Friday, April 30, 2010

The Road Not Taken

Even though these are Robert Frost's words and not mine, they spoke to me today in a very deep and meaningful way that begs to be shared. So I'm posting this poem as my blog for the day. Enjoy.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Monday, April 26, 2010

50 years

That's how long my parents have been married. My siblings and I celebrated their golden anniversary this weekend by having some family over and making a special meal for them.

I had so many mixed emotions watching how my parents treat each other after spending 50 years of their life together. 5o years! That's a long, long time. One would hope that they would be celebrating love and longevity and successes and friendship and many, many things about the life they've lived together.

Instead, my mom spent at least half of the day being grumpy because she hasn't wanted to be married to my father for maybe 40 years but has never been able to figure out what she wants to do about that, except complain. She realized late in the day on their anniversary that she hadn't even bought him a card. Reluctantly, she trudged out to Hallmark and came home to tell stories of how she complained to the lady who was offering her help because she couldn't find a card that she wanted to give to him. That's probably because Hallmark doesn't have a card offering regrets for having spent 50 years of your life being mostly unhappy with somebody.

And as for me, I spent a good part of the day vacillating between tearfulness and relief.

I'm relieved because I've known for a long time that what my husband and I were living together was going to end up as a depressing replica of my parents' marriage, if we spent our entire lives together. We didn't have good companionship or friendship with each other and I was pretty miserable for the last several years of my marriage. One of my greatest fears during those past few years has been that of ending up as a bitter, resentful, unhappy old woman, like my mother. I vowed to myself that I would not let that happen, but as it turns out, that is not the reason I left my husband nearly three months ago. But that's a different story for another time. Ultimately, my relief was based on knowing that I can't possibly end up like my mother now. I have started the slow and painful process of starting over that she never thought she could manage. But I'll also never know what it's like to spend 50 years of my life with anyone, and that's where the tears started.

I know that there are some people who never get divorced, who get married once to someone who makes them blissfully happy and live a lifetime of love together. I will never know what that's like. And I shed many tears this weekened over the loss of the dream that I've held on to for most of my 38 years, of spending my life with just one person. As it turns out, the thing I learned from my parents while they raised me was that no matter how miserable you are, you just don't walk away from a marriage. That's simply not an option. I never knew, until I was in my 30s, that the only reason my mom never left was because she couldn't support herself plus four kids if she did. She had limited education and job skills, so she stayed for convenience. But I always thought that she stayed because divorce was bad, very bad, in a devastating and horrific kind of way, so I decided that when I got married it was going to be for a lifetime. And now I have to accept that I'll never have the chance to reach a 50th wedding anniversary, and I shed tears over that, too.

I never meant for my marriage to be a lifetime of forced misery, and I certainly didn't mean for it to be a lifetime of emotional manipulation and instability, with occasional episodes of fear for my safety and that of my kids. All I really wanted was a lifetime of companionship.

Now, at least I know I won't devote years of my life to a miserable marriage. But I also don't know what kind of life I will have. It will involve being a mom, of course, but other than that I really don't know much about what it will be.

My mom thinks she knows, of course. She's going to try to get me to live her dreams for her, because that's what she thinks will make me happy. And I'll be honest: Her dreams aren't that bad. Start over, and hope to find someone who makes your heart feel complete, who offers you love and friendship and someone to enjoy life with.

But she never tried to pursue that dream for herself, so she can't know how painful it is to stare at the brink of an uncertain future that's filled with both hope and despair, relief and pain, thankfulness and sorrow.

I suppose that for now, I should cling to the good stuff; relief and hope and thankfulness. I just wish that despair and pain and sorrow weren't constantly battling against all of my best efforts.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Raising an ADD child

I used to think that children who are diagnosed with ADHD don't really have anything wrong with them. They're just active kids who may have a hard time sitting still at a desk, but surely sedating them with medication can't be the answer. They're children, after all, and shouldn't people just let them be kids?

That was before my son was diagnosed with ADD.

Ultimately, he needed to be diagnosed and treated medically because he was falling drastically behind in school, at the start of first grade. I didn't have the ability to homeschool him and didn't think that was the best choice for him socially, so that left me struggling to find a way to help him succeed in school in spite of the fact that he could barely write his name. For him, Ritalin turned out to be the right solution, and though I struggled deeply with the decision to medicate him, I am so happy I decided to try it. The medication helps him to concentrate and get his work done in ways that he was not capable of without it.

Still, there is no magic pill for ADD. It's a disorder that you have to approach from all angles, teaching your child lessons every day that will help them to manage their impulsiveness, stay focused, and be considerate of others, whether they are medicated or not. That's the best chance the child will have at being a successful adult who can enjoy productive relationships at home, at work, and in society. For my son, his multi-layered treatment right now includes a private counselor, a school counselor, a very involved teacher, an Individualized Education Plan provided by his school, regular weekly Cub Scout meetings, and, of course, me.

Even though I had always suspected that my son might not be quite like the other kids in his preschool and kindergarten classes, his diagnosis was still difficult for me to accept. But accept it I did, because you can't help your child if you won't admit that they need your help. I work hard to teach my son how he needs to behave, at home and in public, whether he is on his meds or not. I feel like a broken record so much of the time, telling him he has to stay calm or quiet down. This week, in particular, was a struggle. There were a few times when I had to help him control his anger. One time, I sent him to stand in front of some shrubbery at the edge of the parking lot and instructed him to yell, loudly. "I'M ANGRY!" He felt better after that. But I couldn't use that technique at his Cub Scouts meeting, when he got angry at me for taking him home early after he had misbehaved for most of the meeting. He'd been speaking out of turn and being disruptive. When I told him we had to leave early, he threw himself on the floor in a raging tantrum, screaming and kicking and refusing to go with me. I had to have another adult help me to carry him to the car while he was hitting me in the face and screaming at me.

We talked later that night about what his consequences should be for that outburst. I was shaken and upset, but I also had the comfort of knowing that I was doing the right thing for him, whether he liked it or not. But you know what? The next morning, he came to me with a soft look on his face and said, very sincerely, "Mom, I'm sorry about last night." I melted.

That's the thing. I have to work harder at being a mom because of the issues that my son has, but when things go right and he's behaving well, it's the sweetest thing on earth. It makes all the hard work worth every minute.

And guess what? He will be celebrating his seventh birthday next week. That means I still have many years of hard work and plenty of rewards ahead of me.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Blog, schmog.

I'm disappointed in myself.

I started this blog because I have let my creative writing slip by for the past few months and I really felt inspired to pick it up again. But it seems that feeling inspired to write does not necessarily translate into writing well. I sit down and dig for things to write about; then I struggle to put them on the page, as a way of forcing myself through the writer's block, in the hopes that the words will start to flow again; and then I read what I wrote, and it's awful. It sounds forced and trite and it doesn't reflect me in the way I want it to.

I know I can write better than this. Not too long ago, I was writing blogs and journals pretty regularly, and I even liked some of them. As a matter of fact, I even wrote a novel last year, by following a few friends to this web site and then tackling the insane challenge of penning 50,000 words in 30 days. I did it, too. And they weren't just 50,000 random words that landed haphazardly on my screen; they actually formed a story of sorts, one that evolved as I wrote it and ended up almost with a life of its own, and one that I still hope to publish one day.

So from that perspective, I figured that if I can write that much in one month, it seems like I should be able to keep up with a little blog just to nudge at my writing brain a bit. But, so far, I don't like what I'm seeing. I hope that my creative streak will return to me soon as I keep pushing past this dumb writer's block that prevents me from being even remotely interesting. But in the meantime, to give my reading audience something that I'm actually a bit proud of, I'll link you to an excerpt from my novel on the NaNoWriMo web site.

And then I'll probably take a few minutes to sulk about the fact that I don't feel like I know how to write any more before I realize that it isn't that important. After all, when writing ceases to be fun for me, it loses all therapeutic benefit, so it seems very silly to struggle so much with it. I'll just keep trying a little at a time in the hopes that someday soon, I'll get my groove back.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Electric parenting

I was standing at the playground in front of my daughter's preschool today, pushing my daughter on the swing and watching my son going down the slides. Just yesterday, at a different playground, he had learned about what static electricity is and how it feels when you generate it by going down a plastic slide and then electrocuting the adult at the bottom. But that moment was far from my mind as I giggled with my daughter and watched my son being his typical energetic self. I was trying to inhale their youthfulness and wish that I could bottle it up and keep it with me forever.

Suddenly, my son leaps off of the slide and runs across the playground to me. He wraps me in a big hug and nearly tries to climb me, as though I were a fire pole. Sometimes that energy of his can be kind of assaulting and difficult for me to deal with, but at that moment I was just touched by the sweetness of it. He never runs away from a fun activity just to stop and hug his mom. I started to tear up a little at the sentiment of it.

Then he speaks. "Mom, didn't you feel a shock?"

And it dawned on me. He didn't come over here to hug me. He came over here for an electricity experiment.

It gave me a chuckle as I realized that his spontaneous hug was not born from a moment of affection for his mommy. And it didn't take me long to switch back into Teacher Mommy mode and explain to him that he had already released all of the electricity he generated from the slide by running across the playground. I then went with him from slide to slide, tentatively reaching out to him at the bottom of each one to see which slide gave the biggest shock.

Boys. You gotta love 'em.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bragging on my kids

Both of my kids had very fun and busy schedules today. My son's first grade class went on a field trip, my daughter's preschool class had a teddy bear picnic on the lawn complete with pizza and juice, and then both of them got to go play at a friend's house after school. Other than the part where my son decided that he had some good reason to pee in his friend's backyard, they were both really well behaved.

After dinner and showers, the kid both spent some time drawing and coloring. When I went to look at what Abi had drawn I was amazed to see her name, beautifully scripted, written several times. I asked around to see if anyone helped her, but nope! She learned it at school, she said, and she did it all by herself. I was so proud to see how well she did, and thrilled because it's the first time I've seen her do it at all. Look!

And here it is again, complete with colored teddy bear:

For those of you who may not understand why this is a big deal, I should add that my first-grade son has learning disabilities, and that even now, near the end of first grade, much of his writing is barely legible, including his name. This was my very first experience ever with seeing one of my kids learn to write successfully and almost spontaneously. And Abi still has another year and a half before she starts kindergarten, so I'm relieved that she has such a good start on her writing.

However, just as my daughter is learning to write seemingly overnight, my son's reading skills are really taking off. Tonight he read to me the entire first chapter of a Hardy Boys comic book that we got from the library. True, it was only a few pages, but for a child of his attention span, it's like witnessing a miracle to see him read that well. He even read words like "advantage" and "frightened" with barely a pause and no help at all. Again, that may not be spectacular progress for other first graders, but seeing it in my son makes me want to cry with thankfulness.

Those kids are a lot of work, and there are certain behaviors like peeing in the backyard that need improvement, but they are both doing exceptionally well, especially given all that they have just been through.

Now I have to go kiss their sleeping little faces one more time.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Things I Did Today

  • Got up late.
  • Dropped my daughter off at preschool.
  • Took my dog to the beach.
  • Took note of the surfers riding the waves and promised myself that I will learn to surf one day.
  • Wondered what it would be like to learn how to surf after realizing that's probably one of those things I'll never get around to.
  • Picked my son up from school and spent 20 minutes talking to the teacher about his progress at school, his upcoming IEP meeting, and why he was crying when I got there.
  • Headed off with my son for our weekly counseling appointment.
  • Dropped off videos and DVDs at the library on the way home, but not the books because they aren't due yet.
  • Insisted to my son that we weren't getting any more books from the library because we already had too many at home.
  • Broke that promise when I saw how well he was reading that Hardy Boys comic book. And grabbed a book for his sister too, because she can't be left out.
  • Helped my son get his homework done after counseling. He's getting better at staying focused. I'm proud of him.
  • Cleaned up dog pee from my son's room after dinner. WTF?
  • Wondered if I should make a vet appointment for the dog who has started peeing in the house all of a sudden. She hasn't done that once in the two months we've lived here, until yesterday.
  • Wondered how to select a good veterinarian since I don't have one here yet.
  • Snuggled the dog anyway because it probably wasn't her fault. She's too cute to be a troublemaker.
  • Sat down to see how much work I have for tonight and groaned. Procrastinated work by making a small pot of coffee.
  • Read a library book to the kids and tucked them into bed.
  • Worried about how early I have to get up for my son's school field trip tomorrow and decidedI really must start work, right now.
  • Procrastinated starting work by about 15 minutes to write this blog.
  • Realized that there is a handful of unread posts out there by some of my fellow blogging friends and promised that I'd start working just as soon as I caught up on reading.
  • I'm probably still reading. If I'm tired tomorrow you'll know why.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The List

It's posted at the local courthouse at 8:00 am every Wednesday, and it has a mere 16 slots on it. If your name is on The List, you are one of the chosen few who will get to spend 15 minutes with a district attorney who can help you do things like filing divorce papers. You don't even have to pay for their services because the state of California does that for you. Neat, huh?

There's a small problem with The List, though: There are a lot more than 16 underpaid Californians who want to be on it every Wednesday. Those who are serious about The List start lining up at the courthouse before the rising of the sun. Today, I really needed to be on The List, and I showed up at 7am, groggy and undercaffeinated but confident. There were already 12 people ahead of me. At least I got on The List, but it was a close call.

Finally, after three hours of idle time spent at the courthouse waiting for The List to be posted and then waiting for my appointment time to come, I was told that I wouldn't be able to finish up my paperwork today. My official date to finish filing is not until next week, even though the county clerk, Gerardo, and yes I do know him by name, told me twice that it would be this week. He was wrong. Nadine, the attorney, and yes I do know her by name, said that I could come back next Wednesday. But not really, because next Wednesday is a government furlough day, meaning that the courts are all closed and no one will be there, so I could come the following Wednesday which is two weeks away, except that Nadine isn't working that day because she works on Tuesday that week instead.

This leaves me with the choice of (a) waiting for two weeks to finish my filing, or (b) going to the other county courthouse that is 30 miles away but has 15-minute attorneys on duty every day of the week (except the third Wednesday of the month, and on Tuesdays when they only serve people with blonde hair who are wearing purple) and getting on That List, which is even harder to get on because I have to get up earlier and drive farther and deal with a bigger crowd of underpaid Californians who all want to be on That List.

I can at least say that my three hours of idle time were not wasted today. I finished reading the second half of "Confessions of a Shopaholic" (the ending of which was NOT supposed to make me cry) and knit a few more rows on the headband I'm making, which incidentally is looking more and more like a project I'm going to be unhappy with in the end, which makes me want to rip it out, which makes me cry because I hate ripping out beautiful stitches.

But that's okay. I should have at least four hours to devote to my knitting next week while I'm waiting around at the courthouse to get on The List. And if there happen to be more than 16 people ahead of me in line when I arrive to wait for my turn on The List, I can take them all out one by one with my knitting needles. I'm Ninja like that.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It was a good day.

Yesterday was a gloomy day. I've been having quite a few of those lately. But I have decided to write them all off as unpleasant and unavoidable side effects of ending a 12-year marriage and starting a new life for myself and my kids.

My coping mechanisms for these pesky side effects change from day to day, and yesterday's method of choice was a phone call to a very wise friend. Her advice was simple: Think of at least one good thing that happens to me every day and write it down somewhere.

Of course, I can do that. The things that fulfill my life right now don't come to me in the form of winning lottery tickets or Alaskan cruises, but there is always some small blessing for me to focus on when I stop and think about it. Often it's a hug and kiss from my four-year-old daughter, a moment of laughter provided by my comedic son, or a furry snuggle with my favorite four-legged beast.

But today was different, because it brought to me a unique and valuable treasure: The gift of friendship. I took Abi to her weekly dance class at the local community center and spoke to a mom there I'd met last week, who had invited Abi and I to spend some time at her house after class today. I don't want to sound desperate or anything, but I'll be honest, I had looked forward to it all week. The thing is, when you're a mom, having mommy friends is a Very Big Deal, and when you're a mom who has just moved to an area where she doesn't have a lot of mommy friends, it's an Even Bigger Deal. This mom understood that because she has been through such transitions herself. So once dance class was over, I got to spend a couple of hours getting to know a really wonderful mom while our kids played blissfully with the dress up clothes and girly things.

It wasn't just a good moment in an otherwise difficult day; it was actually a good day.

Monday, April 12, 2010

This is me, blogging.

Hey, look, I just set up a blog! Very cool. And now I have to answer one very important question: What should I blog about?

You are probably wondering why a busy, caffeinated mom like me would take the time to set up a blog when she doesn't seem to have a clear topic to blog about. And yes, I'm wondering that right now, too. I think it's about self-discovery or something horribly trite like that.

Before you decide if you want to bother reading this blog or not, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I am a working mother who is very involved in the lives of her two kids, a first-grade son with ADD and an energetic preschool daughter. I recently ended an emotionally abusive relationship with my husband and am living with my parents until the kids and I are back on our feet again. I love to walk my dog, go to the beach, read books, knit something pink for my daughter, waste too much time on Facebook, and cry over sappy movies. I drink too much coffee and not nearly enough wine. I know that I'm a Christian, but I am in the process of exploring how that fits into the life I've just found myself living. I understand a little bit about how and why my life has come to be what it is today, and I know very little about where it's headed, but I do know that one day, I'm going to look back and think about the year 2010 as being the year I started over.

So, now you know. If you choose to follow this blog, that is the journey you are going to be taking with me. It might be a little bumpy, it will definitely be unpredictable, and I'm sure there will be some laughter and tears along the way.

It's a journey I know I won't regret in the end; and if you decide to join me, I'll try to make sure that you don't regret it, either.