Saturday, June 30, 2007

preschool anatomy, continued

Levi, pointing up at my chest as I'm getting dressed one morning: "Are those your boo-boos?" (I understand his confusion: they've fallen so far from their former glory I hardly recognize them myself. And they are kind of, I don't know, wounded looking.)

Ezra, as I'm holding him up at the sink to wash his hands: "Mommy, don't squeeze so hard. You're crushing my ribbons!"

Thursday, June 28, 2007

preschool anatomy

[Ezra is sitting at the bar snacking on some almonds and drinking milk; I'm in the kitchen straightening up.]

Ezra: Mommy, at night my penis gets hard and up and during the day it's soft and floppy.

Me (nodding sympathetically): Yeah.

Ezra (his eyes lighting up, a smile creeping onto his face): Does that happen to your penis too?!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

big bummer

Ezra has greeted me every morning for the last couple of weeks with fangs bared and steam coming out of his ears. Among the many explanations for his hostility that Stupid Daddy and I have tossed around for sport is the possibility that it has something to do with having to take a pill, and, specifically, my insistence that he take the pill right this second, so he can't ease into the morning on his own terms.

Last night the five of us were all hanging out and reading books before bed, and I asked Ezra point blank why it is that he gets so angry when I say, "Good morning." He said that he likes to be by himself when he wakes up.

"But I have to get this pill in you right away so you can eat when you get hungry," I said. And then--you could smell the synapses firing away--Stupid Daddy made the brilliant suggestion that we bring the pill into the boys' room at night with a cup of water and he could be in charge of taking it when he woke up.

Ezra's eyes lit up. My eyes lit up. Stupid Daddy's eyes would have lit up except they were closed at that point. We agreed on it.

This morning, as I was taking care of the other two downstairs, I heard Ezra banging around upstairs. I left him to come down on his own time. When he did appear, about twenty minutes later, he smiled and gave me a big hug.

"Did you take your pill?" I asked--hoping he had not just so I would know it was taken care of but also so that he would have the opportunity to be successful.

He nodded and smiled again. And we proceeded to have the best day we've had in recent memory.

Tonight, I set up the pill and cup by the window sill and reminded Ezra about the morning routine.

Except! As I was tucking the boys into bed, Levi asked, "What's that?" and pointed to something on the carpet. It was the goddamn pill from this morning.

"I spit it out because I didn't want to take it," Ezra said.

And on so many levels, that totally fucking sucks.

Monday, June 25, 2007


I've got nothing in particular to say. So, in the absence of something substantive, witty, and insightful like I usually provide, here's a picture of the closet Stupid Daddy built:

A couple of notes:

1. It's not sideways in real life. I can't figure out how to use this freaking program to rotate the picture back the way it's supposed to be.
2. The light at the top (side) isn't really shining from heaven.
3. Heaven doesn't exist.
4. We have more clothing than this.
5. You and I know that the madras tie at the side (top) is really ugly, but let's not tell Stupid Daddy. He thinks it's stylish. Then again, he wore a bow tie (he pronounces it bow TIE) to our wedding. Oh, but he looked so cute!
6. Don't ever use anything other than high-quality paint, or you'll end up doing three coats of top coat and the paint will still end up looking like crap.
7. If the shelves are in the closet and going to be filled with clothes anyway, you may not care.
8. I'm glad my husband is so handy like this. It makes up for his weird taste in dress clothing and gives me a total boner.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

been down this road before

Last week I made the decision to go back on antidepressants. I had stopped taking my Zoloft back in February sort of by accident. First I just kept forgetting to take it. Then I noticed the awful withdrawal symptoms, mainly that feeling of turning your head quickly and leaving your face behind, and began to think anything that has that kind of effect when you get it out of your system you maybe don't want in your system in the first place? On top of that, we were in a difficult financial situation with really lousy health insurance, and I was tired of forking over whatever it was each month and feeling really bitter about it. So I began to heroically think I could do just fine without it, so why don't we take life unmedicated for a whirl and see how we do?

We did okay for a while, except that apparently we seemed to develop sudden onset multiple personality disorder because we began referring to ourselves as "we."

I mean I did okay for a while, and especially well considering that our lives (shit, there I go again, but I mean "our" as in, my family's) between February and May were peppered with serious crises, and I just soldiered on, if not happily, then at least with a feeling of strength and confidence.

Now, though, I've come to face the fact that I feel a fairly constant dread and deep resistance to the responsibilities of my life. It's this impulse to just crawl away and leave everything behind forever. It's not that I want to kill myself; it's that I want to get the hell out--out of my skin, my home, my city. Always.

I don't expect life to be a walk in the park. But I do think it's not too much to want to find life joyful some of the time, and to tolerate the crappy parts with some degree of grace the rest of the time.

So I dug my half-empty (see how depressed I am?) bottle of Zoloft out of the cupboard and set it out on the kitchen counter. Now all I have to do is remember to take it.

Friday, June 22, 2007

hi, have you met my son, Dr. Jekyll? I mean Mr. Hyde?

This morning I was downstairs watching Lilah feed herself cereal, flake by flake, watching milk splash onto her brand new dress, and trying unsuccessfully to resist the urge to step in and take over. ("MYYY!" she said.) Stupid Daddy was still out cold, as was Levi, face mashed into the bed, looking like he was sleeping off a hangover.

I heard some pitter-patting upstairs and, assuming it was Ezra, ran up with a Synthroid and a glass of water. The thing about the pill is, you have to wait at least a half hour after taking it to eat, so I try to give it to him pretty much just as his eyes are opening to prevent any hunger-induced psychosis.

I found him in the bathroom, wearing a clean t-shirt and underwear and piling his pj's up in front of the washing machine. This was totally adorable: he has not once chosen clothing for himself and never put dirty clothing where it's supposed to go without a reminder.

But when he saw me, he became much less adorable. He began screaming at me--like, serious, bloodcurdling screams. I suspected this had something to do with wanting to surprise me, so I gave him his pill while looking in the other direction, and over his shrieks kept saying, "I'm not looking! I don't see you! I have no idea what you're doing!" like some kind of maniac.

But he wasn't buying it. He continued screaming for twenty minutes, after I left the room, after Stupid Daddy stumbled into the room and then left, until finally, it was quiet.

I knocked on the door and then opened it cautiously--like maybe some hard object was going to get flung at me, which is pretty much how I feel all the time, metaphorically speaking, when I'm around him. But that didn't happen. Instead, cheerily, Ezra announced, "I'm all done," and then proceeded to be an absolute delight for the hour we all spent waiting for Levi to wake up so I could take them to school.

While Ezra was eating breakfast, I asked him if, now that he had calmed down, he could explain why he had just spent all this time trying to bust our eardrums. Without missing a beat, he said, "Because I wanted to put away my pajamas and get dressed and you saw me before I got my shorts on." I watched as the theory about kids having tantrums because they can't express what's upsetting them flew quickly out the kitchen window.

I suggested that maybe next time, if he's angry--not that there's anything wrong with that!--he could talk about it instead of hollering all morning long. "Yeah," he said softly, matter-of-factly, like I had just asked him if he wanted ketchup with his hot dog, no big deal at all, and then, happy boy, shoved another giant scoop of cereal into his mouth.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

unloading a little bit here; bear with me

I've alluded to problems I'm having with Ezra here but not really described them outright--in part because I'm ashamed, in part because I always feel like they're so hard to explain when I do try.

Apparently, I've been unsuccessful conveying these difficulties to my husband as well. For the last four or five months I've been complaining and suggesting that Ezra needs help, that we need help helping him. And for as long, Stupid Daddy has been saying he's fine, he's normal, these are the ups-and-downs any intense and sensitive and intelligent five-year-old kid experiences.

Stupid Daddy spends enough time with our kids for me to have given some weight to his assessment. He wasn't going on my emotional, hyperbolic description alone; he was also going on his own day-to-day interactions with Ezra.

Something clicked in him today, though; something shifted. After spending part of the afternoon with Ezra, he sort of went, Holy shit. In the span of a few hours, he went from saying the kid is normal, leave him be, to saying the kid has Aspberger's, let's call in the professionals.

I think the truth is somewhere in between. So while I still disagree with Stupid Daddy, I finally feel that he actually gets what it is like to care for Ezra--how taxing, exhausting, nervewracking, and maddening.

This afternoon, Ezra had a full-blown tantrum that started with nothing and wouldn't extinguish itself for half an hour. Usually, though, the behavior is more subtle--hostile, bossy, demanding, and labile--so that he can be laughing with me one minute and be screaming at me the next minute because I said the "wrong" thing. (For example, if he shows me a picture, I am supposed to say it's cool looking sometimes, but at other times--I think this depends on a combination of the Dow Jones performance, the lunar calendar, and the color of Jessica Simpson's hair--saying it's cool looking is absolutely, offendingly wrong.)

I have tried to set clear limits and at the first sign of these behaviors tell him calmly, without any kind of emotional investment, that HE NEEDS TO FUCKING STOP IT.

No. I tell him that's not an okay way to speak or act, and if he doesn't stop, he's going to have to be by himself for a while. Sometimes he stops, but in every instance, he knows precisely how much he can get away with before he crosses the line; and he hovers there. He can call his brother and idiot and make the word just barely audible, then quickly apologize just as I'm opening my mouth to chastise him. He can spill a bowl of Pirate's Booty (which, gross!, I don't blame him) but make it look just enough like an accident that I'm honestly not sure if he meant to do it.

Other times, he simply crosses the line. And I tell him, yes, indeed, he needs to be by himself. Then whatever it is he was doing, he does louder, with greater force. And he won't budge.

So I have to forcibly move him into a different room myself and shut the door. At which point he starts getting mildly destructive--crumpling papers, or unrolling toilet paper, stuff like that.

Eventually he calms down, we reunite, maybe we talk about it, maybe we don't. And then, maybe minutes later, maybe hours later if I'm lucky, there's another episode just like this.

No matter what I do to diffuse the situation, it always seems to escalate. Whatever consequence I warn of and follow through on, he is not deterred. All the while, I've got two other kids to take care of. And I'm a fucking wreck by the end of the day, at the very latest, and glad there is such a thing as beer.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

chick at the Y inspires a trip down memory lane

Today I went to the Y for the first time in, like, forever. And because the Asheville YMCA is perhaps the most used facility on the planet, at 3pm on a gorgeous day there was only one cross-trainer available.

I climbed aboard and noticed a severely anorexic woman working out on the machine to my right. She looked to be about 45--she was wrinkled, her hair was colored and dry--but you never know; she could have been 20 years younger. She was cross-training away and intermittently reading a sports nutrition book at the same time, underlining and circling some apparently critical points about day-long endurance events and the nutritional values of various energy bars.

I wanted to tell her to get some help. But not in a nice way. I wanted to say it as an insult, with vitriol, the way I might say, "Get a job," or, "You are such a freaking scumbag loser."

Here's the thing about anorexic women, whom I seem to come across often enough that I can say this with certainty: their presence inspires in me an almost uncontrollable belligerence, an animosity that astonishes and embarrasses me.

I tell myself that they ask for it--that they walk around with irritating smugness. Ha ha, this woman today was thinking, assessing my totally normal body, or the totally normal body of the woman next to me. I can outlast you on this machine. I can cross-train for two hours and then eat a carrot for dinner. I'm better than you, you fat fuck.

I didn't want to stare--not because I was afraid of seeming rude, but because I didn't want to give her the satisfaction. I didn't want her to think for one second that I was looking at her skeletal body with envy.

But was I? The truth is, she was totally absorbed by her book and her workout--and, probably, herself. I don't know that she even noticed me. All these thoughts I assume she was thinking are attributions I myself am making.

They say once a drunk, always a drunk. I think the same may be true of eating disorders--which are especially tricky because you can always cut drinking out of your life, whereas food, not so much. I spent nearly a decade "battling" bulimia by way of a brief stint of anorexia. One of the first pieces I published (eight years ago in The Sun) was about this experience. In it I wrote:

There was a hierarchy of eating disorders rooted firmly in my head: at the highest point hovered a see-through, anorexic angel; below her, a row of bulimics stood at attention like sentinels guarding the throne; and below them--below us--swarmed a legion of overeaters, commoners.

And while I really do see my weight as healthy now, and really do understand what's wrong with starving yourself, the ghost of this mindset lingers. I deny myself food to achieve control sometimes and feel proud; sometimes I overeat to compensate for boredom or distress and then am plagued by self-hatred. I'm obsessed with how my clothing fits, though I long ago threw out my scale and have intentionally obliterated my encyclopedic recall of the caloric value of every food known to man. Working out makes me feel better in a one-step-removed kind of way: my mood doesn't automatically improve when I exercise. My endorphins maybe got flushed down the toilet on all those trips to the bathroom years ago. My mood improves because I see the way a pair of shorts hangs at my waist.

So when I notice an anorexic woman at the Y or anywhere I else, I can't help feeling competitive. I get that she is miserable. I get that chances are, she has no rich relationship with a wonderful man like I have, no laughter, no cold beer on the deck at the end of the day, no friends with which to share a nourishing meal. Still, I find myself intrigued by her sense of discipline, curious about her routine. I find myself wondering why I could never manage it myself--w0ndering, I mean, what's wrong with me, and where I am lacking.

What I wish I felt like saying to this woman today is this (kindly, looking into her vacant eyes): "You need help. This is no life for you. You deserve more, you deserve better, you deserve to enjoy a fine meal after this punishment." And then, with complete conviction, putting my hand on hers (probably cold): "You can fix this problem you have--or fix it enough, anyway. And it will be worth it."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

crappy mom looking in the mirror

Today, the weather was hot and sticky and Southern. We went to the mall. The boys got haircuts, and then pizza, and then cupcakes. Lilah, always a trooper, tagged along. All of them behaved, more or less. So it wasn't a total disaster.

But this evening, when the boys began waving their genitalia at each other in my presence, I totally lost it. Let's just leave it at that. Enough with the goddamn penises already! I feel like I'm being sexually molested in my own home on a daily basis. By my own sons.

I just can't tell what's normal. And because I'm confused, I feel like I'm making them confused too, and then blaming them for it. I've said here that I think penis obsession is normal stuff, and even sanctioned it--or at least looked the other way. Now here I am comparing it to molestation. And the truth is, I really do feel like sometimes it's the one, and sometimes it's the other.

On the one hand, I'm totally a black-or-white person. Either I run five miles fast, or I don't run at all. Either I don't eat sweets, or I eat an entire box of cookies.

But on the other hand, I can't seem to come down decisively on some truly important matters. I'm always clouding my messages with freaking context. I'm always qualifying things, always advocating ambiguity and nuance. My conversation is filled with words like sometimes, maybe, what if, you never know. As though my poor three- and five-year-old boys could understand all that.

They want rules, plain and simple. Yes to this. No to that. I seem incapable of providing that kind of direction. And yet I'm capable of getting completely pissed off at the way they behave in the absence of clear instruction. Bottom line: I'm having to come to terms with the fact that I'm kind of (see, there I am qualifying things again) a crappy mother.

Monday, June 18, 2007

we now return to our regularly scheduled negativity

Stupid Daddy leaves tomorrow morning for his two-day stint away from home. He does this every week, and every week it sucks, but in a regular, no surprises kind of way. By the time Thursday morning rolls around, I'm exhausted and unshowered and I've served lots of frozen, not-green foods and I can hardly tolerate my kids and I'm even more foul-tempered than usual. And then Stupid Daddy returns and I nap for a couple of hours and things get back to normal, to the extent that anything is ever normal in our house.

I've kind of gotten used to this rhythm. And yet tonight, I find myself totally panicked about the next 48 hours. Like, somehow, it's going to suck that much more, like it's going to suck beyond the breaking point.

But I'm trying really, really hard to--here I am rolling my eyes--take it moment by moment. So if, for example, we all wake up tomorrow and Ezra greets me by screaming at me and storming out of the room, that's only how he's acting right at that instant and it's no indication of how he's going to behave next, no true predictor of how the day will pan out. In another instant, things could be different. He could come back into the room and put his arms around me and tell me he loves me.

Okay, probably not. But the point is it doesn't help to anticipate the next annoying or irritating episode. It only intensifies what's irritating or annoying about the episode at hand, which is already close to exhausting your resources.

So as the day progresses, I'm going to treat each new insult, affront, and bout of hostility fairly--without bias, without memory. Then I'm going to put on my hair shirt and sleep soundly on my bed of nails.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

happy father's day to stupid daddy

I'm slinking in here with my tail tucked between my legs. We celebrated Father's Day with Stupid Daddy getting up at 5am with Lilah. And not only that: he let me sleep until eight-fucking-thirty o'clock. And not only that: nothing woke me up at that hour except my very own sense of feeling rested. And not only that: between 5 and 8:30, he managed to tend to all three kids and also shop for and prepare brunch for eight. And not only that: the pancakes turned out really delicious. And not only that: he spent the rest of the day helping to take care of the kids and simultaneously finishing up the shelving in our bedroom closet. Blindfolded.

Dayenu already! I feel totally worthless and undeserving. And also, super lucky that the father of my kids is such a wonderful guy. If you're expecting my usual bitterness and sarcasm, sorry. His performance today sucked all of that out of me.

Until tomorrow, anyway.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

some hard and fast rules

Last week when I was picking up the kids at school, one of Ezra’s teacher pulled me aside. “I have to talk to you for a minute,” she said. Er, uh-oh.

“We’ve noticed that Ezra and Friend have been touching each other’s penises.”

“Oh,” I said. “You mean like when they’re changing to go swimming?”

“No,” she said. “Not necessarily. Like at story time. Pretty much whenever.” To make matters worse, they've gone beyond exploration (normal) into arousal (deviant).

As is the case with most things, this is probably my fault. Ezra and his brother are completely obsessed with their penises, and I haven’t established boundaries the way I should. Sometimes I hear them in the tub talking about peeing on each other and similar stuff that is revolting to normal human beings but, apparently, appealing to subhuman preschool boys. But if I’m busy with Lilah or one of ten thousand chores I’m trying to take care of, I don’t always go running in to redirect them—especially because in those moments, they’re actually getting along. I mean, nothing makes them happier than penis-related activities and conversation. Shit, I’d rather have them be playing with each other’s penises than scratching each other’s eyeballs out. Besides, I have always assumed that this is typical bozo boy behavior and not thought too much about it.

So now, here’s Ezra at preschool, practically jerking Friend off among the building blocks and butterfly wings and plastic hamburger buns. And I’ve had to rather awkwardly remind him that he needs to keep his hands on his own penis.

Well, no, he doesn’t have to keep his hands on his own penis; he has to keep his hands off of Friend’s penis and anyone else’s penis. He can touch his own penis, that’s fine.

But not at school.

Unless he’s peeing.

But he can’t touch his penis at school for fun. He can touch his penis at home for fun.

But not in front of anyone else. Because while it's totally normal and healthy, it's also shameful and disgusting.

He must think I'm totally insane. I kind of think I'm insane too.

Friday, June 15, 2007


Our kids usually go to bed at around 8:00. Of course, my preference would be to get them asleep by 6:30, and have them wake up about thirteen hours later. But my preference is also to be six inches taller than I am and not have to see an electrologist. So there you go.

I think of it less as putting the kids to bed and more as putting them away: like I’m straightening up around the house, shelving a few more items until they’re ready for use again—the dishes stacked in the cabinets, the clean laundry folded and returned to the appropriate dressers, the boys tucked away in their bunk beds, Lilah in her crib.

The problem is, while the dishes and clothing generally stay put, the kid drawers keep popping open. The boys want water, a slice of cheese, another goodnight kiss. Lilah wants—who knows? And so, again and again, we go into their rooms, tell them to hush and settle. We pat them on the back, or raise our voices, or both. We keep putting away our three jack-in-the-boxes, until finally, sometimes as much as 45 minutes later, they are all quiet.

All the while, Stupid Daddy and I lose ground on these precious couple of hours we have to ourselves, to each other, to the silence in the house. And I begin to feel anxious about how little I’ve gotten done, irritated that I am so beholden to my little ones’ schedules. I get this burst of energy after they go down and want to stay up until 2am, taking care of this and that—paying bills, writing bestsellers, solving many of the world’s most pressing problems.

Lately, I’ve experimented with giving in to that impulse. (Have you noticed, by the way, how much happier a planet we are living on?) But I’ve discovered that, strangely enough, the kids don’t sleep in after my late nights. No matter how late I stay up, they still wake up at 6:30 the next morning. Even on Saturday! Kids are so funny like that.

They also insist that 65 degrees is a totally appropriate temperature for swimming without a wet suit and believe that adding “butt” to the end of any sentence makes it an instant comedy classic. There’s a lot we’re not in sync about. I guess I should have seen it coming.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

my little superhero

It's going okay with the Synthroid. (Every time I say that word, I think of Syndrome from The Incredibles. Sometimes Synthroid teams up with Flomax and Lipitor, and then you really have to watch out.)

Ezra has taken his pill three mornings in a row like a trooper. Swallowing it has been no problem. Yesterday he said to me, "I decided that this pill is fun. And good." Maybe I got the wrong prescription.

I've tried to be very matter-of-fact about the medication with him. Probably because of my sensitivity and all-around awesomeness as a mother, I haven't said, "Here, take your pill, sweetheart. Remember why? Because you're sickly and feeble and your body will never work right without it."

But that's what I'm thinking. There's something about the neverendingness of it that's just so disheartening to me, something about his body's inability to do what it's supposed to on its own.

I remember years ago, when Ezra was past that really fragile newborn stage and we were still in that awed new parent stage, Stupid Daddy would sometimes kind of bunch him up in his enormous hands like a compact package and turn him this way and that and say to me, "Look at this, sweetie! He's got everything he needs. It's all right here." But that turned out not to be the case.

I guess it's always something--glasses, insulin, antidepressants. I'm really working not to overdramatize this. He's just so little that looking out at the rest of his life, every day a pill, every day a pill, is overwhelming. And I just love him so much.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

wednesday night book club

I've been working on a children's book for a little while and finally felt ready to field test it on my boys tonight. I got them settled in their beds and read to them, gesturing here and there and acting out certain parts because there are no illustrations. They were quiet for the entire ten minutes it took me to read the story. Damn, I thought to myself. This must really be good, just as I suspected.

Then this.

Levi: "That was boring. Now I want some water."
Ezra (looking up at the ceiling): "Now can we read a real book?"

Their constructive comments and insights really got me thinking about ways to improve the story. I can't wait to roll up my sleeves and get back to it.

They have so lost the dedication if this book ever makes it to print.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

it never ends with these birds

Today, as I was taking a stinky diaper out to the trash, I noticed another baby bird hopping and stumbling around our driveway--number three from what is obviously the same brood. I wonder how many are left up there. I haven't been able to locate the nest, which appears to have a trap door.

Somehow, I went from weeping at the thought that his sibling might not make it and engaging in a full-blown rescue effort on Sunday to thinking, "Oh well, sorry for your bad luck!" today and doing nothing more than scooping this one up and depositing him on some grass under a nearby tree.

A bit later, I noticed him back in the driveway, dead and still, tipped over on his side. And I didn't shed a tear.

The rescued bird, the one I actually showed some mercy, I discovered when Stupid Daddy was around and the support and companionship were plentiful. Today, Stupid Daddy is away on his weekly work-related overnight. (At least he claims it's work-related.) Maybe this is what happens to me when I'm alone with my kids--every single ounce of energy goes into ensuring their survival without losing a grip on my own sanity--in other words, just getting us all through the goddamn day. Nothing--not one ounce of sympathy, not one morsel of concern--is left over for anything else, even an adorable, helpless baby bird with a haze of long downy hair who does a face plant every time he tries to take a step.

Either that, or I've been replaced by a cyborg. In which case, family, looking on the bright side, you can expect more regularly cooked meals and fewer mood swings.

Monday, June 11, 2007

it all circles back, you'll see

The bird made it through the night on only one feeding, of which I was completely unaware, thanks to Stupid Daddy and my special vitamin, Ambien. And this morning he was chipper as ever, craning his bony little neck for the next bite of mush. Stupid Daddy brought him over to the Nature Center first thing while I extended my drug-induced haze with a couple of Percocets took the kids to school. The good people over there identified him as a starling and were happy to, er, take him under their wing. Adios, little guy! I'm sorry you're going to grow up to be so ugly and obnoxious!

In other news, Ezra has been diagnosed with hypothyroidism. He's been very low on the growth chart for the last few years, but maintaining his velocity, which generally means there's no cause for concern. At his last checkup, however, he had dropped into a much lower percentile, so we took him to a pediatric endocrinologist, and this is what the labs picked up.

Aside from his small size, Ezra looks like a generally healthy kid with shining eyes, a quick mind, and tons of energy. He has none of the other symptoms of the disease, save one: horrible mood swings. I wonder now if his shouting, his tirades, his minimal tolerance for frustration, his generally being a total asshole for the last six months or so are all a function of the lazy thyroid. And of course I'm kicking myself for having so little sympathy and giving him such a hard time and not seeing that there might be something wrong sooner.

Hypothyroidism isn't necessarily the cause of his small stature. He may indeed have a growth hormone deficiency, but that can't be tested (i.e., insurance won't pay for testing) until his thyroid function is stabilized. Stupid Daddy is encouraging me not to worry about what might or might not have to happen six months from now, but I can't help feeling like all this is just the beginning of one long nightmare of repeated doctor's visits and labs and "stim tests" that would involve him fasting for six hours and then running like nuts for twenty minutes and then drinking nasty medicine and then running some more and then having his blood drawn for the sixtieth time in two hours and then reciting the alphabet in French while standing on his head or some shit like that, and then, and then, possibly getting an injection in his tiny little ass every day for the next decade.

So I'm trying really hard to focus on the more immediate challenges, mainly, getting my five-year-old to learn to swallow his special vitamin (the Synthroid pill) and see this addition to his morning routine as a) absolutely no big deal, or b) one big pharmaceutical adventure.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

thank god my tubes are tied

I have managed to survive nine days (but who's counting? who's crossing the days off with big, gleeful, indelible X's in the calendar inside her head? not me) of my mother's ten-day visit with very minimal substance abuse (and if it's so minimal, can it really be called "abuse"?). Tomorrow, she gets on the itty-bitty airplane and flies back home, at which point the 48-hour fallout from her trip will commence, characterized by lots of overeating and crying and specific as well as global regret.

Speaking of mothering and flying, I found a baby bird hopping and squawking in our driveway today. It was very wee, with the tiniest stump of a tail, and lots of baby fuzz but no real feathers to speak of. And it had this adorable broad yellow beak that its head hadn't yet grown into.

Of course, because three little kids, two dogs, a cat, and a fish are not enough to take care of, I grabbed a tiny shoe box, lined it with a nice soft rag, and scooped him into it. Stupid Daddy called a local wildlife rehabilitator, who said it sounded like a titmouse. However, knowing nothing about birds, I am skeptical, since it looks so much like this and isn't it true that a brief search on the Internet can substitute for years of training? Whatever it is, she suggested we feed it a delectable mush of banana and softened cat food. Every thirty minutes. Not so much fun anymore!

And yet, to see this little thing all hunkered down in the shoe box opening its mouth as wide as it can for another tenth of an ounce of food and then falling asleep until the next tenth of an ounce gets loaded into its gullet--

every thirty minutes--

uh, we'll be bringing the little guy to the Nature Center first thing in the morning.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

coming soon to a chimney near you

Last fall, I called a friend on a Saturday afternoon to find out what she and her family were doing that evening.

“We’re watching the chimney sweeps at the Grove Arcade. They come out at around seven. Some guy gives a talk about them beforehand. Wanna come?”

I immediately thought of Mary Poppins and imagined a whole mess of sooty, down-on-their-luck but still joyous chimney sweeps rushing down from various chimneys at the Grove Arcade and dancing their way out the doors. The kids would love it. I would love it. We were all over those chimney sweeps.

I was surprised not to have heard of this apparently annual event, but I chalked it up to being relatively new to Asheville. And it occurred to me that I hadn't ever actually noticed any chimneys, but whatever, sometimes I'm really good at missing the obvious.

We got there a bit before seven. It was an unusual crowd: much smaller turnout than you'd imagine for such a spectacle. Hardly any kids, a lot of older folks. With binoculars.

Huh. Were the chimney sweeps so tiny?

Then I overhead the older folks talking. Not about dancing, or soot, or Mary Poppins. They were talking about nesting, migration, and bird calls. They were talking about swoops! Chimney swoops! Which, I soon found out, are a kind of bird, though when I Googled them just now I only got two hits, which means they're obviously not famous or important birds.

I had been in a lousy mood that day anyway because I'm always in a lousy mood I had just gotten a very housewifey haircut. (When I complained about it to another friend, she said, “But you are a housewife!” and, really, with friends like that who needs mother-in-laws?)

So it seemed fitting that my expectations would continue to be dashed, if not by a stylist who, when I say, “Please don’t give me one of those mom haircuts,” hears, “Please definitely give me one of those housewifey cuts, because I’m feeling a little too young and sexy these days,” then by my own inability to hear what’s been said to me, such is the power of wishful thinking. Because who could brighten up a shitty day better than Dick van Dyke? I wanted Mary Poppins. I got The Birds.

Thankfully, we hadn’t said anything to the kids other than that we were meeting our friends at the Grove Arcade. So they didn’t have the disappointment to deal with. They did a lot of running up and down the sidewalks, and then climbing on the lions who, inexplicably, had become "princesses who are gonna kill you with their penises." (Yikes, guys, I'll be sure to stay away.)

Me, I spent some time crying in the gutter, brushing my housewife hair out of my eyes, while the swoops circled undramatically very high above us in the darkening sky.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

all growed up

Tonight we attended my nephew Nels' graduation from high school. I got a little weepy--in part because I'm so proud of him and in part because pretty much everything makes me cry.

Stupid Daddy and I entertained ourselves during the boring parts by watching the young woman in front of us text messaging the entire universe. Her fingers just flew across her keypad; I've never seen anything move with such speed. It was that, more than the actual graduation, which made me realize that we are part of some other, older generation. And these young people--they can do things that we can't!

Before the diplomas were handed out, the lights went down for a video tribute to the graduating class. That's what they called it, anyway, but all the images were stills, which allowed some jokester graduate to guide a laser pointer around the nipple and crotch areas of the various students and teachers projected on the screen. Stupid Daddy and I could not stop laughing.

At one point during the "video," Stupid Daddy leaned over and whispered, "If you fart in the dark, does it not smell as much?"

Older, yes, but not necessarily more mature.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

I never talk about Levi, because he's the middle child and I don't pay any attention to him

Lilah, my former sleep superstar! How your shine has dulled, how your brilliance has faded!

I used to put her in her crib and she'd plug in her thumb and we wouldn't hear from her for the next twelve hours--a routine that we hardly took note of and definitely weren't at all thankful for after two boys who to this day only sleep through the night when heavily drugged.

Lately, though, she's been screaming on and off all night long. I go in to make sure she doesn't have a thumb tack in her diaper, and she puts her fingers to her lips, which sometimes means, I'm thirsty, and sometimes means, I'm hungry, and sometimes means, apparently, You are my bitch. Now dance, woman, dance!

So I give her water, and she lies down. And I think, Oh, that's all she needed. Half an hour later, she's screaming again. So I think maybe she's cutting some teeth and I give her Tylenol, and she lies down. And I think, Oh, that's all she needed. Half an hour later, she's screaming again. So I take her downstairs, put her in her high chair, and give her a snack--some yogurt, maybe, or some pretzels. And we're both yawning and I'm trying not to look at the clock (1:20) and I notice she's been working on the same pretzel for the last five minutes and her head is about to drop into her bowl. So I carry her back upstairs and she cries some more and then it's usually quiet till morning.

After carefully testing these various interventions over the last few weeks and plotting their success in a bar graph, I've come to the conclusion that my daughter is in fact playing me, and I should just let her cry.

After checking to see about that thumb tack.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

10:30 and the night's just getting underway

Ezra just came staggering into my office not long ago doubled over with stomach pain. In our many collective years of parenting (don't you hate when companies add up all the years each partner has worked in the industry, and then they say, "Collectively, we have over 327 years of experience," as if that actually meant anything? But I don't mean that, I mean five years with one kid plus nearly four with another plus nearly two with the third, which is completey different)--where was I? In our many collective years of parenting, Stupid Daddy and I have had maybe one bout of stomach upset to deal with.

I am really grateful for this stretch of good luck. But because of it, I had no idea what to do for Ezra. Whenever I have severe stomach pain, I writhe around a lot and moan and talk about dying. It seems to help, but I just didn't feel right recommending it to him.

So I kept instinctively rubbing his tummy and pressing my hand gently into it, which made him scream, "Stop it!" I deduced from this response that I wasn't doing the right thing. Many other mothers might not have picked up on the message, but I'm really sensitive so I could tell.

He seems to have made it back to sleep, with some occasional rather histrionic crying out.

There's a stomach bug going around, so maybe we've been hit. I fear it will be a long night.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Abramson, Snickers and popcorn

The summer after eighth grade, I went to gymnastics camp for a couple of weeks. I was hoping to turn into a power gymnast. Mostly I just got much worse.

Anyway, they had this canteen at night where you could order snacks and have them charged to your parents' account. You told the person behind the counter your last name and gave him your order, and all of a sudden there would be glorious junk food in your calloused hands.

Every night, I wanted the same thing: a Snickers bar and a bag of popcorn. But because I was a very shy girl who hesitated with everything--tumbling passes and conversations with acquaintances and raising my hand in the classroom--I got nervous before ordering my nightly fix.

So as I waited in line (and the line was invariably, thankfully long), I rehearsed in my head-- Abramson, Snickers and popcorn...Abramson, Snickers and popcorn--so that I wouldn't fumble when my turn came up.

I fumbled anyway. Abramson, Snickers and popcorn: that's a mouthful for even the most silver-tongued orator. I didn't stand a chance.

Sunday, June 3, 2007


Thank you so much, Mom, for cleaning our embarrassingly slovenly house and yard this morning. This task was of the utmost importance.

Yes, it’s true--technically speaking--that you were charged with the task of watching Ezra and Lilah while Stupid Daddy ran an errand and I was off on a play date with Levi. And, yes, when Stupid Daddy came back and asked about Lilah's whereabouts, you were so busy tidying you had lost track of her, and it turned out she was headed down the alley behind the house. Sure, that was a trifle concerning. Cars go down that alley. There is broken glass. It leads to a main street. She is 20 months old.

But that was no big deal. I'm not one to split hairs. At least those dastardly boxes got broken down. What an eyesore! At least the front porch got swept! Dirt and dust are just so icky, and they (potentially) contain lots of toxins, which you wouldn't want your granddaughter to come in contact with--IF YOU HAD ANY FUCKING IDEA WHERE SHE WAS!

Also, Ezra is definitely too skinny and too short, and offering him/chasing him around with/talking about the wonders of food every five minutes is probably an excellent strategy for getting him to grow five inches overnight and gain five pounds. And in general, it’s critical that nothing, I mean nothing, impede the ingestion of calories.

That’s why it was so awesome, when I dropped off the boys at your vacation cottage at lunch time and Levi was having some separation anxiety and crying hysterically at the front door as I pulled away, that you opted not to comfort him because at that very same moment Ezra was ready for lunch. Yes, Levi was still crying when I came back twenty minutes later, after you called to say he had to go home. But at least Ezra was enjoying his turkey sandwich!

I think he has grown an inch already.

Saturday, June 2, 2007


We moved into this house with way more books than we’ve ever had in one spot: books that were in storage in our Vermont house before we sold it as well as books we’ve accumulated in the three years since we lived there. And though the benefits of the open floor plan on our first floor are numerous—I can have a totally unobstructed view of Levi strangling Lilah, there are way fewer doors for me to slam when I’m angry, preparing food for the kids while they sit at the bar making requests makes me feel that much more like their slave—the downside is that we have very little wall space, which means very little room for books.

So in the last couple of weeks, rather than slapping our books onto shelves willy-nilly and buying new bookcases to supplement where we might need them, we have had to sort through our books and decide which ones we were going to hang onto. I kept trying to come up with a rule that would make my portion of the weeding easier.

Following are some of the rules I tested out:

I had to have read the book if I was going to keep it. This appealed to me at first, because a) I always felt that displaying a book I haven’t read was a lie; and b) if it’s sat unread all these years, there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t sit unread forever.

But then I couldn’t part with the possibility this category of books represented, the potential, the idea that I might have time at some point in the future to dust them off and read them—like on a beach vacation WITH NO KIDS and a nice refreshing drink and a hammock—which seems so much more noble than going out and buying new books: like I’m picking up an old dog at the pound, or giving somebody a second chance.

I had to remember the book. That didn’t work because it pretty much ruled out my entire collection.

I had to have liked the book. This one seemed totally reasonable and normal and non-neurotic, which is why it was bound to fail in my case. There were so many books I really wanted that I was just proud to have read, or that reminded me of a particular time in my life—those Greek tragedies I read in high school, when I was hideously depressed and anorexic…those art history texts I read in college, when I was hideously depressed and bulimic…those novels I read the summer after Stupid Daddy dumped me because it was 3am and I couldn’t sleep because I was hideously depressed. Ah, the memories.

Then I started to think about whether the book in my hand was one my kids might one day find interesting—either because it gave them a peek at their mother's old pursuits and passions, or because they themselves felt pulled into its pages. And that was the rule of thumb that I went with.

In general, I have a hard time imagining my kids older than they are at the moment. But as I sorted, I could see Ezra as a teenager, with glasses, maybe, lying all comfortable on the couch, munching a granny smith apple and reading Great Tales of Action and Adventure, so absorbed that I had to ask him three times to come help me with dinner. Or Lilah, at twelve, sitting cross-legged in front of the bookcase, poring over my Catullus, not understanding the Latin, not caring, just reading my tiny, meticulous notes in the margins, knowing that this was her mother’s book, understanding that once upon a time, I too had been a young girl.

Friday, June 1, 2007

preschool geography

Not long ago, Stupid Daddy started a new job that takes him away from home two days a week. The boys are still getting used to the schedule (whereas for me, it has hardly registered that my partner and co-parent is gone for an approximately 50-hour stretch beginning every Tuesday morning at exactly 7:00). One night recently as I was putting them to bed, Ezra asked where his father was.

“Don’t you remember, YOU FUCKING IDIOT?” I said.

No. I didn’t say that.

I said, “Remember? Daddy goes away for work two days a week. He works in Clayton, Georgia.”

“Why does Daddy work in two places?” Ezra asked.

“You mean from home and then away from home?”

“No, I mean Clayt and Georgia.” Or maybe it was Clayt 'n Georgia. Clayt-n-Georgia? No matter how you slice it, it was cute!

In a similar vein, on a recent trip to Atlanta, Levi kept asking whether we were at Lanta yet. And just the other day, he pointed out a Merican flag.

While I appreciate their need to learn the correct way to say things and do what I can to ensure that this happens (shaming, withholding of food, etc., until they get it), I also mourn the transformation of every misspoken word or phrase into standard, non-kid English.

I mean, part of me wanted Ezra to always pronounce tomato "taymo," or call La Brioche, the Montpelier café we used to frequent when he was a toddler, "La Bri-ocean."

Levi just figured out how to pronounce "th" correctly a couple of weeks ago. (I heard him one afternoon, alone on the staircase, saying, "TH...row, TH...row" over and over again.) And though he still has to pause and very deliberately arrange his mouth to get the sound out the right way, I feel like this one small change has aged him dramatically. I no longer see a chubby dumpling when he speaks; I see a little boy.