Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Turn

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me, has read this blog, or heck, even met me once, that I do not do a very good job taking care of myself. I almost never put myself first. This does not make me selfless; it makes me stupid and tired and filled with pain. Ever since I hit 40, every day seems to be a new "what fresh hell is this?" I have gained weight, my joints hurt, my hands go numb, I don't sleep well, I have digestive problems, and the latest delight? It seems that I snore. Loudly!
I have always associated snoring with being sloppy and unkempt. I know it's not true, but there it is anyway.

I start the beginning of every new year and summer with the same vows: I will exercise, eat healthy, lose weight. There always seems to be something that distracts me from this ( a new book, laundry, dishes, school work, the girls, the dog, Rob, the computer, the TV, chocolate, cookies, a warm blanket...).

Well here it is again. I weigh the most that I have ever weighed and feel generally all around crummy. I am going to start with a couple of very simple things: drink more water (easier than I thought), eat more vegetables ( and consequently less junk), and walk whenever I can. I'll see how I feel after that and then go to the doctor. Wish me luck.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Craft at Your Own Risk

This was the year of the ugly sweater. Caroline was invited to an ugly sweater party. In a moment optimism, I showed her a site that showed steps to make your own ugly sweater. I also found and bookmarked sites with directions for making candles, vapor cubes, and root beer reindeer. In my defense, it was the beginning of December, and we had just put up the tree. I was so excited and full of the holiday spirit. Flash forward three weeks, interim reports were due and I was behind on all things school and crafting. I pushed through with much grumbling and frustration. There were some arguments, but eventually fun took over. The kitchen was a mess of candle wax, thread, felt, and baking materials. I also spent a few late nights sewing the sweaters.

The night before break, I'd forgotten that Lily had girl scouts. I dragged my sweater with me and stitched gloves onto it for moose antlers. Caroline knew how tired I was, so she  got all of the ingredients together for saltine toffee ( my traditional gift for the staff at my school). Once I got home, I settled down to make saltine toffee. I was trying to work on the sweater while making the toffee and scorched the first batch. I only had enough butter for one more batch, so this one had to work. I put the sweater down and paid close attention to the butter and sugar. I got everything in the oven and things were moving right a long, until I opened the oven door. As I pulled out the pan, a couple of pieces feel off the pan and hit the bottom of the oven. I got the pan safely onto the sink before the pieces caught fire. I slammed the oven door shut as the smoke alarm went off. Caroline went over to fan the smoke detector. She noticed the fire and started screaming for Rob, "Dad there's a real fire in the oven get down here!" I knew the fire would go out and stood there with the tongs ready to pull them out after the fire was over. Rob made his usual smart remark about my cooking. I yelled at the kids to grab the dog and I threw open the back door to let the smoke out. I yelled something along the lines of "Calm down for God's sake these things happen all the time!" Caroline countered with "Jesus, Mom, the neighbors can hear you!" before she realized she cursed too. We ended up laughing and trying to finish the toffee. The chocolate wouldn't melt because by that point the house was freezing. Caroline took a picture of the charcoal/saltine once I pulled it out of the oven. She posted it on Facebook with a cheeky remark.

We ended up spending the rest of the night laughing and joking. We had so much fun making all of the crafts. There were quite a few bumps, but we had a blast. The toffee didn't end up looking very beautiful, but it was very tasty. Everyone loved their homemade gifts and our sweaters. I heard a lot of "I had no idea you were so crafty!" I am sure that none of the gift recipients envisioned, fire, cursing, BIG messes, and last minute rushing. They were probably envisioning mother and daughter togetherness with an adult who had her crap together. What they don't know won't hurt them.

Oh, who I am kidding? I can't resist a funny story. Of course I told everyone I made a mess and swore and set a small, yet controlled oven fire. What kind of mother would I be if I didn't teach my girls to keep calm and laugh on?

Monday, December 22, 2014

New Traditions Meet Old

December was a blur, but what else is new? I got the idea to be crafty this year. Partly because it is fun and partly as a way to make it through the season. Grieving during the holidays is such an odd mix. I want to make it a special time for the girls. I always loved this time of year, even when I was traveling between my parents as a child. It is so hard to have a holiday without your family. I having been reading posts by bloggers who are separated from their families by misunderstandings. It is hard for me not to be judgmental. Every misunderstanding and frustration that I ever had with my parents and grandparents, pales in comparison to not having them at all.

Compared to last Christmas, this will be a much calmer one. We are going to my brother's for Christmas Eve and my step-father is coming over to our house for Christmas dinner. We had our annual Christmas party with our friends. We have reached an ease in our "old" age. Our children are older (the youngest is five) and more independent. The kids hung out in the den, watching Rudolph, eating candy canes and cookies, and playing Candyland. Meanwhile, the adults holed up in the dining room, drinking wine, beer, or hot rum punch, and playing Cards Against Humanity. We laughed so hard, our stomachs hurt. We all share the same sick sense of humor, so it was a perfect group.

We are off from school for the next two weeks. I spent the Sunday after our party doing absolutely nothing. It was glorious! I am looking forward to a lot more relaxing.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I Survived November

It is almost Thanksgiving, and I can finally catch my breath. If you are friends with me on Facebook, you know what a crummy month this has been. It began with our anniversary in the hospital with Rob's poison ivy stricken face swollen like the bloated zombie in The Walking Dead (his words, not mine) and ended with me throwing out my back. In between, I fell off the porch, sprained my ankle and banged up my knee. I have been powering through it because we don't need more doctor bills, and I don't have time to go to a doctor anyway. We have also had happy and not so happy report cards, confusing teacher meetings, all amongst the normal chaos.

Amazingly (well really not), Rob and I have kept our patience and humor intact. That's what 19 years of marriage does to you. When you get married, you have no idea of the life time of crap and insanity you are signing up for. Sure there are the sweet wonderful moments, but the true test is how do you handle the tough stuff.

The vows should go something like this (in no certain order and personalized for us): I promise to love you through car accidents, emergency room visits, kidney stones, the flu; through pregnancy, mortgages, credit card bills, child birth, teething, potty training, midnight vomiting, and midnight pee. I will stand by you through lice infestations, stitches, speeding tickets, family deaths, diabetes, depression, anxiety, dead fish and lost dogs, good grades and bad, grad school, ADHD, big and not so big tantrums, Target, Giant, and other various errands. I will cherish you through weight gain and hair loss, through hearing loss and bifocals, and intestinal distress. I will honor you as you clean up poop and vomit, scrub toilets and wash dishes, fold laundry, and vacuum again and again. When, in the melange of all this, I invariably lose my temper and say hurtful awful things, I will remember to apologize and be humble enough to admit when I am wrong. And above all else, I will never lose my sense of humor.

 I can't wait to see what our 20th anniversary brings! I love you Rob Simpson!

Friday, November 7, 2014


Here is Halloween in my mind:

I spend the month before creating a witty, intellectual, and highly creative costume for Lily. She as my quirky and brilliant daughter will be in on the design. Maybe it will involve some sort of pun or a reference to a TV show, book, movie, song, that only my highly evolved family will understand. We of course will be delighted in our brilliance! I will arrive home the evening of Halloween to prepare a healthy and creative meal for Lily and her friend. It will be fun (it is Halloween after all), but nutritious (maybe even... organic!). After the meal, in which no one questions what is on her plates and asks for something else, we will get ready. While we are getting ready we will listen to campy vintage Halloween music.

We will head out walking through the neighborhood. The neighbors will be delighted by Lily's costume. She will make eye contact and charmingly thank everyone for her treats. She and her friend will skip and dash delightedly through the neighborhood. No one will be driving like a bat out of hell, and I most definitely will not have to yell at them to slow down. There will be no smoking parents swearing at their children. There will be no middle schoolers pushing my children out of the way. This is a holiday for everyone, so of course the middle schoolers will all be wearing costumes. They will let the little kids go first and compliment them on their costumes.

Afterwards, I will meet back at our house with other cool parents. We will sit our and drink local brewed pumpkin harvest beer (yeah, I know I don't drink beer, but this scenario calls for beer). Our children will sort through their candy. They will choose a handful of pieces to keep and give the rest to me to donate. They will then spend the rest of the evening playing creative board games.

This is the reality:

I drag through bumper to bumper traffic after spending the day with my adorable, but insanely hyper class. I drive through Wendy's because there is no time to make dinner. I stumble through the door weighed down by fast food bags and papers to grade. I am greeted with

"Ican'tfindmymask, thereisaholeinmycostume, and Ineedsomedeodorant"

(all said in one breathe without looking up from the TV).

I take a breathe, put down my things and counter with

"Where did you last see your mask? Give me your costume and why do you think you need deodorant? Where is Dad?"

After finding out that her armpits itch and she thinks deodorant will help, I explain that deodorant is to keep us from being stinky not itchy, and she doesn't need it yet. She does need to take more baths, but this isn't the time for that argument conversation. Rob has just returned from a week out of town and is sleeping off jet lag. I hand her the bags of food for her and her friend and proceed to race around the downstairs looking for her mask with the dog right on my heels. I calmly state the following:

"Give me your your costume. Well then put some clothes on. You should wear something under it. Push all of that crap over on the table so you two can eat. No don't pick up the broken printer off of the chair. Get another chair! Why is there a printer in the chair? Help me find this stupid mask!"

I look all around the upstairs for the mask and finally find it on top of a pile of laundry. Lily responds

"Oh yeah, I put it there when I trying to put a costume on the dog!"

I go downstairs to get out the sewing kit. I feel Lily breathing in my ear as she asks me

"Did you fix it yet?"

I explain that no, I did not, I was looking for her mask. I sew the costume while barking:

"Quit playing with the toys and eat your food!"

We finally get outside. I leave the bowl of candy on the porch with a nice note telling everyone to take two pieces. Lily is Spiderman and has made a cool speech bubble sign saying trick or treat, so she looks like a comic book. She get embarrassed by the sign and shoves it in my hand. We dodge the hyper non-costumed preteens and proceed to trick or treat. Lily is overwhelmed and refuses to speak, so her friend does all the talking. When trudge back to our house when her friend has to go to the bathroom, we discover that all of our candy is gone.

Once we head back out, Lily has started talking again. We chat with some neighbors and the girls end up with a huge haul of candy. When we are back home they trade candy with each other. They disappear into the bathroom and return giggling covered in fake tattoos. They finally lay down to watch a movie (after some persuading on my part). Lily's friend falls asleep, I go to bed, and Lily stays up watching TV.

Before I go to sleep, Caroline texts me to tell me that the Halloween party she and her friends planned didn't go as she thought it would. She goes on to explain that maybe her expectations were unrealistic. I know exactly what she means. The trick is to have fun even when things don't go as envisioned.

Bean 2.0

We  still have not met with Lily's teacher (reasons in post above), but I have progress to report: medication works! She is on a very low dose that is administered through a patch. I don't think she'll mind me sharing this because she is insanely excited about the whole thing. She likes going to the nurse's to get the patch removed at the end of the day. I can't really blame her; I too was an hypochondriac-attention seeker . I used to wish I'd break my arm, so my class could sign it. I thought that would make me special. I know, not very healthy, but perfectly normal, and I out grew it! Plus, this gives Lily a valid reason to see the nurse (whom she loves), and get a little TLC.

I also think she sees that it helps. We do! She is calmer, more focused, just a slightly up graded version of Lily. She is Lily 2.0. She still has her quirks and goofiness. She also still goes to great lengths to avoid the things she should be doing: brushing her teeth, showers, cleaning up, homework... all the things that get in the way of what she wants to be doing: watching TV, playing with her dolls, eating junk food, playing computer games.... The difference now is when she is called out for it, she does it. Oh it still might occur with grumbling, denial, and belligerence, but it occurs, so win for us. If cranky children scared me, I would have quit teaching long ago!

There are also these moments of pleasant reflection. She'll stop and talk to us about something interesting or something she learned. I want to hug her and yell "Welcome back! We missed you!" We have less and less of the frantic grabbing of attention through tantrums or maniacal silliness. Again, when it happens, we call her out and she settles (noisily, but settles).

We have learned to give her breaks, redirect, and give her sensory outlets. I bought her an awesome fidgit called the Tangle. We have one in the den and one in my purse. I have also discovered the power of writing lists where she can see them. I write brush your teeth and hair on the mirror with dry erase and she gets to cross them out when she is done.

When you put her creative energy with my creative problem solving mind and Caroline's solid good example along with Rob's love and compassion, well, you get success. At least for now.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Choosing a Path

I am over due for a Lily update. Now that she is nine (or as she would insist 9 and 3/4), I have told her she can decide what I do and do not share here. I want to keep those who love her informed and just maybe offer hope for other parents in our boat. However, I don't want to violate her privacy. Yes, we have a plan to help her with her ADHD and anxiety. No, she doesn't want me to tell you what it is.

She is doing well. We had some small victories this week which made my heart soar! The first one being: she read a book, with chapters, without pictures, voluntarily! The second being: I finally seem to have found a way to get her to sleep on her own and mostly stay asleep (it involves the hall light on and reading a chapter of Little House in the Big Woods and snuggling with the dog). It is still hard for her to stay down all night, every night. Much like both of her parents (it is 4:38 am as I write this) she seems to suffer from hypo-insomnia. Of course these are not typical things to be excited about when you have a child her age, unless she is Lily. I have shared with those who love her and are invested in her progress.

She has been particularly saucy and surly this week. It seems to be stemming from stress and frustration at school. It sounds like she is spending a great deal of time on the computer doing state test prep. My feeling is: how can she fill in the gaps she has just by taking practice tests? She needs direct instruction and remediation. She also needs to be engaged with hands on and creative learning activities. I had an upsetting conversation with her teacher last night. Her teacher feels a great deal of pressure to get her students to pass the state tests. I could care less about the state tests, as long as my girls are learning. Rob, as usual, has been awesome. We are going to meet with her teacher and come up with the best way for Lily to learn. We will do whatever it takes. We will be polite, but assertive. She has two years left in elementary school. This is her last chance to remediate the skills we didn't know she'd missed until last year. There is not a moment to waste.

This all sound like it went down so calmly. No, there were lots of tears on my part after I hung up with the teacher. Three thoughts charged through my mind: the teacher feels my child is a burden, is there any place for her in the public school system, and I really wish I could talk to my mom about this. I talked to Rob and he helped. I love this stage of marriage. We are problem solving partners! Maybe we need super hero capes. I also talked with my close friends at work. I have processed enough now to go on to the next step without being overly emotional.

I realize how difficult things can be for Lily. I am also fully aware of how she makes them even more difficult through her actions and reactions. I am not making excuses. There is an entire team of people working to support her and give her the strategies to succeed. Her success will look different than what we first envisioned. We have to just wait and see. I do know that she will find a path and Rob and I will be there cheering her on as she sets off down it (knowing Lily it could be climbing over, around, and on top of that path).

Two Hearts (or more) Beat As One

I have spent countless nights lying awake praying for the life of fish. When you become a mother, your child's heart becomes your own. You will try to move the universe and make bargains with various deities all to make sure that heart is safe and secure and never broken. Despite this great effort of love and strength and stubbornness: pets die, boyfriends break hearts, beloved family members pass away, tests stress, school confuses, friends fight. All you can do is listen and be there and hug and provide comfort. Also, you can continue to pray that the fifth damn pet fish that has entered this house continues to survive.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sunshine in My Pocket

I have a nasty head cold, there are no clean spoons in the house, there are multiple baskets of laundry, and everyone in this joint is stressed and slightly grouchy. This must mean? Yup, we are back in school. I never did get around to posting about our summer because I was too busy living it (how's that for a novel concept). I feel like I need to post now, so I can remember the peace and relaxation. Maybe, just maybe, I can take those good feelings and slip them in my pocket to pull out when one of the many children in my care is flipping out. I can remind myself and them that this is just a fleeting moment. Good things will come again. Without further adieu, here is our summer summary (say that five times fast) in no specific order.

Caroline went to Great Britain. She had a wonderful time, took amazing pictures, and brought back wonderful stories and gifts. Lily and I spent that time swimming, going to the library, and hanging out with friends.

We flew to Rhode Island to visit my step-mother. We got to see her new house and played tourist with her. We toured The Breakers and The Green Animals. The Green Animals was the summer home of a wealthy family from the turn of the century. The entire garden was full of animal topiaries. I had such a blast taking pictures! I forgot how much I love photography. We played mini golf in the pouring rain and laughed our heads off. We had a kayaking adventure paddling against the tide. We went to the beach and enjoyed such mild weather. The beaches were gorgeous. I love Northern beaches. We took a night time trip to see Saturn through a telescope. We went thrift shopping and got ice cream. We went out for a seafood dinner. We played Bocce ball in the backyard. It was wonderful to see my step-mother so happy. It was truly the most relaxing and amazing trip.

Lily read 20 books, and she got her ears pierced for meeting her summer reading goal. I read 16 books and renewed my love of reading! We watched a lot of movies and America's Got Talent. I also watched my fair share of HGTV.

Lily and Rob took a trip to visit his parents in South Carolina to visit his parents. She had an awesome time.

Rob's mom came to visit. We went to the zoo. We also went to see Guardians of the Galaxy. That was a ton of fun. We took our annual trip to the used book store.

Everyone got to see the movies they had been waiting for this summer: Maleficent, Earth to Echo,  X-Men Days of Future Past and Guardians of the Galaxy.

We went to the pool and swam a bunch. Lily took swim lessons and passed to the next level.

Most importantly, we relaxed and just were. I was hoping that we could store all of that peace and draw from it during the school year. We barely made it through a week.

Monday, September 1, 2014

This is Why I Don't Wear White

After one of the mildest summers on record, Summer has decided to show herself. On Labor Day weekend. Right as the pools are closing and the schools are opening. This also means evening thunder storms.

Yesterday was a normal "August type" day. However, I have grown used to the cool and thought I was going to melt with temps in the humid 90's. I decided to wear one of my mom's flowy, breezy, hippy-dippy sundresses. I felt daring (and hot as all heck), so I chose the gauzy white one. I paired it with big earrings, and felt very bohemian and super comfy. I got through an entire day without spilling a thing on it. That evening the skies grew dark and thunder started rolling. Rob and Caroline went out to get ice cream while Lily and I hung out at home. I took the dog out for one last time before we settled in for a movie.

Our backyard has no lights, so I take her out in the front at night. Buffy does not like wet grass one bit. Lightening cracked, thunder boomed, Buffy tugged, and off slipped her collar. I tried to tackle her in the driveway, but all I managed to do was scrape my leg and knuckle. I ran in the house, called Rob, and dashed back out to hop in the car with Lily.

By this time it had started to rain. Picture me standing at the end of a court, in the pouring rain, wearing a white dress, yelling "Buffy, baby, come back!!!" It was like a twisted 80's music video. I chased her from house to house. She was in such a panic. All she wanted was to get into a house. One of my neighbors came out of his house to see why a crazy woman was standing on his lawn yelling in the rain. I explained and he got into his car, pulled it into his driveway, and sat there for the rest of the show.

I finally cornered her on a porch. I scooped her up and carried her across the court. I passed her to Lily and then noticed that my hand was bleeding. GD dog! I stumbled into the house, white dress plastered to me, hair dripping, and hand bleeding.  I told Rob that I'd lost my knuckle. He quipped

"You'll find it in the driveway in the morning." (of course Lily woke up this morning and wanted to go look for my knuckle)

I smelled like wet dog, rain water, and blood. But all I could think about was the fact that I really thought I'd lost my dog. What kind of stupid dog runs away in the middle of a storm without id? The sort of dog who belongs to an owner who hasn't managed to trained her to come when called, that's who.

Oh well, I'd rather lose skin than my dog.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Least You Think This Blog Has Become Depressing...

We interrupt the self reflection and over-analysis of this blog to remind you that basically this joint is running with it's normal insanity. What it mean is nothing has changed around here. Not at all. Not one bit.

A couple of weeks ago it was our 25th high school reunion. When we first got the date I was super excited. I still had the cute dress that I was going to wear to my brother in law's wedding, but forgot at home. The Great American Road Trip  Sadly, the wedding was two years ago. That means it's been two years since I had the chance to wear something dressy. I started out the summer planning to do the plank pose every day, so I would have killer arms in my cute dress. Then the venue changed from fancy hotel to local bar. My outfit changed to favorite jeans and tank. The plank pose plan flew out the window. The most exercise my arms got this summer was lifting a book!

I had a feeling that most of my friends wouldn't be able to come, but was still so excited about the idea of hanging out with grown ups and being away from the girls for one night. It has been 3 1/2 years since we spent the night away from them. That morning I went to yoga class and came home planning to spend the rest of the day pampering myself and relaxing before we left for the hotel. Big mistake!

After my shower, I looked in the mirror and saw a giant red pimple right in the middle of my forehead! All I could think was

"At least when people tell me that I look just like I did in high school, I'll believe them."

Caroline saw it and softly said

 "It's pretty bad. Don't try covering it with makeup, it will just make it worse."

Awesome, pimple care advice from my kid. As I was standing in the our room wrapped in a towel, Rob came in with his new medicine. It was an injectable pen, but his "arms weren't long enough" to allow him to read the instructions. My glasses were still a little fogged up, but I tried to read it anyway. Finally, he went downstairs to look them up on the computer. I quickly escaped to the bathroom, planning on painting my toe nails and slathering myself with my fancy scented lotion. Suddenly I heard "Maamaa!? Maammaa!?" Knowing that I was being summoned for what surely was a silly reason, I sat perfectly still and hid. I swear two minutes later the dog started barking from outside. I knew there were at least two people down stairs who could let her in, so I continued with my pampering. The dog continued with her barking. I shouted downstairs to "please let the dog in." No answer, just more barking.

I threw on a sundress over my sweating lotiony self and went stomping down stairs muttering about "the dog pissing off our grouchy neighbor and why the hell can't anyone ever let her in." I passed Rob who was wandering from the computer to the fridge. Apparently he was watching the tutorial, looking in the box (stored in the fridge) for the missing part, then going back to watch the tutorial, returning to the fridge and so on.

After I let the dog in, I decided to eat lunch. As I was sitting down eating, I kept hearing the excited whispering of the girls and the screen door opening and shutting. I looked up and saw them carrying one cup of water after another out the door. I asked

"What the heck are you two doing?"

Caroline had been challenged to do the ice bucket challenge and Lily decided to do it too. Cristhian came over to help, and Rob and I watched all of them get ice water dumped on them. The videos ended up being some of the funniest I've seen. Cristhian dumped the water before Caroline was ready. Lily was taping it and fell on the ground laughing hysterically. Once it was Lily's turn, she ran away before she got too wet. They ended with all three of them getting ice water dumped on them.

The reunion was fun. Like I predicted very few of our close friends came, but we still had a good time (the benefit of marrying your best friend). Truth be told, though, I think I had the most fun getting ready for it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

No Apologies

I have a super funny post in the back of my mind. It will appear here soon, I promise. But right now I am thinking of myself and the ridiculous thoughts that I have. These are the thoughts that over ride my chance to live in the moment and just be. I have always thought that I was chubby and unattractive. Well to be truthful, I thought I was fat. I look back at pictures and am amazed at how cute I was (well, except for that awkward 14-15 phase). Lily pulled out my homecoming dress from my junior year. The waist was so tiny, she couldn't even fasten it around her own. Caroline commented "God Mom, you were skinny." Then I explained that at the time, I thought I was fat. I wore that cool vintage dress (before vintage was a thing), but couldn't get past my worries about my hair, my legs, my stomach, my skin, my glasses, my butt.

I am so proud of myself because I see none of this in my girls. They wear what is comfortable. They are confident in their beauty. We taught them that! I have made an effort to never voice my insecurities about my appearance in front of them.

I need to some how do for myself, what I have done for my girls. Today I sat in a school training feeling over weight and over heated. I watched my young petite co workers shiver while I wiped sweat from my lip. I felt the need to apologize. I mentioned the sweating and weight gain were the side effects of medication. The shocked response? "You gained weight? I don't see it. You're sweating?" I need to get out of my head and stop over analyzing everything.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Carpe Diem

Today, I cleaned up the latest round of apple/sauce fish capsule mess and decided to find chewable alternatives. They are ordered and on their way! I have come too far with Lily to have a choking, gagging battle over pills.

I am able to let this hiccup roll right off. I think it is due in large part to the fact that we have had the most relaxing summer ever. I have had so much fun with my girls, swimming, late night drives, movies, reading, and general silliness! Tonight was no exception. While we were waiting for the oven to heat up, Lily and I danced and sang all around the kitchen. I was thinking that it is possible to find moments of happiness even when your heart has been broken. It is possible to move forward.

Lily, Caroline, and Rob are my reasons for moving forward and trying to take better care of myself. Right after we spoke to Lily's doctor, I decided to go back on Zoloft. I owe it to Lily to approach this next school year with my best. My best is a well rested and anxiety free mother-teacher. Zoloft and I have a love-hate relationship. When I am on it, I don't have panic attacks over everyday things; I don't wake up in the middle of the night with my head reeling from lists. However, when I am on it, my appetite triples. I eat like I have a tapeworm. This time I also seem to sweat a lot. Neither thing is very attractive. I am hoping that as I feel better, I will have more energy to exercise. Last night I took a long walk. So that's a start.

I am lucky. My anxiety is mild. I am aware of it and know when to take steps to get myself back on track (ok, so this round I let it go on a bit too long). Not everyone has the resources and support that I have. Not all mental illness is the same. It is not something that can be cured or just goes away. In some ways it becomes a way of life.

Tonight after sitting down to a dinner where Lily and I talked about our expectations for the next school year, I opened my computer and read about Robin Williams's passing. I am so heartbroken for his family. Judging by some of the comments I'm seeing, our country still has a long way to go in our understanding of mental illness. It isn't a choice, nor is it the disease du jour that everyone needs to suddenly develop (I'm talking to you teenage girls who think it is okay to run around with ink quotation marks on your wrists because you have thought about committing suicide). We need to be patient and supportive of families who are battling mental illness. We need to be open and honest, so those who are hurting feel comfortable seeking help. We need to start the conversation and keep it going. Rest in Peace Mr. Williams.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Fighting the good fight

This has by far been an awesome summer. Of course the usual crap that follows my family has continued, but overall it has been awesome. I'll sum up everything we've done in another post. This one is all about the awesomeness that is Lily. We finally have a diagnosis: ADHD Inattentive Type and Anxiety. The diagnosis wasn't a shocker, but it gave me a plan of action. Actually, I had put that plan in place at the beginning of the summer, even before we had a diagnosis. The biggest thing to remember is this does not define my amazing little girl. It's just another part of her, like blue eyes.

We have spent the summer setting up various doctor appointments ("Seriously, Mom, another doctor?") and boosting her confidence. She is sooo much calmer and compliant. Today she got up and dressed and out the door without a battle! Of course this will be much more difficult once school starts, but I feel like we've deposited enough positive, so it might not be as big a battle (fingers crossed).

Today the doctor gave us an herbal supplement that an excellent reputation for helping children with ADHD. It is an Omega 3 supplement (stronger than what I have been giving her). The catch? It is in a capsule. Lily has a very hard time swallowing pills. It went something like this:

Lily tried taking it with juice; it stuck to her tongue and there went one capsule wasted. I called Rob for advice and he suggested milk. The next capsule and milk ended up all over me and the kitchen floor when she choked and gagged. I didn't want to waste that one, so I broke it open and mixed it with strawberry yogurt. She took a bite and started choking, then spit it on the floor in a mess of pink and orangish green. I asked her what it tasted like, and she screwed up her tear stained face, thinking carefully about the worst tastes she could imagine. Finally, she sputtered out "Brussels sprouts!!!" Lily has never eaten brussels sprouts, but I understood it must be gross. I took out two more capsules and mixed them with cinnamon apple sauce. Before I tried to give it to her, I tasted it. Great! I just made cinnamon-fish apple sauce! Because Lily is a rock star, she manged to choke it down. It might have had something to do with the fact that I promised her a spoon of ice cream. I gave her a serving spoon of ice cream (she earned it), and proceeded to clean up the yogurt-milk-applesauce-dried fish covered kitchen. It smelled like a toddler who'd been swimming with krill. We need to teach Lily to swallow capsules soon!

Monday, July 21, 2014


At this moment in time, we are holed up around here having a bit of a "Simpson Family Love-Fest." Before you get any dirty ideas, I simply mean we are proud to be us. We have joined together and made it through some rather difficult times. We are gearing up to make it through some more.

 I am especially proud of my girls. Rob and I have raised two girls who look at the world at large and see possibility. Both of them (even our little introvert) look at the world with eyes and hearts full of compassion. We have raised two girls who can speak of mental illness and disabilities (especially anxiety) in their own terms. They understand that not everyone see or feels or deals with the world in the same way and they accept it. They don't view skin color or ability level or economic status as the defining feature of an individual. Time and time again, I see them striving to help others (even if it is simply through a wish) to have the best life they can.They find laughter in every day, even when they are scared or sad or mad as hell. They know how to find their support system (be it our little family or friends) and check in for a recharge. They can talk about and have opinions about so many things that kids their age don't. There is no lacking for conversation or laughter here.

My girls aren't conventional. They aren't very good at tricks that impress (on tests or sports fields or stages). They go through life doggedly determined to continue to be themselves, even when society pushes them to change. At first they might seem aloof, stoic, shy, and at times a bit rude. But when you get to know them, sit down somewhere quiet, and let them talk to you? These two girls have big amazing thoughts. They have endless compassion and a desire to right the wrongs of the world (even if they do it on a small scale).

I don't need certificates or high test scores or fancy programs to tell me what I know. These two will be just fine. They go into the world and follow their passions and changes lives (maybe many, maybe just a few). They will make an impact upon this world. And in their own "off the beaten path quirky way," they will have changed it for the better. How do I know this? They have already changed mine.

When Answers Are Not Definitions

We met with Lily's doctor and listened carefully to her report. Most of the information was not at all surprising, a little sad because now we now how hard she will have to work and how hard we will have to fight beside her. I have had time to process it all, and I have come away with this: we are already well on our way to providing what she needs and she is defined by her abilities and disabilities. Each of those things is a small part of what makes her Lily. Like every person she is complex and not easily defined by one word or label.

Once I stopped fighting things and asked myself  "If she were your student, what would you do?" This summer hasn't been perfect, but it has been so much better. I have broken things into small chunks for her. She has read almost everyday. We haven't kept up with math as well. I am going to focus more on that next month. She does best when she has 30 minutes of work and then a few minutes of relaxing time. Of course, I can't quit my job to do this and the school can't do this, but at least I have given her some time to recover from the last school year.

The doctor suggested that we model how to handle frustration and anxiety by talking out loud about how we are handling a situation. I had started doing that even before we met with the doctor and it has been very successful. She has been in quiet a few frustration situations this summer. She gets angry, goes away, comes back to apologize, and tells me what she can do next time. She hasn't been hiding under tables or walking away.

In large groups she still gets overwhelmed. She will tell me there are too many people, and I will ask her "What are you going to do?" She will choose to move away, come talk with me, find something to fidget with, take breathes... We have made sure to tell her what the situation will be like before we get there. We trouble shoot any worries we have and have her come up with ideas to handle them. We have tried very hard to warn her ahead of time when things might change.

I am dreading going back to school. The bottom line is this: she is still behind academically. The increased pressure and more intense schedule, will blow this cozy little bubble wide open. We will see if she can apply the strategies she's learned. It is so tempting to just pull her close and keep the rest of the world out, but that's not fair to her and it isn't fair to those few people who are lucky enough to see Lily for the wonderful girl she is. When she lets you in, it is a thing or beauty.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book Talks

At the beginning of the summer, I found a big stack of paper backs in the basement. I have no idea where they came from. I could have bought them at the library book sale and forgotten about them. They just as easily could have come from my mother's house. All I know is it was the biggest and best surprise of the summer. I have plowed through the stack, taking time out to add to the stack (either other books that I've wanted to read or books by the same authors).

I think one of the hardest things about getting back into reading so many books is I don't really have anyone to share them with. I used to call my mom, recommend the book, and usually, I'd buy it for her. My mother loved to read. We had similar taste in books, although she tended to like mysteries and action whereas, I like books with feelings/emotions. I keep a notebook by my bed and write down the quotes that move me. I savor books, while my mother tore through them. Both of us had no patience for overly "trite" books (we also had the unusual habit of reading books backwards). I also tend to steer clear of "fad" books. I still haven't read 50 Shades of Grey, it just doesn't seem to be my type of book. I am a book snob and have passed this trait onto Caroline. Nothing ticks her off more than the masses discovering one of her beloved and unknown books (can we say The Fault in Our Stars?).

I have only met one other person who shares my insane love of books. We can talk for hours about books. The conversations meanders through a maze of authors and quotes and personal connections. Unfortunately, she travels to be with her family every summer. Once she is back, I will hit her with my latest list! We don't get to hang out very often, but when we do, it is always at the library. We roam the stacks grabbing books for each other. You know the stereotype about women and shoes stores? That's us and books.

I had a dream about my mother a couple of weeks ago. She comes to me in dreams so much more often than my other family members do. Every time I dream about her, I wake up feeling so calm and peaceful. Whether these dreams are the result of heavenly visits or the needs of my subconscious doesn't matter. These dreams help. I tend to keep them to myself because I am afraid of sounding childish, and it would make them less special.

This time, it was all about books. She and I were sitting working on some sort of craft project. I think it was crochet, which is funny because first of all I don't crochet and second of all my mother and I were hardly the sort to sit around and craft together. We craft/crafted as a way to keep our hands busy. Our crafting was solitary, not bonding. My mother loved to crochet. It was nice to have shared that with, even if it was only a dream. I was telling her all about The Glass Castle and how much she would like it. She was very excited and couldn't wait to read it. The best part is she was just like she'd always been: long brown hair, slightly husky voice, but she was calmer and more peaceful than I'd ever seen her. She wasn't in a hurry or trying to move onto the next thing. Nothing else (my brother, the dog, my kids, the TV, stories about other people) was distracting her. I had her undivided attention. That was a rare thing to get while she was alive. It wasn't personal, my mother was a multi-tasker. She rarely did one thing at a time (much like me now). It really was the nicest moment.

Comfort Zone

Just as I am lamenting not really having close friends and being stuck in a rut, I come to find out that this seems to be a universal theme amongst the women I know. I continue to hear: "I am trying to push myself to do things that scare me." "I am trying new things!" "I am putting myself out there." "I have always wanted to try __________, so I figured I should go for it." All of this adds to me feeling like I am not alone and that is so liberating.

I went on a chocolate tour with a friend and some of her friends this weekend. It was so much fun! Not only did I get to taste yummy treats, I got to see beautiful old buildings, and hear how my friend is going through some things that are so similar to me. It was so nice to hang out with other women and just chat. Our kids were not the focus of the conversations because we all had kids of various ages or no kids at all. I was out as myself, not a mother.

In between organizing my house and trying to make it look somewhat put together, I have been reading and reading and reading. I am on my 7th book. The more I read, the more I relax.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


This could very well be one of those confusing posts or a self-pitying post, but honestly, it is more of an explanation. Maybe even a way of working things out in my mind.

I am the ultimate organizer, juggling multiple balls, and keeping so many things going at all times. Most of my living, though, occurs in my head and occasionally spills out here. I have a wonderful life, and yet, at feel at a loss most times.

In my family (the one that raised me), I was always considered "sweet," sentimental," and "wise beyond my years." Within my family, I was always so much quieter. It was an odd dichotomy because I talked constantly, but in some ways they never really knew quite what to do with me. All of that talking was my way of being seen and staying present, not forgotten or disappearing. My family kept me grounded here on earth. It would be so easy for me to just retreat into my head and live through words (the ones in my mind and the ones others have written). I figured out long ago, the easiest way to stay present was to watch, observe, and give people what they needed. Most people would be shocked at what I've noticed and filed away about them. I have this crazy visual memory that is filled with snapshots in time. At my mother's funeral, my distant cousins were so surprised at the small details that I remembered about them. I doubt most people realize how important they are to me. I am a story teller. It is what I do best. The thing about my type of story teller is we spend so much time watching, we might not always be living.

I always felt loved by my family, maybe not always understood, but very loved. Each time I lost a member, I lost a piece of  me. Now, I am so ungrounded, just floating there. I am a satellite of some wonderful, loving families (in laws, step). I know they like me, but they can't really anchor me, nor should they be expected to. They try very hard to include me, and I try very hard to be included.

I am an anchor in my own right. I anchor Rob and the girls (and in some part, my brother). There is nothing I'd rather do. But it is hard to be an anchor, when you are floating around as a satellite. I am not completely at a loss. I have my brother. The problem is he is trying to anchor his own family. He and I bounce around, connecting in between caring for spouses, children, houses, jobs.

I am trying very hard to find a place. I am still so much happier observing. That's why I love to read and watch movies. I can be part of a place without actually being there. There is no risk in losing fictional characters.

I am trying very hard to find a place. I have put myself out there more than ever. I have tried going out with other mothers and attended a new church. I just haven't quiet found my place. I have this amazing little family, and yet I am very lonely. This can go one of two ways: either I keep rolling on and wear down the edges or I find my missing piece (if you are confused go read Shel Silverstein's The Missing Piece and The Missing Piece Meets the Big O).

Monday, July 7, 2014


I just finished reading The Glass Castle. I loved it. There is a comradery between those who have grown up in eccentric/dysfunctional families. There is also a dark sense of humor. Things that others might find upsetting or shocking we sometimes find them funny. I loved the humor Jeannette Walls was able to see in her life. I also loved that she knew there was always love. I could pontificate upon the topic of eccentric families, humor, and love for hours, but that is a post for another time. Today's post is about my legacy: pets, lots and lots of pets.

My paternal grandfather, aside from being the best man I have ever known, was our town's animal control officer. This was back in the day before tons of paper work, rules, and silly litigation. It was a time when a man could own a donkey in the middle of a suburban town. A time when said man's wife (in her robe) could be often seen chasing that donkey down the street when she (the donkey) staged early morning escapes. This was also a time when this man's son could bring his young bride home to meet his family along with their pet baby alligator, standard poodle, four toy poodles, and two spider monkeys (the donkey had moved to a farm at this point). That young man was my father; his bride, my mother. My mother grew up in South East Asia, you would think nothing could surprise her. Well, the alligator and monkeys did.

Stories about all of the crazy pets we've had and the equally crazy things they have done, have been one of the driving forces behind our family stories (the other force would be the equally crazy things the humans in our family did). All of my life we had tons of pets. Before my brother was born, we had two dobermans (one was a runaway show dog who had been so spoiled by his short time with my mother, his owners couldn't keep him after they found him), a black cat, two parakeets, tropical fish, a rabbit, and multiple gerbils (my poor teen uncle had no idea he was giving me a male and a female). This was all in a small rental house.

When I met Rob, he'd never really had many pets. He'd had farm animals in his teens, but had never met a family who treated animals like parts of the family. I brought him home to meet my Connecticut family for Thanksgiving. I had already warned him about the copious amounts of drinking and tomfoolery. I even warned him that my father would put black olive in his eyes and sing "Tomorrow" (he thought he looked like Annie from the comic). I warned him that everyone would talk over each other and joke and laugh,and it would all be insanely overwhelming. I had forgotten about the animals.

At this point my grandparents had two toy poodles, a macaw, and a cockatoo. After years of being attacked by the "demonic cotton balls" that the four toy poodles turned out to be, two was nothing. I really didn't think the animals would factor into our visit. My family was not a subtle bunch. If they thought something, they said it. Case in point: we all sat down to dinner and the cockatoo started screaming. My grandmother yelled "God dammit, shut up before I put you in the oven and cook you like the turkey!" The bird wasn't scared a bit. As a matter of fact, she unlocked her cage, walked out into the dining room, climbed up on my grandfather's shoulder, and spent the rest of the meal rocking back and forth and screaming. Later, Rob got to meet the macaw during "happy hour." Barney got his own shot glass full of vodka and tonic while Papa had his. After his vodka tonic, Barney's pupils would dilate while he screeched "Wheee!" Papa would make the bird a tin foil cape and he would lift up his wings to be the "Budweiser Bird." After that, I am surprised that the boy still decided to marry me.

Truthfully, he loved my crazy family. He understood that even when they unintentionally hurt each other and me, there was still a lot of love there. Rob himself has always had a ton of love to give. He couldn't wait to get our first dog. She became our practice baby. From that moment, we decided that our house couldn't be a home without pets. Currently, we are the keeper of Buffy, the terrier with ADHD; Tuck, the daredevil turtle; Trixie, the insomniac rabbit, and Jacques, the friendly Beta fish. We are notorious for keeping animals alive waaay longer than their life expectancy (we kept a dwarf rabbit alive for 10 years), raising animals with special needs (our Dobie with a brain disorder gets her own post), and spoiling them all rotten. They keep us me busy, but also give us so much joy. Many nights are peppered with the exclamation of "Look at the dog!" (or if you're me "Look at the turtle!").  Sure there are drawbacks (it is very hard to find someone to watch that many animals, so we can go on vacation together, and my house smells a little gamey), but they are worth it (I have invested in an awesome steam cleaner for starters). I have no doubt that both of my daughters will grow up to have a house full of animals. Really (in my humble opinion), there is no better way to teach children to love, than to fill their lives with furry and scaly siblings.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Just a little virtual fist pump here. I finally got the two fillings done today. After the Novocaine finally kicked in (my poor dentist started drilling and my hand shot up so fast to stop him, he flew backwards), it was pretty quick. he asked for the camera to take some pictures and I was waiting to be told/shown that I needed to do more. After it was all over, he showed me the pictures and explained that these cavities were not my fault. My teeth have deep grooves and are almost impossible to clean. He praised my flossing (yes!!!!) and told me my gums were in great shape. The crappy part is eventually the tooth will need to be pulled because it will cause bone damage. Luckily that probably won't happen until I am a very old lady.

Finding Our Way

Yesterday was the first step in my oldest daughter's journey of spreading her wings and flying away from home. She left for a two week trip to Great Britain. We are so very excited for her. I know this will be the trip of a life time for her. I also know my girl, and at some point being in close quarters with the many people will get on her nerves. The awesome thing about maturity is she can push past that and have a wonderful time. I am almost more worried about her missing her boyfriend than us. He is such a sweet boy. He came with us to see her off. Lily spent yesterday hiding in the basement. I suspect that she is going to really miss her big sister.

After the drop off, I went out for dinner and drinks with some of the other mothers. I have yet to figure out what makes it so difficult for me to navigate conversations with other mothers. I do think my hearing has a lot to deal with it. I always end up at the end of the table in crowded restaurants. I spend a lot of time smiling, nodding analyzing the bits that I heard, and putting the conversation together in my head. By the time I've done all of that, the conversation has moved on. One of the mothers is a special education teacher and she and I had read and reposted the same article about the DOE's new testing plans for children with special needs. We talked a lot about that. I think that explains my other block. I am just a bit obsessed with teaching.

At one point they all pulled out their phones to check final grades which had just been posted. I didn't. You could insert a joke about helicopter parents here, but you could also just as easily have painted me as a distracted/uninvolved parent. I don't think either fits. I knew Caroline's grades because she is just a bit obsessed with her GPA (as she should be), and I didn't need the frustration of trying to get to the Internet on my phone. I can text and play Burds (easily the most addictive game ever), but browsing on my phone? Not so much.

I guess the biggest thing is conversation topics. When other parents request educational advice, I am all in. I love to talk about education. I would really love to talk about movies, TV, and music. It is just hard finding adults with the same interests as me. Really, most of my tastes run along the same lines as a sophisticated teenager. The one thing that I tend to not talk about would be my kids. I keep it all very general. It is the same philosophy as the blog: their stories are not my stories. Once you put something out there, it cannot be taken back. It would be so easy for people to get the wrong idea about my girls based on my stories. Lily would seem like a brat, Caroline would seem angelic. They are so much more complicated than that. Anything I would say would be pale and two-dimensional. There really is no way to put into words the awesomeness that is my girls (or any kids). Besides, once you say something or put it in print it never goes away. I am not just my girls mother, I am their PR rep. It is up to me to represent them in the best possible light.

But, more than that, I am Melissa, a person in her own right. Very soon (so much sooner than I am ready for) I will be moving into the next stage in my life. I will always be a mother, but it will not always be my chief responsibility. The same goes for teaching. I need to find a way to continue to be at peace with myself and follow the things that I am passionate about.

Monday, June 23, 2014

This Summer I Will Chill (even if it kills me)

This blog used to be funny. My life used to be funny. I guess it still is, but now it is in that wincing way. You know how you inhale sharply before laughing when you see someone get hit in the privates on a video clip show? Yeah, like that.

It was the first day of summer break here. Well actually Friday was, but we were at Great Wolf Lodge with Lily's scout troop. Lily had fun. Me? Well places like that are hard. I swear I lose more hearing every year. I kept finding myself bending down trying to hear one child or another in the wave pool while trying not to fall out of my bathing suit. I tried one water slide. Of course it made me so dizzy, I fell over on Lily's co leader and staggered off of the ride like a drunken sailor. It was worth it to see Lily have fun.

Anyway, today. We went back over to the school to finish cleaning out my room. Of course I will need to go back tomorrow because I forgot to bring the keys that I need to turn in. I have a reputation for forgetting one thing or another and dragging out the entire check out process. And Caroline wondered why people looked so surprised when she told everyone that we would be packed up and out of my room by 4:00 last Thursday. I did clear out 20 years worth of files. After that we drove through Taco Bell.

I spent the rest of my day organizing the things that I need to organize for school into crates so the organization process will be easier (did you follow that?). After that I tackled the bathrooms, and laundry, and picked up the den. I went through all of the end of school papers (at least I thought so then I found one more stupid backpack hiding under the bench).

I also watched the turtle demonstrate his new flying demo. Seriously. He climbs onto the plastic cover that is designed to keep him in the tank and sits there with his legs, arms, and head stretched out. He looks like Superman. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to name him after a Wonder Pet. Buffy had fun playing her favorite game, "Roll In the Clean Laundry and Play Dumb While Mom Yells." I did get to watch a TV show while I folded laundry.

I also managed to get Lily to read one chapter of My Father's Dragon. She retold the chapter perfectly, although in a British accent and with voices for each character.

I finished the day by making hot dogs that no one wanted to eat. So I threw caution to the wind and let them have watermelon for dinner.

When Rob got home, he asked what I did with my day off. After I told him he replied "So your summer vacation starts tomorrow?" Sure, honey, right after I make the latest round of doctors appointments and empty the dishwasher and start the next load of laundry....

Sunday, June 22, 2014

In Search of Impossible Answers

When you are a very curious worry wart, the sort whose mind constantly tumbles with one "what if?" after another, the Internet can be a very dangerous place. It is the modern day rabbit hole and here I am Alice in mother form trying to find the answers. Thanks to modern technology, Facebook never lets me forget which questions I have searched. I am still getting ads for the best natural delousing products (this from my quest this winter), modest clothes for preteens (this one done on behalf of a friend), and fun retro dresses (this left over from home coming). My bookmarked pages look like those of a most unbalanced (and highly curious) individual. There are dozens of medical sites (ADHD, diabetes, skin care, hair care, the dangers of food additives, natural anxiety treatments, and of course cancer treatments), directions for the keeping of ants, turtles, Beta fish, rabbits, dogs, teen aged children, and not so teen aged children, dozens of recipes that I may never get to, shopping sites for practical shoes, comfortable and funky clothes, book reviews, blogs by other awesome mothers, movie reviews, TV show reviews, home repair sites that I can't possibly follow, and multiple weather sites.

The older I get, the more frustrated my family becomes by these lists, worries, questions. And I wonder why Lily is so curious, perhaps she is my child after all. Knowing the answers helps. The answers are a compass in the storm, they give me a direction. When you are a person who is easily lost, directions are very important. The Internet is a GPS for my brain. My brain might frustrate those nearest to me, but the older I get the more I relish and celebrate it. This brain keeps a family running AND teaches a first grade class AND runs a team of first grade teachers AND, well you get the picture. I don't have ADD, but I can so relate to those who do. We are both multi-taskers. Maybe not always in an efficient manner, but we are.

I am so glad that my brain and I are reaching some kind of an understanding. We are finally becoming a team. I know myself, so I can't be tripped up by myself (or if I am I can reach peace with it more quickly). I hope this makes sense. Sometimes, I think that it is impossible to understand my ramblings unless you too have a rambling mind. All of this leads to Lily. My amazing, beautiful, impossible Lily. 

Third grade was so very rough for her. She was sick, she was overwhelmed, and yet she pushed on. She came out having learned so much. None of which can be measured by state achievement tests (six tests on four years worth of learning, really?!). She has learned how to find us when she is overwhelmed in public (by taking a walk, a break, a joke, or even a private snide remark). The next step is to teach her to take a break while staying in the room. She has learned to handle teasing from children who feel they are brighter than her (and yet seemed to miss learning manners and compassion). That one is probably the one I am proudest of. She doesn't shut down or get angry. She fixes them with a steely stare and proceeds on her way. No one does aloof better than my daughters and I. I explained that she will have to deal with this all of her life. People seem to want to "fix" my child. I stopped sharing her struggles and simply proceed forth. Who defines normal? My child is being herself, and that is her normal. I have lived with misconceptions myself. Someone told me a couple of weeks ago "You are really sweet and adorable, but I don't understand you." Of course this was after she watched me rescue a stranded butterfly. But I am who I am. I have no one to impress, but myself.

So my job this summer is to teach Lily to impress herself. I will continue to push her to tackle the things that scare her and push through the things that bore her. We promised her that if she reads 25 books and practices math everyday, she can get her ears pierced. Lily never makes thing easy or does things the way I would do them, but she will get them done. She is going to need to find her own rabbit hole and navigate her Wonderland. I have no doubt that she will do just fine.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Last Good Day

I went with a "mommy friend" to see The Fault in Our Stars tonight. My family was waiting when I got home to see if I'd cried. Well of course I did, it was a sad movie. I never try to hide or avoid crying at sad books/movies/TV shows/news stories/commercials. Sad is a relevant and important emotion. When you are sad you cry, enough said. I have had many reasons to be sad this school year (I always keep track of years by school and not calendar). I have been reading some beautiful and sad books that deal with death and aging (check out Carrie Brown, she is such a beautiful "speaks to your heart without being trite" writer).

Caroline and I had finished The Fault in Our Stars right before Mom was diagnosed. In some ways the book helped us deal with it. Mom's cancer journey was different than most you see in movies/TV/books because there really wasn't closure. She fought hard and was going to be angry if we said anything about saying goodbye. When she was in the hospital the last time, the nurses kept telling me to tell her it was ok to let go. There was no way I was going to do that. Do you know how pissed off she would have been?

The movie reminded me of the idea of "the last good day." It is the last clear day in a dying person's life. That brief moment when they are completely themselves again. For me, the last good day was probably Mother's Day. That was the last time we all sat around the table laughing and eating frozen yogurt. It was before the cancer came back with a vengeance, stealing everything my mother had left (dignity, security, hope, clarity) bit by bit. It was the last time she looked at me and said "The doctor doesn't know how strong I am. I can beat this." It was also our last picture. After that, Mom was too tired, sick, and weak to want her picture taken.

I know from experience that the bitterness of sadness eventually mingles with the sweetness of  memories, until you have bittersweet, and until remembering doesn't hurt quite so much. On so many levels, I have lived in such a bitter sweet life, but how lucky I am to have had the sweet.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Limping Along to the Finish

Ok, I think I can go on record as saying this has been such a profoundly overwhelming school year. Every time I think "Ok, this is it, now it is going to get better" another wave of utter crap rolls through. And yet, I still have the sense of mind to pause and remind myself that it could be so much worse and to stop poking at fate and to keep praying and  to put one foot in front of the other and to remember every platitude that I have based my life around.

Oh this spring, where to I start? How about the week of bloody noses Lily had that ended with 10 in one day followed by a late night trip to the ER?  Or the walking pneumonia that I ended up with after that trip? There is always the tales of the tests. More and more damn tests. My nine year old took took 6 tests based on information  factoids that she was supposed to retain over 4 years. Mind you this is the child who can't find her shoes, glasses,or shorts on a daily basis. There's the incredible pressure my driven 16 year old has put herself under by taking an insane course load that idiot counselors have convinced her she should take. There is the never ending pile of paper work, laundry, dishes. There are the countless doctors appointments. There is the never ending saga of the turtle who continues to try to escape from his tank and the dog who escapes from her yard. And through all of this there is precious little sleep. How do people my age have infants? I am too old for sleep deprivation.

 BUT, there is amazing teamwork between Rob and I as we juggle all of the appointments and laundry and dishes and the kids and the pets. There is family bonding as Rob, Caroline, and I tag team study with Lily. There is amazing sweetness as Caroline gives Lily countless test taking pep talks. There is joy (and not one bit of surprise) when Caroline passes all of her tests and keeps up her GPA and pretty much tackles every obstacle she has in front of her.  There is hope as I remember her struggles and awkward years and realize Lily, too, will find her own way. We have learned to laugh and breathe when we want to cry and yell. There are only 2 1/2 weeks left. We are limping along to the finish line, all together as a team. We might not get the first place medal, but all that matters is we ARE going to cross that line!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Slow Down

I got a speeding ticket last week while driving to see my step father in the hospital. I tried to explain, but it fell on deaf ears. The cost (ticket and insurance) are an annoyance, but the worst thing is that I am not a rule breaker. I was telling my friend about it and she shared a story about her sister getting a ticket. She said her sister told her "Didn't the police officer know I'm a good girl?" That is it exactly! Of course I made the entire experience into a joke about the police officer keeping the county safe from soccer moms driving SUVs.

The reality is it nagged at me. There was a message there from the universe. Not to sound corny, but maybe I need to slow down period. Ever since December 14, 2013 (the day the shooting happened in CT, also the same day one of my students had a break down and tried to hurt himself and me.), I have been on high alert. That is almost a year and a half with my cell phone in my pocket waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting and prepared for an emergency. The thing is it is quiet literally raining shoes, and I am still surviving. I am not sure how long I can keep this up.

I am making small steps toward slowing down. Lily has doctors appointments coming up, Caroline just got her learner's permit, I am trying to catch up on school work. All these things will simplify life. Next up, clear the clutter! I need the rest of the family for that.

We went for a hike with some friends today. It was beautiful. I need to try to do that more often. Maybe, I can talk some of my kids into walking the track with me at recess? That would get me moving a little and give me a chance to chat with my kids. I have zumba on Mondays and yoga on Saturdays. Maybe I can squeeze in a few after school walks. I think it would be good for Lily too.

As far a Lily goes, I'll share the facts and strategies that others might find useful, but no more symptoms. Right now it is almonds, bananas, and walks. I am trying to increase serotonin and dopamine naturally. I have also cut back sugar, which has lead to her new berry obsession. She eats strawberries and blueberries like her life depends on it. I have also started chunking directions and "drive by nagging." For example as I pass through a room, I check in to see where she is on a step. That way I still keep moving, she gets a reminder, and I don't stand there waiting with soaring blood pressure for her to "Do it right now!" Nobody in this house does anything the minute I ask. It drives me insane, but the only thing I can change is myself.

If you are driving in NoVA and get stuck behind a silver SUV driving slowly, right at the speed limit, it is only me, trying to slow down.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Doing My Best

There must be something about my face or manner that makes me seem like an easy target for unsolicited advice, because I get a lot of it. Oh, if only the advice givers could hear the voice in my head declaring how little a crap I give about opinions (or do I?). I am a well documented rule following people pleaser. I am Sandra Dee at the beginning of Grease. If I think I've upset or offended someone, I die a thousand deaths. So, yes I listen to advice and fret about it and wear on Rob's last nerve analyzing it. I might add that in the course of our lives, he has been one of the chief advice givers (Especially before we were dating. Lord, that boy was a know it all!).

I have reached the stage in life where I can usually brush advice off (Unless it is really useful and well intended). Mostly that is due to having a good support system (Thank you, Rob, Caroline, and Lily).

Of course there is some advice that is not meant to be brushed off. Last summer, I was hit with the litany of  "your body is getting older so now you need too...." advice from doctors. Unfortunately, this has been one of the hardest and most stressful years of my life, and I have not been able to follow most of it. If you recall, I posted this summer about all of the doctor's advice: lose weight, floss three times a day, take a brisk walk, use sunscreen, eat less sugar, relax...... The entire thing reminds me of that song about always wearing sunscreen.

Well, I managed two: sunscreen and flossing. I flossed like it was my part time job. So much so, that any little food particle in my mouth after eating drove me crazy. I was so excited to go to my last cleaning. I followed his advice! I did it! I was a good girl! I don't know what I expected. Praise? High fives? A golden toothbrush? What did I get?  Two cavities! I can't win for trying.

To be fair, the cavities are at the site of old fillings that have worn out and most likely are the result of years of soda drinking (I gave it up 3 years ago, but drank it like water for almost 20 years). The hygienist threw me a bone by telling me that my gums looked great, and it was wonderful that I no longer drank soda.

This entire experience gives me so much hope about my next hurdle: weight loss!

Things That Make You Go Hmmm?

Mom bloggers the world over have a dilemma: how much info is too much to share about your child, and at what age does it become an invasion of privacy? Long ago, I stopped relaying many personal details about Caroline because that is her story to tell and not mine. Lily's story always seemed like mine to tell, most likely because she is my baby. The funny thing is, she is not anymore. She is also aware that she is the source of much of my writing. She does something and will say "You can Facebook this if you want" or "This is not for Facebook, Mom." When we see people who know me, but not her, and they ask questions about her, she looks at me like "What the hell, Mom?"

I am in a quandary, here. I want to be honest about my journey as a parent and especially parenting a little girl like Lily. I was just looking at the blogs that I love and one commenter brought up an interesting point: what will happen when a blogger's child gets older and some obnoxious teens find her blog and read all of the personal details about her child? I know if that happened to Lily, my heart would break. We are starting down a path to help her find out how to become the best possible Lily that she can be. My original plan was to share this journey to help other parents. But, is it my journey alone? Other bloggers have talked to their children and been given permission, but truly can a nine year old child give informed permission?

Lily will be my guide here. She has already on her own brought up going to see a doctor for testing (the direct quote was "Apparently my mother feels I need to be evaluated for, what is it, Mom? Oh yeah ADHD"). I am not sure if I will share the results here. Our family has such a complicated history of "alphabet syndromes." I don't think that is anything to be ashamed of. We are pretty honest about the whole thing and make jokes about it all the time. Not everyone is as comfortable, though. It is my experience that every time I tell someone that I have a learning disability (unless they are some way in my same boat), they look at me differently. It takes years of confidence and plain not giving a crap to deal with that. My little girl is not ready for that, nor should she be.

I want to be a voice for parents with unique children, but not at the expense of my amazing girl's dignity. This is honestly the first time that I am glad this blog is so hard to find and am not jealous of the mom bloggers with book deals. Luckily, I have so much more to say. I have wondered what my blog would be like if it didn't revolve around my children. Maybe it is time to find out.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Take a Moment

I started this week out with such skull crushing stress. My head was pounding, I could breathe, I could barely think. So much of this I bring on by my choices. I choose to pour my heart and soul into my work and family. I push, push, push and go, go, go. And some days, it is too much for my body and mind to process.

I made it through, taking one day at a time. I am caught up on paper work and report cards and lesson plans are finished. Right now, I should be grading papers, but for the first time in so long, I am relaxed.

This April is so bitter sweet. Caroline turns 16 on the 9th. That alone is such a momentous thing to digest. Then add in my mom would have been 63 on the 12th. She is missing such a big milestone for Caroline. I know that she would have made it so special for her. This is the first of many milestones Mom will miss.

The fact of the matter is milestones come whether you are ready or not. No amount of grief can (or at least should) stop them. Rob and Lily went to West Virginia to help his parents pack for their upcoming move. Caroline and I stayed here, so she could go to soccer and to watch the pets. It seemed like no big deal, but as things around here tend to do, the weekend snowballed into a much bigger thing. I promised that I would take Caroline to get her Learner's Permit before her soccer game. Then we'd chill the rest of the day.

Last weekend, Caroline's boyfriend called me to ask if he could throw a surprise party for her at our house on Saturday. From that point on, things took on a Keystone Cops level of hijinks as only we could do it. I was in charge of getting all of the supplies. I bought the soda and chips and explained that they were for the party she was planning for herself on the 12th (Did I mention that she was already planning a party and her friends were frantically pulling people aside to make sure they had the right date?). The problem was things kept coming up that required using the soda and chips during the week (school parties, snack attacks). By Friday, I needed to head to Target to get more snacks and decorations. I ran back and forth across the store three times collecting things I'd forgotten (I was exhausted by Friday). I hid everything in the car over night.

On Saturday, I woke up at 6:30 to see Rob and Lily off. I hid the party supplies in the basement and headed off to the DMV with Caroline. After an extremely long wait, she took her test and passed! I was so proud of her, but had a brief "Mom would be so proud" moment. We went right to her soccer game. After her game she cleaned up and Cristhian picked her up for the movies (he even talked her into dressing up so she'd be ready for a party). I proceeded to clean the house and bake her cake. Her friends started arriving at 4:30 to decorate. Of course, Caroline being my daughter, arrived home opened the fridge, found the fruit platter her friend had brought, figured out the surprise, and started crying. She was so happy (Did I mention a surprise party was all she wanted and she spent a good part of March bitter and sad that she wasn't getting one?)!

She has the best and quirkiest friends. They spent the evening eating, laughing, singing Happy Birthday in English and Spanish, dancing a conga line, and singing "Do You Want To Build a Snowman?" through the basement door.

Ironically, I am not tired. I just feel peaceful and blessed. I rocked the whole "motherhood thing" this weekend. The cherry on top was opening my school email and finding that a parent had emailed me a picture of one of my babies from last year playing on his churches drum line. I do believe that giving my all to work and family has paid off this weekend.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

It Is What It Is, We Are Who We Are

Just like books fall into my lap that seem to speak to my mood and state of life, so go blogs/essays. This one seems to follow my life in so many degrees. Hard Alphabet

Right now I am stressed to the gills. What is your sign that you are ridiculously stressed? For me it feels like there are bees buzzing under my skin. I am irrational  and overwhelmed and I am sure it is just rolling off of me. I have a student who feeds off of other people's stress levels. Needless to say, he and I have had a rip roaring week.

The thing is I am an "alphabet person" (see above essay) who grew up with an "alphabet family" who chose to work in an "alphabet setting" and managed to create yet another "alphabet family."  However, I am not alone. I have been more and more honest about who I am and who my family is (much to the delight of my reclusive husband). We are who we are.

This week, people have expressed frustration about one student or another. All I could think in my head is "He is who he is. We are surprised he did this because?" I know that my students are giving me their best (most of the time) and can be so patient with them. I need to have that same patience with my child and myself.

I still haven't figured out how to do it all. How do I teach with insane extreme rigorous requirements and be team lead and do advisory councils and volunteer and help Lily. Lily failed another test. I forgot about it and did not study with her. I feel awful and like I let her down. I ripped into Rob about helping me. Now that I am a little calmer and have been reminded that I am not alone, I realize that it is one test. She was so disappointed. I reminded her that school is a roller coaster, up and down, down and up. It is what it is. We do the best we can and when that isn't enough, we just try again.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

On the Edge of Your Seats?

Are you waiting for the latest update? It seems that the thing of the day is pink eye or some sort of weird eye allergy. I totally forgot how between the ages of 8 and 9 Caroline's body totally revolted against her and she was a walking disaster (she just reminded me of this last night). It seems Lily is following right along behind her. She came home with a red swollen eye. She thinks she fell, but she isn't sure. Now it is swollen and more red. She still has the scrape on her cheek from a few weeks ago. Couple that with the fact that she insists on wearing leggings with the waist rolled down so the tag sticks out like a tail (apparently, it is more comfortable this way) and her favorite slightly too small shirt. But, at least she was dressed, out of the house, and reasonably happy. I saw one of my former students at our school carnival (she is also in third grade and just as unique as Lily). She was sporting faded leopard leggings (clearly a favorite) and a cat shirt. I complimented her on matching leopard print with cats. Her face lit up! Who cares if kids' outfits are a little odd. They are dressed, right?

Before the carnival we spent the morning trying to figure out which dress Caroline should wear. Last night we found out that before the Quincenera, she would be going to mass. That ruled out the short tight strapless dress her friend lent her. After violin, it was carnival time.The carnival went well. It is much easier to take Lily places when it is just the two of us. The funniest part was the look Lily gave me every time someone asked if she was feeling better. I think she is catching on to the fact that she is my favorite Facebook and blog subject. After the carnival we went to the pet store to get a new fish. We got great fish advice. Hopefully, the third time is the charm.

Well tomorrow, we are off to the clinic to get her eye looked at and hopefully have time for the movies and grocery store. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

And Away We Go

I spent a half an hour looking up Beta fish facts. I had a plan in mind. I was going to fix everything in the morning. But the darn fish died anyway. I woke up this morning, looked in the tank, and well you can picture the rest. He came with a 30 day guarantee, and I wasn't sure if I needed evidence so, I scooped him up with a teaspoon, put him in a container, and hid him in my closet. I needed to get Lily up and dressed. That is normally hard enough, throw in taking medicine, and well, dead fish wasn't going to work. I decided to wait and tell her after school. It took a lot of fandangling to get her out of bed and dressed. It also took a lot of me running up and down the hall and redirecting her so she wouldn't notice the fish wasn't in his tank. By the time we reached the medicine stage I was a ball of frustrated sweat. We had to leave in 2 minutes so I did what I had to: bribery. I offered her two chocolates if she would just take the medicine. In the course of a half an hour, I'd broken two laws of parenting: I'd withheld the truth from my child and bribed her with sweets.

We made it out the door on time, and despite the traffic caused by an accident, I made it to school on time. I had to brag and joke about my skills as a single mother. I paid for this by spending my day dealing with students sneaking gum, losing coats on purpose, bending forks during lunch, and general tomfoolery. I have the world sweetest class who over night turned into total goofballs.

Well, on to busy day tomorrow. Caroline is going to Cristhian's cousin's Quincenera, Lily has violin, Lily and I are working at my school carnival, and then we get to go to the pet store, dry cleaners, and grocery store. Never a dull moment.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

Brace yourselves, Rob is out of town! I have long held with the theory that the appliances have a secret meeting and decide which one will break in which God-awful manner while he is gone. Some time in the past few years, they started inviting germs to the party, so they could decide which nasty illness would infect my youngest child while I am mopping up flooded water, jumping the car, reprogramming the TV etc.

This time, the minute he gave me the dates, I wrote sub plans. Better safe than sorry, right? The more prepared I am the less likely things will go wrong, right? Right? Wrong! This time we got the pre-game show. The weekend before he left, Lily spent the weekend with a sore throat and fever. On Monday we had more snow (enough already!). By then her fever was gone, and she seemed fine. I picked her up from school on Tuesday. As we were walking to the car, she looked at me "Bad news, my throat still hurts." Inside my head a hear a chorus of "Shit, shit, shit!" I got out to the car and decided that I'd take her to the clinic just to rule out strep. She couldn't possibly have strep. I went to start the car and "click, click, click, nothing." Now the chorus in my head is yelling "Shit, damn, shit, damn!" A nice man came over and looked at my car. It seems the person who put the battery in lost one of the bolts. When the battery first started dying, Rob and I came up with all the sorts of reasons two intellectuals with no knowledge of how an engine works would consider (anti theft device was the top one). Missing bolt did not even make our grand list.  He got the car running and we were off to the clinic.

I stood in the clinic with the voice in my head chanting "It's nothing, it's nothing. How many times have you come here convinced it was strep and it was nothing?" as I watched the test strip turn bright pink. "Oh yeah, it's strep" the nurse said "You poor baby your throat must really hurt." Yup and her mom is a neglectful nincompoop.

I used the sub plans to take yesterday off and stay home with Lily and get the car fixed. Rob couldn't stay home because he had meetings to prepare for the meeting that he was having with very important people on his trip.

The car was an easy fix. The auto shop put on a new bolt for free (probably, because they felt sorry for the woman who would spend her life with someone who would lose the bolt to a battery). Lily felt fine and was the least sick acting child in America. We have had a total of 13 snow days this year, so I have more than relaxed. I decided to use yesterday to preemptively fix anything else that might break while Rob is gone. I finally got the new filter for the turtle tank working and hooked up the heater for the fish tank. I took apart the vacuum and cleared all the clogged up dog/girl hair. I put away every stinking snowman because no matter what the weather says it will not and cannot snow next week! I need to do my part to prevent that. Now, all that is left is wrap the girls, the pet, and all of the appliances in bubble wrap. We will all just sit here quietly until Rob gets back on Tuesday.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Spring Forward

I need to go to bed because I need to be up and moving for a 7am dentist appointment (it seemed like a good idea when I scheduled it), so instead I am up blogging. My mind is whirling and maybe if I dump enough stuff out, I can sleep (although the dog makes that hard. Ever since the time change she wakes me up at 12:30 am, not sure why).

I am moving forward into spring with baby steps. I've tackled three 15 min projects: clean the top of my desk, put some of the dishes and boxes of girl scout cookies littering the dining room table away (it was hard to stop at 15 minutes, but I did), and organize Lily's sock drawer (also known as the place where stickers, band aid wrappers, hair clips, rubber bands, and small toys go to die).

I finally decided to call and make an appointment with a doctor to look at testing Lily for ADD. Well, actually, I called, and they'll call me back to make the appointment. Worst case: they tell me I'm over reacting and need to be tougher on her. Best case: I get an answer. Right now, she is miserable and we are miserable. I kept hoping for a change, and there have been some. Her grades are improving by small increments. She still just seems so overwhelmed in the world, and when Lily is overwhelmed it is not pretty. I shared some of what has been going on with a good friend of mine who has ADHD (actually, she is the poster child for ADHD). I was at my wits end and so frustrated and my friend looks at me and says "It's simple. She can't make a decision. Do you know how hard it can be to make a decision?" Dammit, I know these things! I have helped countless parents with children and yet can't see it with my own. Of course that's why she changes clothes 3-4 times. She can't decide. I am also a realist and know that sometimes, my kid is just being a pain in the butt. I need help to figure out which is which and when is when.

Like I said, maybe I am over reacting. Who knows? All I do know is I want the best for Lily. There is no other child out there quiet like my Bean. I want everyone to see the girl we see.

On top of tackling Lily, I am tackling a new math program at school. Not the best time, but I need to do what is best for my students. Besides, if someone doesn't try it, how will we know if the program is good or not?

Oh there was so much more rolling through my head, but now it has leaked out in the rush of type. Now it is time for bed. Maybe I should slip the dog a nightcap;)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Nurturing My Soul

I am not a practicing Christian, so Lent really isn't a big deal for me. I do like the idea of giving up something to better yourself. I have read a few posts about Lent recently. I wrote about one yesterday. I am going to try her 15 minute organization challenge (check out Beth Woolsey, I am adding her to the long lists of mothers I'd like to meet some day). I am only going to do it on the weekends. The evenings around here lately are just way too jam packed.

I am going to try something else. Giving up gossip. I used to be pretty good about looking for and saying the best about everyone, but the more tired and stressed I get, the snarkier and nastier I get. At first it seems like fun, but after you are finished, do you ever wonder what the group says about you after you leave? Would you say those same things to some one's face? I always feel awful after a "bitch fest."

I need to set a better example for my girls. Now don't get me wrong, I will still be sarcastic and tease. I am not turning into Snow White over night. I am just going to follow my blog rules "Don't share stories that are not your own."

I have a feeling that this will help me feel a lot better about myself and others.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Maternal Angst, Winter Style

Ok, so I am soooo not alone in the "all of this crap is driving me crazy" feeling that I've had. As a matter of fact, it seems to be the prominent theme of the "mom blogs" that I follow. One mom has vowed to spend Lent completing a 15 minute organization project a day. At first, it doesn't seem in keeping with the idea of Lent, but once you think about it as simplifying your life in order to focus on what is important. Anyway, I can get behind this. Completely. I took time last night to organize the top of my desk and found: the Valentine's card that I meant to send to my niece, a 5% off at Target that expired in January, coupons that expired in December, and well, you get the point.

Another mother quoted herself as saying "Do I have to do every fucking thing around here?!?" I can totally relate to that one as well. Truthfully, I am surprised that my head has not spun completely around while smoke and fire pour out of my eyes and ears. "NOW!" has become my mantra (that is if a mantra can be roared while a child looks at you with squinty eyes muttering "Alright! Jeez."

Well, mothers of the world I feel you. We have been trapped in the house for the longest, coldest, snowiest winter in history. Our children are no longer delighted with the simple things like playing in the snow. Instead they eat their way through the house shedding clothing and stuff, complaining "ohmygodimsobored!"

There have been plenty of wonderful moments and memories created during this winter. Those are all for a different post. Right now, I am wondering "is there such a thing as a snow day where kids go to school and the teachers stay home?"

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Taming Chaos

I had a minor melt down one morning this week. It wasn't a bad one and it was totally justified and Rob didn't even get frustrated (at least during the opening act of said melt down, my melt downs usually come in acts). I have mentioned before that I looove lists. My friend posted a list (in slide show form which really isn't a list and is super annoying, but I digress) of the top ten ways to help people deal with their depression. What was number one? Help them manage the clutter!!! Oh my God, that is just what I need. I am drowning in my house. I can never take the time to figure out what needs to stay or go around this joint because I am too busy picking up after the rest of the household. I feel like I am stuck in the worst maternal themed Twilight Zone episode where you find yourself starting the same damn task (clearing the papers on your desk), but never finish because soda leaked all over the fridge and floor, the right pair of jeans were not clean for Lily, the dog peed again, and so on and so on.

This is the way my brain works: two competing conversations demanding to be written in a list, surrounded by back ground music being interrupted by childhood memories, which are then being interrupted by a screaming voice demanding that whatever has been forgotten is remembered and dealt with right now, which results in a racing heart beat, dry mouth, and general confusion and panic. Because I live with and navigate through this internal chaos everyday, I am an awesome at dealing with the insanity that is normally a first grade classroom. People ask me how I do it, and I always reply "These are my people." Very few understand how true that is. When it seems like I am ignoring you? I 'm not. Your words have not reached their destination yet. Think of my mind as a crowded dance club; what you're telling me has to push its way past the bar and DJ. Problem is my brain often mixes up what's been said. Classic example: I was washing dishes and lesson planning in my head while bouncing around some blog ideas. News radio was on because I think better with repetitive background noise. I heard what I thought was an ad for reversing hearing loss (I have high frequency hearing loss on top of everything else). I shut the door on everything else in my mind and REALLY focused on the commercial. It was an ad for reversing HAIR loss. At least I can see the humor in my mess ups.

Anyway, back to the meltdown. In order to keep up with a brain like mine, I need to function in an organized space. I am a creature of habit. If I put my brush in the hair brush basket, it had better be there the next day. If it isn't, it leads to confusion and guilt (see the post after this one). However, my family never puts things in the same place twice!!! They also shed their stuff like hyper snakes who have to dart from room shedding and can't possibly do it in one place. It is also Girl Scout cookie season and between that and violin and yoga (which is supposed to relax me), I've had no time to clean or fold laundry. My house had achieved "kiddy frat house" status.

I needed help with the clutter, so after my mild flip out, I asked Rob for help. He agreed that he and the kids would help this weekend. Problem solved, right? No. Remember all of those competing convos in my head? They had made lots of valid points about why Rob and the girls should help (I gave up a cleaning service so we could afford the girls' activities, they should respect me, I am too tired after cleaning to be any fun, I spend so much time cleaning, I never get to do anything else....). Once the arguments are created, they have to come out. So I kept going. I would leave a room, come back and make a point. Go to work, come home and make a point. This particular quality of mine is probably the one that annoys my husband the most. I try very hard to swallow my points.

We did spend the weekend cleaning up. Hopefully it lasts more than one day.