Waging war in the urban jungle

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Missing a page in the old instruction manual

I must be missing a page. I'm sure that somewhere, at sometime, someone has written step by step instructions for how to deal with this parenting scenario. I must need to go back and reread my manual...oh wait, there is no freaking manual! I'm on my own!!

My Kindergartner was very upset this afternoon but was reluctant to spill the beans. He said he thought I would punish him. After a bit of prodding and silliness-asking him if he cheated on a test or smoked a cigarette?!-he finally admitted he'd done something that involved "Martin" and an "ear". I asked him if he'd said something mean to Martin and he said no...he'd actually bitten the child, on the ear-ala Mike Tyson, without the actual severing of any body parts. WTH?! How on Earth did this happen?! He said they were playing he put his mouth too close to Martin's face and accidentally bit his ear. That he "lost control" of his body. Oh my goodness...what the heck am I supposed to do with this information? Surprisingly I did not get a call from the school, I assume that is because they realized he did not do this in anger, it was an impulse control problem. I'm not sure what, if any, feedback I'll be getting from this boys Mom...dreading that convo.... So, yeah my kid bit your kid....so sorry about that! Martin cried, Paulo almost cried, then had a five minute time out on the bench. So end of story...maybe? I hope!

He feels terrible. He was able to verbalize and identify, correctly I might add, what he's feeling as GUILT! **Side note, I'm really proud of his ability to identify his feelings!** But he has to learn that he needs to keep control of his body and that he cannot use any part of it, teeth included, to inflict pain on another human being. Basic lesson, hopefully learned. In the meantime I'm doing the only thing I can think to do, making him write a letter of apology to this child. Asking for forgiveness is hard and it's something we all need practice in!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Signs of life

Often, I'm in such a rush I fail to notice. I saw it today though after I dropped off my son at Kindergarten. I turned the corner to rush off to work and there it was, blossoming trees. The streets are covered by beautiful pink blossoming trees. Ah, the signs of life! Spring is coming!!

The bulbs Rene planted last year are now bright green sprouts with tiny buds, not yet blossomed, on the tips.

If you look closely you can see the buds that will soon grow into leaves on our spindly trees.

This morning as I sat finishing my coffee at 6:45 I looked outside and I could SEE! It was daylight already!

We've been enjoying unseasonably warm weather here in Portland, I've actually needed to wear my sunglasses. It's all just so glorious!

I love Spring and Fall, truth be told, I love Fall the most-but Spring is a beautiful season. The renewal. The refreshing. The colors of flowers blooming. The budding trees. Watching my children play outside after being locked in the house all Winter. It's all so much appreciated after the long, cold, rainy months.

I have to remind myself to slow down and see it. Really see it for all it's beauty and magic. Every single Spring the Earth fights back against the cold and bursts forth with new growth, shimmering with brilliantly colored petals. It's a beautiful thing. This miracle of life and renewal is played out by Mother Nature year after year. No matter what's going on in the world of man, no matter how much fighting, pain or suffering we experience, or damage we do to ourselves or the environment, every single Spring the Earth is renewed-often in spite of us frankly. Every single Spring Mother Nature gives us a fresh start. What will I do with mine? What will you do with yours?

Monday, February 22, 2010

The flash and the fall

Oh the flash, the hot, hot flash of anger. The flood of adrenaline as my body prepares to fight the Saber Toothed Tiger circling my campsite...except that there is no big kitty nor am I camping. I'm at work. And I'm pissed off.

To be fair my anger started yesterday. I'm irritated with a certain adult males immature response to a certain immature males decision making process. Plus this morning my Monday-although back to my cherished routine, did not go smooth. So I'm already edgy when I pull into the office.

Then my credit card processing company decides to jerk me around and hold on to my money while they "review the parameters" of my new account. 23K...they're holding onto 23K?! I have a freaking business to run.

I did thoroughly rip into the woman that claimed she requested the additional documents necessary to release our funds-she did not. That's what really pisses me off. She claims to have left a voice mail requesting the documents. She did not. And she won't admit it. I asked her then why my not getting them back to her didn't throw up any red flags, why didn't she follow up? Why did she drop the ball? Did she really think I'm going to ignore a voice mail that completely and utterly disables my ability to effectively run my own freaking business??!! I'm still angry. I have bills to pay people! I have a business to run! I also ripped into her supervisor. My sales rep is next, I'll save him for another day. But the fall is here, I hate the fall.

I'm drained now. Completely and utterly drained of energy. This has sucked me dry. I'm still so freaking angry that she won't admit she dropped the ball and take responsibility. There is zero chance she left the voice mail that she claims to have left. Only Rene and I check voice mail. Is there a chance she misdialed? Absolutely. Will she admit that? Nope. Is there a chance she never made the call? Definitely. She certainly will never admit that. I have to let it go. I know that. There's nothing more I can do. Except try to recharge my emotional battery, refill the old emotional gas tank, whatever that takes. Which right now feels like it will take sleep. Lots and lots of sleep....and a little dark chocolate.

Friday, February 19, 2010

LOST: Routine, if found please return to....

Oh my goodness, what a week! My poor little man is finally on the mend. His ear is no longer oozing, his temperature is almost back to normal, his personality is definitely coming back loud and clear. And I am so ready to return to my regularly scheduled life!

I never knew what a creature of habit I truly was until my son was born. Being organized and scheduled makes me feel comfortable. It gives me a sense of peace. Keeps me centered and sane. My routine went in the crapper this week.

A big part of my sanity is the gym. I discovered, rather late in life, that working out makes me happy. If I'd discovered that early in life I can't help but think I would have had an easier time of my teenage years and early 20's! I have not gone to the gym since Paulo got sick, about a week and a half ago. This is really, really bad for my mental health, and the physical and mental health of all those around me! This weekend though I have a date with the gym. And next week Paulo and I will get back to our twice a week routine of visiting the gym. He loves it too, he gets to go and play in the Kids Club while I work out. We both benefit, we both get "our wiggles" out, and I'm a much more pleasant person to be around when I'm done with a work out.

My mornings have also been topsy turvy since Paulo's been sick. The nights were tough for a few days so Rene started going out to breakfast and Paulo and I slept in. This is lovely on one hand, but disruptive to the routine on the other. It feels weird, like we're in summer break already, but we're not, it's February and he should be in school!

Because Paulo hasn't been going to school and sleeping in, he's been staying up a little later than normal and so I have had less adult time. Time to read. Time to do crossword puzzles. Time to watch Lost-I'm two weeks behind on Lost! Time to just BE. Time to not be touched by a sick, yet sweet, 5 year old. I miss my time. I'm looking forward to getting reacquainted with it this weekend.

And boy am I feeling the cumulative effects today. Things are bugging me that would not normally. People are pissing me off. The sound of the ringing phone on my desk makes me crazy. The voice on the other end of the line asking how I'm doing makes me want to scream: You really want to know?!?!?! I'm pissed off!!

Deep cleansing breaths....my routine will return. It's like a dear friend and I so sorely miss her. Come back my friend....come back!

Thursday, February 18, 2010


I am so tired of being touched! Paulo's sick. Massive ear infection, severe pain all night Sunday and all morning Monday until we got into the pediatrician and she gave him a dose of the hard stuff-Tylenol with hydrocodone. That finally took the edge off the pain. He's been out of school for over a week. The cold that preceded the infection kept him out last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. It's been a really rough week! My sweet boy is very affectionate, I love that about him. He will sit and snuggle with me, he has this thing about earlobes, he like to play with them. He always has, he used to do it when he was nursing, I assumed he'd outgrow it, nope. I suspect that he'll be doing that someday to his wife! But when he's sick it all gets amplified. I feel like I'm being touched 24/7! I know he needs me, I know he's my sweet baby, and really overall I'm fine but sometimes I just need to vent. Phew...feel better now!

You know, sometimes you just need to get it off your chest, so now when he wakes up I can let him sit on my lap and play with my earlobes! But while I'm at it, I'd like to clear the air about play. I play with my boy A LOT! Always have. I do not have memories of my Mom getting down on the floor and playing Barbies with me, somehow being the youngest of 4 I suspect that did not happen. I do have memories of story time and playing pretend make up, we'd give each other make overs with our fingers, good times. Anyway, I have always made a point to play with Paulo. I could play board games, Uno, Go Fish or ping pong until the cows came home but I really do not enjoy playing cars! I used to, I did. But that was back when all we had to do was make motoring noises and drive around in circles and he was happy. Now he wants me to reenact scenes from the movie Cars. And create new scenes from it that involve Sally renting a cone to Chick Hicks, but only after Sally has scolded Chick for being so mean and he's promised never to be mean again...over and over and over....His all time favorite thing to do though is to play "Pretend People". Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled that he embraces imaginative play, but I'm his preferred playmate for pretend people. For the last three days I have been Captain Gantu from Stitch, The Movie, and he's Stitch. But it's a mix up, he's Stitch but he's still the one making me sandwiches. If you've seen the sequel to Lilo and Stitch that might make sense to you, there's a sandwich making "cousin" of Stitch...anyway, I'm the big Captain and he's Stitch making me sandwiches, egg salad to be precise. His creative license though allows him to make them toasted with eggplant and dressing! Mmmm good! I do get to the point where I have to tell him we're taking a break. I get tired of being called by every name other than MOM! I worked too hard to get that boy to not be called Mom. This too I thought he would outgrow, but he hasn't. He loves it. I tell him I am going to enroll him in a kid's theater class and he gets nervous about that. Says he'd be too shy, which I frankly think is a crock, the boy does not have a shy bone in his body! So someday my friends you may see that boys name up in lights on Broadway! He really would do well in a theater class, there are two local groups that I know of that do offer classes for kids his age. I really need to get him in there to try it out. I think it would be great for him to be around peers that play pretend as much as he does, and as committed to it. He's made himself cry before! Freaked my mother in law out, cause at that moment she was playing the supportive role to him. She'd crushed his sandwich, she was Pinky Dinky Do and he was somebody he'd seen on that show. He started to cry about the sandwich. She vowed never to play pretend people with him again. The boy's got skills!

Overall his endearing qualities far, far, FAR outweigh the frustrations of parenting. He's a great kid. He's funny. He's smart. He's loving and empathetic. I'm a lucky Momma.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day

A wise friend of mine pointed out that Valentine's Day is not just for lovers but it is for expressing love to all the people in your life. Love, love, love. What an amazing gift. When you love someone you give them a piece of your heart and your soul. You hope they will take care of it, and give you a piece in return, but it's such a leap of faith isn't it? Who doesn't remember that first, nervous, I love you spoken aloud? I do. Honestly, I've never enjoyed Valentine's Day. I considered it a made up sham of a holiday, I was quite cynical. It never lived up to the Hollywood, or Hallmark, induced hype. I would go into the holiday tense, expecting the worst-which as we all know pretty much guarantees the worst will happen! What you think...will be! This year I vowed to work on a change of perspective. Then my dear friend wrote about Valentine's Day and how much it meant to her-not only as a wife but as a mother-and something truly clicked.

I decided that I would make today very special for my Valentines, I vowed to spoil them rotten!

I baked bread, from scratch-had to start the dough last night.

I made a new, delicious, lemon and shrimp pasta dish for dinner.

I brought my Grandmother's dishes out of storage to eat on.

We ate by candlelight listening to soft jazz music sipping good wine. Paulo drank his OJ from a wine glass.

It was a delightful meal.

Then...for dessert....I cut up fresh fruit and made a white chocolate fondue. It was heavenly!

And the surprising thing, I had not one moment of martyrdom. I did not resent my child or my husband while I bustled about in the kitchen preparing a special meal to celebrate my love for them.

So often in the past I've considered Valentine's Day a day for other's to show me how special I am. I've never thought about the simple truth that it is also a day for me to show them how special they are. And they are special. My boys are wonderful boys. I'm a lucky wife and mother.

I read recently that the soul's main purpose for time on Earth is to love one another. This clicks for me. We are here to take care of each other. To open our hearts. To let down our guards and really bare our souls to other human beings. When we truly love another we become close to God-whichever version you may believe in. Love may be what it's all about after all.

Happy Valentine's Day to one and all!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Looking forward

I'm looking forward to reading my newspaper on the back porch with the sunshine warming me on a Sunday morning.
I'm looking forward to grilling my dinner for my family while Paulo plays in the sand box.
I'm looking forward to late night wine and chats with Rene when the night air is sweet and pleasant.
I'm looking forward to walks to the playground and picnics at the park.
I'm looking forward to fresh fruits and veggies from the Farmers Market.
I'm looking forward to Spring!

Friday, February 12, 2010

38 years ago

38 years ago a chain of events was set in motion that led to me.

38 years ago a man and a woman decided to try again.

38 years ago a woman tried to let go of her past and start fresh with her children.

38 years ago a man tried to create a new future for himself and his son.

38 years ago my Mother, complete with my older sister and brother, married my Father who came to the union with my other brother. A few years later I, the youngest and chosen one, would enter the picture. We always joked that we were like the Lucille Ball movie, Yours, Mine and Ours. It was said with humor but it also spoke truthfully about the divisions that existed in our home. Blended families have their own unique challenges.

Oh they were a difficult couple, my parents. They loved big and they fought bigger. They were simultaneously filled with passion and with rage. 38 years ago today they were married. 3 and 1/2 years ago my Mother died. Ravaged by dementia and reduced to a shell of her former self by the end she died in her home with her husband by her side. Unable to communicate beyond a word or two. I am sure she did not know who I was when I saw her shortly before her death, she did not even know her sister's name when I mentioned it. It was beyond tragic. It was excruciating to watch her slip away. The beginning of her end spiraled out of control as I became a mother myself. Literally as my son took his first breaths my mother slipped away from me. It wasn't until he was 9 months old that she was diagnosed, frontotemporal dementia. By then though we had struggled through his first months and she had missed so many milestones. Never once did she babysit her Grandson. She did not bathe him. She did not feed him. Rarely did she even hold him, I cherish the photo from the day he was born where my Mother holds him and looks at the camera with such joy, it was the last time I had what I considered to be a "normal" interaction with her. The dementia made her apathetic. She couldn't bond with my sweet boy. The disease took away her empathy, her compassion, her ability to love.

She was a passionate woman. Larger than life. Very much my Father's opposite. He's a very reserved man, stoic almost. I have seen him cry twice. When his Mother died-man do I miss my Grandma-and the morning that my Mother died. He loved her. He spent those years following his retirement playing nurse to my withering Mother. At the end he was there. It was a long and complicated relationship. But at its core was love. They saw something in each other that no one else saw. They stuck together through thick and thin, they fought, they kissed and made up. They separated, they reconciled. They loved. It wasn't always pretty, but it was love.

So, Happy Anniversary to you Mom and Dad. And Mom I hope that, wherever your soul is, you are able to take a moment and remember the love. Remember the passion. Remember the man that woo'd you with love letters and roses and promised to make it all better. Maybe he didn't make good on his promises but it wasn't for lack of love.

I miss you.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The moral compass

If there's no threat of punishment or consequence do you do the right thing anyway?

This was my commute topic of conversation with my 14 year old son yesterday. It all started out very differently. I had busted him for texting during class. His father and I got him a fancy pants phone for Christmas and put him on our cell phone plan. One of the reasons I went along with this plan was the knowledge that I would be able to monitor his usage online-thank you T Mobile! I let it go for a while to see how he'd do. Not surprisingly I found a lot of incoming and outgoing texts on his log when he should have been dutifully listening to his hard working teachers. No, I cannot read what he's texting I can only see that he is in fact sending and receiving a text or picture or using the Internet during class times-which we'd told him was strictly forbidden...dun dun dun, busted.
I asked him if he knew why I was upset about this and he thought it was because he'd be distracted from the lesson. True, much like Pavlov's dog can't resist the bell, Dimitri cannot resist checking his phone when it vibrates. However that was not my main concern with the classroom texts. It's just the fact that it is plain rude. It's disrespectful to his teachers. I cannot get past the rude factor. These are men and women who are working a thankless job and should be paid attention to! But the technology of the moment has made everything so darn immediate. We operate under the rule of instant gratification. OH! I had a thought, I have to share it right this second! No you don't! Someone texted me, if I don't text back I'll be rude...bit of a conflict there eh? You're rude if you don't respond to your friend but you're even ruder if you text during a lecture.
I asked him why he thinks it's ok and the response I got was something along the lines of everyone does it. The fact that Timmy, Susie and Bobby all text their buddies during math does not make it ok! That high road is a lonely, but satisfying, place try taking it sometimes. I put him on official notice that I would be monitoring the log and I expected no more texts during class time. He should not even be texting me, his Dad or his Mother! There is nothing so important that it cannot wait until lunch time or after school. Unless you're texting to tell me that the school has been invaded by aliens and you're being attacked....save it for later!
We started our journey to school that morning and I drove along pondering what I'd heard. Then I had a question, I prefaced it by telling him this was a real question, I'm honestly curious about the answer: are you aware when you're texting in class that what you are doing is wrong? Sometimes, he says...sometimes?
So, sometimes you know you're doing the wrong thing but that is not enough to alter your behavior? Yeah....yeah?
I'm telling you this was a fascinating glimpse into the developing teenage mind!
Why? Uh...I don't know-typical 14 year old boy response. I asked him if it was because there's no real threat of punishment, nothing happens in the classroom when kids text-which I personally think is ridiculous, if I were a teacher I would have a drawer FULL of confiscated cell phones! And while, as he says, they can take the phone away, he's never actually seen it happen-therefore it is theoretical, it's too abstract, this hypothetical punishment, so it's not enough to keep him on the straight and narrow when faced with the siren's call of an incoming text message.
I asked him then, if there's no threat of consequence what prevents us from breaking the law? For instance, if there was no chance of getting caught, would he cheat on a test? After much hemming and hawing he admitted he would. Especially if the test counted for a large % of his grade. Why, I asked-I was channeling my inner preschooler and asking Why? Why? Why? He said that he would be motivated by the grade, that he would want the good grade. So, I asked him if the end justifies the means? As an example, if I am sure I won't get caught cheating on my taxes to get more money back is it still wrong to cheat on my taxes? Yes, he says, because I'd be stealing money. Well I told him he'd be stealing ideas if he cheats on the test. He asked me a question of his own then. He asked, what if the other kid lets him cheat? Still wrong I say. Both parties have a responsibility to do the right thing. If you are offered stolen property and then get caught with that stolen property you can get in trouble along with the thief, possession of stolen property, no fun. Both parties have a moral obligation to do the right thing.
I must say though I feel confident that real life Dimitri will not cheat on his tests because he's well aware of what the real life consequences would be!
We ended the conversation as we pulled in front of his high school with a chat about the moral compass. That thing that keeps us on the straight and narrow regardless of the lack of consequences for breaking the rules. That inner voice that tells you when you're crossing the line. The angel on the shoulder that guides you through the moral and ethical tests of life. Listen to that voice...follow your compass...take the high road. I reassured him that this was all a natural part of growing up, learning to navigate the moral and ethical questions of life. A part of the maturing process that all kids go through during their teenage years and told him to have a great day. I can honestly say though that 14 is my favorite age so far for him! We're able to discuss these more complex issues not only about morality and ethics but religion too and it is fascinating. I love watching him grow up in front of my eyes and evolve into a young man. One that does have a developing moral compass and one that I hope will continue to tune into that compass as the issues he faces get more and more complicated. So for all of you raising young boys, just wait, the teenage years are great!
As a side note, I did watch the log yesterday and he got a single incoming text during class and to his immense credit he did NOT respond! I made sure to tell him he did well and that I appreciated his effort.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dinosaur adventure

The dinos are coming! Well, one dinosaur is coming, after being painstakingly chiseled from its plaster prison.

Paulo's Tia Nena gave him a fabulous gift. It is a plaster encased dinosaur skeleton, perfect for honing the skills of future Paleontologists. Fortunately he did not look at the packaging which clearly states it is intended for children ages 8 and older. Paulo's a stickler on the age rule! It's come in handy for me a time or two when he's coveted some obnoxious toy, all I have to do is point out that it's for kids older than say 10 and that effectively ends the conversation. This time though I didn't want him to see that and think he needed to save this treasure for another 2 years 2 months and 18 days!

He got to work the second we got home. He set up his excavation site in the kitchen and started digging. To be honest I wondered just how long this would hold his attention. He is 5 after all and this was very detailed work! He surprised me though and worked at it during most of my dinner prep time.

With each fragment emerging from the plaster he'd look at me and shriek "I see a bone!" He was so proud of himself! I was moved by seeing just how proud he was of the work he was doing. There was a sense of accomplishment for him and it was challenging work. After a while he looked up at me and said, "you know what? this is actually NOT boring!" Oh the honesty of children....He made serious progress freeing his new friend from the plaster. He looked at it again this morning realized that he'd unearthed the creatures tail and legs and vowed to dig out his head tonight!

Being a Paleontologist is messy business though there was plaster dust everywhere but it's all worth it though in the name of science!

Monday, February 8, 2010

It's calling

The candy bowl is calling my name....shhhh candy, don't speak!

I read today that you should allow yourself a daily serving of whatever food it is you crave. An ounce of chips, 35 jelly beans (seriously, who counts their jelly beans?) an ounce of chocolate, you know, reasonable portions of sweets or goodies. My logical side understands that but my impulsive side says phooey, why stop at one ounce?! Bring on the Costco sized bag of gummy bears!

So for now, since I'm still a work in progress on the art of balance, I will say shhhh candy.....shhhhh!

Instead I will have a cup of green tea.

Morning java

Paulo woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. He was grumpy with a capital G! He'd been doing well, no nightmares since I started giving him Ibuprofren at bedtime last week, well last night featured the return of the bad dreams and then at least 45 minutes of laying awake, so this morning was rough. I finally got him laughing in his bed and left him to get dressed so I could make his breakfast.

He came downstairs a few minutes later and bee lined to the laptop. Uh no, sweetie, the laptop is off. Then it's the TV, can I watch a show? Nope, we don't watch TV on school mornings. The whining floodgates opened. I cannot stand whining, especially that early and after being up with him in the wee hours of the morning. So he got an earful from me. I told him that I understand he's tired, I'm tired too, but he is not to talk to me like that and that he needs to go back up to his room and start his day over! Yes, I sent him to his room and it was barely 7 am. He grumped upstairs and came back down about 5 minutes later in a much better mood. Still not perky by any stretch of the imagination but not Grumpy either.

I got to work this morning after dropping both boys off at school, the bigger being grumpy with a little g, and Rene offered a suggestion. He'd observed our little exchange today and suggested I let Paulo watch TV while I'm making breakfast with the stipulation that it only be during that breakfast prep time and as soon as the food hits the table the TV goes off. I looked at him like he'd grown an extra head. He tried to rationalize it by saying that maybe for Paulo cartoons are like his coffee and how grumpy would we be without our morning coffee? Again, extra head. I mean really? Cartoons are neccesary for getting the day started? I do not agree! And what is five minutes going to give us? Stress and fighting when it's time to turn off the TV! It'd be like a teaser, it actually seems cruel to do to him! I can just hear it now.....

Here honey have five minutes of Little Bill, just long enough to get into it but not long enough to know how the story ends, and now kabam! Time to turn it off! Go to the table! What do you mean you don't want to turn it off? Well of course you don't!

Then the whining dam would burst and the whole town downstream would be flooded out! No thanks. I'll pass. I'll stick with my big blue meanie routine of no TV before school.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Why do we not protect childhood?

I read a story today that deeply affected me. An 11 year old child just became a mother. She lives in the NE United States and delivered a healthy baby boy this month. I am stunned and saddened by this story for so many reasons.

First that a child as young as 10 would be sexually active is appalling. Yes, it is possible that this pregnancy was the result of rape or incest. The Grandparents aren't disclosing that information and, I suppose, rightfully so. Is it really my business? No it's not. But let's suppose that this child was willingly sexually active with a boy, the question is why? Why did she seek out and/or accept that type of attention? I can accept the idea that teenagers are sexual beings. Physically/hormonally they are primed and ready for procreation. Emotionally/mentally they are not. Our society has changed so much over the last century. It was not that long ago that a 14 year old girl was considered to be of the marrying age (my own Aunt was married at the tender age of 15). It was acceptable and perhaps desirable for her family to arrange a marriage and she went into it knowing that she would become sexually intimate with this man and bear children at, by today's standards, a very young age. Today that same 14 year old girl would never be expected or permitted to marry and we weep when she becomes a teenage mother. We deny that a teenager could have legitimate sexual feelings and as parents loathe discussing human sexuality with our children leaving them with little education to keep them safe but ample opportunity to get themselves in trouble. Physically though I don't think we've evolved at all, we're still the same as we were 100 years ago. It is society that has changed its expectations. Therein lies the conflict for so many teenagers, do they follow their human urges and needs or societies expectations? Does that make sense? This story though takes it to a new level. This was a 10 year old girl. At 10 I was still reading Nancy Drew and playing Barbies! The idea of sexual intercourse at that age had not entered my mind, and I was not a sheltered child. At 10 this girl should have still been enjoying her childhood not having sex and getting pregnant.

Second thing that makes me sad, and a bit confused, is why didn't her parents know she was sexually active and take steps to stop it? She was 10 after all it's not like she had keys to the family car and could come and go with the freedom of a teenager. If I thought for one millisecond that my tween was sexually active....but what if they truly didn't know? How have we allowed such a level of disconnect with our children? And it's not just this article, but you see it in the news of children committing suicide and their parents saying truthfully, "we didn't know they were in pain". How did it happen that the Columbine kids' parents didn't know how angry their children were? How did this child's parents not know she was having sex? I'm in my kids' business all the time! My teenage son asks why doesn't he have a computer and a TV in his room? I tell him it's because I like him! If he had a TV and computer (or just a computer since he can watch TV on that now!) then the only time I'd see him is if he needs to eat or pee and that's not an option. I told him I would not be able to look in his eyes and see if he's depressed-suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for his age group-or if he was high! And I tell him he can't because I'm the Momma and I said so! Will this ensure his safety? No, but I'm trying. I need to be engaged and plugged into my kids' life. I want to be the house that their friends hang out in. Now I'm not saying that parents who allow computers in their kids' rooms are bad parents. For me though it is not an option I will allow, it's not a risk I'm willing to take. It's a tool in my kit for getting my boys to adulthood safely and happily. I need to ensure that my children are safe by staying active in their lives. I need to swallow my own embarrassment and talk openly about the changes and challenges that they face as they grow up and physically mature. It is up to me to keep them safe and give them as much knowledge as possible to ensure they make good choices for themselves when they are out in the big bad world without me.

The idea of the physical strain of pregnancy in an undeveloped body too gives me pause. I loved being pregnant, but I was 29! And even though I was physically and mentally ready I still suffered the aches and pains typical to pregnancy. A 10 year old body was never meant to carry a child. The pelvis, the ribcage, none of that was designed to carry and then deliver a baby. There are so many things that could have gone wrong, even lethally, for a child of that age.

I am just so sad for this girl today. Her whole life has changed. Even though she won't be raising this boy alone she'll still see him every day, she will likely grow up as his sister, but she will be reminded daily of the circumstances that led to his conception-whatever those may have been. How will she deal with that? I hope that counseling is an option for this little girl. She will have so much to process in the coming months. Her physical recovery will be long, I would assume longer than a full grown woman's. I cannot fathom the post-partum hormonal changes that she will experience. I'm just really sad for her and I sincerely hope that she is getting the emotional support she will desperately need.

In the meantime though, I ask why are we not protecting childhood? It should be a safe and happy time for our babies. A time for self discovery and intellectual growth. For developing independence. For cultivating close friendships. Children should not be mini adults with adult sized worries and responsibilities. They know too much about the dark side of life and far too early. They don't need to watch the nightly news with their parents, they are not equipped to process what they see! What does it mean for our society as these pint sized worry warts grow and take on adult sized problems? How will they respond to the stress of the workplace when they've been chronically stressed since childhood? How can they be healthy adults if they've been in flight or fight mode for their whole lives? How will they age? I read somewhere that for the first time in who knows how long my son's age group has a shorter life expectancy than their parents. That is tragic. We are supposed to be educated and evolved yet we are failing to raise our children in safety and in good health. Do we not see the dire consequences of our inaction and poor choices?

Good luck little 11 year old girl. I hope you recover from all this and can still go on to lead a happy, HEALTHY, productive adult life.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mystery solved?

My son's nightmares sent me to the Internet. Pretty much any problem, pain or dilemma does the same! I googled and googled yesterday children and nightmares. I read lots of common sense comments, ideas and suggestions. Look for psychological trauma, he hasn't had any. Limit caffeine, he doesn't get any! Maintain a consistent sleep schedule, check! One site said no food close to bed and another said give him a light carb snack before bed. It left me feeling helpless and frustrated. This morning I continued my search and I stumbled across a website called http://www.familymatters.tv/. In it the author discussed the pain of teething from infancy through adolescence and I found this:

"Sleeplessness and nightmares are also very common for a 5 year old getting his 6-year molars. If the child is waking on a regular basis with nightmares; sweating and clammy and has been craving eggs lately, Calcarea Carbonica might bring some relief."
The idea of teething contributing to his sleep problems never crossed my mind. I had actually googled nightmares and food allergies on a whim to see if maybe, just maybe, something that he is eating is causing pain that he hasn't been able to communicate. It was a long shot for sure.
I woke him this morning and told him to open his mouth and stuck my fingers in there to check the back of his gums. And what did I find? Huge eruptions. My son is getting his 6 year molars. I asked him if it hurt and he said yes but that he just grinds on them and presses down with his teeth...uh, ouch, baby that sounds like it would make it worse! So tonight we will try some old fashioned ibuprofren and hope those bad boys pop through quickly!
And on a side note, last night's nightmare was that he was a Smurf and got bit by the bug that turns them into crazy Smurfs, almost rabid, it is a truly bizarre episode but one he hasn't seen in MONTHS!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Analyze this!

Paulo's sleep the last three nights has been disrupted by bad dreams. Last night was particularly rough. Best as I can tell his first was around midnight, he dreamt he was a baby and that Rene, Dimitri and I left him at home alone and went to the airport. We realized we forgot him then and while we felt badly did not return for him. He said because he was a baby he couldn't even talk. Then he had to walk (crawl) to his Grandma's house. He woke up very upset and crying and was calling for me. I was asleep, did not hear him at all, and Rene decided to run interference. Paulo is not accustomed to being comforted by his father in the middle of the night and was not pleased to see Dad. He asked me this morning where I was and why I didn't come when he called....ugh, shot through the heart! I felt terrible! I know, logically, it's ok if his father comforts him after a nightmare but in my heart, it just isn't. Paulo is my baby, the center of my universe, and he was hurting last night and I was asleep! Extra snuggles tonight!! When he told me about his dream this morning he got teary again and I held him on my lap and snuggled him. Reassuring him that it would never, ever, ever happen! His family would not abandon him and go off on vacation without him! I told him I could understand why that dream was so bad and how frustrated he must have been to not be able to communicate. This is the second time the theme of abandonment and vulnerability has surfaced in his dreams, at least the second time I know about.

His second nightmare last night was a short one. In it the moon turned brown and exploded. I woke up at 4 am to find he had snuck in my bed. Being the smart boy he is he didn't make a peep this time, I'm sure he didn't want to risk his father waking and taking him back to his room. I have no idea when he came to my bed, normally I am somewhat aware. I asked him this morning and he giggled and told me that I had moved over for him! Yes, I am quite sure I did! But really? The moon exploded? What the heck is that about?! The first one I can somewhat get, maybe he's worried about being left out? Resents that Dimitri had so many years as just the three of us? Feels excluded because Dimitri's older and gets to do big kid stuff? But the moon exploded?? Huh?? That one is a mystery to me. He's never seen any sort of doomsday movie or read anything remotely related to the end of the world or supernovas, we don't watch the Discovery channel with him all that often. So I'm confused really, where that dream comes from. Any takers on dream analysis??

I don't recall being plagued by nightmares as a child. I do remember a story of how I had at least one episode of sleep walking. Apparently I walked through the living room to the front door, opened and closed it, then walked back to bed. But my boy has struggled with nightmares and night terrors for years. It's exhausting for him and for me. I feel bad for him. It's a vicious cycle, the worse he sleeps the more likely he is to have bad dreams. He's been doing well lately and actually sleeping all night-which was fabulous for a Momma that had not had a full night of sleep in nearly 6 years! I just hope we can get through this patch of nightmares quickly and return to his restful sleep. In the meantime I will sleep with one ear open tonight in case my baby needs me.

Ghosts of my Mother

There are countless ways in which I strive to be as unlike my Mother as humanly possible-yet still her voice seems to come out of my mouth at the most inopportune times! I think though sometimes I need to remind myself of the ways I want to emulate her. I need to remember her with kindness. For all her flaws she was simply a woman. A woman who struggled with her choices, was not happy with her path, a woman who struggled with the demon of alcoholism, but a woman who loved me. The last coherent thing she said to me was that she loved me. It was the Christmas before she died. I was hosting my in laws and my sister's family and my parents stopped by unexpectedly. She had not been doing well at that time and going places in the car was difficult for her. She and my father had come to breakfast the day before on Christmas Eve and she'd had the very unfortunate experience of having an accident, at the breakfast table. I was horrified yet she didn't seem the least bit bothered by it. I suppose that was one of the gifts of her dementia, she lost the ability to control bodily functions at the same time she lost the ability to care. But I was left to clean up the mess in the bathroom and Rene had to go get a new dining chair from Dania-luckily they were open on Christmas Eve! I was not expecting to see them on Christmas Day and, I struggle to admit it, was not happy that they'd shown up after the Christmas Eve breakfast fiasco. This time I placed her on a folding chair so she would not ruin another dining chair. My sister and I sat with her talking with our father, she just watched. Eyes going from one speaker to the next with a faint smile. She seemed like she was enjoying the interaction. All of a sudden, completely out of the blue, she said "I love you Kris". I cherish that memory. My Mother was one of those women that said I love you all...the....time....as a teenager it got to be quite bothersome! As an adult I became annoyed with it/her. She'd call me at work and ask me what I was doing...uh, working Mom. But then she got sick, right when I needed her most, right when I became a Mother myself. She gave me a gift though that Christmas Day, she broke through her disease for one brief shiny moment and told me she loved me for the last time. She died the following June. The last time I saw her I'm not sure she knew who I was, but I just sat with her and watched animal planet and tried to make small talk. It was hard to see a woman that was larger than life in so many ways become so small, so frail, so locked in her mind. She was never Ms. Communication but she lost the ability to even try because of the dementia. It was a terrible way to die.

One of the ways I am like her is through books. She read to me all the time as a child. I credit her for my love of books. We would read Little Golden Books, one of my favorites was The Poky Little Puppy. I read that book, and so many others, to my own son. She also had a love of word puzzles, mostly word searches. I don't remember doing those with her but I am quite sure watching her played into my love of crosswords puzzles. Now, Paulo loves word searches! He will sit with me and look through the word lists, picking out words he can already read and sounding out new words. Then I find the word, soon he'll be finding them all by himself. He likes to watch me do crossword puzzles. When I find a clue that I think he can answer I read it to him so he can feel like he's helping me!

Another time I feel close to her is when I'm baking. I called her a compulsive baker, especially at Christmas time. She'd bake cookies, cookies and more cookies and pounds and pounds of fudge. Every December Paulo and I bake fudge, peanut butter, chocolate and white chocolate mint. Every time I stand there stirring the pot I think of her. I wish she had included me in the baking the way I include my son but I was the youngest of 4, not a part time only child. I have more freedom and time to include my son in the kitchen and I love it. Baking bread was another of her finer traits. We would come home from school to the amazing smell of freshly baked bread. It would be waiting in the kitchen. Waiting to be generously cut by our Mother and then slathered with butter, well margarine really, I still have a sweet spot for margarine even though I can't bring myself to buy it anymore-knowing what's IN food can really kill the love! When I bake bread now and smell the yeast as the bread rises I always think of my Mother.

So, while some of my less than stellar traits do in fact come from her a few of the good ones do too. She was a troubled woman but she was my Momma and I miss her.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I have been in a funk. Not the dark and twisties, but just a funk. A bit of a pity party. A bit of over scheduling and over socializing. A lot of hormones-I'm so not looking forward to menopause! I'm pulling myself up out of my funk today. The time limit is up for my pity party. So, I'm working on my change of perspective (COP). A dear friend commented recently that when she grumbles about laundry she remembers how fortunate she is to have the clothes to wear. It's a good spin on a chore that we Mommas seem to spend an unusually high percentage of time on!
  • My son is 5 he has always been a terrible sleeper. Now that he's old enough to communicate I understand better, he's prone to nightmares. They come and go in spurts. Perhaps the trouble is his active imagination, perhaps it is a growth spurt issue, perhaps he is just trying to hasten the graying of my hair. Now for my COP: I have a child that knows he is loved and I am a source of comfort for him when he is in pain or in fear. I will also learn to enjoy the full night's of sleep when they come knowing that someday, in the not so distant future, my son won't need me as much.
  • My commute to take my children to school can sometimes top out at close to 40 minutes depending on traffic. It is annoying to say the least. My COP: I have the right as a parent to choose for Paulo to attend a Charter School in SW Portland that I feel best meets his academic needs.
  • I'm mentally drained from hosting parties. Over the holidays we host numerous gatherings, starting at Thanksgiving and this year culminating in a family party I hosted on Sunday for my big brother's 40th birthday and my Dad's 73rd birthday. This COP is pretty easy: I have a beautiful home that I can open to family and friends to celebrate and enjoy each other's company. And, more importantly, I have a brother who just turned 40 who, honestly, was not expected to live this long. He spent 3 months in the ICU when I was in college and lost the use of his legs and has limited upper body mobility. He survived a pacemaker and a trach when he was in his late 20s. He's overcome illness after illness that has threatened to take his life. What would be a mild inconvenience to you or I could end his life. Yet here he is, 40, married to a wonderful woman and raising a family. And this party was extra special because it included ALL of my siblings. I am the youngest of 4 children and one of our brothers has been estranged from the family since our Mother died. I've always felt this bothered her deeply and prevented her rest. But lately he has returned. We all make mistakes, my family is certainly no exception-in fact I'd say some of our mistakes are bigger than the average bears, but forgiveness and moving forward is powerful. It is healing. I welcome it.

The other thing that I'm pondering today as I pull myself, kicking and screaming, out of my pity party is Haiti. Specifically the Americans who went down there and tried to take a group of children across the border to the Dominican Republic...without paperwork. Yeah, not the smartest move, they are now in jail and are facing an uphill battle of proving they are not child traffickers. The conflict seems to center, on some level, around whether these children have families and it seems that some of them do. I listened to a reporter yesterday talk of his visit to the town where almost 50% of these children came from. He tracked down the father of two of the girls and listened to the man tell him that he himself put his girls on the bus, kissed them goodbye and asked them not to forget him. Heartbreaking. As a parent I cannot imagine the pain he must be feeling. To be faced with a decision to keep them, and watch them suffer with you, or let them go, and hope for a chance at a better life....I have a hard time wrapping my mind around it. Would I have the strength to let him go if I were faced with that decision? Fortunately I am not in that situation. Even more fortunately I know that if some catastrophic event happened in my life, physically or financially, I would have family to turn to. And likewise, if something happened to say my sister and she lost her home she and her family could come to mine. If I lost mine I could go there or to my mother in law's or to my girlfriend's house. I cannot fathom a situation where I would feel that it was in the best interest of my son to hand him over to strangers who would then take him out of the country. I feel so badly for all those suffering after the earth quake and at the same time I feel grateful for my own family's health and safety.

My words come back to haunt me

We had a visitor this morning. A very cute gray cat came on our back deck and started batting at the door. I assumed the little kitty was confused in the dark and mistook our house for her home. Regardless she...or he...was adorable, rubbing her head on the door, batting her paws on the glass, generally getting my 5 year old very excited and begging me to let her in! No, I'm sorry, Paulo, Momma cannot let the strange kitty in the house. For two reasons really, #1 we are not set up for a cat-no litter box, no cat food, nothing- #2, dude, sorry to break it to you but you're allergic. My poor boy would love to have a pet, a fuzzy pet, one that could sleep in his bed and play fetch or sit on his lap and puuuuurrrr. Unfortunately he seems to have inherited Rene's allergies. We cat-sit, he sneezes. He goes to play at a friend's who has a dog, he starts scratching. The quintessential image of boy and faithful dog, just not meant to be.

But my boy is very determined! He sat there and looked at me, completely serious, and said "what if you were that cat and I did that to you!? How would you feel?? GUILTY?!?!" I couldn't help it, I laughed and asked him if he was trying to guilt trip me into letting the cat in? He couldn't keep a straight face after that and started to giggle himself. I assumed the little furball would go away once the sun came up and she realized she was at the wrong house, but low and behold the sun rose, the light shown and there in the corner of my backyard sat our visitor, huddled there, staring at me through the window, accusingly....seems I am not immune to guilt after all.