Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ups and Downs

Well, we caught a day or two of "ups" around here. No one had to go to the hospital. All of our pets are still alive. And X-man hasn't gotten a letter home from school since Tuesday. Yes, I know this is tempting fate, but I'm going to call good days -- good days -- and acknowledge that they exist. I'm not, repeat, not saying it's the end of the ugliness. It's just -- nice to have a break from it.

Yesterday, X-man got in the car for tennis lessons and told me it was a good day because he only got one check at school. I told him I didn't want the check number to determine what he thought was a good day. I wanted how he felt about learning that day to decide if it was a good day or not. He thought about it and said, "It was a good day because I earned two Starbursts. One for the practice fire drill and one for the actual fire drill."

I didn't have the heart to tell him the word "drill" meant "practice." So that he had to practice for the practice...

The hardest part about kindergarten for all of us appears to be the lack of "inquiry-based learning" that our house is used to. We're active learners. We listen, we engage, we practice, we explore and we make mistakes and learn from them. There's no memorization. There's rarely sitting still. There's a lot of focus on learning what we're interested in... which always leads to something else and something else. I'm used to curriculums that are molded to the students rather than molding students to the curriculum.

In some ways, I'm afraid the static curriculum might suck the joy of learning out of my child. On the other hand, what he gets from school is so much greater than the actual academic learning. So, for now, I'm figuring out ways to supplement that learning and working to keep my child engaged by answering his questions and creating family time around his curiosities (as well as showing him some of our curiosities).

Today, X-man got off the bus and told MacTroll that he won a handwriting contest, ran three times around the playground (they have an exercise challenge at school) and thought that his teacher was funny (as in ha ha). He couldn't really replicate what he thought was entertaining, but he was really happy. We gave him giant high fives for his hard work at school and acknowledged the effort he's been putting forth. Unfortunately, the sock destruction still occurs, but he's not disintegrating the whole sock any more.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mid-week Rush

Wednesday and Thursday are my crazy busy days.

On Wednesday, I'm up at 5:45 a.m. I drop X off at school. Then I drop Lily off at doggie daycare. Then I get to work and set up my room. We have staff meetings on Wednesdays until 1:30 p.m. Then I usually run an errand or I run home to do the dishes or the laundry. I pick up X-man at school at 2:15 p.m. and he and I go somewhere for a special snack (last week he got an ice cream at Target while we ran an errand) and then he takes tennis lessons from 3:30-4 p.m. At 4 p.m., we went to the grocery store and then we picked up Lily just before 5 p.m., came home and did his homework. He goes upstairs to play Legos while I cook dinner. We eat around 6 p.m. He has his night-time snack at 6:30. I run the bath at 6:50 p.m. and he climbs in at 7 p.m. While he's bathing I write my weekly web update for my students' parents. Then I get him out of bath and read him books for 30-40 minutes. By this time, it's a little after 8 p.m.

He goes to sleep and I head downstairs to do some lesson planning for school the next week. Tonight, I also put together the 3-minute video I shot of the orchard we went to on Sunday, since my students are too young to go on a field trip per DCFS.

Tomorrow, I'll be up again at 5:45 a.m. We'll turn in some library books in the drop box on the way to school. I'll drop X-man off and then get to school early to set up and make sure all of the items for Friday when I'm in Florida are taken care of. When I return, I get to be the director for a day while my boss is on a trip, so I want to make sure that's all ready to go. That means, tomorrow I need to buy beans and corn for the sensory table... anyway. I have to run out of the room at noon to get to Rotary. I'm giving the reflection tomorrow. Then at 2 p.m., I have an appointment with the podiatrist. I'm guessing she's going to take x-rays of my foot again to see how the stress fracture is doing. I'm prepared for five more weeks in the walking cast. I'm really hoping it's nothing more than that. Then at 4:30 p.m., I am going to my Weight Management meeting, and at 6 p.m. I take X-man to his swim lesson.

Then he's back in the bath again at 7 p.m. and I'm packing to leave for Florida the next morning. So I guess I need to squeeze in weather appropriate laundry, too...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Down the Road

MacTroll and I have been talking about the future. Namely that he needs to get off the road. In that plan, we have to live somewhere where if his dynamic doesn't change at The Fruit that he can be employable at a competitive income level. For the last year or so we've been talking about moving closer to The Fruit's main campus. And it looks like, we're in agreement that unless there's some major life change, that we should put our house up for sale in the middle of X-man's first grade year (February 2013, or so).

This kind of changes -- a lot of things. But honestly, I like the idea. We have no idea how long it may take to sell our house. But we figure it couldn't hurt to change scenery. So, right now, this is the talk that's at the top of our list. It's not solid, but it's good dreaming.

Now we just have to get out to California and snoop around. I have a neighborhood in mind. It's called Willow Glen. So, I guess we'll start there and see how we feel. I do best with 5-year life plans. I like a goal to work toward. But mostly, I like the idea of being married to someone who is actually in our home more than 50 percent of the time.

Down the Road

MacTroll and I have been talking about the future. Namely that he needs to get off the road. In that plan, we have to live somewhere where if his dynamic doesn't change at The Fruit that he can be employable at a competitive income level. For the last year or so we've been talking about moving closer to The Fruit's main campus. And it looks like, we're in agreement that unless there's some major life change, that we should put our house up for sale in the middle of X-man's first grade year (February 2013, or so).

This kind of changes -- a lot of things. But honestly, I like the idea. We have no idea how long it may take to sell our house. But we figure it couldn't hurt to change scenery. So, right now, this is the talk that's at the top of our list. It's not solid, but it's good dreaming.

Now we just have to get out to California and snoop around. I have a neighborhood in mind. It's called Willow Glen. So, I guess we'll start there and see how we feel. I do best with 5-year life plans. I like a goal to work toward. But mostly, I like the idea of being married to someone who is actually in our home more than 50 percent of the time.

I Go Because it's There

On Sunday, we took X-man to Curtis Orchard. I want to be very clear about this... I grew up near Rockford. I went to Edwards Apple Orchard. I have a die-hard loyalty to that orchard. It kicks ass. And people, you haven't tasted a decent apple donut until you've had theirs. They're ridiculous. They melt in your mouth and they're in such hot demand that on weekends they have to limit people to 2 or 3 dozen, so that they can keep up supply with the demand. My father once sent me a half dozen via Express Mail to Northern Virginia.

Edwards has grown from the small orchard operation it was when I was a child. Lavender used to work there in high school, and I remember ordering hot apple pie from her with ice cream on the side and hot cider before I sat down on an old milk container at high tables to people watch.

But you went once a year, and you loved it.

When we moved to Virginia, I tried to recreate the annual apple orchard excursion, figuring that in the land of at least West Virginia there had to be something. The first year we got it really wrong. We showed up to a land of corn that had a "street" mowed through it with handpainted plywood sign/sculptures of Disney characters in it. And get this -- you could buy egg rolls. Everything was pre-picked from somewhere nearby and put out in pecks for you to pick up -- and there was an entry fee. What in the hell?

Four years later, we did a little bit better. There were no donuts (or egg rolls) but there was plenty of u-pik and we could take Riley with us, which was awesome.

When MacTroll and I moved back to town, we didn't bother with Curtis Orchard until X-man was born. We just went up to my parents and visited Edwards. (The draw of the donuts is well worth the 3-hour drive.) When X-man was born, we put him in one of the Curtis Orchard baby swings. He got a good look at the goats. We tried their donuts -- not stellar, but they'd do. And every year we go back to Curtis and watch it grow, and grow and grow.

Our first question has always been, why doesn't the WB copyright crew sweep into the Flying Monkey Café and start handing out cease and desist letters? The second is how in the world can you claim on your website that visiting this orchard is inexpensive?

Last year, I got annoyed at people who griped about it, because it's a small seasonal business. They make their entire year's livelihood off of apple season. But this year, I was a bit -- taken back. I had read on Facebook that there are new policies about apple picking. Since the plastic bags that you use cost $9, we only pick one bag a year, since a bag of organic apples at Meijer is usually $3.99. I also got almost 4 lbs of apples from the farmer's market for my class this week for $7. But when we went to pick, I had to hand over my little purse so that I wasn't caught sneaking apples out of the orchard. Apparently, families were putting apples in everything (diaper bags, strollers, etc.) to get apples home in prior years, so the Curtis Orchard folks decided to put a stop to it. I figured that I had to check my backpack in my college bookstore, so -- whatever. But how expensive are you that people are STEALING APPLES!

Then we were out picking apples in the rain and having a gleeful time when some guy whizzed by in a golf cart. He was at first very nice when I gave a warning to X-man to get out of the way, waving at X-man and promising he wouldn't hit him. Then on his next pass, 2 minutes later, I figured out he was the Orchard Gestapo. When I'd bought our $9 clear plastic bag, I'd also purchased 3 soft caramels. MacTroll was still chewing his when the guy drove by a second time. He looked sternly at us and reminded us that absolutely NO eating of apples was allowed in the orchard.

I was thinking... Why was that encounter so different than the first? I turned to look at MacTroll who was still chewing. "Oh, he thought you were chewing an apple!"

"But I was chewing a caramel that you bought IN HIS STORE."

It really did make it feel like everyone was a thief. And MacTroll said he wish they'd just get over the pretense and charge an admission fee so that everyone could just come in and they wouldn't freak out about apples getting eaten (even though they should be washed beforehand!)

I knew nothing good was coming in the changes when they started charging 25 cents to run the stupid train around the store. Let alone when they built the playland area that comes with a $3 charge. So, we got our annual trip out of the way. And I think maybe next year, we'll go visit Nana and Papa and head to Edwards. At least the overpriced, sheeple infested visit will seem justified because of the yummy donuts.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Tonight, after my child had a tantrum of XL proportions about something at bedtime, I declared it facial mask and teeth whitening night. I don't know why. Maybe because when I felt better about myself, I used to do it once a week. You know, back in the days when my foot wasn't broken, when I wasn't eating myself into oblivion, and when I had a sense of time management about my days...

Yeah, I know, chronic pain sucks. Yeah, I know, I should cut myself a break. But the truth is, as I was staring myself down in the mirror noticing that my strong arms have gone to jelly in the last few weeks, and my thighs and hips are rounder rather than strong that maybe I was just never that girl.

I'm this girl. The one that gets smacked in the head by a handicapped side after fracturing her foot while running on completely flat ground. The one who trips up the stairs. The one who doesn't wear make up and pretty much thinks it's okay to wear jeans or warm up pants to all occasions. I have crappy skin and I don't wear make up. I'd rather go to baseball game than the ballet. And I'd rather work with two year olds than adults who act like two year olds.

Maybe this is me. If so, who was that girl who was here before. Was she just visiting? I'm not mourning her. I'm just wondering if she was dropping by for a visit, or if she's just buried under all the crap.

Sick Day

X-man's cold transitioned into a low fever and chills this morning, so I kept him home from school. MacTroll was on his way to Phoenix and then to D.C. for work. But he was here long enough that I could drop off all of my lesson plans for the week at school and halfway set up the room for my co-teacher before 8 a.m.

Since then, we've been doing everything in my bed: reading books, playing some educational games on the iPad, watching Sesame Street and something called Wilson and Ditch on PBS kids via an app on the iPad. I just let him eat his lunch in bed. So, you know, he's feeling pretty lazy.

But the mucous keeps coming, and he's lying still which means we all know he doesn't feel well. Poor little man.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A New Morning

Last night the Rotary of Savoy came over for a social. MacTroll made some Montreal Smoked Meat and some Vegetarian kabobs. He also made some of his salsa. We had spent the day sad over Nyssa, so we didn't get around to doing any yardwork to make the backyard acceptable for people, but the Rotarians are a pretty nice group and they didn't mind that things weren't picture perfect.

I had had a crap week, so when MacTroll asked me what I wanted to drink, I asked for a martini. And then I drank three. (He is an EXCELLENT bartender.) But that's a lot of drinks for a girl who usually averages one light beer a month.

I fell asleep by 10:30 p.m. I woke up around 6:30 a.m. when MacTroll let Lily out. And then we they came back up together and we've been lying about half asleep ever since. X-man woke up and wandered in our room around 8:30, finding us sluggish, he went back to his room to play Legos. Later, we'll have some brunch and head out to Curtis Orchard to pay way too much for the right to pick their apples from their trees and watch X-man go down some inflatables.

It's now 9:41 a.m., and we're just starting to move around. This week is a hard week at work. Everyone and their brother is on some kind of trip, including me. I leave on Friday for Disney. I was supposed to run the Wine and Dine half marathon, but, um, can't really do that on a broken foot. Soooo, it's a Girls Weekend.

On the other hand, I get to get an update on my foot on Thursday after I give the "reflection" for Rotary (what do you think I should talk about?). We'll see how that goes.

Then the weekend of the 8th, MacTroll and I are headed up to Chicago to catch Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking Performance with my friend Womanthatrolls.

And the next weekend, MacTroll is going to do his second autocross, so X-man and I are going to head out to Rantoul to watch him a bit, now that we know we don't have to be there at 7:30 a.m. and that it runs ALL DAY. :-)

But I'm feeling strangely at peace this morning. No one in my house is suffering. My spouse and my son are pretty happy. My puppy is passed out in my spouse's arms. And I'm kind of excited about how life is going... and really, everything else just doesn't need to matter at this point. I'll worry about it later.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

It's Been A Long Time

But we're a three cat family for the first time since August 2001.

Today, MacTroll and I euthanized Nyssa. She had been steadily going downhill despite multiple different medical interventions and force feeding. She ended up dying, not so differently than Riley, our dog, who died in June. She had cancer. It messed up her neurological functions. And finally, she developed a mass in a very short time outside of her skin.

She was a sweet cat who slept with our niece when she was three years old, who slept in X-man's baby crib every chance she could (when he was not in it). She liked old people, people who didn't like cats and more importantly, she's the cat who taught my husband how to love animals.

Before Nyssa, MacTroll liked dogs just fine. He was so so on cats (because although Looseyfur was awesome, she did not begin her life with us as a cuddler -- that really only happened when the dementia set in). And Clawdio, well, he only likes me. So, Nyssa was MacTroll's first, and it was also the first time he was home to go through the process with me.

It made it better to not be alone.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Update on Nyssa

Tonight after I force fed Nyssa, she went to the litterbox and peed. Then she yelled at me and wandered into MacTroll's office. Talking from the kitten is never a good. We've learned that she only makes noise (other than purring) when she's really in need of something. 

He started petting her and her skin slid off of part of her chest/neck area. Yes, it could be a cyst from some kind of random infection. But I'm going to bet my money on it being a mast cell tumor. A quickly growing tumor at that, since she had a full work up on Tuesday and it wasn't there, and we've been picking her up to feed her and medicate her for weeks. 

And as I looked at it, I had flashbacks of Riley's cancer fight. She's sleeping in all the same dark places. She's refusing to eat, just like he did. She's drinking copious amounts and having neurological issues in her back end just like he did. 

We took her to the Animal ER, where they were unable to confirm at cancer diagnosis. I'm not sure they have the lab accessible there to determine the issue. But our goal was to make her comfortable until we could get her to our vet tomorrow. 

And then, I'm guessing, we'll be saying goodbye.

All I can remember is September 1999 when we were cleaning out the cages at the Fair Lakes, Va., Petsmart. I'd clean. MacTroll would check ears, nails and do some brushing while I disinfected the cages, put down clean paper, clean litter and refilled food and water bowls. "MacTroll, hand me the kitten."



"Look at how cute she is!" 

"We do not need a third cat."

"No, I know. But Looseyfur doesn't like cuddles and Clawdio loves you. Can't I have one that likes to cuddle with me?" 

"Let's think about it."

24 hours later...

"I can't believe we're adopting a third cat..."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cursed, but not entirely

So, this week:

• I've been bitten by a child (not mine) and by a cat. One was just a bruise, the other broke the skin and went through my thumb nail.
• I've suffered a minor, but bloody, head injury from a falling handicap sign.
• My cat's life (Nyssa) is at a crossroads.
• My gut says my child may be heading toward a diagnosis of ADHD (which isn't upsetting at all, but the daily communication with school administrators about his behaviors (even though the relationship with the school is very positive) is -- emotionally draining.
• I can't seem to get to sleep before midnight, which is not enough sleep.
• I don't get to run the half marathon in Disney next week because of my fractured fifth metatarsal. 

At the same time:
• MacTroll was home to take me to the ER and to take Nyssa to the vet repeatedly over her health issues.
• We had a lovely potluck at our house for our street neighbors.
• X-man really likes taking tennis and swimming lessons.
• X-man really likes me to read to him and for him to read to me (when he's not overly tired). So we're about finished with our second reading sheet for the Galaxy reading program this week. And since I'm all restricted in my movement with my broken foot -- it's nice that it's something we can do together that doesn't require me to stand. 
• All of my Clownfish have officially gotten over the trauma of separation at drop off. 
• I didn't get a concussion nor did I have to have stitches when the sign fell on my head. 
• I can still walk.
• I can still drive.
• I can still do the hokey pokey with the Clownfish.
• I got to go to trivia night at BW3 with Kate and her cousin and their friends and talk with adults for two hours!
• I found some wonderful books for my classroom through the new Heartland Library System. 
• I work at a very understanding school that took great care of me, check up on me and had excellent first aid skills when I got injured.

But it might be better if people just stayed physically away from me for the rest of the month. I seem to be a walking time bomb... 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Call From the Assistant Principal and a Sickly Cat

I came home from work today to find MacTroll on the phone. This is not an unusual thing. I popped my lunch in the microwave, poured myself a diet coke and sat down at the computer. Then I heard, "Yes, they're observing if this is regular five-year-old boy behavior or if it's something else."

Shit. Really?

Turns out there was a sub at school today. The assignment the class was working on was to cut out lower case letters and match them to uppercase letters. X-man did a few and then started cutting his clothing with the scissors.

And he got sent to the assistant principal's office for it.

Where he fell apart in tears.

When she told him she wasn't angry but wanted to know why he was cutting his clothes, he said he didn't know.

She had him do the assignment in front of her. And he finished it in less than a minute.

I heard MacTroll explain that we don't make excuses for his behavior. He should not be cutting his clothes, but he's really bored, and he needs a better outlet for those slow times. When I talked to the principal later, he noted that the inattention came in the middle of the project not after it was done. Again, is it because he was inattentive or because it was a boring project? So we're working on him finishing his projects and asking for something else to do so he stops destroying his wardrobe.

So back the ball goes.

On another court, Nyssa, our cat with the paralyzed tail was back at the vet yesterday with a UTI and low potassium. Unfortunately, the drug she's supposed to take for the UTI requires her to eat something, and she won't. So we're calling to see about force feeding.

But we found her sleeping on the floor of the first floor bathroom today. That's not a normal place for her to go. It's also where Riley went the night before I had to call Dr. Mary to the house to euthanize him at the end of his battle with cancer.

So, this week is just getting worse.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hooray for X-man

Well, in my sea of randomness, one gold star came out of today. X-man got off the bus and said, "Mom -- I had a no checks day!"

He did completely tear apart his left sock, but I guess it's way better to ruin socks than to not be able to keep his hands off his friends or backtalk to his teachers, right?

He got his Legos back and went to a playdate/birthday party tonight.

I'm so proud of him for working so hard this week. I talked to his principal on Monday. They've done three observations of him so far. X-man also showed him his socks (which at the end of the day had disintegrated to nothing and he said the two checks he got were for picking his socks rather than paying attention). He started to cry when he showed them to Mr. Scott, but Mr. Scott reassured him that he wasn't angry at him for having sock picking issues... but that maybe I would be because I'm the one having to buy new ones.

They've had different people do the observations, so we'll see what they come back with. They weren't definitive yet.

Right now he's keeping his fingers crossed that Mrs. Burt, the music teacher, holds her after school dance club on Mondays and allows kindergarteners to go... He totally loves music class.

Yes, It's True.

Only I could get hit in the head with a handicapped sign while actually having a handicap (broken foot). (It's okay to laugh -- it makes me laugh every time.)

The injury bled a lot... I won't be wearing those clothes again. But I didn't get any stitches. I have a giant abrasion on my head and am not allowed to drive for 12 hours to make sure I don't have a concussion. But it might take a few days to get the blood out of my hair because any rough scrubbing will reopen the wound and make it bleed more.

This is totally not how I planned on becoming a red head.

I'm sitting there with my walking cast on, sticky blood all over me, a giant bruise on my arm from something this weekend that I can't remember and the ER doc says, "You are a total mess."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Those Carnies Don't Mess Around

This weekend was the Savoy Orchard Days festival, a.k.a. the carnival in our backyard. We walked over at dinner time on Friday night and spent 2 1/2 hours in the cold watching X-man run around like mad using his $17 wrist band to its fullest on all of the rides.

My favorite was watching him and his favorite neighbor on the Scrambler... They loved it so much they went twice -- not needing an adult to ride with them this year. :-)

We ate some kettle corn. I had the Rotary Club of Savoy grilled pork sandwich from Old Time Meat Shoppe. (Which at $5 for a sandwich, soda and chips was the best deal over there... not to mention, strangely the healthiest.)

Then we came home and tucked X-man into bed. On Saturday, after the Carrie Busey Family Fitness run, I walked over to work the pork chop booth for 4 hours and X-man and MacTroll went back to ride more rides, see the antique cars, etc. It was a much warmer day, but they were still there for three hours. And then we went and watched the first half of the Illini football game. X-man sat through the first quarter fine, but spent the second quarter jumping on MacTroll in the grass by a snack stand (he was tired... and manic). On our way home, we got offered a ride back to our car by an ADA transport. I guess me in a walking cast was enough for the driver to ask if I needed some help.  As we were driving back to the car, X-man said, "This is the best part about tonight." Okay, then I'll save my $20 to park and $35 in tickets next time. (Stub hub is awesome.)

The carnival ended at 11 p.m. last night. And by 6 a.m. this morning, the rides had disappeared and the carnival operator's trucks were gone.

That was a lot of stuff to take down and put away in seven hours... maybe they could come over and help with my house today as I prepare to have the Preston Street party inside given the 60 percent chance of rain between 4-7 p.m.

Friday, September 16, 2011

It was a Bobcat Kind of Day

MacTroll and I made it to Carrie Busey today for their Pep Rally. They were celebrating raising over $8,500 for the Parent Teacher Association, so the whole school went out to sit on the playground and watch the teachers duct tape their principal to the wall before 11 kids got to throw whipped cream pies at him. Then after that, the music teacher and the P.E. teacher were in a trivia contest, except if they got the answer wrong older students and teachers poured food products like baked beans and pancake batter over their heads.

It was a cold day, and there are no showers in the elementary school. So the two women had to get sprayed down with the hose afterwards. There were also some student athletes from the University of Illinois who talked about eating healthy.

X-man got to be one of the pie throwers, which he was really excited about.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Deciphering X-man

X-man got in a heap of trouble on Tuesday when he came home with his second note from his teacher regarding his behavior. We'd had a heart-to-haert after the first note, and he promised he would improve his behavior. Specifically, he's having issues listening, talking back, keeping his hands to himself and being respectful.

Since this was the second note, I took him to the couch and I sat down with him. I had my note pad and pen in hand. This was gonna be tough, but I wrote out the four problem areas, and then I wrote down the consequences for getting in trouble for them.

For a note about not listening: He loses Legos for a week.
For a note about talking back: He loses computer/television for a week.
For a note about hitting or touching other people inappropriately: He loses playdates for a week.
For a note about not respecting his teacher or any other adult: He goes straight to his room after school. He eats there by himself.

Since the note he got on Tuesday said he'd done all four things... he threw a fit. It was expected. We were supposed to have a playdate with Lighting McColin that night, and it got revoked. In response, he went to the garage and tried to drive there himself. (I had the keys in the kitchen... no worries.) While he was flipping his lid in my garage. I was upstairs packing up the Legos and locking them in the guest room.

Once he calmed down and went to his room, he kept coming out to try and talk to me. I explained that not being able to talk to me was part of the consequences. He looked sad and said, "Mommy, I don't want to have to stay in my room again."

Well, good. Let's hope you figure out the cause and effect then.

But at the same time, in my brain, I keep repeating all the times he can't sit still. The month he was pulling apart his socks during nap time at school because he w s bored on his cot last April in pre-school. The habit ended when it became sandal season and socks were unnecessary. But he's pulled apart two pairs of socks just this week.

So, as a clueless parent looking for help... I e-mailed the school psychologist. He's offered to do some observations and talk with X-man's teacher. And I'm grateful.

Regardless if my child is bored or inattentive or hyperactive or whatever -- I'm feeling that phantom umbilical cord. Maybe you know what I'm talking about. The one that totally exists no matter how old your child gets. The one that says, "Is this where I let my kid stand on his own?" or "Is there something here besides him making bad decisions? Maybe he needs something more than I can decipher on my own? How can I best help him while trying to help him be independent?"

Regardless, when my child gets in trouble at school, it feels like a personal reflection on my parenting skill. I know he's his own person and he makes his own decisions. But at the same time, when it comes to not being kind -- that worries me. What could I do differently? Better?

I'm not by nature a helicopter parent. I don't baby my kid. But I do, on occasion, spoil him.

It hurt. Those self thoughts that I had about my parenting skills. And I wonder, if this continues on throughout his school career, if I will feel forever defined by my role as his mother. His failures aren't supposed to be my failures, and yet, it feels that they are. And better yet, how do I make sure that even though I feel that way...that he never does?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Deep Breath

I've been mulling this one over in my brain for a couple of weeks, and I still don't know how to handle it. But it's just sitting on my brain and I need that space, so I'm going to let the issue occupy space here for people much wiser than I am to think about it.

X-man knows that MacTroll and I don't believe in god. We're pretty much secular humanists. We've been that way for a very long time. For me I think it was when I started inserting the word "dolphins" instead of "God" in the Pledge of Allegiance at school and in hymns at church when I was in fifth grade. I don't understand why religious beliefs have anything to do with patriotism. 

And if you know anything about the Pledge of Allegiance you know that the writer didn't include those two words in the original. And that it wasn't until 1954 (Those damn 1950's!) that it was inserted. Now, just because we don't believe in a god, many gods, whatever, doesn't mean that MacTroll and I aren't spiritual. I do think the world has a certain ebb and flow, but I think it's probably closer to Buddhism (if I had to pick a religion) than most anything else. 

Anyway, the first week of school, X-man came home and said. "Mom, my school is 'under God'." I shook my head confused. "What?" Did I drop him off at St. Matt's by accident?

"We say 'under God,' every morning," he said. "Is that true. Is it a God school?"

Then it occurred to me that he says the Pledge of Allegiance. Something I say every Thursday at Rotary, but silence myself at the "under God" part.

Then, it turns out that someone at NBC omitted those words of the Pledge during a golf broadcast, and got in heavy doodoo for it. 

I've told X-man that it's up to him if he wants to say "under God" or not when he recites it in the morning. That I certainly don't mind if he says the words or if he doesn't, and whether he wants to believe in a god, or many gods is totally up to him. If he can stand respectfully quiet and still during the pledge or if he wants to recite it and not say those two words, that's okay with me, too. 

But in my heart, I wish they'd just take the damn words out. And this is one of those political issues where 80 percent of the nation is Christian... but in my heart, those two words put up a wall between myself and other non-God folks and the country that we were born into. I feel it excludes me from feeling like I can fully participate or be accepted because the assumption that I'm Christian is so basic that it's in our country's pledge and let's face it... even the money I buy things with all have "In God We Trust" printed on them. It's like a marketing campaign. And I find it troublesome. Not because I have any issue with people who do believe in God. I don't. But because it feels very -- pushy and exclusionary to those of us who don't. And I'm not sure that god has anything to do with how the government runs or me paying for things with cash. 

It makes me have to just pretend they're not there. Like some annoying clothing label on the chest of a man's polo shirt or a baby's onesie. And you know me, I hate not seeing things. 

Worse yet, I hate when my son notices them, and then comes a deep philosophical discussion that maybe his parents, who he loves dearly, are in the minority when it comes to things that lots of people think of as "right" and "wrong." 

In the case of the pledge... I don't think there is a right or a wrong. I think it's just -- unnecessary. And, strangely, that's a lot harder to explain to a child than religious differences.

This is, after all, a child who brought home a biography of Muhammad Ali from the school library the other day. He didn't blink that Muhammad changed his name because of his faith in Islam. But he consistently gets teary eyed when we read stories about the civil rights movement. He can't believe people would be so dumb and cruel to exclude someone from having certain rights because of the color of his or her skin. He got teary eyed at the baseball game on 9/11 when I explained to him why the "mom" was throwing out the first pitch of the game as a 9/11 survivor (who now lives in St. Louis). But the best thing my child said that day was, "We don't have any more room in the world for bad guys, Mom."

And he's right. So you know, even though the whole thing bugs me... it's not worth getting my panties in a bunch. 

Thinking About Change

As of August, MacTroll and I have lived in Savoy for eight years. So, when he comes home with thoughts every few months about how his job at the Fruit might lead him to live in California in the next few years or thoughts where maybe he's done what he can do at work and should look for something else, the hair stands up on the back of my neck. It used to stand up in anxiety. Selling a house, keeping it perfect and clean on my own while he still works and travels is hell. I did it once when we moved into this house. I really hated it, and don't know how my friends Special K, Car Seat Guru and Libbygirl have done it for so long in this market. But now, my hair stands up in excitement. In some ways, I feel a sense of relief that change is probably coming down the road by the time X-man finishes first grade, but maybe that's just me mentally preparing for the separation from the familiar.

It would be nice to experience new friends and fairs and maybe even be near an ocean. It would provide new challenges, sure. The whole sale of our house and purchase of another, driving across country with animals and a small child, working full-time in a much more expensive environment, making new friends, getting used to a new school system, finding a new weight management clinic, a new gym, etc. 

I have no fear of moving, but damn it, X-man has to spend one year in the new Carrie Busey building before that happens... at the very least. Because whenever we talk about moving, and the little guy gets a hint of it he makes it very clear that he wants to live with his parents in Savoy forever. 

I guess we'll see what actually happens... 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

And the Winner Is -- St. Louis

Today, MacTroll, X-man, Papa and I got on a bus at the Savoy Recreation Center and went to watch a Cardinals baseball game. It was X-man's first St. Louis game and second MLB game. (The four of us went to see the White Sox last year.) This was a much more exciting game as the Cardinals won their 12th in a row. They're chasing a wild card entry into the finals and the team they beat (Atlanta Braves) is also trying to earn a wild card.

I'd found a Pujols jersey on sale at Kohl's a few weeks ago, so I bought it for X-man. He was excited about going and grateful that Papa bought him a cool new Cardinals hat while we were waiting to get into the stadium. Then we all sat down for lunch.

As it turns out, the food options in Busch aren't that great. I had a pretzel and shared a diet soda with X-man for lunch before I went to scope out the "Farmer's Market" for the vegetarian and gluten-free crowd. As it turns out, the items there were -- and this is no surprise -- pretty lacking.

But since it was such a warm day today, I just kept drinking diet sodas and not worrying about food. We watched a lovely game where the Cardinals beat the Braves 6-3. And then we walked in the door at our house at 6:45 p.m. and I was starving.

I sat down with some leftovers and enjoyed them while the guys ordered pizza. It was such a fast weekend. But we're all very excited because next weekend is Orchard Days in Savoy in Dana Colbert Park which = CARNIVAL in our backyard.

If you go, I'll selling pork sandwiches with the Rotary Club from 11 a.m. to whenever on Saturday before I need to take X-man to his first Illini football game that night.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, September 9, 2011

This Boot is Made for Walking

Today I had my make up appointment at Christie Clinic Podiatry. Normally, I'm a Carle Clinic patient, but for whatever reason (I'm blaming their new medical records issues), when I called for an appointment in early August, they couldn't see me until October. (Remind me to cancel that appointment, by the way.)

I was going because although the Sports Med doc had said my foot issues were due to sural nerve entrapment related to my degenerative disk disease, I didn't think that sitting around waiting for the pain to stop was really the answer... Mostly because I sat around for 3 weeks waiting to get into see him and then another three weeks after seeing him and the pain got worse and my foot got swollen and my back feels fabulous. His two x-rays didn't show any stress fractures.

The eight x-rays I got today, five weeks after seeing the sports doc clearly showed the stress fracture. So, now my right foot is in a giant boot. Because I don't drive much, she has permitted me to take off the boot to drive, sleep and when I'm at home sitting on the couch without putting weight on it. I have to give it three weeks, if it's not better in three weeks... Well, I don't want to think about that because I'm sure there's either a more stringent casting or surgery and neither of those are appealing.

We'll have to see how this goes at school. I'm kind of hobbling around, but I am on my feet all day long. I'm sure the kids will find it very strange. But then again, the Clownfish are pretty great at being supportive of their friends, so I'm hoping they'll be supportive of me, too.

I go back to the doc on Sept. 29th... we'll see what she says then.

Things that Mean a Lot to Me

I am a caretaker of wee small children. These are children who are just learning to drink from a big kid cup. Children who can't always communicate their thoughts and ideas in their limited vocabularies. Children who are in the throes of potty training, who are also still learning that unlike when they were infants and toddlers and people jumped at every cry and helped them get what they needed -- they now are being expected to provide themselves with some comfort. I take care of children who have never been away from their parents, who have never been around children other than their families.

It's a hard mix of social/emotional growth issues.

So it means a lot to me, when a mother that I absolutely love says that she trusts me implicitly to care for her daughter, especially when she has severe food allergies.

I don't take that lightly. I'm honored and touched.

As a mother, I felt like I was a team with X-man's teachers. I always want to convey that feeling to others as well. Parents  know their children the best. They are on the front lines trying to raise a caring, respectful individual every day. But at the same time, with the twos -- and the introduction of the understanding and usefulness of the word "No" our children begin to formulate who they are as individuals, and what we want from them as parents becomes second to who they are as individuals.

It's a crazy life, and I love it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Guilt Button - Poke.

Yesterday, I wasn't really home. I was at work and then I had a meeting with a new personal trainer at 1 p.m. I got X-man off the bus and talked to him about his day. Then I went to the hematologist at 3:45 p.m. Then I went home and did some dishes and prepared for my Library Board of Directors Meeting which went from 6-7 p.m. Then I stopped by Wal-mart to pick up an iPod speaker system for $18 and some balloons for my class today. I got home, I read X-man some books and tucked him in.

Today... was a similarly scheduled day. I was at work until 1:30. I came home and ate lunch and spent an hour figuring out how to create a private web site for the Clownfish parents to go to for updates. I finished writing the letter, but not the e-mail to send to the parents to tell them how to access it. I got X-man off the bus and then I got a great surprise from my neighbor up the street who is going to the Sara Bareilles concert with me in October. She dropped by to pay me for the tickets and pick her tickets up. Her son J-awesome and X-man played on the computer while we chatted. I love her. Seriously. Not just because she makes the most smooth-tastic margaritas, either.

After they left, X-man had his snack and did his homework and we chatted about his day. I worked some more on the e-mail and then finally started entering my students' parents' phone numbers and e-mails into my phone, so I could send them adorable pics while things were happening. I looked up and it was 5 p.m. I started to make myself dinner. Then I was going to go meet KTDID at BW3 with her cousin and friends for a Diet Coke at 6:30 p.m. But at 5:45 p.m., X-man laid it on thick.

"Mommy, I haven't seen you too much these two days. You're always working."

Sigh. I explained that I had some things I wanted to do for the parents of my students.

He sighed. "I want you to play Legos with me."

And I swear, if I had had any energy to play freaking Legos I would have. Instead, he settled for me reading him four books from the library. After I recorded them on his reading log for school, I realized there was no way, I was going to want to drive 1 mile to the restaurant. Instead, I went upstairs to go to sleep. My son followed me. My dog followed me.

We ended up a pile of tiredness on my bed, until I slowly rose at 7:30 p.m. to run X-man's bath. He was in it for 30 minutes while I played on facebook and tried to read (but I kept shutting my eyes). He got out and I heard him shouting at MacTroll about whatever it was he was reading.

I went in the room to find him using one of the basic sight word books with MacTroll. "No way, José!" I made him put the small book back (12 words total max), and pulled out a new book from the library about a birthday pedal car that looks a lot like X-man's red pedal car that he inherited from the Freak family at our last swap.

He made it six pages, and claimed he was too tired, so we shut the book for a while and I left. I'm totally feeling the Mom guilt. Because the truth is, I used all my energy playing with other people's children today. And play we did. Then I wrote about all the play we did and uploaded photos and movies for the parents to look at.

And now I'm just pooped.

The plan is to make it to a new fitness class early in the a.m. at the Rec Center. We'll see if that happens. I'm doing okay getting out of bed at 6:10 a.m. each day. Not sure if I want to push my luck for 5:45 a.m.

I'm going to be a mess when it's dark outside!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Well, That Only Took a Year!

Six weeks ago, I finally got to go see Dr. David Graham at the Carle Cancer Center. He is an oncologist/hematologist. He took one look at my blood work numbers and gave me a new iron dosage to try. It was an insane number of supplements. But he is the specialist... so I did what I was told.

I got my labs pulled last Thursday, and guess who has a "normal" iron count and a low (but normal) ferritin count since September of last year? Me. That's who.

I have to take the uber dosage of iron for six more weeks. Then if those labs come back, he'll let me go down to 2/3 of the dosage and maybe relax at 1/3 of the dosage after I show I can hold my numbers.

But he looked me square in the face and said, "I am never going to be worried about you having too much iron."

It's okay. I'll take it. Now... now I just need to get into get a second opinion about my foot on Friday.

We'll see how it goes. :-)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hello, Mother. Hello, Father. Greetings from Camp Minikani...

We arrived after dark last night. I had called to let them know we'd be late, but check in was closed so we had to flag down a group of campers who spread out and chased down the supervisor. Our cabin was one of only two without a shared bathroom, but I find having my own is worth the cost.

We paid $572 for four days, including lodging, food and activities. It's a much more modern camp than Maine was, but administratively it is a mess. There was no welcome packet telling us what they would provide, so Mactroll made a run to Target last night for sheets and pillows. I had to email in advance for the itinerary, which sadly, has a lot of firearm options. The blob broke, so they just have the water trampoline. The explanation for how camp worked was done at breakfast and was hard to hear. They also segregated us by family. So there's less chances to get to know others.

The good points so far, besides the private bathroom and beautiful walkways, is the Midwestern friendliness. Everyone is happy to help each other out and introduce each other. X-man got to ride a horse around the corral for 15 minutes, and he looked adorable in his riding helmet. There are ample drinks and individual semi healthy snacks to grab. The lake water is warm, so we got to jump a lot on the trampoline this morning (before the cold front moves through tonight) and X-man swam and did canonballs until he was shivering and his lips turned blue.

This afternoon he X-man goes to minicamp for kids 2-6. Then we have casino night...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Best Work Day Ever

Thursday was a little crazed in the Clownfish room. We still have children adjusting to the new experience of school, so some tears were shed. But at two, we also have some very empathetic friends, so when one cries, several of them feel sad, too.

Today, was awesome. None of our children were sad. In fact, they were super excited to be there, and Ms. Rachel and I were able to totally excited. First of all, we had two teachers for six children, which is an awesome ratio number. I felt for the first time all week that I could really sit down and observe the children's "know how" rather than just their social interaction. I also really got to play with them one on one. And the potty training/diaper changing was a lot easier.

But today, we also got to meet some fire fighters, go on a walk hunting for the fire truck, have a picnic of berries and popsicles and pretzels and ride bikes. I kept walking around declaring -- I love today. It was wonderful.

Then after I left work, my mood started falling apart. I picked up X-man from school. We were supposed to go home and just pick up MacTroll and leave to go to Family Camp in Wisconsin, but our cat Nyssa ended up in the Animal ER last night because she lost all feeling her her tail. It was just dragging around behind her and the first appointment we could get with our vet today was 1:30 p.m. So, MacTroll took her in for the appointment, and X-man and I are just sitting around on our butts. Car is packed and ready to go. Dog has been walked.

She's always had terrible arthritis, but it looks like she has some spinal disease which will only progressively get worse. Like one day she'll wake up and lose the use of her back legs or her bowels... It's hard to feel like you want to go on vacation, even though your cat is on pain medication and no longer in pain knowing that she might need you and you'll be gone.