fun.” “Can I have the granola bar?” “Can I have the almonds?”. Cherubs wouldn’t have sounded sweeter. I must admit though, at this point I felt a bit like a crack dealer dressed up as Ronald McDonald. “Come on kids… drugs are FUN!”. I even kept the festive multicolored ribbon that came tied to the handle. To me, it says “Welcome to the homework party!”. And seriously, I do think they enjoyed doing their worksheets just a bit more that day. At least, the whining was cut down by about half. And man, if that’s not worth it, I don’t know what is!

Of course, it could have just been because they were in an oat, fruit, nut, gummy snack stupor. Being kids, they are incapable of rationing themselves and proceeded to eat ALL the snacks in the After School (F*ck It) Bucket. ALL of them. The snacks which I had figured would last the entire week and which I had so lovingly and thoughtfully placed, were now in their engorged bellies. Crumpled wrappers strewn across the table and floor in what looked like a Hansel and Gretel-esque trail of consumed protein and carbs. Apparently in the time it took me to look through two backpacks and clean out two lunchboxes my kids were possessed by the spirits of two long starved raccoons. Which got me to thinking, I bet they could really tear up a hot dog eating contest!

Back to the pantry I go to restock the bucket. I couldn’t be mad at them really, it was true that I had not explained the rules of the bucket and they ARE growing children as our ever burgeoning grocery bill can attest. Plus, who can be grumpy in the midst of that multicolored ribbon? No one I tell you! So, as I’m restocking the bucket I start thinking about my own After School Bucket and what I might like to include in order for ME to survive the homework hour. Let’s see… first there’s the obvious- bottle opener, shot glass, ibuprofen, and chocolate. But then I get creative- air horn to break up the “You’re using MY smencil!!!!” fights. (By the way, “smencil”=smelly (in a good way) pencil. My new favorite word.), invisible headphones to protect my ears from the air horn (and I say invisible because I would probably wear them most of the time so I could cut out the whining all together but I wouldn’t want to seem rude. Plus, I wouldn’t want them to take up the kind of room VISIBLE headphones would take up in a F*ck It Bucket. It’s all about space with me.), and one of those hilarious punching nun puppets. Ever seen them? It wouldn’t be useful or anything, I’ve just always wanted one.

Of course, making myself one would be next to impossible. I wouldn’t even know where to begin looking for invisible headphones. Probably at the same store that sells “listening ears” to children. In spite of this, I want to implore you to give the F*ck It Bucket a try. Either for yourself, someone you love or your kids. I mean, I know you love your kids. Just don’t call the one for your kids a F*ck It Bucket. We all could use some motherf*cking candy or delicious snacks now and then don’t you think?

Copyright 2010 by Me