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Patience And Foortitude, Part 7? Asked And Answered (And Asked)

February 16, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m pretty sure I wore a bewildered or bemused expression on my face for most of the evening, and am even more certain that it would be better to transcribe than to try and further explain the bizarre conversations I took part in today.

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3:30pm – walking home from school

James: Why do people yawn?

Me: Why do you think they yawn?

James: Because it’s morning.

Me: What?

James: And you know what morning means – breakfast.

Me: What does that have to do with yawning?

James: Why does that ambulance have its siren on?

Me: Why do you think?

James: Because it’s an emergency and someone is hurt.

Me: Why do fire trucks put sirens on?

James: To get to a fire.

Me: Why do police?

James: They put it on when they see robbers running away. Robbers steal toys from little children.

Me: What? How about the police help people in emergencies?

James: How do you like my haircut?

Me: I think it’s very handsome.

James: Why?

Me: Why what?

James: Why is it handsome?

Me: Why?

James: Because of Alex.

Me: Who’s Alex?

James: The man who cut my hair.

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4:45PM

Me (to Adam): Where is your peach?

A: Bath

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5:15PM

Me (to Margaret): Where are your underwear?

Marg: I need new ones.

Me: Again? Why?

Marg: Because I peed.

Me: In your underwear?

Marg: No! In the potty. I already wore those underwear.

Me: Are they wet?

Marg: No. I need fresh ones.

James: I need fresh ones too.

Me: What? Why?

James: I don’t know.

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5:25PM

James: Mom, can you come get this?

Me: what?

James: Mom, can you help me? Can you get this thing out of the shower?

Me: What? Is it a bug?

James: No.

Me: What is it?

James: I think it’s a piece of fruit.

Me: What?

James: It’s fruit.

Me: What fruit?

James: A peach.

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6:20PM – Dinner

Marg: Can I have a napkin?

Me (to James): Can you please pass this napkin to your sister?

James takes the napkin, wipes his mouth with it and crumples it into a ball next to his plate.

Me: James, can you please pass this napkin to your sister?

James takes the napkin, wipes his mouth with it and crumples it into a ball next to his plate.

Marg: Mom!

Me: James, can you please take this napkin and look at me? Can you not wipe your mouth with this one and pass it to your sister?

James does not respond, I toss a napkin to Marg across the table. Us girls share a look.

James: Can I get another shoulder?

Me: What?

James: Another shoulder of crackers?

Me: Do you mean another sleeve?

James: A pack of crackers?

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7:00PM 

Me (checking the shower, oops): Where is the peach?

James: The peach?

Me: Where is it?

James: What peach?

Me: Where is the peach in the shower!?

James: Oh, you removed it.

Me: I did?

James: Yeah, you removed it.

Me: Where did I put it?

James: I don’t know.

Me: I don’t know either.

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Bonus Question: How many questions did I actually answer?

Patience and Foortitude, Part 6: Through The Looking Glass (A Bird’s-Eye View)

January 26, 2012 1 comment

It’s been a really rough, long night. But in “special needs land” rough doesn’t always mean fighting, tantrums, illness or accidents. I often get to the end of one of these doozies and think to myself, how on earth could I ever explain to anyone why tonight was so utterly exhausting? How could I even explain tonight, period? So instead of regaling you with the half a dozen ways this evening was difficult (look at me not  exaggerating numbers – go new year’s resolutions!) I am going to just share one story in particular to better describe the rabbit hole I find myself in from time to time.

Tonight I baked cookies with the kids for our bedtime treat – it’s a fun, less rowdy activity to get everyone geared down for the evening. We were all feasting on cookies and milk at the table when I noticed that James had suddenly and quietly begun weeping into his hands.

“James, what on earth is wrong?” I asked. No answer. “James? Are you okay?” Nothing. “Okay, James you have to tell me what is going on.”

“Just a sad video,” he mumbled. “What?” I asked. I had no idea what he could be referring to since we had not been “plugged in” for at least 30 minutes.

“There was a really sad video,” he said again. He continued to cry in earnest as his two younger siblings devoured their cookies, oblivious (or just used to?) the meltdown James was having.

I started to get a bad feeling because he had been watching youtube on his ipod earlier in the evening – occasionally he has stumbled onto weird, not-so-great things (searching for trains, gets a train crash). We’ve tried to filter/block what we can and are vigilant about checking his ipod, but with the busy evening had I missed something?

“What was the sad video?” I asked nonchalantly.

“It’s about a parrot,” James sobbed. “It was really sad.”

So I got his ipod and looked up the video and my heart sank – the last title was “Kill Senegal Parrot – Christmas Parrot.” What the hell kind of sick stuff had he stumbled onto?

“James, what have you been watching?! We’ve talked about youtube!”

“It’s so sad mom,” he cried into his hands.

I turn back with a sick pit in my stomach, to force myself to watch the video that has so horribly upset James. And then I did a double take.

Kili Senegal Parrot – Christmas Parrot. Not Kill. Kili…?

I clicked on the link and watched the minute and a half tearjerker unfold before my eyes. I encourage you to watch the video as well by going to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lBiurZe9QU, so you can fully appreciate why James was so distraught this evening.

I hope you enjoyed watching this video half as much as I did (though giddy with relief, I mercifully kept all smirks to myself around James). How will I ever be able to properly filter my son’s videos? Is there a G+ rating for “includes dramatic music?”

Has anyone else experienced this “phobia of emotional music” before? It seems to be intensifying in James – tonight he cried about this video for several hours, even as I made fake retching sounds while reading Garfield comic strips to him as part of his bedtime reading (I was that desperate). He asked me if his glass of water “would make him feel less sad” and as I left his room told me to see if I could find happier videos on his ipod for the morning.

But let me ask you, what is happier than watching Kili eat nuts from a Christmas stocking?

Patience And Foortitude, Part whatever: A Special Needs Brainteaser – Can You Find The Dumpling?

December 9, 2011 Leave a comment

“Mom, I’m done.”

“But you hardly ate anything.”

“I’m full. I feel sick.”

“Okay then just sit here with me for a minute.”

“Could I have more dumplings?”

“If you want more dumplings you need to eat 3 more bites of chicken.”

“Okay.”

James is motivated by dumplings to eat anything. I really hate to divulge my secret recipe (passed down from my own mother) but there is little more than flour and water to it. James has never been a picky eater – in fact up until recently it was just the opposite. But his new meds have really diminished his appetite and sometimes getting him to eat anything these days – ice cream, ramen noodles, lasagna – is impossible. Unless it’s dumplings, or something that will be rewarded with dumplings.

Despite James’s numerous medical, developmental, and social issues, we have been very lucky to have an affectionate, loving, generally well-behaved child. But since Thanksgiving break (more appropriately dubbed Thanksgiving breakdown) James has been having a rough time (to put it mildly). For lack of a more graceful adjective, he has been acting “more disabled.”  He has been more short-tempered when his siblings are being noisy, more obsessive about his handwriting being just so, more defiant about beginning everyday tasks before he is “ready” (shower, homework), and more prone to making random noises, talking to himself, and dramatic tears. His para has also noticed some changes at school.

The morning routine tragedy is manifesting itself as a pit of anxiety in my stomach every morning and a bout of insomnia in the evenings. A while ago I wrote a “thank you note” post for James’s new alarm clock, which reset a difficult morning ritual into a fresh, effective wake-up call. Then last month James decided that he could no longer tolerate the “scary, loud” car noises his alarm made (the Hot Wheels alarm he had carefully selected), so we switched it to the traditional radio station wake up. Since Thanksgiving break even the radio alarm has become a source of misery, and there have only been 3 peaceful mornings (including last Saturday and Sunday when James was allowed to sleep in).

I’ve been hesitant to write this post because I don’t want the stigma of “behavior problems” to follow (or precede) a child with such an unblemished behavioral record, so let me say right off the bat that what you are about to read has in no way carried over to James’s school life (and believe me, I’ve asked). I’ve also been hesitant because I’m just not sure I can do justice to the trauma that is becoming the first 20 minutes of every morning.

There are a few variations on the morning theme, because I sincerely believe that I have tried everything short of screaming and corporal punishment at this point. But in general, the morning starts off with the alarm clock playing music. James gets out of bed to turn the alarm off – this involves stomping over to it, shouting at the “bad” alarm clock, or sometimes just slamming it off and going back to bed. About 5% of the time James actually remains out of bed and goes to the bathroom, where he sits groggily for as long as I let him – 15 minutes would not be unusual if I was in the kitchen packing lunches. The other 95% of the time James gets back into bed and goes back to sleep or pulls the covers over his head and waits for me to come into the room.

Upon entering the room James is either sleeping or sees me come in and immediately says “It’s not morning” or “No, I’m too tired.” I have come bearing pills, gifts, bribes, threats, songs, tickles, hugs, stories, surprises, breakfast menus – it is no use. He refuses to get out of the bed to get dressed. After about 5 minutes of futility I finally pull the covers off of the bed, to which he responds with screaming. It gets even better if I have to lift him out of the bed and carry him to the clothes – though he has lost a significant amount of weight it is still quite a sight to see me wrestle a flailing, yelling, 5-foot tall boy to a standing position.

Once finally out of bed and realizing that the morning is in fact here, James resigns himself to putting his clothes on while talking back, slamming doors, or throwing toys around. Or, on less dramatic mornings (about 50% of the time) he sits on the side of his bed with one leg in his underwear, where he remains frozen in place as I check in every 5 minutes to encourage progress and dish out strikes.

Yep, strikes. The “strike system” has been effective for a long time in our household – 3 strikes and you lose a privilege or 3 strikes and you go to timeout, depending on what is realistic in the moment. James’s three main privileges are Wii, computer time and TV time. A strike can be issued for anything from talking back to not following directions (the fifth time) to fighting with siblings, you get the drift. James has lost the Wii and computer every morning since Thanksgiving weekend, and has lost TV more than 3 times in two weeks, which is highly unusual. That is a total of 6-9 strikes per morning (and my husband feels like I am being kind).

Now though I am usually able to issue strikes and get James moving without raising my voice, the ordeal is nothing if not noisy. By the time James is dressed, strikes have been issued, threats have been made, and James has fallen into full blown hysteria. Loud hysteria that sometimes wakes my two sleeping toddlers. When my two sleeping toddlers wake, my husband usually follows suit. Needless to say, nobody is happy about being woken up this early (especially my husband).

But now James is dressed. And happy. He comes to the kitchen to tell me he’s sorry and he’s going to be good today. I give him his medication (which will conveniently take effect as he goes to school). He starts his rambling chitchat about breakfast food and what day it is and what he will do at school today. He says “I love you” half a dozen times. I look at the clock – it’s been anywhere from 20-45 minutes since he was woken up. I’ve been up for an hour and already feel drained and exhausted, but am also relieved that the worst is over.

Unless he woke everyone else up. In that case the babies are up and crying and my husband is up and angry. Angry that James woke everyone up and angry that James was screaming at me. And frustrated that my disciplinary approach is obviously not working. I’m not complaining about my husband, I’m frustrated too. But if my husband is upset, chances are that James will soon be upset again too. At this point I would do almost anything to keep the peace.

So where, I ask you, is the dumpling?

Before you come up with an answer to this riddle that would probably work on a typical child, consider these clues:

1) James doesn’t seem to care if he loses his privileges anymore – he is perfectly happy (alot of the time) to read a book, play with toys, or just to stare at the ceiling and make noises in his room when he doesn’t have the Wii, computer or TV available to him. So strikes and privileges have lost a lot of their effect over the last couple of weeks.

2) James is pre-medication when he is woken. One of his pills must be taken in the morning and lasts for around 10 hours to get him through the school day. It is hard to know if he is unresponsive to direction because he is so out of it when he wakes up or because he is being defiant (probably a mixture of both).

3) I have tried both negative and positive reinforcement. I have issued strikes and offered gold stars toward a big prize. I have offered small prizes like wonton soup for breakfast or doing a Mad Lib together before school if he gets ready quickly enough. I have threatened that Santa is watching and that I will drop him off at the police station instead of school if he doesn’t get dressed and stop talking back. I have stood in his room while he screams at me and hugged him as if I didn’t notice, hoping he would give up.

4) I have put him to bed anywhere from 6:30pm to 9:30pm for a total of 10-13 hours of rest/sleep. James is allowed to read for a while with a dim light on in his room because he is afraid of the dark. Sometimes he reads for an hour, sometimes for 2-3 hours. The amount of sleep he gets has not seemed to affect his willingness to wake up – he seems more concerned with the fact that “it is dark and therefore not morning” when I come to get him out of bed.

5) I don’t usually raise my voice. Even if I thought that would work it is usually early in the morning and everyone else is still asleep, so I’m trying really hard to keep things quiet.

Someone recently suggested that I threaten to pop a balloon (his #1 phobia) if he isn’t dressed in five minutes. Another suggestion was to make a loud noise like snapping a belt to startle him into moving. I understand the theory behind both (completely independent) suggestions (made days apart) but feel uncomfortable with frightening him into getting ready. Additionally, if James is frightened and then still upset upon arriving at school, he will dwell on it for half of the day. Example: someone different than usual met him at the school doors one morning last week and he worried about it all day and was still telling me about it on the way home.

I should probably ask an expert about this, but to be perfectly honest I don’t have time to go to the bathroom by myself let alone set aside time to meet with a professional, especially in the throes of touring every last middle school on earth. And besides, what better advisors to consult than other special needs parents who may be reading this and thinking, Been there, done that, or I found the dumpling!

What do you think? What is the motivation James needs to make the morning go better? Should I carry around a bag of dumplings with me at all times?

Patience and Foortitude, Part 5: Machine Gun Mouth

October 17, 2011 1 comment

It’s hard to believe James didn’t speak until he was four and a half years old.

Sometimes I have to reach deep within myself for a bit of that initial indescribable excitement I felt when he said “up,” “pluh” (please), and “muh” (more). Mere months later, after we had started to give up hope and were looking into assistive communication and teaching sign language, he was stringing words together and was well on his way to being what we refer to as “Machine Gun Mouth.”

I don’t know much about guns, but whenever I envision a machine gun I think of a blast of ammunition spraying out and random bullets hitting whatever people fall into their path. Replace “ammunition” with “conversation” and “bullets” with “words” and you have Machine Gun Mouth, aka my son James.

You probably think I’m exaggerating, or at the very least being a little bit mean. Unless, of course, you’re one of the people who spend a lot of time with James in which case I am willing to bet you chuckling at the accuracy of the above description.

I’m often walking 3 kids back and forth to school, so I’m not going to go to the effort of taping our conversations. But recently one morning my husband stayed home with the babies while I walked James and I was finally able to record about 6 minutes worth of an actual trip to school on my cell phone voicemail.

Without further adieu, here is James aka Machine Gun Mouth (my responses are in italics):

So do you love me? I love you so much. You’re the best mom (hand up for high five).

James I love you but I want you to change it up today – you can’t wake up so grumpy every morning.

I’ll change it up. See? (big smile) See? I changed it up. Okay, good.

See mom? I changed it up? Mom, look I changed it up. Yes I see James – thank you.

Mom? I’m going to change it up. Good, now stop repeating yourself please.

Oh, that’s cool. What? I don’t know. What’s cool? I don’t know.

I love you so much. Thank you. Do you love me so much? You know I always do because I’m your mom.

So, you know what my mind is thinking? No, what? How good I’m going to be today.

It’s a beautiful day today.

James, keep up. You don’t want to be late.

Mom, you’re so pretty. You’re the prettiest mom. Thank you. What do you say to me? What do I say? That I’m the most famous boy. Oh, really? Yeah, I’m the famous boy and you’re the prettiest mom.

Call of duty 4 the lethal war. What? Call of duty 4 you know, for ipod. No, what about it? Its call of duty 4, you know? The lethal war. What about it James? Why are you talking about it? Noah plays it in Schenectady (distant cousin seen once every few years) and its a shooting game. Shooting games are bad. Why are you thinking about this? Call of duty 4 is for ipod. ipad or ipod? ipod. Look at that cute black dog. Yeah that is a cute dog. Remember hally tosis and he breathed on the robbers and knocked them out with his tongue (book we read, last year)? Yeah, good old hally tosis. it was so gross, right? and the robbers went “blah” right?

Look, there’s a baseball. Baseball, huh? See it, mom? Mom – baseball is cool, huh? yep. you know, baseball. I play baseball like this (throws a pretend ball) on my team, right? Right, mom? James, look where you’re going! Don’t walk until you see the white walking man. Where do Dad and I play baseball? James, stop talking while you’re in the street – right now. Where? Do we play at Riverside Park? No talking just walking! James eyesontheroadrightnow!! Okay.

Oh, we can start talking again. Whew, we made it across the street!

Mom. mom.  yes? mom. what? mom. James spit it out. Um… I love you.

So today is a nice day right? yep.

I love you so much, do you love me so much? Yep.

It’s a nice sunny day. right mom? right? yes James.

Treat ’em right this Halloween night! (said while pointing at a passing stranger with a small dog who looked at us strangely and hurried away) What did you say? You should treat ’em right this Halloween night. Right, mom? (starting to laugh despite myself) Where did you ever think of such a thing? I learned that from Duane Reade.

So, what do you do on Halloween? Do you trick or treat? trick or treat, right? you know? what do you need? need? you know? oh, to bring a bag for candy? and what do people give you? mom? what do people give you? mom, do they give you candy? James, stop at the corner. James, right now! You need to look where you’re going – do you see the orange hand?

Now, this conversation is when it’s just James and me and yes, that was really only about 6 minutes worth of a 15 minute walk to school. Okay, go back and try to read all of the following while singing “Wheels on the Bus” and “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and you will be able to experience a tiny bit of what it’s like twice a day for me when I have the other two kids as well. If you can add your own screaming baby track in the background that’s an added bonus about 25% of the time.

Transcribing this conversation was eye-opening for me in some ways. I only said “I love you” back sometimes. I bet that looks terrible! But at what point is it okay not to say “I love you” back? The fifth time? The twentieth time? How about the fiftieth time – in one day? When you consider that James said “I love you” at least three times in six minutes you will realize that this is absolutely no exaggeration. I also noticed that many of my responses were 1-2 words, the way I respond when distracted (or trying to get out of a conversation…).

I know, I know – this is my child, for crying out loud! I’m supposed to say I love you and simultaneously be thrilled at what an affectionate little boy I’ve raised. I should also be extremely grateful because there are plenty of children who did not start talking at 4 years and are still not able to talk at 24 years old. And most of the time I am grateful, or at least cognizant of that fact, truly. But sometimes, I long for a quiet, peaceful minute, or at the very least a conversation that I can follow and be engaged in.

I’m not saying there is anything to be done about this “issue,” but a little venting goes a long way toward refilling the Patience Tank, right? As it often goes with family and loved ones, we all do things that annoy the others from time to time – biting nails, leaving dirty socks on the floor, dumping out ALL of the legos. My husband, who loves me dearly, would probably tell me not to cast the first stone regarding excessive talking.

Or should I say spray the first bullets?

Patience and Foortitude, Part 4: Why Surprises Make Me Cringe, With Surprise Special Guest

It isn’t foortitude that is driving me to stay up late and post something tonight. Nope, it is the sheer blood-rushing, pulse-racing nervous energy, left over from a week full of surprises.

The day I got back from the hospital, 24 hours after having my 3rd child, I was up sweeping the floors and cleaning up the kitchen. I had plenty of help from my husband and our moms but I was taking no chances . Our current, much larger and totally ancient UWS apartment had been more bug-friendly than our previous residence, and by October I was suffering a little PTSD from a summer of killing bugs, sweeping floors and scouring kitchens. Then, winter came and blissfully wiped any trace of creepy-crawlies from Manhattan. I still maintained my nightly cleaning routine before bed, vowing to keep our home insect-free.

So you can imagine my surprise this past Tuesday when I got home from my first date night since the baby was born (you can turn your husband’s work events into dates if you’re desperate enough), flipped on the kitchen light, and interrupted a small dinner party going on in my kitchen. My husband slept in the next room, blissfully unaware as I went into a frenzied attack on the little critters, cleaned the entire apartment top to bottom, and then stayed up until the wee hours researching non-toxic but painful roach killers (and new potential apartments).

Two days and several boric acid treatments later I was feeling mildly reassured (as long as the kitchen light stayed on all night) when – SURPRISE – a huge waterbug lazily, antagonistically crawled down the wall in our front hallway. Ryan was at work so it was all up to me (dammit!) again. After spraying the scary, scary bug thoroughly with bleach-based foaming toilet cleaner I gently tossed a long-neglected college textbook on top of it and gave a couple of carefully-placed stomps for good measure.

And just like that the bugs are back. It has come to the point where I turn on a light, wince, glance around the room, and then creep in for whatever I need, hoping nothing lunges out at me from a small crack or crevice I missed with the Windex. Who can live this way? I wasn’t really scared of bugs in the past, even roaches, though they grossed me out. It has been since my children were born that this irrational and uncontrollable fear has gripped me, kind of in the same way that James grips me when we come into contact with balloons.

So today was our appointment at the MLK Dental Center. If you remember my post about the ridiculous ordeal of making an appointment with them on the phone, you can easily imagine the trepidation I felt trekking up to the Bronx with all 3 kids, including one very nervous 10 yr old. We were going to MLK Dental to have James evaluated for sedation. It had been more than 3 years since he had been admitted and put under general anesthetic for his last routine dental work (in VA).

Since that time we had brought him to our family dentist in NYC for 2 sets of dental xrays (due to falls) and more than 5 failed appointments, where the dentist would work with James for a few minutes and then quickly give up as his loud screams interrupted patients down the hall. Finally, she recommended taking James somewhere in NYC where we could put him under again.

Though I braced myself as we approached MLK Dental, it was still a huge surprise as we walked into the waiting room/ reception area. It resembled a DMV more than a doctor’s office, let alone a pediatric or special needs environment. There was a line of 6 people waiting to check in for their appointments and a dozen more scattered around the waiting room. James was already doing his “fake-yawn-trying-not-to-cry-in-front-of-anyone” thing and my 10 month old was screaming his head off. Next to me an angry woman screamed “shut up or I’m gonna whup you” repeatedly at her own two young children while they bickered loudly with each other. The metal grated chairs were painted pale green and resembled something you would see in an old bus station – you know, the kind that are bolted together in threes? Many of the instructions and advertisements were in Spanish and I was being stared at as if I had stumbled into a private party.

I resisted the urge to bolt and waited in line. We were 45 minutes early after taking 2 subways and walking 6 blocks and I feared that we would be waiting all day in this dental clinic. I felt embarrassment well up inside of me as my 10 month old continued bawling, disappointment that this was the best my insurance could provide for my special needs child, and anxiety that I would never make it through the appointment with all 3 kids, let alone poor James.

A very pleasant receptionist took my paperwork and insurance card. She handed me a pile of papers and as I sat down to fill out the small novel several other patients entertained the babies for me while James read a book. Upon turning everything in I was given a buzzer that resembled what you would get at Shake Shack while waiting for your order. My number was 14. I asked 13, a young woman with a toddler, about how long she had been waiting. “Over 2 hours,” was her reply.

Dear God! I resumed my silent debate about cutting my losses and going home while the kids played pleasantly with their new friends. And then, miraculously, our buzzer went off. After only 15 minutes. We went up to the next floor to what looked like a dingy apartment building and were greeted by one of the best dentists in the entire world.

SURPRISE!!

How often do you get to say “surprise” in such a sincerely excited way? We were greeted by a polite, soft-spoken, interested, gentle doctor and brought into a teeny-tiny apartment-sized dental office full of other amazing dental professionals. It was like warping into the new, brightly-colored Mario world after spending some time in the dungeon level with Bowser. Within 5 minutes of asking me pertinent medical history, James was ushered into a room for evaluation. Because there was no room inside for me or the babies, we stood in the hallway while an unknowing nurse wrapped a pressure cuff around James’s arm. She told him she was going to check his muscles. Within 2 seconds of hearing this I realized what was happening, but by the time he began to get worked up she was done. Done!!! For those of you reading this with your mouths hanging open, I wouldn’t believe it myself except for I was there. James got his blood pressure taken for the first time in over 8 years without a complete breakdown. I think I checked with three different people to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. He didn’t actually get upset until the cuff was tightened but by then it was almost over – usually all he needs is to see the machine and he runs out of the room screaming.

The dental exam was also shocking in its success. The dentist and her attending were calm, friendly, matter-of-fact and effective. James, without sedation of any kind, was led through most of a regular cleaning with minimal tears and screaming. James left the dentist feeling proud and happy – where did these people come from!? The worst part of the entire appointment was finding out that I would have to call all over again (see my last post on MLK Dental) for another appointment in 6 months, but being on hold will be (almost) totally worth it to bring James back to this diamond in the rough!

I’d like to hold on to these rare, unbelievably special moments. Surprises like these make me think that good things can happen at any moment, even when I am least expecting them. It’s such a great way to approach the day (unlike the way I had approached MLK Dental in general).

When we got home I unloaded the groceries into the kitchen and noticed some coffee grinds spilled on the counter. Humming, I went to wipe them up until I recoiled in horror as I realized that my kitchen had been taken over by tiny ants (thank you, next door neighbors) while we were gone. SURPRISE!

 

 

Patience and Foortitude, Part 3: Just Foortitude This Time, With Special Guest Appearance By Windex

June 16, 2011 3 comments

As I picked up pieces of mushroom from the bathroom floor, I noticed that my foot was bleeding ever so slightly – I must have missed another tiny sliver of glass. I silently (okay, not so silently) cursed Corelle, makers of the supposedly unbreakable dishware. The only thing that kept me from becoming hysterical was brainstorming potential titles for my post this evening, because I sure as hell had a story to tell.

It started off as a Medium kind of day. James had a medium morning, not thrilled to get up but not upset enough for any theatrics. My 2 year old discovered bras today, and spent the morning putting bras on herself, her head and every stuffed animal in sight. Only medium cute after she got two clasps stuck in her hair and bent them – I don’t have that many bras. My cranky, crying, screechy, teething 8 month old was having a not-so-great day, but one out of three isn’t that bad – it’s almost a given that at least several days a week, one of the three kids is going to have a not-so-great day.

So let’s fast-forward to see how things got from Medium to Extreme (see Patience and Foortitude Part 2: Extreme Parenting).

3:00pm

I picked James up from school and we paid our fifth trip in a row to Walgreens. The pharmacy had misplaced one of his prescriptions I had dropped off the week prior, and because I might sell Vyvanse on the black market we had to have a whole new prescription written and mailed in. The pharmacy called our neurologist (who for now shall remain nameless) last Tuesday, June 7th, but apparently they did not mail a new script until Friday, June 10th. Monday, June 13th rolled around – still no script, and now I had run out of Vyvanse for James. So, since Monday we had been making a daily pilgrimage to Walgreens to check for our prescription, and when it wasn’t there, pick up a single pill to tide us over.

Today was no different – the mail from “Friday” still had not arrived. We waited for 15 minutes for our single pill, and I left with a medium amount of frustration. Let’s be honest, 15 minutes in “Multiple Kid Time” really feels like at least an hour. I mentally added another 30 minutes because I had a fussy teething 8 month old baby strapped on.

3:30pm

On our way home James stops to stare at a beggar sitting outside of Duane Reade. The man calls over to him and James, instead of walking away or toward him, just kind of stands there and stares. I give him a little poke in the back to keep things moving (my 8 month old is still crying and my 2 yr old has stripped down in the stroller to her diaper at this point) and James, in his usual style, reacts as though I  have stabbed him.

He is still kind of grumbling about it as I carry the stroller into our building. An older woman is holding the door and as we walk through James explains to her, “It really hurt when my mom nailed me with a nail in my back.”

4:30pm

Homework done after only an hour of prodding. Baby still screaming – nursing, laying him in the crib, carrying him around, even the plastic cup of water is not distracting this guy. I can tell the noise is getting to James because he repeatedly claps his hands over his ears, none to gently. For those of you who have not had the pleasure, my 8 month old sounds eerily like an amplified tea kettle when he is screaming. It is truly an ear-shattering experience for anyone, let alone James and all of his noise issues.

5:00pm

Husband working late for the 6,893rd day in a row (in “Multiple Kid Time” this is not an exaggeration). Despite continued screaming, I try to make the best of things and let the kids help me cook dinner. James and my 2 yr old get into a fight over the pasta and spill the full strainer into the sink. I put some pasta on paper plates for them and set them up at the other counter. The sink looks clean enough – pasta goes back into the pot.

5:20pm

I walk into the kitchen where my 2 yr old is working on her second banana. She looks up with a guilty expression on her face. I see more pasta and half a peach on the counter. There are banana peels on the floor and banana juice everywhere. Banana juice? Wait a second… my daughter has already dashed from the kitchen as I realize what has really happened. There is a pair of pink underwear on the kitchen floor too. Banana juice, good grief – I must be losing it. I get the Windex out.

5:35pm

The baby is finally down for a nap. Kids are helping to set the table. My daughter grabs a stack of bowls and runs out of the kitchen. “Come back here,” I call. “We need to put food in those bowls!” She tears back into the kitchen and promptly drops the bowls on the floor, where they all shatter. In an effort to escape the situation, she runs back out of the kitchen, through the broken glass. Corelle, I am very disappointed in you.

Miraculously, her feet are untouched. I wish I could say the same for mine.

5:55pm

Glass cleaned up – I even re-Windexed the floor after sweeping to make sure I got all of the tiny pieces. Baby still napping – hooray! I feel bad about losing my temper over the bowls so we make Shirley Temples together for a special treat. We sit down for dinner – James and his sister fight over seats and the last remaining glass bowl. I eat from Bob the Builder plasticware.

6:15pm

I go to start the shower for James and stop dead when I open the bathroom door. There is poop on the floor in front of the toilet – ugh. I hear my 2 yr old running away as I call out,” Who had an accident?” (I would’ve run away too at this point.) Apparently she has decided to clean out her own potty chair and this is the result. I go back to the kitchen for some plastic  bags. And the Windex.

6:30pm

I am sudsing James up in the shower when tragedy strikes. Some water gets into James’s ear! He goes crazy and the shower now becomes a soap-crazed wrestling match. Shouts of “You’re getting me wet!” and “Don’t touch my ear – you’re hurting me!!” can be heard throughout the apartment, and there’s no telling which one of us is yelling what.

The baby is woken by the shower extravaganza.

6:31pm

I carry my 8 month old out to the dining room. My 2 yr old is sitting at the table with a bottle of Windex and a roll of paper towels. The table is covered in pools of clear liquid. The bag of bread and tub of butter is covered in Windex. The mail is soaked through. The dishes are wet. I put my daughter into time out, put the baby down and get to work on the mess – they both immediately start screaming.

6:45pm

I grab the baby and go to get James out of the shower. James is happily standing in the shower coating himself in daily shower cleaning spray. He is pretending it is a gun of some sort, and seems kind of annoyed when I interrupt (very loudly) “What are you doing???!! Put that down!”

I re-shower James as my 2 yr old comes in to poop again. This time I am there to empty the potty chair for her. Or so I think. As I straighten up with the bowl in hand (and baby in the other), my daughter tackles me, screaming “I can do it my big girl self!” The bowl spills all over the floor. I put her back into time out, send James to his room to get dressed, and put the baby down again. Complaints all around. I go get the Windex.

7:15pm 

We are all seated back at the table, playing a makeshift version of Pictionary before bed (I am working on a post that explains the modifications I make to regular boardgames for James). James draws a great insect and my daughter makes four circles for “Four Eyes.” They both guess that my golfer is a woman sweeping. I fill two little cups with mini-marshmallows as a joint dessert/prize for kicking my butt. I feed the baby a late dinner of yogurt and pasta.

7:45pm

I am sweeping up the kitchen and dining room while my daughter follows me around whining, “Hold me, mommy, hold me.” I am already holding her brother. I compromise by singing all of the songs from The Little Mermaid as I sweep. James joins in – it is a sweeping success.

8:00pm

I give James his medicine and send him to wait in his room while I put the leftovers away. My 8 month old is quiet now, as long as I am holding him. As I silently congratulate myself on my one-handed mastery of packing food away, he casually swats the tupperware, sending it crashing to the floor below. Pasta, sausage, mushrooms, onions and tomato sauce are everywhere. I place him on the floor. He starts to cry while simultaneously eating as much pasta as he can get his hands on. I get out the Windex.

8:30pm

We are all camped out in James’s room while I read The Magician’s Nephew to him. Against direct orders, my daughter is repeatedly jumping off of James’s bed to make her little brother laugh, and is succeeding. She accidentally kicks him in the head. I put her in time out. I finally finish the chapter with two babies in my lap, sniffling.

8:35pm

I tuck James in and we all have an “air-kiss battle” for a few minutes, where we see who can smack who out of the room with the best air-kiss (think Mario meets Star Wars). James wins, much to my daughter’s dismay. One kid down. My mood lightens considerably.

9:00pm

I am laying in bed with the two babies, reading Goodnight Moon for the third time in a row. There is a light at the end of the tunnel – I’ll read this book sixteen more times if it means more peace and quiet followed by sleep. Thankfully, it takes only one more read.

9:45pm

I sneak out of my room and duck into the bathroom. I step on something soft and squishy. I take a deep breath and look down. It’s a mushroom. Huh? On further examination I can see at least half a dozen sliced mushrooms on the bathroom floor. I also notice a red smear on the floor and realize it’s coming from a piece of glass still stuck in my foot from earlier. I grab the Windex.

 

Patience and Foortitude, Part 2: Extreme Parenting

It has taken me nearly 4 days to write this post, one disjointed 5 minute segment at a time.  You’ll see why shortly. That alone has tested my patience. The rest is a blur of what I like to call extreme parenting – parenting in an extreme way or under extreme circumstances.  Extreme parenting can also be used as code for “parenting in a way I am not extremely proud of.”

This past weekend I am sure that my patience was tested by all three of my children, but the only instances that I can remember have to do with James. I checked in on James as we got ready for church, to find James under the blankets in his pajamas, laying on top of his clothes, face down and butt up. “James, you need to get up and get dressed right now,” I said. I closed the door. Ten minutes later I peeked in again. James was in the exact same position. “James, strike one toward losing the Wii today,” I said. “Get dressed now.” I closed the door again. Fast forward 45 minutes, two more strikes, losing the Wii for the day and into strike one against watching any T.V. James was not only unresponsive as he often is, but was actually being belligerent about getting dressed. He kept saying things like, “No, I’m not getting dressed,” “I’m not going with you guys,” “I’ll just have a time out” or “I just want to stay home.” or “No no nonononono!” At this point I was frustrated and somewhat bewildered since James is usually pretty well behaved and rarely flat out refuses to do as he is told.

I strode into his room, grabbed him by the arm and stood him up. At this point James started with his usual “Ow, you’re hurting me!” screams to prove to everyone what terrible injustice he lives with. I hate those screams. They are earsplittingly loud, dramatic and make it really hard to stay calm. I grabbed him by the chin and said, “Look at me….. right…… now. You are going to get dressed or I am going to drop you off at the police station on the way to church so we can go in peace.” He roughly ripped his chin out of my hand at which point I smacked him on the butt once for good measure and left the room, saying “If you are not ready in 5 minutes I am not bringing you to church!” I left James hysterical in his room, though 5 minutes and 3 reminders later he sheepishly came out dressed. He must have realized the error of his ways because he was super pleasant on the way to church, at church, and at the park afterward. That or he was terrified of me. I mentally beat myself up for losing my temper with him while also pondering what the heck I was supposed to do the next time James refused to do what I asked.

Awesome behavior, right? It gets better. Now look, I have to pause here and say that a lot of the time we have very pleasant, happy days. I would go as far as to say most days. I don’t run around threatening my children and smacking butts on a daily basis. But seriously, 1 or 2 days a week of extreme parenting and it is easy to forget the 5 pleasant days in a snap.

After church at the park I started to feel pretty sick, which is unusual. By the time we got home I was SICK. Thank God it was a Sunday and Ryan came to the rescue, only bothering me from my bedridden misery to occasionally nurse a baby. For those of you who know me, you know that bedridden is not an adjective that I toss around lightly. Around 8 that evening I dragged myself out of bed to do the nightly medicine and bedtime routine with James and so I could see the kids for a few minutes before going back to sleep. James kept complaining that his stomach hurt and he ate too much, but since Ryan had fed the kids Chinese food I wasn’t surprised – James always eats way too much when it comes to Wonton soup. I tucked him in and he asked for an extra blanket and seemed a little teary. Again not terribly unusual because James has huge anxiety issues with being “alone,” including in his own bedroom.

Miraculously, my 6 month old went to sleep nice and early and even my toddler had missed her nap so I knew she’d be done for soon. Perhaps I would be spared the usual bedtime antics. By 10 all was quiet. I was so grateful, all the way until James walked out of his room at 11, stood in the hall outside of the bathroom door, and promptly vomited all over the wall, floors, bathtub, toilet and of course himself. He might have gotten a little bit in the toilet. Ryan was asleep on the couch with one baby and another lay perilously close to the noise in the bathroom. I swear I walked into that bathroom, nauseous, exhausted and without a shred of the empathy that would be necessary to clean up the barf disaster. As I stripped James down and shoved his clothes and paper towels into trash bags, I kept muttering things like, “Why didn’t you get to the toilet?” and “Where are big boys supposed to throw up?” and “I am too sick to deal with this right now” and my personal best “You better make it to the toilet if you plan to throw up again tonight.” After he was tucked back in James started to whimper about being left in his room again, and I actually turned around to tell him to “be quiet. you can’t wake up the babies or you will be in big trouble.”

Where was my kindness? My sense of parental duty? My patience and fortitude? I think I must have flushed them down the toilet around 8 that evening. I still feel bad thinking about how I didn’t say things like “are you okay?” and “can I get you anything?” or even “I am sorry you are feeling sick. I am too.”

I often feel equal parts guilty, resentful and sorry for James – it’s a hideous mix. This is one of those instances. My 2 year old knows to throw up in the potty – I know because my life has been cleaning up one kid’s vomit after another since this past Sunday. I feel resentful that James might never remember to throw up in the toilet and that I will be the forever clean up guy, guilty that I feel that way and was not more compassionate toward him, and sorry for him on a number of levels. I could make a resentful-guilty-sorry Mad Lib series and rake in a fortune, no joke.

Why am I telling the whole internet about this? I don’t like to talk about this stuff with my friends and family, so why potentially share it with anyone? It’s not for the reasons you might think – to gain sympathy, pity or to publicly humiliate myself into doing better. I don’t want anyone to “fix” the situation, though I always welcome comments or advice on any post. For me, it is a way for me to process why and how I reacted so that the next time might not be so “extreme.” Posting online is also kind of like an invisible support group – EP anonymous. “Hi, I’m Michaela. I’m an Extreme Parent. I have not parented in an extreme way for about 18 hours now.” Do the math – that is a lot of extreme parenting since this past Sunday.

Actually, the above statement is not entirely true. For the last 18 hours I have been a different kind of Extreme Parent. I have weathered not 1, but 2 dentist appointments with a smile on my face – James is terrified of the dentist and very vocal about it, keep an eye out for that post – Margaret’s very first appointment didn’t go quite as well as I hoped. Then later this evening I cleaned up yet more vomit as sickness returned to all 3 children, and didn’t lose my cool once. I even did the whole rubbing backs thing and saying, “It’s okay. Let’s go lay down.” And I got Sprite for James instead of the pills he threw up and the Tylenol he refused. My 6 month old has woken up every 15 minutes – he apparently is picking up a mild version of what the other two have. Now, as the thunder continues to rumble and James keeps coming out of his room because he is terrified of dentists and thunder, I am sitting awake at 1a.m. and patiently sending him back to bed, getting drinks, leaving the door open the right amount, tucking him back in, feeling exhausted but determined to finish this post and keep all 3 kids asleep for as long as it takes to regain some perspective and health in this family.

I’m as far from perfect in my parenting as James is at getting dressed without grumbling. For now, I can only hope to be as patient in dealing with my children’s imperfections as they are in dealing with mine.

Patience and Foortitude, part 1

March 21, 2011 2 comments

As I sit on the couch reading Harold’s Circus for the third time in a row in my best storyteller’s voice, with all 3 kids intently listening, I congratulate myself for being such an amazing parent. After all, repetition is good for babies and James lives for things being repeated to him no less than 10 times. The Purple Crayon series is a quality, cleverly written book and I am further fostering my children’s love for reading, one of the great successes in our family. The babies have had several hours outside in the fresh air, James has finished his homework and watched a movie, and dinner has been made ahead of time to facilitate an orderly bedtime. I am awesome.

Flash forward to 3 hours later, when I am furiously whispering to James that he can’t come home with us if he doesn’t stop right now and that he will have to find another family at church that will take him in for the night. The baby is crying, my 2 yr old is trying to run up the aisle and for God’s sake the priest has been giving us a blow by blow of the entire bulletin for the last 15 minutes. I wanted to stay for the last song because I knew James and my daughter loved “This Little Light of Mine” but finally in the midst of utter chaos I give up and began to pack our things. I lean over to James and tell him to get his coat on because we have to leave now. He says “no”. While whining is not unusual for James, a flat out “no” is pretty shocking. I tell him again, and again he opts to disagree. Finally I start to leave the pew and James in his panic not to be left loudly follows, crying, pulling his fleece on backwards, screaming about being stuck in the fleece, yelling about it not being time to leave yet.  I walk ahead of him determined to ignore him, which only makes him run a block ahead of me every time he falls behind so that won’t have to find another family to live with when he is left behind. I tightly grab his hand so that he doesn’t run ahead into the street and he screams “Let go you’re hurting me’ and I am sure at this point that everyone on the block thinks I am abusing him now. I tell him he can have a bowl of cereal and go right to bed. It is 7:15pm.

For Lent I gave up swearing and promised to be more patient with the kids. The swearing part is going okay. The patience part is becoming more of a guilt trip than anything. In fact, I think I am actually becoming less patient because after I get impatient with the kids I am annoyed that they made me break my Lent promise.

I always associate patience with fortitude because of a book I read to James and my 2 yr old daughter about the NYPL lions, named Patience and Fortitude. However,  I don’t think they go together so naturally in real life. I think I have fortitude down pretty well.  When I looked it up the definition is listed as “mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger or temptation courageously; resolute endurance.”  If there’s something I’ve learned over the last 10 years, it is definitely resolute endurance.

It’s not unusual for our days to go something like the above. I desperately want to be one of those parents that keeps a level head and sends their misbehaving children to a time-out without raising their voice. After all, I am the adult and yelling or screaming is for the kids, who lack the wisdom and experience of self control. I know that I am not teaching them anything good by yelling or threatening but it is easy to fall into and it gets the job done faster sometimes. Then comes the regret afterward, that frustrating feeling equivalent with eating a pint of ice cream after working hard all day to stay on your diet.

It’s been kind of awesome lately watching my very tempestuous 2 yr old daughter start to grow out of the tantruming phase. Even at her worst and on her craziest days, I was able to tell myself that she would grow out of it soon, and she is.  It is a very different kind of feeling with James. Don’t get me wrong, most of the time James is incredibly well-behaved, which makes the situation somehow harder. He is not usually in trouble for talking back, hitting, or tantruming. He only escalates to hysteria after he gets “in trouble” for making repetitive or disgusting noises, asking the same question more than 10 times in a row, talking out loud to himself in public, tracing over every letter of a word for 30 minutes instead of doing his homework, taking literally 15 minutes to put a shoe on, wetting his pants because he was playing a video game, crying because his 2 yr old sister took a baby toy from him, refusing to put on his “big” coat when it’s 20 degrees outside, not taking a bite of cereal for a half hour in the morning after a dozen reminders, and on and on.

9 out of 10 times I don’t raise my voice when I ask James to put his shoes on in the morning. Okay, realistically 7 out of 10. It is the 8th time and onward that I begin to feel crazy. Or if I’m being brutally honest, it’s the 5th time when my 2 yr old is running around the house naked with one of his shoes because he hasn’t put it on yet and now James is crying because she stole his shoe, or even the 3rd time when you add to that a crying infant. For some reason, the reassuring fact that the younger two will “grow out of it” and knowing that James won’t has become his “fault,” and it’s not fair. To either of us.

This is only part 1 because I have barely scratched the surface – though I am trying I am sure I will lose my patience a thousand more times, probably 10 more just today. But starting the discussion among others is one way to avoid expensive therapy and also hold myself accountable. I encourage you to leave a comment below with your experience, tricks that works, or anything else you’d like to share.

This morning James woke up, got dressed with only 1 reminder, ate his breakfast in only 3 reminders and even got his shoes and coat on in under 5 reminders. He was pleasant, and I was patient. Or was it the other way around?