Bad Mama

The Writing Process
December 29, 2009, 10:56 am
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  1. Sit down to write blog.
  2. Get up to let dog out.
  3. Sit down to write blog.
  4. “Juice, pweez Mama, juice!”
  5. Sit down to write blog
  6. Get up to let dog in.
  7. Sit down to write blog.
  8. “Mama, can you help me put this dress on Cinderella please?”
  9. Begin to write blog.
  10. “Watch Pooh pweez Mama, watch Pooh!”
  11. Sit down to write blog.
  12. “Mama! I can’t get up, help me!”
  13. Sit down to write blog.
  14. Get up to shoo cats away from top of piano.
  15. Sit down to write blog. Forget what I’d planned to write anyway. 
  16. Decide to write blog later, after everyone’s asleep.
  17. Fall asleep as soon as the kids do. Repeat all steps the following day.

As if you needed a reason
November 17, 2009, 9:49 am
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One more reason not to listen to a damn thing Bill Maher says:

“Now, sometimes it’s OK to fuck with nature — I believe “intelligent design” is often anything but intelligent; that “God’s perfect universe” is actually full of fuck ups and design flaws, like cleft lips and Down Syndrome — so correcting nature is sometimes the right thing to do.”

That’s fantastic, Bill. I’ll make sure to let my kid and my friends kids know they are “fuck ups and design flaws”. Please, do skip the flu vaccine. There will be more for the rest of us, and the way I wish to finish this sentence is something I’m going to take a deep breath and skip actually saying. I will say that I wonder what people like him want kids to do with the non-creationist science education he believes kids should have.

He’s an idiot, and I don’t want him speaking for me any more than the conservatives I know want Glenn Beck speaking for them.

October 15, 2009, 12:19 pm
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Peanut has the flu. The scary one. But she’s doing all right, outside of the vomiting. Who decided that vomiting should go along with fever, body aches, stuffy nose, and sore throat? Because I have words for whoever came up with that idea. And they aren’t nice ones.

Last week we took Peanut to Delaware again, to have them look at her back because her PT was concerned she was developing scoliosis. She had also outgrown her braces. The results of this visit are for another post, but I bring this up because I want to say something nice about a major airline. I know! Hard to believe but it’s true.

Midwest Airlines helped us fly there and back, for free. They have a program, like many airlines do, called Miracle Miles, for children who need to travel for medical care. We have a slightly different version than the posted one, but it means that we can afford to take her to receive the best care there is for her condition. The doctors here are excellent, and I have nothing bad to say about them, but they do not see as many children with AMC as Dr. Jayakumar and his team do. This means they are not quite as familiar with the newest findings, and they simply can’t look at her and say, “We saw another girl with similar legs last week, and this is what we know about how she’ll probably grow”. That is invaluable when you have a kid who has atypical AMC.

Anyway, back to Midwest. It’s true that their planes don’t all have the extra-wide seats anymore (it was like flying in first class, but for coach prices) and they’re charging for checked luggage, but they still seem to have the same attitude towards customer service they always did, which is as pleasant as you could possibly ask for. They are also VERY breastfeeding-friendly. The first time I flew with Peanut, she was five weeks old, and I was flying to DC to visit my aunt. My uncle had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and the visit had been planned in the hope he could see her before he died, which unfortunately was not to be. So the first thing that was great was that they had a very comfortable family room (not just a family bathroom) in the Milwaukee terminal, perfect for breastfeeding. No one blinked an eye when I nursed her on the plane. While waiting for our return flight at Dulles, I asked the gate agent if there was a family room around to nurse in, as I didn’t see one. She told me that unfortunately there wasn’t. As I looked around at all the businessmen on their cell phones filling the gate area, she saw me look, smiled, and said, “Go ahead and do it here if you want. They can all deal with it.” How awesome is that? (I did nurse there, and I don’t think anyone even noticed, which was a great way to nurse in public for the first time.)

Without Midwest’s program, there is no way we could afford all the trips to Dupont/Nemours we have taken and are about to take. And their fine service makes what is an otherwise fairly stressful experience much more bearable. If you are looking to fly somewhere they do, please keep them in mind. Also, they give you free chocolate-chip cookies fresh from the oven on most flights. And if your kid is cute, apparently they give them all the extras.

I get nothing from this endorsement. I already qualify for their program, and I don’t get anything special because of this post. I just think it’s good to hear about good business experiences as well as bad.

October 5, 2009, 3:14 pm
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Squirt picked up the phone handset today and had the following conversation:

“Hehyo. No. No. No no no no no no. No. No no no. No, bye.”

I said, “who are you talking to?” “Daddy.”

I am sure he would say she got it from me.

There was a time when I did not have anywhere I could call home*
October 1, 2009, 6:12 pm
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I had really hoped to come back with a happy, funny post, but that will have to wait, because I have just been blindsided.

Back in college, I was out one night and a guy came up to one of my friends and started hitting on her. He was really tall (6’5″), dark, and I thought he was ridiculously good-looking. My friend was not interested, so I started talking to him. At first, I knew he was talking to me only to get to her, but gradually he figured out that I was not, in fact, unattractive, and might even be a worthwhile date. We began to see each other, which lasted for a couple of months, until I essentially ended it because I felt he wasn’t taking things seriously, and I didn’t want to just be a booty call. But we stayed friends.  He was funny and smart and thought I was cool as hell. He nearly always called when he said he would and really seemed to like spending time with me. We both dated other people, but gradually became each other’s best friend. He was a kind, gentle, and slightly innocent soul, unlike any other man I knew.

Then I found out I was pregnant by a guy who had just dumped me out of the blue. It was, at the time, the darkest point of my life. L. didn’t hesitate. He offered to help in whatever way he could, including stepping in to help me raise the child if I chose to keep it. I don’t know how I would have gotten through that time without him.

Soon afterwards, he moved back to Chicago, his hometown, and then I met Big Daddy. We gradually lost touch, the multiple daily phone calls fading to weekly, then every few months. He moved again to Los Angeles, and with the next move around the same time as one of ours, we lost touch completely (this was before email was as ubiquitous, obviously). I thought about him once in a while, and eventually Googled him (his name is rather unusual). He would pop up here and there. He was modeling (I told you he was gorgeous!) and working as a fitness instructor in some of the best gyms in LA and NYC (yeah, seriously hot, people). Eventually, I contacted him through Facebook, and we had a short email exchange catching up. He was doing well, about to open his own studio in Chicago, his dream for many years. Things looked very bright for him, and I was happy he was doing so well.

I hadn’t talked to him in a while when I realized he had de-friended me. I was kind of hurt, but knew no good reason for it, so I figured it was probably an error and when I felt like chatting again, I’d just send another friend request. Then, his profile disappeared, then reappeared, with only a half-dozen people on it as opposed to the 200+ there had been before. I sent another request about a month ago, and he accepted. He told me he’d had a problem with his other account, and I didn’t really question him about it. He was in NYC, to teach a class. He said nothing about his studio, and I didn’t ask, figuring he’d tell me what happened when he was ready. The next message, about two weeks ago, told me he was in Chicago, and would I like to come down and hang out? I replied with my phone number, so we could make arrangements. He answered that he didn’t have a cell or a car at the moment, but it would still be nice to see me. All right, did he have a number where I could call him?

The next message blew me away. “I’m kind of homeless, and have been sleeping in a park most nights. Money is tight so I don’t have a phone at all. I will try to call you from a friend’s soon.”

My response was, essentially, WTF, are you serious? Why isn’t your father helping you? Do I need to come and get you? I spoke to Big Daddy, whose response was to immediately offer to put him up in our home. Then yesterday, I got this (only slightly paraphrased):

“I was in a mind-control cult and the woman who was supposed to buy the studio with me was a sorceress and she was using sex and black magic to try to kill me. My father won’t help because he thinks I’m mentally ill and  need to be institutionalized. Please help me, I am good with kids and I can help you with yours. I am all better now. Can you come tomorrow?”


His parents divorced when he was very young, and he went to live with his mother. It turned out that she had schizophrenia, and he eventually had to move in with his father for his own safety. She disappeared into the streets. He had always been afraid that he would get it too, but once he’d made it into his mid-20s, he felt safe.

I called a friend of mine who also knew him, and she agreed to make calls around to see if she could find someplace safe for him to stay. I then carefully wrote him another email, offering to pay for a bus ticket here and telling him we would try to find him a room. The next message elaborated. He needed a lawyer because of the unethical practices of the yoga center he’d belonged to–a yogi had tried to have him killed, sending his disciples to influence him psychically and flipped his dream state and his awake state in his normal conscious daily activities. The good news was that he’d found a friend who agreed to put him up for a few weeks while he waited to start a bartending job. But he still needed that lawyer, and if I just looked all this up on the internet, I’d know he was telling the truth.

I did look it up on the internet. I don’t think I have to tell you the results.

My heart is breaking. I know that I cannot fix this, that if he is as ill as I think he is, he does need to be institutionalized and get on medication. I am having a hard time reconciling this L. with the man sitting on the couch in my studio apartment, eating the dinner I cooked for him every week because I didn’t like cooking just for myself, and laughing about our pathetic love lives. I cannot bear to think of him so obviously in distress, feeling as if everyone has turned against him. I have a lot of ex-boyfriends who have not ended well (the majority, really), but he was not one that I expected that from and not in this way.

I hope I don’t lose touch with him. I hope this friend of his is able to get him some kind of help. I will do my best to support him, to not alienate him, while keeping myself safe. I know the vast majority of people with this sort of mental illness are not violent, and he never had an aggressive bone in his body, but I don’t know if that’s still true in his case.

Mostly, I will pray that whatever sorcery that is mental illness releases its hold on him.

There was a time when
I d
id not have anywhere
I could call home.

I was awake because
Sleeping was difficult.

Well, after several weeks
I entered the world of dreams …

*From the poem Waking Dreams, in Schizophrenia Poetry, by M. Stefan Strozier

September 17, 2009, 2:37 pm
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Not really fair to write all that stuff then suddenly leave things hanging, was it?

Big Daddy is back home again. We are working on things, and so far, so good. There are a few issues that I don’t think will ever be solved, so it will be a matter of deciding if we can live with each other “as-is” in those areas. I will do my damndest to try.

The bad news is that I lost my job, and in a way that has left a bad taste in my mouth. We need me to work, even just part-time, so it has meant a whole lot of belt-tightening. Truthfully, it is a real blessing to be able to be at home the first weeks of school for Peanut’s sake, as well as my own. I can do more from-scratch cooking and coupon-clipping in exchange, no problem.

Peanut is doing well in school. I get slightly suspicious when all her teachers seek me out to tell me how much they love her and how brilliant she is, though. I don’t want to sound too cynical here, but I find that she tends to get that kind of attention because of her disability. I mean, it’s far better than the alternative, but even she recognizes that other kids that are doing well don’t get that kind of praise. I will say, however, that her direct teacher doesn’t do that, which is why I like her. She more than anyone I’ve seen that works with Peanut really truly seems to treat her like any normal kid. Not that I don’t think Peanut is fabulous, of course…

I couldn’t be happier with her school. Last night there was a class pot-luck at the school, and apparently EVERY SINGLE FAMILY was there. When does that happen ever? The level of parental involvement at this school is unreal. They said they actually had more volunteers than they had space for last year. It’s not a school full of stay-at-home moms, either. There are a lot of professionals that work in creative or flexible jobs, I think, and it’s the closest school to the downtown area. There are as many dads picking the kids up at the end of the day as there are mothers. I had to laugh at how different it is compared to where I went to school, though. The other day I parked behind a brand-new black Mercedes with two dads picking up their child, and then watched a mom with purple-streaked hair, knee-high striped socks, and Converse sneakers walk down the street with her kid. My hometown was rural agriculture and blue-collar workers, had 6000 people, and I didn’t go to school with a black kid until fifth grade and never any non-Christians. I certainly didn’t see openly gay parents or even freaky hair on a daily basis. Big Daddy and I are totally the conservative parents of the class. We have no tattoos.

She likes going to school most of the time. The first two days she was very excited. Then, while getting her ready for the third, she told me, “Mama, I know you think I like school but I really don’t.” So we had a talk about not always liking everything about school, and found out that she really just loves music class and was sad that she didn’t have it every day. She has some new friends and they’ve decided they “are going to be best friends for the rest of our lives!”

We had a little talk the other night about her “boyfriend”. You know, the one she’s had since she started preschool at age three, meaning it’s lasted longer than any relationship that I’ve had other than my marriage. He doesn’t go to the same school, and we really hadn’t seen him over the summer. I had to break it to her that he might have decided to move on, and immediately wished I hadn’t.

“But we had such romantic times together! We played together on the playground, he came swimming at Grammy’s house, we even went for ice-cream together! Could he have forgotten about me?” That’s verbatim, by the way, and you must picture it spoken in the most overwrought soap-opera tone imaginable. I had to reassure her that of course he hadn’t forgotten about her, and if he had he wasn’t good marriage material anyway. I pointed out that I did not in fact marry my kindergarten boyfriend (his name was Lyle, and he kissed me good-bye on the cheek every day until the teacher caught him and scolded us), and that was good, right? In the end, though, nothing helped except calling his mom the day after and setting up a library/ice-cream date (they are next to one another, how awesome is that?), where she was apparently reassured that they would still get married. However, when I asked if there was someone in her class she would have as a boyfriend just in case, she grinned and had an answer immediately. So much for romance.

August 28, 2009, 9:09 am
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So I realize I should probably be a little more detailed than in the previous post about the girls.

Squirt is 22 months old, and she is a delight. Easy-going and happy the majority of the time, she is also ridiculously stubborn and prone to drama-queen tantrums the Academy would fall over themselves to see. Once, she flung herself face-down on the floor sobbing, only to look up at me with an expression of horror and slowly bring her arm up, pointing directly at me, as in J’accuse! I had not known licking her Popsicle to keep it from dripping on the floor was going to be a defining moment in her childhood.

She is intentionally funny. She will purposely tell you the wrong color when naming things in a book, just so she can then say “Noooooo” and laugh uproariously. She really does love to dance, though her love of music is not as strong as her sister’s. She is constantly asking you to read to her, and when she isn’t, she’s reading to herself (apparently all her books actually say “Dog” on every page). We play this game that goes like this: “Mama?” “Yes, Squirt?” “Hi.” Over and over again. She talks on the phone to us quite nicely. If you ask her how she’s doing, she answers “Fine”. She is usually smiling and giggling, and still blonde, sleeps pretty well, and is the perfect advertisement for having a child. Or more children.

Peanut is…well, she’s fantastic. Kindergarten starts on Tuesday, and we went to the open house yesterday, where she discovered a tidy cabinet full of dress-up clothes, so she’s all set. She is disappointed her boyfriend will not be there (yes, she’s had the same boyfriend for two years now, longer than any relationship I had prior to my marriage), but is excited about making new friends and learning new things. She has been in Fairytale Ballet class (which I highly recommend if you live in the area–unlike some others we called, they didn’t even blink at accomodating her and the dancers get to dress up in costumes in every class!), and she is moving very well. Her biggest limitation right now is her inability to get up and down off the floor without a wall or something else to pull up on, partially because she’s lost so much range in her knees since her original surgery.

She still loves princesses, play-acting, singing and dancing. She recognizes operas and ballets by the music, and she has her father’s ability to remember songs after only hearing them once or twice. She’s still very afraid of the dark, but not of pictures of weird bugs or internal organs. She’s learning to read a bit (she’s never seemed to feel the need before, after all, we read to her whenever she wants) and can do some simple math (we haven’t really taught her, I don’t know where she learned it–she has her great-grandfathers’ genes in her, it seems). She is smart as a whip, and her teachers noted that she is impossible to bullshit, of which I am tremendously proud. She’s always been a bit melancholy, and I see it more now, with the tension that’s been in our house and the stress of all the changes going on.  But mostly she too is good-natured and pleasant to be around.

(A recent bon mot: We were discussing what she wanted for lunch, and she was thinking about it, then announced she was ready and wanted a bowl of cereal. I said all right, I’ll get it, and attempted to finish typing the email I was working on. There was a pause, and then she said, “Then why am I not seeing you move?” I was too busy laughing to scold her for being a smart-ass).

And finally, she has started questioning her disability. I have been searching for the right things to say to her since she was born, but I still don’t have the answers. She hates having braces, hates them, why do some kids have to have braces and wheelchairs? Why does she have to have them? Nobody should have to have them! All I can do is agree that it sucks, it’s not fair at all, and no, no one should have to have braces or a wheelchair. And then, and I don’t know how helpful this is, I try to point out to her what she does have. Not in a “you should be grateful” kind of way, but more of a “let’s balance this out a bit” kind of way. You can’t jump, but you know big words that other kids don’t know. You have scars on your legs, but really, they are kind of cool, aren’t they?  I don’t know what else to do or say, because she’s right, about all of it. It does suck, it’s not fair, no one should have to go through it, least of all a little kid. I am supposedly grown, and I don’t understand it, so how can I expect her to?

So that’s it. Next will be some pictures!

Where I attempt to explain
August 27, 2009, 12:08 pm
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I’ve been wanting to post here for a while now, but have been stuck for what to say. Not because nothing has gone on, oh no. But how to explain it, mostly, has been the sticking point.

Big Daddy and I have been having some problems with our relationship, and we’ve had some big financial issues as well. We are, well, sort of seperated. It was hard to write when I felt like there was so little that was positive going on.

The reasons for the seperation aren’t really important, except to say it isn’t because he’s some giant asshole. I still love him more than any man in the world, and we want to make things work out. It’s just going to take a while, if it works at all. I’ve been feeling so tremendously guilty about this. If I am willing to die for my children, why can’t I manage to simply get along with their father so that they have an intact family? I know it’s not that simple, but it seems like two people who love each other and want to be together ought to be able to get it together and do just that. Peanut tells us we just need to get along. “Just stop fighting” is her advice.

Outside of this, we are doing well. Peanut is starting Kindergarten next week, and is very excited. She has met some of the other kids that will be in her class, and the girls like princesses as much as she does, so she’s raring to go. Squirt is thriving. She loves to dance, can count to ten, and is learning her letters. She still prefers to sleep with a book over a stuffed animal most of the time. The girls adore each other 98% of the time, and are a treat to watch. When I get some photos uploaded, I will post them. Because that’s what everyone is here for, right?

I don’t know what direction this blog will take now. I don’t feel like airing my marital dirty laundry to the world, but that’s kind of what my life is about now. It feels odd to not share something that is affecting us so dramatically. But I also feel like I need to write again, that I need to have this kind of connection to the world. I haven’t been reading blogs or being social for a while now, so it feels a little creaky to get back into it. So we’ll see what we shall see.

Anyway, Hi!

It’s Saturday morning
December 20, 2008, 10:21 am
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Your four-wheel-drive vehicle does not actually mean you can safely drive at ridiculous speeds on slippery, snow-covered roads. All it means is that you might have an easier time driving yourself out of a snowy ditch.

Also, pie for breakfast is one of the best parts of being an adult.

December 14, 2008, 11:28 am
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Since this blog was supposed to be, in part, a record of my children’s development, I suppose I should update that.

Squirt is tiny, only the 10th percentile in height and 20th in weight (still bigger than Peanut was at the same age, by far). She is both signing and talking. Her words, as follows:

mama and daddy

Kee-cat (kitty-cat, which is said for any fuzzy animal, especially squirrels)

dank-oo (thank you)

dat (that, she points and says dat when she wants you to name something)

amma (grandma)

ammy (grammy)


ah-el (bottle)


moooo (what does a cow say?)

baaaaa (what does a sheep say?)

She signs eat, more, milk

She hums  “you’re welcome”. She says a version of Peanut’s name and that of Peanut’s best friend.

She tries to brush her hair. She is learning to feed herself with a spoon. She can stack blocks 5 high, and put a series of stacking blocks inside each other. She can put the circle and the star shape in her shape sorter consistently the first time, and can usually do the square. She loves anything with buttons, and you cannot fool her with an old cell phone or remote with no batteries, or even a toy remote. She pets the cats gently, but I can’t get her to stop grabbing and squeezing the end of their tails (even getting swatted by one of them hasn’t discouraged her). She is much more of Daddy’s Girl lately, especially right after he gets home from a trip, and doesn’t want to let him out of her sight. She adores her big sister, who makes funny faces and noises at her while she squeals with laughter. She likes to wake Peanut up in the morning with squeals too. She will eat just about anything, but not every meal, her favorite stuff being savory foods. She sleeps 10-11 hours overnight, waking only when she is uncomfortable (like from teething) or cold, and then she usually goes right back to sleep. She is an enormously good-natured and happy girl, likes being around people and trying new things,  but she knows what she likes and doesn’t like and doesn’t hesitate to let you know.

Also, while I was away with Peanut, she started to walk 🙂