Waging war in the urban jungle

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Big day today

Paulo has a big day today and I'm a little nervous.  My poor baby has been plagued by ear infections in the last few years.  Didn't have his first one until he was a year old, and got a double whammy then, didn't have too many in the year or so that followed but lately, probably since 3 years, it's been rough.  Since Valentine's Day he's had three all in the same ear, two of which have ruptured!  That's just too much!  It's painful and I do not like giving him round after round of antibiotics.

I know that his horrible allergies are a factor.  We're working on those as best as we can.  He gets a lot of extra vitamins, we neti pot, he takes daily meds, I clean his room obsessively....the one thing I really wish I could do?  Hardwood floors in his bedroom.  I hate the carpet.  Never thought I'd say that, but having a child with severe allergies makes me loathe carpeting.  You just cannot get it clean enough.  We are also having more food allergy testing done.  Our naturapath thought it odd that with all his environmental allergies nothing showed up for food allergies on the blood test his pediatrician ordered last February.  So, she ordered one that tests for over 95 different allergens.  That's on Friday, fortunately he's really good about shots and needles.  The last time he had a blood draw done he watched, wide eyed, through the process, didn't make a single sound.  Part of me hopes that they do find something because then, I can do something about it.  If there's a food that his body can't handle I can remove that food.  I cannot go out and chop down all the trees or burn all the grass he's allergic to.  I suppose that's why I'm obsessive about his room, I can do something about dust.  I can vacuum.  I can wash his bedding weekly.  I could, and did, buy him a new mattress.  There's something I can do there, I don't feel helpless.  With the pollens, I'm helpless, and I don't do well with being helpless.

But back to today.  Last week I took him back to the ENT that removed his tonsils and adenoids when he was 3, Dr. Lewis.  The very nice Doc checked him out, tested his hearing, talked with me and agreed that 3 EIs in 4 months is just not reasonable.  The first word out of his mouth on why though was allergies.  So, yes, we may be chasing our tails here.  To be sure though Dr. Lewis ordered a CAT scan of his melon.  He wants to see what is going on in his sinuses and ear tubes.  Today's the big day.  Paulo has had this done before, when he was 3, which he may actually remember-the boy has a freakishly good memory.  The scan then showed that his adenoids blocked his airway when he laid on his back, which explained the apnea that scared the crap out of me when he was a toddler.  Today, I'm not sure what it will show us-which is frightening for me.  I tend to go to a dark and scary place with my fears about the health and well being of my son.  I start thinking bad thoughts.  I do not share these dark, scary thoughts with anyone mind you, but they're there, in my brain, taunting me. 

For today though I put on my happy face and tell my son that nothing will ever hurt him, because Mommy will always be there to protect him.  And he looks at me and smiles, reassured, he doesn't need to bear the fear, that's my job, I'm the Momma.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Reading AKA torture

You'd think I asked him to amputate his own limb. 

Dimitri is not a reader.  I wish he was, I truly think it makes school so much easier if you can really enjoy a good book-it makes the text books seem less torturous.  He is going into his Sophomore year in September and he has a summer reading requirement list.  Do you know how many books he has to read?  Are you ready?  It's brutal....two.  He has to read a minimum of two books over three months.  Isn't that horrible?!  I mean really?!  What are they thinking?!  Yes, I'm being sarcastic. 

Anyway, he has a list of books to pick from.  He has to pick one book from that list and the second book is free choice.  He decided to read The Lovely Bones-it's on the list.  Conveniently my Mother in Law had my Sister in Law's copy so I didn't have to check anything out or buy any books.  Last week he got slammed by an allergy/cold combo, it was brutal.  Grandma didn't have the heart to crack the reading whip, understandably so, he was downright pathetic!  This week however, the whip cracketh.  When I dropped him off today at Grandma's house I called him into the kitchen and laid out the expectations, no computer and no video games until his reading time (one hour) is done.  I know he says...yeah you know.  But if I weren't forcing the issue you'd happily procrastinate until oh say late August then freak out like you did last summer when we had to do a minimum pages per day of reading instead of time so you'd be done before school started!  My son is a master procrastinator.  I get it, I really do.  But man I wish that he would learn he is not doing himself any favors.

To be "fair" I then called Paulo in and handed him two books and told him, no video games until he's read each book out loud.  He grumbled, but then sat down on the couch to read the books to his new favorite person, Karla who is visiting from Mexico City.  What did Dimitri do?  Practice his golf shots...master procrastinator. 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Love, cake and surprises

My sister in law, Andrea, hits a milestone on Wednesday.  She turns 30.  To celebrate this momentous occasion, we tricked her. 

A couple of months ago, her friend, Kristin, emailed me and we started talking about how to celebrate this birthday.  Let's face it, 30 is big.  It's not the end of the world by any means-in fact I really liked turning 30, Paulo was a newborn and I was head over heels in love with him-but it's still a milestone birthday.  We decided to throw her a party.  The question though was whether to involve her or surprise her.  I did a little recon and found out that yes, my consummate planner sister wanted a surprise party-always had.  Ok, surprise party it is!

We gathered a list of her special friends, decided on a date and sent out invitations. To get Andrea here on time and dressed appropriately I sent out a fake invitation for a "welcome Summer" party.  She bought it.  She even asked if she could invite her good friend Kristin, A.K.A. my co conspirator, to which I said of course, the more the merrier. 

The big day drew near and the excitement grew.  I happily shopped for food and drinks-and in both regards went way overboard!  I bustled about cleaning and preparing food.  All the while hoping she really didn't know what we were doing. 
Finally the day arrived, as did the guest of honor!  She looks surprised right?  We all gathered just inside my front door with drinks in hand as she and her roomie, Morgan, another co conspirator, came to the door.  Paulo opened the door and shrieked SURPRISE!!  She saw us all gathered there, people that are all important to her in different aspects of her life but oddly all gathered in her brother's house, we sang Happy Birthday and, quite naturally, a few tears fell.  Then the hugging commenced!  First her Mother, then each brother, both nephews, me and quite a few friends.  I'm sure it was a bit like running the gauntlet, without fear of being stabbed, only hugged....indefinitely. 

I've thrown many a party since I met my husband. We like to celebrate!  We know how to eat, drink and be merry!  This was one of my favorite parties.  I loved watching Andrea smile, watching her bask in the love of her friends and family, knowing that she's important to each and every person that was there-and to the few who regretfully couldn't make it.  Birthdays weren't always that big of a deal in my household growing up and there's a bit of sadness from that.  I'm glad that I am able to make them a big deal now.  A birthday is so much more than just another year passing, an excuse to eat cake or buy/receive presents.  They are a celebration of all that you've accomplished and anticipation of all that is still to come.  And, Andrea, you've accomplished a lot this year and I think you will climb even higher in the year to come.  Enjoy 30 my sister, it's a good year.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The end of fairies

Last night as I lay snuggling with Paulo he asked me to say our prayer.  My son has had trouble with nightmares.  As a soother I made up a special prayer that essentially asks that God watch over Paulo, keep him safe and take his worries, burdens and nightmares from his mind.  It comforts him and, cute enough, almost every night I say the prayer he yawns in the exact same spot. 

He had a few extra words of his own to add after I was done and then he asked me a question.  Is God only in your imagination?  Uh.....well...insert awkward pause here...honestly I struggled with how to answer that question.  We're not a Church family.  I consider myself to be spiritual but not "religious".  Still though I do think that there is some sort of higher power and I do believe in spirits and reincarnation.  So I told him that I personally do not believe that God is only in my imagination, but that some people do think that-and it's ok for their beliefs to differ from mine.  He, sweetly enough, accepts what I say to him about faith.  Which, to be honest, scares the crap out of me sometimes!  It's a lot of pressure for someone who is shaky in her own faith to explain it to a bright, inquisitive, 6 year old.  For instance he asked me a couple weeks ago what God looked like.  Does God look like a man or a woman?  I told him I think neither.  When I think of God I picture pure, beautiful, warm, white light.  Just think of the world love and then see it as a light, that's what I see in my mind's eye.  It's gauzy, it's calm, you want it to envelope you.  I told him that night that many people do believe that God looks like a human man and that in some religions there are Goddess that look like human women but that for me, I picture light.  He told me that night that he believes in me and my answer.  It's a lot of pressure.

A few minutes of quiet snuggling passes and then he drops another Q-Bomb.  I believe in fairies, he tells me, OR DO YOU JUST PUT MONEY UNDER MY PILLOW WHEN I LOSE A TOOTH? Oh, no, no, no!  Momma is not ready for that!  He asked me last night if the tooth fairy was real!  And challenged me to tell him the truth, I just want to know the truth he said.  I could not stop laughing.  I asked him why he asked that?  What had he heard?  He said nothing, but that he just wanted to know the truth.  Honestly, I couldn't bring myself to straight lie to him or tell him the 100% truth-1/2 truth is still a lie though I know.  I told him if he doesn't believe in the Tooth Fairy then she won't believe in him, which is the same thing I tell him about Santa Claus.  He laughed along with me last night, so I suspect he knows the truth but is sparing me the agony of flat out telling me I'm the Tooth Fairy.  So in effect he's telling me a 1/2 truth too, like mother like son.  I also asked him if it would matter to him if the Tooth Fairy was real or if it was Momma?  No he said, as long as he gets his $1.

I'm not ready for him not to believe in magic.  I'm not ready for him not to really believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.  The Easter Bunny has never been a big character in our family dance, I think he knows I'm the one that fills his Easter basket.  But Santa?  Oh yes, Santa's a big deal in our house, last year though he started asking more questions.  How does Santa go to all the houses?  How does he fit in the chimney?  How does he eat all those cookies and not get sick?  We decided he must have a magic tummy on that last one.  But really, I'm not sure what I'm so afraid of.  This is a boy that can commit to living in a fantasy world, playing make believe like nobody's business.  Would that change somehow when he learns that Santa is not a flesh and blood man?  Not likely.  Would it really harm him to know the truth?  No.  Does it harm him for me not to tell him the truth when he asks?  I don't know.  Does it?  Does his asking for the truth mean he's ready for it?  Or does it mean he heard something from the kids at school?  I don't know when I stopped believing in Santa and the Tooth Fairy, it obviously was not a traumatic experience.  As the youngest of 4 it's amazing that there was ever a time when I did believe in them, my big brothers would likely have used the info to torture me in some way.  For now though, I will stick to my if you don't believe in Santa then he won't believe in you, complete with a wink-wink for good measure.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Four years ago I joined the ranks of a sad group.  Motherless mothers.  I think that term though is often used to describe women who lose theirs before they have children of their own.  But to be honest I feel like that description applies. 

My Mother's downward spiral picked up speed when my son was born.  She'd been acting odd for years but once Paulo made his entrance, she left the building.  I think she held him twice.  Once on the day he was born, which I fortunately have a picture of, and once more a couple of months later.  She was supposed to hold him so I could eat but he was "too heavy" and I ended up eating with my baby in my lap-like every other night.  I often told my husband while I was pregnant that my Mother was going to drive me crazy after the baby was born.  My older sister had to put her on a visitation schedule, if she hadn't Mom would have been at her house daily after her girls were born.  I assumed I'd have to do the same.  I was wrong.  Her dementia had already taken root and she was not interested in my son.  I was really angry about that!  I thought my Mommy would help me when I became a Mommy, I was wrong.  When she and my Father would visit within minutes she would ask Dad if it was time to go.  Uh...nope, dude's retired, got nothing else on the schedule except visiting me!  I struggled with her behavior for months.  Dad and I tried to talk to her about going to therapy, taking better care of herself, exercising, etc., etc., etc.  She'd sit there and appear to listen but nothing changed.  I know now that nothing could change, the Mother I had was gone.  Taken from me when I needed her the most, stolen by a terrible, terrible disease. 

When Paulo was about 9 months old, and after a very stressful holiday season filled with Mom's bizarre behavior, Dad took her to OHSU to be checked for Alzheimer's.  They didn't find Alzheimer's but instead diagnosed her with Frontotemporal Dementia.  At least then I understood.  She really was acting differently.  She really was incapable of bonding with my son.  She really wasn't in control of herself when she slapped my father in law on the butt on Thanksgiving and tried to tickle my brother in law on Christmas.  She really was already gone. 

Her physical decline picked up speed at that point.  I look at pictures of the Christmas before her diagnosis, 2004, and the one prior to that, 2003, and I am stunned at the physical changes.  Her hair changed.  Her skin aged.  We didn't really notice because it wasn't overnight but it is as if her biological clock was wound too fast and she aged 10 years inside of one calendar year.  But the aging that happened in the 17 months between diagnosis and death?  It was worse.  By the end she could no longer care for herself.  She couldn't walk unassisted.  She hardly talked at all.  I'm not entirely sure she knew who I was when I visited her a couple of weeks before she died.  My Dad took my toddler outside to play and I sat and watched Animal Planet with my Mom, I chatted on about life and what we were watching.  There was a parrot on the show, her sister had a similar bird when I was a child.  I mentioned Bobo and how Bobo would say he was a pretty bird and mimic the doorbell at Aunt Bernice's house, and she looked at me with a sort of confused smile on her face, similar to the look I give Paulo when he's going on and on about Pokemon and talking as if I should understand who these creatures are!  That was the last time I saw my Mother alive. 

My sister and I went to her house after she died, before they took her body away.  It was one of the most painful experiences of my life.  To see what she'd been reduced to.  To see what the disease had done, stolen, robbed, destroyed, it was nearly unbearable.  I get angry sometimes at the injustice of it all.  Why her? Why my mother?  Why my son's grandmother?  Why not her is really the better question.  She had all the risk factors.  She didn't take care of herself physically or mentally.  She abused her body for decades.  She consumed toxic pills in attempt after attempt to lose weight.  She drank.  She ate garbage food.  She never loved herself enough to take care of herself.  I wish she had.  I wish she'd had another chance, like a cancer patient can sometimes get.  I wish dementia was manageable, curable, or at the least manageable so she could have had a couple more years and a chance to get to know my son-because believe me, she missed out, he's a great kid.  And he missed out too, because she was a much better Grandmother than Mother. 

I do take some comfort from my belief in reincarnation though.  I think she was a very troubled soul, I hope she's spent some time really looking at what happened to her on Earth and what part of it she was responsible for.  Why did she allow so much pain and suffering?  Why didn't she take care of her physical self?  Why did she make some of the terrible choices she made?  I picture the time when our physical body dies as a sort of debriefing.  Older, wiser, souls are there to help us analyze the life we've left behind.  Our souls can rest for a while.  They can process, learn, make peace with what happened during the physical life.  And then, when they are ready, they can come back to try again.  Don't ask me why I believe what I believe, I just do.  It just makes sense to me, it rings true to my heart.  Perhaps there is an element of wishful thinking too, I hope she has another chance so that she can live a happy life.  Regardless, it comforts me.  It comforts me to think that her soul might be back and someday we might meet again. 

On this sad day though I stop to remember her.  I remember the good-fresh baked bread waiting for us after school.  I remember the bad-unchecked depression.  And I remember the ugly-the temper.  I remember all three though because we cannot deny the existence of any of those things, they all three combined to create the woman that created me, who loved me to the best of her ability, and who I loved.

Good bye, Momma, I miss you.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Oh to be a child

My son ran outside after dinner today intent on finding a friend to play with.  There's two in the neighborhood that are his "go to" buddies.  One right next door and the other across the street.  He had no luck with the boy next door so he darted across the street.  I giggled as I watched his half run/half wiggle-he has a very distinct running style-as he made his way across the street to ring buddy #2's doorbell.  Fortunately for all of us the kid across the street was free to play. 

I stood and marveled for a moment at how different his world is from the one in which I grew up.  He's so carefree, as he should be, compared to me at his age.  I also said a little prayer of gratitude that he has not one but TWO good friends a stone's throw from our front door, I think all kids should have best buddies to play with.  I'm grateful that Dimitri has that too, there is a boy in the neighborhood that is about a week older than he is and those two are inseparable.  I can honestly see them continuing their relationship through high school, college, marriages, babies and beyond.  I can see them offering congratulations on first jobs, first houses and first steps.  They are that strongly bonded. 

I envy my son's carefree childhood.  At the same time I'm grateful for it and will do anything to maintain it.  I want him to always feel safe-not sheltered, but safe.  I want him to feel loved but not smothered.  I want him to feel confident, but not arrogant.  Independent, but not reckless.  I want him to look back on his childhood and smile, because I can't.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Buh Buh Buh Bubbling

Stress that is. It's bubbling up inside me. I can feel it. Percolating. Bubbling up in my gut. Creeping up my throat until I almost choke on it. Until I have to swallow it back down before I start to scream.

I need to take a break. I need to slow down the pace. I need to regroup.

I know what I need to do, why is it so hard to do what I know I must do to reclaim my good health and state of mind? It's the mind really that I'm worried about. Why do I struggle so much with balance and moderation? I know I'm a work in progress, we all are, but man I wish this one was easier for me. I'm such an all or nothing person. My pendulum swings wildly from one extreme to the other. I need to refocus. I need to take a breath, a break, a time out.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Doors open and close

Today was bittersweet. Today Paulo said goodbye to Kindgergarten. School will never again be focused so much on FUN. There will be homework. There will be projects. There will be tests. There will also still be plenty of fun, hikes in the woods, walks to the river and around the neighborhood and a healthy dose of field trips. I'm thankful for that. His school provides a very active environment. Without that I'm not sure Paulo would thrive.

Today Paulo also said goodbye to some friends that he won't see again. Oh yes we say we can get them together for playdates but we're living at 80 MPH as it is and sometimes it is just tough to get those playdates from hypothetical to reality. A charter school like ours is not right fit for every child. Some parents are making the decision to move onto other schools. I have a really hard time with his "losing" friends. When families left mid year of his first year at preschool I was upset-he mind you was not. When his preschool teacher quit in the middle of his second year I was traumatized-he, again, took it in stride although he did ask me why teachers leave, that was a hard conversation. At this age he truly seems to be friends with everyone though and I was worried how he would take the news that a few of his playmates would not be returning, again he took it better than I. I've always had this romanticized view of his school years. I see him moving from year to year with the same group of kids, forming lifelong bonds, growing and laughing and learning together-in my mind I even see little birds that follow them around singing, it's always sunny out too....yeah my mind is a very pleasant place to live. I know it's not reality though and I know that goodbyes are part of life. They hurt sometimes but they are unavoidable. And really, do I want to be in contact still with every single childhood friend? Uh no! But boy in my fantasy land my son sure needs to! I have to remember that people come into, and out of, our lives at certain points for a reason. They have something to show us, to teach us, we maybe have a lesson to teach them too, and I have to remember that it's ok to say good bye. That's what I was saying in my head today as I stood sniffling through the slide show his adorable teacher had put together, it's ok for Kindergarten to end. It's ok for Paulo to get another year older. It's ok for him to learn to say goodbye. And just as sure as he had to say goodbye to a friend today he'll say hello to a new friend next year.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Knock Knock!

Just because it's too darn cute not to post!

I was so proud of him! I loved that he took it seriously and I loved seeing him interact with his audience. His only regret? That he didn't get to do more knock knock jokes! He wanted to stay up there!

Field day is today and then tomorrow is the last day of Kindergarten. I already warned him, I will cry. I will try not to embarrass him but I will cry.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lessons to be learned

When I think of parenting, I often think of all the things I will teach my children. Life lessons, bike riding lessons, cooking lessons and yes-sooner than I want to admit-driving lessons.

Today though I was the student and Paulo was the teacher.

My son is....exuberant. I love that about him. He's zesty! He loves life and everything he does he does 110%. His school decided to put on their very first talent show this year. He initially said he wanted to do a break dance routine. Okey dokey! However after reviewing the permission slip rules with him that stated all children must practice their routine at least three times he decided he'd just watch this year. Again, ok.

Fast forward to yesterday and he seemed to be regretting his decision not to participate. I took him to school and ended up sitting in the hall for a bit while he cried. He'd decided somewhere along the way that his true talent was not break dancing but was playing Super Smash Brothers on the Wii, so he wanted his entire school to come to our house that afternoon to watch him play the game and he just did not understand why I told him that was not a reasonable request! Last minute field trips don't work, kids have to have permission slips to leave school, we'd need drivers, parents are working, etc., etc., etc., but still he cried. I think too that the end of the year is emotional not only for us as Moms but for kids too. Endings are hard, goodbyes are tough, and I'm sure that was a factor in his emotions yesterday. He knows that Thursday is his last day of school and he told me yesterday he doesn't want school to end because he wants to learn more stuff....yes, Momma was proud!

I went to the talent show to watch even though my boy had opted not to perform, yesterday was the K-3rd graders, it was Cute. Practically an overdose of cuteness. Lots of awkward moments. Just a bunch of cute kids doing their best and other cute kids cheering them on. It was very sweet and endearing. I watched my son though and could see the conflict, he wanted to be up there. There was a particular moment too when a 3rd grader got up to do a break dance routine to the Black Eyed Peas' Boom Boom Pow, that was the song Paulo had initially picked. He looked at me with his eyes huge and his mouth gaping as if to say WTF?! I shrugged and nodded my head as if to say, could have been you buddy! He came to me after the show and said he knew what he should have done! It occurred to him THAT DAY that he should have signed up to read a book. Not sure this Momma could be prouder of that idea. I told him that was a good idea and that maybe next year he could sign up and read a passage from Harry Potter. But he was on a mission. He was determined to be included in this year's show, he just needed to figure out HOW.

Day two of the talent show is this afternoon. The 4-8th graders are going to perform today. My son however was determined to also perform. He had made up his mind that he was going to do whatever he could to get up on that stage. I told him yesterday that all he could do was ask. He'd have to ask Monica-the teacher who was organizing-if there was room. He needed to be prepared for the answer to be no though, that there might be so many kids already signed up that there simply wasn't time. And if that was the case then I hoped he'd remember next year how he felt and would sign up and practice his talent. This morning I asked him what he was going to do, he hemmed and hawed and said maybe not, I told him I'd support him either way. If he wanted to ask Monica or if he wanted to wait for next year, either was ok. He decided he'd ask and grabbed Green Eggs and Ham. I had to break it to him that Green Eggs and Ham takes considerably longer than 3 minutes to read-that's the time limit, 3 minutes. So then he had a flash of brilliance! His Knock Knock book!! He'd bring his knock knock joke book and tell jokes! (Paulo lives life in !!!, everything he does he does big.) He grabbed his book and off we went. I told him he should pick just 3 jokes and practice them in the car so he was sure he could get all the words in and pronounced correctly. So our commute this morning was filled with knock knock! who's there?!

We arrived at school and he ran in clutching his treasured book. We found Monica and he approached her and asked "Can I do THIS!?" (Fortunately he attends a very positive, inclusive, loving school and really there wasn't much chance of her saying no unless the schedule was truly full.) She didn't say no. She smiled. She asked if he'd practiced, YES! She asked if it was ok with me, I laughed. Paulo shrieks "I'll take that as a YES! I GOT THE PART!!!!" To which Monica told him that with a response like that then he definitely gets to do it. So now today I go back to day two of the talent show, there's no way I'd miss my baby's performance debut.

But back to the lesson, what I learned today was: ask. Ask for what you want. That's a really, really tough one for me too. I struggle with that. But I watched my self confident, happy son approach this adult, ask for what he wanted, GET what he wanted and be so thrilled with himself, so proud at accomplishing what he wanted, and I couldn't be prouder. It amazes me that child came from this Mom. I was not confident at his age. I did not get involved with school talent shows, I hardly was involved with school sports either. I feared rejection so much that I just didn't put myself out there. If I don't try then I won't fail, I won't be rejected, if I don't ask then I won't hear NO. I still struggle with that. I wish I'd learned early that school, and life, is what you make it so make it great. Get out there. Make new friends. Try new activities. Ask. Ask for what you want. What's the worst that could happen? I struggled today with letting my son put himself out there. I swallowed back my fear that my little boy would be rejected and I tried not to discourage him from trying, from asking. It was hard though. I will admit I was afraid he would be disappointed, I was afraid he would be rejected. Instead I watched a determined and confident child make his pitch to the teacher and the teacher, smiling and encouraging, say yes, of course you can participate. Moments like that make it easier the next time for him-and honestly easier for me too.