Month: February 2014
I haven’t spent much time with the kids this week. I sunk into a brief depression while they were at school (for two days) and then chauffeured them around carefully and cheerfully when they got home.
I’m not quite over being viciously attacked by my friend, but I decided that the best revenge was to get on with my happy life, and let her live hers.
Then our basement flooded with raw sewage. That was a nice distraction.
The good news is that Bill stayed home from work to take care of the raw sewage. (I told you he treats me like a queen and he can fix things!) Then, because he was home early, he drove Shane to his acting class.
Shane loves his class. Sometimes, though, I think he loves it because he goes to California Tortilla before class to eat dinner and drink soda. There isn’t a lot of soda-drinking at home. Plus, the machine at Cal Tort has special features that allow him to add flavoring to a wide variety of soft drinks.
Anyway, with Shane and Bill gone, I picked up Dylan after school.
Well, I picked up Dylan after his play rehearsal, and after his trip to the grocery store with his friends. He actually wanted to go to the grocery store with his friends.
By then, it was so late that Dylan and I went out to dinner.
So – finally – I spent some time with a kid. And oh, what quality time! We talked and laughed and had a marvelous time. It only lasted maybe 37 minutes, and then Dylan went back to texting, but those 37 minutes were true bliss.
He talked about school. He talked about morning show. He talked about rehearsal. He shared jokes with me, and I shared them with him. It seems simple, but given that there has been so much grunting lately in place of talking, this was a wonderful evening.
Gotta love How to Talk So Kids Will Listen. I blame the book for every positive moment since I started to re-read it. I even found a new book – one I don’t own (yet) – that I think I’d best read, too: How to Talk So TEENS Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk. How perfect!
We LAUGHED today. A lot.
What an incredible blessing.
Yesterday, from out of the blue, someone stabbed me with the statement that I consistently crush my sons’ inspirations. “You stomp on their joy and dreams,” she told me.
This came from someone I’ve known for 30 years – but who has never even met my children. She’s never seen me with them. She’s never even read my blog! (Which is good, for today anyway.) She also has no husband, or children, of her own, so she has no idea how painful mother-cutting comments can be.
As a matter of fact, I lost touch with her for more than a decade, during which time I got married, had my babies and became a wonderfully supportive, kind, caring, loving mom.
It’s who I am. It’s what I do. It’s everything to me.
Yet, thanks to my own insecurities, I spent the entire day doubting myself. Maybe, I thought, she knows something I don’t.
She said (and again I quote), “I think you are unhappy and unsatisfied with your life at a deep level and project your misery onto others.”
This is a sickness, I realize. How could I doubt my very core? This woman lives 400 miles away and has only seen me for two hours in 20 years. She may have known me when I was 20, but she has absolutely no idea who I am now if she can claim that I am a dream-crusher carelessly tossing misery onto my kids.
Am I unhappy? NO. Emphatically, NO – I am actually incredibly happy. I adore my life. I’m quite possibly the luckiest person in the world! And I think my kids see that I feel this way, day in and day out. We have a gorgeous life. We talk about God. We live with God. I don’t want to get all preachy, but it’s impossible to live with God in gratitude and be miserable at the same time.
Unsatisfied? Another emphatic NO. How could I be even remotely unsatisfied? I have an exciting, fulfilling life. I am a writer, a teacher, a softball player and a dog fanatic. I have a husband who treats me like a queen, who is funny and brilliant and knows how to fix broken things. I have two challenging and incredible boys who teach me something new every day. I treasure the moments we spend together, and I add as much joy to their lives as I can. I listen to them intently to find out what they love, then I nurture their passions to the extreme.
For example, Shane wants to be a magician. As a career. He spends his days flipping cards around in fancy ways and practicing sleight-of-hand tricks he’s learned from one of his gazillion magic books. He’s been doing this for two years. He is going to be a great magician. Why would I squash that? It’s not a lucrative career move, but if that’s what he wants to do, he should do it.
And Dylan wanted to go to MIT and be a world-class engineer. I know that MIT is notoriously the hardest college in the world to get into – but did I squash that dream? NO. I told him to work really hard and get good grades and he could go to MIT.
Then, a few weeks ago, when he decided to give up MIT and become a disc jockey instead – I supported that, too. He’s already got a gig lined up in April with a friend of mine, who happens to be a DJ.
So, do I project my misery onto others? NO.
Except today, because I am miserable, thinking that this woman I loved for so long has no idea who I am. So I am projecting my misery onto all the folks who are reading this and thinking, gee, where’s all the funny stuff about brilliant and bouncy kids?
Well, it will be back in a day or two, I’m sure. Just as soon as I remove the boulder from my gut and crawl out of the sudden and dramatic hole I’ve been pushed into.
Which will happen at my insistence as soon as the kids get home from school. They, thankfully, don’t even know this happened. I wouldn’t want to project any misery onto them, not even for a second.
It’s time, again, to learn how to talk to my kids. After a week or two of grunting and groaning and moaning – and nothing else – from Dylan, I got out the book.
I first read How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk when I wanted Dylan, then my preschooler, to pay attention to the things I said. It didn’t seem right that I had to call him two, three, even four times before he responded.
Little did I know that he was classically ADHD and would require being called a dozen times or more, often, before he hit puberty.
Anyway, now I am re-reading How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk because Dylan had completely stopped talking to me.
On the way to his youth group at church last week, I got the idea that the problem might – just might – be me. We were in the car, alone. It was only a five-minute drive.
I was yacking about something for a full two minutes before I realized that he wasn’t responding. He may have been listening. Heck, he may even have been grunting. But he sure wasn’t doing what I wanted him to do, which was to hold an adult conversation with me – which, by the way, wasn’t the least bit relevant to him.
“Why aren’t you talking to me?!” I finally screeched. “I keep talking and talking and you don’t say anything at all!” I didn’t give him any time to respond. “You just don’t care about me at all!”
Dylan grumbled, “Just because I don’t talk all the time doesn’t mean I don’t care about you. I’m just tired, all right?”
This “tired” tactic has worked for him in the past. But this time, not so much.
“Seriously, Dylan,” I said, “If you hate me, I’d like to know now. Really. Is it me? Or is it you?”
“Yes,” he stated emphatically.
That’s when I realized it was ME. That’s also – thank God – when we reached the church and I somehow managed to let him go inside without making an even worse mess of things.
I happen to own a copy of How to Talk… so I had no trouble starting to read it again right away. And as soon as I opened the book, I knew I had come to the right place.
It suggests, for example, that parents should not respond to everything kids do with a lecture. Go figure!
The book also says that perhaps parents would have better luck getting them to talk if we didn’t give them advice before they are finished talking. Who knew!
I won’t go into great detail about what the book says. It’s a whole book. This is the parenting Bible, and everyone should own a copy. But suffice it to say, I’ve been reading for several days and our family has had a much smoother, more peaceful and happier weekend. And Dylan and I have even been talking.
To think: once again, I had to change.
Dylan and I took yet another trip to the neurologist this week.
Let’s recap what we’ve learned so far.
1. Dylan can’t take stimulants anymore. They make him suicidal.
2. High blood pressure medication doesn’t help at all.
3. Anti-depressants help a tiny bit, but not a lot.
So today we went to the doctor again, knowing there were no other options – and knowing that his current medication, at its highest dose, is simply not enough.
The neurologist asked lots of questions, looked over the forms teachers had completed and sent in, and took lots of notes. She did another very thorough physical exam.
During every visit, she asks him to remember 3 words – and then, much later, asks him to repeat those 3 words. The first time Dylan attempted this, in 4th grade, he could only remember one word.
Today, she gave him 4 words – and he remembered all 4.
“He looks good,” she said. “I don’t know what to recommend for medication. He may not need anything at all.” Still, she’s a doctor, so she wrote a prescription for a different anti-depressant – to supplement the one he’s already on.
He’s not depressed, but he’s going to take 5 anti-depressant tablets a day – and that’s the low dose. I was feeling a bit apprehensive.
Then she said, “He’s getting good grades, A’s and B’s, and the medication isn’t helping that much. So if the main problem is that he’s not turning in his work on time, what he really needs might be an executive functioning coach.”
I almost gasped. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all he needs is to learn how to organize himself?!
She talked about agendas, white boards, electronic calendars and other strategies for organizing what needs to be done. Not coincidentally, these are the same things we talk about at the IEP meetings.
That’s when I remembered.
“Dylan doesn’t want to use any of those things,” I said. And Dylan, who had done little but grunt for three days, didn’t disagree.
“You have to learn,” she told Dylan. “It is your choice. You have to learn how to do these things, whatever way you can. You may be outgrowing your ADHD, and you will still need to learn this. It’s up to you. Maybe you don’t have to take any pills.”
I asked for the name of a good meditation coach. The pediatrician (last week) recommended meditation as a way to learn focus. I mentioned a $6,000 treatment that is also a computer game, that’s supposed to train your brain.
“Do Lumosity,” she said.
“The pediatrician said that, too!” I almost screamed. “But I couldn’t remember the name! What’s it called?”
She told me again. She said it’s a brain-training computer game. It does not cost $6,000. It is free.
Prescription in hand, and the word lumosity floating around in my head, we headed out the door. Hopeful, for the first time in ever.
I cracked an egg into a bowl for Dylan’s breakfast.
Eggs have choline in them. Choline is important for brain development and (I read somewhere) can help ADHD kids to focus better in school. We stumbled upon this news after discovering that Dylan did better during the holiday season, when he was drinking eggnog instead of milk with breakfast.
So he eats an egg at least three times a week when school is in session. Dylan likes scrambled eggs.
But the egg I cracked into the bowl was perfect. The yolk wasn’t even wobbly, let alone broken. It looked like a commercial for eggs.
I thought, Gee, I’m hungry. I’d like to have an egg over-easy with toast.
That thought, however, was quickly followed with a look at the clock. Dylan would be downstairs for breakfast in only 4 minutes. I wanted him to have a healthy, piping hot breakfast.
So I broke the yolk, scrambled the egg, added cheese and – voila! – made breakfast for Dylan. Then I cracked another egg, so that I could have my over-easy egg with toast.
But I broke the second yolk. So I scrambled it up, added some cheese, and stuffed it into the refrigerator for Dylan’s breakfast tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Dylan’s first egg was getting cold. He still wasn’t downstairs for breakfast.
I cracked another egg for myself. The yolk broke. I am not a cook. I am not an expert egg-breaker. But when the yolk broke this time, I almost cried. I threw it down the sink (organic and expensive though it was) and gave up on breakfast.
Meanwhile, Dylan still wasn’t at the table. He showed up almost 15 minutes late – and ate his cold, once perfect egg without a thought to me, or my morning.
So on the drive to school, I told him the whole story. Broke the egg, blah blah blah, scrambled, blah blah, hungry, blah blah blah.
Then, since he didn’t respond to that, I started to lecture Dylan about how late he was to the table, about how I could have eaten breakfast before he ever got down there and still scrambled an egg for him that still would have been cold because he was so late.
When he didn’t respond to that, I yelled at him for not wearing a coat when it’s 30 degrees outside.
And the whole time I was doling out my lectures and egg stories, I was complaining about the horrific traffic, the way people were driving (in the snow) and how late he was going to be for school because he didn’t get downstairs on time.
Then I screamed, THANKS MOM! at him, hoping he would finally realize what I was looking for. Though at that point, I’m not sure even I knew what I wanted.
He hadn’t said much of anything all day but he finally mumbled, “Thanks, Mom.”
“Just ONCE!” I yelled. “Just ONCE it would be nice if I didn’t have to ASK for a thank you! What happened to that sweet kid? Where did he go? I thought he was still in there! Why do I have to ask for a simple thank you?!”
We pulled into the school parking lot.
“I’ll pick you up after school,” I said. “No problem.”
“Thanks, bye,” he said. And raced into the school.
I wonder why he was in such a hurry?
Yesterday, Shane said to me, “Mom, since I don’t see Daddy very often, can I have some special time with him today or tomorrow?”
“I think so,” I told him. “Perhaps you should ask Daddy.”
Bill was sitting right next to me. He didn’t ask Bill. And Bill, of course, didn’t hear the question. He was on the computer, otherwise focused.
“Bill,” I said, “did you hear that?”
“Huh? What?” Bill mumbled, looking away from the computer screen, as if we had distracted him from something very important.
“Shane would like to have some special time with you,” I told him. “Do you think you could do that?”
“Sure,” Bill said. “Just give me a few minutes.”
Eventually, they had some special time together. They went shopping for Pokemon cards and Shane was happy as could be. But I had to wonder how their special time works together.
Dylan has ADHD, and he has been diagnosed with it, so Bill probably has ADHD, too. He’s never been diagnosed, but the more I learn about Dylan, the more I learn about Bill.
For whatever reason, it is incredibly frustrating with Bill. I feel like he should have outgrown some of this disorganization, this inability to hear what’s being said to him – or even around him. Like he should be over it by now. Like it’s his fault, since he hasn’t figured out a better way to be.
I never worry about Bill and Dylan together. They think the same way. They communicate the same way. Dylan is never ignored – or if he is, he doesn’t notice it.
Shane, however, thinks differently. Between vision processing disorder and his generally quiet, focused, philosophical demeanor, Shane is different than Bill.
We were in a line for a ski lift this weekend for half an hour. We got in the singles line, hoping it would be faster. Bill got in front of Shane and I was four people in front of Bill. I looked back several times. Not once did Bill turn around to talk to Shane, the little guy behind him, all alone in the line.
It was prime “special time” for the pair, but Bill didn’t even think about it. He was focused on getting to the front of the line, moving his skis three inches at a time.
I treasure that time with Shane – every moment that we’re stuck in a line together, or in a waiting room, or having nothing to do. We make up games, talk about our favorite things, plan for upcoming vacations (even if they’re months away).
Shane and I think the same way. It’s easy for us to have special time together – anytime.
Bill and Shane are going to have to find their own way, forge their own type of relationship.
Sometimes for me, though, it’s just painful to watch.
It snowed. It snowed and it snowed and it snowed. Finally, it stopped. Then it snowed some more.
While this is a big issue for adults, and there are concerns about road conditions and work, my kids were overjoyed. School was cancelled before a single flake fell, and we’ve been given a 5-day vacation.
We have a wonderful neighbor who helps to plow out our driveway, and Bill and I started shoveling right away.
Our trampoline was covered in more than a foot of snow. So I sent out the boys with shovels to rediscover the bounce in the trampoline.
Half an hour later, Shane came inside. “Can we be done now?” he begged.
I looked outside. “It’s still covered in snow!” I exclaimed, seeing the sag of the center almost to the ground.
“But we’re tired and we want to go sledding!” Shane said.
“Ten more minutes of shoveling,” I told them. “Then you can get your sleds.”
Dylan whined and groaned and moaned from where he lay on his back in the snow. “We’ve been working SO HARD this WHOLE TIME!” he groaned. “It’s going to take another THREE HOURS to get all this snow off!”
“You have ten minutes,” I told him, and closed the door.
I set the timer.
Ten minutes later, I opened the door and yelled, “Time’s up! Go play!”
Dylan lay dramatically on his back, unable to move. Shane trudged across the yard to get to his sled, then threw himself down on the deck, not moving while he waited for his brother.
For the most part, I ignored them.
Ten minutes later, the boys were beaming as they plodded through the snow and rode their sleds down the front porch. Their smiles were brighter than the reflection of the snow. They played and rolled around and sledded down snow mounds. They had a ball.
If nothing else, I learned that I should not give in to their whining, nor should I make a big issue of yelling back at them while they are complaining. They got their work done, and then they played. And they felt good about themselves, having done a good job. And they had a blast playing, too.
Kinda like life.
Valentines Day is coming, and my seventh grader has a girlfriend. They think it’s an actual holiday.
“We want to go to Caribou and then go to the movies,” Dylan said.
“You can’t just go to Caribou and then go to the movies,” I said. “You can walk to Caribou, but how are you going to get to the movies?”
“I thought you could take us,” said Dylan.
I’m starting to see how teenagers get chauffeured all over creation without any thought to the parents’ well being.
“Let me get this straight,” I said. “You want me to let you go to Caribou after school, for however long you wish. Then you want me to come and pick you up and transport you across town to the movies. Then I suppose you want me to come back two hours later and pick you up.”
“Yeah,” he said.
“Okay, Dylan,” I said. “You can do something on Valentine’s Day. But please think of the details. Pick a movie that you want to see. Find out what time it starts. Figure out where you want to eat preferably near the movie theater, and how long it will take to eat. I need to know what time you need to be dropped off, and what time you need to be picked up. And also, I need to hear from your girlfriend’s mother, to be sure this is all okay with her.”
The whole conversation took place last night. It is now 18 hours later. Dylan has decided to eat somewhere near the movie theater. He doesn’t know what movie he’s going to see, or what time it starts. I haven’t heard from girlfriend’s mother. It would be nice if we could each take a driving shift.
Then there’s the concern that I’m dropping off two pre-teens for several hours. Alone.
“It’s Valentine’s Day, Mom,” Dylan said. As if it were just a step lower than Christmas on the scale of specialness.
And yet, he hasn’t worked out a single detail. Having a husband who has planned exactly one date in 15 years, I am now convinced that the “planning gene” – or lack thereof – is genetic.
After posting last week about dizzy spells, I started to feel a tad nauseous and very tired. I convinced myself that I was having a heart attack at 10:30 p.m., and instead of going to bed (which would have been the normal, better idea), I went to the E.R. By the time I got there, my heart was racing, my left hand was feeling numb and tingly and I was sure I was going to die.
I was not having a heart attack.
In fact, I was not having anything at all, except that same vertigo I’d been dealing with for two weeks.
But in my panicked state, and with a five-hour wait ahead of me in the E.R. waiting room, I somehow caused my symptoms. I mean, my hands were actually losing feeling. I went up to the check-in window again and begged to be seen, convinced that I could drop dead at any minute.
They called me in quickly after that, and did a quick EKG. The EKG determined that my heart was fine – so I went back out into the waiting room, at which point my symptoms completely disappeared and I went to sleep in a chair.
Over the course of the next 8 hours, I got a CAT scan of my brain to rule out tumors and a chest x-ray, in case the EKG missed something. They took blood, too. They ruled out everything that might cause dizziness – and then some.
So, you say, what the HECK does that have to do with parenting?
Besides announcing to the world that I possibly had a psychosomatic panic attack, the only thing I thought about in my state of possible heart-attacked-ness, is that I had to be healthy to take care of my kids. I didn’t think (sadly) about my husband, who would of course be lost without me. I didn’t think about my parents, who were living it up in the Carribbean. I did text one friend, who awesomely answered texts until 1 a.m., but I wasn’t worried about her living without me.
I was only worried about the kids. It’s like my entire purpose for living is that those kids need me. And what if – and this COULD happen! – what if the kids grow up? What if they do exactly what they are supposed to do, and grow up, and become self-sufficient? Then what will I do?
I always said, this is why I play softball – so I’ll have a life outside of my kids. But gosh, it’s winter. And softball is only going to carry me so far.
I guess I’m writing this just to admit that I now know that my kids are my only reason for living.
And, thank God – and there was much prayer while I was in the hospital, so I am thanking God – I have another day to live. For them, or whatever – I still have the chance to be here for them.
Just for today.
I have DPPV, which sounds awful, but it’s not. It’s just this inner ear thing that causes me to sometimes feel dizzy for no good reason.
So for a week, I’ve been having this DPPV – again – and I know what it is, but I can’t help thinking, What if this time, it’s a brain tumor? Then I worry that I will die in my sleep.
And my next worry is Shane. I can keep myself up for hours with the thought that I might die, and no one will be here to take care of Shane.
My husband, Bill, is a wonderful man. He takes care of the house and the cars, plus he runs a bank in his spare time. He’s kind and caring and compassionate. He’s smart, funny and polite. He’s a great role model.
But he is also a lot like Dylan. In a way, this is great. He’s a genius and can figure out anything. He can fix anything. But he has to be reminded about simple stuff, like throwing away the rotten food in the fridge. Things are in piles everywhere because he doesn’t throw anything away, and he doesn’t organize anything. And Bill is distracted by everything. So he can relate well to Dylan.
Shane is another story. Shane is calm and reserved and quiet. When he does choose to speak, Bill talks right over him.
At dinner, Shane will say, “Remember that time when…” and Bill will blurt, “So what did everyone do in school today?” in his booming voice. He simply doesn’t hear him, even when the two of them are alone.
Shane is an introvert. Like me, he prefers solitude and deep thought to being swallowed up by a large group of people. Bill is an extrovert, and gets his energy from people. Bill can’t understand being exhausted by people, or wanting to step away from them for clarity. Bill loves Shane deeply. He just doesn’t always know how to listen.
Shane is also a genius, but things come to him in a rather inside-out way. His thinking jumps from tiny details directly to life-affirming profundities. Shane’s thoughts are sometimes so monumental that only a handful of people could grasp them out of context. They’ll start with something simple and end with something very deep – and most people get the simple but miss the deep.
This is not a real example. But Shane will say something out-of-the-blue like, “I think that the evil guy from the movie last night is just like Snape from Harry Potter. Because even though Snape isn’t really evil, he said that thing about treating Harry like any other student. And Harry isn’t really like any other student, which is just like when the evil guy looked at the girl and smiled and did that thing with his eyebrows. He knows more than pure evil, you know?”
And I will, oddly enough, know exactly what Shane is talking about, and be able to then do a comparison between the two characters, and we will talk for awhile about what constitutes good and what constitutes evil.
Bill, however, would say “uh-huh” – like he does to me – then ask if Shane thinks it is going to rain today.
When Shane was in kindergarten, his teacher made a comment that stuck with me because it was the first time I realized that Shane was like me. She said, “I just love his ideas. They’re so out-of-the-box.”
Up until kindergarten, I thought Shane was the only normal person in the family. When she said that, I realized that he was just different in the same way that I was different – which is why it is so easy for me to relate to him.
He needs me. So it’s a good thing I’m feeling less dizzy today.